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Communion Meditations (2014)

Washing the Feet

Originally scheduled for January 26

It is a rare denomination which engages in the ceremonial practice of washing the feet. But it is a fact that at the Last Supper Christ did wash the feet of his disciples. There are some important lessons in this for us.

First, it is worth noting that Christ, the Servant King, was the one who did this. He did not ask one of the other disciples to do it for him, though he was their teacher and their Lord. He did it himself. To understand why this is important, we must know how people bathed in those days. One did it by going to a public bathhouse. There a large pool of water, heated by fire, was kept for this purpose. You most of the dirt from your body by covering it with oil and then scraping the oil off. The rest you washed off in the bath. But then came the trip home; remember, everyone wore sandals in these days. So your feet got dirty. In a rich household the lowest slave would be tasked with washing your feet as you came back in the door. It was a job not just for slaves, but the lowest of the slaves.

Please also note that Christ did this in silence, until he was interrupted by Peter’s question. Like the end of the rest of the disciples were mystified by this too, but until he was asked Christ provided no explanation. This would be the behavior of the lowest slave. We can at least conclude from this that communion is to be taken in all humility.

We also learn from the fact that Christ washed the feet of all twelve disciples — including Judas. This is a ray of glorious hope, for it means that there is no sinner so vile as to be beyond salvation. But you cannot conclude that Jesus was honoring Judas by washing his feet. No; Christ was serving God the Father in doing that. If Christ can wash the feet of Judas, surely we can tolerate and even welcome the worst of sinners.

Perhaps the most important point about this is what this washing symbolizes. As Christ explained it to Peter it is a symbol of the repentance Christian must have after baptism. This is most important; it is why we are taught to examine ourselves before taking communion. In communion you are in touch with the body and blood of Jesus Christ, however you might see that. Would you approach the body and blood of Christ with filthy hands? Confess your sins; repent and renounce them; then partake.

You can see now why humility is necessary at communion. If you take it in pride you will not confess and you will not repent; rather, you will attempt to justify yourself. It is so much better to let Christ justify you by the blood of his sacrifice. Do it his way — in humility, with confession and repentance.

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