Dirty, But Not Dirt
Dirty, But Not Dirt
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”
John 13:6-7 (ESV)
The disciples had met together with Jesus for the final meal. They had been walking on manure-strewn streets to get there. Their feet were smelly and dirty. Jesus took the towel and basin and began washing their feet. Peter protested, but Jesus shook him with the statement, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”
Typical of John’s Gospel, there's a deeper story being told than the obvious. This wasn’t about dirty feet. It was about what Jesus was about to do on the cross to forever wash dirty disciples. They had been defiled by sin and made unclean—in their heart. As Leviticus plainly tells us, unclean things cannot be used for the purpose for which they were designed. They must be washed and purified by the priest who can then declare them clean and usable again. Jesus death and resurrection would fulfill all those “purity cleansings” from the Old Testament. They would be clean—but even better they would be cleaner than Adam was before his sin--they would be as clean as Jesus himself.
Sure they would get some dirt on them as they walked the roads of the world. Defiled things would touch them, but they would only need to admit it and the dirt would be washed off. They were clean and only needed the continual cleansing they would experience as they walked in the light.
But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
1 John 1:7 (ESV)
The temptation would always be to respond like Peter and recoil at letting Jesus do the work. It is more comfortable to the proud to either retain dirty feet or try to clean them without help.
We who trust Jesus alone for our cleansing are like them. The enemy will tell us that our dirty feet prove that we are nothing more than dirt. The gospel tells us that we are made clean by the washing of regeneration. We once were defiled in heart, but now we have been washed, sanctified, and justified (1 Corinthians 6:11). Now we are able to take the role of a servant and do the humble work of ministry to the dirty without fear that we will lose our honor. We are sanctified, set apart for the Master’s use. We have an honor that personal achievement can never procure. We aren’t focused on the defilement that gets on us as we work. We trust the power of His blood. We have our face set on honoring the One who washed us and uses us in his kingdom. The roads are still dirty with sinful defilement. We might get dirty, but we aren’t dirt.