The Ordinance of Foot Washing IT WAS humiliating to Christ's disciples for Him to take the position of a servant and wash their feet. But in so doing Jesus was teaching some very important lessons. And that these lessons might be kept fresh in the minds of His followers through the ages to come, Christ instituted the practice of foot washing as a religious service.
By the act of our Lord this humiliating ceremony was made a consecrated ordinance. It was to be observed by the disciples, that they might ever keep in mind His lessons of humility and service. --The Desire of Ages, p. 650.
The Greatness of Humility
In Christ's eyes true greatness is the greatness of humility. Andrew Murray, in his excellent little volume, Humility, declares:
Humility, the place of entire dependence on God, is from the very nature of things, the first duty and the highest virtue of the creature, and the root of every virtue. And so pride, or the loss of this humility, is the root of every sin and evil. Page 2. He defines humility as "simply the sense of entire nothingness, which comes when we see how truly God is all, and in which we make way for God to be all." Continuing, he says, "Humility is simply acknowledging the truth of his position as creature, and yielding to God His place." --Pages 14, 15.
It was through pride, the loss of humility, that sin entered this world. It was pride that made redemption necessary. And it is from our pride that above all else we must be redeemed. Pride, or selfishness, is at the root of every sin.
All want of love, all indifference to the needs, the feelings, the weakness of others, all sharp and hasty judgments and utterances, so often excused under the pleas of being outright and honest; all manifestations of temper and touchiness and irritation; all feelings of bitterness and estrangement, have their root in nothing but pride. --Ibid., p. 22.
Humility and Faith
Humility means trusting God at all times. This trust cannot exist where there is pride. Few people realize how closely are humility and faith allied in the Scriptures. Jesus taught this alliance clearly. On two occasions he spoke of great faith. One had to do with the centurion whose servant He healed. The centurion had declared, "I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof." The other had to do with the Syrophenician woman. She accepted the name of dog, saying, "Yes, Lord: yet the dogs ... eat of the children's crumbs." To her Jesus could say, "For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter."
Humility leads a soul to feel that he is nothing before God. It removes hindrances to faith and causes him to fear lest in any way he should dishonor God by not trusting Him completely.
It is this lack of humble, dependent faith that so often keeps us from being our best. We are told:
The first thing to be learned by all who would become workers together with God is the lesson of self-distrust; then they are prepared to have imparted to them the character of Christ. --The Desire of Ages, p. 250.
This is the foremost lesson to be learned from Bible history. "The tenor of the Bible is to inculcate distrust of human power and to encourage trust in divine power." --Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 717. We are warned: "Whatever diverts the mind from God, whatever leads to self-exaltation or to self-dependence, is surely preparing the way for our overthrow." --Ibid. The ordinance of foot washing is designed to help keep man in his proper place.
There is in man a disposition to esteem himself more highly than his brother, to work for self, to seek the highest place; and often this results in evil surmisings and bitterness of spirit. The ordinance preceding the Lord's Supper is to clear away these misunderstandings, to bring man out of his selfishness, down from his stilts of self-exaltation, to the humility of heart that will lead him to serve his brother. --The Desire of Ages, p. 650.
Humility and Service
Notice that this humility is to result in useful service and is an essential preparation for the same.
If they would cherish true humility, the Lord could do much more for His people; but there are few who can be trusted with any large measure of responsibility or success without becoming self-confident and forgetful of their dependence upon God. --Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 553, 554.
Service performed in the spirit of true humility is an important lesson to be learned from the ordinance of foot washing.
Its constant lesson will be, "By love serve one an other." Gal. 5:13. In washing the feet of His disciples, Christ gave evidence that He would do any service, however humble, that would make them heirs with Him of the eternal wealth of Heaven's treasure. His disciples, in performing the same rite, pledge themselves in like manner to serve their brethren. Whenever this ordinance is rightly celebrated, the children of God are brought into a holy relationship, to help and bless each other. They covenant that the life shall be given to unselfish ministry. --The Desire of Ages, p. 651.
A Meaningful Service
Participating in this ordinance is obviously a more meaningful service than many realize. It is, first of all, a cleansing service ---a new or lesser baptism. Water is a symbol of cleansing. And by entering into this service the person may know that the stains of sin are washed away. We become "clean every whit."
It is furthermore a service of humility. By stooping to wash our brother's feet we ac knowledge the principle: "In honour preferring one another," servants one of an other, each counting others better than himself, subjecting ourselves one to an other.
It is our humility before our fellow men that demonstrates our humility before God. As Murray puts it: "Humility toward men will be the only sufficient proof that our humility before God is real; that humility has taken up its abode in us, and become our very nature; that we actually, like Christ, have made ourselves of no reputation." --Humility, p. 44.
Finally, the service of foot washing is a pledge of service to our fellow man. It is a covenant that we enter into a promise that we will give our lives more fully to others in unselfish ministry; ever seeking opportunities of rendering kind and helpful service; following in the footsteps of Jesus, who went about doing good, whose whole purpose in life was to be a blessing to others.
The world is full of those who need our ministry. The poor, the helpless, the ignorant, are on every hand. Those who have communed with Christ in the upper chamber will go forth to minister as He did.
Jesus, the served of all, came to be the servant of all. And because He ministered to all, He will again be served and honored by all. And those who would partake of His divine attributes, and share with Him the joy of seeing souls redeemed, must follow His example of unselfish ministry.
All this was comprehended in the words of Jesus, "I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you." This was the intent of the service He established. And He says, "If ye know these things," if you know the purpose of His lessons, "happy are ye if ye do them." --The Desire of Ages, p. 651.
MY PRAYER: "Oh, to be emptier, lowlier, Mean, unnoticed, and unknown, And to God a vessel holier, Filled with Christ and Christ alone!"