This Lenten season will be marked by handwashing. Whether one embraces the Christian season of Lent or not, everyone on the face of the earth is intentional about washing their hands these days due to the Coronavirus.
Handwashing has religious significance. The Jewish Law still holds requirements for the washing of hands for numerous practical and ceremonial reasons. At times the custom of a blessing being offered as the water is poured on the hands of the priest or rabbi is followed. The custom has developed to recite the blessing only after he has poured water over his hands and has rubbed them together, while they are raised in the air to the height of his chin, prior to his drying them with a towel.
Jesus was raised with Jewish laws and customs of handwashing. He did refer to washing with water during his earthly ministry. In fact, the night before His death He introduced His disciples to footwashing and drying with a towel. This was only customary for servants to perform in that early first century period.
The Apostle Peter would have nothing of it, "you will never wash my feet." Jn 13:8. Jesus knew exactly what He was doing following that last dinner with His disciples. He always knows what He is doing in our lives too. He tells us that He only does what He sees His Father doing, He only speaks what He hears His Father saying. Can it be any different for me and you? Most likely not.
Jesus responded to Peter's repulsion to His odd act of love that inverted his Kingdom paradigm on its head. He told Peter that if Peter doesn't let Him wash him, he would not be one of His disciples, not now or ever. Peter apparently got the gist of what Jesus was saying as he responded to the Master, "not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!"
Jesus cleans us up not for physical hygiene purposes, but for spiritual hygiene reasons. He first makes us spiritually clean, in our heart, with His word, Jn 15:3, and then directs his followers to take up His custom of washing one another's feet. Again, Jesus is instituting a spiritual custom, not a physical hygiene custom. He demonstrated serving one another and invites you and me into this beautiful practice of serving those around us, in our families, workplaces, classrooms, and neighborhoods. This is a Kingdom principle for Kingdom servants and for a Kingdom purpose. No servant is greater than his or her Master.
Washing each other's feet is not exclusive for the Lenten season, but every season of the year. Yet, there is one pre-requisite. We must first be cleansed by Him before we can effectively serve one another, and it won't require soap and water. Has Jesus washed you?
John 13: 1-20