Before Jesus is arrested on Thursday, He decided to spend some of his last moments talking with his disciples, feasting with them and…washing their feet. Their mud-caked, dirt-stained, foul-smelling feet, feet that had never experienced the beauty of tennis shoes and that walked on unpaved, dusty roads for hours a day. Washing someone’s feet in ancient culture was considered a sign of hospitality toward the guest, typically done by a servant, but for the host to kneel and wash them? It was a shocking sign of humility. It didn’t make sense.
When it’s Peter’s turn, he is shocked too and protests: Jesus, washing my feet? Jesus, the one of whom John spoke (in John 1) when he said, “I’m not even worthy to bend down to untie His sandals” – this Jesus is kneeling down to wash my mud-caked, dirt-stained, foul-smelling feet? Doesn’t he know where these feet have been?
Yet more and more, I’m convinced that Jesus’ reply is meant for not just Peter in this moment, but for us every day: “You don’t realize now what I’m doing, but later, you’ll understand.”
See, if we wanted, we could take 5 minutes, get a few chapters ahead, and read about that “later” Jesus talks about. But Peter couldn’t do that. And if you’re anything like me, I can resonate with Peter’s confusion in the moment. There are times when I have no idea what God is doing or why He’s doing it. There are times it seems like God isn’t doing anything. There are times where it seems that He is asking us to love or serve our friends, family, strangers, by doing something strange or bold – as strange and bold as washing his disciples’ feet was, or requesting a donkey from a stranger. In the moment, what God is doing doesn’t always make sense.
Not understanding the “now” often makes it difficult to trust that the “later” is still in His good hands, but the truth is, we can’t always understand the now until later. And in the meantime, we can be confident that whatever God is doing, it is to, as John 13 says at the beginning of this story, “show us the full extent of His love.” We can rejoice, even on Thursday, that our Savior is sovereign in any and all of the unknown.
Encouragement to act: The way Jesus loved his disciples, by washing their feet, was a radical, beautiful, counter-cultural way of serving them. Think of the people you have the chance to interact with today, and pray about ways you can intentionally serve and love them.