God at the Feet of Sinners

BY JESSICA THOMPSON

"Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him."

The disciples and Christ have just finished their last meal together. The disciples, of course, didn't know this, but Jesus did. As an act displaying his humility and kindness, he kneels before them. Jesus "who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,”[2] lays aside his outer garments. Presumably, the very same garments that hours later would be stripped off of him and gambled for were the ones that he voluntarily lays aside now to wash his disciples’ feet. Then he takes the towel and ties it around his waist. He pours the water into the basin and begins to wash their feet. He washed the feet of each of the disciples that were there.

Judas, “the one the devil had already put it into the (his) heart to betray him”[3] Christ washes Judas’ feet with the full knowledge of what he was about to do. He stooped and washed this betrayer’s feet. 

Peter, “the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.” [4] Christ washed the feet of Peter who would not have the moral fortitude to admit to knowing Jesus to a young girl at a campfire. He stooped and washed this coward's feet. 

Philip, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”[5] Christ washes the feet of Philip who just needs a little more convincing that Christ is the messiah, he just needs one more sign. He stooped and washed this skeptic’s feet.

Thomas, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”[6] Christ washes the feet of Thomas who would refuse to believe that Christ had risen from the dead without physically touching him. Christ stoops and washes this doubter’s feet.

James and John, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”[7] Christ washes the feet of James and John who were motivated by power and prestige and completely misunderstood what Jesus had come to do. He stoops and washes these glory thieves feet.

One by one Christ goes through and washes each of the disciple’s feet. These disciples who “had argued with one another about who was the greatest.”[8] These disciples who at his greatest moment of need “he came and found them sleeping for sorrow,”[9] These disciples who coward when Christ was arrested “And they all left him and fled.” Do you see yourself in any of these disciples or perhaps you see yourself in all of them. I know I do. And yet, Christ washes us as well. It is not because of our worthiness that he performs this glorious act. It is because of His gloriousness that this takes place. Christ knew what awaited him. He knew the pain. Yet, he also knew “that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God.” What had the Father given to Him? He had given him us, the doubters, the skeptics, the betrayers, the glory thieves, the cowards and Christ loved us unto death. He also knew that he was going home to once again be with his Father. He knew that his death on the cross and resurrection would ensure that someday we would all go home with him.

And so on this Holy Thursday, be sober, rejoice, rest, remember how He has made you clean by his greatest act of condescension and love. This perfectly loving one who loves because of who he is not because of who we are.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Jn 13:3–5.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Php 2:6–7.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Jn 13:2.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Jn 13:38.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Jn 14:8.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Jn 20:25.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Mk 10:37.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Mk 9:34.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Lk 22:45.

Jessica is an author of several books and a frequent conference speaker. Her heart is to see women, families, and children freed from the bondage of moralism and to live in the truth that in the gospel there is joyful freedom awaiting them. Jess has a Bachelor's Degree in Theology and with her mother, Elyse Fitzpatrick, she co-authored the books Give Them Grace and Answering Your Kids' Toughest Questions. She has also written Exploring Grace Together and Everyday Grace: Infusing All Your Relationships With the Love of Jesus. Jess believes the truth that salvation is "naked confidence in the mercy of God." She has been married to her high school sweetheart since 1995. Together they have three teenage children.

Twitter @TheJessLou