Washing One Another’s Feet As Jesus Did: Revelatory Activities And The Progressive Sanctification Of Believers -- By: Annang Asumang
Conspectus 15:1 (March 2013) p. 1
Washing One Another’s Feet As Jesus Did: Revelatory Activities And The Progressive Sanctification Of Believers
While John 13:1-11 soteriologically interprets the foot-washing as symbolising participation and purification in Jesus, the subsequent John 13:12-20 ethically interprets the act as a humble self-sacrificing service emanating from love. Scholarly attempts at relating these two tiers of interpretations have sometimes tended to view them as conflicting. The first tier, taken to be christological, is said to be diametrically opposite to the second discipleship-oriented tier. This article draws on recent conceptualisations of Johannine symbolism to argue against this trend. Instead, it proposes that through the foot-washing, Jesus was instructing his disciples to participate in revelatory activities centred on his death. Humble participation in such revelatory activities maintains the cohesion of the fellowship while also triggering their purification in Jesus. This interpretation is supported by 1 John 1:7-10, a passage thought to be a commentary on the foot-washing.
Conspectus 15:1 (March 2013) p. 2
1.1. The Problem
The account of Jesus’ washing of his disciples’ feet in John 13 has generated several questions of historical, textual, literary, and theological significance (e.g. Haring 1951:355-380; Thomas 2004). Research into its discipleship elements has, however, mostly focused on elucidating what exactly Jesus wanted his disciples to do when he instructed them to wash one another’s feet as he had done (13:14-15). There is no doubt that the chapter portrays discipleship as an imitative christology. The debated question is how far this imitation of Jesus by his disciples should go. In other words, to what extent can the disciples wash one another’s feet the way Jesus did it?
It is well known that there appears to be a two-tier interpretation of the foot-washing in John 13, namely, (a) there is a soteriological tier in John 13:6-11 which interprets the act along the lines of participation and purification in Jesus, followed by (b) a moral/ethical interpretation in John 13:12-20 which construes it as an example of humble self-sacrificing service of love. The challenge is to explain how these two...
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