The God Who Knelt

Dirck van Baburen 1616

God in Christ Jesus poured out His infinity and unspeakable love when He knelt down before His own servants and washed their feet. In John 13:1-20 we encounter the King of the Jew who humbled Himself by taking a despised servants’ task of washing their masters’ feet and washed His disciples’ feet. Christ Jesus’ mastership was, as Guthrien Veech poetically captured, of “a towel to wash feet rather than a whip to drive people”(Veech 2006 )

“As with the crucifixion,” argued D. A. Carson, “so with the footwashing: each is simultaneously an act of God by which human beings are freed or cleansed—whether in reality (the cross) or in symbol (the footwashing)—and an example that Jesus’ followers are to emulate” (1991:459) N. T. Wright adds, “The footwashing—and the crucifixion itself, to which it pointed—was Jesus’ way of showing who God was and is.” (2004: 45)

God in Christ Jesus’ poured His love through serving.  Christianity is the art of mimicking Christ Jesus. It is the call to love and serve God with all we are and to love and serve our neighbors.

I kneel and bow down to this God who knelt. I chose to lead by serving.

Carson, D. A. (1991). The Gospel according to John. Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans.

Wright, T. (2004). John for Everyone, Part 2: Chapters 11-21. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

Veech, G. (2006). Christian Minister’s Manual. Cincinnati, OH: Standard.

33 thoughts on “The God Who Knelt

  1. Pingback: Sermon: The God Who Knelt « The Savage Street Church of Christ

  2. Great is this article. The title alone says much. The first sentence tells us all.

    For your last sentence, you might want to change “knee,” to “kneel.”

    Thanks for your insight, because you have given me a sermon idea.

  3. Beautiful Prayson. It seems lately in ministry I have been having lots of conversations regarding sanctification. It seems John 13 has some reflection toward this. Humbly when you say “Christianity is the art of mimicking Christ Jesus.” If this were true it would seem sanctification is a little hollow. I think our Christianity is more ontological in nature, that is we actually become the image of Christ – sanctification. I don’t think you would disagree with me, I might just have a heightened sense to some of the Christian conversation leading to these thoughts just because it’s on my radar from recent studying. Simply-said reflects this in his last statement, “make me yours completely”… total transformation.
    Interested in your thoughts!

      • You do not see the philosophical implication of mere contingent beings along a causal chain? Without aseity. i.e. a being that has existence bound up in his own nature the causal chain of contingent beings leads to an infinite regress whereby no contingent being could ever come into existence.

        • Tremendously interesting, goes right to the heart of the Cosmological Argument, and so i have to ask, if you’re willing to give this magical creature you call god an exemption from a causality (which the argument depends on) why not also grant that exception to the universe itself? Why one and not the other?

          • Hi John,

            First, let me ask you a favor. If you really are “open” minded and want to continue the discussion drop the pejorative “magical creature” nonsense. It does nothing to help your cause nor does it incline me to take you all that seriously.It is not irrational to posit an uncaused cause, it is however irrational to posit an uncaused effect. The more interesting question relative to your response seems to be is the universe an agent of causation? What leads you to believe this?

          • Sorry, but what you seem to be alluding to is a “magical creature,” no different than the tens of thousands of other magical creatures creative minds have invented to fill in holes of their understanding and cultural needs. I’m a hopeless fan of lore and fables, but I treat them as is: lore and fables.

            Now, to your question, I’m afraid to say, I’m not the one making the claim, so i have no reason to answer. My question to you was simple: If you’re willing to give an exemption of causality to your god, then why not also grant that exemption to the universe itself? I’d imagine you’d have a sound reason or else you wouldn’t make the claim in the first place. Correct?

            So, again, if you’re willing to give an exemption of causality to your god, then why not also grant that exemption to the universe itself?

          • I appreciate the fact that you understand the hidden premise in using the pejorative term “magical creature” however this is a straw man that dismisses theism as a mere fable and allows you to pour derision on theists. This is part and parcel of those who do not wish to engage in real intellectual discourse but instead wish to simply ridicule theism as folklore and mythos.

            An eternal and uncaused universe is an effect not a cause. No exemption to causality is possible when you are dealing with an effect. This is the same blunder that many antitheist make when they ask the ridiculous question “Who made God?”

          • John by asking theists to explain their “magic creature” does show that you careless about their explanation because first you are using mockery loaded question viz., their god is magical and is a creature and second you do not give them a neutral ground to explain by using neutral words as deity or god.

            If I could give a genuine atheist one advice, I would have advise her, using Jean Jacques Rousseau words, “It is much better to have no ideas of God, than to have ideas which are low, fanciful, or unworthy.”

          • Hi BBG

            Thanks for your answer, but you haven’t moved your position forward at all, and you certainly haven’t answered my question. Instead you’re simply playing with words. “An eternal and uncaused universe is an effect not a cause.” Lose the last six words and we have the only statement which can be made: “An eternal and uncaused universe.”

            “An eternal and uncaused universe”… Great! No one knows if this is true or not, all mathematics/physics breaks down pre-Inflation and the only honest answer right now is “we simply don’t know,” but let’s ignore layered dimensions and multiverses and assume this universe is eternal and uncaused. What we have, by your own admission, is an eternal and uncaused universe. Where does your god come into it? You’ve posited the universe is uncaused, so why then insert a “creator” after you’ve already explained this universe? The add-on is a wish; nothing more, nothing less. A dream which adds meaning. That’s fine if it helps you in your personal life, but it advances nothing.

          • I have never posited an eternal and uncaused universe. Read this closely and carefully, the universe is an effect not a cause, which has been my premise all along. You asked me to grant an exemption to the universe as a potential agent of causation which I do not concede until you can establish beyond reasonable doubt that the universe is an agent of causation without leading to an infinite regress. As I pointed out before antitheists often confuse and conflate the difference between cause and effect.

            The eternal and uncaused universe is out of accord with current cosmology and has been discredited many times over. Assuming this is a God of the Gaps argument does nothing to establish the point you are trying to make, that the universe deserves an exemption for causality. The common tool used by antitheists that the burden of proof is on the theist simply won’t do. You are making both an epistemological and metaphysical claim and then bowing out when pressed on substantiating that claim. Theism is in accord with current cosmology that the universe at the point of singularity had a definitive beginning date. No other argument is necessary to dismiss the notion of an eternal universe. This point aside, it is incumbent on you to establish a cogent argument for the universe as an agent of causation, since this was the counter claim you offered.

          • I’ve told you before, I’m under no obligation to justify any position as I’m not the one making any claim. My position, though, is neutral. I’m not saying “the universe deserves an exemption for causality,” rather it is you saying your god does. Hence my frightfully simple question: If you’re willing to grant an exemption to causality for your god why not also grant that same exemption to the universe itself? Simply saying your god is beyond it (switching cause and effect)does nothing to convince me, or any rational person, of your position. It remains unjustified: a wish, a daydream with no grounding in reality. It’s a philosophical meandering; a theological flight of fancy.

            If one, why not the other?

          • In the interest of furthering the discussion, what does granting a causal exemption for the universe do? Aren’t we left with an uncaused cause? I believe this leaves both you and I on the horns of a dilemma.

          • I’m in no dilemma. Again, I’m not the one making any claim. My position is neutral, and until we have a model for quantum gravity and can begin to spy what was going on before inflation (if in fact that model stands the test of time, as parts have already been falsified) and the big bang (or big crunch, whichever your flavour might be) it will remain that way. Until then you are simply making an assumption that there cannot be an infinite chain of cause and effect (why not?), and playing with words to fashion a scenario which makes you feel comfortable. That’s fine, but it’s not real. Concluding your god does not equal demonstrating it.

            So, the question remains unanswered: if you’re willing to grant an exemption to causality to your god why not also grant that same exemption to the universe itself? As I said earlier, surely you have a sound reason or else you wouldn’t make the claim in the first place. You come across as being smart enough, so I’m guessing you have thought this through and have subsequently arrived at a reasonable justification for why one (your particular god)is gifted the exemption but not the other (the universe itself).

            Also, BBG, if you could let me know where you get your concept of god from it would be greatly appreciated. Which god are we actually talking about here? How did you learn of this god? Upon what source documents do you base this belief?

          • BBG, if I may further ask: from where do you get your concept of your god? Upon what do you base your belief in this deity? What is the primary source of your belief?

  4. Yes, that’s it John everything is borrowed and interlopers simply plugged that into the story of Jesus. Christians borrowed the resurrection story from dying-rising savior myths, Noah was borrowed from the Epic of Gilgamesh, etc…unfortunately the accusation of borrowing never stands historical scrutiny.

      • John,

        I have been around the block more than once. I realize of course that no amount of evidence will convince you of the historicity of Noah, Jesus, or anything else contained in the bible. However, there are very good reasons to believe that Noah was in fact real, the biblical account of the flood does not contain the far-fetched elements of the Epic of Gilgamesh which leads one to the conclusion that the myth developed from a real event i.e. the biblical account.

        • Hi BBG, I’m always open to evidence. My mind is never closed. A closed mind would be irrational. Firstly, though, i never stated the biblical flood was lifted from Sumerian fables, you did, but i’m keen to hear what evidence you have for the biblical event.

    • You want the definition of God? Strange fellow you are.

      I have compassion for the you, the unhappy, but I delight in the virtuous to retain my calmness.

      God grant me peace of mind, friendliness, compassion, delight and disregard of the wicked.

      • Was I talking to you, Roy?

        Prayson said the other day he’d write a definition of his god. I thought it was a very good idea. You all talk about this magical creature but no one ever defines it. It’d be nice to actually have a definition.

        On that note, perhaps you, Roy, could ask Prayson to do a guest post here where you can define your god? As I said to Prayson, I’d be tremendously interested to read.

        Here’s hoping

        • I entered a post about Who Is God at my site.

          Who is God and what is God like? If by that question you mean ‘What is God like in Himself?’ there is no answer. If you mean ‘What has God disclosed about Himself that the reverent reason can comprehend?’ there is, I believe, an answer both full and satisfying.

          We cannot know what God is with respect to Himself. The book of Job declares, “Can you discover the depths of God? Can you discover the limits of the Almighty? They are high as the heavens, what can you do? Deeper than Sheol, what can you know?” (Job 11:7–8).

          However, you can ask what God has revealed about Himself in His Word and in creation that “the reverent reason” can grasp.

          If you discount the Bible, or mine and others testimony of answered prayer, blessings, and the power of the Holy Spirit moving and changing lives through Christ’s saving grace, then you will not be happy and find criticism with any answer I submit John.

          • Hi Roy. Thanks for that. Listen, I’ve tried reading your posts but they’re unnecessarily long and desperately hard to follow. That is a literary criticism, not a personal one. I am, however, very interested to have you delineate your thoughts on this matter (a definition of your god) so it’d be truly great if you could ask Prayson for Guest Post slot and we can see it here…. In concert with his post, which he said is coming.

            How does that sound?

          • My main post, before ‘Further Study’, is 1807 words.

            I checked your Blog and found…

            “You are here. This is not a dream” 10/6/13 1346 words.
            “Death Cult Christianity” 9/6/13 1486 words.
            “Jesus Christ: just not worth a sheet of paper” 8/21/13 1505 words.

            There are most likely some longer, but you get the idea. The average person reads 90-120 words per minute so 1800 or 1400 is not a big difference, time wise… Perhaps it’s the content that makes you tremble and shake.
            I can’t find a ‘Contact’ page on Prayson’s Blog to send a private message and submit a ‘Guest Post’ for approval. If he wishes he can contact me, if not, it’s all good.
            Here’s some definition for you. Seems spot on. It’s 177 words so be careful.


            God is often conceived as the Supreme Being and principal object of faith. In theism, God is the creator and sustainer of the universe.


            1 capitalized : the supreme or ultimate reality: as
            a : the Being perfect in power, wisdom, and goodness who is worshiped as creator and ruler of the universe
            b Christian Science : the incorporeal divine Principle ruling over all as eternal Spirit : infinite Mind
            2: a being or object believed to have more than natural attributes and powers and to require human worship; specifically : one controlling a particular aspect or part of reality
            3: a person or thing of supreme value


            God – A being conceived as the perfect, omnipotent, omniscient originator and ruler of the universe, the principal object of faith and worship in monotheistic religions. The force, effect, or a manifestation or aspect of this being.


            1(in Christianity and other monotheistic religions) the creator and ruler of the universe and source of all moral authority; the supreme being.

  5. Nothing new or revolutionary. 1 Samuel 25:41: “And she arose, and bowed herself on her face to the earth, and said, Behold, let thine handmaid be a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord.”

    I suspect the anonymous author/authors of John simply lifted this older text and re-adapted it for his character. John, after all, is considered the least reliable of all the already tremendously unreliable synoptic gospels.

  6. Prayson, thank you for this wonderful reflection. That passage in John 13 is one of my favorites. Like Peter, sometimes we resist the things Jesus wants to do in our lives. We hold back and reserve the right to hold on to the things that actually hold us in bondage. But when the spirit of what Jesus was doing broke through and Peter realized it he says, “Then, Lord, not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” (NIV). I’m a lot like Peter, and its taken time for Jesus to break through and even longer for me to surrender to him, but when the surrender came it was the most beautiful thing. Peter’s words touch me deeply because that is my prayer too, “Don’t just stop with my feet, Lord! Wash every part of me. Make me yours completely!”

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