After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet,
(Exodus 30:18, 21 and John 13:5)
It is common knowledge that the emphases of the Old Testament and the New are many times quite different. There are, of course, no contradictions between them, for every word in both comes from the very same perfect mind. Whenever there are two perspectives, that is exactly what they are -- two angles that help us gain a better understanding of the whole truth or event. One subtle example of this kind of Biblical harmony shows up in these two seemingly unrelated recipients for holding water.
The bronze laver, placed between the altar and the Tabernacle entrance, had as one of its purposes, that of highlighting the seriousness of coming to God. It is no small thing for fallen, feeble, and finite human beings to have access to the presence of the Almighty, eternal One. The priests were to use its water to wash themselves before going in to continue with their duties. It was essential for them to be clean when they entered the Holy Place. The laver was not there for convenience or comfort. It was absolutely necessary, and to ignore it was a death sentence.
However, as we move forward and into the Gospels, specifically to John 13, we find an extraordinary scene right before Jesus’ death, one that helps us see a complementary aspect of the character of God.
In this passage, the Lord Jesus shocks His disciples by grabbing a basin, filling it with water, and beginning to wash each of their feet! Naturally, they were dumbfounded and really didn’t know what to do. Peter, never one to sit back and follow anyone else’s example, took the initiative and said what the others probably just didn’t have the nerve to say: “No way, Lord!” But the Lord insisted, even as He explained the reason behind His actions.
And so we once again see that beautiful and amazing marriage of God’s grace and truth. In Exodus we see the truth, the unbending reality of Who God is and what He wants from His creatures, along with the penalty for not measuring up. Yes, there is to be a relationship between Him and sinful man, but the emphasis is on the terms He dictates, and nobody should ever forget it.
But with the Son of God, the powerful doctrine of grace comes to the front. After all, He is full of grace and truth, in that order. The offended One, against Whom every man has sinned, steps forward in love, to help make the reconciliation happen. He is not fudging on the truth, nor ignoring the guilt. But He sees the dirty feet and brings out a solution, and a lesson.
Therefore, though the two passages are far apart and occur in different contexts, they harmonize the two attitudes of God towards stained and soiled humanity. On the one hand He orders a laver for purification and on the other He picks up the basin and the towel.
Dear Father, it is quite obvious that Your standard of holiness is far beyond my reach and that all would be hopeless if I had no help. But I praise You for being gracious and kind, for not only the laver but also the basin. Thank you for providing a way, so that through Your Son, I can be clean and enter Your presence.