Jesus Washes His Disciples' Feet
John 13: 1-9 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
Look at the first verse again: Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. Jesus loved His people since the beginning of time. He loves us intensely and will love us forever.
Jesus, the Savior of the world who held infinite power, undertook the task of the lowest-ranking servant to train His disciples. He would soon be leaving them, completing the mission for which He came. He wanted them to know His love and His provision for joyful, productive lives in the face of a hostile world.
To appreciate the depth of Jesus’ humility, we must recognize the height of his greatness. First, He is one with God. Everything in the universe was created by Him and for Him. He knew who He was and where He was returning to. He knew He would die on a cross and that He would rise again and ascend back into Heaven.
But instead of showing pride about who He was and what He had accomplished, He humbled Himself and took the form and demeanor of a servant. You know, a lot of “high up” people feel too important to do menial tasks. Even the disciples had argued about who would be greater in Jesus’ kingdom.
In a world in which seeking power, prestige and renown is the priority, Jesus gives this God-ordained example of humble leadership in loving service.
At the same time the devil had already prompted Judas to betray Jesus.
And of course Jesus knew that too.
The disciples were probably uncomfortable as Jesus worked His way around the group. Finally, when He came to Peter, the disciple said, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus, at first, didn’t explain. He just said, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
Peter probably intended to honor Jesus with his next remark, “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” but really he was refusing to submit in obedience to Jesus.
Jesus’ reply, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” broke Peter’s resistance. Above all, Peter wanted to be with Jesus. So retracking his never comment he said, “Then Lord, not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
Whatever Jesus was offering, Peter wanted it all!
John 13:10-17 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
Jesus was of course talking about spiritual cleansing here, and that was something only He could accomplish. And He was also setting the example for His disciples for the way they should serve each other. Humbly meeting the needs of others.
We must embrace opportunities to take a lower position of service rather than desiring and competing for higher positions of leadership. If we ARE called into leadership we are still to be humble, not acting like we’re better than anyone else.
The disciples were clean because they had completely submitted their lives to belief in Jesus. In God’s sight they were already washed, in view of Jesus’ work on the cross, soon to be accomplished. However, they also continuously needed cleansing from the specific sins of daily life. Maybe one of their sins was lack of humbleness to serve one another!
If you are a believer you are clean through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. You are cleansed from sin, forgiven and justified in God’s sight. You are declared righteous by God and accepted by Him because you are covered by the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ.
But we must also recognize sin when it appears in our lives. The more we mature in Christ, the more we perceive attitudes and habits of speech and behavior that violate God’s perfect standard. As we become aware of them, we confess them and again know we are cleansed and forgiven.
The Bible says if we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
So how can we wash the feet of others?
First, we can show genuine love for others in practical ways. 1 John 3:16-18 says: This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
Next, put others first. The Bible tells us to do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests, but each of you to the interests of the others.
We can also forgive each other. Ephesians 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Strengthen one another to overcome sin and bear one another’s burdens. Galatians 6: 1-3 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.
Surrender your rights for the sake of others. Romans 14:15 If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died.
Pray for one another. James 5: 13-14 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.
And finally, encourage one another to live for Christ. Hebrews 10: 23-25 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching