WASHING THE DISCIPLES FEET
My beloved brethren and sisters,
In our readings in John 13, we are coming to the culmination of the Master’s work of salvation. The Hebrew day started in the evening of the previous day and ended over a period of 12 hours in the evening. Jesus celebrated the Last Supper as 14th Abib began in the evening, then the incident we are reading about in John 13 took place, after which Judas went out and Jesus was arrested. His trial took place during the night and the following morning and then the Master suffered his death, during the evening of the 14th Abib, just before the 15th Abib began. So both the Last Supper and the sacrifice of the Messiah took place on the 14th Abib. Incidentally we believe this took place on the Wednesday evening, after which Jesus was three days and three nights in the tomb and rose again as the first day of the week began i.e. the Sunday. Therefore, the Apostles celebrated the Last Supper on the Sunday and we do similarly.
The washing of the Apostles’ feet was after the Last Supper. It was one of the last expressions of the Master’s love for these 12 men who had followed him throughout his ministry as we see from verse 1:
“Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end”.
In contrast to this, instead of reciprocating his love, Judas had been influenced by the evil plotting of the chief priests, scribes and Pharisees and had determined in his heart to betray his Master as we see from verse 2. Let us note verse 3:
“Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself”.
These words show the greatness of the Master and this is emphasised in John 3:35, 16:15, and 17:7 and in Colossians 1:16-22:
“The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand”.
“All things that the Father hath are mine”.
“Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee”.
“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the ecclesia: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the pre-eminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell; And having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven”.
BEING MADE OF NO REPUTATION
Despite his greatness, Jesus took upon himself the lowliest form as we see from Philippians 2:7:
“But made himself of no reputation (emptied himself), and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men”.
This we see in John 13:4-5:
“He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded”.
When he came to Peter, he responded, “Lord dost thou wash my feet?” as much as to say, “Because of your greatness should you be doing this?” Jesus responded that they would only know afterwards why he was doing this. When Peter further protested, Jesus responded, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me”. It had therefore a special significance to the Apostles. When Peter wanted the Master to wash his hands and head also, Jesus replied that this was not necessary because they were clean every whit, with the exception of one, who was Judas as we see from verse 11. This is explained in John 15:3:
“Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you”.
Jesus’ words had had a cleansing effect on the Apostles because they had responded to that word, but it did not have this effect upon Judas for he was plotting in his heart to betray Jesus. We see that Peter realized this in his words in 1 Peter 1:22:
“Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently”.
When we embrace the truth, it has a cleansing and purifying effect upon us, but this is only effective if it leads to unfeigned love of the brethren, with a pure heart fervently. Let us turn to the Master’s words in John 8:31-32:
“Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free”.
Instead Judas joined himself to the leaders of the nation who were opposing Jesus. The Jews replied to Jesus in John 8:33-34:
“We be Abraham’s seed,and were never in bondage to any man:how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin”.
The word “committeth” in verse 34 means habitual, to pursue a course of action. This is what the leaders of Israel were doing. We constantly read of them plotting to kill Jesus. Although Judas had heard the words of the Master, he did not continue in them. But joined with the chief priests, scribes and Pharisees in their evil plans. The exhortation for us from this brethren and sisters is very evident.
After the Master had washed the Apostles’ feet he explained in verses 13-18:
“Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for I am. If I then your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye ought also to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his Lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me”.
Let us consider now why Jesus said to Peter, “If I wash the not, thou hast no part with me”. The clue to this is in verse 16:
“The servant is not greater than his Lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him”.
The word sent is the word apostolos which means an ambassador of the gospel. It is the same word that is used for the Apostles. The same word is used for John in John 1:6 “There was a man sent from God”. There is a link between the feet and Apostleship which we see from Romans 10:14-15:
“How shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!”
THE BEAUTIFUL FOOT
The beautiful foot is that foot which goes where the Almighty wants it to go. We read of this in the description of the bride in Song 7:1, “How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, O prince’s daughter”. The beautiful foot is the shod foot and links with redemption. The true redeemer was the one who had the shod foot. We see this from the Book of Ruth. Boaz was the true redeemer who redeemed the land belonging to Elimelech and married Ruth, his daughter-in-law. The man who refused to redeem therefore had to remove the shoe and this shoe was worn by Boaz, giving him the right to walk on this land.
So the Apostles were to take the word of redemption throughout the world. We have not the same commission as the Apostles brethren and sisters, we are disciples, a learner or pupil, nevertheless this same principle applies to us as we see from Ephesians 6: 14-20:
“Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And taking the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”.
Our feet must be beautiful feet, going wherever the Almighty wants us to go in accordance with the words in Proverbs 3:5-6:
“Trust in Yahweh with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him (or know him), and he shall direct thy paths” (thy feet).
But let us go back to John 13. We learn from the Old Testament that being a servant is linked with feet washing. In the days of the Apostles it was a mark of respect to wash a persons feet when they came to your house, but it is the principle that is important. The Master is showing that despite his greatness, he took upon him the form of a servant and washed the feet of the Apostles.
The Apostles, particularly the Apostle Paul were pre-eminent examples of humbling themselves as servants and serving their brethren and sisters. When the mother of James and John approached Jesus that he would grant that her two sons should sit on his right hand and left hand in the kingdom, Jesus called the Apostles unto him and addressed them in Matthew 20:25-28:
“And Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many”.
The basis for our ministration of one another is shown in 1 John 3:16-21:
“Hereby perceive we the love, because he (Jesus) laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God”.
LOVING IN DEED AND TRUTH
From these words we see the importance of loving in deed and in truth. We need to care about the natural needs of our brethren and sisters and their spiritual needs. The example cited speaks of our natural needs. The Apostle Paul saw the importance of the spiritual needs of his brethren and sisters in 1 Thessalonians 2:19:
“For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?”
The Apostle wanted them to be in the kingdom. The care for the spiritual needs of our brethren and sisters is not easy and can bring opposition. Hence the words of the Apostle in 11 Corinthians 12:15:
“And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved”.
The Apostle laid down his life in love for his brethren and sisters. The words of Proverbs 27:9 show the value of showing sacrificial love one for another:
“Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel”.
An example of this is Onesiphorus who visited the Apostle Paul in prison in Rome, which we read of in 11 Timothy 1:16-18:
“The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain: But when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me. The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day; and in how he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well”.
We understand that the prison in Rome was a warren of cells and he would have had great difficulty in finding Paul. He was not ashamed of the Apostle and for this reason he may have lost his life for it is implicit from these words that he was dead. We can imagine the comfort his visits must have given the Apostle.
Sisters are notable examples of ministration. We read of them in Luke 8:1-3:
“And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance”.
Joanna must have been a woman of high position and she ministered to the needs of the Master. These women followed Jesus from Galilee, which meant leaving their homes to minister to the Master as we see from Matthew 27:55-56:
“And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him: Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s children”.
Moreover these women stood by the Master when the Apostles fled and they were among the first to go to the tomb on the first day of the week. Truly with their sisterly intuition they believed in the resurrection of Jesus. And in yesterday’s reading in John 12:3 we read of that very costly act of love on the part of Mary in anointing the feet of Jesus with spikenard.
We now come to remember the Master’s act of love in laying down his life for us. May we reciprocate his love in following the example of these faithful women and ministering to the needs of one another for it is written:
“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me”.