Sapphire Sky

July 16, 2015

Dirty Feet

Filed under: encouragement, theology — Tags: , — Steve Knaus @ 12:32 pm

Basin and the Towel

It was a Thursday evening when the men sat down for the Passover dinner. Their teacher had gathered them — just the twelve of them — for a special dinner that night. They could hardly contain their excitement!

They had followed their teacher for over three years, yet this week was one that they would never forget. They had come to realize that their teacher was more than someone special, he was the long-awaited Messiah! He had come to bring them back to God, and he would set up a new kingdom on earth. He was more than just a teacher, he was their lord and master.

How could anyone doubt him after this week! This must be the time that their master would take his kingdom! He had started out the week by riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. Jerusalem — that great city, that holy city, that city of kings! The people of the city had rushed to him, waving Palm branches and chanting praises!

Surely he would set up his kingdom now!

He returned to the temple on Monday and threw out the crooked merchants and money changers. He then took charge of the entire temple for two days! He would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple (see here). The priests and the synagogue leaders all tried to challenge him but he bested every one of their arguments. No one dared to challenge him any more!

He had taught them that he would be arrested and executed, and that he would come back to life on the third day. But this made no sense to them — maybe he was telling some strange parable? Maybe this was the distant future? For now, the whole nation was following him!

Surely he would set up his kingdom now!

The past two days had been much more quiet as they stayed in the small town of Bethany nearby. But it was now Thursday evening and they were getting ready for the Passover dinner. None of the men even knew where they would be having dinner until they were shown at the last minute. They were directed to a house in Jerusalem with a large upstairs room, on the Western Hill. The room was already furnished and prepared for the thirteen of them to come and celebrate (see here).

The men were so sure that it was time for him to set up his kingdom! The master had promised that they would rule with him and judge the twelve tribes of Israel (see here). Now that they were gathered together on this special occasion, this must be the time to hand out the assignments for his new kingdom! [7]

As they sat down to dinner, the twelve men struggled for the best places at the table. They argued about who was the greatest. All twelve of them wanted to look the best for the master and show them that they were ready to rule the new kingdom with him.

They were so intent on their struggle that they did not worry about social norms. All twelve of them reclined at the table with dirty feet. There was no servant available to clean them up before dinner, and they could not risk being seen doing servant’s work. It was time to rule!

Then, during dinner, the master shocks the entire group! He himself gets up from the table, removes his outer clothes, fills a basin with water, and washes each of their feet. Every single dirty, muddy foot is washed clean by the master.

Peter refused when the master reached him. “Never will you wash my feet!” But the master replies, “you have no fellowship with me unless you let me wash your feet”.

Peter’s quick reply is, “Then give me a bath!” But the master stops him. You are already bathed, and now you only need to wash your feet.

He then brings his lesson to a point. The bathing and the washing illustrate the relationship with him. Most of the men in this room, including Peter, have been bathed into a new life with him (Titus 3:5). One of them does not have a new life and will soon betray him.

But they also need daily cleansing. Even when you have the new life, you still need to be cleaned regularly from the filth of this world. You still have the new life, but you cannot have any fellowship with God without this daily cleansing.

The final point is that if the Lord Jesus Christ is able to wash his disciples’ feet, then we need to do the same. We need to serve each other in humility and apply the cleansing of God’s word.

 

Remember!

  • We need the one-time bath of a new life (John 3:14-16; Titus 3:5). It is only when we believe that we will have the eternal life that he has promised.
  • We need to allow The Lord to daily cleanse us (1 John 1:6-9). We need to remove the filth and sin in our own lives in order to restore fellowship with God.
  • We need to wash others’ feet. We need to serve in humility yet always applying God’s word. We need to wash both the good and the bad people in our lives. Jesus washed the feet of Peter, John, and Judas.

 

In an upstairs room, a parable

is just about to come alive.

And while they bicker about who’s best,

with a painful glance, He’ll silently rise.

Their Savior Servant must show them how

through the will of the water

and the tenderness of the towel.

And the call is to community,

The impoverished power that sets the soul free.

In humility, to take the vow,

that day after day we must take up the basin and the towel.

In any ordinary place,

on any ordinary day,

the parable can live again

when one will kneel and one will yield.

Our Saviour Servant must show us how

through the will of the water

and the tenderness of the towel.

And the space between ourselves sometimes

is more than the distance between the stars.

By the fragile bridge of the Servant’s bow

we take up the basin and the towel.

And the call is to community,

The impoverished power that sets the soul free.

In humility, to take the vow,

that day after day we must take up the basin and the towel.

– Michael Card

 

Previous post: The Final Message


John 13:1-20
​Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”


 

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

Jesus celebrated the Passover dinner with his disciples on Thursday night [1]. Matthew, Mark, and Luke provide details about the dinner preparations (see Matthew 26:17-20; Mark 14:12-17; Luke 22:7-16), while John’s account starts with the Passover dinner already in progress.

Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave the world. But at this time Jesus taught and demonstrated his love for his own. “He loved them to the end”, meaning that he loved them fully, perfectly, and completely.

 

During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

Jesus took action knowing the following:

  • It was time for him to return to the Father
  • He completely loved his own disciples
  • The Devil had already prompted Judas to betray him
  • The Father had given all things into his hands – he had complete authority
  • He had come from God and was going back to God – he was divine

The dirt roads would have been muddy from the spring rains and most wealthy houses would have had a servant available to wash the feet of guests as they entered the home. There was no servant in the room that night and none of the disciples stooped to do this menial task. It was a major faux pas to be at the table with dirty feet, yet none of the disciples would wash their own feet, let alone the feet of each other.

The disciples were preoccupied with asserting who was the greatest (Luke 22:24).  Who would have the greatest positions in the Messiah’s Kingdom (Matthew 19:28)? Who would have the best places at the table (directly to the right and the left of the master)?

“Sadly humiliating as it reads, and almost incredible as it seems, the Supper began with ‘a contention among them, which of them should be accounted to be greatest.’ We can have no doubt that its occasion was the order in which they should occupy places at the table.” – Alfred Edersheim [2]

Jesus demonstrated his love for the disciples by stripping down, taking a towel, and proceeding to wash each of their feet.

Jesus, knowing that he was divine, knowing that he had total authority, washed their feet. He even washed Judas’ feet — the one who would betray him!

“Possessed with the knowledge of his authority, of his divine origin, and of his certain return to the Father, Jesus did not disdain to humble himself to perform a menial service.” [3]

 

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”

Peter objected when Jesus came to him. He would not have his master stoop to serving him. “Never shall you wash my feet!” – This is the strongest possible negative that Peter could have used. [4]

Jesus replied to Peter that he must let him wash his feet if he wanted to have any fellowship with him. Note that Jesus did not say “you have no share in me”, but “you have no share with me”. Peter would always be a child of God (John 10:27-30), but he could not be with him unless he allowed the Lord to wash him.

“It is not humility to refuse what the Lord deigns to do for us, or to deny what He has done, but it is self-willed presumption” [5]

 

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

Peter’s response to Jesus was, “If I need to be washed in order to be with you, then don’t just wash my feet — give me a bath!”

But Jesus is talking about two washings here:

The first washing is to bathe the entire person and does not need to be done every time. For example, you would not take a bath every time you got your hands dirty. The Greek word is λούω (loúō), and means “to bathe the whole person”. This is the washing of new life in Christ Jesus (see Titus 3:5). All who believe are clean (John 1:12, John 3:14-16).

The second washing is to routinely clean the parts that are needed. We wash our hands before we eat, and in the first century, you would wash your feet before attending a formal dinner. The Greek word is νίπτω (níptō), and means “to cleanse, especially the hands or the feet or the face”. We need this repeated washing in order to have fellowship with Jesus Christ (1 John 1:6-9). This is the cleansing that restores us when we go away from God.

“The Word of God is the water that is applied to our hearts and consciences and cleanses us from all defilement.” – H.A. Ironside [6]

The first washing was new life in Christ (John 3:3). Not all of the disciples were born into this new life, as Judas would soon leave to betray the Lord (John 6:70-71). The second washing was fellowship with Christ. All twelve of the disciples were washed by Jesus Christ that night, including Judas.

 

When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Jesus explained his object lesson on humility. The disciples were struggling for the best seats because they wanted the most leadership. But Jesus was showing them that the one who leads the most is the one who gives himself away the most.

Note that this was not a new ordinance to follow. Jesus was not instituting a foot-washing ceremony but was instead setting an example of how we should humble ourselves. If our Lord and Master humbled himself, we should also do likewise (see 1 Timothy 5:10 as a specific example).

“He, Who really was Lord and Master, had rendered this lowest service to them as an example that, as He had done, so should they do.” – Alfred Edersheim [2]

 

I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”

Jesus was teaching this lesson to eleven of his disciples. He knew clearly that the twelfth disciple, Judas, would betray him that night. Jesus directly applied the example of betrayal (Psalm 41:9) to Judas.

The faith of the disciples would be severely shaken. All but one of them would desert their Lord Jesus Christ in the face of his torment and death. So Jesus reassures them now. He knows what is about to happen. They need to understand that he knows it. At the hour of crisis, they can fall back on this and know that he is God. Literally, He says, “when it does take place you may believe that I AM”.

But there is also a second reminder. They have a commission from God the Father. As the Son has represented the Father, so they will represent the Son. “Your authority is Mine, as Mine is My Father’s”.

 


 

[1] Practically speaking, the Passover was a two-day event. The northern Jews (including Galilee) would celebrate the Passover on Thursday, while the southern Jews (including Judea) would celebrate the Passover on Friday. The Galileans considered the day from sunrise to sunrise, and would celebrate the Passover from Thursday sunrise to Friday sunrise. The lambs would be slaughtered on Thursday and the dinner eaten on Thursday evening. The Judeans considered the day from sunset to sunset and would celebrate the Passover from Thursday sunset to Friday sunset. The lambs would be slaughtered on Friday (while Jesus was on the cross) and the Passover dinner eaten on Friday evening.

Source: John MacArthur, MacArthur Study Bible Notes, John 13:1-20

 

[2] Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Book V, CHAPTER X. THE PASCHAL SUPPER – THE INSTITUTION OF THE LORD’S SUPPER

 

[3] Pfeiffer & Harrison, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, John 13:1-20, pages 1101-1103

 

[4] Stephen Davey, Happiness and a Pair of Dirty Feet, John 13:1-20

 

[5] Jaimeson, Fausset, and Brown, Commentary on John 13:1-20

 

[6] H.A. Ironside, Address 42, CLEANSING BY WATER, John 13:1-17

 

[7] Doug Bookman, Passion Week, Audio Series, Lectures 7-8. http://www.bookmanministries.com/

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5 Comments »

  1. […] Previous post: Dirty Feet […]

    Pingback by It Was Night | Sapphire Sky — July 30, 2015 @ 10:22 pm

  2. […] the Passover meal with his disciples in the “upper room” on the Western Hill of Jerusalem (see here). He then walked with them across the entire city of Jerusalem, passing the temple (see here), and […]

    Pingback by The Garden | Sapphire Sky — October 10, 2015 @ 10:12 pm

  3. […] Acts 12:12 tells about the believers meeting in the upper room, which belonged to Mark’s mother. Many scholars therefore believe that this is the same room where Jesus spent his last meal with the disciples (see here). […]

    Pingback by The Kiss | Sapphire Sky — October 15, 2015 @ 10:57 pm

  4. […] Three weeks ago, Peter was at the top of the world. He had traveled to Jerusalem with his teacher and close friend, the greatest man he knew. He had seen his teacher heal blind men and silence his enemies. When they entered Jerusalem three weeks ago [12], the entire city burst with excitement! Peter had known that his teacher was the rightful king and surely he would set up his kingdom now (see here and here). […]

    Pingback by The Stranger on the Shore | Sapphire Sky — February 7, 2016 @ 5:46 pm

  5. […] Jesus washes the disciples’ feet (John 13:1-20) […]

    Pingback by Events of the Passion Week | Sapphire Sky — March 26, 2016 @ 1:49 am


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