Open your Bibles to John 13:1-20. With the beginning of Chapter 13, we are given a window into a very intimate and intense time that Jesus had with his 12 Disciples just hours before his arrest. For the next five chapters John goes into significant detail about the last teachings of Jesus.
With that said, I do want to draw your attention to one thing. John is one of four authors of the Gospels. John, more than Matthew, Mark, and Luke, goes into far greater detail about the events of the Upper Room. Likewise, John writes this gospel long after the other three Gospels have been written, approximately around 90 A.D., nearly 60 years after the death of Christ.
With this in mind, it is interesting that John spends zero time talking about the Lord’s Supper. He speaks of feet washing, as we see today, but speaks nothing of the bread and the wine. Why? Why does John give the most thorough account of that night over five chapters, but leave out what some people, Catholics for example, claim to be of the highest importance?
I believe the answer may lies in John’s purpose of this book. In John 20:30-31 he speaks as to why he wrote what he wrote and why he left some things out, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
John has repeatedly expressed that salvation is dependent upon believing in Christ. It is through faith that we are saved. Faith alone. I believe there is a strong argument to be made that John leaves out the Eucharist because of the abuse Eucharist. If the Eucharist is, as some people argue, to be central in the faith, it makes no sense that John, inspired by the Holy Spirit would conveniently skip over it in his detailed overview of the Upper Room. I believe it was because the Eucharist had started to undermine faith alone, and therefore John leaves it out. People, like so many do today, wrongly viewed the Eucharist as some magic pill that would save them, and Jon seeing this, intentionally focused on other teachings. Having said that, the Lord’s Supper is good, but it is only good if it is not twisted and undermines the truth of faith alone, Grace alone, Christ alone.
With that out of the way, let us now read out text, pray, and see what John does cover in our verses today.
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. 2During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5Then 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. 6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 9Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And youb are clean, but not every one of you.” 11For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.” 12When 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? 13You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 ruly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. 18I 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.’ 19I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. 20Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”
He Loves them to the End
John begins this section by reminding us that the Passover is at hand. As we have stated, it is no coincidence that the hour of Jesus’ departure corresponds to this event. As John said in John 1:29, ““Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! .” God desires us to make the connection that Jesus is our Passover Lamb. Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:7 likewise makes the connection, “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”
How was Jesus the Passover lamb? He was the Passover Lamb in that his death was the means by which those who put their faith in him would be freed from sin and death and brought out of this world and into the presence of God. The death of Christ was the doorway into God’s throne room.
And this is true, not only for those who put their faith in Christ, but it is also true for Christ himself. We can see this in verse 1, “Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father.” The way in which Christ was to leave this world and return to His Father was a bloody cross. Jesus had spent 33 years on this earth away from the Father, he was now ready to return. Hebrews 12:2 says, “Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus loved the Father and wanted to be with the Father,
Now having said that, this doesn’t mean he doesn’t love his disciples. As it says in in verse 1, “having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” The word, “the end” is “telos” which can be taken in a temporal way, such as the end of this life, or it can be taken to mean “to the uttermost.” Both applications are true, for Christ loved them unto death, and his death displayed his uttermost love for them. As Jesus will eventually say in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Christ was about to love his disciples in the greatest way possible.
Which leads to the question, why? Why does Jesus love these men to the end? It appears that John wants to make a distinction that these men were different then the world as a whole. Was it because they were better than others? Was it because they had great personalities? Was it because they were more religious or more righteous? No. If anything is clear in the Gospels it is that the disciples were ordinary men who had very little faith and were constantly putting their foot in their mouth. The answer is found in verse 18, “I know whom I have chosen.” The simple answer to the love of Christ is not found by looking at us, it is found by looking at him. The love of Christ towards these men was not dependent upon them, it was dependent on Him. He chooses.
This is not the first time Jesus spoke this way. If you recall, after the feeding of the 5,000. If you recall, everyone abandoned Jesus after one intense sermon and he turns to the disciples and asks them if they are going to leave him also, and they said no because Jesus had the words of eternal life. Jesus responded in John 6:70, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.”
Jesus will say it again later this night. In John 15:16 it says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit .” Jesus seems to want his disciples to know that their relationship is not built upon a quid pro quo relationship. Their relationship is built upon Christ's sovereign, unconditional love towards them.
In fact, the word love used in verse 1 is agape. IN the Greek language, which is the language the New Testament is written in, has four words for love. Agape, Phileo, Eros, and storge. Phileo means brotherly love, or friendship. Eros means sexual love. Storge means natural, or instinctive love. Agape, is different than all those other types of love for it means, self-sacrificing, unconditinal love. It is a love that puts others before themselves. And this is the love that Jesus has for those whom he has chosen, agape, self sacrificing love.
He Laid Aside His Garments
As I said earlier, these events took place just hours before Jesus' arrest. Therefore, Jesus had a very short time with his disciples before he was to die upon the cross. Despite the weight of this moment for Jesus, his focus was on teaching his disciples. Verse 3, “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, 4rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5Then 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.”
First let us talk about foot washing. Foot washing was a common cultural practice during the times of Jesus. It is not to be confused with the Jewish ceremonial washings. Foot washing was merely practical not religious. The reason they did this was because their feet were a disaster. They wore sandals, the bathed infrequently, the roads were dusty, muddy, and manure laden. When people came into a residence, it was very common for their feet to be washed.
Now the question is who? Who would wash these stinky feet? The answer is, a servant. Foot washing was reserved for the lowliest of the love. We see this in 1 Samuel 25:41 when Abigail tells King David's servant, “Behold, your handmaid is a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord.” It is said that some Jews even took the position that the washing of someone's feet was beneath even a Jewish slave, and only reserved for Gentiles slaves, because it was so demeaning of a task.
So with this in mind, picture the scene of Jesus getting up from supper and taking on the lowly task of a servant to wash the filthy feet of his disciples. This was perhaps the most awkward moment these disciples ever experienced with Jesus. Jesus was not some gentile slave, he was the King of the Jews.
In fact, look at what John says in verse 3, “the Father had given all things into his hands.” Jesus had absolute power. He is the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, dominions, principalities, all creation, time, space, it was all placed into the hands of Jesus. Jesus is the highest being in existence, he is God, all things were in his hands, yet there he was, hours before his death putting into his hands the filthy feet of the ones whom he loves.
This washing would have taken some time and my guess is that you could hear a pin drop in the room. The disciples appear to be speechless, that is until Jesus gets to Peter. Peter wasn't know for his self-control. Verse 6, “He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.”
Peter's response is understandable. He recognized the value and worth of Christ, and it was unfathomable that Jesus would take on the role of the servant. However, Jesus response, is fundamental to Peter's and our salvation. Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”
What does this mean? In Mark 10:45 Jesus says these words, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” This is why Christ came, to wash away the sins of those whom he loved. He took upon himself the towel of humanity and wrapped it around his glory and knelt down from Heaven to earth and used that same towel of his flesh to cleanse us from the dirt of our sin. In order to receive a such magnificent washing, we must allow God himself to serve us. For so many people the cross is foolish. Like Peter, they cannot understand God washing the feet of man by dieing upon a cross. However, Jesus says it very clearly, unless you accept the atonement by the blood of Jesus, you have no part with Christ. And if you have no part with Christ, than you have sealed your fate to bear the wrath of God.
Peter, upon hearing these words was just like a pendulum swinging in the opposite direction. He now wanted Jesus not only to wash his feet, but give him an entire bath. Jesus responds by saying, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And youb are clean, but not every one of you.” ”
What does Jesus mean by this? One moment he says to Peter, if you don't let me do this, you are condemned. But the next moment he says, your are completely clean already. So which is it. Clean or not. The answer is both. What Jesus is talking about is justification and sanctification. These two terms are crucial for all Christians.
To be justified is to be completely clean. Sin has defiled us and made us unclean before God. We cannot be in God's presence with any spot or blemish upon us. Christ, as the Lamb of God takes away, completely, the sin of those who put their faith in Jesus. The disciples in that moment are clean; however, not just in that moment but forever. The work of Christ is completely sufficient to cleanse us from all of our sins. Ephesians 1:7, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,” It is only by the blood of Jesus that we find forgiveness (i.e. cleansed) of our trespasses. There is nothing left for us to do in cleansing ourselves. That is the work of Christ alone. It is Christ who justifies.
Having said that, just because Christ does all the work cleansing you, this does not mean that the work is done. This is what is called sanctification. Sanctification begins after justification and it is the process of becoming more and more like Christ in this world. It is the process of becoming Holy, like God is Holy. Once you are chosen by God, you are chosen by God. He will not change his mind, for God is not someone who changes his Mind. However, once you are his, he starts to transform you to look like one of his children. With each month, year, decade that passes you resemble more a child of God, then a child of Satan.
Perhaps the verse that best summarizes this reality of justification and sanctification is Hebrews 10:14, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” In this verse we see perfection. How long? Forever. Who is this applied to? Those who are being sanctified. In our text today, this is Peter, he is completely clean, and he needs his feet washed. If you are in Christ, you are perfect, and you are being sanctified. If you are not being sanctified, then you have not been made clean by the blood of Jesus. This two things, being perfect and being sanctified are simultaneously true and are inseparable.
How are We Sanctified?
This now leads us to the question, how does this happen. After we put our faith in Jesus Christ and are perfected, cleansed completely, how are we sanctified? How are our feet washed? Verse 12, “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? 13You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”
Our feet are washed in Christian community. This is the reason we do Church, this is the reason we come together multiple times a week. It is to wash each other's feet. And the way that we wash each other is by the Word. Once again later this night, Jesus says in John 15:3, “Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.” This word that Jesus is referring to is the Gospel. Likewise you can see it in John 17:17 when Jesus prays, “Sanctify them in your truth, Your Word is truth.” Likewise, Paul picks this up in Ephesians 5:26 when he is talking about Jesus love for the Church, “that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word”
Jesus as he is about ready to leave these disciples, and hand over the keys of the Kingdom to them, he wants them to have one picture in their mind, servant-hood. This should be the goal of Cornerstone, to be a people who are not self-centered, but who are self-sacraficing for the Holiness of our brothers and sisters. Who get the water and towel of God's Word into our hands and kneel at the feet of our brothers and sisters and wash their feet. This is the essence of Church. Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”