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The Washing Of The Feet

The first fourteen verses of the Gospel of John span the period from "the beginning" to the Incarnation. The rest of the chapter deals with the early days of the Lord's ministry. Subsequent portions of the Gospel record particular incidents and discourses. The book as a whole is written to demonstrate the deity of the Lord.

The thirteenth chapter tells of the scene in the Upper Room, and the record of events on that memorable night is continued in the next three chapters. How vividly those hours must have impressed John! The details were fresh in his memory when he wrote the Gospel a long while later. As he writes of these events he seems to be full of the memory of the Lord Himself, and records His words and actions in some detail. The record of that memorable night wonderfully demonstrates the meekness and gentleness of Christ.

The chapter opens with the observation that the Lord was cognisant of the fact that His hour was come that He should depart out of this world. This is followed by the delightful expression "having loved His own... He loved them unto the end (R.V.M. to the uttermost)" (v.1). We link with the terms "having loved, He loved" the expression "Unto Him that loveth us" (Rev. 1:5), and ponder with adoration the unchanging love of our Lord Jesus. "His own", the objects of His love, were in the world and He did not pray that they should be taken out of the world, but He knew that tribulation would be theirs and he was moved by this. The fact of the betrayal was known in detail to the Lord (v.2). Verse 3 emphasizes His Omniscience. The Father had given all things into His hands and He fully comprehended the place that is ever His, the pre-eminent place. His actions that night were done in full consciousness of the glory that is His.

The eternal past was so glorious, the future hours so ignominious, the future ages so wonderful; and we do well to ponder with adoration all this. But we turn now to the scene at that moment in the Upper Room. Weary, footsore men sat round the table; men who had just been concerned with their self-importance, for they had been contending as to who was greatest among them (Luke 22:24-27). History often repeats itself and there is all too often a tendency for disciples of every period to be taken up with themselves and their position or rank among the Lord's people. As those men sat there each looked for another to gird on the towel. Then the Lord Himself rose and took the towel. He poured water into the basin and moved from one to the other - He was in the midst of them as One that served. It would appear that most accepted this service readily, but Peter remonstrates and questions the Lord's action. It may be that Peter would have accepted this service readily from Matthew, Philip or Thomas, or another of the disciples, counting himself superior to them. How gently the Lord reproves, "What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt understand hereafter".

Let us consider that statement of the Lord. It may well console and comfort the suffering saint today. Let us allow the Lord to act in our lives as He sees good. We can be assured that every act is one of love even though we cannot see its purpose. Submission to His will is the only path to true rest and peace.

Peter refuses to yield and states emphatically, "Thou shalt never wash my feet". Resistance to divine purpose can easily come into our lives and we do well to learn the lesson. Fellowship with the Lord can only be enjoyed as we yield to His will and the Lord made this clear to Peter as He said, "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me". Peter's response is immediate - he asks to be bathed. The reply of the Lord opens a vista of truth for us. "He that is bathed needeth not save to wash his feet...". In scriptural ceremonial the priests of the Old Covenant were bathed when consecrated, but afterwards they needed to wash their feet regularly. We have known the joy of divine cleansing but we tread a path that leads through a sin-soiled world and need ever to know the experience, as we walk in the light, of the cleansing power of the Word of God and of the blood of Jesus (1 John 1:5-10). It is only as we know this cleansing that we can enjoy fellowship with the Son and with the Father.

When Peter wrote in a later day, "yea, all of you gird yourselves with humility", he was, no doubt, recalling the Lord's action in the Upper Room. The example and precept of the Lord that night are so clear that it is easily possible to overlook the obvious and to miss the simple lesson He would have us learn: the lesson that we should always have consideration for others and serve one another in love. "Ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example". The exhortation is repeated many times in Scripture. For instance, "Consider one another", again, "Not looking each of you to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others", yet again, "In honour preferring one another". The meekness and gentleness manifested by the Lord Jesus should be characteristic of His disciples for He said, "Ye also ought to wash one another's feet". Modern conditions do not call for actual washing of the feet, yet what an opportunity we have of manifesting a Christlike character by serving others. Too often we tend to hesitate to demean ourselves to wait on others. There is a human tendency to compare ourselves with others, and to maintain what we might describe as our "dignity". Paul manifests a more fitting attitude for he describes himself as "the least of the apostles" (1 Cor. 15:9) and further as "less than the least of all saints" (Eph. 3:8).

The happenings in the Upper Room provide us with a clear demonstration of what Paul means when he speaks of the mind "which was also in Christ Jesus". If we have the mind of Christ we shall act like Him, for action finds its roots in thought. We need to guard against proud thoughts. Too often the people of God in past history have been found proud. Pride leads to hypocrisy: humility to sincerity. Let us have the mind in us which was in Christ Jesus. We do well to ponder the wonderful portion that is ours as sons of God, joint-heirs with Christ. Many wonderful blessings have been bestowed on us by divine grace. If we bring every thought into captivity and in lowliness of mind we each count other better than himself then we shall be ready always to act as servant of all. When manifesting these traits we shall be able to use the language of Paul, in our exhortations to others, "I... entreat you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I who in your presence am lowly among you". When such characteristics are seen in our lives our entreaties will not fail to find a response.