Feet Washing: Part 1

John 13  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Very precious and significant is the action of the Lord in the 13th of John, where, at the conclusion of the supper, He washes the disciples feet. To the opened eye of faith it sets Jesus before the heart in the present activities of His love for His own. That which Peter at the moment did not comprehend, but which he should know, as he was told, "hereafter." We do understand by the power and teaching of the Holy Ghost, and according as we enter consciously into this grace of Christ, of which this scripture speaks, do we enjoy our present position, as those who are, His own, in this world.
But let us, by the Spirit's aid, follow this action of the Lord in the simple and touching way in which it unfolds itself before our eyes as John narrates it.
The hour was come for Jesus to " depart out of' this world unto the Father." The work which the Father had given Him to do on earth was, in the spirit of His mind, accomplished. The cross was passed. The touching-memorial of that love, which is stronger than death, and which many waters cannot quench, had just been partaken of by the disciples. The betrayer was about to consummate his dark and dreadful work, and with it would close all connection of Jesus with men, upon the footing on which He then stood. Those He so loved He would have to leave behind Him in the world. He had loved them while in the world Himself, and they, though yet in the world, would still be the objects of His love. "He loved them unto the end." Through all time, and through everything, would they be loved. Separated from them, in person, for a time, He must needs be, but His love would ever be theirs.
So felt the heart of Jesus as He looked upon His disciples as round Him they sat at the paschal board. But not only did He feel how He loved them, but He felt that all their blessing depended on Himself. He knew that " the Father had given all things into His hands."
The work of their redemption had been given to Him by the Father, and He had done it. Done it infinitely well. The labor of His love for then) in this was completed. The supper was the witness of it. But this was only part of the things given into His hands. Another part remained. " He was come from God, and went to God." He must bring them to God also. Bring them into that fellowship and glory into which He was Himself about to enter.
Such were the deep and mighty thoughts of love and divine purpose that filled the heart of Jesus as He looked upon His own. But how should He, when they could not longer see and hear Him, make them understand what His love would yet farther do for them. How make them feel that He was still their own, and that all their blessing hung upon Himself in the activities of a love that could never change.
The abiding memorial of His dying love He had just put before them. Whenever they saw that broken bread and poured out wine, His words, " This is my body which is given you," and "this is my blood which is shed for you," would come softly to their ears, and make them think of that love; but how should He in figure set His living love before them, by an abiding presentation of it, and make them realize their association with Himself in the place He was about to take from them?-"He riseth from supper, and laid aside His garments, and took a towel, and girded Himself. After that He poureth water into a bison, and began to wash the disciples feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith He was girded."
What a sight for their wondering eyes! That the Lord whose power they had witnessed so oft, Whose glory on the Mount of Transfiguration they had seen, the One who they knew to be " the Christ, the Son of the living God," that He should stoop to the lowest of menial service, and wash their soiled feet, might well call out from Peter, as about to wash his feet the Savior knelt, that passionate inquiry, " Lord doss thou wash my feet?" Peter loved his Lord, but little he knew the mystery of that love, which from the height of divine and heavenly glory had come down to serve him. Little did he know the need he had of all that love had done, and would yet do for him. How low that love would have to stoop. How constant the service of that love would have to be.
The Lord tells him- this. " What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter." But this was not enough for that ardent heart, and still ignorant, he saw nothing in his Lord's action but that which was degrading to Him, and submit to that, in his own person, he could not, and exclaims, " Thou shalt never wash my feet." The necessity for that humiliation he did not feel or know, and so deprecates it, as once before, with reference to that of which the bread and wine speak, the cross, he had done, in those words which called forth that solemn rebuke of the Savior, " Get thee behind me Satan; thou art an offense unto Me, for thou savorest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men." There, as it were, Peter would have stood between the Lord and the work that would glorify God and save sinners; in this Peter was Satan's tool, and it was more than ignorance, and hence the severity of that rebuke. Here Peter, through mistaken zeal for the Lord's own honor, would have stood between the Lord and his own blessing, so the Lord merely tells him, "It I wash thee not, thou has no part with Me." i. e. he would not enjoy communion with Christ in the heavenly blessedness into which He was about to enter.
Only by the exercise of love, in a service such as the washing of their feet was meant to illustrate, could Jesus have' His own, while in the world, enjoy fellowship with Himself in Heaven. From the glory Jesus would serve them ceaselessly in that way, and thus, in company with the supper He gives His disciples, this precious presentation of Himself as the girded servant washing with water their feet.
As they looked upon the bread and wine it would bring to their remembrance Himself upon the cross "bearing their sins in His own body upon the tree." Eating that bread and drinking that wine, they would feed upon His death, and drink in that love which had done all this for them-which had saved them, and brought them to God without one sin remaining to bar their entrance into His holy presence. Looking upon that towel, and that basin with its water, they would have their eyes, through faith, let-in upon Himself in His present love for them. A love that, though exercised from glory, and outside the sight of their natural eye, should travel with them all the way across the wilderness-world, in which for the time, He was leaving them. In realizing His ceaseless service for them, as washing their feet, what ever that washing might mean, they would enjoy His presence and share in His own joys. (To be continued.)