I will wash you John 13-1-17
There are times, perhaps when we have been working in the garden, or painting, or fixing the car, that we get our hands so dirty that they don’t come clean after washing them. We can scrub and scrub, but to little effect; the dirt has actually stained our hands. Over time the stain will vanish and our hands will once again be clean.
At the Last Supper, the Passover meal, where the disciples were eating the sacrificial remembrance meal, Jesus gets up and takes off his outer garment, grabs a towel and a bowl of water and washes the disciple’s feet. Either, one of the disciples has really smelly feet and the odour was ruining the meal, or Jesus was making a spiritual point by washing the dirtiest part of a person’s body.
Of course we know there was more to Jesus’ foot washing than just trying to clean some dirty feet. Otherwise he would not have interrupted such an important and religiously significant meal with such an un-dignified display. The Passover meal drew the Jewish people back to the time of the exodus, the night of the Passover. By eating a specially sacrificed lamb they remembered the night the blood of a lamb was spread on the door posts to protect the people inside the house from the angel of death. When the angel saw the blood, he passed over the house and the first born male was kept safe, but all those without the lamb’s blood, had their first born killed by the angel.
Jesus deliberately used the significance of this meal to demonstrate the cleansing he was about to accomplish by his blood on the cross. Every person, man, woman and child, you and me, are stained with dirt. Every one of those disciple’s gathered with Jesus were stained with dirt. No matter how much we wash we remained stained, not with physical dirt, but with the stain of sin and death.
Like when we cannot seem to get a stain out of our hands, we cannot get the stain of sin out of our lives; it is a mark that remains with us forever and taints everything we do and say, as Jesus said in Matthew 15: ‘For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man ‘unclean.‘ The stain of sin is at our core and if left, separates us from the holiness of God.
Jesus washes the disciple’s feet to demonstrate that he will be the one who will wash their sinful hearts, just as king David pleaded and prayed for many years earlier ‘Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Peter however, rejects the washing because he feels Jesus should not wash his feet, that would be humiliating for him, but Jesus replies, ‘You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”… “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” The external washing of the disciple’s feet pointed to Jesus’ washing of our hearts that will clean them from the stain of sin once and for all.
The cross was to be the washing instrument and Jesus’ body and blood serve as the cleansing agent through whom God would clean the world of sin, death and the devil. By washing the feet of the disciple’s, Jesus shows how he must be a servant of the world, a lowly cleaner if you like, just as foretold in Isaiah 53; ‘Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.’
Just as the blood of the sacrificial lamb saved the people of Israel and brought them out of slavery in Egypt, Jesus blood saves us, cleanses us and brings us out of slavery from sin, death and the devil and brings us into God’s presence, as Jesus said ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.’ While Judas would have no part in it and left the room, by faith in Jesus word’s Peter allows Jesus to wash his feet, and he was cleansed. By faith we allow Jesus to wash us clean.
By faith we trust that his blood has washed us, ready for heaven. By faith we allow Jesus to be our servant, humble and gracious towards us, washing our conscience by his word and blood and serving us with his body and blood in his Holy meal, as the writer of Hebrews says ‘let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.’
We have been cleansed by Jesus and tonight, as I wash the feet of some of our brothers and sisters in Christ, we are reminded of Jesus servant hood; his expression of love that saw him die in our place to make us clean. Yet there is something else important demonstrated in this foot washing. With Jesus in us by faith, we also become servants to one another. Just by being cleansed ourselves, we are able to cleanse others through acts of love and forgiveness. We can wash each other by choosing not to bring up past hurts or past sins committed against us. By the power of God’s word and the Spirit’s encouragement, we can choose not to habour anger and bitterness against each other.
We can also wash each other when we speak, read, sing and pray God’s word to each other. Jesus is present in his word, therefore his is present washing through the word, as he promised ‘You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.’ A disciple is really being Jesus’ co-cleaner, who’s only work is to be humble and a slave, to bring cleansing to others through the justifying word of Jesus and to live humbly themselves as they also seek forgiveness from Jesus and other Christians for failing to do this very thing.
This is what it means to love one another and this is what Jesus offers us. As you experience or witness the foot washing, we will sing to each other the very cleansing words of Jesus ‘A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’