This is the fifth part in the Bible study series: Six Steps to Passover. An important aspect of observing the New Testament Passover is washing each other’s feet. Jesus said “I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.” Introducing footwashing into Passover observance was something new. Why did Jesus institute this portion of the evening? What does Bible show? This study will look at footwashing from a different point of view as we consider three observations and examine three lessons.
[Steve Myers] It’s good to have you here at our Bible study this Wednesday evening. We are on our fifth step to Passover. Tonight we’re going to be talking about the foot washing. We’re glad you’re here; glad you’re visiting with us on the web. Welcome everyone. We’re going to go ahead and ask God’s blessing on the Bible study tonight and then we’ll get started. So, if you’d bow your heads.
“Loving, Heavenly Father, God Almighty, thank You so much for your wonderful ways, Your truth and Your love. Thanks for Your great calling we certainly appreciate. You have an amazing plan, Father. Thank You so much for revealing that to us. We’re going to be talking about those things, Father, and just ask that You would inspire the words that are said; inspire our hearing and, most importantly, Father, help us to apply Your wonderful way to our lives that we can become more like You and more like our Savior, Jesus Christ. So, Father, we put it into Your hands. We ask Your presence and guidance and blessing and we ask and pray all of this by the authority of our Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.”
At the institution of the New Testament Passover Christ washed the disciple’s feet. Have you ever wondered why He did that? Now that had nothing to do, it seems, with the Old Testament Passover and yet this was something a little bit different. Maybe even a little bit different like the bread and the wine but, why did He choose to do that?
Well, tonight I’d like to talk about some observations about foot washing. We’re going to look at three observations and three lessons that we might be able to glean from Christ’s example in the foot washing. It seems, oftentimes, that we would say that Christ was a servant and so He washed feet. And, of course that seems to be very evident. But, why did He do that? Was there, perhaps, more to it? We know that the bread and the wine became symbols of His body and His blood. Is there some connection to that with foot washing? Let’s see what we can find out as we consider Jesus Christ and the foot washing. Let’s start out with an observation to begin with.
Observation #1: Customs
Let’s look at the customs. The customs when it comes to foot washing. We’re going to find something interesting. If you’ll turn with me back to Genesis, Chapter 19. All the way back in the Old Testament we have a familiar story here. This is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and you may remember, before God was going to destroy Sodom; He was going to warn Lot. So what happens at the beginning of Chapter 19?
Genesis 19:1 Genesis 19:1And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground;
American King James Version× “And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground;”
V.2 “And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night.” This story goes on.
Now, what did Lot offer God’s representatives? What was the custom when it came to washing a traveler’s feet? The custom was to provide water. Lot did not offer to wash their feet, did he? He offered to provide them water so that they could wash their own feet. In fact we find this similar example if we flip over just a couple of pages in the Book of Genesis. Go over to Chapter 24. We find another example in the Old Testament as we consider some observations about washing feet. We find Abraham seeking a wife for his son, Isaac. He doesn’t want Isaac to marry just anybody but he wants someone that is of his people. So he sends his best servant to find a wife for Isaac. In Chapter 24:29 , his servant finds Rebecca and she was at the well. She helped the servant.
Genesis 24:29 Genesis 24:29And Rebekah had a brother, and his name was Laban: and Laban ran out to the man, to the well.
American King James Version× “And Rebekah had a brother, and his name was Laban: and Laban ran out unto the man, unto the well.”
V.30 “And it came to pass, when he saw the earring and bracelets upon his sister’s hands, and when he heard the words of Rebekah his sister, saying, Thus spake the man unto me; that he came unto the man; and, behold, he stood by the camels at the well.”
He realizes Rebekah has accepted this marriage proposal from Abraham’s servant. What does Laban do? V. 31.
V.31 “And he said, Come in, thou blessed of the LORD; wherefore standest thou without? for I have prepared the house, and room for the camels.”
So he goes out of his way to make sure they are going to be welcome. He’s even going to welcome the camels, right? He’s made a place for the camels. You talk about “rolling out the red carpet”; well that’s what he’s doing. So, what happens next?
V.32 “And the man came into the house: and he ungirded his camels, and gave straw and provender for the camels, and water to wash his feet, and the men’s feet that were with him.”
So here we find Laban giving straw and a place to stay for the camels; going out of his way with hospitality. But, when it comes to foot washing, what does he do? He provides water so that they could wash their feet; the servant could wash his foot; Abraham’s top representative could wash his own feet and his whole company could wash feet as well. So in Genesis 24 we have that same example that we had over there in Genesis 19 . So it begins to come pretty clear that the custom of the day was to provide water for foot washing.
There’s even a more critical example of this if we go back just a little bit to Genesis, Chapter 18 . Here’s what you might even think of as a surprising example. Let’s notice what happens here in Genesis 18. Here’s Abraham sitting in the heat of the day by the terebinth tree.
Genesis 18:1 Genesis 18:1And the LORD appeared to him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;
American King James Version× “And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;”
V.2 “And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground,”
Abraham realizes who these men are.
V.3 “And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant:”
V.4 “Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree:”
Come to find out this is God and two of His angels so here we have the Word; the One who would become Jesus Christ, visiting Abraham with two of His angels. Abraham says, “Please, hang out; take a break. Let’s kick back and rest just a little. Don’t go by. Let me serve You.” That’s basically what he is saying.
V.5 “And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant.” And they said , “Deal. Let’s do that.”…”So do, as thou hast said.”
Abraham, Verse 6, hurries to Sarah and says , “Let’s go to McDonalds” . Oh no, she doesn’t say that. She says, “Let’s get some fast food going here. We’ve got to have some food fast!” Can’t imagine how this was so quick but they ran to the herd. They took a tender, good calf; gave it to a young man. He hastened to prepare it, so this is fast. They are moving.
V.6 “And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth.”
V.7 “And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetch a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it.”
V.8 “And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat.”
We begin to see they are going “all out” for the two angels and for the One who would become Jesus Christ. Yet, as we look at this story, what did they do to them when it came to washing feet? If you go back to Verse 4, he says,
V.4 “Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree:”
So, even for the Word, the God that was with Israel; the God of the Old Testament; the One who became Jesus Christ, Abraham was going to serve Him by providing water for Him to wash His own feet.
I think it’s fair to say that the custom of the day was not to wash someone else’s feet. The custom was to provide water so that they could wash their own feet. Now it is interesting that it does carry over into the New Testament as well. New Testament times, similar custom. Let’s go over to the New Testament, Luke 7 . We’ll start in Verse 36. We’re probably familiar with this story. Jesus Christ gets invited to a meal. He goes to eat with the Pharisee and this woman shows up and begins washing His feet. Let’s see what we can realize from this observation.
Luke 7:36 Luke 7:36And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat.
American King James Version× “And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat.”
V.37 “And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment,”
V.38 “And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.”
This is a unique circumstance where this woman takes this valuable oil and washes the feet of Christ. What does Christ have to say about it? It’s interesting, as they criticize this woman, “Do you know what manner of woman this is?” She was a sinner. But Christ, then, V. 44:
V.39 “Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.”
V.44 “And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon,” the one who is criticizing this very act; He says, “Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.”
So we see this unique circumstance brings out the fact that the custom of the day; what Christ criticized Simon for not doing. He didn’t say, “Simon, why didn’t you wash My feet? You should have been washing My feet. What’s wrong with you?” He didn’t do that. He said to Simon, “You didn’t bring water so that I could wash My own feet. You failed to have a place to place to wash My feet.” So He criticized him for failing to provide water, not for washing His feet.
I think we begin to see that the custom of the day was not that a servant would wash feet but that they would provide water so that the traveler or the guest could wash their own feet. There is an interesting section of the Holman Bible Dictionary that gives a little information about the custom of the day. Holman’s Bible Dictionary said, “Customarily a host provided guests with water for washing their own feet. Foot washing was regarded as so lowly a task that it could not be required of a Hebrew slave.” So it was lower than a slave’s job. Of course it was a humble act. This woman was totally abasing herself and there is no doubt about it. Certainly there is connections to that with the Passover and the institution of the foot washing that Christ did. But it’s interesting that the responsibility was actually beneath the slave; beneath the slave to do that very thing. So when we begin to think about Passover and the foot washing, is there more to foot washing than just recognizing that it is a humble act? I think so. I think Christ wants us to realize that there is more. Did Christ intend only to dramatize a servant’s act? Well, by the custom, we’d have to say, “No”. That wouldn’t make sense because the servants didn’t even do that. So, if that was only what we get out of it; if we limit the foot washing to saying, “Well, it’s an act of humility and we should be humble” , I think we can miss some greater insight into what Christ was trying to teach us. Because there is no doubt. Maybe a second observation we can come to here is the fact of what our Savior was doing. What was Christ actually doing? He certainly is our servant.
Observation #2: Christ is our servant.
That is certainly borne out; not only in the foot washing, but all over the New Testament we see amazing examples. I’ve put down Luke, Chapter 22. Go over to Luke 22, look at V. 26. It certainly points out the fact that Jesus Christ is our servant and there is no mistaking that fact. That is absolute. He is a servant of all; not just His disciples; not just you and I, but everyone. Here’s Christ speaking:
Luke 22:26 Luke 22:26But you shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that does serve.
American King James Version× “But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.”
V.27 “For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth.”
So here we find absolute proof from the Word of Christ Himself. I mean, who is He? He is the Master. But there’s a connection that we absolutely have to make when we consider Christ as our Master that He’s also servant and we can’t miss the connection in what Christ was doing and how He focused us. The Master is a servant. Now how does that relate to us and the Passover? Well, we’ll put that one on the shelf for a minute and we’re going to come back to that in just a moment. But, how many times does Christ point this out? You can’t help but think of Philippians 2 as a great section of Scripture as well. You can read that for yourself later as well if you’d like to just to get the concept of our Savior, Jesus Christ. He said:
Philippians 2:5 Philippians 2:5Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
American King James Version× “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:” This points right to that fact.
He didn’t consider it robbery to be equal with God but what did He do?
(Php 2:6) Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
He became a man; He took on not just any many but Philippians 2 says He took on the identity of a servant, a bond slave. That is our Savior, our Savior, Jesus Christ is a servant. He is servant of all. That is not what He did, not just that He served but His identity, who He was. He became a bond slave; He became a servant, our Master is servant of all. So that’s important I think as we consider the foot washing because how did Christ explain the foot washing? Ever wondered about that? What did Christ Himself say about it? Let’s take a look. We’ll go over to John, Chapter 13, where we find the only example of the events of the foot washing recorded for us that are in the New Testament. Let’s go right to the very beginning of that section of that Scripture. In John 13 we find Christ beginning this section of the New Testament Passover that He instituted. It starts out in Verse 1.
John 13:1 John 13:1Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them to the end.
American King James Version× “Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.”
I think there is a connection here between Master and Servant as well. He loved them to the end. Not just meaning that He loved them to the end of His life but He loved them completely. He loved them entirely. Some translations, I think, even indicate to the “uttermost”. So it’s not just a period of time to the end of His life but He loved them fully and completely and as we recognize that we see what that led Him to do; “He loved them to the end.” So what we find then, after this section: how does Jesus Christ demonstrate His love? We’re just told right here “He loved them to the uttermost”; “He loved them to the death”; “He loved them without any hesitation”. So anything that follows this has to be a representation, or a demonstration of what that love is all about. So what does He do? Verse 2.
V.2 “And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him;”
V.3 “Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and…” (was going to) “…went to God;”
You see here we see Him demonstrating that love. He is demonstrating that love, recognizing His purpose. He’s recognizing what it’s all about. We see that He’s got a unique calling and He is mindful of that calling at that Passover service. He’s mindful of that. If you can imagine this scene that He has that ultimate purpose in mind and as that purpose is on the forefront of His mind so is betrayal. And yet His demonstration of love supersedes even the presence of Satan there. Look what He does in Verse 4. He says:
V.4 “He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.”
V.5 “After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.”
He took His outer cloak off and He picked up the towel and there’s some interesting connections throughout the Book of John as far as laying down and picking up because He laid down His life for us and it was taken up again as He became spirit. So those connections we can’t really ignore; we don’t have time to go into all of that. But He removed clothing and then resumed being clothed. So, just like laying down His physical life He took on spirit life. So there is a number - you might even do a little Bible study on your own - a number of little indications throughout the Book of John that point to the laying down and the picking up; the putting away physical life and taking on spirit life.
V.6 “Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet?”
I think we could step back for a moment and say “Wow.” With the custom to provide water, it might give us a little more insight into why Peter would be so shocked by that. Are you kidding me? It’s not just the fact that He’s humble but You don’t do this. This isn’t what normally happens, you know, in a Jewish home. “You’re going to wash my feet?” What does Jesus respond? V. 7
V.7 “Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.”
You know Peter, figuring it out later, wasn’t good enough. “Oh, I’m going to know later? Well I want to know right now! Tell me what’s the deal right now?” So he couldn’t wait. He couldn’t wait. Christ said “You’re going to know this .” Peter ignores that comment and what does he say?
V.8 “Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not; thou hast no part with me.”
So Peter, as impetuous as he is, says, “You’re not going to wash my feet.” What is Christ’s response? It says, “ If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.” Christ makes it absolutely crystal clear, doesn’t He? Without foot washing there’s no relationship that we have with Christ. He doesn’t say, “Well, it would be nice if you washed feet. It would be a nice idea. You know if you think of it, maybe you could include it in your ceremony; include it in your tradition.” He didn’t say that. He says , “Listen. This has tremendous consequences spiritually speaking.” Having a part in Christ depends on washing, doesn’t it? That is what Christ is saying, “If I don’t wash you, you have no part with Me.” So we wash feet. We wash feet like Jesus did and yet Jesus washing feet shows something even more. His action shows that we belong to Him. We belong to Him. Do we allow that to happen? Do we follow His example? Foot washing makes it possible for, well would it be fair to say, foot washing makes it possible to have eternal life? When you think about it symbolically, does it have that connection? What does Christ say? “ If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.” None. So if we don’t allow that, we’re not a part of Him; not a part of His way; not a part of His family; not a part of His plan; not a part of eternity. So those are pretty serious consequences.
I think that is an important observation that we begin to see as Christ, our Master, serves us by washing feet and says we’ve got to do it. We’ve to do it. Now, how interconnected is that to the physical act or is there more to it than just the physical. Let’s think about that for a moment and go on to a third observation.
Observation #3: Being completely clean
As we think about a third observation He gives us a little bit of insight here because He begins to talk about being clean. He doesn’t just talk about a little bit clean. He talks about being completely clean; absolutely clean. So let’s notice that. Very interesting as Christ Himself is explaining what the foot washing is all about. Does He say that “I’m showing you how to be a servant? I’m showing you how to be humble?” Does He say that? He doesn’t say that? Notice what He tells Peter, Verse 10. Here’s what Christ said.
V.10 “Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all.”
V.11 “For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.”
So certainly there was uncleanliness in Judas, absolutely. But what about that first sentence. Well, if you were to look that up in a couple of different translations, it might give us a little more insight into the way that Christ Himself explained what foot washing was about.
The Phillips (commentary) says, “The man who has bathed only needs to wash his feet to be clean all over.” This gives us a little bit different understanding here.
New Living (translation) says, “A person who has bathed all over doesn’t need to wash except for the feet to be entirely clean.”
So they were clean but not totally clean and I think that begins to help us to understand an important key to what foot washing is about. Foot washing symbolized making them completely clean. Isn’t that what Christ is saying here? Foot washing symbolized that. Christ explains it that way. He didn’t explain it as, “Well just be humble.” Well obviously, yeah, that’s true. It was a humble act and that is something that is important. We should glean that information from what Christ was doing. No doubt because it was the lowest of low jobs. Even the servants didn’t do it. So obviously and absolutely it was a humble act of a servant and Christ exemplified that. But more importantly He Himself says foot washing was directly connected to being fully clean, or being completely clean. As you think about that, that’s what we’re supposed to be. We’re supposed to be clean and pure. The whole Passover reminds us that we’re supposed to be that way; that we have that connection to being clean. Remember what it says over in 1 Corinthians 5. It talks about leavening. Remember the whole section there - 1 Corinthians Chapter 5, where it talks about that; that we’ve got to get the leaven out.
1Corinthians 5:7 “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:”
That’s what 1 Corinthians 5 is all about. Christ was sacrificed for us. So we don’t keep the Feast with the old leaven, not of malice and wickedness, but of sincerity and truth. So, we have got to be in that process. We’re to be clean and pure. We’re to put out the sin and continue to do that. What it seems to indicate is Christ is telling us that we have to have that ongoing process of being clean; of being purified. We can’t have unforgiven sin and still claim to be a part of the Body of Christ, can we? Can we have unforgiven sin and still be a part of the Body of Christ? You see Christ seems to be pointing at - we have to have His mercy every day. We have to repent every day. We have to have our feet washed, by Christ, every day. We’re clean. We’re bathed. We’ve been baptized but we’ve got some dirty feet and that’s got to be washed up. We need to be cleaned up by our Savior Jesus Christ, the One who serves us and when we do, symbolically, our feet are washed. And, in a way, we wash our own feet by responding to the repentance that God has granted us and then we become completely clean; completely clean once we are forgiven.
It’s interesting how this connection is made; not just here at Passover and in the New Testament but this indication was made throughout God’s plan. Even in Israel it is interesting to see this connection between cleanliness and washing and how we can see some spiritual significance in the whole situation as well. If you go over to the Book of Exodus. Let’s take a look at Exodus to get an example of this. This is outside the Passover ceremony but I think it will help us to understand how this cleanliness, spiritually, is so vitally important. Exodus 30 is where we’re going to go. We find the laver mentioned in the, initially in the tabernacle and then later in the temple. The priests would wash in this laver or this wash basin.
Exodus 30: 1 “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,”
V.18 “Thou shalt also make a laver of brass, and his foot also of brass, to wash withal: and thou shalt put it between the tabernacle of the congregation and the altar, and thou shalt put water therein.”
V.19 “For Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat:”
So we see the washings that the priesthood had to go through.
V.20 “When they go into the tabernacle of the congregation, they shall wash with water, that they die not; or when they come near to the altar to minister, to burn offering made by fire unto the LORD:”
So this was an important thing.
V.21 “So they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they die not: and it shall be a statute for ever to them, even to him and to his seed throughout their generations.”
That seems to be pointing us in the same direction that Christ was pointing; that if we want a relationship with God we need to be clean. Of course we are called to serve Him. Our bodies are supposed to be a temple today so, as we read about Aaron and the priests at that time, they had these special washings that they had to go through; these ablutions, sometimes they’re called in theology. In fact I read a little article from Holman’s on ablutions which is washings. Here’s what it says, “Ablutions were performed for cleansing from the impurity of an inferior, or undesirable condition to prepare the person for initiation into a higher, more desirable condition.” Did you catch that? There’s a connection here with the washing to prepare the person for initiation into a higher or more desirable condition. To go from undesirable to desirable. Now translate to our spiritual perspective. To go from a state of sin to forgiveness; from a state of not in a right relationship with God to being in a right relationship with God. So that wash basin had an amazing representation in those Old Testament rituals. Even when the Aaronic priesthood was instituted, Aaron had to be washed. In fact Moses took Him and washed him. You might just write down Leviticus Chapter 8 talks about that whole concept of washing for the priest. In fact the Jamieson, Faucett, and Brown comments about ablutions. It says, “It was designed to teach them the necessity of inward purity and the imperative obligation on those who bore the vessels and conducted the services of the sanctuary to be holy.” Those that conducted the services of the sanctuary had to be washed. They had to be pure.
It is interesting, once that priesthood was set aside; once Aaron was inaugurated, “Well I don’t have to wash anymore, right?” Wrong. They had to constantly do it even though they were dedicated. Even though they were set aside to serve God. They still had to wash. So that harkens us back to what the foot washing is all about. Yes, we are bathed. We are baptized. But we still get our feet dirty and they need to be cleaned up. So let’s think about a few lessons that we might be able to learn from the connections that we’ve made in observing some of the scenarios that are involved with washing feet.
Well I think when we begin to put some of these aspects together it becomes pretty clear. We can’t clean ourselves up. That’s not going to happen. So we recognize the fact.
Lesson #1: Jesus cleanses.
It takes the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to clean us up. We must have the sacrifice of Christ. There is an interesting connection when we think about where we just left in Exodus and the priesthood being washed clean and some of the significance spiritually. We can find a lot of those connections in the Book of Hebrews. Now we just finished our Hebrews Bible study so, hopefully, we’ll remember some of these things. But if you go over to Hebrews, Chapter 9, we’ll find this concept being discussed here because throughout Hebrews it focuses quite a bit on cleansing and purification and what were the representations in the Old Covenant and how does it connect with the New Covenant. So, in Hebrews, Chapter 9, we’ll see an example of this in Verse 10. Let’s notice what it says there. It tells us that the physical priesthood; it says:
Hebrews 9:10 Hebrews 9:10Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.
American King James Version× “Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.”
So even though the priestly rituals were passed, is there still a necessity for spiritual cleansing? That’s the question. Why I think Christ, at the Passover, says absolutely. Absolutely. There is a connection between what happened; what Christ instituted and cleanliness and that Jesus cleanses us. Look just a little bit farther down, Verse 14.
V.14 “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”
You see that’s the kind of washing that we should begin to realize takes place at the Passover; representative of that. That there is a spiritual cleansing that we need. We need to clean up our hearts and our minds, our mind, our conscience as it says here. Because as we live our life, even though we are baptized we sin and Jesus Christ provides the solution for sin as He cleans us up. So we begin to see, like the priesthood, I think we could say there is a required washing for Christians today. Converted Christians must be washed. It is a requirement just like Christ said, “If I don’t wash your feet you have not part in Me.” So on the authority of Jesus Christ we see very clear it has to do with being cleaned up, being pure, being made right with God. In fact we find that wording throughout the New Testament in so many different places. Maybe we could even turn for a moment. One that came to mind was over in 1 John - let’s see if I can find it - it’s 1 John, right at the beginning of the Book. Yeah, there it is, 1 John 1:9 1 John 1:9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
American King James Version×. We’ll even write that one down.
1 John 1:9 1 John 1:9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
American King James Version× “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
It takes Christ to clean us up and it doesn’t say just a little bit. No. Even as converted Christians we get dirty. We sin and we need to be cleaned up. So, as John records for us, He cleans us up from all unrighteousness, every bit, which ties us back to the foot washing at the Passover because He says well, we’re clean, but not completely. And He can completely clean us up and we can have another shot at it. So it is an amazing connection here as we see how foot washing really ties into the death of Christ. It ties into His sacrifice not just simply being a representation of humility. So it is an amazing connection when we realize Christ is the One who cleans us absolutely, thoroughly. That’s so vitally important. Now, it’s also a lesson that we can glean from that is that we must be clean.
Lesson #2: We must be clean to be His servants.
It is not an option not to be if we claim to be His. If we claim to be converted; we claim to be Christians; we claim to be God’s sons and daughters, we must be clean. It’s a requirement so no wonder Christ said “If I don’t wash your feet you have no part in Me.” That’s an amazing, powerful sentence that Christ uttered to Peter there. You have no part with Me. So, we’re to have a clean relationship with God and over and over again, throughout the Bible, we are reminded of that. There is a section in Ephesians that talks about that. Maybe we could turn over to Ephesians 4 . I think we can see a connection here. In Ephesians, Chapter 4, it points us to this very concept. (I’ve got to find which verse it begins in.) verse 20.
V.20 “But ye have not so learned Christ;”
V.21 “If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:”
V.22 “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;”
But I’m baptized. I’m converted. Yes, but, I still fall. I still sin. Solution? I have to be clean. So what happens? It says, “put off the old man….” and
V.23 “And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;”
V.24 “And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”
God’s creating something new in me; a new way of thinking; a new way of being clean. It’s a requirement. In fact if we just bump over, just a little bit, we see this in instructions to families. Ephesians, Chapter 5 , kind of continues that concept here as it talks to families. Look at Verse 26 as he is instructing husbands and wives. It talks about husbands and the connection to Christ and the church.
Ephesians 5:25 Ephesians 5:25Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
American King James Version× “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;”
V.26 “That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,”
So we have this washing of water. Yes baptism is the ultimate washing of water and a changed life. We kill the old man but sometimes he pops back up again and we need to be further cleansed. And we can be washed. We must be washed if we’re going to be a part of Jesus Christ. So we see this concept over and over and over again and we see that this symbolism of clean feet and the representation of what clean feet represents. What would you put down? Clean feet I think has a direct connection to forgiven sin. A direct connection to cleansing, to cleansing; being fully clean. Remember what we read in the Bible dictionaries where it talked about what the ablutions were all about: moving from a less clean state to a more clean state. So, yes we are less complete as a follower of Jesus Christ. We get our feet washed. We are forgiven. We become more clean, more complete. We go from a level of less spiritual maturity to more spiritual maturity when we come before God and we repent and we change and we put that sacrifice into action in our lives because it is an important aspect of what Christ was trying to help us to understand. So it’s a powerful statement when He says, “unless I wash you, you have no part in Me.” In fact I wrote down a couple of other verses throughout the Book of John where He uses a phrase similar to that, “Unless I wash you…” , or “if I don’t wash you, you have no part in Me.” Chapter 3, Verse 3:
John 3:3 John 3:3Jesus answered and said to him, Truly, truly, I say to you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
American King James Version× “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
V.5 “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”
John 6:53 John 6:53Then Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you have no life in you.
American King James Version× “Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.”
John 8:24 John 8:24I said therefore to you, that you shall die in your sins: for if you believe not that I am he, you shall die in your sins.
American King James Version× “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.”
John 12:.24 “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.”
Making a spiritual connection between wheat and our spiritual life. And the one in John 13:8 John 13:8Peter said to him, You shall never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash you not, you have no part with me.
American King James Version×that we talked about.
John 13:8 John 13:8Peter said to him, You shall never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash you not, you have no part with me.
American King James Version× “Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.” And one more, Verse 4 of Chapter 15
John 15:4 John 15:4Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can you, except you abide in me.
American King James Version× “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.”
Christ was, I think in many ways, leading up to this key principle of the symbolism behind the foot washing; that we must be completely clean. We MUST be clean and have better, stronger, more mature spiritual relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ.
Lesson #3: Help each other be clean.
Now it’s also interesting at the Passover Christ washed the disciples’ feet and He said we’re supposed to do that too. So, at the Passover we wash other people’s feet and I think that’s another lesson that we can glean here is that we help others. It’s not just helping others but I think it has to connect back to this whole concept of the foot washing. We help others what? We help others be clean. (Sounds kind of funny the way that came out.) But we help others. Since we are made clean by Christ do we have a responsibility to each other? Are we our brother’s keeper; maybe that’s a different way to put it? What was Christ’s example? Well maybe we could look at one example over in Hebrews, Chapter 10, verse 21 . I’ll write that one down. We can begin there. Once again, here, in Hebrews, we’re comparing some of the physical aspects of the Old Covenant to the New Covenant focusing on Jesus Christ today. He says:
V.22 “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.”
Well what is that referring to? Well we’re washed. We’re clean. We’re baptized. We’ve renewed our covenant with Jesus Christ and God the Father at the Passover. We’ve had our feet washed. We’ve had our minds renewed. We are in a repentant attitude. Well, because of that, what does He tell us?
V.24 “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:”
V.25 “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
So there is a connection between washing and being clean and our responsibility to each other. There is a responsibility. Now we don’t wash away sins the way Christ does. That’s not going to happen. No way. Not referring to that. But, do we have a responsibility to help others be clean? Well I think that’s exactly what He’s saying. Can we stir each other up? Can we encourage one another? Can we correct one another? Absolutely. I think he points to that. He says, “out of love…” we’re to do those things. We can exhort one another. In fact, I think, is it 1 Peter 4? I don’t know if I put it in my notes or not. I did. Talk about helping others be clean; it talks about “love covers a multitude of sins….” In fact, maybe I should turn over there because I think it even tells us a little more. Yeah, it says:
1 Peter 4:8 1 Peter 4:8And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.
American King James Version× “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves:” We have a responsibility for one another and then he says, “for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.”
Skipping down just a little bit,
V.10 “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
So there’s that indication we need to take on the perspective that Jesus Christ had at the Passover. He washed the disciples’ feet. He was willing to take that towel, gird Himself, and get down and do the lowliest task that even a servant wasn’t expected to do. And He served the disciples.
We can help others be clean. We can serve them. We can love them. We can forgive them. We can, as Peter says here, “cover a multitude of sins”. Can we be peacemakers? Can we be that one that steps up and helps heal the breach? We can do that and we’re expected to that. It’s connected to the foot washing, that we do that very thing. Do we consider one another that we stir one another up? Or, maybe we don’t know each other well enough to even do that. Well, it’s part of our responsibility to do that very thing. And assembling together has a connection to the foot washing as well. How can I stir someone up? How can I take responsibility for helping others be clean if I never show up to meet together to meet God? He says it’s not going to happen. So, if you don’t meet together how are you going to get to know each other and how are you going to stir one another up and how are you going to love each other and how are you going to show care for each other and exhort one another and encourage each other to be built up under the measure and stature and the fullness of Christ if you don’t hang out together? It’s not going to happen. So there’s this connection between all of those things and the foot washing and our responsibility when it comes to washing feet as well.
So it’s a powerful example that Christ set for us. I think it hearkens back to that section of Philippians. If you go back to Philippians, maybe we can turn there. We’ve read this one probably so many times. You’ve heard it in sermons and maybe discussed but let’s read it in connection to the foot washing and I think it takes on a little bit different emphasis when we recognize it in that context.
Philippians 2:3 Philippians 2:3Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
American King James Version× “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.”
V.4 “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.”
V.5 “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:”
V.6 “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:”
So we have that responsibility. We have that responsibility to help others be clean. That’s what joins us together as a body and that happens through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and that representation of the Passover.
So when it comes to that section of the service this year, perhaps we can remember some of the observations that Christ has given us. Perhaps we can remember lessons. I am sure you could add to the lessons that could be learned through the example of Jesus Christ. These are just a couple that I came up with. I’m sure you could come up with many others. And when we get to that part of the ceremony, hopefully we won’t just worry about our wet feet or our sticky socks or whatever it may be if we try to put those things back on. I think it’s important to remember who provides the water. Who provides it? God provides the water. He provided it through His son, Jesus Christ. We have the opportunity to have a relationship with Him. At the Passover no wonder baptized adults come together to celebrate the Passover. You must be baptized because, like He told the disciples, you’re clean but not completely, not completely. Now the Passover ceremony itself, there’s not forgiveness of sin at the Passover. We don’t have our sins forgiven at Passover. That’s not the case either because we can have our sins forgiven anytime. Every time we go before God and repent our sins are forgiven. So, don’t wait till Passover, that wouldn’t be right. We want to renew our minds daily. That’s what we need to do. And remember the water that’s been provided by Jesus Christ?
We have received that cleansing of baptism so no wonder Passover is for those who are baptized; who have already made that commitment. Now we recognize, alright we still sin. We’re not enslaved to sin, you know, like Romans talks about. Yes, we still sin but there’s an entire difference between the sin that we commit before being baptized and the sin after baptism. Before baptism we can’t get out of it. We are locked into it. We are enslaved to it the way Paul describes it in Romans 7 and Romans 8 . But he tells us through baptism that we don’t have to be locked in. We don’t have to be chained down to sin. That there is a solution so we can become completely clean, just like at baptism. It was all washed away but now that we’ve been walking through life, our feet have gotten a little dirty. So we can be completely cleaned by having our feet washed. We don’t have to wait for the foot washing to have our feet washed symbolically, do we? No. We don’t have to. We can go before God at any time. Call out to Him. Be fully repentant, you know, recognize our shortcomings and accept the cleansing that is provided by Christ’s sacrifice. I mean, just think of it, we have this awesome, amazing, infinite, majestic God who got down on His knees and washed our feet. We have the God who washes feet. That is such a cool thing to think about. In fact maybe one other passage we should read before we conclude tonight. Back to John. John, Chapter 13, Verse 16 . As Christ came to the conclusion of the Passover and this special significance of foot washing, He comes back to this idea of Christ as our servant; our Master, the Servant. He says:
John 13:16 John 13:16Truly, truly, I say to you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.
American King James Version× “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.”
Giving deference to the Father, isn’t He?
V.17 “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.”
I think the King James (translation) says, “…happy are you if you do them.”
Can you help but be blessed when we understand this tremendous significance of what the Passover, the bread, the wine, the foot washing represent? It’s not just knowing it. It’s not just understanding it. I’ve got to do it. I’ve got to put it into practice. I have to practice this repentance that Christ has illustrated through the foot washing and accept that cleansing that only He can provide.
So as we come to the Passover I think maybe that’s the verse to keep in mind, “… happy are you if you do them.”