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I Believe in Footwashing

John 13:1-14



A boy was seen using a pitchfork to move hay from a big pile on the side of the road into a wagon.  It was huge.  A passerby offered to help, grabbed another pitchfork, and worked with the boy.  The boy worked at such a pace, it wore the man out.  He asked to rest.  "No, my dad wouldn't like it if I rested."  An hour later, same thing.  Again another hour later.  Worn out, the man said, "Son, your dad must be a slave driver.  Where is he, anyway?"  "Underneath this pile of hay!"


Jesus does an object lesson.  It's a visual expression of a spiritual truth.


A lesson in Humility


1.     The Lord's example.

Consider the culture of that day.  When someone visited your house, it was customary to wash their feet, since they wore sandals and walked on dusty roads.  But you didn't do it as host.  Your slave did.  The servants of the house washed feet.


v. 2-3       Knowing that He was superior by far to everyone in the room, Jesus proceeded to wash the disciples' feet. 


Symbolic significance:

We have here a picture, in miniature, of Jesus coming into this world. 

v. 4          He took off His outer garments, or His robe. 

        This symbolizes Jesus laying aside His glory, and leaving heaven.  No longer would He have angels serving Him, and crying out day and night "Holy, Holy, Holy" and "Worthy" ... He came to the earth where He was despised and rejected, and even His own received Him not. 


v. 4b        'girded himself'

        He took on human flesh.  He became clothed in humility.  The only way to save us was to become one of us.  It was a man who sinned in the garden of Eden - a man who caused us to lose our estate, plunging us into doom, depravity, and death, and so a man would have to redeem us.  And not just any man, but a sinless man.  That's Jesus!

ill.--a little boy was scared in his bed because of a thunderstorm.  He called for his dad, his mom, his brother, all to no avail.  His dad said, "Son, go to sleep.  God is in there with you."  The boy replied, "I know, but I want someone with skin." 

        Jesus was God, with skin.


v. 5          Next, He kneels down, symbolic of humility.  Jesus came down from heaven, went down to the cross, down into the grave, down further into the heart of the earth, to deliver mankind.


v. 12a      He got back up, and took His rightful seat...just as He would do following His death on the cross, He would rise again, and is today set down on the right hand of His Father.

Philippians 2:5-11
5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow...

11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.


Symbolically here in John 13, Jesus tells His own story from start to finish, from leaving heaven, to doing His great work on earth, to returning to heaven! 


1.     The Lord's example...


2.     The disciples' embarrassment.

You can almost feel their shame as Jesus begins to wash their feet.  There was a stunned silence in the room.  It was red-faced embarrassment.  They were ashamed of themselves, and they should be.  Read the parallel passage in Luke and you see that what led to this was their argument about which one of them would get to work in children's church that week.  Wait, I messed that up.  It was over which of them would be the greatest. 

Luke 22:24
And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.


We don't have the transcript, but use your imagination from what we know about these guys.

Peter:  "Boys, you know I'm the leader, that's obvious.  I mean, you all saw me there, walking on that water.  I was there at the transfiguration, and it was my idea to build tabernacles there."


Brothers James and John [whose mom had lobbied for their rank with Jesus, and probably had 'Sons of Thunder' emblazoned on their leather jackets, or maybe tats?]:  "Why assume you are the greatest?  We were there too on that mount.  And about walking on the water...neither of us were the one who sank!"


Andrew:  "Hey, I can settle this right now, 'cuz none of ya'll would even be saved if it weren't for me.  I found Him first, and I'm the one who brought you to Him!"


In the face of their pride, Jesus gave them a rebuke they would never forget.  Jesus the sovereign became Jesus the servant.  The one that v. 3 says knew that God had put the whole world in His hands picked up a towel and went to work like a slave on their stinkin' feet! 


Many Christians today don't understand that in God's eyes, greatness is measured with the yardstick of service.  It's not about celebrity, it's about servanthood. 

ill.--Kimberly not throwing her weight around as Pastor's wife, rather serving 14 years in the most difficult areas behind the scenes.


And many of you show true spiritual greatness because you don't crave the spotlight, instead you watch nursery, cook, clean out closets, mow, plow gravel, make hospital visits no one knows about, pray for people without the need to announce it publicly, count money after services when others go to eat, clean and do dishes, pick people up for church, have singles over on holidays, leave anonymous gift baskets, give special offerings, buy overpriced fundraiser items, decorate things for God's glory, serve a person who is homebound, take a meal after surgery, mail a card, volunteer your expertise that you can usually get paid for, come early and make coffee, teach kids the Bible, knit something as a gift, befriend a loner instead of forming a clique, comfort someone who is going thru what you have been thru, teach kids in s.s. instead of enjoying an adult class. 

        This is the humility and service which true greatness is made of.


The disciples didn't know it, but the gates in heaven will be named after each of them.

James 4:6
But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.

How about you?  Are you a servant or a celebrity?  By the way, just after washing their feet is when Jesus said here’s how we’ll know if you really are my follower:  if you treat each other with love.


A lesson in Humility


1.     The Lord's example...

2.     The disciples' embarrassment...



A lesson in Holiness

v. 6-11     As Peter watches the Lord wash each of his comrades' feet, he becomes more and more uncomfortable.  Not only is he very aware that this is slaves' work, but he knows quite well that Jesus is the Messiah!  "Thou art the Christ" was his saying of faith that made him the little stone of the church. 

        So, this footwashing was, in his view, beneath the Lord. 

Often in Scripture we see Peter speak impulsively in ignorance, and had to be corrected.  He would put his mouth in gear before engaging his brain.  He was never afraid to speak, rather, he was too quick to speak. 

        In Mt. 16 Jesus said "I will be crucified," and Peter said, "Not so, Lord."  What arrogance, pride and presumption, to correct Jesus in this way.  Jesus replied, "Get thee behind me, Satan."

        In the next chapter he WAS there when Jesus was transfigured in his glory, with Moses and Elijah.  Peter spouts off that they should build monuments to all 3 of them and just stay there.  Big blunder-for he was trying to categorize Jesus with these 2, and Jesus cannot be placed on a list on anyone else's level...He is a category all by Himself!  Secondly, you can't live on the mountain of glory, you have to get down into the valley of need and do God's work!


Almost every time Peter opened his mouth it was just to change feet! [foot in mouth disease]


He does it again...

v. 8          "Not gonna happen" = never, no never will I allow it!

v. 8b        Jesus' said then you'll have no 'part' with me.  Part is not talking about salvation, but fellowship and communion together.  Peter says, in that case, give an all over bath!


v. 10        'Washed' is the Greek 'luo', meaning an all over bath.  'Wash' is the word nypto, which means to wash a specific body part, such as the feet.


There is a deeper meaning here than just a lesson in person hygiene, though that's always good, and all God's people sitting near you said, "Amen!"

        This is about a holy walk with God.     


We get the once and for all, all over bath at salvation, but as we walk thru this world, we get dirt on our feet. 


The Bible often uses the term wash in connection with our salvation:

1 Corinthians 6:9-11
9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

Titus 3:5
... according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

Revelation 1:5
Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,

"Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power?  Are you WASHED in the blood of the Lamb?"


If you've been washed, say amen.  Does that mean that you are now sinless?  No!  Should you sin LESS?  Yes!  But will you still sin sometimes?  Of course!  Do you need another luo - all-over bath?  No, just a daily nypto washing.


I said daily.  We need to keep short accounts with God.  Keep our fellowship fresh.  Confess sin daily!  [call it what it is]  Name them one by one.  Not just a blanket prayer, but put time and effort and thought into it.

        You can't sin retail and then confess wholesale. 

1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

This is a footwashing, and now we're ready for a new start.  


The bath was our salvation, the footwashing is our sanctification.

The bath was our union, the footwashing is our communion.

The bath was our relationship, the footwashing is our fellowship.


If ever a passage taught eternal security, it's this one.  We blow it, and yet we don't need to get saved again, we need to get right with the God we sinned against! 


In Exodus, a new priest was given a big ceremonial bath.  It only happened once in his life, no matter how many years he served.  But every single day when he came to serve, he had to approach that brass laver and wash his hands and feet.


A lesson in humility, holiness...


A lesson in helpfulness.

v. 12-14   Some denominations believe that footwashing should be a 3rd ordinance of the church.  We don't, but rather than it was an example...but an example of what?  Of serving one another!


"One another's feet" - There's a lot of one another's in the Bible, and they teach us that there's a lot of things we are commanded to do which can only be done in the context of the church.  You can't sit at home with a TV preacher and obey these commands:


John 13:34
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
Romans 12:10
Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
Romans 12:16
Be of the same mind one toward another.
Romans 15:7
Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.
Romans 16:16
Salute one another with an holy kiss.
1 Corinthians 11:33
Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another.
Galatians 6:2
Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
Ephesians 4:2
With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;
Ephesians 4:32
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.
Ephesians 5:21
Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
Colossians 3:16
... teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs...
1 Thessalonians 4:18
Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
1 Thessalonians 5:11
... edify one another, even as also ye do.
Hebrews 3:13
But exhort one another daily...
Hebrews 10:24
And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
James 5:16
Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.
1 Peter 3:8
Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another...
1 Peter 4:9
Use hospitality one to another without grudging.

We live in a day of great selfishness, looking out for #1.  "I demand my...rights!"


Today people 'shop' for a church.  They aren't looking for a place to serve one another, but a place to be served.  How will I be entertained, what will be done for my kids?


Matthew 20:26-28
26 But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;
27 And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:
28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

It's the ministry of helps...or, helpfulness. 


From Jesus' object lesson, we learn humility, holiness, and helpfulness.  Have you had the all over bath?  Need a footwashing?

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