Lord Do You Wash My Feet?

by Mike Ratliff

6 ἔρχεται οὖν πρὸς Σίμωνα Πέτρον· λέγει αὐτῷ · κύριε, σύ μου νίπτεις τοὺς πόδας; 7 ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ· ὃ ἐγὼ ποιῶ σὺ οὐκ οἶδας ἄρτι, γνώσῃ δὲ μετὰ ταῦτα. 8 λέγει αὐτῷ Πέτρος· οὐ μὴ νίψῃς μου τοὺς πόδας εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα. ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς αὐτῷ· ἐὰν μὴ νίψω σε, οὐκ ἔχεις μέρος μετʼ ἐμοῦ. John 13:6-8 (NA28)

6 Then He came to Simon Peter who said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered and said to Him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will understand after these things.” 8 Peter said to Him, “Never will you wash my feet even into the age.” Jesus answered him, “Unless I wash you, you do not have a share with me.” John 13:6-8 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

As I write this and work on this translation of John 13:1-19 I am listening to a CD from Sovereign Grace music titled “No Greater Love.” Right now, my favorite song on that CD is playing which is titled “Know You.” Why am I sharing this? The heart that knows the Lord is so because the Lord knows that person by and through the power of the Cross. Those who are loved by the Lord through the work of the Gospel want deeply to know their Lord, to be with Him and they can never get enough of Him. That is what is expressed in that song and all through this CD. Now, remember what I have shared continually through this series, Christianity is true not because of feelings or by any esoteric values that I was attempting to describe above. 

No, it is true because of Who Jesus is, what He has done, and what He is doing right now. During His earthly ministry, He fulfilled all those prophesies completely about the Messiah that were given in the Old Testament. He lived a perfect, sinless life and when it was time, He voluntarily laid His life down to be the propitiation for those He came to save. He died on that Cross. He was buried, but was resurrected on the third Day and all of this was witnessed by multitudes of eyewitnesses and no one has ever been able to refute any of it. The Gospel is true because of those things. We have arrived at the night of the Passover Feast in which our Lord will institute what we call the Lord’s Supper or Communion.

1 Πρὸ δὲ τῆς ἑορτῆς τοῦ πάσχα εἰδὼς ὁ Ἰησοῦς ὅτι ἦλθεν αὐτοῦ ἡ ὥρα ἵνα μεταβῇ ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου τούτου πρὸς τὸν πατέρα, ἀγαπήσας τοὺς ἰδίους τοὺς ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ εἰς τέλος ἠγάπησεν αὐτούς. 2 καὶ δείπνου γινομένου, τοῦ διαβόλου ἤδη βεβληκότος εἰς τὴν καρδίαν ἵνα παραδοῖ αὐτὸν Ἰούδας Σίμωνος Ἰσκαριώτου, 3 εἰδὼς ὅτι πάντα ἔδωκεν αὐτῷ ὁ πατὴρ εἰς τὰς χεῖρας * καὶ ὅτι ἀπὸ θεοῦ ἐξῆλθεν καὶ πρὸς τὸν θεὸν ὑπάγει, 4 ἐγείρεται ἐκ τοῦ δείπνου καὶ τίθησιν τὰ ἱμάτια καὶ λαβὼν λέντιον διέζωσεν ἑαυτόν· 5 εἶτα βάλλει ὕδωρ εἰς τὸν νιπτῆρα καὶ ἤρξατο νίπτειν τοὺς πόδας τῶν μαθητῶν καὶ ἐκμάσσειν τῷ λεντίῳ ᾧ ἦν διεζωσμένος. 6 ἔρχεται οὖν πρὸς Σίμωνα Πέτρον· λέγει αὐτῷ · κύριε, σύ μου νίπτεις τοὺς πόδας; 7 ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ· ὃ ἐγὼ ποιῶ σὺ οὐκ οἶδας ἄρτι, γνώσῃ δὲ μετὰ ταῦτα. 8 λέγει αὐτῷ Πέτρος· οὐ μὴ νίψῃς μου τοὺς πόδας εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα. ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς αὐτῷ· ἐὰν μὴ νίψω σε, οὐκ ἔχεις μέρος μετʼ ἐμοῦ. 9 λέγει αὐτῷ Σίμων Πέτρος· κύριε, μὴ τοὺς πόδας μου μόνον ἀλλὰ καὶ τὰς χεῖρας καὶ τὴν κεφαλήν. 10 λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· ὁ λελουμένος οὐκ ἔχει χρείαν εἰ μὴ τοὺς πόδας νίψασθαι, ἀλλʼ ἔστιν καθαρὸς ὅλος· καὶ ὑμεῖς καθαροί ἐστε, ἀλλʼ οὐχὶ πάντες. 11 ᾔδει γὰρ τὸν παραδιδόντα αὐτόν· διὰ τοῦτο εἶπεν ὅτι οὐχὶ πάντες καθαροί ἐστε. John 13:1-11 (NA28)

1 Now before the Feast of Passover, Jesus, having known that His hour had come that He should pass form this world to the Father, having loved His own in the world, He loved them to the end. 2 As supper was taking place, the Devil had already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon that he should betray Him. 3 And Jesus knew that the Father had given all things into His hands and that He came forth from God and to God He was going 4 rose from supper and put aside His garments, took a towel, girded Himself, 5 then put water into the basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples and wipe them with the towel with which He had girded Himself.  6 Then He came to Simon Peter who said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered and said to Him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will understand after these things.” 8 Peter said to Him, “Never will you wash my feet even into the age.” Jesus answered him, “Unless I wash you, you do not have a share with Me.” 9 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hand and my head.” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one having been bathed does not have need except to wash his feet, but is wholly clean, and you are clean, but not all.”11  For He knew the one betraying Him, therefore, He said, “Not all are clean.” (a personal translation of John 13:1-11 from the NA27 Greek text)

In our earlier studies, Jesus’ ministry was decidedly public, but here we see that He is now devoting Himself to His own disciples. How painful it must have been for our Lord to reach this point in His ministry knowing that nearly all of the Nation of Israel had rejected Him as their Messiah. However, we have now entered that part of the Gospel of John in which our Lord ministers to those who did receive Him. Notice the huge disparity in numbers. Nothing has changed. From here on until we get through John 17, our Lord’s ministry will be private and entirely focused on those who had received Him. His betrayal and arrest are soon to come so this is His farewell to these disciples. The Cross is just one day away and yet as we cover chapters 13-17 I pray the Lord will teach each of us from this treasury of our Lord’s truth as He did these precious disciples this last night before going to the Cross.

In this passage, we see that our Lord has His own people and He loves them with an eternal, perfect love. Our Lord knew all about Judas’ betrayal yet He knew who was really in control and it did not alter His plans at all. In v3 we see our Lord’s example for us. He cared nothing for the things of this world or for the glories of the temporal. No, He joyfully faced Judas’ betrayal and the upcoming agony and death. Why? How? He knew that the Father would exalt him afterward. He was going back from where He had come.

The foot washing was a common task in that culture usually assigned to the lowest slave or servant. No one at this feast lowered themselves to wash anyone else’s’ feet let alone their Lord’s, but Jesus took off His outer garment, wrapped a towel around His waist, took a basin of water and washed His disciple’s feet. Think about that! The God of the Universe, the Son of the God, My Lord, the one we should all bow down to in worship and awe in complete humility as HIS slaves washes our feet. I can just see Thomas, Andrew, John, James and the others silently being embarrassed and possibly shamed as the Lord gently washed their dirty feet, but what does Peter do? He totally misinterprets everything as usual. Our Lord is making a spiritual point and making a practical application for us.

The spiritual point that Peter misses completely is that the washing is symbolic of the washing of our salvation, as our Lord makes clear in v8. However, when Peter blunders on in v9 by asking for Jesus to wash his hands and head, wanting all of Jesus (I get it, I really do), our Lord clarifies it all by saying that those who have been washed clean, that is, saved by washing away of their sins, then the cleansing that Christ does at salvation never needs to be repeated. The atonement for our sins purchased at the Cross is complete, but all who been cleansed by God’s gracious justification need constant washing in the daily experiential sense as they battle sin in the flesh. All in Christ are justified and granted imputed righteousness (Philippians 3:8, 9), but they still need sanctification and personal righteousness (Philippians 3:12-14). Then our Lord bluntly uses Judas to make this point very clear. Not all of the disciples are clean. One is not and he is the son of perdition.

The practical application is that we should humble ourselves with one another as our Lord did here even to the point of being willing to stoop to wash one another’s feet if that is what is needed within the Body of Christ to be unified in God’s Truth.

12 Ὅτε οὖν ἔνιψεν τοὺς πόδας αὐτῶν [καὶ] ἔλαβεν τὰ ἱμάτια αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀνέπεσεν πάλιν, εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· γινώσκετε τί πεποίηκα ὑμῖν; 13 ὑμεῖς φωνεῖτέ με· ὁ διδάσκαλος, καί· ὁ κύριος, καὶ καλῶς λέγετε· εἰμὶ γάρ. 14 εἰ οὖν ἐγὼ ἔνιψα ὑμῶν τοὺς πόδας ὁ κύριος καὶ ὁ διδάσκαλος, καὶ ὑμεῖς ὀφείλετε ἀλλήλων νίπτειν τοὺς πόδας· 15 ὑπόδειγμα γὰρ ἔδωκα ὑμῖν ἵνα καθὼς ἐγὼ ἐποίησα ὑμῖν καὶ ὑμεῖς ποιῆτε. 16 ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, οὐκ ἔστιν δοῦλος μείζων τοῦ κυρίου αὐτοῦ οὐδὲ ἀπόστολος μείζων τοῦ πέμψαντος αὐτόν. 17 εἰ ταῦτα οἴδατε, μακάριοί ἐστε ἐὰν ποιῆτε αὐτά.
18 Οὐ περὶ πάντων ὑμῶν λέγω· ἐγὼ οἶδα τίνας ἐξελεξάμην· ἀλλʼ ἵνα ἡ γραφὴ πληρωθῇ· ὁ τρώγων μου τὸν ἄρτον ἐπῆρεν ἐπʼ ἐμὲ τὴν πτέρναν αὐτοῦ. 19 ἀπʼ ἄρτι λέγω ὑμῖν πρὸ τοῦ γενέσθαι, ἵνα πιστεύσητε ὅταν γένηται ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι. 20 ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ὁ λαμβάνων ἄν τινα πέμψω ἐμὲ λαμβάνει, ὁ δὲ ἐμὲ λαμβάνων λαμβάνει τὸν πέμψαντά με. John 13:12-20 (NA28)

12 Therefore, when He washed their feet and took His garments and reclined again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me the teacher and the Lord, and well you say for I am. 14 Therefore, if I washed your feet being the Lord and the teacher, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.15 I did this to give you an example that you may do likewise. 16 Amen, amen, I say to you, a slave is not greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. 18  I am not speaking about all of you; I know whom I chose, but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, the one eating My bread lifted up his heel against Me.19 From now on, I tell you before the occurrence, that you may believe when it occurs that I am He. 20 Amen, amen I say to you, the one receiving whomever I send receives Me, and the one receiving Me, receives the one who sent Me.(John 13:12-20 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Again we have our Lord’s message of the call of humility that our flesh abhors. However, we do not mature and grow in Christlikeness unless we do grasp it and follow our Lord by taking up our own crosses and following Him. I know that all of you have read those passages that say that, but have you ever taken it to heart? What does it look like? What is Jesus telling us here? Who are truly His? Those who are truly following Him are not the proud. They are the humble. The humble serve.

Also, in this passage can you hear our Lord’s hurt over Judas’ treacherous and faithless nature even though he was right there through all of our Lord’s ministry? Now, think of those preachers, pastors, evangelists, deacons, elders, and church members et cetera who are pillars in their churches, but their religion is based around their pride. I am not saying all are like that. I knew many very good men in my years of service as a deacon and Bible teacher, but I also saw the seamy side of church life. God drove me from it and I resisted because of a sense of duty. However, He has opened these eyes to the truth of the deadness of religiosity for the sake religion.

We will look at John 13:21-38 in the next post.

Soli Deo Gloria!