Foot Washing and the Gospel

Jesus is in the Upper Room. The Passover feast has been prepared, and Jesus is eating the meal with His disciples, including the one who would soon betray Him. Then we read these words:

“Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” (John 13:3-5)

Do you get the picture here? Jesus, the Son of God, the Creator of the world, the one who would soon die to pay for the sins of the world, takes upon Himself the task of washing the dust off His disciples’ feet. Now, normally, this was a job that would have been done by a servant. In another context it would most likely be appropriate for a disciple to wash his teacher’s feet. But that’s not what happens here. 

The passage continues:

“He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ 

“Jesus replied, ‘You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’

“‘No,’ said Peter, ‘you shall never wash my feet.’

“Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.’

“‘Then, Lord,’ Simon Peter replied, ‘not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!’

“Jesus answered, ‘Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.’ For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.” (John 13:6-11).

You have to ask yourself, what is Jesus trying to teach them? Sinclair Ferguson suggests that: 

“Jesus does not stoop merely in order to shame the disciples, but to show them that the only way of salvation is through His washing away the filth of their sins by His self-emptying on the cross. Only those who are washed can have any part in Jesus (13:8, emphasis added).”[1]

Isn’t it remarkable that the Lord of Glory took on the role of servant to demonstrate what His death would do for us on the cross? There not only our feet, but every part of us is washed in the blood of the Lamb, and our sins are washed away. Thanks be to God!

  1.  Sinclair Ferguson, In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life (Kindle Edition), p. 34.

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