When God Washed Men’s Feet

by Jeffrey W. Hamilton

Text: John 13:1-17

I.         Jesus’ mission was drawing to a conclusion

            A.        It was the night that Jesus would be betrayed

            B.        Judas had already made a deal with the Jewish leaders to betray Jesus

            C.        Jesus had gathered with his disciples to eat one last Passover meal and to give them final instructions before his gruesome death

            D.        It was a solemn occasion that his disciples did not understand. In fact, they had begun yet again to squabble - Luke 22:24

II.        A lesson on true love

            A.        John starts out emphasizing that at this time Jesus had shown them love and would continue to love them to the end - John 13:1

                        1.         This, despite that Judas had by this time decided to carry out his plan to betray Jesus

                        2.         Just a short while earlier, Jesus revealed that one of them would betray him - Luke 22:21-23

                        3.         Judas knew Jesus was talking about him, but pretended not to understand any better than the rest of the disciples - John 13:2

                                    a.         The Greek text literally states that Satan threw the idea into Judas’ heart like one would throw a dart

                                    b.         Judas had been toying with the idea, but now the temptation stuck

                                    c.         The pebble that would start the avalanche leading to Jesus’ death has started to roll

                        4.         Jesus knew this. He knew exactly what was happening - John 13:3

                                    a.         Yet, his disciples started quarreling

            B.        Consider, what would you do, knowing that you are about die an agonizing death?

                        1.         How would you spend the last moments? Would you be spending the time with the friend you know is going to betray you?

                        2.         Many would be engrossed in their own depression, but Jesus instead focuses on his companions

                        3.         The phrase at the end of John 13:1, “He loved them to the end,” can also be translated as utterly, absolutely, completely, perfectly, or to the fullest extent.

                        4.         Jesus decided to show just how much he loved them.

            C.        Consider that Jesus washed the feet of men

                        1.         Who were clueless about his feelings.

                        2.         Who are constantly returning to an argument that, truth be told, was meaningless.

                        3.         And in regards to one, he washed the very feet of the one who would betray him to his death.

            D.        Herein is love.

                        1.         It doesn’t matter who a person is, what they’ve done, or how many times they have done it.

                        2.         You can show love to another - Matthew 5:44

III.       A lesson on humility

            A.        It was a custom in this region for guests to be provided water to wash their feet

                        1.         Either the host would provide water so the person could wash his own feet - Genesis 18:4; 19:2; 24:32; 43:24

                        2.         Or servants would do the task for the guests - I Samuel 25:41

                        3.         This wasn’t a new practice that Jesus instituted, it had been going on for centuries

            B.        It was necessity. “The roads of Palestine were unsurfaced and uncleaned. In dry weather they were inches deep in dust and in wet they were liquid mud. The shoes ordinary people wore were sandals, which were simply soles held on to the foot by a few straps. They have little protection against the dust or mud of the roads. For that reason there were always great waterpots at the door of a house; and a servant was there with a ewer and a towel to wash the soiled feet of the guests as they came in.” [William Barclay, “The Gospel of John,” The Daily Study Bible Series, Vol. 2, p. 139.]

            C.        It was an act of hospitality

            D.        It was an expected custom - Luke 7:44-46

            E.        It was an act of service, just as lodging strangers and raising children - I Timothy 5:9-10

            F.        Jesus was not instituting a religious ritual, but teaching a lesson

                        1.         It was a lesson that Peter, at the time did not understand - John 13:6-7

                        2.         Peter knew what Jesus was doing. What he didn’t understand was why.

                        3.         Washing feet was something the lowest of servants did.

                                    a.         Services like: caring for the sick, cleaning someone’s house, mowing someone’s law, driving someone to the doctor, etc.

            G.        Jesus’ point is no one is too good to do lowly service - John 13:12-16

                        1.         Jewish rabbis were usually served, honored, and catered to

                        2.         Jesus said he came to serve - Mark 10:45

                        3.         If I refuse to serve others, then I’m acting like I’m greater than my Master.

                        4.         “Love is always like that. When, for example, someone falls ill, the person who loves him will perform the most menial services and delight to do them, because love is like that. Sometimes men feel that they are too distinguished to do the humble things, too important to do some menial task. Jesus was not so. He knew that he was Lord of all, and yet he washed his disciples feet.” [William Barclay, “The Gospel of John,” The Daily Study Bible Series, Vol. 2, p. 137.]

            H.        Greatness in the kingdom is through humble service - Matthew 23:11-12

                        1.         Even the smallest service will not go unnoticed or unrewarded - Matthew 10:42

IV.      A lesson on submission

            A.        Peter did not want Jesus to serve him - John 13:6-8

                        1.         Peter had pride in the one he followed

                        2.         Peter knew that Jesus was God and the Messiah, to have THE King wash his feet was just wrong in his mind.

            B.        “It takes humility and grace to serve others, but it also takes humility and grace to allow others to serve us. The beautiful thing about a submissive spirit is that it can both give and receive the glory of God.” [Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol. 1, p. 346]

            C.        And sometimes we are not told in advance why we must accept something, but we also need to learn to accept what God does, knowing that God does the right things in our lives.

                        1.         Whether Peter understood it or not, Jesus expected Peter to submit to Jesus’ will

                        2.         Peter did manage to do this at times - Luke 5:4-5

V.        A lesson on application

            A.        Notice what Jesus said - John 13:17

            B.        Knowing is not enough. That knowledge must be put into practice

                        1.         We must do Jesus’ will - Luke 6:46

                        2.         If we do not, it will not go well - Luke 12:47

                        3.         It was Jesus’ answer to the lawyer - Luke 10:36-37

                        4.         Must be doers - James 1:21-25

                        5.         It cannot be put off - James 4:13-17

            C.        Jesus demonstrated his love, not just of the good but even the unrighteous.

                        1.         Not that Jesus wants anyone to remain in sin. He wants you to submit to his will.

                        2.         You may not fully understand why right now, but if you know what you need to do to become a Christian, then you need to do so

                        3.         Because we are not guaranteed a future, so putting off obedience is dangerous at best

                        4.         It is not enough to know what you need to do. Come and do the Lord’s will.

Based on a lesson by Kevin Kay

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