Summary: Jesus used a common Middle East practice of washing feet to teach the disciples about service.
A SYMBOL FOR SERVICE
INTRO: Throughout Christian history, there have been many symbols used in Christianity. Believers have used a fish, a cross, and other symbols. Christians could add the towel as another symbol for Christian service.
Jesus’ disciples wanted a place of prominence in the kingdom. The Master used a common Middle East practice of washing feet to teach the disciples about service.
I. THE EXAMPLE OF JESUS.
The Master often used a visual aid as a means of teaching kingdom truth. When the disciples had gone into the upper room and sat down for the Passover meal, Jesus got a towel and some water. He then began to wash their feet. They saw Jesus assume the role of a slave.
Jesus action in the upper room served as a thumbnail sketch of His entire ministry. Jesus came not to be served but to serve. His followers are called to follow His example.
II. THE EXAMINATION BY JESUS.
When Jesus came to Simon Peter, this disciple refused to let Jesus wash his feet. Jesus began to examine the commitment of Peter. He asked Peter if he wanted to be a part of the kingdom. He probed Peter about some cleansing needed in his life.
Jesus’ followers need to examine periodically their commitment to Christ. Even though a person makes an initial commitment, the Christian needs to submit constantly to cleansing (cf. v. 10).
III. THE EXHORTATION OF JESUS.
When Jesus finished washing the disciples’ feet, He sat down and taught the disciples. He gave the disciples some exhortations about servanthood.
The phrase “had a bath” and the word “wash” in this verse are translated from two different Greek words. The first is from the Greek louo and denotes complete cleansing. “Wash,” is from the Greek nipto, which is the usual N.T. word for washing the hands and feet. The underlying imagery is of an oriental returning from the public baths to his house. His feet would get dirty and require cleansing, but not his body.
So the believer is cleansed as before the law from all sin “once for all,” but needs throughout his earthly life to bring daily sins to the Father in confession.
Jesus exhorts His followers to profess and to practice lordship (see v. 13). Also, Jesus exhorts His followers to practice helping others (see. v. 14).
CONC: Christians need to think of themselves as Christ’s servants. They are to serve the needs of the world. If a symbol is needed, the symbol of the towel would be a good one.