Summary: When Jesus washed feet, he was really washing hearts!
The story of Jesus washing His disciples feet is only found in John. The synoptic record the story of the dispute between the disciples as to who is the greatest. John does not record that story; instead he tells the story of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. The story is a counter to the self-interestedness of the disciples in trying to mark off turf. It shows the other side - the selflessness of Christ in his humble service demonstrated by the washing of their feet. The story is an enacted parable, a lesson in action. But the story is not just a reaction to the petty-mindedness of the disciples but it foreshadows the voluntary humility of Christ in his death on the cross.
Incomplete/Incorrect ways of seeing the Washing of feet:
1. HUMILITY. Simply as a lesson in humility. It is that, but it is much more. Jesus’ dialogue with Peter completely obscures the significance of the event as merely an ethical lesson in humility.
2. CONTINUITY. To encourage the washing of feet as an event to be perpetuated. This is mere EXTERNALITY.
The lesson of the story must be seen from the words spoken by Christ in the shadow of the cross. It has to do with cleansing, that cleansing without which no man belongs to Christ, that cleansing which is given by the cross alone. John seems to be saying that there is no place in his fellowship for those who have not been cleansed by the atoning blood. The story dramatizes the truth enunciated in 1 John 1:7, ‘We are being cleanse from every sin by the blood of Jesus.’
Many people today would like to be Christians but see no need of the cross. They are ready to admire Jesus’ life and to praise the sublimity of his moral teaching, but they cannot bring themselves to believe that Christ died for their sins, and that without that death they would be lost in sin. So John is at pains to present Christ, in this story, as our CLEANSER.
Two things about Cleansing.
Temple: We rather shrink from this revelation. We are ready, perhaps, to be humble before God; but we do not want Him to be humble in His dealings with us. We should like him, who has the right, to glory in his goodness and greatness; then we, as we pass from His presence, may be entitled to pride ourselves on such achievements as distinguish us above with the readiness to receive it. For there can be much pride and condescension in our give of service.
1. Surrender. It is sometimes easier to give than to receive.
2. Dependence. Peter’s Thou - I contrast
Jesus’ I - Thou contrast (will understand later)
For Peter - unthinkable that Christ should engage in such a menial task as washing feet
Peter was humble enough to see the incongruity of Christ’s action, yet proud enough to dictate to his Master.
3. Identification. Jesus - If I don’t wash you have no part with me.
Wash - double meaning
1. Literal foot washing - or can’t eat with Christ; but not necessary for salvation
2. Spiritual washing - washing free from sin which only Christ can give. Apart from this, a man will have no part in Christ.