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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder

JESUS WASHES THE APOSTLES' FEET

John 13:1-5 Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end. And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray Him; Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside His garments; and took a towel, and girded Himself. After that He poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith He was girded. (Also See Verses 6-17)

The Passover meal Jesus celebrated with His apostles was described in much detail by other gospel writers, however, John omits them, referring to the times immediately before and after this celebration. Before the feast, probably as they were taking their seats around the table, Jesus brought to memory the death that He must suffer on the cross of Calvary. His hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father, and now he was reflecting on those gathered around Him, His apostles, whom He loved ...unto the end. He called them, led them, taught them, and lived with them though three Passover celebrations, and on this day, He had shared His fourth, and final, Passover with them. Indeed, He loved them as much as any earthly human heart can love other fellow beings. We are assured that the same love He had for His apostles, He, likewise, holds for all that obey His gospel of salvation and are baptized into His body.

Although some translations say this incident occurred "during the supper," verse two of the KJV and the NKJV reads that the supper, being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray Him. However, these differences in translation have no effect on the topic of discussion. We know the covetous greed that continued to motivate Judas Iscariot during his association with Jesus as one of His apostles. He was extremely critical of Mary when she anointed Jesus' feet with costly ointment, and these few verses specifically demonstrates his greedy character: Then saith one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray Him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein (John 12:4-6). This is proof that the heart of Judas Iscariot was already filled with avaricious greed and envy. When the heart is thus prepared, the devil will enter and fill one's mind with all manner of devious ways to exercise the heart's desire. As is true with all human beings, Satan possesses no power to enter one's heart and mind unless sinful, envious desires already reside there. So it was with Judas Iscariot - thirty pieces of silver was the price of Jesus' betrayal.

Following this, Jesus demonstrated a spiritual lesson of service, not only to His apostles, but also to all His followers thereafter. First of all, John records Jesus telling of His divinity, power, and glory as the Son of God (Vs. 3). With these high and holy credentials, He could, if He chose to do so, demand that all people of the world bow down in His presence and serve Him. However, instead of becoming a demanding ruler, He became the lowest of servants by performing the most menial acts of servitude to His followers.

He riseth from supper, and laid aside His garments; and took a towel, and girded Himself. His normal clothing, probably His outer coat or robe, He took off, laid them aside, and then bound Himself with a towel, similar to that of a slave or servant preparing for a lowly task that required wiping and cleaning. He then poured water into a bowl, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith He was girded. Due to traveling the dusty roads of Israel, it was a very common custom for the servants of a host to perform the lowly task of washing and drying the feet of his or her guests. So did Jesus to His apostles. Continuing on with the verses following the lesson text, we find Simon Peter protesting this humble act to be performed on him by Jesus. Jesus immediately rebuked Peter indicating this act was to teach them the humility, which He required of all His followers. Realizing this, Peter readily submitted to the will of Jesus.

Verse 10 indicates that to wash the face and hands before partaking of the Passover meal was a normal act of hygienic cleanliness. This had already been done by Peter. Therefore, Jesus said that by washing his feet, he would be completely cleansed. To go beyond the normal acts of becoming clean was an act of respectful humility to guests that are gathered around your table. Jesus continued to tell Peter, not only was he entirely clean, but he was clean every whit. Because Peter and the other apostles understood the humility required of Jesus, they were also humble in mind and spirit, but not all. There was an exception. One among them was not spiritually clean, For He knew who should betray Him; therefore said He, Ye are not all clean (Vs. 11), meaning Judas Iscariot. Many ask this question: did Jesus wash the feet of the one that was to betray Him? There is nothing written that suggests He omitted Judas Iscariot when washing the feet of the apostles. If anything He did so in order to prove to His apostles, and to all His followers thereafter, that we are to love all mankind, including our enemies.

After washing their feet, and putting His usual garments back on, He questioned them in order to assure His lesson on humility was understood (Vs. 12). Indeed Jesus was their Master and Lord - holy positions that deserved their total servitude. And if, as their "Owner" He, by example, humbled Himself to wash their feet, they should likewise show the same humility to one another (Vss. 13-15). Although many debate the meaning of this act of humility, it is evident that it wasnot to be an ordinance required within the body of Christ, His church. Rather it is only an example of humility by which His apostles, and all Christians, are to follow in their daily lives. As churches were planted throughout the world, we find no other mention of foot washing as a church ordinance. However, we do find that a humble spirit must rule the demeanor of all Christians. We do find that this practice was written into religious doctrine by some "religious" men of the fourth century. Followers of Christ must always be ready to serve all others regardless of their race, color, creed, etc., with humble self-sacrifice.

Since Jesus practiced humility as an example for His followers, they are obligated to demonstrate the same humility toward all others. Why? Jesus tells us in verse 16: Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. He is greater than we. To refuse to follow His example would openly defy our responsibility to Christ Jesus, whom we serve. He is our Lord and Master, as well as our Sender. We are His servants and the ones He sends to carry out His will to the best of our abilities. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. The majority of people in the world truly think that happiness comes from rising above the average people of the world, ruling over them, and directing their work or their own leisure activities. To this thought, Jesus tells that it isn't true. Regardless of one's rank in society, accumulation of wealth, achievements in education, or depth of knowledge, true happiness only comes from a humble heart that uses these blessings given to us by God in dedicated service to others. Happiness is not attained in gaining life's heaven-sent rewards; they are found only when we freely give them away.