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Read John 13:6-11 (ESV)
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not everyone of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
What does Jesus mean when He told Peter that He had to be washed to have a part with Him?
We all know that personal hygiene is important. It is especially important to make sure we are clean before we eat. But that doesn’t mean we have to take a full bath or shower before every single meal. As long as we have bathed recently, a good hand washing should do just fine.
In Jesus’ day though, it wasn’t just their hands that needed washing before a meal, usually their feet did as well. Sandals for footwear coupled with dirty streets meant stinky, filthy feet. And, since they reclined at the table to eat, stinky feet would have been unappetizing for everyone in those close quarters. But, as we discussed yesterday, Jesus performed the role usually assigned to menial servants and humbly washed the feet of His disciples.
In today’s passage, we see Peter recognize that as Lord God, Jesus should not have to stoop so low as to wash anyone’s feet. It was embarrassing and unthinkable. First, Peter questioned Jesus as to why He wanted to wash his feet. Then, He objected to Jesus washing them at all. He wasn’t going to allow Jesus to do it! He didn’t want Jesus to demean Himself by serving Him that way. Jesus is King, not a household servant!
But Peter didn’t understand what Jesus was doing for him. So Jesus told Peter that if he didn’t let Him wash his feet, Peter wouldn’t be able to have a relationship with Him. Then, not wanting to forfeit his fellowship with Christ, Peter did a complete 180! If that’s the case, Peter decided he wanted Jesus to give him a full bath!
I don’t think we should emulate Peter’s impulsiveness but I do think we can learn something from his passionate desire to have a relationship with the Lord. I mean, contrast Peter’s response with Judas Iscariot’s response. Peter was all in! But Judas was willing to betray Jesus, even after such a humble, sacrificial display of Christ’s love for him.
Jesus' point wasn’t really about physical cleansing, though. It was an illustration about spiritual cleansing. Jesus told Peter that he didn’t need a full bath because he was already clean. He only needed a foot washing.
You see, we do have to be cleansed by Christ or we can have no fellowship with God. But, we only have to be cleansed by the blood of Christ for salvation once. The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:11 “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Placing our faith in Christ is like our spiritual bath that never needs repeated. After that, we are clean. We are righteous in God’s eyes just as Christ is righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21).
But we are still sinners capable of “getting our feet dirty.” When that happens, we don’t need another full spiritual bath, we just need a maintenance cleaning—a foot washing. When we sin, we have to turn to Him in confession and repentance. In 1 John 1:9, John explained, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
What is your cleanliness status in God’s eyes? Have you been washed by the blood of Christ, completely cleansed and declared righteous before God because of your faith in Him? Do you need a “foot washing”? Are there unconfessed sins that you need to take to Him in prayer? Or are you still dirty and defiled by your sin? If so, I urge you to ask the Lord to make you clean. He paid for your sins on the cross! All you have to do to be saved and spiritually cleansed is to confess your sin, repent, and confess your faith that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9).
Lord, I confess that I have sinned against You. Please forgive me. I know that I am only clean in God’s eyes because of what You have done for me on the cross. I praise You, Lord, for washing my sins white as snow (Isaiah 1:18).
Reveal: Do you know people who think they can lose their salvation? Help them understand that while they still might sin, they never again need the “full cleansing” of salvation.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford