The Teaching of the Foot Washing
John 13:1-19
Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world to the Father…


1. Christ still acts as the host of His people. How much the life of Christ with His people lay in intense familiarity with them! He began His ministry at a feast, and again and again we find Him eating with His disciples; and the last thing He did was to sit at supper with them. He still saith to His Church, "If any man open to Me," etc.; and His own figure for the opening of the new dispensation is "the marriage supper of the Lamb." Now Jesus is the host of His Church, providing the gospel supper and entertaining us right royally. He prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies. "He satisfies our mouth with good things," etc. And the Lord is a host who leaves nothing incomplete, and entertains us, not as paupers but as guests, as friends, as distinguished persons who shall not sit among mean men, but shall have their portion among princes.

2. Christ cares for our minor matters with a personal interest. That He should ease their weary hearts, enlighten their clouded brains, I can understand; but that He should wash their feet is wonderful. A little soil on their ankles; He will attend to that, and personally, too. He might have left them to wash one another's feet. Surely He had but to suggest it and they would have cheerfully waited on each other. Take your little things to Christ, those trials of which your heart says, "They are too trifling for prayer." Not so; the Lord loves us to trust Him thoroughly.

3. Christ provides refreshment for His people. What an intense pleasure it is in extremely hot countries to have the feet washed upon coming in after a weary walk. Our Lord washed His disciples' feet, not only because cleansing was desirable, but also for their pleasure and solace. He takes great pleasure in giving joy to His followers. When doth the Lord give us these refreshments?

(1) Often after a journey — after a severe trial.

(2) Sometimes before the trial, for these disciples were now about to enter upon a very rough road.

(3) When we are in the house of God, when the Word has been preached, some joyful hymn borne us to heaven; or, best of all, at the communion table.

(4) In our own quiet chambers, and in the night watches.

4. Christ continues to guard the purity of His Church. From the occasion it is clear that He would have us seek the special purifying power of His presence during religious ordinances. We need our feet washed before we come to His table — "Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of this bread," while we are at His table, for there is sin in our holiest things. When we come away from worship we have need to get alone, and cry, "Cleanse Thou me from secret faults." This frequent washing is —

(1) Absolutely necessary. Ye that follow in His footsteps, walk with clean feet. His ministers especially need this or the people will never cry, "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings."(2) Spiritual: no external form will suffice. Christ washed the feet of Judas with water.

(3) Very readily given.


1. That there will always be need of service in the Church, and always need of service in the particular direction of promoting purity. The apostles were twelve strong men, yet they could not do without a servant; and therefore their Lord supplied the vacant place. And now that the Lord is gone His Church still needs servants, and will never be so clean that it will have no need of foot washing.

2. That we are not to advocate the abrogation of such service. The Stoic would say, "What need of washing a man's feet? If he needs it, let him wash them himself. The first law of nature is self-love. Let him mind his own business." That is anti-Christianity: but Christianity says, "I am willing that others should help me to be holy, and I am also willing to help others to the same end." Sometimes it is more humbling to have your own feet washed than to wash other people's, and hence sometimes our naughty pride says, "Thou shalt never wash my feet." Yet it must be so, and pride must sit still like a child and be both washed and wiped.

3. That such service should be done very cheerfully. Nobody asked the Master to bring the basin: no one would have thought of such a thing: it was His own heart of love that made Him do it. Let us be also ready to perform any office for our brethren, however lowly. Covet humble work, and when you get it be content to continue in it.

4. That such service should be done thoroughly. How well our Lord took up the servant's place. Give your Lord zealous and earnest service; strip to your shirt sleeves, if need be. Do not attempt to play the fine gentleman; is it not far nobler to be a real Christian?

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: Now before the feast of the Passover, Jesus, knowing that his time had come that he would depart from this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

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