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We perceive at once that there is a meaning here beyond the mere circumstance to which the words related. If I wash thee not, thou hast no part
Jesus could not mean, that unless he performed this servant's office for Simon, Simon could have no part with him ; neither if this were the purport of his words, was it one which could not be now explained, but he should know hereafter. That part of it from which he was to learn a lesson of humility, was, in fact, explained immediately : whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.
But the principal object of this transaction could not be explained, till the blood had been really shed, which was soon about to flow,and to open “a fountain for sin and for all uncleanness.”1 blood of Christ,” we know, “ cleanseth from all sin.” This was prefigured under the law, as St. Paul expressly shows, by the use of blood in the service of the sanctuary. (Heb. ix. 21, and 13, 14.) “ Moses sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry. And almost all things are by the law purged with blood : and without shedding of blood is no remission. If then the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh : how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”
1 Zech. xiii. 1.
This then was the meaning of our Lord in what he said to Peter : If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Sin attaches to thy nature ;-for “ that which is born of the flesh, is flesh :"-sin attaches to thy conscience; for “ what man is he that liveth and sinneth not ?" But thou mayest be “ washed, be sanctified, be justified,” by the blood of the everlasting covenant, in which God has promised remission of sin to the disciples of his beloved Son. Here thou mayest wash and be clean. But if I wash thee not, thou hast no part
The apostle now perceived his Master's purpose, and eagerly claims his offer. Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Utterly corrupt by nature, I need to be completely cleansed. The Lord replies, He that is washed (has been washed) needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit. Here another truth is conveyed under a figure. One who has used the bath, as was their constant custom, needs not to bathe again ; but returning home, or visiting the house of a distant friend, he might accept that ordinary hospitality which Simon did not offer, and wash his feet on entering in. This answers to the state of the soul which is in covenant with Christ. As the body is purified by bathing, the soul is purified by his blood : and they who have sought this fountain, and made it theirs by faith, may be compared to those who have already used the bath, and are clean every whit. So, says our Lord, ye, my apostles, who
2 1 Cor. vi. 11.
1 Pet. i. 19.
have believed in me, are clean : and “ if ye continue in my word,” ye need no other purification. The evil that is in the world will still defile the nature which is too liable to be defiled : but the same blood will cleanse, applied by habitual re
ye are washed, ye are sanctified, ye are justified.” Ye are clean ;-but not all.
Not all. Judas had no part in that acceptance, which had been granted to the other apostles. Outwardly washed, he had enjoyed the same privileges and been partaker of the same cleansing : but he had never been really washed, or sanctified, or justified, because his heart had never really applied itself to the Redeemer. It was not that he had once been in a justified state, accepted before God, and was now about to forfeit the favour which he had enjoyed. He had never been accepted by him who sees the heart, and knew the ineffectual, unsubstantial nature of the faith which he professed in Jesus. Therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.
How is it with ourselves? We have all one Lord, one creed, one baptism. Have all the same heart? a heart which has been sprinkled with that blood, which “cleanseth from all sin ?" For observe how clearly it is shown here, that no one has any part in the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, unless he have been “ washed in the blood of the Lamb,” and is purified by his Spirit from the corruption of nature, and the pollution of sin. If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.
THE APOSTLES ARE EXHORTED TO MUTUAL CONDESCENSION; AND WARNED, THAT THERE IS A TRAITOR AMONG THEM.
John xiii. 12–30.
12. So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you ?
13. Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.
14. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet.
15. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.
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.
17. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.
We are here instructed in another, though secondary, object of this transaction.
It was to remain as a perpetual lesson of humility and condescension. This too is particularly insisted
Know ye what I have done to you? Ye venerate me, and ye have reason, as your Master and Lord: as having a far higher superiority above you, than any one of my disciples can ever have above his brethren. If I then, your Lord and Master, have done towards you what is properly a servant's office, I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. The disciples of Christ are called to many acts of self-denial, many duties which may seem humiliating and degrading. The abodes of poverty, of disease, and sometimes of vice and wretchedness, must be visited.
This requires self-denial : it is painful in itself: and it often excites the scorn of others, who are strangers to the constraining motive. So likewise they must reprove those who “ hate to be reformed,” and instruct those who are deaf to instruction, and exhort those upon whom exhortation is thrown away. For this they need encouragement. Their Lord and Master has given them an example: and the servant is not greater than his lord, neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. How often has this consideration excited the Christian to works of charity, and supported him in scenes of humiliation, to which nothing except the love of Christ and the example of Christ would have constrained him !
The apostles, too, we must observe, had need of a lesson of humility. It does not appear in St. John's narrative, but it is recorded by the other evangelists, that on this very occasion “ there was a strife among them, which should be accounted greatest. And the very duties which hereafter they would be called to, were likely to give this course to the corruption of the heart; to be the occasion of rivalry and jealousy. In the earliest period of the church St. Paul was obliged to cor
1 Luke xxii. 24. Matt. xviii. 15- 35. Mark ix. 33.