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This washing of the disciples' feet by the Lord Jesus was not only an example to them of humility, but it was also a sign full of deep meaning
Washing cleanses away all stains, and is a symbol of the manner in which our sins are quite taken away, so that they can no more be mentioned to us. This can be done by Christ only. "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part in me,” he said to Peter; and so be
We find the same assurance repeated again and again in Scripture. The sinner is taken into communion with his Saviour, and by an act of grace washed and justified from all his past sins;* but because that by the weakness of his nature he cannot always stand upright, he needs both daily help and daily pardon.
Thus in holy baptism we are washed from our sins, and as one fresh coming from the bath, we begin our way through life cleansed from the stains of Adam's sin; but as we go along through the path of this world's daily trial, we, as it were, soil our feet, that is, we fall into sin again and again, and need continual cleansing. If we do not confess this, and gladly seek Christ day by day to wash out our daily sins, we can have no part in Him; but if we do thus seek Him, we shall be accounted by Him “clean every whit.”
This seems to be the simple meaning of our Lord's words to Peter, when he would have passed from one extreme to the other ; from a refusal to have his feet washed by his Lord, to the wish to be washed from head to foot. Each disciple of Christ is already accounted washed and justified ; † therefore he need have no misgivings, because his conscience tells him that no day passes without something that needs fresh pardon ; for it is the very feeling of this need that is his safety. It brings him continually to bis Lord, to take away these daily stains, and so by Him he is counted “clean every whit.” How much of strength and comfort is there in this thought! But
* 1 Corinthians vi. ll.
there is a sad and solemn warning in the next words the Saviour spoke—“Ye are clean, but not all. For he knew who should betray him.” No disguise can hide from Him the wickedness of the heart. Judas Iscariot was among the disciples, but not of them ; Jesus had washed his feet with those of the others; but the outward sign is nothing without the inward grace, and the traitor's heart remained foul with deliberate sin.
Verse 11. “Therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.” And this sad history of Judas gives the very guard that is needed. It shows that the heart is the kingdom in which Christ must reign, or else the devil will be sure to enter in. It shows that the name without the love of a disciple is worse than nothing; that we may, in the outward sign be washed by Christ; and yet hold fast by our iniquity. O God, deliver us from the deceitfulness of sin.
Let me each night, before I sleep, earnestly entreat my Saviour to wash away each stain of sin, and let me examine how many and how great are these stains, that my love may be great, and my efforts many to serve my God.
So shall my walk be close with God;
Calm and serene my frame;
That leads me to the Lamb.
Verses 12—16. “So after he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and was set down again, he saith unto them, Know ye what I have done unto you? Ye call me Master and Lord, and ye say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye ought also to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done unto you. Verily
I say unto you, the servant is not greater than his Lord; neither he that is sent, greater than he that sent him."
Peter's unwillingness to have his feet washed by his Lord, had brought the answer so full of meaning -—"If I wash thee not, thou hast no part in me.” It was clearly understood, or he would not have replied—“Lord ! not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.” This was well, for the very truth and life of our religion lies in it ; but there was a further lesson in this act of Christ's, which must not be forgotten. He had, for their sakes, in the carrying on of the work His Father had given Him to do, brought Himself down to the level of the lowliest among them. When thoughts of fame, and desires for such greatness as this world can give, should rise in their hearts, let them remember this. Let the thought of their Master, girded with a towel, and kneeling at their feet to wash them, return to their minds, with the meaning of the act; then would he that is greatest among them, that is, he that loved his Lord the most, and held closest communion with Him, be the most eager to serve, to minister to the bodies and souls of his fellow-men.
And oh, let us remember it. Let the image of our Lord thus employed rise between us and those dazzling scenes of this world's brightness, that are so apt to bewilder us as we pass along. Men, women, and children, remember it. It will check the natural pride of our hearts. It will make us ashamed to long for the highest places among men ; it will make us willing to do and to be whatsoever our Lord doth appoint. And in this we shall find our happiness. The Saviour speaks again. Listen to what He further says to His disciples and to you.
Verse 17. “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them."
Yes, happiness is to be found, and only found in following the example of our Lord.
Could the veil which hides the secret heart of all, be lifted, this truth would be fully proved.
In the gay years of early life there is a happiness that belongs to the very nature of the young and healthy, and this joyous feeling is one of the kindest gifts of God. It is the freshness of the morning, preparing strength and spirits for the heat and burthen of the day. It would be cruel and wrong to check this happiness; but it is a kindness to guide it right, to turn the clear warm light of young feeling upon the Saviour. The time will soon come when He must fill the heart, or an unsatisfied sense of something wanting, will destroy the enjoyment of the brightest lot of life. “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” These are the words of Christ our Lord ;-let them ever be sounding in our ears, and whispering in our he ts.
It is often made an objection to religion, that some who have been accounted religious, commit sins even greater than other men. This is only a proof of the truth that no outward seeming is religion ; it is the heart only, the heart in communion with it's God, that can truly serve Him,-man may be deceived, but God never.
In the midst of His disciples, the eye of Jesus rests upon the traitor. He knows what he will do, and so orders all things, that even his treason shall bring about His will.
We have a striking example of this in the words that follow, when Jesus, speaking to the twelve, said
Verses 18, 19. “I speak not of you all : I know whom I have chosen : but that the scripture may be fulfilled, he that eateth bread with me hath lifteth up his heel against me. Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he.”
A dreadful hour is close at hand, but it need not shake their faith ; for before it comes, the Lord Jesus tells them of it, and it thus becomes another sign of His truth. As yet they know not that there is a traitor among them, but He has known it from the beginning
Verse 20." Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth
th him that sent me.”
One great comfort in all the sorrows that were coming upon them, would be this,—that they would be looked upon, and cared for by God, as one with His Son, and therefore, as one with Himself. In all their troubles and their trials, He would make common cause with them. How great, how unspeakable is this comfort, and it is held out to us also, if only with true hearts we are doing our Master's work. " If God be for us, who can be against us?”
But the sin of man causes grief of heart to the Redeemer. That His Father's will might be done, He had from the beginning of His Ministry, borne with the continued presence and companionship of one who He knew would betray Him. In choosing His twelve Apostles He had numbered among them a man who neither in heart nor in spirit was of them; but that it should be so, was one of those bitter pains He bore for us. In this last hour of peaceful intercourse with His Apostles the thought of that Traitor troubled Him. It was not the prospect of His own sufferings and death that distressed Him; for this purpose He had come into the world, and He pressed forward to fulfil it. It was the knowledge of treachery even in the small circle that was to Him as His own family. It is written that
Verse 21. " When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified and said, Verily, verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me."
His words and his trouble filled the Apostles with dismay.