Gracefully Truthful


Discover the original intent of Scripture. Make good application to our everyday lives.
Become equipped to correctly handle the Word of Truth!

Read His Words Before Ours!

John 13:5-20

Next, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel tied around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who asked him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I’m doing you don’t realize now, but afterward you will understand.”

8 “You will never wash my feet,” Peter said. Jesus replied, “If I don’t wash you, you have no part with me.”

9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.” 10 “One who has bathed,” Jesus told him, “doesn’t need to wash anything except his feet, but he is completely clean. You are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For he knew who would betray him. This is why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12 When Jesus had washed their feet and put on his outer clothing, he reclined again and said to them, “Do you know what I have done for you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are speaking rightly, since that is what I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done for you. 16 “Truly I tell you, a servant is not greater than his master, and a messenger is not greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

18 “I’m not speaking about all of you; I know those I have chosen. But the Scripture must be fulfilled: The one who eats my bread has raised his heel against me.19 I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am he. 20 Truly I tell you, whoever receives anyone I send receives me, and the one who receives me receives him who sent me.”

The Original Intent

1) Why would Jesus emphasize washing Peter’s feet, but refuse to wash all of him? Does Jesus not need to cleanse every part of a sinner for us to be right with God? (verses 8-10)

When I read these verses of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet, I see a truly humble servant.Yet, when reading verses 8-10, deeper spiritual teachings seem to exist. It’s important to consider that both Enduring Word Commentary and Matthew Henry, biblical theologian, note that Jesus didn’t wash His disciples’ feet to illustrate how we are saved from our sins and made clean by the forgiveness only God can offer. Salvation wasn’t the point of Christ’ stooping to wash unsandaled feet.

The tension between Jesus’ washing and Peter’s remarks point toward spiritual growth and a demonstration of how to live the Christian life rather than a picture of how one is saved from sin. The disciples were already eating (John 13:2-4), but nobody had volunteered to cleanse feet, nor had a hired servant handled this distasteful task.

They sat on the floor with pillows, as was common at the time, with the stench of the outside road sitting with them at the table. Having planned the evening and knowing this situation would arise, Jesus chose the role of a lowly servant to demonstrate in an exceedingly personal manner what it was to love others as God loves them.

This was uncomfortable for Peter! Christ was His Lord, not his foot slave! Initially, he refuses. But Jesus stressed the importance of receiving His service by stating, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with Me.” (verse 7) Confused, Peter goes to the other extreme, asking to be bathed in whole. (verse 9) When Jesus responds practically that only his feet are dirty, Peter discovers he must be humble in heart in order to truly receive humility’s love. Only through Jesus’ great humility does Peter wrestle with his own deep seeded pride. It takes humility to receive humility.

The Everyday Application

1) Why would Jesus emphasize washing Peter’s feet, but refuse to wash all of him? Does Jesus not need to cleanse every part of a sinner for us to be right with God? (verses 8-10)

Jesus said His disciples were already clean except Judas Iscariot (verse 10), meaning they had already repented of their sin and trusted Christ to be exactly Who He claimed to be as God. They had been washed clean (forgiven of all sin) through faith. (Titus 3:5) Jesus washed the disciples’ feet as an example of how His people were to love others with humility and how all must be humbled by the depths of their sin in order to receive humble love.

We cannot save one another by serving them, but we can point them to the love of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Both the humility in giving and receiving servant-love is a refining fire used by the Lord to make us more like Him!

Before we married, my husband served in youth ministry; together we envisioned wonderful ways to care for others in ministry. Instead, as we moved into life and marriage, we ran into broken down cars, basement floods, and other stressors we couldn’t finagle alone.

The families we envisioned serving were keeping us afloat with their humble service. They loaned us their cars and brought shop-vacs to quickly remove water. When we had two small children and I became suddenly sick, ladies literally picked up their dinner plates and came to our house to babysit.

We deserved none of these gifts, and it was uncomfortable to receive such love from the ones we were supposed to be serving. For years, it seemed others were helping us more than we could offer in return. We can never repay the service of those loving church members who acted like family, but through the humility of receiving, the Lord has shown us how to better give. Serving is not sustained in our own strength, but in His strength.

The Original Intent

2) How does Jesus’ command to wash each other’s feet apply to the Church at large? (verse 14)

Jesus, always intentional, began the process of washing feet noting that His disciples did not understand now, but would later understand His purposes. (verse 7) Allowing Jesus to wash their feet required much on both sides. Jesus stooped low to do the job no one else was willing to do, while the disciples surrendered in obedience. 

 Both sides practiced humility, patience, and endurance with the careful and involved process of cleansing and cleaning up. Multiple times throughout Scripture, and even during this last meal (Luke 22:24), Jesus’ disciples had discussed who was the greatest among themselves. (Luke 9:46) But here in chapter 13, Jesus strongly emphasizes His call of spiritual growth through humility, which is a requirement for following Him with our lives.

Jesus called out the disciples’ pride and mis-focus on being “better” than one another. He instructs that none is greater than their masters or teachers, which was Christ. (verses 16-17) The disciples readily called Jesus their Lord and Leader, which underscored the reality that Jesus called them to also stoop to the lowliest tasks. In fact, the disciples are actually commanded, not to necessarily physically wash feet, but to willingly stoop to the lowest of positions for the benefit of fellow disciples of Christ.

The Everyday Application

2) How does Jesus’ command to wash each other’s feet apply to the Church at large? (verse 14)

It is not unheard of to attend a wedding, youth group service, or other church gathering where the act of foot washing is part of the service. It’s meant as a lovely portrayal of their heart’s intention to humbly serve one another. But what about the day in and out experiences of doing life within the church? When Jesus commanded His disciples to “wash another’s feet” He did not mean serving to end when the feet were physically clean. Rather, Jesus referenced the heart’s need to let go of pride for the benefit of our Christian family.

I have the gift of knowing a sweet story of a local pastor and church member; I hope their story encourages you like it does me! A long-time, faithful church member took on the church’s janitorial needs as a paid second job. After months of cleanliness, people suddenly began noticing problems. There were unkempt bathrooms, crumbs and dirt remaining on the floor after gatherings, and the like.

The attentive pastor noticed something amiss, and instead of approaching the situation with business-like efficiency of firing the worker, he chose to lean into spiritual growth for himself and his friend. Despite his leadership role and busy demands, the pastor stooped low to save face for the man until the heart of the matter could be discussed. Unannounced, the pastor cleaned the nursery bathrooms and vacuumed the sanctuary for several weeks allowing the hired man to receive payment.

This pastor chose humble grace-filled service for his brother, demonstrating his submission to Christ’s lordship as more important than his own authority as pastor. Are we willing to take on the difficult and dirty for the spiritual benefit of one another?

The Original Intent

3) Did Jesus invite Judas into His discipleship circle for the purpose of Christ’s betrayal? (verse 18)

Backing up in this passage, which is an important practice when studying the Bible, we read that Jesus, “knew His hour had come to depart out of this world (…)” and that Jesus “loved His own to the end”. (John 13:1) As both God and man, Jesus knew His purpose. He knew when to keep his head down and do daily life, when to start teaching and displaying miracles, and when to withdraw with His closest disciples.

Jesus knew which chosen disciples would follow Him in faith and which one would move His mission forward at the time of betrayal because of his choice to reject Jesus. (John 6:64)

Judas had every opportunity to know Jesus as Messiah and Lord just as each of the other disciples did. Judas traveled with Jesus, witnessed His healings and mercies, and sat in on quiet conversations where Jesus as He explained parables. Still, Judas did not repent and his heart was hard set against God.

Scripture warns of a time when God turns us over to our heart desires if we continue rebelling against Him, making it known that what we want most is to be our own “god”. (Romans 1:21-24, Ephesians 4:19) Verse 2 tells us the devil put betrayal into Judas’s heart, which describes a moment of being turned over to Judas’ true heart-desire to keep rejecting Him.Jesus knew the heart of Judas from the beginning, still He invited Judas along, allowed him to manage the money, and even included him in the washing of feet before sending him on his way to betrayal. Jesus tells us that allowing this deceit was not in vain, but rather that Scripture was fulfilled, and further evidence was provided His disciples of His divinity as the All-Knowing God. (verse 18-19) He was more than a good teacher and example of humble service, Christ is God and Savior!

The Everyday Application

3) Did Jesus invite Judas into His discipleship circle for the purpose of Christ’s betrayal? (verse 18)

God, as being perfectly good, does not create evil, but He still has control over it, as He is all-powerful. Humans are responsible for sin and the Devil causes much deceit and evil through our human fleshly desires to love sin. ( Still, God is sovereign and able to use what is already present because of sin to move His plans forward for the good of His people and the accomplishment of His purposes. (Romans 8:28)

Judas-like people are present in both our families and churches. These are people who have learned to mimic the outward fruit of what Christianity “looks like”, but their hearts are far from their actions. Such masqueraders cause much pain. How can someone be so close, and yet, so far from the Lord?

As a child, I incorrectly thought if Jesus would perform a miracle for my dad, he would surely love Jesus. Years later, I realized Scripture addresses my mis-understanding. The Bible describes multitudes experiencing the miracles of Jesus, and then following Him merely for the physical benefits. (John 6:26) Jesus calls out this heart-attitude saying, “You have seen me and yet do not believe.(John 6:36) The God of all truth is not deceived by outward appearance. (1 Samuel 16:7)

How is one truly saved? Scripture teaches it is the Lord who calls us to Himself and He perfectly knows our hearts. “I know those I have chosen.” (John 13:18) “[The disciples] did not choose [Jesus], but He chose [them]” (John 15:16). It also says, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts (…)” (Hebrews 3:15) and “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:31) Call on the Lord, repent of your sin and confess Him as Lord!

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