The Washing of Feet

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? 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 also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you (John 13:12-15).

This washing of the feet is for the cleansing from any defilement that we may have gathered in our walk through this world. There may be no outward failure; it may be only inward, or even the lack of that spiritual vigor that would keep us in spirit unspotted from the world. The priest was not necessarily indicating personal sin when he washed his hands and feet before offering the sacrifices or entering the tabernacle. But it reminded him that he was in a scene where the dust and defilement gathered imperceptibly and so he had constantly to apply the water. Thus the scene in John 13 does not mean some glaring failure, but that which comes in to hinder full communion with our Lord. Just as the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, or the lust of other things can choke the Word, so in the believer, household cares, daily duties, business affairs, yes, even Christian service, may be allowed to practically mar communion with the Lord. What a world it is, where we can gather defilement even in service.

There is one contrast between the cleansing at the laver and the action of John 13. The priests were to wash their hands as well as their feet at the laver, but our Lord washed only the disciples’ feet. It is the feet, our ways, which need constantly to be cleansed by the word of God, through the advocacy of Christ our Lord and the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Who is it that can minister to the saints, that can wash his brother’s feet, that can minister as Christ ministered? It is he who knows the action of the Word in practical cleansing for himself.

In Galatians 6:1 this is applied to our mutual relationships, "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted". Here we have to do with one another in brotherly love and care. Our business is not to talk to others about his fault, nor in self-satisfaction to thank God that we have not fallen into it. "Many times when we want to straighten out an erring brother or sister and so wash their feet, we have the water boiling hot, or at least we are boiling hot. There needs to be a prayerful concern as to how we should go about the task of washing feet" (Laurence Chambers). In the spirit of lowliness, realizing that we too may be tempted, and if in his position might have done the same thing, go and seek to restore him to his Lord that he may have it all out between his soul and the Lord. Then we may be sure that communion is restored. This is true washing of one another’s feet.

There is a beautiful example of this washing of the saints’ feet in James. He says: "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed" (Jas. 5:16). This is not to be busybodies in other men’s matters, nor to take up things which do not concern us, but a godly concern to secure communion with the Lord for His people. It is not demanding confession, as the priest, that others confess to him; but in brotherly and mutual confidence, confessing your faults to one another, and praying for one another.

The water then is the word of God; that is, the word that applies, the word spoken in due season. It is not the whole Bible we are to bring to the brother, but the needed word applying to his actual condition. This needs wisdom and the Spirit’s guidance to bring the right word, that it may cleanse and help.

In this connection, how important it is that we should read the Word and feed upon it. How shall the Spirit of God use it for our cleansing and upbuilding, or how can we use it to the help and blessing of others, if we are not really acquainted with it? If we are to know the word of God, there must be a systematic way in which we read it, just as there is in the way we take our ordinary food. Mere haphazard reading of favorite passages, skipping from point to point, while helpful in some ways, will not thoroughly furnish us. Let not a day pass without careful, prayerful reading of our regular portion. Let us become thoroughly acquainted with the entire contents of Scripture. Thus, we shall have put at the disposal of the Lord an abundance of water to cleanse our ways.