Lesson 107: In the Upper Room Immediately Following the Passover Meal
A Blending of The Four Gospel Records. This is lesson # 107. Welcome! O.K. let's move fast. We're going to read from John ch. 13, if you'll be turning there. When the supper was ended, Jesus got up from the passover supper and washed the disciples feet. Why did Jesus do that? Well, don't forget that strife factor that existed between the disciples. Let's read John 13:2-20. We've already read John 13:1. You may want to review that. If you're ready let's read beginning in v.2 of John ch. 13. Let's read. "And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's, son, to betray him; Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; he riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What Ido thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean. 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 you should do as I have done to you. 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. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. 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 lifted 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. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me." Where the KJV says, "And the supper being ended..." at the beginning of v.2, the ASV says, "And during the supper..." Judas had apparently, decided he was going to betray Jesus to the council regardless. Judas had apparently decided to "get even" in this way, i.e. in his thinking. It was apparently before Judas left that Jesus washed the disciples' feet. At least that's the way John connects it up down in v.21-22. John is the only writer to tell us about the feet trashing episode. All four writers told us about Jesus foretelling his betrayal. Thus, by covering that in our last lesson we seem to have shoved this out of sequence; but, apparently Judas was still present during the washing of feet and Jesus thus must have washed Judas' feet also.
But, why did Jesus arise from the supper (v.4) and wash the disciples' feet? Well, first of all it would seem a very strange custom in America, today. But, there's no question but that it was a common practice of hospitality in the East. When a guest came inside one's tent or house it was customary to provide water for washing their feet. For the host to wash the guest's feet showed a very high measure of hospitality and respect. They of course did not wear the .quality of shoes that we wear today. Sandals were common, i.e. a piece of wood or heavy leather strapped to the foot by rawhide. The feet washing custom had great practical utility for two reasons. (#1) Walking was almost exclusively the mode of transportation and the feet got extremely dirty and dusty. (#2) To anyone who has experienced a long hot and dry, dusty walk, the washing of the feet is a very refreshing exercise. So, when Jesus washed the disciple's feet; he did not start some strange new custom like John the Baptist did when he started immersing people in the Jordan. It would appear that the group had taken a bath at Bethany that day before coming to the passover feast. But, for some strange reason, they did not wash their feet when they came into the upper room apparently. It probably had to do with that strife factor that existed between the apostles that Luke told us about. No one was going to stoop low enough to wash his fellow disciple's feet. There was strife among them! So, Jesus startled them by laying aside his garment, wrapping a towel around himself, pouring some water into a basin (v.4-5) and began to wash and dry the disciple's feet. Most of them were simply awed into silence by the very act. But, you will remember Simon Peter was a verbal character that spoke what was on his mind. Thus, when Jesus came to Simon Peter and it was Peter's turn to have his feet washed; Peter resisted. He said, "Lord, dost thou wash my feet?" (v.6). That was like saying, Lord I ought to be washing your feet. You're the master, I'm a disciple. Now, get a good grip on v,7, Jesus told Peter, "What I do thou knowest not now; but thou SHALT KNOW hereafter." That was as if Jesus said, Peter, it may seem a little strange to you now; but, it will be explained later. And through the Holy Spirit they undoubtedly understood this much better at a later time. But, as Peter perceived what Jesus said; he must have thought he didn't want to look back upon a situation where he let the Lord wash his feet. So, Peter in his quick impromptu way said, "Thou shalt never wash my feet." But to his dismay, Jesus replied, "If Iwash thee not, thou hast no part with me." Peter may have been a man of quick impetuous speech; but, Peter was a very humble man. We talked about this before the day when Peter was in the boat with Jesus about three years before when they caught the net full of fishes. And, as we have seen Peter could shift from one extreme to another like a short pendulum. So, Peter here as usual, swing the pendulum to the opposite terminal. O.K. if it takes THAT to have a part of you, Jesus, wash me! Wash my hands and my head, wash all of me; I want to have a part with you, Jesus. Then in v.10, Jesus took Peter's words and gave them a spiritual meaning. They had taken a bath at Bethany. Thus, Jesus said to Peter in essence, you need to wash only that which is dirty. You see, when one is baptized into Christ, all sins are forgiven. Just as it is not necessary to take a bath all over when only the feet is dirty; it is not necessary to be re-baptized when one sins again. This same writer, the apostle John, makes this point in I John 1:7-9.
"After he had washed their feet..." (v.12), Jesus sat down again and began to converse with them, "Knew ye what I have done to you?" Then in v.13-20, Jesus gave them a little speech, using the foot washing as a kind of visual aid, if you will. The subject of this little oration is humility and reconciliation. Jesus cut into that strife factor that Luke told us about. There was a strife among the apostle, who should be accounted the greatest in the kingdom. The conclusion is in v.15. Jesus said "FOR", i.e. FOR THIS CAUSE, "I have given you an example." What is an example? A principle or a fundamental or a precept that is illustrated. Now look at the last part of v.15! "Ye should do AS I have done to you." Does that say do exactly the same thing I have done unto you? NO! The point is that the disciples, all disciples were and are to be humble; willing to serve one another. Contrary to what many of our religious friends and neighbors teach; Jesus did NOT here institute an item of worship similar to taking the Lord's Supper. Some one will probably ask, why are you so sure, Bro. Horsley? Well, there are several reasons; but for starters, simply look at what Jesus said. In Luke's account, 22:19, in instituting the Lord's Supper, Jesus said, "This DO in remembrance of me." Thus, Jesus specified exactly what to do and how to do it with reference to the Lord's Supper. He didn't say do something similar to this, DO THIS! In talking about foot washing, Jesus called it an EXAMPLE and said "ye should do AS I have done unto you." That's quite a different thought, if you'll analyze it close. Secondly, I suppose there might be more of a question about this if this was the extent of what the Spirit revealed to us on these things. But, that is NOT the case. The Lord's Supper is referred to many, many times further over in the N.T. It is shown that the disciples took the Lord's Supper ever first day of the week after the church was established. The brethren at Troas came together TO break bread, i.e. for that purpose, Acts. 20:7. Paul discussed the Lord's supper in great detail in I Cor. ch. 11, and showed it was part of the worship at Corinth and that this item of worship was being abused. But, nothing, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, is ever said about foot washing. It is true, it only has to be said once to make it binding, YES! But, it isn't said once. Jesus did not tell the apostles to wash feet in a ceremonial way in John ch. 13, the only place where the subject is mentioned in the Bible. Jesus said that he was giving them an EXAMPLE that they should do AS he had done to them, i.e. serve each other. And, how many times did Jesus make that point? The greatest among you shall be your servant! Matt. 20:27, Jesus said, "And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant." That was when Jesus was talking to James and John and their mother about one sitting on the right hand and one on the left. When Jesus gave that scathing sermon about the Pharisees in Matthew ch. 23, in the temple, back on Tuesday of that same week, the last public discourse Jesus ever gave; he said to the Jews, don't be called "Rabbi", don't be called, "Father", don't be called "Master." (v.8-9-10). Then in v.11, Jesus said [are you listening?] "But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant." Way back there in Capernaum, after returning from the retreat at Caesarea Philippi the apostles got into a wrangle about who was going to be the greatest, Mark 9:35. Do you remember that? What did Jesus tell them? "If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all." We could probably find that thought a dozen more time; if you want to take the time to look for it. You see, Jesus had taught this principle over and over. He was still teaching it at the passover in the upper room on Thursday night. Why? Luke said, "there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest." (Luke 22:24). The principle that Jesus was teaching was much broader than a ceremonial ritual. The principle that Jesus was teaching extended into every facet of the apostles lives. I can't think of anything that the apostle had more problems with than this. I can't think of anything that we have more trouble with than this principle today. Eccentric, self centered, curious, odd, peculiar; that same sin is with us today. It keeps us separated, competing, contending and rivals instead of working together as brothers and sisters in Christ. OH! How bad do we need to do AS Christ did on that occasion? Serve one another in love, lay aside our pride, and concentrate on service — NOT EGO! It's the very undergirding of the sermon on the mount, the beatitudes, and that inner man principle. Jesus said here in v.16, "The servant is not greater than his lord." The messenger is not greater that the one who sent the message. Then, put both eyeballs and a thousand brain cell on v.17. Do you want to be happy? Jesus said this is the way to be happy. "If ye know these things, happy are ye IF YE DO THEM." It takes KNOWING them; and it takes DOING them. Now, that could involve washing my brother's dirty stinking feet. Or following that example, it could mean humbling myself to do a thousand other things. Serving others; What do they need that I can supply? That's what I need to do.
My friend, the majority of that big religious world out there spend their time in big theological circles writing doctoral dissertation on foot washing and strutting their onions and gloating over their view and defending their position on this subject and that subject. My friend, you can write a thousand doctoral dissertations and express your views in a thousand volumes. But, a little humble service in the name of Jesus Christ, has more Christianity about it; than all those theological circles rolled up into a million libraries. I talk to some of my brethren and they say, OH! I can't do much, I can't teach a class, I don't know what to say, or how to visit; Lord please have me excused. But, you and I can teach more in genuine humble service in five minutes than a golden tongue in an ivory pulpit can do in a year. I mean it! It's that part of Christianity the apostles had difficulty with; AND, it's that part of Christianity we have trouble with. I heard the story once about a man who was drunk. He was in a beer parlor or whiskey joint guzzling it down after midnight, whooping it up with his drunken friends. In his drunken boasting, he said he had the best Christian wife in the world. He said, that if he should take the whole drunken clan, sitting there with him that minute, home with him at that very hour in the middle of the night and request it; she would get out of bed and fix them a dinner and never grumble a minute. Someone in the group challenged him on that one! Telling him that no woman would do such a thing. He insisted YES, they insisted NO; and the whole drunken clique wound up going home with the man to prove him wrong. But, the woman got out of bed, prepared a beautiful meal as quickly as she could in the middle of the night and serve the drunken bums as cheerfully as if she had expected them for months. Finally, when they had enjoyed a fine meal and the woman began to collect the dishes and was starting to wash them; one man a little more sober than the rest, knowing how unreasonable they had been, just couldn't suppress his conscience any longer. He asked the nice lady a question he was harboring in his heart: How could the woman be so kind when they had been so unreasonable? The lady said, "Sir, when my husband and I were married; we were both sinners. It pleased God to call me out of that dangerous condition. I obeyed my Lord in believing, repenting, confessing and being baptized into Christ. But, my husband continues in that dangerous condition. I tremble for his future state. Were he to die, he would be miserable for ever. So, I consider it my duty to render his present existence as comfortable as possible." This wise and affectionate reply, touched the whole company. That husband thanked her for the warning and became a serious and good husband. He became a Christian and a loving father. And the man and wife together influenced others in that company of drunks. That pub of a beer joint, lost customers. One simple meal from the hands of a compassionate and humble wife, without complaint, done more good than a hundred sermons from a golden pulpit. You see, that's what Jesus said. "If ye know these things [v.17], happy are ye if ye do them." That's what Jesus said! Until our next lesson, have a HAPPY day!