Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Theme: Pes'ho/Maundy Thursday, Feet-washing, Last Supper, Agony in Gethsemane
Volume 7 No. 409 April 11, 2017
III. Featured: Washing Feet


by Richard T. Ritenbaugh

The Passover marks the beginning of a new cycle of God's festivals and holy days. During the Passover service, before partaking of the symbols of Christ's body and blood, the unleavened bread and the wine, Christians participate in the footwashing ceremony. Though seemingly archaic in our modern world, footwashing provides necessary and important reminders of our duties to each other.

In the Palestine of Christ's day, where the roads were primarily unpaved and the people wore sandals, footwashing was a common service provided to guests. A servant, usually the lowest-ranking member of the household staff, would wash the dust off the guests' feet as they entered the home. This both kept the house clean and refreshed the guests. This simple act contains helpful lessons for our Christian lives.

1. When is footwashing performed?

John 13:1-5.

Comment: During the evening of Nisan 14, Jesus and His disciples ate the Passover, commonly known as the "Last Supper." After the meal was served, Jesus rolled up His sleeves, as it were, tied a towel around His waist and washed His disciples' feet. Later in the evening, after He predicted that one of the disciples would betray Him (verses 21-26), Jesus introduced the symbols of bread and wine as part of the Passover service (Mark 14:18-24). Following this example, the church places the footwashing ritual first in the annual service.

2. What is its purpose?

John 13:12-16.

Comment: Because of their incessant bickering about who would be the greatest in the Kingdom (Luke 22:24-27), Jesus gave the disciples an object lesson designed to show them what their real position was under Him. He tells them, "He who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves" (verse 26). He shows them that they must be willing to do whatever task - even the most menial - that is necessary for the good of their brothers. This should have put them in the proper attitude for the Passover's greater purpose, Christ's sacrifice for our forgiveness and redemption.

3. What was Jesus' attitude?

Philippians 2:3-7.

Comment: The attitude Jesus showed in washing His disciples' feet is the same attitude that enabled Him to give up the power and glory of being like God and become a man. Here we see that our Creator, the Almighty God, is first and foremost a servant. He is willing to serve His own servants! When we come to the point that we are able to do everything in an attitude of service and humility, we are truly following Jesus Christ.

4. What is the significance of having our feet washed?

John 13:10.

Comment: Christians are "bathed" - made perfectly clean - at baptism (Acts 22:16; I Corinthians 6:11; Revelation 1:5). The footwashing acts as a yearly renewal of our baptism, our commitment to living God's way of life. As Jesus says, we do not need to be fully immersed again to renew our vow - to be re-cleansed from sin; we need only to have our feet washed to remove the dirt and dust we collect in our walk through life. It was for this reason that Jesus insisted that Peter allow Him to wash his feet (John 13:6-9).

5. Does the ritual itself make us clean, or do we play a part in our re-cleansing?

John 13:10-11, 18.

Comment: The footwashing is simply a ritual, a ceremony, a symbolic act that outwardly manifests an inward attitude and conviction. In the example of Judas Iscariot, we see that though he went through the ritual, he was not really clean. The ritual could not remove the terrible sin that he was about to commit against his Creator. Because he had not repented of his sin, footwashing was meaningless to Judas.

Paul writes, "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Prove yourselves" (II Corinthians 13:5). Isaiah urges, "Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings" (Isaiah 1:16). In his psalm of repentance, on the other hand, David beseeches God, "Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin" (Psalm 51:2). Thus, we see that this rededication to God at Passover is a shared effort between us and God. We renew our faith in Christ's sacrifice, re-devote ourselves to the New Covenant, repent of our spiritual failings and seek forgiveness, and He forgives us and cleanses us of our sins.

6. Is the footwashing a commanded ceremony for Christians?

John 13:12-15.

Comment: Indeed it is! It is an object lesson whose meaning we are to inculcate into our lives and practice at every opportunity! As Christ served us, so should we serve others. The apostle John writes in I John 2:6, "He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked."

7. Is there a blessing given for footwashing?

John 13:17.

Comment: The word translated happy in the King James and New King James Bibles can easily be rendered "blessed," "favored" or "satisfied." There is a reward for following God's marvelous way of life! Not only will we be given eternal life and rulership in His Kingdom, but God will also bestow His blessing and favor upon us until we are completely satisfied!

Source: Forerunner, "Bible Study," April 1995
1995 CGG

Jesus Washes The Disciples' Feet

By Yohan Perera


The last night of Jesus' earthly ministry was very eventful. He prayed His great High Priestly prayer, taught His Disciples many valuable truths, observed the Passover meal with His Disciples and was betrayed into the hands of His enemies. Through all of this, Jesus knows that in the morning, He will go to Calvary and die on a cross for the sin of humanity.

His is a bitter cup! However, before He begins the events of the evening, before they come to the table to eat their last meal together, Jesus takes some time to teach these men a lesson in servant hood that still speaks to us today. In these verses, Jesus reveals His heart and His mission. He proves to these men that He did not come to be served, but to serve, (Mark 10:45). In showing Himself to be a servant of men, Jesus left us a vivid portrait of the kind of heart we are to have for others.

In these verses, among other things, we will find out that God's will for our lives is that we learn to give ourselves in service to others. As we look into these verses today, I challenge you to let the Lord speak to your heart. It may be that you will be able to see yourself as you really are today and if you do, then you can come to the Lord and let Him fix whatever may be wrong in your life. Let's take the next few minutes and consider.

Read: John 13:1-20

1. The humble servant

A. The Love Of The Humble Servant (John 13:1-2)

This verse tells us that Jesus knows He is nearing the end of His earthly ministry. He knows that He is about to go to the cross and suffer for sin. He knows the end is near. Yet, through it all, His heart is still overcome with love for His Disciples. The Bible says, that He loved them "unto the end." That is, Jesus loved them perfectly, unconditionally and eternally. His love never wavered, even in the hour of His own crisis.

Lesson: What a great encouragement this is for you and me! You see, Jesus loves us with the same kind of love with which He loved His Disciples. Jeremiah tells us that it is an everlasting love, (Jeremiah 31:3). Paul tells us that nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39). Regardless of what transpires in your life and mine, we are loved perfectly, unconditionally and eternally with the awesome, agape love of Almighty God!

B. The Life Of The Humble Servant (John 13:3)

This verse speaks of the life of Jesus. When He came into this world, He came as One sent from God to live a sinless life and become sin for fallen men, (2 Corinthians 5:21). He has accomplished everything but the cross and He knows that after the cross, He will return to His Father and once again share in the glory of Heaven.

Lesson: Jesus had one purpose when He came to this world and that purpose was to die for sin (Luke 19:10; John 18:37). Note: He accomplished His purpose on behalf of every man! He did this because of His great love for you. In fact, the cross is the absolute, indisputable proof of His love (Romans 5:6-8) You may discount everything else God has ever done for you and write it off as luck or whatever, but you will never be able to shrug off the death of Jesus on the cross for your sins! The cross stands as a monument to the awesome love of God for you and me.

C. The Labor Of The Humble Servant (John 13:2; 13:4-5)

In these verses, we see the Master doing the work of a slave. In those days, it was customary for a slave to wash the feet of visitors. To not provide this kindness would be considered uncivilized and inhospitable. Apparently, there were no servants available to do this job for Jesus and His Disciples, so Jesus Himself gets up from the table, removes His outer garment, pours Himself a basin of water and begins to wash the feet of the Disciples.

I can imagine the amazement that must have filled their minds and faces as their Lord washed their dirty feet one by one. Yet, as incredible as this scene is, Jesus was doing something here that was unknown to all but one of the Disciples. He was washing the feet of the very man who would, later that same evening, betray Him to His enemies.

Lesson: Jesus knew the heart of Judas! He knew that this man had never been saved (John 6:64; 6:70). Just because Satan "put" the thought into Judas' heart to betray the Lord does not indicate that Judas was somehow saved and then lost his salvation. For Jesus Himself had already indicated that Judas was not one of His true followers!

Instead of focusing on some minor doctrinal issue, we should instead see the great truth contained here. That truth is this, even though Jesus knew the heart of Judas, even though He knew his motives, even though He knew His plans, still He loved Him and offered Him several opportunities to repent before it was too late. Even at this point, it was not too late for Judas to have been saved.

Notice John 13:18; 13:20-27. In these verses, Jesus repeatedly shows Judas that He knows what he is up to. Jesus is giving Judas an opportunity to turn his life over to Christ. Jesus even served Judas as a slave would his master. His love never failed! What a lesson for every person in this room today, but especially those who are outside Jesus Christ.

Please understand that His love for you will never end! You may reject every attempt of Jesus to call you unto Himself, but rest assured that no matter how many times you rebuff His efforts, you will never be able to turn off His love for you and for your soul. In fact, He has already humbled Himself on your behalf, when He went to the cross and died for you!

2. The word of the humble servant

Read: John 13:6-11

A. Simon Peter's Shock (John 13:6-7)

When Jesus makes His way around to Simon Peter, Peter is incredulous! He simply cannot believe that the Lord would want to serve Him.

Lesson: I stand amazed when I consider all that the Lord has done, is doing and will do in my life. That He would love me so is beyond my comprehension. After all, there is no merit in any one of us to commend us to God. If we got what we deserved, we would all be in Hell today, but thank God He doesn't give us that which we deserve, He gives that which we do not! Salvation and all the benefits of it are the products of God's grace. We enjoy what we do, not because we deserve it, but because God gives it even though we don't, (Ephesians 2:8-9). Notice that nobody is too bad for grace, (Romans 5:20.)

B. Simon Peter's Stubbornness (John 13:8)

When Peter hears that Jesus is really planning to do this, he responds with a triple negative. He tells the Lord, in effect, "you will never, no, never wash my feet!" This is the equivalent of irreverence. After all, the first condition of discipleship is obedience. Peter is simply refusing to submit to the Lord and he does so through a display of false humility.

However, Jesus reminds him of a great truth. Unless a man is willing to submit to the commandments of the Lord, he can have no fellowship with the Lord (John 14:15; 14:21). Obedience is the proof of love.

Lesson: We may tend to feel ashamed when the Lord blesses us, because we know we do not deserve His goodness and grace. Yet, at the same time, we should gratefully accept His gifts and praise Him for them. True fellowship with Jesus is found only in humble submission to His plan. Even when that plan seems to contain the opposite of humility.

C. Simon Peter's Submission (John 13:9)

When Peter hears this gentle rebuke, he throws himself before the Lord and says, "If washing my feet will bring me closer to you, then don't stop there, but wash all of me!"

Lesson: This is the attitude of surrender that God can bless! He wants us in a place where we are looking to His and His will before anything other consideration. Think about it for a moment. What is it that motivates you? Peter was motivated by the thought of being closer to the Lord. Does that move you? If you are right with God it will! If it doesn't then that is an indication that there is definite room for improvement in your walk with the Lord.

Jesus is telling Peter that when a man has washed his entire person, (Greek: louw) and he gets his feet soiled by walking through the streets, all he needs at that point is to wash (Greek: niptw) just the feet. The image here is crystal clear for the believer. When we received Jesus as our personal Savior, He forever washed us from our sins (Revelation 1:5; 1 Peter 1:18-19). We have been eternally cleansed from head to toe already through His cleansing blood. However, as we walk through life, we tend to fall into sin and we need cleansing. Not for the entire person, since that was accomplished when we were saved and can never be repeated. But, just for that particular stain we gathered when we sinned in our daily walk. This is where 1 John 1:7; 2:2 comes into play.

Jesus is teaching us that we do not need to get re-saved every time we sin, but we do need to come to Him for forgiveness and restoration of fellowship. You see, if you allow yourself to go on in sin, you will keep widening the breach between you and the Lord. The secret to true spiritual joy is the practice of instant confession of sins and failures before the throne of grace. You see, Jesus is still washing feet this afternoon!

We need a heart like David's. "I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah." (Psalm 32:5).

Please note that while Jesus said that the Disciples were clean, He also knew the condition of Judas! It is impossible to hide your condition from the all seeing eyes of the Lord Jesus Christ. He knows what we are and He knows when we are just religious. He knows when we are hypocritical, and He knows when we are insincere about of faith. He knows whether you are saved or not. You might fool the rest of us, but you will never pull the wool over Jesus' eyes!

3. The wisdom of the humble servant

Read: John 13:12-17

A. Jesus Gave An Example (John 13:12-15)

Jesus set the standard by which everyone of His servant is to live their lives. In this action of Jesus, we can see Him showing His followers that we are all expected to serve one another.

Lesson: His Disciples had been guilty of arguing about who would be first in the Kingdom of Heaven, (Luke 22:24). They were all concerned over Who would be the greatest in Heaven, but Jesus reminded them that true greatness is a great paradox.

Men never earn the respect of others by forced obedience, but they earn the respect of others by first being a servant, (Mark 10:42-44). Jesus says that the path to greatness is through humility. This is one of the great paradoxes of the faith! There are several others. The way to life is through death. The way to get is to give. The way to greatness is by becoming a servant to others.

Let's face it, there are not many genuine servant ministers around these days. Everyone, it seems, is looking to get all they can. However, this attitude is diametrically opposed to that of our Lord. He was willing to make Himself the servant of all, and as a result, God has exalted Him and given Him a name that is above every name, (Philippians 2:5-11)

B. Jesus Gave An Exhortation (John 13:16)

The lesson here is simple. If Jesus was willing to be a servant, then all of His followers ought to be willing to serve as well.

Lesson: Notice that Jesus just didn't serve the ones He preferred. It might have been easy to wash John's feet. After all, John was the "Beloved Disciple." Yet, John and his brother James were always trying to get just a little bit ahead of the others. What about Simon Peter? He was the one who would deny Him three times before dawn. What about Thomas? He was the one who would doubt the word of the others and refuse to believe in the resurrection of Jesus. What about Judas? He was the one who for 30 pieces of silver would sell His Lord to the enemies.

Jesus didn't allow any of the considerations to cloud His love or His service! He treated them all equally and, in doing so, taught us a tough lesson. We all have people that we seem to connect with and we have no trouble serving these folks. However, the true servant soon learns that he must serve all and serve them equally. The true servant is not allowed to pick favorites, but must have the heart of Christ and be willing to serve his enemies just as readily as he serves his friends, (Matthew 5:43-48). Can we honestly say this morning that we serve all men alike? Not if we hold grudges. Not if we remember slights. Not if we think ourselves above others

C. Jesus Gave An Expectation (John 13:17)

Jesus says that if we know these things, we will be "happy" if we do them! Happy means "Blessed." When we take the example of Jesus and out it into action, we can be assured of the Lord's blessing on our lives. In fact, there will come a time when there will be no greater joy than that of being able to serve another in the name of the Lord!

Lesson: By the same token, not to serve when we know we should serves the opposite purpose. For if you know to do good, then you are sinning when you do not, (James 4:17) Why do we seem to find it so difficult to serve another human? Why does it seem to strain us so? Jesus never had a problem with serving. It came as natural to Him as breathing does to you and me.

God help us to develop a servant's heart. That is, we need to get to the place where we are more concerned with the welfare of our neighbor than we are of our own, (Philippians 2:4). We need to reach the place where we are more concerned with promoting our brother than we are ourselves. I don't know about you, but I have a lot of work to do in this area!


Jesus left us a wonderful example to follow. His was a life lived in the service of others. If you were to sum up your life this morning, could you honestly say that others come before you in your thinking and your serving? Can you honestly say that you are following the Lord's example to the best of your ability? Or, maybe like the Disciples, you would have to confess that you are often guilty of promoting yourself over others.

Whatever the need this morning dear brothers and sisters, there is hope and help in the Lord Jesus Christ. It may be that some here are just like Judas. You are in the church this morning surrounded by the all the trappings of Christianity, yet like Judas you have never truly been saved by the faith in the Lord Jesus. You have a name that you are one of His, but you know deep down in your heart that you do not really know Him. There is hope for you too! Like Judas, Jesus loves you and will save you if you will come to Him right now. Will you respond as the Lord leads you this morning?

Source: Virtual Preacher

The Love of God is Visible in the Foot Washing

by The Rev. William D. Oldland

The Gospel: John 13:1-11

When I go to my parents home there are certain things I do. The first thing I do is hug my mother and my father. The next thing I do is check to see what is in the refrigerator. I want to see what goodies my mom may have prepared for my visit. However, when I go to someone else's home I don't quite follow that same pattern. They are the host and the hostess. We might hug. We might shake hands. If I am wearing a coat they offer to take it for me. They usually offer me something to drink and eat. The company, the food and the drink lead to a wonderful evening. The centerpiece of this wonderful evening is their wonderful hospitality. They go to great lengths to help me, their guest, feel comfortable and welcome.

Tonight we read the story of the foot washing of the disciples. We have often heard of the importance of this act in Jesus' day. This act had multiple meanings. First, it was a matter of hygiene. If one walks around a city in sandals one's feet are going to get rather dirty. It was also an act of hospitality. The act of foot washing was similar to taking one's coat at the door. It was often done by servants. It was always done before the meal. Finally, foot washing was also a cultic act. Various groups practiced washing as a part of their religious beliefs. The Essenes, for example, had multiple acts of washing for purification and cleanliness as a part of their worship.

The question is what is the context in which Jesus is washing the disciples feet. We might think it was for hygiene. After all, they are at the Passover meal. However, if it was only for hygiene then we have a problem. Jesus did not wash their feet when they came in the door and before the meal. Jesus washes their feet in the middle of the meal. So hygiene is not the full answer to what is happening here.

Most of the answer is not in the act of the foot washing itself. Most of the answer is found in the dialogue between Peter and Jesus. Jesus has removed his robe. The verb the writer uses for the removal of the robe is the same verb used by Jesus to describe Jesus' laying down of his life. Even before the dialogue there is a deeper meaning suggested by the writer. Jesus comes to Peter and Peter refuses to have his feet washed. He is refusing to allow Jesus to be a servant to him. Jesus' answer is critical. Jesus' washing of Peter's feet is necessary. It is necessary for him to have a "share" with Jesus. To have a share with Jesus actually means to have fellowship with Jesus. To have fellowship with Jesus means that he participates fully in his life. Participation fully in Jesus' life means that he shares in Jesus' home. The foot washing is not about being clean for a meal in the present. The foot washing is about being welcomed into a full relationship with God. The disciples are welcomed into this relationship by the act of Jesus. They are invited into a full and intimate relationship with God and Jesus. Through this act, Jesus draws the disciples into the depth of love that exists between God and Jesus and to all of creation.

What Peter does not realize is what he is refusing when he says no. If Peter removes himself from this act then Peter removes himself from a relationship with God and Jesus. He would remove himself from the promises of God.

Where are we in relation to this event? Tonight we are in the middle of Holy Week. Tonight we remember the last meal Jesus had with his disciples. We also remember the events of the foot washing. We could believe the foot washing is simply an act of hygiene from years past. We could believe it has no place in today's society. If it was simply an issue of physical cleanliness then this form of hospitality would be inappropriate. However, in a spiritual view the foot washing today is very important. We have just spent over forty days reviewing our relationship with God. Please notice the wording. We have reviewed our relationship with God. Hopefully, we have identified some ways in which our relationship is good and wonderful. Perhaps we have identified some aspects of our relationship where we feel distant and on which we would like to uild. In either case tonight is an opportunity. We are invited into an intimate relationship with God. Tonight Jesus invites us into the depth of the love God and Jesus share. We have the opportunity to remember that as Jesus' disciples today we are welcomed by Christ into this relationship. We are loved children of God. God's desire is to have this deep intimate, loving relationship with each one of us.

In a few minutes we will have the foot washing. The foot washing today is an act where we can physically relive the event with Christ and the disciples at the last supper. Is it necessary for salvation? No. It is an opportunity for us to physically, as well as, spiritually acknowledge the relationship we have with God. Notice it is an opportunity. Participating does not mean we have a deeper relationship with God than someone else. Not participating does not mean someone has not observed a holy Lent. The foot washing is an individual choice used by an individual for their own spiritual growth and conviction. Therefore, it is appropriate to say that All may participate, some should participate, but none must participate. God loves us. To help us see that in a way we could understand God sent Jesus, the Son. Jesus loves us. To show us the relationship God desires to have with us, Jesus went to the cross. God's love for us exceeds anything we can imagine. God's love will always prevail.



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