Say What? I’m Confused!
Read John Chapter 13
Jn 13:6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to Him, “Lord, are You going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8 “No,” said Peter, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with Me.” 9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” 10 Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.”
I have never tackled the subject of foot washing before now, but here goes. As we look at it today, the thoughts may take a little different turn that might be expected. We will not discuss whether Christians today should regularly engage in the practice of foot washing. I have no problem with churches that do, nor do I have a problem with churches that do not. Our church has done that in the past, on a voluntary basis, and it was well received by some and not by others. As mentioned earlier, we won’t get into that discussion.
Let me state right up front – Some of today’s thoughts are very debatable. Therefore, just give them some serious consideration. There are questions raised for which I don’t have a definitive answer.
It seems to me that at least one thing is obvious. Those who have already “had a bath” are those who have been saved, who have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ and have become His sincere followers. It also seems that the need to “only wash his feet” is also for believers. That would indicate that even the saved, true believers may occasionally sin, and need to confess and receive forgiveness for their transgression. Jesus symbolically “washed their feet” as an assurance that as believers, they would receive forgiveness for their sins. That would seem to say that there is no need for a Christian to fear that Christ would abandon them after they had a moment of failure. Jesus stands ready to forgive His children. That’s a beautiful thought which should give every SSA believer much needed comfort.
Let’s also look at another verse which follows later in the chapter.
Jn 13:12 When He had finished washing their feet, He put on His clothes and returned to His place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” He asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
Questions to ponder: Do verses 14 and 15 mean that we should physically wash one another’s feet, or does it mean that we are to forgive one another (when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, it was symbolic of His forgiveness of their sins)? Does it mean both? I am not sure of the answer, but I do know that the Lord commands us to forgive one another. Is physical foot washing a symbol that we have forgiven one another? If not, what other meaning could our physical foot washing have? Does it symbolize the fact that we are eternally clean, and that Christ continually cleanses us of our latest transgressions?
Jn 13:20 I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts Me; and whoever accepts Me accepts the One who sent Me.”
This verse brings us to some other questions to think about. Do we have the authority to declare that someone is forgiven? I will give a tentative answer to that one. Because God’s word says that He forgives the repentant sinner, we can declare to anyone that He will in fact forgive those who repent and confess their sins. We may not know whether in their heart they are sincerely repentant, but we can be sure that He does forgive all who sincerely repent.
We have a right and a responsibility to tell others about the forgiveness that is available to them, based on the solid truth in scriptures. If a man has not previously believed, but accepts our message, Christ will cleanse their whole body. And when we tell one of our SSA brothers and sisters that they will be forgiven if they have repented, I am pretty sure that we have given them a tremendous foot washing.
Prayer: Father, thank You for Your willingness and faithfulness to forgive us when we repent. And thank You for verse 20, which give us the authority to pass Your good news on to anyone whose heart is receptive to Your truth.