Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” (John 13:10—NKJV)

What an astounding and instructive interaction is recorded for us in verses 5 through 10 of John 13! Immediately after instituting the ordinance of Communion on the night He was betrayed, Jesus teaches a dramatic lesson for the disciples to remember for the rest of their lives. The lesson is not to establish another ordinance for the church to observe by washing each other’s feet, but rather it is a last demonstration before the cross of His great love for them. His loving work is to illustrate humble communing with the Lord for daily cleansing grace based upon the union with Him which He wrought for believers upon the cross.

As the Passover meal, in which the Lord’s Table was instituted, came to an end the Lord Jesus rose, set aside His robe, and dressed as a common servant. He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet. Peter had a very natural response due to his respect for the Master and due to his own sense of self-confidence and pride. In no uncertain terms he instructed the Lord that he would not have Christ wash his feet. This elicited a response from Jesus that if Peter did not allow the Lord to wash his feet then he had no part in Him. Peter, totally in character, blurted out that the Lord must wash not only his feet but his hands and his head as well! This brings us to our verse.

One can easily see why Peter displayed such a reaction. Self-sufficiency and personal pride always gets in the way of humble trust in the finished atoning work of Jesus Christ. Plummer in his commentary explains: “To reject Christ’s self-humiliating love, because it humiliates Him, is to cut oneself off from Him! It requires much more humility to accept a benefit which is a serious loss to the Giver, than one which costs Him nothing, in this also the surrender of self is necessary.”

Our Savior’s self-sacrifice and selfless service are evident in creating union between God and man in Himself through His obedience at the cross of Calvary. Think of the humbling required of Jesus, the eternally sinless Son of God, bearing the filth, shame, reproach, curse, and punishment of our sin! (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Jesus used two different words in the story to describe washing. In order to grasp the idea, you must put yourself into their time. It was common, in their day, to bathe completely and then to go about the day’s business. However, due to the type of footwear and due to the conditions of the town and country roads traveled by man and animal alike, upon arriving at someone else’s house, their feet had accumulated the grime and dust off the street. The wise host would provide for the washing of the feet of the friend as an act of gracious hospitality and kindness.

This illustrates the two terms of washing our Lord used. As the gracious host, He was washing the disciples’ feet. Peter refused to have his feet washed, but then he learned that communion with Christ would suffer (verse 8: “you have no part with Me”) without having his feet washed, and so he directed that he be bathed head to toe by the Lord.

Clearly, the bathing of the sinner in the sinless blood of Christ is at the cross of Calvary, accomplished once. There is no need to “get saved again” once you are “born from above” through faith in Christ (Hebrews 10:10, John 10:27–30). The washing from the accumulating grime collected during the believer’s journey from earth to glory is both a necessary and a daily requirement. The guiltless “standing” in union with Christ is not jeopardized for that is forever accomplished by Christ at the cross, but the fellowship of our communion is strained by unconfessed and unforsaken sin (1 John 1:9).

Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb of God and united with Him through His grace? If so, are you keeping a short account with God, confessing and forsaking the sins which stir around you as you pursue the path to glory? In what way must your heart be humbled so that you may ask God for forgiveness and the strength to forsake sin? Trust and obey.