"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."
This morning, my mind is filled with fond recollections and remembrances. Yesterday, it was our regular communion time at home, and my thoughts have continued to dwell on the beauty and riches of Zion during her most intimate time in the observance of the love and sacrifice of her Husband Jesus Christ. This particular communion will be preciously filed in my memory cells of past occurrences with the brethren in like fashion, but this one will have a special tab on it. This particular communion, I was able to wash the feet of both a father (to me) and son (to me) in the ministry. We never know how many, if any, more like times we will have with one another, but this particular service was special to me in many ways, with the above being one of them. As I have pondered since our service the feet washing that we so richly blessed to have the privilege of doing, I was made to think of the import of the verse above.
We understand that the communion service, while a literal service, is a picture of something deeper. The unleavened bread represents the unspotted flesh of our dear Saviour, even though it is real bread. The wine likewise represents His blood even though it is real wine. In like manner, the washing of the saint's feet, while a literal service, does represent something deeper than just every so often literally washing one another's feet. There are many symbolic things that we can bring out, but the end result of all of them is love. Christ finishes this lesson by explaining that this service shows the love that the brethren have for one another. (John 13:34-35) Washing feet in this regard was something they had never seen before (a new thing), and so that new thing has been passed down as a token of our love for one another as He has loved us.
One of the easiest things to point to in this service is the showing forth of humility and servitude to our brethren. By being at one another's feet, we are saying, in our actions, that we esteem them greater than ourselves. We are showing forth a servant's spirit, by performing a very low task to bend down and wash each others' feet. By performing this service, we are emulating a service that our Saviour did when He literally bent down to wash His disciples' feet. This was a token of Him bending down, or stooping down, from heaven to act in service to us to save us by His love. (John 6:37-40) When He left heaven and came in the form of a servant (Philippians 2:5-8), He showed forth the ultimate in love and pity for ruined sinners. (Romans 5:8-9) Yet, there is more symbology to be found in this service.
The foreground for our verse above is Simon Peter's attempted rejection at Christ washing his feet. As the Lord moves from one to the other, He eventually reaches Peter, who seeks to prevent Him from doing this. (Verse 6) The Lord informs him that preventing this service means he (Peter) has no part with Him (Jesus). (Verse 8) Peter immediately changes his tune and requests his whole body be washed. (Verse 9) Peter went from full rejection of its performance to a whole desire of its fulfillment. In Peter's mind (to which I can relate), let it be all of me and not part of me if this is how I have part with my Lord. Let there be nothing lacking in me to be found with Him. Then, our Lord, in our verse, shows him that just the feet are necessary. It is this statement by Christ that shows another typology of this service.
We are supposed to, as brethren in the church, look over and out for one another's good. We are supposed to encourage one another, provoking to love and good works, and so much the more as we see the day (of service) approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25) For example, my mind today is looking forward to some days approaching shortly of being in service to our Lord. Every day, brethren should be encouraging one another in the forsaking of the world and the clinging to of the kingdom of God and His righteousness. (Matthew 6:33-34) By encouraging one another in the mortification of the deeds of the flesh, what could typify such a mode of behaviour?
While we understand that different parts of our body touch the ground at different times, what part of us most often and frequently touches this old earth? What part of us can literally become the most dusty by the earth's clods? Our feet most often touch the earth, and symbolically, they represent the part of us most tainted by its ways. Our flesh has feet that are swift to shed innocent blood, and our path (taken by feet) leads to destruction according to our fallen nature. Therefore, if we are going to seek to keep our feet from falling, we need to be purifying ourselves from the things of the world. (I John 3:3) In the Old Testament, they had diverse washings that typified purification of one thing or another.
When we put our brethren's feet in the basin and wash them with water, we are saying by our actions, "Brother, I want to help you walk in this old world. I want to encourage you in the right path. As a token of that, let me remove the vestiges of this old world from you." Is this a literal service? Indeed it is, for our Lord showed us the way and how to do it. (John 13:13-17) For us to be truly happy as brethren in this regard, we have to do it. And for us to be truly happy as brethren living together in the unity of the faith, we have to help one another stay purified from the traces of the world's corruption. James encourages the brethren to seek to save the brethren that they see sin. If we do convert one from his error and possible destruction, we kept death and a multitude of sins away from him. (James 5:19-20) What does the world get us? Death, sin, and heartache in abundance. By encouraging one another in the strait and narrow path, we hide those things so that we do not sin against God. (Psalm 119:11)
Therefore, when we approach in God's service during this highly special time of communion with Him and one another, let us first and foremost remember what He has done for us. Then, may we remember that the brethren look out for our good and well-being. If I detest someone's rebuke (that is good for me), I am detesting their efforts to help keep me unspotted from the world. For us to have pure religion and undefiled before God our Father, we must be unspotted from the world's corruptions. (James 1:27) Why is this service perpetual? Why do we continue to eat bread and drink wine until He comes? (I Corinthians 11:26) We are showing forth thanks and remembrance for what He has done for us. Why do we need to continue to wash each others' feet? We need to be cleansed from the world's spots repeatedly. Consider these men washed by the very hand of Jesus Christ. Before the night's end, they have all forsaken Him and fled, and their most vocal proponent (Peter) denies Him thrice. They needed some more cleansing from the world's taints. We need this picture repeatedly to remind us of our desire to help one another remove the world's spots on a daily basis. Thankfully, He has done what we could not in removing those taints eternally in the sight of His Father. May we help one another in daily removing these taints from us, and pause from time to time to show that in a figurative way when we literally bend down and wash one another's feet.