Jesus washes the disciples’ feet


John 13 verses 1-17

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel round his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped round him.

6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’

7 Jesus replied, ‘You do not realise 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, ‘Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.’ 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

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 Very truly I tell you, 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.


Doctor Who and the Tardis… The Tardis looks small from the outside, but step inside and it opened up a whole new world

Alice in Wonderland had a similar experience

So did the children in C S Lewis’s fantasy ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Jesus’ love is much the same…taste it and find your life transformed

We read that ‘having loved his own who were in the world, (Jesus) showed them the full extent of his love

The love of Jesus…unobtrusive, gentle, commanding, free from self…

And of course at Calvary we see the ‘full extent’ of Jesus’ love revealed

It was not the nails that held Jesus to the Cross…but his love for you and for me

A ‘liberal’ MINISTER recently sneered to me that if Jesus knew that he would be resurrected it was no big deal to be crucified…I tried to explain to him that Jesus was bearing the sins of the whole world at Calvary!


  • Jesus carried not only mine but everybody’s! Little wonder he cried out in anguish on the Cross

NOW THERE IS SOMETHING ABOUT FEET that people find difficult!

  • They smell…toes get distorted and some people have odd bumpy bits or thick dry bits!
  • There are some people who find it almost impossible to deal with feet

A doctor friend said that a patient came to see him about his poorly foot and the doctor asked to see the other foot to compare the amount of swelling:

Oh dear, said the man, I’ve only washed me bad foot doctor!

Generally we don’t go around showing people our feet to admire in the way we might do our hairstyle or slender waist

So when we read about Jesus washing the disciples’ feet, we need to realise that this was a job normally left to the least important servant

And here was One who inhabited eternity, who was there at the start of creation and who would be the Saviour of the whole world doing the job of the humblest servant…It just did not make sense to the disciples


  1. Well imagine that a famous person came to visit the church… and you found him/her emptying the rubbish bin or disinfecting the toilets!
  2. You might argue that this was not her job…she was ‘above’ such things
  3. The disciples were not necessarily too proud or arrogant to do the job…it was simply not part of their culture

BUT JESUS IS THE GREAT BREAKER OF MAN-MADE CONVENTIONS when they cut across Kingdom principles:

  • He comes to us and washes our aching feet…what bliss!
  • He kneels down before us!
  • He brings us his refreshing
  • There is no better way to be restored and renewed than through the touch of the Master’s hand


  • Not only because they did not agree with Jesus doing it…but because they were ashamed of their reluctance…pride, self-importance

But our servant king is not too proud to humble himself

  • To heal the broken-hearted…to set captives free…to give hope to the hopeless…and peace to the troubled mind


  • One of the characteristics of a great leader is his or her willingness to associate with those who are lowly in spirit
  • There is a story about General George Washington who helped an injured foot-soldier when the Captain refused to do so
  • That’s true greatness.

IT’S A PARADOX…most of the time the world sees greatness in terms of the greater you are, the more others serve you…Jesus redefines greatness as the greater you are the more you serve others!

  • There is a lot to be gained from having a big head and a small heart if people want to take the wide road that leads to destruction
  • But Jesus commands that we have a small head and a big heart along his narrow road!

AND SO THE DISCIPLES WERE SILENT until Jesus reached Peter…then the storm broke!

Lord, are you going to wash my feet?

  • Let the others receive this blessing…but count me out…it doesn’t fit my idea of who you are, Lord
  • I want to keep you safe and secure in a well-defined ‘box’ of my own dimensions and shape
  • Don’t ask to do a new thing in my life, Jesus…I’m comfortable as I am!
  • We just don’t do things that way around here

WE MAY CRITICISE PETER…but sometimes we can show the same behaviour and close our minds to what fresh thing God is trying to reveal to us

  • Procedures and traditions are useful
  • Habits (nice ones) are important ways of ordering our lives
  • But traditions can get in the way
  • Habits can become stale and lifeless

THOSE OF US WHO DO ANY FORM OF PUBLIC SPEAKING…Sunday School teachers, youth workers, work with the elderly or infirm, preaching, leading Bible Studies or whatever…can fall prey to the danger of routine-itis!

  • Repeating the same stuff endlessly and never standing back so that God can speak into our hearts afresh

The old saying about the Christian life is true:

You go forward or you go backwards…but you can never stand still

PETER WAS NOT BEING AWKWARD…he was being honest to his convictions

  • In his eyes it just wasn’t right that Jesus should be doing a servant’s work
  • And Peter for one was not going to stand by and allow the Master to be degraded by washing his smelly feet
  • He had watched with growing horror as Jesus took off his outer garments
  • And as Jesus went from person to person…stooping, washing and drying feet, standing again, fetching fresh water…stooping, washing…
  • And the tension in Peter had built up to bursting point


Jesus might have paused for a moment, then quietly those chilling words:

Unless I wash you, you have no part with me


  1. We can have no part with Jesus because we need to identify with his ultimate act of servanthood…on the Cross of Calvary
  • Unless we die to self as he did…we will never be effective in our work and witness
  • We may be talented…hard-working…faithful…committed…but without dying to self and demonstrating true humility we shall hinder rather than the work of the Holy Spirit
  1. Servanthood reflects the character of Jesus…unless you and I accept this basic truth we are missing one of the most important dimensions of being a disciple…being found in Jesus’ likeness

PEOPLE SAY OF A CHILD…So much like his father/mother

  • ”Doesn’t he resemble his grandad?”
  • “You sound just like your mum”
  • “A chip off the old block”

In the same way, people need to see the life and character of Christ in you and me

SO IT IS that we must bear the marks of Jesus in our body (as Paul said)…not just physical injuries or stigmata…but just as the Evil One tries to plant the ‘Mark of the Beast’ in people…so we are ‘made in His likeness’

OF COURSE PETER then went to the other extreme…”then wash all of me!”

But Jesus gives a typically thought-provoking response:

A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean

  • We can be made clean when we are washed in the blood of Christ
  • Sounds a bit gruesome…but the Bible says that nothing can clear out the sin from our lives except the blood of Jesus Christ
  • But Jesus also needs to come again and again to cleanse the small, secret sins from our lives…to ‘wash our feet’
  • Some people refer to this as the infilling of the Holy Spirit…others to allowing Jesus to take control…others to yielding to God…yet others to a ‘second blessing’
  • The way we describe it is not important…it’s the effect that it has on our life and witness that counts

WE ARE CLEAN BECAUSE OF THE BLOOD OF CHRIST…but we need to have our feet washed by Him because we still go astray and sin

  • This two-fold condition has sometimes been referred to as our STANDING before God and our STATE before God…

Our standing is secure because Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures and rose again…Our state is sometimes a bit of a mess!

PROBABLY MOST OF US WOULD CLAIM that our standing before God is secure…we know the life-transforming experience of being ‘born anew’

But the Holy Spirit still has a lot of work to do, does He not?

  • To take control of areas of our life where we have locked the door
  • To set us straight after foolish decisions
  • To help us forgive and show mercy to those who have wronged us
  • To accept that God’s will is best, even when it is hard to do so


And as Christ’s representatives on earth we must follow his example…

  • In learning to put others first…while still being sensible to look after our health and welfare (NOTE THIS**)
  • In learning to use our tongues wisely…a problem for many of us
  • In learning to be patient with the failings of others
  • In learning to be considerate, courteous and just plain kind

Oh to be hungry for the glory of God…

  • Hungry enough to let go of the things that get in the way of the Spirit
  • Hungry enough to say to Jesus…not only my feet but my whole body

IT BEGINS in the church and in our home life

  • But it spreads to every avenue of our lives…to everyone we meet
  • A bruised and sin-stained world needs the refreshing touch of the Master as he washes sore and grimy feet…and we are his instruments
    to do so

 SERVANTHOOD IS NOT weakness or servility or neglecting family and commitments to ‘serve others’… It begins with serving Christ…and is cashed out in serving others

 So serving others is to follow Jesus’ example…

  • Note what we read at the end of our reading: No person is greater than his or her master
  • In other words, Jesus says to us …If you call me Master you must be prepared to follow me and do the works that I do…and even greater works because of the Holy Spirit operating in your lives.

May God help us to understand what servanthood means for us individually and as members of Christ’s body in the church.

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