Lord‚Äôs Day 35, 2010
I was glad when they said to me, ‚ÄúLet us go to the house of the Lord.‚Äù
Recovered from the Tomb
Mather Byles (1706‚Äì1788)
To Thee, my Lord, I lift the song,
Awake, my tuneful powers;
In constant praise my grateful tongue
Shall fill my following hours.
Guilty, condemned, undone I stood;
I bid my God depart.
He took my sins, and paid His blood,
And turned this wandering heart.
Death, the grim tyrant, seized my frame,
Vile, loathsome, accursed;
His breath renews the vital flame,
And glories change the dust.
Now, Savior, shall Thy praise commence;
My soul by Thee brought home,
And every member, every sense,
Recovered from the tomb.
To Thee my reason I submit,
My love, my memory, Lord,
My eyes to read, my hands to write,
My lips to preach Thy Word.
‚ÄîWorthy Is the Lamb (Soli Deo Gloria, 2004).
So He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, ‚ÄúLord, do You wash my feet?‚Äù 7 Jesus answered and said to him, ‚ÄúWhat I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.‚Äù 8 Peter said to Him, ‚ÄúNever shall You wash my feet!‚Äù Jesus answered him, ‚ÄúIf I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.‚Äù 9 Simon Peter said to Him, ‚ÄúLord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.‚Äù 10 Jesus said to him, ‚ÄúHe who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.‚Äù 11 For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, ‚ÄúNot all of you are clean.‚Äù
12 So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, ‚ÄúDo you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another‚Äôs feet. 15 For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.
The verses we have now read conclude the story of our Lord‚Äôs washing the feet of His disciples, the night before He was crucified. It is a story full of touching interest, which for some wise reason no Evangelist records except St. John. The wonderful condescension of Christ, in doing such a menial action, can hardly fail to strike any reader. The mere fact that the Master should wash the feet of the servants might well fill us with surprise. But the circumstances and sayings which arose out of the action are just as interesting as the action itself. Let us see what they were.
We should notice, firstly, the hasty ignorance of the Apostle Peter. One moment we find him refusing to allow his Master to do such a servile work as He is about to do:‚Äî‚ÄúDost thou wash my feet?‚Äù ‚ÄúThou shalt never wash my feet.‚Äù Another moment we find him rushing with characteristic impetuosity into the other extreme:‚Äî‚ÄúLord, wash not my feet only, but my hands and my head.‚Äù But throughout the transaction we find him unable to take in the real meaning of what his eyes behold. He sees, but he does not understand.
Let us learn from Peter‚Äôs conduct that a man may have plenty of faith and love, and yet be sadly destitute of clear knowledge. We must not set down men as graceless and godless because they are dull, and stupid, and blundering in their religion. The heart may often be quite right when the head is quite wrong. We must make allowances for the corruption of the understanding, as well as of the will. We must not be surprised to find that the brains as well as the affections of Adam‚Äôs children have been hurt by the fall. It is a humbling lesson, and one seldom fully learned except by long experience. But the longer we live the more true shall we find it, that a believer, like Peter, may make many mistakes and lack understanding, and yet, like Peter, have a heart right before God, and get to heaven at last.
Even at our best estate we shall find that many of Christ‚Äôs dealings with us are hard to understand in this life. The ‚Äúwhy‚Äù and ‚Äúwherefore‚Äù of many a providence will often puzzle and perplex us quite as much as the washing puzzled Peter. The wisdom, and fitness, and necessity of many a thing will often be hidden from our eyes. But at times like these we must remember the Master‚Äôs words, and fall back upon them:‚Äî‚ÄúWhat I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter.‚Äù There came days, long after Christ had left the world, when Peter saw the full meaning of all that happened on the memorable night before the crucifixion. Even so there will be a day when every dark page in our life‚Äôs history will be explained, and when, as we stand with Christ in glory, we shall know all.
We should notice, secondly, in this passage, the plain practical lesson which lies upon its surface. That lesson is read out to us by our Lord. He says, ‚ÄúI have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.‚Äù
Humility is evidently one part of the lesson. If the only-begotten Son of God, the King of kings, did not think it beneath Him to do the humblest work of a servant, there is nothing which His disciples should think themselves too great or too good to do. No sin is so offensive to God, and so injurious to the soul as pride. No grace is so commended, both by precept and example, as humility. ‚ÄúBe clothed with humility.‚Äù ‚ÄúHe that humbleth himself shall be exalted.‚Äù‚Äî‚ÄúLet this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus; who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself.‚Äù (1 Pet. v. 5; Luke xviii 14; Phil. ii. 5‚Äì8.) Well would it be for the Church if this very simple truth was more remembered, and real humility was not so sadly rare. Perhaps there is no sight so displeasing in God‚Äôs eyes as a self-conceited, self-satisfied, self-contented, stuck-up professor of religion. Alas, it is a sight only too common! Yet the words which St. John here records have never been repealed. They will be a swift witness against many at the last day, except they repent.
Love is manifestly the other part of the great practical lesson. Our Lord would have us love others so much that we should delight to do anything which can promote their happiness. We ought to rejoice in doing kindnesses, even in little things. We ought to count it a pleasure to lessen sorrow and multiply joy, even when it costs us some self-sacrifice and self-denial. We ought to love every child of Adam so well, that if in the least trifle we can do anything to make him more happy and comfortable, we should be glad to do it. This was the mind of the Master, and this the ruling principle of His conduct upon earth. There are but few who walk in His steps, it may be feared; but these few are men and women after His own heart.
The lesson before us may seem a very simple one; but its importance can never be overrated. Humility and love are precisely the graces which the men of the world can understand, if they do not comprehend doctrines. They are graces about which there is no mystery, and they are within reach of all Christians. The poorest and most ignorant Christian can every day find occasion for practicing love and humility. Then if we would do good to the world, and make our calling and election sure, let no man forget our Lord‚Äôs example in this passage. Like Him, let us be humble and loving towards all.
We should notice, lastly, in this passage, the deep spiritual lessons which lie beneath its surface. They are three in number, and lie at the very root of religion, though we can only touch them briefly.
For one thing, we learn that all need to be washed by Christ. ‚ÄúIf I wash thee not, thou hast no part in Me.‚Äù No man or woman can be saved unless his sins are washed away in Christ‚Äôs precious blood. Nothing else can make us clean or acceptable before God. We must be ‚Äúwashed, sanctified, and justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.‚Äù (1 Cor. vi. 11.) Christ must wash us, if we are ever to sit down with saints in glory. Then let us take heed that we apply to Him by faith, wash and become clean. They only are washed who believe.
For another thing, we learn that even those who are cleansed and forgiven need a daily application to the blood of Christ for daily pardon. We cannot pass through this evil world without defilement. There is not a day in our lives but we fail and come short in many things, and need fresh supplies of mercy. Even ‚Äúhe that is washed needs to wash his feet,‚Äù and to wash them in the same fountain where he found peace of conscience when he first believed. Then let us daily use that fountain without fear. With the blood of Christ we must begin, and with the blood of Christ we must go on.
Finally, we learn that even those who kept company with Christ, and were baptized with water as His disciples, were ‚Äúnot all‚Äù washed from their sin. These words are very solemn,‚Äî‚ÄúYe are clean: but not all.‚Äù Then let us take heed to ourselves, and beware of false profession. If even Christ‚Äôs own disciples are not all cleansed and justified, we have reason to be on our guard. Baptism and Churchmanship are no proof that we are right in the sight of God.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.