We read of Jesus's sacrificial love in John 13:1-2: "Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him."
John emphasizes four key points in these verses. 1) This takes place before the Passover. Jesus has yet to become the Passover Lamb. 2) Although He was soon to depart from the world, His disciples would still be "in the world." 3) Jesus loves His own enough to die for them. And 4) There is a distinct contrast between Jesus's love and Judas's betrayal.
Let's consider the Lord's sacrificial love.
Jesus displayed His love by washing His disciples' feet, including Judas's.
In John 13:3, we read, "Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him."
It's important to understand that this was a task reserved for the lowliest of servants. Their Master's actions weren't merely surprising to the disciples; they were shocking.
It's no wonder Peter said, in verse 8, "You shall never wash my feet."
Peter recognized Jesus's superiority. This was not the job of someone in authority. But he misunderstood what authority meant—as did his fellow disciples and often, as do we.
Even today, we recognize authority by the number of "servants" under an individual's command. This was how Peter understood things, but Jesus had already said, "What I am doing you do not understand now" (v. 7).
Instead of rebuking Peter and the others for their lack of understanding, Jesus made them a promise. He said, "But afterward you will understand" (v. 7).
In verse 8, Jesus went on to say, "If I do not wash you, you have no share with me."
What does this mean?
Some people think it means you'll lose your opportunity to be saved. But I don't think that's what Jesus was talking about. He was talking to Peter. This disciple—and the others—misunderstand Jesus's role as the Messiah. They thought the Messiah would bring peace and prosperity to the nation of Israel—not die on a cross. But even though Peter didn't fully understand Jesus's role, he boldly declared Him not only to be the Christ but also the Son of the Living God.
I believe Jesus was essentially saying, "If you don't allow me to cleanse you, you will have no part with me. You will have no fellowship, no companionship, no sense of My presence with you."
Jesus was talking about enjoying the Christian life. But He was also telling Peter that he needed to be cleansed spiritually. He needed what Paul wrote to Titus about. He needed the washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5). The only way for that to happen was for Jesus to go to the cross.
No one can have a relationship with God unless they've been cleansed. There is salvation in no other. No forgiveness, no washing from sin, no redemption—other than through Christ. If Jesus doesn't cleanse you, you're not clean.
And when Peter thought he understood, he responded in his typical fashion. "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!" (v. 9)
Was he being disrespectful? No! Peter was ready to completely abandon social constructs. Not only did he want Jesus to wash his feet, he wanted his Master to wash his entire body. He may have misunderstood what Jesus had come to accomplish and what He was doing by washing their feet, but Peter did know he wanted all Jesus had to offer.
Knowing how this disciple felt about the Lord gives us a glimpse into why Jesus always dealt with Peter so graciously. He knew his heart. There are a lot of people who don't have their doctrines straight, but their heart is in the right place. They love Christ and desperately want a closer relationship with Him. How does Christ respond to these individuals? Does He chastise, rebuke, or discipline them? No! Instead, He extends grace.
Jesus's grace, love, and compassion are amazing!
"The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you" (John 13:10).
The custom back then was to bathe in the morning, and then at night, after a long day of work or travel, all you'd need to wash was your feet. So, Jesus was telling Peter he didn't need another bath.
But Peter asked for a head-to-toe bath. But Jesus told Peter he was already clean. Was Jesus simply speaking of his physical condition?
First Corinthians 6:9-11 says, "...neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."
I believe Jesus was telling Peter that he was already spiritually clean, that he was saved. And this message wasn't only for Peter. Jesus was saying, "All of you are clean. All of you have been washed. All of you have been regenerated. All of you have been redeemed. All of you have been given life. All of you have been saved—except for one." And that one was Judas.
If you are a follower of Christ Jesus, you too can rest secure in your salvation. But that doesn't mean we can't draw closer to Him here and now.
Do you want your fellowship and companionship with Christ to increase? Do you want a deeper, more intimate relationship with Jesus? Learn to daily acknowledge your sinfulness and let him "cleanse your feet."
For years I struggled with this. Not because I didn't want to confess my sins, but because I forgot to do so. Once I woke up, I had to go from 0-60—fast! Forgetting to pause and spend time with the Lord is actually a sin. I was telling God my life, my situation, my circumstances are more important than Him.
So, I downloaded a prayer app that reminds me, at different times every day, to stop and pray. I've been praying every day for over two years. It's a hard habit to form, but we need to continually confess to Christ when we've been unkind, had an improper attitude, acted out in rebellion or disobedience. We need to confess to Christ so we can be cleansed.
When we do we can begin every day with a sense of His presence with us and His power at work through us. That's what Jesus was talking about. The Christian life is truly lived when we are aware of the presence of Christ with us daily.