MORE ON STUDYING IN CONTEXT
There was quite a bit of contention among the Lord's disciples about who would be the greatest in His kingdom. He was nearing the end of his earthly advent so he taught them a lesson concerning greatness just before his departure.
In my classes and in my articles I have tried to stress the importance of "studying in context." This has to do with "who, what, when, where, how and why." So for our text today look at John 13:4-17: the story of feet washing. In context you will see that Jesus was talking, specifically, to his disciples. We have the question that Jesus asked these men in verse 12: "Know ye what I have done to you?" The obvious answer would be, "Lord, you have washed our feet." But he had done much more than that. He had taught them his final lesson concerning who would be greatest.
I knew a brother in the Port Arthur area who believed that Jesus was teaching us, today, to engage in a ceremonial washing of one another's feet. There are groups of others in the religious world that believe the same thing. And the Roman pope engages in such a ceremony once in awhile. I have never been to a foot-washing ceremony but others who have visited such, gave me some details of what takes place. First, no one engages himself in this ceremony if his feet are really dirty. He washes his feet very thoroughly before the ceremony. But Jesus said, "He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet" (vs 10). Only the feet got dirty walking in the dust with the ever-present sandals of that day and it was an act of hospitality for water to be provided and, usually, for the servants to wash a traveller's dusty feet. Jesus rebuked Simon for not providing for this hospitable act in Luke 7:44 "... he ... said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head." So, Jesus was washing dirty feet. Second, in this ceremonial washing they wash only one foot. Hence, it is literally "foot-washing," not "feet- washing."
So, what was Jesus doing? Was he giving them an order to hold a feet- washing ceremony? No, he was teaching them an explicit lesson they needed so badly. None of them was to be above the other. They were to serve one another and thus would their greatness be measured.
Notice the closing part of the story: (John 13:12-17) "So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them."
Remember the context. Jesus teaching them "that was sent" (the apostles), a needed lesson and, perhaps, a lesson that we need also. Not a lesson in ceremonies, but a lesson in humility and greatness.
Return to the Daily Devotions page