Book: The Day Jesus the Christ Died

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1) The Meaning of the Footwashing
2) The Meaning of the Bread
3) The Meaning of the Wine


CHAPTER EIGHT - The Meaning of the Footwashing

The Gospel of John shows that the observance of the Christian Passover includes the ordinance of footwashing. Jesus Christ instituted the footwashing before instituting the bread and the wine as the symbols of His body and His blood. As Jesus commands us to partake of the bread and the wine, so He commands us to participate in the footwashing. The footwashing ceremony is essential to understanding our relationship with Jesus Christ and with one another as Christians under the New Covenant. We can learn many lessons from this simple but profound ceremony.
In the days before Jesus’ last Passover, the spirit of competition and self-exaltation was stirred up among the disciples, causing strife over who would be the greatest. The mother of John and James put herself into the very middle of this argument. She personally petitioned Jesus to grant her sons the seats at His right and left hand in His kingdom (Matt. 20:20-23). After reproving James and John for seeking to exalt themselves over their brethren, Jesus taught His disciples a vital lesson in humility:
“And after hearing this, the ten were indignant against the two brothers. But Jesus called them to Him and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the nations exercise lordship over them, and the great ones exercise authority over them. However, it shall not be this way among you; but whoever would become great among you, let him be your servant; and whoever would be first among you, let him be your slave; just as the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many’ ”(Matt. 20:24-28).
At His last Passover, Jesus taught this lesson of humility and service by assuming one of the lowest duties of a slave and washing His disciples’ feet. This lowly act of service revealed the love and humility of God Himself. Because this service was customarily performed by servants, Peter protested when Jesus began to wash his feet and boldly declared that he would never allow it. “Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.’ Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.’ Jesus said to him, ‘The one who has been washed does not need to wash anything other than the feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all.’ For He knew the one who was betraying Him; this was the reason He said, ‘Not all of you are clean’ ” (John 13:8-11).
The next words that Jesus spoke clearly reveal His will concerning the footwashing: “Therefore, when He had washed their feet, and had taken his garments and had sat down again, He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me the Teacher and the Lord, and you speak rightly, because I am. Therefore, if I, the Lord and the Teacher, have washed your feet, you also are duty-bound to wash one another’s feet; For I have given you an example, to show that you also should do exactly as I have done to you.
“Truly, truly I tell you, a servant is not greater than his lord, nor a messenger greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them’ ” (verses 12-17).
Jesus commanded all who profess Him as their Lord to participate in the footwashing ceremony of the Christian Passover. The words that He spoke to Peter show that our participation is essential to the New Covenant relationship.


What Does It Mean To Have a Part With Jesus Christ?

Jesus told Peter, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with Me.” These words have a profound meaning for every Christian. The English word “part” is translated from the Greek word meros, which means “a part of something—as a component, a matter, a standing, a share, a place with someone” (Arndt and Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament).
Having a part with Jesus Christ means partaking of the blessings of the New Covenant, which offers fellowship with Jesus Christ and God the Father in this life and the promise of eternal life in the Kingdom of God. During His last Passover, Jesus promised His disciples a specific reward in the Kingdom of God: “Now you are the ones who have continued with Me in My temptations. And I appoint to you, as My Father has appointed to Me, a kingdom; so that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and may sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:28-30).
The disciples understood that having a part with Jesus meant ruling with Him in the Kingdom of God. They also knew that Jesus had called them to have a part in the ministry of preaching the gospel during the present age. As His apostles, they would be sent to the twelve tribes of Israel, which were scattered abroad (Jas. 1:1), and to all nations in the world (Matt. 24:14). When Judas Iscariot proved unfaithful to his calling, the eleven remaining apostles were inspired by the Holy Spirit to select a replacement for Judas in order to have twelve founding apostles. The selection of Matthias by lot completed the number (Acts 1:15-26). It is clear from the book of Acts that Matthias received a part in the ministry of the apostles: “And they prayed, saying, ‘You, Lord, the Knower of the hearts of all, show which one of these two You have personally chosen to receive the part of this ministry and apostleship...” (verses 24-25).
This record in the book of Acts clarifies the meaning of Jesus’ words to Peter during the footwashing. When Jesus told Peter that He must wash his feet or Peter would have no part with Him, Peter understood that he was in danger of losing his apostleship. No wonder Peter responded by saying, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.” Peter may have been referring to the priestly requirements for washing and bathing before serving at the tabernacle (Ex. 30:17-21; Lev. 16:1-4).
After becoming an apostle, Peter rebuked Simon Magus, a sorcerer at Samaria who was revered as a religious leader, for attempting to buy an apostleship. Peter’s condemnation of Simon shows that his evil and covetous heart disqualified him not only from an apostleship but from any part in the ministry of Jesus Christ: “May your money be destroyed with you because you thought that the gift of God might be purchased with money. You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God” (Acts 8:20-21).
Having a part with Jesus Christ does not refer exclusively to serving in the ministry. The New Testament teaches that everyone who belongs to Jesus Christ has a part with Him. All who have a part with Jesus Christ now will also have a part in the first resurrection, which will take place at His return. They will be raised to immortality and will reign with Christ during the millennium: “Blessed and holy is the one who has part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power. But they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years” (Rev. 20:6).
The resurrection to immortality at the return of Jesus Christ is the hope and goal of every true Christian. Having a part in that resurrection is symbolized by the act of water baptism. The apostle Paul shows how the symbolic burial and resurrection of baptism leads to a part in the first resurrection: “Therefore, if you have been raised [out of the watery grave of baptism] together with Christ, seek the things that are above [your part with Christ], where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. Set your affection on the things that are above, and not on the things that are on the earth. For you have died [to the old nature, as symbolized by baptism], and your life has been hid together with Christ in God. When Christ, Who is our life, is manifested, then you also shall be manifested with Him in glory [your eternal part with Christ]” (Col. 3:1-4).
To have a part with Jesus Christ and share His likeness for eternity, we must learn to be like Him in this life. If we share in the sufferings that He experienced, striving to overcome the fleshly nature of sin, we will also be glorified as the sons of God: “...To the one who thirsts, I will give freely of the fountain of the water of life. The one who overcomes shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be My son” (Rev. 21:6-7). What a glorious destiny! Those who overcome sin in the flesh will receive eternal life as the glorified sons and daughters of God.
In order to be glorified as the children of God, we must love God with all our hearts and be keeping His commandments. Those who make a practice of breaking the commandments are showing that they do not love Jesus Christ and God the Father (John 14:15, 23-24; I John 5:3). Their disobedience will lead to a part in the lake of fire: “But the cowardly, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone; which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8).
Jesus Himself shows who will have a part in His kingdom: “ ‘And behold, I am coming quickly and My reward is with Me, to render to each one according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.’ Blessed are those who keep His commandments, that they may have the right to eat of the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. But excluded are dogs, and sorcerers, and fornicators, and murderers, and idolaters, and everyone who loves and devises a lie....For I jointly testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book, that if anyone adds to these things, God shall add to him the plagues that are written in this book. And if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the book of life, and from the holy city, and from the things that are written in this book” (Rev. 22:12-15, 18-19).
Having a part with Jesus Christ requires total and complete obedience—with no variations or exceptions. That is why Jesus required Peter to participate in the footwashing. That is also why Jesus did not wash Peter’s hands or his head, as Peter requested. Jesus washed only his feet.
As Peter learned to submit to Jesus Christ, so must we. We must learn to follow Him, conforming our lives to His teachings and His way, in order to have a part with Him. We cannot add to or take from what Jesus commanded. Jesus’ command to wash one another’s feet during the Christian Passover is no exception. Even if we consider it the least of His commands, we are required to obey His words and to follow His example.


Footwashing and Baptism

When we examine the words that Jesus spoke concerning the footwashing, we find a direct reference to the spiritual cleansing that takes place when repentant believers are baptized. Jesus said to Peter: “The one who has been washed does not need to wash anything other than the feet” (John 13:10). The phrase “has been washed” is translated from the Greek word louoo, which means “to wash, as a rule the whole body; to bathe, of religious washings...with the allusion to the cleansing of the whole body in baptism” (Arndt and Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament). Other uses of the word louoo in the New Testament show that Jesus was not referring to washing as in a bath, but to the washing of baptism. This same word is used by the apostle Paul in Hebrews 10: “Let us approach God with a true heart, with full conviction of faith, our hearts having been purified [sanctified by the blood of Christ] from a wicked conscience, and our bodies having been washed [louoo] with pure water” (Heb. 10:22). Paul’s words to Titus leave no doubt that he is referring to the washing of baptism, which brings spiritual cleansing: “...according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing [louoo] of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).
The apostle Peter shows that baptism in the name of Jesus Christ is a requirement for receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. On the day of Pentecost, Peter was inspired to proclaim, “Repent and be baptized each one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you yourselves shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
The twelve apostles, who had repented and been baptized in the days of Jesus’ ministry, were the first to receive the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). Their inspired preaching led many others to believe and to be baptized (verses 41-42). These all received the gift of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands, as did other believers who were added in the following months (Acts 8:15-17). The conversion of Saul, who became the apostle Paul, took place during this time (Acts 9:1-6). In testifying of his conversion before the unbelieving Jews, Paul repeated the words of Ananias, who had laid hands on him: “The God of our fathers has personally chosen you to know His will, and to see the Just One, and to hear the voice of His mouth; for you shall be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard. And now why do you delay? Arise and be baptized, and wash [louoo] away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:14-16).
The word “baptize” is translated from the Greek baptizoo, which means “dip, immerse, plunge, sink, drench, overwhelm” (Arndt and Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament). Baptism requires complete immersion in water because it symbolizes the burial of the old, sinful nature. Because baptism represents the burial of the old, sinful self in a watery grave, it can be compared to the burial of a dead person. A dead person is not buried by sprinkling a little dirt on the corpse. The dead are placed in graves and are completely covered with earth. In the same manner as a dead person is placed in the grave and completely covered with earth, the one who is baptized must be completely covered with water by immersion.
The believer who desires to be cleansed from sin is baptized into the death of Jesus Christ, symbolically dying to the old nature of sin, and rising from the watery grave to walk in newness of life, as Paul explains: “Or are you ignorant that we, as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus, were baptized into His death? Therefore, we were buried with Him by baptism into death [dying to the old nature]; so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, in the same way, we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-4).
Jesus Christ paid the penalty for the sins of every human being, and His death is accepted by God the Father in the stead of each repentant sinner who is baptized. Baptism is the outward manifestation of the sinner’s repentance and faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and cleansing of the heart. The spiritual cleansing that takes place at baptism frees each one from the penalty for sin, which is death, and enables him or her to receive the gift of eternal life from God the Father (verse 23).
When a believer is co-joined in the death of Jesus Christ at baptism, he or she is pledging to faithfully keep the commandments of Jesus Christ and God the Father, which are the words of the New Covenant. Each one who remains faithful unto death will be resurrected to eternal life and glory.
To be resurrected to immortality, we must continue to walk in the new way of life that begins at baptism. This newness of life is symbolized by the footwashing ceremony of the Christian Passover. As we participate in the footwashing each year, we are renewing our pledge to walk in the new way of life that God has ordained for us (Eph. 2:10). Since we have already been wholly washed by the waters of baptism, we need only to wash our feet as a renewal of our pledge.
When we wash one another’s feet as Jesus commanded, we are rededicating ourselves to walk in God’s way of life. As we seek to walk in His way, we will be led by the Holy Spirit to resist the sinful desires of the flesh (Gal. 5:16). The Holy Spirit will impart the love of God and will motivate us to keep His commandments: “And this is the love of God: that we walk according to His commandments…” (II John 6). We will be learning to live by every word of God, which is truth: “For I rejoiced exceedingly at the coming of the brethren who testified of you in the truth, even how you are walking in truth. I do not have any greater joy than these testimonies that I am hearing—that my children are walking in truth” (III John 3-4). As we walk in the light of God’s Word, the blood of Jesus Christ will cleanse us from every sin (I John 1:7).
This spiritual cleansing, which we receive through the blood of the New Covenant, is symbolized by the footwashing ceremony of the Christian Passover. By participating in the footwashing, we confirm our desire to remain under the New Covenant, and we renew our pledge to keep the commandments of God and walk in His Truth.


Footwashing and True Humility

As we follow the example of Jesus Christ by washing one another’s feet, we are also learning the lesson of humility that Jesus taught His disciples: “The Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). Jesus spoke these words a few days before His last Passover. On the night of the Passover, before He was betrayed, He instituted the ceremony of footwashing. By washing His disciples’ feet, He demonstrated the attitude of service and humility that He requires of all who profess to follow Him. When He had finished washing the disciples’ feet, He told them, “You call Me the Teacher and the Lord, and you speak rightly, because I am....Truly, truly I tell you, a servant is not greater than his lord, nor a messenger greater than he who sent him” (John 13:13, 16).
This vital lesson in humility applies to every servant of Jesus Christ. No one who is serving Jesus Christ, as a messenger bringing the Word of God, is ever to be exalted above the brethren.
The apostle Paul did not exalt himself above the brethren. Rather, he followed the example of Jesus Christ and taught others to practice the same humility. Paul wrote, “Let nothing be done through [motivated by] contention or vainglory, but in humility each esteeming the others above himself. Let each one look not only after his own things, but let each one also consider the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, Who, although He existed [pre-existed] in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God; but emptied Himself [giving up His glory as God], and was made in the likeness of men, and took the form of a servant; and being found in the manner of man, HE HUMBLED HIMSELF, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:3-8).
The apostle John also wrote of the pre-existence of Jesus Christ as God (John 1:1-3, 14). John knew that Jesus had given up His power, His glory and His immortality to become a man, made in the likeness of human flesh, for the purpose of becoming the perfect sacrifice of God the Father for the forgiveness of sins—our sins and those of the entire world (I John 2:2). There can be no greater act of humility and service than this!