The Lord’s Upper Room Ministry - Part 2
D. J. Williams, Penygraig
In the previous article we looked at our Lord’s relationship to His Father, and learned a lesson on humility. We will now consider:
Jesus’ relationship to Peter – holiness, vv. 6-11
Although this section is quite short, it is rich in spiritual truth. It is all about water, washing, and cleansing – a clear reference to purity and holiness!
The Twelve watched in amazement as the Master took the towel and girded Himself. One can imagine the sudden hush of shame as they realized that one of them ought to have done that. What embarrassment and shame as He knelt before them. But think of Judas Iscariot, the traitor. What grace, what love, what tender compassion as the Lord condescended to wash his feet. As He took them into His hands He would know that those very feet had walked ‘in the counsel of the ungodly’, Ps. 1. 1. He had already been to the rulers to make the deal, and soon those feet would steal away again to carry out the plan. Not all the water in the world could wash away his guilt, nor remove the stain of his sin!
1. Peter’s Question, v 6.
‘Lord dost thou wash my feet?’ This was a natural reaction by Peter, and is made meaningful by his use of the pronouns ‘thou’ and ‘my’. Both are emphatic. Peter was taken aback, surprised, perhaps even hurt, to think that His Lord should do this menial work for him.
From the Lord’s reply, v. 7, it is clear that Peter did not understand at that time. This is found in the Lord’s use of the word ‘know’ – used twice, but not with the same meaning. The first was quite distinct from the second. Jesus said: ‘What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter’, v. 7 [my italics]. The force of the Lord’s words is this: ‘Peter you can’t understand my action with your mind now – but, one day, you will understand it by experience’. When the Holy Spirit would be given, Peter, and the rest, would then see, and know, the real meaning and purpose of this work by their Lord. What was a mystery now, would become meaningful later.
2. Peter’s Protest, v. 8.
Peter said unto Him, ‘Thou shalt never wash my feet’. Peter was always impetuous; his words here are, literally: ‘You shall never, ever wash my feet, not while the world lasts’. Although Peter said these words in his haste, he did eventually let the Lord wash his feet, and he did bow to the Lord’s will. They were the natural response of a heart that loved Christ. He did not know that behind the physical washing lay great spiritual meaning.
However, in the Lord’s reply, ‘If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me’, Peter knew what the Lord meant. He meant, ‘you cannot enjoy communion and fellowship with me’.
3. Peter’s Response, v. 9.
This clearly indicates that he knew the meaning and significance of what Jesus said. He certainly did not want a breakdown of fellowship with his blessed Lord, so he swings to the other extreme. Oh that we were as eager to cling to that sacred fellowship and communion with the Lord as this man was! Do we appreciate, or attach much importance to, fellowship with the Lord? Do we treat it lightly and esteem it of little value?
4. The Lord Explains, vv. 10-11
In verse 10, the Lord used the word ‘wash’ twice but they do not have the same meaning. When the Lord said, ‘He that is washed’, louo, he meant ‘he that is bathed’, i.e., has had an ‘all over’ bath. Such a person, only needs to ‘wash his feet’, nipto. The word implies washing a part of the body, because he is already perfectly clean.
The first word ‘bathe’ refers to that moment when, as sinners, we trusted Christ for our salvation. At that moment God ‘bathed us all over’. He cleansed us fully and completely, and brought us into union with Himself eternally. We entered into a relationship with God as our Father, and that has been settled forever, perfect tense, and cannot be changed. The awful defilement of our sin has been removed once and for all.
The second word, ‘wash’, is an ongoing, daily experience of the believer; it is the cleansing of the life by reading and obeying the word of God. We must all do this, because we all need daily cleansing from the defilement contracted by the things of the world. The work of Christ on the cross cleanses once and for all. The word of God, as applied by the Holy Spirit day by day, will keep the life clean, Ps. 119. 9.
All this is beautifully illustrated in the priesthood of the Old Testament. Before a priest could enter the tabernacle to serve the Lord, he had to be ‘bathed’ in water, Exod. 29. 4; Lev. 8. 6. This is known as his consecration. This cleansing was never repeated. It was done once, and it set him apart and sanctified him for the service of the tabernacle.
Then, day-by-day, before he went into the tabernacle, he was commanded to wash his hands and feet at the laver. Whilst doing his daily work, the priest would become dusty and soiled with the sand of the desert, and he had to wash before going in to serve God, Exod. 30. 19.
By constant communion with the Lord through the word of God, we can keep ourselves ‘unspotted from the world’, Jas. 1. 27. Are we prepared to rise to the challenge?