Clean and Cleansed – Sermon on John 13:1-15 for Maundy Thursday

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John 13:1-15

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to 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, 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. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “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.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand 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, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Peter gets uncomfortable when Jesus laid aside His outer garments, tied a towel around His waist, got down on His hands and knees, and began to wash the disciples’ feet. Jesus washes the Disciples' feetThe Man whom Peter had confessed to be the Son of the living God (Mt. 16:16), the Man who had healed the sick, fed the masses, and raised the dead, the Head of all creation (Col. 1:15) kneels to wash Peter’s dirty, smelly feet.

Foot washing was a common thing in those days. Anyone who was going to be a guest at a banquet would have their feet washed even if they had just bathed. The walk from one house to another would make a person’s feet dirty and dusty enough to need another washing. But the task of foot washing was always reserved for the lowest of servants. Disciples would do many different chores for the rabbi they were following, but foot washing was never one of them. But here, Jesus, the Rabbi, the Teacher sent from God, and in fact God Himself in the flesh, humbles Himself to do the lowest of tasks for His disciples.

To understand how shocking this is, you have to imagine having some guests over for a fancy dinner. You have cleaned the parts of the house you expect they will go, but not the whole house – especially not that one bathroom. But imagine your horror if you found one of your well-dressed guests on their hands and knees on that hard, tiled floor with a sponge scrubbing the scum and stains around that neglected toilet.

We aren’t told how the other disciples react to this; however, they were probably uncomfortable with the arrangement as well. But Peter is, of course, the one to speak up and object, “You shall never wash my feet.”

But Jesus turns this event into a new lesson, “If I do not wash you, you have no share( or “no part”) with Me.”Jesus isn’t simply talking about washing feet anymore. He doesn’t say “If I do not wash your feet…,” He says, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with Me.”This is about Peter’s heart and his general need for the cleansing and forgiveness that Jesus has come to give. And Peter understands so he says, “Then don’t just wash my feet, but wash my hands and my head too.” In other words, “Jesus, I need You to thoroughly wash me and make all of me clean because I am so sinful.”

But Jesus responds, “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.”

Not everyone who is in that upper room is clean because Judas was still there and was about to betray Jesus. Judas is not clean because he is not a Christian; Judas does not trust in Jesus’ promises of mercy and forgiveness. The other eleven disciples do trust in Christ, so Jesus says that they are completely clean. Their whole being is clean. Jesus is referring to not their bodies, but their souls. Even the dirtiest, most sinful parts of the disciples are completely clean. Their sins have been washed away and cleansed.

So, what is this that Jesus says they need to have their feet cleaned? Well, they keep falling into sin. They keep fighting with each other about who is the greatest. They keep making promises that they can’t keep. They are clean, but they keep sinning. They keep stepping in the same old sins, but their whole being is already clean.

We can’t get our minds around this reality that Jesus presents unless it is about sin, and even then, it is hard to grasp.

Christian, Jesus has died on the cross and absorbed the entire wrath of God against your sin. As Jesus said, “It is finished.”God isn’t holding a charge, a sin, or an accusation against you to judge you on the Last Day. There is no dirt or anything left to do for you to be cleansed by Christ. You are already clean.

Baptism 2In your Baptism, Jesus has sprinkled clean water on you thus cleansing you from all your uncleannesses (Ezk. 36:25). In your Baptism, God has given you the new birth (Jn. 3:5), He has connected you to Jesus’ death and resurrection (Ro. 6:3-5), He has given you the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit (Tit. 3:5).

And yet, though you have been cleaned by God in this way, you still get dirty feet all the time. Even since this service started, you have had evil and bitter thoughts, you have let your mind wander from the Word of God, etc. You are clean, but you need to be cleaned again.

That is why you are here tonight. You are a saint and a sinner at the same time. You are holy and righteous in God’s sight, yet you have sinned. And you need mercy and cleansing again.

Well, sinner and saint, Jesus has the answer. After He washed His disciples’ feet, Jesus served the disciples again. Christ took bread and gave it to the disciples saying, “Take, eat. This is My Body.”Then, He took the cup and gave it to them saying, “Take, drink. This is My Blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sin.”

Christ gives this cleaning to Christians who are clean and pleasing to God but need cleaning again.

Dear saint, you are declared by Jesus to be clean. Your Lord and Savior is here to be your servant and clean you again. Come and receive what He gives you for your comfort, for your strengthening, for your cleaning. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.


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