When you read a familiar passage of Scripture, do you kind of skim over it and think something along the lines of, Oh, this passage, I know what this passage says already? I know I do more often than I’d care to admit. The passage about Jesus washing the disciples’ feet is a passage that I’ve taken for granted in this way. I’ve never really stopped to think about what it was really saying, I just assumed the lesson of the passage was that Christians should serve each other even in menial, undesirable tasks like washing each other’s feet. However, I was in a Bible study recently where we took a good look at this passage. I’d like to share with you what I learned from this passage.
In John 13:1-17, Jesus starts washing the disciples’ feet. Once Jesus gets to Peter, he refuses to allow Jesus to wash his feet. Jesus responds by saying that if He doesn’t wash Peter’s feet then Peter will have no part with Him. This is understandably shocking to Peter and he overcompensates (as Peter is wont to do), saying, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.” What Jesus says next is what caught my attention in that Bible study. He says, “He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean…”
What I realized in that Bible study is that Jesus is telling us to humble ourselves enough to forgive each other. He states that “He that is washed…is clean every whit.” Here he is saying that if you are washed, then you are washed completely. Interpretation: if you are saved, you are saved completely. There is no need for further washing (saving) once someone is washed (saved). He also says, however, that “he that is washed needeth not [to wash again] save to wash his feet.” I take this to mean that, even though you and I are saved, we still may sin while we are here on earth. Sometimes we step back into the dirt of this world, but we don’t need to be saved all over again. All we have to do is ask Jesus to “wash our feet” (John 1:9).
Jesus goes on in the passage to say that He did this as an example to His disciples. He forgives our sins against Him; He humbles Himself and washes our feet when we get them dirty with sin. He wants you and me to do the same for each other. If anyone sins against you, humble yourself as Christ did, wash their feet, and forgive them.