Select Wisdom Brand
(John 13:1–20) Happiness and a Pair of Dirty Feet

(John 13:1–20) Happiness and a Pair of Dirty Feet

by Stephen Davey
Series: Sermons in John
Ref: John 13:1–20

Jesus showed enormous humility when he bent down to wash His disciples' feet . . . but that was nothing compared to the humility He showed when He hung on a cross to wash their souls. Jesus is demonstrating to them -- and to us -- just how low Love is willing to go.



Happiness and a Pair of Dirty Feet

John 13:1-20

We arrive this morning at the 13th chapter of John's Good News. 

And I want to inform you that John, the inspired writer, changes the playback speed on this drama from fast forward to slow motion. 

You see, the first 12 chapters of this gospel replay nearly 3 1/2 years.  The next 5 chapters will replay for us only one day.

Although the speed shifts into slow motion, the color is brilliant and the emotional level will reach unbelievable intensity.

Actually, it's time for some very dramatic, life changing action.

You see, after thousands of hours of personal instruction; after three years of intense discipleship; after hundreds of lessons and stories, you would have to conclude; "The disciples are just not getting it. . .they aren't catching on.

It was time for some unforgettable action.

The need for action was illustrated by the man who was stuck in the middle of the road with his donkey.  This donkey had planted his feet firmly on the ground and would not move no matter what the man did.  So this man stood there shouting at the donkey, pulling on the rope - the donkey wouldn't take another step forward.  While this was going on an old sun baked farmer came down the road and immediately sized up the problem.  "Ya want some help?" he asked.  "I sure could use some, but I don't think it will do any good.  I've been shouting at this donkey for half an hour, and he just won't budge."  "I can fix that", the farmer said...he went over to the side of the road, picked up a big stick, came back and hit the donkey between the eyes.  After that he stood back and said in a casual, normal voice, "Get".  The donkey immediately started off.  "I don't understand it," said the owner.  "I pulled on his rope  I got right up in his face and I yelled at him, and he acted as if he didn't even hear me.  You spoke in a normal tone of voice, and he moved off."  "That's true," the farmer said, "but first I got his attention."

Now if you think the Lord doesn't need to get the attention of his disciples, think again.

The problems become painfully obvious in the latter part of Matthew's gospel.  Turn over to chapter 20 James and John - these big husky sons of thunder come up to Jesus with their little mother.  And the mother pulls Jesus aside with her two grown sons and says, 20:20.  Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Him with her sons, bowing down, and making a request of Him,  and He said to her, "What do you wish?"  She said to Him, "Copmmand that in Your kingdom these two sons mine may sit, one on

Your right and one on your left."

Can you imagine - there these two grown men stand, probably looking a little sheepish. 

Put this in perspective - it would be, gentlemen, like your dear little momma taking you by the hand, marching into the presidents office of your company and saying, "Sir, my son here is the finest boy in the whole world. . .I can't imagine why you can't make him vice president of this company...will you huh?"

But you know, the more I thought about it, Moms will do stuff like that if you left them. 

Every good mother is a natural born cheerleader who believes her child ought to play first string or somethings wrong with the coach.

My children's greatest fan is their mother - she even got an award this past year at our soccer party for being the best cheerer!

My Mom's incredible. . .I believe when I turned 25, a big eraser wiped across her mind and erased her memory of every bad thing I had ever done as a kid.  She can't remember any of them.  In fact, to hear her talk now - you'd think that growing up through elementary school and high school I was nothing but a model student - citizen - son.  I'm not about to jog her memory either.  I'm enjoying it! 

So in light of the way Mothers are by nature. . .I don't think anything bad about James and John's mother doing what she did -but I can't believe James and John actually stood there and let her carry on.

Now you notice the other disciples reaction - v. 24, "And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren.  This is interesting becuase it implies that James and John didn't just stand there and allow her to do it but they put her up to it!

They are wanting prestige.

According to Luke, just prior to John's description of the last supper, the disciples had been arguing over which of them would be considered the greatest in the kingdom.

They were wanting pre-eminence.

In other words, just days before the crucifixion, the disicples were anything but ready to carry on the ministry. . .why?  Becuase they still hadn't caught on to the primary quality of character found in the Lord:

Paul wrote in Phil. 2 "Jesus Christ had equal rights with the Father, yet he didn't grasp them but took on the form of a slave. . .he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death."

The disciples were so unready, that I imagine had the church in Jerusalem been created at Pentecost with the disiples still vying for prestige and pre-eminence; they would have argued over who had the most converts, who's particular language had reached the most Gentiles and who should be in charge.

The church would have self-destructed one month after it had been created!

It's time for some dramatic action - it's time to get their attention in a way they will never forget!

John chapter 13:1.  Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that he should depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.

2.  And during supper, the devil having already put into the heart of

Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him.

Now I have to stop here becuase this verse convicts me like no other.  If you put the gospel accounts together I believe that you will discover the progression that Jesus actually washed Judas' feet.  I believe that Judas departed the scene before Jesus instutied the Lord's Table - but he was a recipient of Christ servitude.

Look over to verse 18.  I do not speak of all of you.  I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, "He who eats My bread has lifted up his heel against Me."  19.  From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am.  In other words, only God can predict the future and so I';m going to predict to you certain things so that when they happen you'll recognize that as one more evidnece of my Deity.  20.  Truly, truly I say to you, he who received whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.  Here's the prediction:  21.  When Jesus had said this, He became troubled in spirt and testified and said, "Truly truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me.

In our nex session together we'll look at the life of Judas Iscariot.  But as it relates to what is just about to happen I have one big question!

How do you wash the feet of a Judas Iscariot?  I know - you'd treat them roughly, pinch his corns and bend his toes; better yet you'd empty the basin and fill it with scalding hot water or cold water with chunks of ice.

At least you'd put him last in line so the water is muddy dirty and the drying towel is already wringing wet; you'd make sure you accidentally slosh muddy water on his clothing. 


That's how we would - that's how we'd want to.

Besides, we would never wash the feet of those who only respond by giving us a swift kick in return.

No!  We wash beautiful, loving feet.  We wash the feet of friends, not the feet of betrayers and faithless cowards. . .we don't wash the feet of disloyal deniers.

Jesus is about to!

Verse 3.  Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God, and was going back to God,   4. rose from supper and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself about.

Stop - we're so quick to move on the the story that we miss something important.  Why did John take us through Christ's resume in verse 3. . .look back again vs. 3 - Jesus, knowsing that the Father had given all things into His hands and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God - "...rose from supper and began to wash feet."

Why did John spell out Jesus' resume in verse three?!  I think to reveal that Jesus should have recieved special treatment - he's related to God the Father - look again v. 3b. He had come forth

from God and was going back to God.

Let me try to illustrate what John's doing here.

Last year, my twins sons were in first grade.  They had the same Sunday school teacher.  By the way, let me make a general dsiclaimer to anything you teachers might hear in Sunday school.

I'm still smarting from what my daugter told her teacher two years ago - she was 4 then.  She informed her teacher in front of the class that her daddy had a drinking problem.  I don't know if it was prayer request time or what, but Candace..."Pray for my daddy, he has a drinking problem."  The only drinking problem I have is drinking too many pepsi's with caffeine - it'll give me a stomach ache.  That's the end of that rumor.

Anyhow, my boys had a new teacher that Sunday.  A super college gal who would tell us this story a few weeks later.  The rule is the kids have to wait until a parent comes to pick them up.  Class ended and my boys were ready to bolt out the door to freedom.  This new teacher stopped them.  "You can't leave" she said; they protested, "Yes we always do..."  "Not anymore!"  she firmly said.  One of my sons put his hands on his first grade hips and said with real authority, "Do you know who my father is?"  She said, "No I don't, who is he."  He said, "Pastor Davey"  I wish he could have said, "The king of the church, but that title's already taken."

I asked the teacher, "I hope you didn't change your stance."  She said, "No, in fact I shocked him, I just looked right back at him and said, "I don't care who your father is, your not leavin this room!"

Good answer; bravo!

We adults have the same problem.  You know who I am - I'm the nephew of a man who's second cousin was the babysitter for the Mayor's kids.  Big deal!

It's as if John introduces this incredible story with the preface - "And to think who Jesus is!"

Jesus is sovereign God!

In other words, verse three is telling us every reason in the world why Jesus should have had the disciples wash his feet instead of Jesus washing their's.

John's reminding us of who Jesus' Father is.

Now before we go much further, I want you to have the cultural picture in your minds eye.

The roads of Palestine were unsurfaced and uncleaned.  In dry weather they were inches deep in dust and when it rained, the streets were covered with gooey mud.  The shoes of the common people were ordinary sandals that gave little if any protection.

For this reason, there were always great waterpots at the door of a house; and a servant on call to come with a ladle and a towel to wash the dirty feet of the guests as they came in.

Now in this story, it's clear that there is a bowl and a towel, but Jesus's little company of disciples had no servant.

This is bad news.  In those days, people lay on a simple mat on the floor, propping themselves up with an elbow.  The table was a simple low rectangular block of wood.  This position meant that if your feet were not clean, your neighbor was very aware of it. 

But noone's moving!  It seems that the disciples were not even going to wash their own feet, and certainly no one, for the moment, was volunteering to wash anybody else's.

Now notice verse four again.  "Jesus rose from supper, (this indicates that they've just sat down to eat or that they are nearly finished) and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself about.  5.  Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash

the disciples feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded.

Now if you're wondering why he did this look over to verse 12.  And so when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments, and reclined at the table again, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you?  Obviously the answer is "You washed our feet."  Well, Jesus must have something else in mind or he wouldn't have asked such a simple question.  Here it is.  v. 13.  You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am.  14.  If I then, the Lord and the Teacher washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet."

Now some wonderful Christians would say here that Jesus is instituting another ordinance of the church.  That we ought to wash one another's feet. 

The truth is, he didn't give a command - he gave an example.

This wasn't a mandate, it was a model.   In fact notice the key word "example" in verse 15.  For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.

In other words, there can be thousands of ways to humbly serve, Jesus is simply saying, "Do it!"

It's interesting that there are only two times in the whole New Testament that clearly states we are to follow Christ's example; this one here as it relates to service; and again in I Peter as it relates to suffering.  We are to follow Christ's example - he hung on a cross. 

                        While we don't pursue death by crucifixion,

                        we do pursue obedience in suffering.

                        While we may not wash dirty feet,

                        we do pursue humility in serving.

So Jesus is teaching them to serve humbly. 

And did you notice he doesn't make a big announcement. 

He never stood up and said, "Listen up men, I am now going to demonstrate humility - notice my servanthood."

No, He simply slipped away from his place at the table, put a towel around His waist and with a basin in his hand he quietly began to move from one man to the next.

I believe you could have heard a pin drop.  Eating stopped; mouths fell open; eyes turned down in shame as they saw their Master become their slave.  Perhaps some began to softly weep.

Here's God washing their dirty feet.

But then he comes to Peter!  Peter's not weeping, he's overwrought. 

v. 6.  And so He came to Simon Peter.  Peter said to Him, "Lord, do You wash my feet?"

            I think it would be correct to read it this way. . ." YOU wash MY feet...this isn't right!" 

7.  Jesus answered and said to him, "What I do you do not realize now, but you shall understand herafter."   I'll explain later Peter, in fact, seven verses later, I'll spell it out for you.

8.  Peter said to Him, "Never shall You wash my feet!"  In the original language this is the double negative "ou me".  Translated in other places "God forbid."  You could render this phrase, "Lord, there is absolutely no way in the world you're going to wash my feet...with all due respect, the answers is - absolutely not!"

Perhaps Jesus leaned back on his heels and looked into Peter's eyes and said very calmly, 8b. "If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me."  I believe the word "part" refers to fellowship.  I'll explain in a moment why.

Well Peter seems to get that point so he exclaims, 9. "Lord, not

my feet only, but also my hands and my head."  Give me the whole treatment.  I don't want one square inch of my body to be dry.  Now here's an important verse; 10.  Jesus said to him, "He who has

bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you."

This verse refers to two baths - two washings.  And they are two different greek words as well.

There is the bath that totally cleanses - that one lasts forever.

There is another bath that cleans your feet - that one is needed daily.

One is the bath of regeneration.  You only need it once.  You only need to be saved once; or as Paul wrote in Titus 3:5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration..."

Then there is the bath of restoration.  You need that over and over again becuase fellowship must be restored again and again.

Now there was one man in that room who had never had that spiritual bath, although his feet were clean.  10b.  "...and you are clean but not all of you for He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, "Not all of you are clean."

Now follow this closely.  I believe that there are a lot of people who believe they are alright before God becuase they've asked Jesus to clean their feet - that is they've confessed individual sins.

They get on their knees knees; they confess their sins - but they've never asked Jesus to save them - to give them a bath.

Now imagine that taking place in the physical world.

The other day, one of my kids was outside playing - he opened the little iron door at the base of our fireplace where I shovel the ashes.  He covered himself completely with soot - piling the ashes on his head and rubbing them all over his body.  He was pretending to be a monster - and it was scary.  My wife went pale - I rushed to get the video camera.

I'm going to show this to his children one day.  Yes sireee.

When it was supper time I went out and turn on the hose.  There was no way his mother or I was going to allow him to take one step inside that house.   So I hosed him down and the ashes turned to mud and ran down his cheeks and body.  Now imagine my son saying, "Look Dad, just rinse off my feet and then I'll go in to supper; just clean off my feet." 

There are people who are desperately trying to keep their feet clean who've never had the bath of regeneration.

That's the message to the unbeleiver.

What about the believer - Here's the message - "Peter, you can't fellowship with me with dirty feet."

Here's how it works.  You get a bath by being saved, but then as you walk through life you get your feet dirty.  Jesus is saying, "You can't have communion with me as long as you have dirty feet.

Communion must be preceded by cleansing.

Some of you today who are Christians need your feet washed.

The reason some of you aren't serving the Lord is becuase you're out of fellowship.  You're out of fellowship becuase you're hiding sin - your feet are dirty.

The Lord will do whichever you need;

                        He loves you; The water's ready

Now frankly, the pimary message of this passage is not having your

feet washed but washing someone else's.

Go back to verse 12.  Do you know what I have done to you?  You call Me Teacher and Lord, adn you are right for so I am.  14.  If I then, the Lord and the Teacher washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet...skip to verse 17.  If you know these things, you are

blessed if you do them.

The word "blessed" is maxairos - "happy, fulfilled"

"You want to be happy?  Then be on the lookout for dirty feet.

Now verse 17 - If you know these things you are happy!!!  Many Christians put the period there!  NO!  "If you know these things, you are happy if you do them."

Happiness is not the result of information but application!

in the final analysis, happiness comes from doing these things.  The fun comes when we roll up our sleeves, wrap the twoel around our wasit, and wash a few feet - quietly, graciously, cheerfully.



Washing feet means surrendering your priviledge to receive a proper response.

            We tend to wash the feet of those who will wash our feet in return.

If you will wash the feet of only those who will return your acts of service with appreciation, love and acceptance, you will never wash feet.

Many Christians will never wash feet becuase it doesn't return them the kind of dividends they want out of life.

            Think about it:

Jesus washed all 12 pairs of dirty feet.  What was their response:

            Thomas still doubted him...Judas still betrayed Him...Peter still denied Him.

But He washed them anyway.

Principle #2 

Washing feet means surrendering your prerogative to choose whom you serve, when you serve, and how you serve.

If you will only serve at the feet of convenient things, you will never become a servant.

If you will only wash at the feet of something that excites you           or invigorates you, you will never wash feet for very long.

So we fill up our lives with amusement...little toys...and we have a church filled with dirty feet:

            we have a roomful of kids next door - we need someone to wash their feet.

            we have rooms filled with infants and toddlers - we need someone to wash their feet.

            we have a parking lot filled with people who come to worship and need to find a space - we need someone to wash their feet.

            Ruth Calkin wrote this poem entitled "I Wonder"

            You know, Lord how I serve You with great emotional fervor in the limelight.  You know how eagerly I speak for You at a women's club.

You know how I effervesce when I promote a fellowship group. You know my genuine enthusiasm at a Bible study. But how would I react, I wonder if You pointed to a basin of           water, and asked me to wash the calloused feet of a bent and wrinkled old woman dady ater day, month after month in a room where nobody saw and nobody knew.

By the way, did you notice that John never tells us if Jesus had His feet washed that night. . .did somebody volunteer; did Jesus refuse an attempt on their part.  Oh no - I believe that for those two thought to be true Jesus would have become an inconsitent model.  I'd just bet that after this lesson was over, the disciples crowded around their beleoved Master/Teacher and all took part demonstrating to him their servanthood.

And years later, the message still stuck - becuase all but one of them would give their dying breath as servants for the One who on that hot April night, became a servant to them.

Add a Comment

We hope this resource blessed you. Our ministry is EMPOWERED by your prayer and ENABLED by your financial support.
CLICK HERE to make a difference.