The Devotion of John Chapter Thirteen (2)

Robert E. Surgenor


Last month we noticed that in the upper room the Lord laid aside His garments, took a towel, and girded Himself. After pouring water into a basin, He graciously went to each disciple and washed their feet. It is interesting to notice the references to water in the Scriptures. When water is employed in submerging, it signifies judgment. When used internally, it indicates spiritual blessing.

In our consideration, we observe water applied externally, suggesting cleansing. It is unfortunate that the KJV makes no difference in the words "washed" and "wash" in verse 10, for the difference is great and presents to us a vital truth. The verse should read thus, ĎJesus saith to him, He that is bathed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean." The first word "washed" is really "bathed." This is a once for all act imposed by another than oneís self. It corresponds to Exodus 29, where we have Aaron and his sons being consecrated to the priestís office. Moses is instructed, "And Aaron and his sons thou shalt bring unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shalt wash (bathe) them with water" (vs.4). This occurred only once. However in Exodus 30:19,20, we find God instructing these bathed men to continually wash their hands and their feet at the layer before going in to do the service of God, that they die not. This corresponds to the truth being conveyed in John 13. We have been bathed once for all by the Lord Himself, but on a daily basis we are exhorted to wash one anotherís feet from daily defilement. You will find this truth of being bathed surfacing again in Titus 3:5. "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing (laver)(the act of bathing) of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost."

The washing of regeneration refers to the new birth. Washed (bathed) from our sins in the death of Christ. The renewing of the Holy Spirit is my complete change for the better. Through the action of the Spirit I have a new existence. In respect to this vital truth we would do well to consider Hebrews 10:22. "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed (bathed once for all) with pure water." When the Lord said, "Ye are not all clean" (vs. 11), He was referring to Judas, who having never been "bathed" was yet in his sins - unclean.

As John was experiencing the company of Christ, he had now also experienced the cleansing of Christ. I am sure that the water was the right temperature. Some brethren, in seeking to wash the feet of others with the Holy Scriptures, plunge their feet into boiling water. Their fervency runs so hot that instead of helping the one in need of cleansing, they scald him to the point of bitterness. We have also seen the opposite in so-called ministry. The water has ice floating in it and the one ministered unto turns almost blue as the cold chills run up their spine. No my brethren, anger, wrath, bitterness, coldness and legalism have no place in ministering to oneís brother. "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one anotherís burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself" Thus, in ministering, let us consider ourselves very small, let us keep our spirit ever meek and let us consider the one ministered unto very important. Thus our ministry may prove to be God-honoring and amazingly effective.

The Lord now has another lesson for us. "Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one anotherís feet" (vs. 13,14). You will notice the bold words are reversed. The lesson is simple. The word Master is Teacher. Do you want to be taught by the Great Teacher? If so, then consider the order He sets before us. You must acknowledge Him as Lord of your life, before expecting illumination to divine truths. There is no sense in believing that you can live contrary to His demands and commandments and expect to be divinely taught. Many are untaught, simply because they have refused to bow completely in subjection to Him. This is what is involved in acknowledging Him as Lord. Yes, there are intelligent and smart believers who read books and store up the facts and figures and can hurl them fluently. However, there is something lacking. Their ministry has little weight, if any. Their life lacks godliness. Their spirit lacks Christlikeness. The parrot-like talk taken from the writings of godly men of a former day will never do. If one acknowledges Him as Lord first, bowing in subjection to Him, then He will personally teach him His way and his spirit will be one of humility and meekness, which is a beautiful expression of Christlikeness. Furthermore, his ministry will grip the souls of his hearers for his ministry will be a reflection of his own life. It was said of Samuel, "The LORD was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground" (1 Sam. 3:19). If his words did not fall to the ground, the only other place they could fall was into the hearts of his hearers. Every godly minister covets that result from his own ministry.

In the will of God, next month we shall move on to consider Judas and John. We will look at the contrast in their character, their consideration of the Lord Jesus and the lessons they project to us today.