By Dr. Mark E. Hardgrove

Text: John 13:1-17, NIKJV

1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.

2 And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray Him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, 4 rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. 5 After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. 6 Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him,"Lord, are You washing my feet?"

7 Jesus answered and said to him, "What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this."

8 Peter said to Him, "You shall never wash my feet!"

Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me."

9 Simon Peter said to Him, "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!"

10 Jesus said to him, "He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you." 11 For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, "You are not all clean."

12 So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, 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 should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.


I remember a time, as a young boy, when my family visited a home where the carpet was almost white. It was a real light cream color, some kind of berber carpet that was real pretty until I walked across it with dirty shoes. Iíll never forget the look that woman gave me. She didnít say anything, but I saw it in her eyes, and then my mother saw it in her eyes and I was promptly scolded and told to leave my dirty shoes outside on the porch.

In our home we didnít take off our shoes in the house because if we did, weíd get our socks dirty. We didnít take off our shoes until we were ready to swing our feet into the bed. But I found out that day, that in some homes, especially a home with beautiful light carpet, that you should take off your shoes at the door so that you donít track your dirt into someone elseís home.

You can be excused for getting your shoes dirty as you make your way to the house, but there is no excuse for tracking your dirt into someoneís house and soiling their pretty carpet. You know how careful you are when you get a new car. You donít want anyone eating in it and you always notice the shoes of the people who are about to get in. You donít want to get that new car or that new carpet dirty.

We need to remember that as we stand on the brink of a brand new year, that the New Year is still pristine. We havenít made any mistakes yet. We havenít fallen or faltered in it yet. We havenít said something we shouldnít have said, and we havenít done something that we shouldnít have. Two-thousand eight is a brand new year and we need to determine here tonight that we are not going to track our dirt into a brand new year.

I) Peterís Dirty Feet

Look at the text with me. When you read through Matthew, Mark and Luke, and you get to this part of the story, you expect to find the account of the Lordís Supper, but John doesnít record the Lordís Supper. He mentions it, but he doesnít elaborate. Instead, right where we expect to find the Lordís Supper, John puts the story of Jesus washing the discipleís feet. Why does John do this? Weíll come back to that in a minute.

Notice what happens. Jesus got up from the supper, laid aside his outer garments and His prayer shawl, and then He took a towel and tucked it into His waistband. Then Jesus poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciplesí feet, and to wipe them with the towel. Notice that Jesus apparently went from disciple to disciple washing their feet and none of them asked Jesus why, and none of them resisted until Jesus gets to Peter.

Peter looked at Jesus and asked, ďLord, are You washing me feet?Ē Apparently Peter was implying that he wasnít going to allow his Rabbi to wash his (the discipleís) feet. If anything, the disciple should be washing the Masterís feet. This was a total breach of social protocol and Peter just couldnít swallow it.

Jesus tried to assure Peter. He said to him, ďYou donít understand at the moment what Iím doing but it will all be clear to you when you reflect back upon it.Ē

That wasnít good enough for Peter. Peter emphatically stated, ďYou shall never wash my feet!Ē

Jesus knew what He was doing, and Jesus knew the importance of what He was doing, so Jesus responded with equal emphasis, ďIf I do not wash you, you have no part in Me.Ē In other words, ďPeter, if you donít let me do this, our relationship ends here and now.Ē Those are powerful words.

Peter understood the warning that he received so he said, ďLord, not my feet only, but my hand and my head!Ē That sounds like Peter is giving in, but heís still trying to dictate the encounter. The head and the hands were traditional points of anointing in Judaism. Peter was saying, ďLetís put a religious spin on this thing and do it right.Ē

Now look closely at what Jesus says to Peter in verse 10:

10 Jesus said to him, ďHe who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.Ē

In other words, Jesus knows that before a good Jewish man or woman would come to an occasion like this, he or she would bath first. After bathing they would come directly to the house where a dinner such as this, was being served. When I walked into that womanís house, I didnít need to go to her bathroom and take a shower, all I needed to do was to take off my shoes and leave the dirt outside. Jesus is telling Peter, ďI donít need to wash your hands and head. Iím not here to give you a bath, all you need to wash are your feet, because theyíre the only part of you that got dirty on your walk to this house.

Before we can appreciate this, we need to remember the socio-cultural context. They didnít wear shoes like we do today. Instead, they wore sandals. For the most part, they did not walk on paved sidewalks, but they walked on dusty dirty roads that were often traversed by any number of animals who left their business in the streets. So with nothing more than a strip of leather strapped to the soles of your feet, walking on a dusty dirty road, by the time you get to the house youíre going to have some dirty feet. Peter was standing before Jesus with dirty feet and Jesus was asking Peter to allow Him, the Savior of the World, to wash his feet.

II) The Sacramental View of Feet Washing

The Church of God, along with other denominations, believes and teaches that feetwashing is intended to be a sacrament of the church. The problem is that most people have no idea what a sacrament is. A sacrament is an act performed in a religious setting which symbolizes a deeper spiritual truth that speaks to our salvation. Water baptism symbolizes salvation; it symbolizes our death, burial and resurrection in Christ. The Lordís Supper represents the sustaining grace of God that nourishes our spiritual being. Most Protestant churches stop with those two sacraments. However, there was a question in the early church concerning what should happen when a believer sins after he or she has been born again and baptized. Should they be baptized over and over again?

John was the last of the Gospel writers and he is apparently familiar with the other three Gospels. It seems that John intentionally provides us with some accounts that the other three writers did not include. When we get to the Passion of Christ, John does not provide any details concerning the Lordís Supper. Instead John gives us, in great detail, the account of Jesus washing the disciplesí feet. I believe that as the question of what to do about someone who had sinned after they had been baptized was being asked, John remembered the words of Jesus to Peter: ďWhat I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.Ē John understood what feetwashing was all about.

Just as Jesus said that a person leaving their home has already bathed, the new believer is baptized. He or she has already received the cleaning power of the cross. But as we make our way through the dusty roads of life, we still get our feet dirty. For example, the dirty joke that someone told in the cubical across from us. We didnít want to hear it, but we did, and we chuckled and felt guilty about it. Now that dirty joke continues to play over and over in our mind throughout the day. We live in a sinful world and as we make our way to that city with streets of gold our feet are going to get dirty.

It isnít that weíve turned our back on God. It isnít that weíve decided to go back into a life of sin. But in a moment of anger, we said something we shouldnít have said. In a moment of weakness, we watched something that we shouldnít have watched. In a moment of fear we doubted God, when we should have believed. In a busy world we knew we should have done good, but we didnít do it and for us it is a sin. That is not the same thing as apostatizing, as turning our back on God and willfully going back into our old sinful lifestyle. We donít need to be baptized again. John understood it now, Jesus was saying that by washing one anotherís feet we are engaging in a sacrament that symbolizes the continual cleaning power of the blood of Jesus.

It is no accident that it was John who wrote in his First Epistle:

2:1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:

2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2, KJV)

We are encouraged to live a sinless life. God never excuses sin, but He does forgive sin. If we sin, we still have an advocate with the Father in Jesus. Some people preach as though John said, ďIf we sin, we have lost our advocate with the Father.Ē But thatís not what John said. He said, ďAnd if we sin, we have an advocate with the Father.Ē Itís not Mary, itís not the Pope, and itís not the preacher, but it is Jesus who is at the right hand of the Father where He ever lives to make intercession for the believers (Heb. 7:25).

Feetwashing is a powerful symbol of the continual cleansing of the blood of Jesus in our lives. So after washing their feet, Jesus sat down with them and said, ď If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to youĒ (vv. 14-15).

III) The Powerful Symbol

Most Protestants do not teach that a sacrament saves you. If you are baptized as a sinner, when you come up all youíll be is a wet sinner. Believers are baptized as a public confession of their faith and as a powerful symbol that drives home the truth that they are crucified with Christ and brought up into a new life in Christ. Old things have passed away and behold all things have been made new.

A sinner can partake of the Lordís Supper, but the elements will not save him or her. Instead, Paul warns us that if we partake unworthily it might bring about that chastising hand of God, rather than the hand of healing in our lives.

Feetwashing, in and of itself, doesnít wash away our sins. The act of feetwashing symbolizes the fact that we have come back to the cleansing stream of Calvary and found forgiveness there to wash away the dirt that we have picked up while walking along the dusty road of life, on our way to heaven.

As we approach a brand new year, a year in which we havenít made any mistakes, a year that is filled only with possibilities and new opportunities, we need to determine here tonight that we are not going to track our mistakes from this past year into the New Year. Instead, weíre going to go to the advocate, Jesus Christ, and ask Him to wash our feet, ask Him to cleanse us of any anything that this world might have rubbed off on us.

Donít track last yearís mistakes into the New Year. Donít drag a guilty conscious into the New Year. We have one more hour this year to allow the cleansing power of Jesusí blood to wash away every guilty stain, to lay aside that sin that so easily besets us.


We are going to partake of communion at this time and after that we going to observe the sacrament of feetwashing. We have two rooms set up for feet washing. The men in Sunday School room opposite the conference room, and the women in the prayer chapel. If you are so uncomfortable with this that you simply cannot participate, then you can remain here in the sanctuary and as you pray, ask Jesus to wash your feet, to forgive you of any failure or fault that youíve committed this past year, and purpose to walk into the New Year with clean feet.

    After communion and feetwashing we are going to come back into the sanctuary, gather around these altars and pray in the New Year. Pray for your family and friends, pray for this church, pray for our country. Next year we will be voting on our next president. We need to pray that a man or woman is elected who will uphold moral standards that are opposed to killing unborn children in the womb, and are opposed to the concept of "gay" marriage. Let's pray for the peace of Jerusalem and pray for laborers in the harvest.