Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet (John 13:1-17, 34-35) Maundy Thursday

Sermon by Daniel L. Sonnenberg | April 17, 2014


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.

 2 During supper, when the devil had 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 back to God,  4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.  5 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.  6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?”  7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”  8 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.”  9 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.  16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.  34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” 


Pride drives a wedge between believers; and when that happens, unbelievers see it and continue in their unbelief. Why should they believe – if so-called Christians can’t get along?

What they should see is what we find in v 34-35. They should see us loving one another as Christ loved us on the cross – humbly and sacrificially. That will cause men to know that we belong to Christ.

The principle is this: lowly service to others brings cleansing, and it finds its supreme embodiment in the cross.

 By washing his disciples’ feet, Jesus was acting out a parable of his cleansing work on the cross, and at the same time setting an example of cleansing work through humble service to one another. The parable said, “I am washing you clean from your sin by humbling myself in service to you, my loved ones.”

Do you want to make a difference in your church? Perform humble service for one another – as Christ did for you on the cross – it has a cleansing effect. If done in the name of and for the sake of Christ it has a cleansing effect in two ways: it cleanses you of pride (he learned obedience thru what he suffered) and it cleanses others by testifying to Christ’s work on the cross – because you are doing as he did.

Do you want to make a difference in your community? Love one another in your church – humbly, sacrificially.

Are you too proud to serve others in your church who you think are lesser than you, lower than you in some way? Are you too proud to hang out with them, to be associated with them, to be considered by your friends to be un-cool in order to discover and meet their greatest needs? Maybe they have lesser intelligence, lesser street smarts, lesser knowledge of the Bible? Jesus wasn’t. He was their master, their Lord, their teacher. Yet he knelt down to wash their feet to demonstrate how in less than 24 hours he would lay down his very life on the cross to do something they could not do for themselves – to wash away their sins.

What is true love? What does it mean to love one another as Christ loved us? Though Jesus is the teacher, the Lord, the master, he stoops down to meet our greatest need – cleansing us from our sin that separates us from God. True love helps people overcome their problems; it meets their deepest need. Every man’s deepest problem is sin. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Rom 3:23). “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6:23). “For while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. (Rom 5:6) “But God demonstrates his own love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8)

If you know the right thing to do and do not do it, that is sin.

Really mother, I’d rather do it myself!

I’m a proud person; I’d rather do it myself.

Jesus enacted a parable on this night to demonstrate the meaning of his cleansing work on the cross through humble service and its implications for his disciples.

Your loving service to one another

(Lk. 22:24-27)  24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors.  26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.  27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

After James’ and John’s mother asked J for preferred treatment for her son in the kingdom of heaven.

“But Jesus called them to Himself, and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.  26 “It is not so among you,

but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28 NAS)

And sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35 NAS)

“But it is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; (Mark 10:43 NAS)

Categories: 2014, Passion Week, Sermons, The Life and Ministry of Jesus

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