Dedicated To The Men of God Who Preach the Word of God As It
Is To Men As They Are
"Preach The Word"
Condescension of Christ
Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his
hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God;
He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a
towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a
bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them
with the towel wherewith he was girded (JN 13:3-5).
The upper-room experience is a thought of solemn grandeur
in the hearts of all Christian people. The upper room has become
a symbol of being apart with Christ. It was also in the upper
room that a group of disciples—the young church—waited on its
knees before Pentecost. It is such an upper-room experience that
the church needs again today!
The Lord had made careful and purposeful preparation for
the Passover, even as He had made preparation for all the other
things in His ministry. The sign was given to His disciples that
when they saw a man carrying a pitcher of water they should
follow him to the room where they were to set out the Passover
supper. It was a prearranged signal of a sort, a signal which they
could easily identify, for the carrying of water in Biblical days
was usually a woman's responsibility, and therefore a man carrying
water was easily noticed. Jesus said, "When you find a man
carrying water, follow him."
When Peter and John had made the arrangements for supper
in the upper room, the disciples gathered. The Master knew He
was only hours away from the great climax of His life; every
fleeting moment was very precious indeed to Him. But as the
disciples entered that upper room, they had little understanding
of the heart of Jesus. They were quibbling among themselves,
and Jesus knew that such petty quarreling threatened far more
devastation to the work of God than the treachery of Judas. As
those proud men had walked the dusty paths, already they had
been murmuring among themselves and asking Him, "Lord, we
want to know who is going to be greatest in the Kingdom of
The enemies of Jesus were making the most of the night. They
had "set their watches" with Judas and were agreeing on another
signal that was to be given later—the kiss upon the cheek. Jesus
knew all this. In fact, in reading the thirteenth chapter of John
carefully, you will find that it says, "Jesus knew," three times.
Jesus knew and understood the hours in front of Him, and yet
He steadfastly set His face toward the cross. Nothing could
swerve Him from what He was sent of God to accomplish.
There was no effort on the part of His disciples to lift any part
of His burden from Him. It is a friend's responsibility, when great
sorrow engulfs a soul, to try to help carry the burden, but those
men shared no burden with Jesus. Actually, because of their
attitude, they were making His dying days more difficult. They
were murmuring in their hearts, complaining about each other
and about the future of the work, adding to His burden rather
than sharing it with Him in His last hours.
I. THE SOLEMNITY OF THE SUPPER
Two or three things are very evident in the study of these
Scriptures. One is the solemnity of the supper. Every Jew understood
the sacredness of the Passover; it was a meaningful time.
Jesus and His disciples gathered together in the upper room, behind
a closed door, very possibly the same room where Jesus
again met His disciples after His resurrection from the dead.
They observed the same solemn ritual of the Passover that their
fathers before them had observed for generations.
The disciples did not comprehend that it was the last Passover
of that sort that they were ever going to observe. They did not
understand, in that solemn, sacred moment, that it was really the
ending of the Passover because the fulfilling of the Passover was
at hand. Not the Passover itself, but 'the celebration of its fulfillment
was to be the rule in the future, declared their Master
as He instituted the Lord's Supper. Jesus said to them, "When I
eat again, when I break bread with you again, it shall be in the
Kingdom of God" (see MARK 14:25). Literally and symbolically
they approached the Passover supper with unwashed feet and
II. THE STOOPING TO SERVE
Jesus began the Passover meal by blessing the food, as was
His custom. Part of it was consumed and still He waited, but no
one made an effort to wash the feet. The disciples knew the custom
of the day; they were not ignorant of table manners. They
might have remembered that Jesus had reprimanded a host some
days before when he had made no effort to have a servant wash
the guests' feet—the same occasion when the unnamed woman
came and washed the feet of Jesus and then dried them with her
hair ( see LUKE 7 : 36-5o ) .
Why did Jesus wash the disciples' feet in the upper room?
Because no one else wanted to do it. There have been times when
we hesitated to do something; and then the moment someone else
did it, we wished with all our hearts that we had gone ahead.
The disciples were hesitating because they wanted to be greatest
in the Kingdom of God. They didn't understand the formula of
service in the heart of their Master. They said to themselves, as
they sat about the table, "Surely, if I wash their feet, then I will
be lower than they, for this is the job of a menial servant. I won't
have a chance to be great in the Kingdom if I stoop to wash feet."
Jesus waited for them, just as He waits for you and me to do His
work; but when no one else would do it, Jesus Himself rose up
and stooped to serve.
The humility of Jesus is something we ought never to forget.
Notice how the Son of God liked to call Himself the Son of man.
Notice how He knelt in front of stubborn sinners, patiently and
kindly washing feet as if He were a slave. The condescension of
Jesus was great in that moment when He got down on His hands
and knees, with His face close to the feet of the disciples, and
quietly washed their feet. What a silence came into that room! If
they had not been alert to the Passover ritual, certainly they were
all attention now. Probably every one of them thought, "Oh, that
I might have had the grace to stoop to service!"
We will never have many great people, because so few want
to pay the price to serve. Jesus said, ". . . whosoever will be great
among you. . . . shall be servant of all" ( MARK 10:43-44). The
desire of men today is the same as the desire of men then—to be
master of all and servant of none. Jesus told them that the only
way to be a master of men is to be a servant of men, but they
did not comprehend it, although they saw the One from heaven
bow Himself before their feet. They recognized the condescension
of Jesus, this One of whom the angels said, when He came
back to Heaven, "Lift up your heads, 0 ye gates; and be ye lift
up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in"
( PSALM 24 : 7 ) .
III. THE SYMBOL OF SERVICE
As soon as Jesus finished washing their feet, He took His own
place at the table again and asked the question, "Know ye what
I have done to you?" ( JoHN 13:12). No, they didn't know.
When Jesus had come near to wash his feet, Peter had drawn
them back and said, "Thou shalt never wash my feet" ( John
13:8). There was stubbornness on the part of that disciple, but
I think there was a genuineness in it. He recognized in humility
that he was altogether unworthy for the Master to wash his
feet. But he learned again that it is "better to obey than to sacrifice,"
for Jesus said, "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part
with me." Peter then said, "Lord, not my feet only, but also my
hands and my head" ( Jomv 13:9).
There is some dirt that water will not wash off, such as the dirt
of pride; that requires the cleansing blood of the Lord Jesus.
Henry Drummond said something very significant and convincing:
"The world has gotten so used to looking at sin in the way
that they look at sin that they forget that some sin that God sees
is more awful." The disciples could not see the poison of pride in
each other's hearts, but Jesus knew about it. He was able to
cleanse Peter of the poison, but when He got to Judas, what
He washed the feet of Judas just as He did all the others. Judas
said nothing. If ever there was a time when Judas should have
been near tears, if ever there was a time when he should have
been almost persuaded, it was that moment. Already he had
accepted the silver; already he had sold out the Master. Jesus
knew it, for He said a word in passing that made Judas understand
that Jesus knew what was in his heart. Rather than surrender,
rather than confess, rather than fall on his face toward
God, Judas stiffened his will. Indeed, God Himself was on His
face toward Judas—an unusual thing, but our God is an unusual
and forgiving God.
If Judas had asked Him for forgiveness then, surely his part in
the crucifixion would not have been as it was. But he put his feet
out defiantly, as though it were nothing. Jesus' love had no effect
on him. Jesus asked, "Know ye what I have done to you?" He
laid down the towel and girded Himself again with His clothing.
It was then that He said to Judas, "That thou doest, do quickly"
( JOHN 13:27), and Judas went out.
The disciples had no comprehension of why Judas was leaving—
that this was the night of betrayal. Only Jesus knew what
was in the heart of Judas, as He knew what was in the hearts
of all in that room. Had the disciples known, they would have
stopped Judas, but Jesus said to him, "What you are going to do,
go on and do it!" The hour of His sacrifice was at hand, He knew.
So many times the Lord comes to us, and we never know it.
God comes to heal, and we are not aware; God comes to speak,
and our ears are deaf; God comes to knock, and we pay no attention;
"Know ye what I have done to you?" asked Jesus. What
did He do that day? He brought us all into fellowship with Him
in the greatest example of humility that we have ever known.
Jesus said, "I have given you an example, that ye should do as I
have done to you" ( JN. 13:15).
If God Himself could wash our dirty feet, is there any job we
can rightfully feel that we are too good to perform? Is there any
task too menial for us in the service of the King? Is there anything
at all that is unworthy of our effort, beneath our talent? Hear what
Jesus is saying! When there is anything we can do,
we should seize the opportunity.
Paul had this in mind when he said that he was "made all
things to all men, that I might by all means save some" (I Cor. 9:22).
Whatever chance of service we have, we ought
to make the most of it for Jesus. There is never a house too
humble for us to enter; there is never a class too small for us to
teach; there is not anything that we ought to be unwilling to do,
for Jesus said, "Do you know what I have done to you? I have
done the lowest thing, and the servant is not greater than his
Master; therefore I have left you an example that you should do
Oh, we are willing to follow His footsteps to the Mount of Transfiguration,
to some other great height, to some glimpse of glory! But when they
lead through the dark dungeons of service, such as foot-washing,
then we hang back and are not willing to follow His example. If we do
not serve, however, we are none of His.
Sermon from R. Earl Allen