It is hard to imagine the mixture of emotions those words produced in the heart of those disciples who so ardently loved their Lord; loved Him as the Son of God, the Christ of God, who forgave them so much and showed them such loving humility! At that time, none of them could believe they would be offended in Him! Yet, to a man, all of them would desert and forsake Him. From this mountain peak of joy in communion with Christ, they would slip. They would fail in their loyalty to Him! They would doubt Him. They would be untrue to Him while He suffered the smiting sword of God’s justice for their sins! Failing Him was the furthest thing from their minds during that supper. Yet, He who called the world out of nothing and upholds it too, who cannot lie, foretold the fall of His disciples (Heb. 1:2-3; Titus 1:2).
We don’t see it when we read the account in Matt. 26 and Mark 14. But when we read Luke 22:24-27 and John 13:1-17, we see two things. First, the disciples argued about which of them was the greatest. Second, Jesus taught them by word and example that He who is the greatest must be servant of all. Christ, the King of glory, took the place of a servant to wash the dirt from their feet (Php. 2:5-11). In a few hours, He would wash their sins from before God by His own blood (1 John 1:7; Rev. 1:5). Washing their feet was certainly the lesser stoop. But it was, nevertheless, an incalculable stoop for the Son of God to take our nature and in our nature wash our feet (John 13:3-4)!
It is clear that the subject of John 13 is the eternal love of Christ for His own (John 13:1-2; Jer. 31:3; Eph. 5:25-27; 1 Pet. 1:20). He demonstrated His love by example. He washed their sins and washed their feet too! The overall context is this: the disciples argued about their greatness relative to one another. Christ took the lowest place among them. He taught them to follow Him in this, to do for one another as He did to them. He said, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34). He then told them of their soon coming downfall. All of them would forsake Him. And Peter, the apparent leader, would fall the hardest.
Now, doesn’t Christ’s example of humility, demonstrated by washing His disciples’ feet, with His command to love as He loved, teach us to receive one another as Christ received us to the glory of God (Rom. 15:7)?! Doesn’t it teach us that we are to bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6:1-2)? And doesn’t it teach us that our brother’s burdens which we are to bear primarily have to do with our brother’s faults and falls (Gal. 6:1-2)?
Believers believe Christ. Believing Him, they love Him. There is nothing more painful to one whom Christ loves and who loves Christ than the knowledge of his own falls in the light of His Master’s love! Nevertheless, Jesus anticipates their fall. Before they fell, He washes their feet. Washing their feet did not take away their sins. From their sins they were clean every whit by His precious blood (John 13:10; 1 John 1:7). But it does cleanse the conscience with fresh application of Christ’s atoning blood and love (Gal. 2:20). Before Peter fell, our Lord said, “I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not” (Luke 22:32). Then He added, “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32). What strength can we give our fallen brother but the comfort with which we have been comforted of the Lord (2 Cor. 1:2-4; Rom. 5:6-10; 8:34)?
Therefore, see the grace and love of Christ our Savior in how He lived and suffered and died and rose and now lives for us! See that He did all of this for us when we were without strength, ungodly, sinners, even enemies of God (Rom. 5:6-10; Heb. 7:25)! Shall we not follow Christ in love if we love those whom He loves by bearing their burdens, not judging with critical heart and eye and thought and word, nor even deed, but by seeking their restoration to fresh views of Christ in renewed faith?
Consider yourself. Consider the pit of idolatry and sin and shame and the sentence of condemnation and death out of which you were digged (Eph. 2:1-6; Titus 3:3-7; 1 Cor. 6:9-11). Consider Christ the Rock out of which you were hewn (Isa. 51:1; Ps. 62:1-2). In so doing, lower yourself. Take off those things in your mind that distinguish you from your brother. Don’t expose and humiliate the filth of your brother, but wash your fallen brother’s feet by telling him again the “old, old story of Jesus and His love.” Look to Christ and call on Him to deliver you with your brother, lest you also be overtaken by the ignorance and pride of your sinful nature (Gal. 6:1-2; Acts 15:9-11; 1 Thess. 5:9-11). As the disciples discovered so painfully, we all fall. Their fall teaches us our weakness. It teaches us how Christ knows our every sin before we sin. It teaches us that Christ upholds our faith. It teaches us we are as helpless now as when we first believed (John 3:14-15). It teaches us the weakness of our brethren. These things humble us. We therefore ought to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17) for ourselves and our brethren, “Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe: and I will have respect unto thy statutes continually” (Ps. 119:117; 1 Thess. 5:17; Luke 18:1-8). Gracious Lord, “deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:13)! Uphold in us your precious gift of faith, a gift of pure grace (Eph. 2:8-9; Rom. 11:6)!