The Path of ServiceJohn 13:13-17Theme: Foot-washing.This week’s lessons teach us how to encourage one another and share each other’s burdens. LessonAt times we must speak words that sound harsh to the one who has to hear them. It is difficult to speak such words. But more often, it is our privilege to speak the words of comfort the Bible contains. We may have to speak of sin. But we can always also speak of God’s grace and forgiveness. We can tell our brother, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). We can assure him that, if he has confessed his sin, God has already forgiven it for Jesus’ sake.
We must restore one another. Speaking the truth in love, which includes the exposure of sin and the pronouncement of forgiveness for the one who repents of it and turns to Christ, has as its object the complete restoration of the other person. In aiding in this we perform what is perhaps our greatest form of service.
Here we get closest to what Christ’s example of foot washing was all about. For in his explanation of his actions to Peter we learn that what Jesus chiefly had in mind was cleansing from the defilement of sin followed by the restoration of the one sinning. When Jesus told Peter, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you,” it was evident that he was not thinking about physical dirt but about sin and the way to be cleansed from it through justification and a subsequent growth in grace. He was telling Peter that he was a justified person and therefore needed only to be cleansed from the contaminating effects of sin and not from sin’s penalty.
The image involved is of a Middle-Easterner who would bathe completely before going to another person’s home for dinner. On the way, because he would be shod in sandals and because the streets were dirty, his feet would become contaminated. When he arrived at his friend’s home his feet would need to be washed, but not his whole body. In a parallel way, those who are Christ’s are justified men and women, but they do need constant cleaning from their repeated defilement by sin in order that the fellowship they have with the Father and Son might not be broken. It was Jesus’ washing of his disciples’ feet, not their heads or entire body, that Jesus commended to us by his example. If we carry this out in spiritual terms, as we must, it means that we must seek to restore others from sin’s defilement. Study Questions
What should be the mindset of one who speaks the truth in love?
What further understanding have you gained from the incident of Jesus’ washing Peter’s feet?
Further StudyStudy the following passages: Galatians 6:1-5 and James 5:13-20. What does each teach about serving others?
PrayerOur Father, not only do we use our ability to talk as a barrier to keep us from listening to other people, but we even use it to keep us from the obligation of doing what we know should be done. Our Father, disabuse us of all such false ideas. Reprove us of our sin. And give us grace to follow our Master at this very practical point of Christian service, for we pray in his name. Amen.