Faithlife Sermons

Footwashing - Redemptive Significance

Sermon  •  Submitted
0 ratings
Sermon Tone Analysis
View more →

JOHN 13:1-17

Carson gives the section Ch.13:1-20:31 the title ‘Jesus’ Self-disclosure in His Cross and Exaltation’ and states that one of the purposes of the section is ‘to unpack, before the event, the significance of Jesus’ departure – his death, burial, resurrection, exaltation and the consequent coming of the Holy Spirit’. 

§         There was an important precedent in the ancient world for the discourses of John 13-17, namely the genre of farewell discourses or testaments of famous men

§         This practice is already seen in the Old Testament in the blessings of Jacob on his sons [Gen.49].


1.        The Passover

John’s introduction to the foot-washing: “before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew…” [13:1].

§         πάσχα - “passover” [13:1], ‘the passover supper’; a theme developed throughout the book [2:13, 23; 6:4; 11:55; 12:1].

§         The clause alerts the readers to the passover them, inviting them to see in the foot-washing an anticipation of Jesus’ own climactic Passover act as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” [1:29]. 

2.        The Hour

Jesus’ knowledge: “when Jesus knew that his hour…” [13:1].

§         εἰδὼς - “knew” [13:1], perfect active participle, ‘to have seen and perceived and hence know’;

§         ὥρα - “hour” [13:1], ‘time or period’: “my time is not yet fully come” [7:8]; “the hour is come that the Son of man…” [12:23].

§         μεταβῇ - “depart” [13:1], singular aorist active, ‘to move from one place to another’; ‘to pass over, withdraw, depart’;

3.        The Knowledge

The knowledge that Jesus had is stated in terms of the sovereign will of God in judgement and salvation: “knowing that the Father had given…” [13:3].

§         εἰδὼς - “knowing” [13:3], perfect active participle, ‘to have seen and perceived and hence know’.

§         e;dwken - “given” [13:3], aorist active, ‘given by a superior into the hand of one who is a subordinate’; ‘to hand over’; ‘to empower’;

§         Jesus’ mission: “was come from God and went to God” [13:3].

4.        The Love

Jesus’ love: “having loved his own…” [13:1].

§         ἀγαπήσας - “loved” [13:1], aorist active participle,

§         ἠγάπησεν - “loved” [13:1], aorist active,

§         εἰς τέλος - “end” [13:1], ‘motion towards and into’; ‘completion, perfection’;

a.        True Character

John ensures that the reader grasps just how strongly this episode attests the loving character of Jesus: “the supper being ended, the devil having put…” [13:2].

§         δείπνου - “supper” [13:2], ‘main meal’; ‘evening meal’;

§         βεβληκότος - “put” [13:2], perfect active participle, ‘to throw, cast, place something somewhere’;

§         παραδοῖ - “betray” [13:2], aorist active, ‘to hand over’; ‘to deliver up’;


  1. The Foot-Washing & SERVANTHOOD

1.        The Preparation

a.        The Scene

The scene: “he rises from supper and laid aside his garments…” [13:4].

§         ἐγείρεται - “rises” [13:4], ‘to stand up’;

§         the disciples and Jesus would have been reclining on thin mats around a low table. Each is leaning on his arm, usually the left; the feet radiate outward from the table.

§         Jesus pushes himself up from his own mat.

b.        The Preparation

The preparation: “he laid aside his garments…” [13:4].

§         τίθησιν - “laid aside” [13:4], present active, ‘to put or place’; ‘to take off’;

§         τὰ ἱμάτια - “garments” [13:4], ‘outer garment, mantle’;

§         λαβὼν - “took” [13:4], aorist active participle, ‘to take hold of’ ‘to grasp’;

§         λέντιον - “towel” [13:4], ‘a linen cloth’;

§         διέζωσεν - “girded” [13:4], ‘to wrap around’; ‘to tie around’;

2.        The Action

The action: “after that he pours water into a basin…” [13:5].

§         νιπτῆρα - “basin” [13:5], ‘wash-basin’;

§         νίπτειν - “wash” [13:5], present infinitive active, ‘to wash by bathing’; ‘refers to the partial washing of individuals’;  

§         πόδας - “feet” [13:5],

§         ἐκμάσσειν - “wipe” [13:5], present infinitive active, ‘to knead out’; ‘to wipe dry’;

a.        The Practice

The reluctance of Jesus’ disciples to volunteer for the task of “foot-washing” is culturally understandable.

§         Doubtless the disciples would have been happy to wash the feet of Jesus.

§         But peers did not wash one another’s feet, except very rarely and as a mark of great love.

§         The task of “foot-washing” would normally be reserved for the lowliest of menial servants.

§         The task was usually reserved for Gentile slaves and for wives and children.


3.        The True Servant

By his actions Jesus is adopting the dress of a menial slave, dress that was looked down upon in both Jewish and Gentile circles.

§         Jesus prepares to demonstrate his claim: “I am among you as one that serves” [Luk.22:7].

a.        The Servanthood

Jesus is the true servant of the Father:

§         Jesus is one who is by his very nature God: “Being in the form of God…” [Php.2:6].

§         Yet he takes on the posture and place of slave: “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant…” [Php.2:7].

b.        The Path of Service

The path “unto the Father” [13:1] was the path of obedience and suffering.

§         Paul: “became obedient unto death…” [Php.2:8].

                                                                                                         i.           The Passion  

John’s teaching with regard to Jesus’ death has the concept of “taking off” at its centre: “the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep…” [10:11].

§         ti,qhsin - “gives” [10:11], present active, ‘to put or place’; ‘to take off’;

§         ti,qhmi - “lay down” [10:18], present active, ‘to put or place’; ‘to take off’;

§         The essence of Jesus’ servanthood: “No man takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again…” [10:18].


Jesus takes up this position because He: “knew that his hour was come” [13:1].

§         The “laying aside” [13:4] of his garments links the passage to the sacrificial death of Jesus.

  1. A MODEL OF initial CLEANSING [13:6-8].

1.        Peter’s Response  

a.        The Objection

Peter’s objection: “Lord, dost thou wash my feet?” [13:6].

§         νίπτεις - “wash” [13:6], indicative present active, ‘to wash by bathing’; ‘refers to the partial washing of individuals’;

§         μου τοὺς πόδας  - “my feet” [13:6],

§         Note Peter’s objection at Caesarea: “Peter took him, and began to rebuke him” [Mat.16:22-23].

b.        The Misunderstanding

                                                                                                         i.          Present

Jesus’ answer: “What I do thou knowest not now…” [13:7].

§         ποιῶ - “do” [13:7], present active, ‘to work, make, perform’;

§         οὐκ οἶδας - “know not” [13:7], perfect active, strictly ‘to have seen’; ‘to have seen and perceived and hence know’;

§         ἄρτι - “now” [13:7], ‘at the present moment’;

                                                                                                       ii.          Future

This misunderstanding will be cleared in the future: “you shall know hereafter…” [13:7].

§         γνώσῃ - “know” [13:7], future middle, ‘to come to know’; ‘to recognise’; ‘to learn’;

§         μετὰ ταῦτα - “hereafter” [13:7], the basic meaning of ‘in the midst’; ‘after this’;

§         The “hereafter” [13:7] is an allusion to the ‘post-resurrection insight’ that would come to all the disciples.


After Jesus’ death and exaltation, and certainly after the descent of the Spirit who comes in consequence of that tragic and glorious event, they will understand.

2.        The Model of Initial Cleansing > Forgiveness of Sin

a.        Repeated Objection

Peter demonstrates his incomprehension and the fact that he is still thinking at no higher level than what is socially fitting: “you shall never wash my feet…” [13:8].

§         οὐ μὴ - “never” [13:8], a double negative, ‘the strongest possible negation in the Greek’; ‘no way are you going to wash my feet’: “Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee” [Mat.16:22].

§         νίψω - “wash” [13:8], aorist active, ‘to wash by bathing’; ‘refers to the partial washing of individuals’;

§         εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα - “ever” [13:8], intensifies the negation  even more: ‘there is no way you are going to wash my feet, no, not (for) ever’.

b.        Jesus’ Teaching

                                                                                                         i.          The Necessity

Jesus’ response: “If I wash thee not…” [13:8].

§         ἐὰν μὴ - “if not” [13:8], conditional subordination conjunction plus the negative;

§         νίψω - “wash” [13:8], aorist active, ‘to wash by bathing’; ‘refers to the partial washing of individuals’;

§         σε - “thee” [13:8], second person singular pronoun;

§         Not with reference to “your feet” as one might expect but “you”.

                                                                                                       ii.          The Inheritance 

The inheritance: “thou hast no part with me” [13:8].

§         οὐκ ἔχεις – “hast” [13:8], present active, ‘to have, hold, possess’; plus the negative particle,

§         μετʼ ἐμοῦ - “with me” [13:8], basic meaning of ‘in the midst’; ‘in company with’;

§         μέρος - “part” [13:8], ‘a share of the whole, portion’; each tribe in the Old Testament had its share in the Promised Land: “unto these the land shall be divided for an inheritance…” [Num.26:53].

§         The word is regularly used of inheritance: “Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me…” [Luk.15:12]; eschatological blessings: “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection…” [Rev.20:6]; belonging to Jesus Christ or the people of God: “God shall take away his part out of the book of life…” [Rev.22:19];


The words of Jesus in…. require the cross, the resurrection, and the increasing illumination of the Holy Spirit to bring out their full significance.

§         Unless the Lamb of God has taken away a person’s sin, has washed that person, he or she can have no part in him.

§         In vv.6-8 the foot-washing symbolises the cleansing that is the result of Christ’s impending cross-work?

§         “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water” [Heb.10:22].

  1. a model of ongoing cleansing [13:9-11]

Peter’s unrestrained exuberance [13:9] opens up the opportunity to turn the foot-washing into another point: the initial and fundamental cleansing that Christ provides is a ‘once-for-all’ act.

1.        Peter’s Response

Peter’s third response to Jesus’ action: “Lord, not my feet only…” [13:9].

§         μόνον – “only” [13:9], ‘without accompaniment’;

a.        Whole Body Washing

Peter now requests a whole-body washing: “but also my hands and my head” [13:9].

§         avlla. kai. - “but also” [13:9], ‘an adversative indicating contrast’;

§         τὰς χεῖρας - “hands” [13:9],

§         τὴν κεφαλήν - “head” [13:9],

2.        The Model of Cleansing 2 

Jesus makes a distinction between whole-body washing and foot-washing. 

a.        The Forgiveness of Sin

The whole-body washing: “He that is washed needs not save to…” [13:10].

§         λελουμένος - “washed” [13:10], ‘to wash by bathing’; ‘applies to the full washing or bathing’;

                                                                                                         i.          Justification

The use of the perfect passive participle points to the ‘once for all’ aspect of justification: “is clean every whit…” [13:10].

§         καθαρὸς - “clean” [13:10], ‘free from dirt’; ‘free from wrong’; ‘free from defilement’;

§         ὅλος - “every whit” [13:10], indicating ‘totality’; ‘entirely’ or ‘through and through’;

§         ἔστιν - “is” [13:10], 2nd person singular present active, ‘to be, exist’; the ongoing ‘state’ of ‘being’ and ‘existence’ is one of peace with God: “being justified by faith we have peace with God…” [Rom.5:1].

                                                                                                       ii.          Faith

Justification by faith: “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you” [15:3].

§         Jesus and the blind man: “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing” [Joh.9:7].

§         The need for faith in Jesus’ act of “laying down his life for the sheep…” [10:11].

b.        The Subsequent Cleansing

There is still an ongoing need for cleansing: “needs not save to wash his feet…” [13:10].

§         οὐκ ἔχει - “ [13:10], present active, ‘to have, hold, possess’;

§         χρείαν - “needs” [13:10], ‘what is needed’; ‘a lack’;

§         τοὺς πόδας - “feet” [13:10], ‘the part of the body used for standing or walking’;

                                                                                                         i.          Life

Sin is still present in the believer’s life: “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves…” [1Joh.1:8].

§         John’s first epistle is addressed to Christians: “that you may know that you have eternal life” [1Joh.5:13].

§         They have received eternal life: “you have an unction from the holy one…” [1Joh.2:20].

§         There is a need for continuing confession of sin: “if we confess our sins…” [1Joh.1:9].

§         There is the ongoing forgiveness: “he is faithful and just to forgive…” [1Joh.1:9].

§         The forgiveness is based on the fact that he laid down his life: “he is the propitiation for our sins…” [1Joh.2:1-2].

c.        The Hypocrite

Jesus knows that they are not all true disciples: “you are clean, but not all” [13:10].

§         καθαροί - “clean” [13:10],

§         ἐστε - “are” [13:10], 2nd person plural, ‘to be, exist’;

§         οὐχὶ πάντες - “not all” [13:10],

§         Jesus: “knew who should betray him…” [13:11].


Those who have already been “washed” need only to wash “their feet” after a journey.

§         Individuals who have been cleansed by Christ’s atoning work will doubtless need to have subsequent sins washed away, but the fundamental cleansing can never be repeated > a symbol of progressive Christian experience.

Related Media
Related Sermons