Retold: Jesus Washes the Disciples' Feet


The Christian life is one of surrender and service. It starts by acknowledging who Jesus is and your need for Him. And when we do that, we know that we have an eternal hope through Him. We then have the privilege to be ambassadors of Christ, to share our hope with those around us.

Blake HolmesJun 28, 2020John 13:4-11; Isaiah 40:27-28; Matthew 6:31-32; John 13:1-3; John 12:16; John 13:12-17; Titus 3:3-5

Discussing and Applying the Sermon

  • What’s one way you can serve someone else this next week?
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When you are afraid or anxious, what is the first thing you think to do? Look out for yourself? While that’s what the world would tell you, Jesus gives us a completely different way to live. As we continue our series, Retold, Blake Holmes teaches through John 13:1-17 and the reminder that the Christian life is marked by surrender and service.

Key Takeaways

  • John 13:1-7 can be broken up into three parts: What Jesus knew (v1-3), what Jesus did (v4-11), and what Jesus expected (v12-17).
  • When Jesus was on earth as a man, He was never surprised or caught off guard. No one took His life; He laid it down on His own accord.
  • Jesus knew Judas was going to do what he did; He was fully aware the entire time.
  • Jesus is our Hope. While the cross was looming, He willingly walked toward it. He is the perfect sacrifice, and when we put our trust in Him, we experience freedom from bondage. We experience hope.
  • When Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, it was symbolic about His authority to forgive sin.
  • Unless we make a personal decision to trust in Christ, we cannot have any assurance that we will be with Him in heaven.
  • Jesus is our Savior. While we are justified in a moment, we are constantly being sanctified. We are fully washed when we trust in Christ, and then, the Christian life is marked by a daily surrender as we continue to become more like Him.
  • The Christian life is one of surrender. It starts by acknowledging who Jesus is and your need for Him.
  • Our greatest problem today is not financial, racial, or medical, it’s spiritual! If you are a Christian, you are an ambassador for Christ. You—the church, God’s people—are God’s “Plan A” and there is no “Plan B!”
  • In God’s economy, the path to greatness comes from serving others.
  • Jesus is our example. In a time of scarcity, fear, and anxiety, our flesh and the world tells us to look inward, to look out for ourselves. But Jesus has another message: He tells us to look outward, to surrender, and to serve others.
  • Suggested Scripture study: John 13:1-17; John 7:30; John 8:20; John 6:70-71; John 13:18; 1 Corinthians 5:7; Isaiah 40:27-28; Psalm 139:1-2; Matthew 6:31-32; Titus 3:3-5; 1 John 1:9; Colossians 1:15-20; Ephesians 2:1-3; Philippians 2:3-8
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  • Sermon: How to Not Waste Your Life

Hello, Watermark family. My name is Blake Holmes. I want to thank you for joining us online this morning. Although we'd rather meet in person, obviously, I am grateful that we have the ability to connect like this online. Listen. We know these are crazy times. You open up the newspaper, you look on TV right now, and there's a lot we're concerned about, but just know that we want to do all we can to serve you during these days, to pray for you.

If you'd let us know who you are, ways which we could specifically pray for you, we would love to interact with you. You can just go to, and you'll see a section there on our website that says "Connect with us." You'll learn a little bit more about how you can get connected within our church and join a Community Group. Someone on our staff would love to follow up with you this week.

We're going to jump in today to John, chapter 13, and we're going to look at verses 1-17, specifically. This is a passage of Scripture that's probably familiar to many of you. It's when Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. But we're going to see there's much more than maybe first meets the eye just on a first casual glance of reading this passage. It is rich in meaning, and I think it is highly applicable for our day.

We're continuing the series Retold, because Jesus washing the disciples' feet is one of those stories we think needs to be retold again and again because it is so rich and significant. So, turn in your Bibles to John 13:1-17, and we're going to see that the Christian life is marked first by surrender and then by service.

We surrender our lives to Christ, recognizing our need for him, that we are a sinful people who have rebelled against God, yet God demonstrates his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us, and that we don't earn his love by what we do or don't do; we simply surrender, acknowledging our need for him and accepting his gift of grace. When we understand that, we recognize that we can have peace with God.

It's those who have surrendered their lives to Christ who then understand that if Christ has so loved us in this way, we then are to turn and be his hands and his feet in serving other people. That's what this passage teaches. We're going to see in verses 1-17 that it can be broken up into three parts. In verses 1-3, we'll see what Jesus knew; in verses 4-11, what he did; and then in verses 12-17, what Jesus expected…both of his disciples and then of us today. So, let's jump in. What Jesus knew. Verses 1-3. It reads like this:

"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. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him, 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…"

What's so significant about even how verses 1-3 set the context for where we're going today is John wants us to understand that everything that's about to happen to Jesus right here is no surprise to him. He is not caught off guard. He is willingly walking on mission to the cross. He knows why he has come. It is not that anybody is going to take Jesus' life; he is going to lay his life down.

It's significant that verse 1 begins with "Now before the Feast of the Passover…" The Feast of the Passover commemorated the time when the Lord rescued the Israelites out of Egypt. They were enslaved captives in Egypt, and God, through a series of plagues, finally, through the shedding of the lamb's blood… The Israelites would put the blood on the doors, and as the death angel passed over the Israelites who lived by faith, they were able to escape. They were able to live, and they raced out of Egypt.

So, you'll see in the book of John that the whole book is centered around the various feasts of the Old Testament. This is significant. It gives us a theological context of what's going on, but it also tells us the historical context of what's going on in verses 1-3, that the cross is around the corner, that Jesus knows into which he is walking.

It says: "…when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father…" Don't miss this. This is thematic throughout John. For instance, in John 7:30 it says, "So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come." We get the sense throughout the whole book of anticipating something is going to happen to Jesus. Even though his enemies are seeking to arrest him, nothing can happen to him until the hour is set.

Chapter 8, verse 20: "These words [Jesus] spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come." If you had been reading all of John, chapters 1-12, and then you get to chapter 13 and you read verse 1, which we just said… Now this hour, which John has been speaking of, has come. What is this hour? The hour to depart out of this world and go to the Father. Jesus knew the hour had come.

He also knew whom he had chosen. He had chosen his disciples, and he had loved them to the end. Commentators speculate. Does that mean he loved them to the end, like he loved them to the utmost, or he loved them all the way to the very end of his life? Either way, it makes total sense. Jesus knew his disciples, and despite the fact that one of them was going to betray him, he loved each of them. He knew Judas was planning to betray him. He knew he would soon be arrested.

Verse 2: "During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him…" The disciples around him couldn't possibly understand what was going on at this time. Jesus told them three times he was going to suffer and die and then rise again, but there was a misunderstanding, as we'll see a little bit later on in this passage. But make no mistake about it. Jesus was aware of Judas' betrayal.

In John 6:70, he's pretty explicit. He says, "Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil." John 13:18: "I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, 'He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.'" Same chapter, verse 18. And we see in verse 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…"

Jesus was fully aware of his divine authority. "…knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands…" Jesus was fully aware of his divine origin, that he had come from God, and Jesus was fully aware of his destiny, that he was going to God. You read verses 1-3, and you can't miss it. None of what is about to take place is a surprise to Jesus.

Jesus is our hope. We have to see that in light of the theological and historical context. The cross is looming, and he willingly walks toward it. He is the fulfillment of the Passover feast, like I mentioned to you before. That's why the book begins with John 1:29, where John the Baptist states, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" Or Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:7, who says, "For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed." _

Just as I mentioned before, just as the Israelites trusted in the blood of the lamb they put on the door and the death angel passed over and they were spared of death, so too, today, when we trust in Jesus Christ, when we trust in his sacrificial death, that he bore our sins on the cross, that he paid our penalty; when we place our trust in what he has done for us, we too experience forgiveness and freedom from the bondage of sin and slavery. Jesus is our hope.

I know these are crazy times right now, and I just want to stop and encourage you with these words. In John 13:1-3, it is clear none of this has taken Jesus by surprise. Friends, none of what we are experiencing today is taking Jesus by surprise. God remains on his throne, and he is good. He always has your best interests in mind.

He's writing your story providentially at work through all of the circumstances, all of the fears, all of the anxieties you may feel. I want to encourage you with Isaiah 40:27-28, a time when the Israelites may not have felt like God really cared about them or was aware of their circumstance. Notice what it says.

"Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, 'My way is hidden from the _ _ Lord_ , and my right is disregarded by my God'? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The _ _ Lord _ is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable."

I love that passage. I love the way it begins. "Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, 'My way is hidden from the Lord…'" I know many of us feel that way. Like, "Lord, are you seeing what's going on right now?" Rest assured. God is fully aware of what's going on. Psalm 139, a familiar psalm. Verses 1-2 say: "O Lord , you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar."

Matthew 6:31-32: "Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'" Or "What do we do in a time of global pandemic? What do we do when our economy is suffering? What do we do when our society seems to be fractured across party lines and we're not getting along with neighbors? What do we do?" He says, "Don't be anxious." "For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all."

I remember when my kids were growing up and I would take them to the pool. When they're little, obviously, they're a little nervous about swimming in the deep end, but what was always amazing was that if I would get in the deep end with them, if I would jump in the water with them… They would stand on the side, and I would go, "Hey, come jump. Come jump." They would always muster up the courage to jump in. Why? Because I was there. I was with them.

We don't want to blow past verses 1-3 without recognizing what Jesus knew, that none of this took him by surprise, and regardless of whatever circumstances and challenges we're facing, God is with us. We must see who Jesus Christ is in order to understand the significance of this passage and what he's about to do in verses 4-11.

Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man, and he entered into this world of pain and suffering where death occurs. Why did he do that? Because he wanted to provide us a way of escape. Because he wanted to demonstrate his love for us. He wanted to enter into our world of pain and meet us in our fears, in our anxieties, in our doubts, in our questions, because he loves us. That's going to be thoroughly demonstrated in verses 4-11. Let's look at what verses 4-11 say, because it focuses now on what Jesus did.

" [He] _ rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 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. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, 'Lord, do you wash my feet?'" It's like, "Lord, _you? You're going to wash my feet?"

"Jesus answered him, 'What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.' 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.' Simon Peter said to him, 'Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!' _

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.' For he knew…" _ There's another instance of Jesus knowing exactly what's about to happen. _ "…who was to betray him; that was why he said, 'Not all of you are clean.'"

In verses 4-11, we see what Jesus did. This is pretty remarkable. Jesus takes the place of a servant and washes the disciples' feet. Foot washing was customary during this time, but it was reserved for the lowliest of servants. Peter can't understand. He finds it socially unacceptable that Jesus, his teacher, the one he's following after, would stoop so low to wash his feet. He can't possibly understand the significance of what Jesus is doing. We see this often with the disciples, where Jesus' actions raise suspicion.

The disciples are kind of sitting there scratching their heads as they listen to him teach and what he says and what he does. In John, chapter 12, the chapter right before this, when Jesus enters into Jerusalem riding on a donkey, the triumphal entry, when all of the people are saying, "Hosanna! Hosanna! God in the highest!" celebrating the arrival of Jesus, it says in verse 16: "His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him."

The disciples couldn't appreciate what was happening here. Verse 7 again. Jesus says to Peter, "What I am doing you do not understand now…" "Peter, you think this is simply about me washing your feet because your feet are dirty, but the washing you need, Peter, that this represents is something of much greater significance."

The washing of Peter's feet was symbolic of Jesus' ability and authority to forgive sins. That's why Jesus is saying, "You don't understand it now, but you're about to. You're about to understand, Peter. When I go to the cross and then three days later I rise again, all this is going to make sense to you, Peter." Paul says in Titus 3:3-5:

"For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and lovingkindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit…"

Gang, when we trust in Jesus Christ and we believe in his provision in grace, the Bible says that we have peace with God, that there is, therefore, now no condemnation for those who have trusted in Christ Jesus. We're no longer separated from God, but we are forgiven. The Bible speaks of justification by faith, that we are declared righteous upon the moment of belief, yet we retain a sin nature.

So, we are continually cooperating with the Spirit of God that lives within our hearts. We're yielding to the Spirit, we're confessing sin, and we are being sanctified until one day, ultimately, we will be glorified, and we will know God and have fellowship with him without the hindrance of sin. We'll no longer live in a broken world. That's the hope we have because of Christ's death and resurrection.

It's interesting to note in verses 8-10… Let's look at these again. Peter says to him, "You shall never wash my feet." And Jesus says to him, "If I do not wash you, you have no share with me." In other words, "Peter, if you don't accept what I've done for you, then you can't possibly share in the inheritance that awaits you." The same thing is true for us today. Unless we make a personal decision to trust in Christ, we cannot have any assurance that we will be with the Lord in heaven.

Simon Peter says to him, once he understands, "Oh, wait a minute. This is so much more than just about washing my feet. I want that inheritance. I want to be with you…" As much as he could understand at that moment, he says, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!" Then Jesus says this rather peculiar statement: "The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean."

Commentators speculate on what this means, "…except for his feet." I think it means exactly what I just suggested to you earlier, that when we trust in Jesus Christ, we are fully forgiven. We are cleansed. Second Corinthians 5:17 says, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old is gone and the new has come." We've been justified by faith, but we're continually being sanctified as well.

So, we come to the Father, and we ask for forgiveness, just like he taught us in the Lord's Prayer. "Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have sinned against us." Just as we learn about in 1 John 1:9: "If we confess our sins, he's faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Really, if we look a little closer, it's about two washings. It's about the time of regeneration, but it's also about the time when we submit to the Lord as we seek to abide with him. We confess our sins, we come to him, because as we walk through this world, we know our feet become dirty, our hearts grow cold, and we confess our sins to him, acknowledging that we need him.

Then verse 11: "For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, 'Not all of you are clean.'" That's a clear reference to Judas. In verses 1-3 we saw that Jesus is our hope, and here we see in verses 4-11 that Jesus is our Savior. I want you to stop and think. Put yourself in Peter's shoes. Stop and think about what Jesus does here and who Jesus is and who we are. Jesus, like I said, is fully God and fully man. Paul says in Colossians 1, in describing Jesus…

Think about how what I'm about to read to you… This very same person stooped so low as to wash his disciples' feet. Jesus. "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him." Yet he's the one who washes the disciples' feet.

"And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross."

We can't understand the significance of what Jesus is doing here when he stoops and takes on the role of a servant to wash the disciples' feet unless we acknowledge and see who Jesus really is. This passage becomes that much more scandalous in light of who he is and in light of who we are. We're a sinful, rebellious people. In Ephesians 2:1-3, Paul says it like this:

"And _ [we] _ were dead in the trespasses and sins in which _ [we] _ once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind."

Do you capture that? Do you see that? This is so much more than just about washing Peter's feet. It's about what Jesus is about to offer us through the cross. The one who's fully God so as to be without sin and fully man so as to be our substitute on the cross…the God-man…pays the penalty for our sin. He comes to offer us life, to free us from bondage as the Passover Lamb.

The Christian life is one of surrender. It starts by acknowledging who Jesus is and your need for him. When we do that, to know that nothing could separate us from the love of God, to know that we have an eternal hope, to know that no matter what we're experiencing now, our pain, Paul says, is light and momentary compared to the eternal weight of glory that awaits us. He redefines our purpose. He gives our lives meaning. He saves us from the bondage of sin.

Listen. I know many of us are fretting because of the challenges of today, but I want to just tell you, our greatest problems today are not political. They're not racial. They're not medical. They're not financial. Our greatest problem today, church, is a spiritual problem. That is where you and I get to have the greatest privilege in being ambassadors for Christ and telling a world right now that is desperately seeking for answers, "I know where life is found."

Paul calls us ambassadors for Christ. We have the ministry of reconciliation. You are God's plan A for such a time as this, to tell other people where life can be found. Don't run away during this time. Shine a light. Be the hands and feet of Christ. Accept his forgiveness. Accept his free gift if you have not done so, and watch what Jesus does. Verses 12-17 say this. We're going to see what Jesus expected.

"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? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example…'" Jesus is our example. He expects us to do…what?

"…that you also should do just as I have done to you. 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. If you know these things _ [if you understand these things, if you believe in who I say I am]_ , blessed are you if you do them."

Verses 12-17 turn and say people who surrender to Christ now are to be his servants, to be his hands and feet. What's interesting… John doesn't share this detail, but in Luke, chapter 22, talking about the very same time… Do you know what the disciples were arguing over? They were arguing over who amongst them was the greatest.

Jesus is telling them, "I'm about to go suffer on a cross for you, and you're focused on who is the greatest." You have to understand. In God's upside-down economy, the point Jesus is making here is that the path to greatness comes from serving others, not in how many people serve you. Jesus is our example. Philippians 2:3-8:

"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."

In a time of scarcity, in a time of fear and anxiety, our flesh and the world tell us to look inward, to look out for number one, but Jesus and his Spirit and his Word tell us, "No, no, no." That's the time we look outward, because those who know who Jesus is and what he has done for us, who have surrendered our lives to him, then take on a life of a servant. The Christian life is marked by surrender and marked by service.

We've all seen the videos of people fighting over canned goods and toilet paper. Not so with us, church. I've been so encouraged to hear the stories of so many of you who are saying, "Hey, here's how I'll be the hands and feet of Christ." So many of you are faithfully serving. I think of Krista, who shows up every week to distribute food in South Dallas. I think of Edmund, who makes care packages for international students at UTD.

I think of Marty, who is serving meals and leading a Bible study for homeless women; of Brian, who's leading a financial literacy course for those who are under-resourced in our community. I think of Chuck leading re:gen inside the prison system. I think of Becky loving on kids who have aged out of foster care. I think of Kate who is taking vacation at her job to serve at the Watermark health clinic.

I think of Charla who's teaching Bible study to kids every week in the Vickery area. I think of Rick caring for families whose child is born with Down syndrome; Shelley, who has launched a mentoring class for mothers of children who have been removed from their care; Terri, who's caring for women with an unwanted pregnancy; Whitney, who recently secured beds for a family with five kids. And I have more examples.

I'm so encouraged by you, church, because you understand the significance that so much more is going on here than just a one-time Jesus washing the disciples' feet. You understand the Christian life is marked by surrender and service, and he gives us the privilege today to be the church, to be his hands, to be his feet, to wash the feet, if you will, of those around us. I'm calling you to do that.

I think about my friend Chris, whose neighbors are in conflict. Chris, who's a member at Watermark, goes, "You know what? I'm just going to go and see if I can be a friend and help them reconcile." There are dozens of ways in which I know right now you're serving, and I'm just praying that when we pass this, we're going to be able to look back, and we're going to go, "You know what? I saw God at work then. I got to participate in what God was doing."

If you're looking for ideas or you need help, if you don't know where to turn, I would encourage you to go to our website: There are dozens of opportunities for you to click on one of those and figure out the ways in which God has wired you and where the needs are and how those two can meet.

Listen. We want to be a help during this time. We want to be an encouragement to you. As I said earlier, if we can pray for you, if we can answer questions for you, please let us know. Understand that Jesus Christ is our hope, he is our Savior, and he is our example.