The Review and Herald


July 5, 1898

The Lord's Supper and the Ordinance of Feet-Washing—No. 6


Christ was performing an act of service for his disciples. He took a towel, and girded himself. He had many things to say to them, but how would they bear it? He saw that commotions of a forbidding order were taking hold upon them. Contention had come in among them. For one of their number to wash the feet of the rest was, they thought, an act to be looked down upon,—an act that servants were supposed to do always,—and there was no one that made a move, yet, the while, all were trying to appear unconscious. O, how wretchedly miserable they felt! They seemed to think only of themselves. What terrible selfishness, and choosing to have their own way! RH July 5, 1898, par. 1

The Saviour let the matter linger a little while, to see if their hearts would change. And then he, the one they loved, rose, and laid aside his garments, and, taking a towel, girded himself, pouring water into the basin. It was then that the disciples were astonished and ashamed. Christ could not have put upon them a greater rebuke. In his heart he pitied his disciples. He knew that after his death, all this scene would scourge them, and be sufficient punishment. His soul was already pressed under a severe load, that none of them could enter into. But his love did not change at all. He knew that the hour was just before him when he should depart out of this world, and go unto the Father; yet, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. His love was enduring, it was divine. Their childish jealousies and passions were hurting their own souls. RH July 5, 1898, par. 2

Christ gave no word of rebuke to Judas,—the poor, sinful man who had allowed himself to become the channel of darkness. O that he would be ashamed, convicted, and be willing to cast out Satan! But Judas turned the wrong way. The greater the goodness, the humility, and the love of Christ expressed toward him, the more powerful were the enemy's presentations that this was not the Son of God, but a pretender. Judas knew better; but he braced his soul against light. He had given up all hope of temporal preferment, and now sought to obliterate from his mind everything that he had heard. He had often been deeply impressed under the Holy Spirit's working; but he fought away from Jesus, and became a traitor, a betrayer. RH July 5, 1898, par. 3

The disciples knew nothing of the purposes of Judas. Jesus alone could read his secret. Yet the Master did not expose him. When Jesus’ precious hands were bathing those soiled feet, and wiping them with the towel, the heart of Judas thrilled through and through with an impulse there and then to confess. He was the first one whose feet were washed. The way Christ treated his disciples, and especially poor, deluded Judas, was a sample of his treatment of them all through his association with them. Judas was not, in appearance or deportment, the low, villainous man that might be supposed. He was considered by his associate disciples to be a man of great capabilities. He had considerable breadth of knowledge, and his qualifications would have been valuable if they had been sanctified to the service of God. But while the disciples were ashamed, mortified, and conscience-stricken, their hearts subdued and broken, they felt their hearts go out to Jesus with that deep, earnest faith that works by love and purifies the soul. Judas was rejecting Jesus. RH July 5, 1898, par. 4

When Peter's turn came, he utterly refused to allow Christ to touch his feet. He would gladly have taken the place of the Master, and become even a slave for his sake. He exclaimed, “Thou shalt never wash my feet.” But Christ told him, as he had told John when he refused to baptize Jesus, “Suffer it to be so now.” That which he did not understand then, he would better comprehend at another time. He assured Peter, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.” Except in the case of one, this washing signified the cleansing from sin. He said, “Ye are clean, but not all.” Judas would not be cleansed by repentance, remorse, and confession. His last chance was being offered him. In his heart, Jesus felt the keenness of hunger for that soul. His soul had a burden similar to that he bore when he wept over the doomed city on the crest of Olivet. In his agony of tears his heart said, “How shall I give thee up?” “If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.” Judas’ last chance was gone. RH July 5, 1898, par. 5

When Christ told Peter that unless he submitted to this service, he could have no part with him, Peter surrendered his pride and self-will. This can never, never be. He was all broken up at the thought, and exclaimed, “Not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.” Jesus had a lesson, deep, full, and significant: “He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all.” The true version reads, “He that is bathed needeth not save to wash his feet.” That lesson comprehended more than bodily cleansing. The feet of Judas were washed, but his heart was defiled with sin. In the very act of girding himself with a towel to wash the feet of his disciples, Jesus would subdue and cleanse them from their alienation, and dissension, and jealousy, and pride. Not one of them was in an acceptable state before God, with such a spirit of unhappy dissension. The renewed heart, cleansed from every defilement, was of far more consequence than the outward application of water to their dusty feet. Jesus could not give them the lessons he so much desired to impart unless they would come into a proper state of humility and affection. Dissension always creates hatred, but Christ washed it away in the act of washing his disciples’ feet. A change of feeling did come; the union of heart and love for one another did exist. They became meek, teachable, and loving, and would have conceded to any one the highest place. They were prepared to partake of the last supper with fragrant feelings of love, deep and full, for their Master and for one another. RH July 5, 1898, par. 6

Shall we learn the lesson of the marvelous wisdom and love of God? Shall we, at the ordinance of feet-washing, be softened and subdued, as were the first disciples? Peter shrank from bringing his soiled feet in touch with the hands of his Lord and Master; yet how often we bring our sinful, polluted souls in contact with the heart of Christ, who hates nothing but sin. O, how we grieve the pure, holy Spirit of Christ with our defiling sins! We are not prepared for the appreciation of the holy communion with Christ and with one another unless we are cleansed by his efficacy. RH July 5, 1898, par. 7

We need closely to investigate our life and character, and have true contrition of soul, having fellowship with Christ and fellowship with our brethren. Then we shall show that we can appreciate the work of the Holy Spirit upon our hearts. The barriers of pride, of self-sufficiency, are first to be broken down; then the love of Jesus will abound in our hearts. Then we can partake of the communion with a consciousness of sins forgiven; for whosoever sits down at the communion service should sit down humble and clean in heart, and purified from all defilement. Then the sunshine of Christ's righteousness will fill the chambers of our minds and the soul temple. We shall “behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” RH July 5, 1898, par. 8

This humble service is to recover man from the difficulties of sin. We are to bear in mind that in washing one another's feet, we are in Christ's place. And while we do this service, Christ is our witness; angels are watching, and the atmosphere of heaven is surrounding us. When we do just what Christ has charged us to do, we are bringing ourselves in close relation to our Lord, who is present on that occasion. There is One in our midst who has said, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” He is present to impress hearts. The life of him who is the Light from above and the Way below, will guide into all truth every soul who will come to him. His whole life was an unfolding of his love,—a revelation of the character of God. His Father is our Father. RH July 5, 1898, par. 9

We can better take part in this instituted ordinance when we call to mind his words: “Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me. Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.” RH July 5, 1898, par. 10