Unless I wash you, you have no part with me

Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing pow’r? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb? Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb? Elisha Albright Hoffman

Just as he has done it in several ways throughout his ministry, now he has again done it, an act of servanthood by the washing of the disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17). He has come to serve and not to be served is his mission as stated by Mark; “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give himself as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). The greatest service of all, which he has done is the offer of his life for the sinful, “For Christ also suffered [died] once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18).

He has served the sick by healing them, he has served the hungry by feeding them, he has served the social outcasts by giving them an embrace, not condemning them but forgiving them, charging them to leave their lives of sin. He has served Mary Magdalene by casting several demons out of her, the blind Bartmeous by giving him sight, the ten lepers by having them healed, Mary and Martha by raising Lazarus after four days of being in the tomb etc. Now he has chosen to serve his disciples in a different way, just before the meal, he washes his disciples’ feet. By washing his disciples’ feet, Jesus has done exactly what was a slave’s job, a slave is the master’s servant and washing the master’s feet and any other guests’ is often a reserve for the slave. And he is yet to do another service, his prime calling, the laying down of Himself for the forgiveness of sins.

Embedded in the washing of the disciples’ feet is a very important message of the spiritual cleansing which is to be found in Jesus’ later discourse with Peter. Nevertheless, Matthew Henry identifies three additional reasons for Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet:

That he might testify his love to his disciples, v. 1, v. 2. That he might give an instance of his own voluntary humility and condescension, v. 3-5. That he might signify to them spiritual washing, which is referred to in his discourse with Peter, v. 6-11. That he might set them an example, v. 12-17.

Notwithstanding the three other significant reasons for the washing of the disciples’ feet, I take an interest in the spiritual cleansing. Jesus stooped with his towel and a basin of water ready, he astonished his disciples as he started washing their feet. I am not sure with whom he started, whether with John whom he loved [we are told he was seated next to him v. 24-25), or Judas Iscariot the traitor, but one after another, he washed their feet. The other disciples I believe didn’t just enjoyed their master wash their feet, they were troubled that this could happen but were perhaps shy to object unlike Peter.

Peter, of a sanguine temperament, wouldn’t just let things happen in such an odd way, he knew Jesus as their master, their teacher, Rabbi. In fact, in another account he has confessed Jesus being the Christ, the Son of the Most High God. He was perturbed that a person of such an esteem could do a slave’s job on people of otherwise no status in the community. How could it be that my master washes my feet? He marvelled, Peter decided to object, he said, “you shall never wash my feet” (v. 8).

Jesus knew what he was doing, he knew it was important that Peter gets his feet washed lest he has no part with Him. “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me,” (v. 8b). Peter was naïve of what his master was doing, on realising that it was necessary he gets washed, Peter desired to be washed wholly, not only the feet but even the hands and the head.

Unless we are washed, we have no part with the Lord Jesus, unless we are made clean, we born unclean (Psalm 51:5) and grown up in uncleanliness will never have a part with Christ who is holy. We therefore must be washed by Christ in order for us to have a part with Him in His kingdom.

To have a part with Christ is not merely registering a church membership, it is having been washed by Him. To have a part with Christ is not merely agreeing with Christ’s teachings, but doing it, and one of the greatest act of obedience is to have us washed by Him.

We’ll never have a part with him unless we get to do his will; “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21).

In Christ, we are offered eternal life, through his spiritual cleansing of us. Having a part with Christ stems from a union with him, His cleansing of us comes if we allow His Lordship in us, for him to take charge of our lives as we surrender to Him. In his commentary, Matthew Henry puts it this way;

To have a part in Christ, or with Christ, has all the happiness of a Christian bound up in it, to be partakers of Christ (Hebrews 3:14), to share in those inestimable privileges which result from a union with him and relation to him. It is that good part the having of which is the one thing needful. It is necessary to our having a part in Christ that he wash us. All those whom Christ owns and saves he justifies and sanctifies, and both are included in his washing them. We cannot partake of his glory if we partake not of his merit and righteousness, and of his Spirit and grace.

Matthew continues,

Our calling Christ Master and Lord is an obligation upon us to receive and observe the instruction he gives us. Christ would thus pre-engage their obedience to a command that was displeasing to flesh and blood. If Christ be our Master and Lord, be so by our own consent, and we have often called him so, we are bound in honour and honesty to be observant of him.

We are all invited to Christ’s washing, we are invited to be cleansed by Him. His blood out poured for us, that blood which streamed from his pierced side is for our washing. He offers it freely for us. In the symbolic washing, Peter not knowing what it meant, attempted to object it, not until he was told he will have no part with Christ unless he is washed, that he accepted to be washed. Many have remained in church but objected his cleansing, many have been loyal to the ‘church’ than to Christ and have remained uncleansed. Today I have the privilege to invite you to his cleansing blood, to have yourself washed that you may have a part with Him in His kingdom both now and then.

I invite you by posing these questions by Elisha Albright Hoffman to you; Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing pow’r? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb? Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are taken from the New International Version (NIV).

Rev. Julius Izza Tabi is a pastor in the Anglican Church of Uganda, Ma’di & West Nile Diocese. Julius served as an assistant Chaplain and lecturer at the Arua Campus of the Uganda Christin University. He is currently a candidate of Master of Philosophy in Religion, Society and Global Issues at Det Teologiske Menighetsfakultet alias the Norwegian School of Theology, in Oslo, Norway. For pastoral assistance you can email him or check how you can reach him here



1 Comment

  1. Reblogged this on Belgian Ecclesia Brussel – Leuven and commented:
    Not only do we have to look for Christ and find him, we should also humbly give ourselves in his hands and let us be cleansed by him. In him we should trust that he is the best person given authority by his heavenly Father, the Only One True God. In him we do have the best mediator between God and us. He is the one who knows how man feels and acts.
    Unprejudiced he can look at our heart, knowing our weaknesses and strengths, munificent he whole-souled gave himself to liberate us from all chains and to wash our sins away.
    Let us be thankful for what he has done and still does for us.


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