February 7th, 1971 @ 7:30 PM
Dr. W.A. Criswell
2-7-71 7:30 p.m.
In the announcement of the message that I would speak from God’s Holy Word at this hour, I called it Washing Feet, and I knew that even in announcing it that most of us would immediately think what could that do or have a place in an ordinance so sacred, washing feet. You would only see it in a harmony of the Gospels, where someone will take all four of the Gospels and follow the life of our Lord as it chronologically occurred. For no one Gospel will record everything that we have in the message, in the Bible, but the Gospels are written for a purpose. Matthew has a purpose. Luke, John, so the Gospel writers took out of the life of our Lord those things that contributed to that holy purpose.
For example, John writes in order that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God [John 20:31]. He took, therefore, seven of the glorious miracles of our Lord in order to present His deity. Therefore, no one Gospel will delineate all that we have here in the Bible of our Lord. But when you harmonize them, when you take each one of the Gospels and follow the life of our Lord, as what each one will contribute, then you see this message of which John writes in the thirteenth chapter of his Gospel; washing the disciples’ feet.
Evidently the contention among them arose as they were to be seated at the table, naturally, the Lord in the center. But who would sit on His right hand and who would be seated on His left hand? And Luke writes that there was a quarrel among them. There was a contention, an altercation, who should be greatest in the kingdom [Luke 22:24-30]. It was then following that harmony of our Lord, it was then that John picks up the story in the thirteenth chapter of his Gospel. At the Last Supper, seated in quarrelsome contention, thinking of themselves and of their ambitions, full of all kinds of vainglory, seated at that Last Supper quarreling, envious, contentious, full of self, who’s going to be greatest?
"I am," said Simon Peter. "Am I not the chief apostle?"
"I am," would say John. "Am I not the beloved?"
"I am," would say Bartholomew or Matthew. They were contending. They were quarreling. It was then that the Lord arose and laid aside His garments [John 13:4]. There is nothing that presents a man in greater humility than nakedness. We may propose to be something dressed up, but naked somehow we’re all pretty much alike, naked. Our Lord was crucified naked. The artists are kind. They always cover Him. But what clothes He had, the Roman soldiers gambled for them at the foot of His cross, and He died naked in shame [Luke 23:34; John 19:23-24].
He laid aside His garments and girded Himself with a towel, put a towel around Him, poured water in the basin and began washing the disciples’ feet [John 13:4-5]. When He came to Simon Peter, impetuous, tempestuous, volatile, Simon said, "Lord, are You going to wash my feet?" That was the menial assignment of a servant in a Jewish home, and there was no servant there that night. So the Lord takes the place of the servant and washes feet. "Lord, You going to wash my feet?" [John 13:6].
Jesus said, "Simon, you do not understand now. Someday you will know."
Simon Peter said, "Lord, You are never going to wash my feet, never. I will not allow You to wash my feet. No."
And the Lord said, "Simon, if I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me" [John 13:7-8].
And the same impetuous disciple replies, "Lord, if it is that to share in the life with You, do not wash my feet only, but my head, my hands and my head. Wash me all over" [John 13:9].
So after He had washed their feet, He put back on His clothes, He took His garments and sat down and said, "Know you what I have done for you? You call Me Lord and Master: I am. If I, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye, ye ought also to wash one another’s feet. I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to 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 you if you do them" [John 13:12-16]; washing feet.
As a boy, and in my beginning ministry, I grew up with Primitive Baptist people. They have an ordinance, washing feet. I was asked this week, "Pastor, why don’t we have that in our church?"
I said, "Because the apostles were appointed of the Holy Spirit to interpret the words of our Lord, and we have no record in the Bible that the apostles ever washed feet. So we know it is not an ordinance in the church. We know that our Lord was speaking of the humility, and preferential deference, and personal love, and unselfish care by which all of us should regard one another."
But I wish I knew something to do in our church that would be the equivalent of washing feet. I have seen those godly old Primitive Baptist people kneel in the front of a brother, look up into his face and say, "Brother Nelson, may I wash your feet?" And the sainted man of God with tears, say, "Yes, my brother." And there with the water mingle their falling tears; washing feet. In God’s kingdom there are no big and no little, no great and no small, no loved and no unloved. We’re all precious alike in the sight of our Lord, and we are brethren and wholly loved, sweet precious deference, preferring one another. This ought to leaven, ought to be the cement that binds together the temple of the Lord.
And it was then after that lesson that He broke bread and shared the cup and instituted this holy ordinance. It begins in a bowing, in a humility, in a love for God and our brethren. "For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night, that night of the Passover, the same night in which He was betrayed took bread: And when He had given thanks, He break it" [1 Corinthians 11:23-24]. Why would the Lord have to have a body? Because a spirit could not make atonement for our sins.
In the [tenth] chapter of the Book of Hebrews, the inspired apostle writes, that the Lord in heaven said, "A body has Thou prepared for Me: I come, therefore, O God, to do Thy will" [Hebrews 10:5, 7]. The Lord was incarnate in a body that He might make atonement for our sins [Hebrews 10:6, 8-14]. He was clothed in human flesh that He might in that sacrifice offer unto God payment for the debt and the judgment upon us. And it is symbolized, His body, it is symbolized in this bread that we break [1 Corinthians 11:23-24; Matthew 26:26].
And our Lord, in this holy moment, bowed before Thee, the best we know how, Lord, we offer to Thee our songs of gratitude, our words of praise and thanksgiving, and our prayers, dear Lord, laid before Thy throne of grace. And our Master, if they are not said right, and if they are not framed right, may the Holy Spirit Himself reframe and resay our words of gratitude for Jesus, that they might be acceptable in Thy sight, O blessed and precious Lord. We do thank Thee for coming down from heaven, for taking upon Thyself a body of flesh and blood and offering Thyself an atonement for our sins. And as we break bread together and share it, Lord, it shall be a sign of our undying eternal thanksgiving to Thee. In Thy precious name, amen.
This is My body, which is broken for you; Take, eat in remembrance of Me.
And after the same manner also He took the cup, when He Himself had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in My blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me.
[1 Corinthians 11:24-25]
More than any other symbol is this cup the center of time and eternity; the blood of our Lord that encrimsoned the ground, poured out in expiation, in washing away the sins of the world. When the Lord in the garden of Eden took an innocent animal, and slew it, and its blood was poured out on the ground, it was a type of this cup [Genesis 3:21]. When righteous Abel brought the first sacrifice, a lamb, a firstling of the flock, poured out its blood, offered it unto God, it was a symbol of this cup [Genesis 4:4]. When the death angel passed over that awesome night of judgment in Egypt and the blood of the lamb was sprinkled on the lintel and on the doorpost, it was a sign and a type of this cup [Exodus 12:13, 23].
The sacrifice in the morning and the sacrifice in the evening, every day, by which the tabernacle and the temple were dedicated unto God, the whole sacrificial system was a type of this cup. And as those in the ancient day look forward to the atonement of our Lord, so since that day all of the saints have looked back to that holy hour. "As oft as ye do it, ye do it in remembrance of Me" [1 Corinthians 11:25]: eating bread, drinking the cup, remembering, thanking God, praising Jesus for the atonement that makes us clean, and white, and pure.
And our Lord, with hearts filled with gratitude, we share this fruit of the vine, crushed, red, crimson, a picture of the pouring out of the life of our Lord for us. O Jesus, how could we ever frame the words to pronounce it, the depths of our gratitude for Thy grace and love. Sweet Jesus, precious Savior, may there be less and less and less of us, and more and more and more of Thee until we could grow to that holy commitment where there would be nothing of us and all of Thee. We give Thee, Master, everything we have, sanctified and hallowed, that dedication, our minds and their thoughts, our hearts and their love, our work and its fruit, our daily lives, our walk, everything, Lord, we give in love and gratitude to Thee, in Thy precious name.
"This cup is the new covenant in My blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me" [1 Corinthians 11:25].
No church has a sweeter habit than we have, except those who do the same thing. After the Lord’s Supper, we join hands and sing, "Blest Be the Tie That Binds."