Washing Feet and Washing Stripes
June 11th, 1978 @ 7:30 PM
WASHING FEET AND WASHING STRIPES
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-11-78 7:30 p.m.
With spiritual joy and heavenly gladness, we welcome the throngs of you who are listening to this service on KRLD, the great radio station of the Southwest, and on KCBI the stereo station of our Center of Biblical Studies. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas bringing the message entitled Washing Feet and Washing Stripes. It is a service of humility, of cleansing our hearts, that the Lord might make the memorial of His last supper doubly meaningful, doubly precious to us. Will you read with me then John chapter 13, verses 12 through 20?
And if you have opportunity, where you are listening on the radio, to turn in your Bible to the Fourth Gospel—Matthew, Mark, Luke, John—the Fourth Gospel of John chapter 13 and read out with us here in the sanctuary of our church verses 12 through 20; now all of us together, John chapter 13, verses 12 through 20, together:
So after He had washed their feet, and had taken His garments, and was set down again, He said unto them, 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.
This is our Lord’s word after washing their feet [John 13:4-11]. The story in its context follows this kind of a program. You will not see it by reading one of the Gospels but in a harmony when all of it is presented together. This is the kind of a program that took place the night that our Lord was betrayed and delivered into the hands of sinners for crucifixion.
It began when the Lord called Peter and John and sent them out into the city to prepare for the paschal meal, the eating of the Passover [Luke 22:7-8]. And the way the Lord did it was surreptitiously, clandestinely, secretly, furtively because there was a price on His head. Anybody finding Him and turning Him over to the authorities of the temple would receive a reward. And also Judas Iscariot had made arrangement to deliver Him for thirty pieces of silver [Matthew 26:14-16].
So what the Lord did in the city, He had to do secretly. And this is the way that He accomplished it, that He encompassed it. He sent Peter and John into the city to prepare for the disciples in that sacred paschal meal [Luke 22:7-8]. And He told them saying, “When you go into the city at such-and-such place, you will see a man walking by with a pitcher of water; follow him and you will find the place where the paschal meal is prepared” [Luke 22:10].
Now the sign was very evident to those who knew it. For a woman carried a pitcher of water. That was a woman’s assignment. A man did not do it. A woman always bore the pitcher of water. So when the two disciples saw the man walking down the street bearing the pitcher of water, that was the sign. And they followed him into the upper room and there preparation was made for the paschal meal [Luke 22:11-13].
Now what happened again, as the disciples entered the upper room with the Master to eat that Passover meal, they began to quarrel with one another over who would be greatest in the kingdom [Luke 22:24]. Isn’t that typical? And isn’t that a revelation of the weakness of our human nature; always seeking things for ourselves, the furtherance of ourselves, always thinking about ourselves, always providing for ourselves? So they were quarreling about who would be greatest in the messianic kingdom.
I’m almost certain that quarrel was precipitated by the seating arrangement there in the upper room. Who would be on His right hand? And who would be seated on His left hand? And who would be seated next to that one? And who finally would be seated last? Almost certainly that occasion to quarrel as to who would be greatest in the kingdom, that occasioned the Lord’s doing something that to me is almost unbelievable when I read it. In the midst of their quarreling as to who would be greatest, the Lord disrobed and girded Himself with a towel [John 13:4]. There’s no man who has been initiated into one of the great fraternal organizations of the world, [but] in which initiation the man disrobes. There’s no one who has been in the company of men, even in an athletic group—there is something about the nakedness of humanity that puts us all on the same level. I don’t know quite why it is. I’ve tried to think it through. And I’ve never come to any satisfactory conclusion in my own heart. When a man takes off his clothes, he’s just like any other man. All of his dignity, and all of his prestige, and all of his fame, and all of his fortune somehow vanish away. And the Lord did that, a sign of deepest humility. He took the place of an absent servant.
In a Jewish home, according to the custom of that day and time, the guests’ feet were washed when they entered the house. It was a ritual. It was a religious ceremonial, and it was a sign of loving and gracious hospitality. So the Lord took the place of an absent servant and dressed like a menial slave. Girded about with a towel, took the basin of water in which the ceremony would have been performed had there been a slave present, and He began to wash the disciples’ feet [John 13:4-5].
When He came to Simon-Peter, Simon said, “Lord, You wash my feet? Never. Never.” And the Lord said, “Simon, if I do not wash you, you have no share with Me in the kingdom” [John 13:6-8]. And the chief apostle answered, “Then, Lord, wash not only my feet, but wash my hands, and wash my head, and wash me all over”; typical of him. And the Lord replied, “Simon, he that is washed needeth not save but to wash his feet” [John 13:9-10]. That is in the spiritual language that John always looked through and saw its deeper meaning, that is, you that are saved never need to be saved again. Only, as you walk through each day, the sins of each day, your feet become soiled. And at the end of each day, we ask God to forgive us our sins for that day. Our feet need to be washed at the end of every day, confessing our sins of that day and asking God to cleanse us and to wash us [Psalm 51:7]. But we need not to be saved again.
He that is clean needeth not, but to wash his feet, but is clean all and forever: and you are clean, but not all.
For He knew who should betray Him; therefore He said, You are not all saved. Ye are not all cleansed.
You’re not all washed. One of you is the son of perdition and will betray Me tonight; all of them saved, except Judas [John 13:10-11].
Now you look, when the Lord washed the disciples’ feet, Simon, and John, and Nathanael, and Matthew, all of the disciples, when He came to Judas, Judas had already entered into the contract to deliver the Lord for those thirty pieces of silver [Matthew 26:14-16]. When He came to Judas, did He wash his feet just the same? Kneeling before the betrayer, He bathed his feet and washed them and dried them with a towel just the same [John 13:5]. That’s God. However we are, loving us just the same, whatever choice we make, and maybe some here tonight go out these doors, saying no to Jesus; but His love envelops us, overwhelms us just the same. And you know, I have often wondered, when Judas Iscariot saw what he had done, and in bitter remorse hanged himself, suicide [Matthew 27:3-5], I have often wondered, “Did the loving remembrance and kindness of our Savior in washing his feet fill him with that bitterness of remorse that overwhelmed him and led him to take his own life?”
There is something about the loving kindness of these whom we have hurt that affects us beyond anything that we could describe. You know, I’ve watched it all the years of my life, having studied it and had it pointed out to me in psychology, that anybody you hurt, I don’t care who he is, anybody you hurt has a deep influence over you all the rest of your life. Isn’t that a strange thing? And I think that of Judas; having sold Him already [Matthew 26:14-16] and the Lord kneeling there before him washing his feet [John 13:3-5]—no wonder it did something he could never forget [Matthew 27:3-5]. Washing feet, “And if I, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet: ye also ought to wash one another’s feet” [John 13:14]; that spirit of humility and servitude.
And that brought to my mind when a man is converted, when he is saved, when he is a Christian, when he becomes a child of God, he is a new creation [2 Corinthians 5:17]. He is a new somebody else. And I saw that, studying in the Book of Acts, in the life of this Philippian jailer—washing stripes. You see he was brutal beyond the duty and necessity of the law. They took Paul and Silas, and the Book says, “They not only beat them but they laid many, many stripes upon them” [Acts 16:22-23]. These are preachers of the gospel. They’re not terrorists. They’re not vicious men. They’re preachers of the gospel of the Son of God. And yet that jailer and those that were with him laid many stripes upon them.
And then as if that were not brutality enough, he took them and he put them in the inner dungeon as though they were miscreants and malefactors of the most terrible and vilest sort. They’re preachers of the gospel. He put them in the inner dungeon. And then as that were not enough, his brutality led him to put their feet fast in the stocks! [Acts 16:27]. Preachers of the gospel; they’re not insurrectionists and murderers. They’re not revolutionaries, terrorists. They are preachers of the gospel of the Son of God, and beat and placed in an inner dungeon and their feet fast in the stocks [Acts 16:24].
Now the next verse, “And in the middle of the night those two preachers, Paul and Silas [Acts 16:29], began to praise the Lord, sing praises to the Lord and to pray and to thank God” [Acts 16:25]. And the Lord looked down from heaven. And He took that jail and He shook it! And the very doors fell off the hinges; God [Acts 16:26].
And that brutal jailer, responsible for the lives by Roman law of his prisoners, thinking they’d all fled, he took out his short Roman sword and lifted it high to plunge it into his heart [Acts 16:24]. And when Paul saw him raise that sword to take his life, he said, “We are all here. Count us. We are all here. Not one has escaped. Not one has fled. We are all here” [Acts 16:28]. And that jailer, brutal beyond the duty and call of the law, came in before Paul and Silas and fell at their feet and said “What must I do to be saved?” [Acts 16:30]. And they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved” [Acts 16:31]. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and in that same water, he was baptized that same night [Acts 16:33]—washing stripes, doing recompense, trying to make up for what we lack in the service of the Lord.
And it is my observation that any man who ever comes to know Jesus has that kind of a spirit. “Lord, Lord, that I could make up, add to, double because of the weakness and the dereliction I find in my life, doubly, Lord, serving Thee, washing stripes.” Let me illustrate it. When Zaccheus was introduced to the Lord and was saved, the little fellow, a tax collector but very wealthy, he said, “Lord Jesus, one half of everything I have I will give to the needy,” and not only that, but he said, “if I wrong any man I will restore him fourfold” [Luke 19:8]—washing stripes, recompensing trying to make up for dereliction.
And I saw it in the life of one of the fine wonderful men in our church. He was taken out of the world by the love and grace of our Lord when he was a grown man, and I baptized him as a grown man. All of the days of his life he had given to the world, to business, to pleasure, to all of the things of sensuality, carnality. He had lived in the world. But the love and grace of God had reached down to him and saved him. And now he’s here and in the church. And upon a day, I was talking to him, and I made the observation to him, I said, “You seem to be so committed, and so dedicated, and so given in zeal to the work of the Lord. It is wonderful to behold it.”
And you know his reply? He said to me, he said, “Pastor, you see all the years of my life before I gave to the world, and it’s just now that I have found the Savior.” And he said, “Pastor, what I want to do is, I want to redeem the time. I want to make up for the years that I lived out in the world. I want to do double for Jesus”—washing stripes, making recompense, trying to do twice as much for His namesake. And that is my observation of the human heart that comes to know Jesus. “Lord, Lord, help me to do twice as much. Help me, Lord, to make up for the days that I’ve lost. Help me, Lord, to do good for Thee. And all of the weaknesses, and derelictions, and shortcomings that I know in my life and inevitably face, Lord, help to make up for them in serving Thee twice as faithfully, twice as zealously”; washing stripes.
And in our attitude toward one another, and in the spirit that we have toward the saints in the household of faith, always one of kindness, and forgiveness, and prayerful intercession, washing stripes as washing feet, a beautiful heavenly way to live; this is the Christian perspective. This is the glory road. This is our heavenly adventure.
And it is to that that we invite you in the name of our Lord tonight. Would you find peace for your heart? Come to Jesus. Would you find the blessing of God upon your home? Come to Jesus. Would you seek heaven’s remembrance upon your work? Give your life to Jesus. Would you follow in the beautiful and precious path that leads to the sunlight, to the glory of heaven where the angels sing and God lives? Come to Jesus.
How do I come? I come to the Lord in faith and in commitment. “I have sinned, Lord, and I know it. I acknowledge it to Thee. I confess it to Thee. Lord, in the blood of Jesus, in the sacrifice of our Savior, forgive me [Ephesians 1:7]. Please, Lord, remember me. And I am coming to Thee offering Thee the love of my heart, the devotion of my soul, the gift of my life [Matthew 22:37]. I am coming, Lord, to Thee.” Accepting Jesus as Savior [Ephesians 2:8], come. Putting your life with us in this dear church, come. Answering a call of consecration and devotion, come. As the Spirit shall say the word and lead the way, answer with your life. Make it now. Come now. I’ll be standing right here by the side of this table of communion. “Give me your hand, pastor. I’ve given my heart to God, and here I am.” Do it now, while we stand and while we sing.