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I understand that it was ancient tradition for the householder or host to provide the service of foot washing for his guests. As Michael already stated, the task was performed by the lowest servant or slave. I believe the Lord was teaching by demonstration two important principles. First was humility. The very God of creation humbled himself to perform the menial task of washing the feet of those he loved and would eventually die for. After Christ announced to his desciples that one would betray him they became contentious, debating as to who should be considered the greatest. The Lord responded: "And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve." (Luke 22:25-26). In the dialogue of John 13 Christ was preparing to wash Peter's feet, to which Peter first refused. After the Lord told Peter he would have no part with him if he didn't wash his feet: "Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head." (V.9). Christ replied: "Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all." (John 13:10) The word "washed" is the Greek "louo" which means to bathe, take a bath. The word "wash" is "nipto" meaning to wash off. Although the desciples did not understand the profound significance of Christ's words and demonstration at that time, they would later on (as already referenced). I believe the Lord was making the distinction between the total and complete cleansing "bath" required to truly become born again and the daily "washing off" we need to remain in fellowship with him. True believers have already been washed in the blood of the lamb but need to have the accumulation of dirt and filth removed, a daily washing of water by the Word. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1John 1:9) The last part of the Lord's statement in John 13:10 is particularly profound. "and ye are clean, but not all." Although having been with the Lord along side the desciples throughout his ministry and had his feet washed, Judas was not clean. God had not performed the internal cleansing, the bathing required. This should speak volumes to us, calling in to question the nature of our relationship with the Lord. Have we ever been genuinely bathed by the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit and born again? Or do we simply adhere (best we can) to a set of religious or self imposed moral rules and regs, hoping to make the grade? We may look good on the outside but as the Lord instructed Samuel as he considered Jesse's sons as the next king of Israel: "But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart." (1Samuel 16:7)
The Bible doesn't have anything at all to say about foot-washing. What YeHoshua was doing with His disciples was that he was cleansing the final part of them, for their future journeys. In essence, He was preparing them for the paths that they would be walking. That is why he said what He did then, they'd not understand at that moment, but would in the future. Their training was done. The final thing that needed to be done was for them to be completely set apart. If what was being accomplished was a simple foot washing, they would have been told, plainly enough. YeHoshua's entire ministry was to make the disciples clean, by setting them apart. As we go about our lives, we should do the same thing with fellow believers. As we get our daily bread, so we should share it. It helps to straighten the path that one walks, as well as set him or her apart for the path that they will be walking in life. Do a study on the words "panim/panah" and "aḥor." You'll begin to see what I am talking about.
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