John 13:14
If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet.
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(14) Ye ought also to wash one another’s feet.—The argument is à fortiori. If He had so humbled Himself as to do the work of a servant for them, much more ought they to humble themselves for each other. To make his words as striking as possible, they are prefaced by the emphatic I, and “Master and Lord” is repeated from the previous verse, but in the inverse order, to give special prominence to the word of greater dignity.

13:1-17 Our Lord Jesus has a people in the world that are his own; he has purchased them, and paid dear for them, and he has set them apart for himself; they devote themselves to him as a peculiar people. Those whom Christ loves, he loves to the end. Nothing can separate a true believer from the love of Christ. We know not when our hour will come, therefore what we have to do in constant preparation for it, ought never to be undone. What way of access the devil has to men's hearts we cannot tell. But some sins are so exceedingly sinful, and there is so little temptation to them from the world and the flesh, that it is plain they are directly from Satan. Jesus washed his disciples' feet, that he might teach us to think nothing below us, wherein we may promote God's glory, and the good of our brethren. We must address ourselves to duty, and must lay aside every thing that would hinder us in what we have to do. Christ washed his disciples' feet, that he might signify to them the value of spiritual washing, and the cleansing of the soul from the pollutions of sin. Our Lord Jesus does many things of which even his own disciples do not for the present know the meaning, but they shall know afterward. We see in the end what was the kindness from events which seemed most cross. And it is not humility, but unbelief, to put away the offers of the gospel, as if too rich to be made to us, or too good news to be true. All those, and those only, who are spiritually washed by Christ, have a part in Christ. All whom Christ owns and saves, he justifies and sanctifies. Peter more than submits; he begs to be washed by Christ. How earnest he is for the purifying grace of the Lord Jesus, and the full effect of it, even upon his hands and head! Those who truly desire to be sanctified, desire to be sanctified throughout, to have the whole man, with all its parts and powers, made pure. The true believer is thus washed when he receives Christ for his salvation. See then what ought to be the daily care of those who through grace are in a justified state, and that is, to wash their feet; to cleanse themselves from daily guilt, and to watch against everything defiling. This should make us the more cautious. From yesterday's pardon, we should be strengthened against this day's temptation. And when hypocrites are discovered, it should be no surprise or cause of stumbling to us. Observe the lesson Christ here taught. Duties are mutual; we must both accept help from our brethren, and afford help to our brethren. When we see our Master serving, we cannot but see how ill it becomes us to domineer. And the same love which led Christ to ransom and reconcile his disciples when enemies, still influences him.Ye also ought to wash ... - Some have understood this literally as instituting a religious rite which we ought to observe; but this was evidently not the design; because:

1. There is no evidence that Jesus intended it as a religious observance, like the Lord's Supper or the ordinance of baptism.

2. It was not observed by the apostles or the primitive Christians as a religious rite.

3. It was a rite of hospitality among the Jews, a common, well-known thing, and performed by servants.

4. It is the manifest design of Jesus here to inculcate a lesson of humility; to teach them by his example that they ought to condescend to the most humble offices for the benefit of others. They ought not to be proud, and vain, and unwilling to occupy a low place, but to regard themselves as the servants of each other, and as willing to befriend each other in every way. And especially as they were to be founders of the church, and to be greatly honored, he took this occasion of warning them against the dangers of ambition, and of teaching them, by an example that they could not forget, the duty of humility.

14. If I then—the Lord.

have washed your feet—the servants'.

ye—but fellow servants.

ought to wash one another's feet—not in the narrow sense of a literal washing, profanely caricatured by popes and emperors, but by the very humblest real services one to another.

I have by this my action taught you to love, and to be ready also to serve, one another, and not to think much to serve them even in the lowest and meanest offices by which you can do them good; for we must not think that these words lay a literal obligation upon Christians to wash the feet of others; washing the feet is mentioned but as species pro genere, a single act of service, put for all other acts by which we can be serviceable unto others: so it is also used, 1 Samuel 25:41 1 Timothy 5:10. Some of the ancients seem to have judged this washing of feet to have been instituted as a sacrament, (though in an improper sense), and from hence, though Bellarmine, Maldonate, and others deny it to be a sacrament as well as we, yet probably is the practice in use amongst the papists, to wash certain persons’ feet every Thursday before Easter; a theatrical ceremony, rather than any thing of solid and profitable use. Our Saviour certainly intends no more by

ye ought to wash one another’s feet, than, ye ought to serve one another in all offices of love, and not to think yourselves too good, or too great, to do the meanest services to those who are my disciples: and this is that as to which he tells them he had set them an example that they should do as he had done, in other acts of the same kind, though not as to this specific act.

If I then your Lord and Master,.... Christ argues from these titles and characters, which his disciples rightly gave him, and from what he had done to them, though he stood in such a superior relation to them, to their duty one towards another; that since, says he, I

have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another's feet: by which he does not mean barely, that they should perform this single action; but as this was an instance of humility and condescension, and doing a good office to strangers and travellers, and was afterwards an expression of love to the saints, see 1 Timothy 5:10, so he would teach them hereby, to behave in a spirit of humility and condescension to one another, to do every kind and good office, and by love to serve one another in all things.

If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet.
John 13:14-15. It is not the act itself, but its moral essence, which, after His example, He enjoins upon them to exercise. This moral essence, however, consists not in lowly and ministering love generally, in which Jesus, by washing the feet of His disciples, desired to give them an example, but, as John 13:10 proves, in the ministering love which, in all self-denial and humility, is active for the moral purification and cleansing of others. As Jesus had just set forth this ministering love by His own example, when He, although their Lord and Master, performed on the persons of His disciples the servile duty of washing their feet,—as an emblem, however, of the efficacy of His love to purify them spiritually,—so ought they to wash one another’s feet; i.e. with the same self-denying love to be reciprocally serviceable to one another with a view to moral purification. The interpretation of the prescription ὀφείλετε, κ.τ.λ., in the proper sense was not that of the apostolical age, but first arose at a later time, and was followed (first in the fourth century, comp. Ambrose, de sacram. John 3:1; Augustine, ad Januar. cp. 119) by the introduction of the washing of the feet of the baptized on Maundy Thursday, and other symbolical feet-washings (later also amongst the Mennonites and in the community of Brothers). 1 Timothy 5:10 contains the non-ritualistic reference to hospitality. The feet-washing by the Pope on Maundy Thursday is a result of the pretension to represent Christ, and as such, also, was strongly condemned by the Reformers. Justly, however, the church has not adopted the feet-washing into the number of the sacraments; for it is not the practice itself, but only the spiritual action, which it thoughtfully represents, that Jesus enjoined upon the disciples. And it is solely to this moral meaning that the promise in John 13:17 is attached; and hence the essential marks of the specific sacramental idea, corresponding to the essence of baptism and of the Supper—sacramental institution, promise, and collative force—are wanting to it. This in answer to Böhmer, in the Stud. u. Krit. 1850, p. 829 ff., who designates it an offence against Holy Scripture, that the Protestant church has not recognised the feet-washing as a sacrament, which, outside the Greek church,[128] it was explained to be by Bernard of Clairvaux (“Sacramentum remissionis peccatorum quotidianorwn”), without any permanent result. Baeumlein also expresses himself in favour of the maintenance of the practice as a legacy of Christ. But its essence is preserved, where the love, from which the practice flowed, abides. Nonnus aptly designates the καθὼς ἐγὼ, κ.τ.λ. as ἸΣΟΦΥῈς ΜΊΜΗΜΑ. The practice itself, moreover, cannot in truth be carried out either everywhere, or at all times, or by all, or on all.

ἘΓῺΚΑῚ ὙΜΕῖς] Argumentum a majori ad minus. The majus implied in ἐγώ is further, by means of the subjoined Ὁ ΚΎΡΙΟς Κ. Ὁ ΔΙΔΙΆΣΚ., brought home with special force to the mind, and therefore, also, the principal moment, Ὁ ΚΎΡΙΟς (comp. John 13:16), is here moved forward.

ὑπόδειγμα] Later expression, instead of the old ΠΑΡΆΔΕΙΓΜΑ. Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 12.

ἵνα, κ.τ.λ.] Design in setting the example: that, as I have done to you (“in genere actus,” Grotius), you also may do, namely, in ministering to one another in self-denying love for the removal of all sinful contamination, as I, for my part, have just figuratively fulfilled in your case, in the symbol of the feet-washing, this very ministering love directed to your moral purification.

[128] In which it has been preserved as a custom in monasteries.

John 13:14. Hence the a fortiori argument: εἰ οὖν ἐγὼ ἔνιψαπόδας, “if I then, Lord and Teacher, washed your feet, ye also ought (ὀφείλετε denoting moral obligation) to wash one another’s feet”. “It is not the act itself, but its moral essence, which after His example He enjoins upon them to exercise.” Meyer. This has sometimes been considered a command enjoining the literal washing of the feet of poor saints: and was practised in England until 1731 by the Lord High Almoner, and is still practised by the Pope on Maundy Thursday (Dies Mandati), the day before Good Friday. See also Church’s Anselm, p. 49. The ancient practice is discussed in Augustine’s Letters, 55, to Januarius, c. 33. It at once took its place as symbolic of all kindly care of fellow-Christians, see 1 Timothy 5:10.

14. your Lord and Master, have washed] Rather, the Lord and the Master, washed. For the construction comp. John 15:20 and John 18:23.

ye also ought to wash one another’s feet] The custom of ‘the feet washing’ on Maundy Thursday in literal fulfilment of this typical commandment is not older than the fourth century. The Lord High Almoner washed the feet of the recipients of the royal ‘maundy’ as late as 1731. James 2 was the last English sovereign who went through the ceremony. In 1 Timothy 5:10 ‘washing the saints’ feet’ is perhaps given rather as a type of devoted charity than as a definite act to be required.

John 13:14. Καὶ ὑμεῖς, ye also) The washing of their feet, which the Lord performed for His disciples, had as its object both the benefit of conferring on them complete purity, and the inculcation of the lesson of humble love, which they needed to be taught: John 13:34, with which comp. John 13:1, “A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” “Having loved His own—He loved them to the end.” Thence it follows, that the disciples’ mutual washing of one another’s feet has this as its object, that one should assist the other in every possible way towards attaining purity of soul; and that one should wash the feet of the other, either literally, 1 Timothy 5:10, “well reported for good works;—if she have washed the saints’ feet,” and that in good earnest, if, namely, it should happen to be needed: for it is an affirmative [positive] precept, obligatory always [where needed], but not under all circumstances [i.e. not, where it is not needed], such as is also the character of that precept, 1 John 3:16, “We ought to lay down our lives for the brethren;” or the precept is to be obeyed ‘synecdochically’ [i.e. the one particular of washing feet being put for the whole circle of offices of self-denying love], by means of all kinds of offices which one can render to another, even servile and mean offices, if only the occasion require them. Therefore the Lord, by the very act of washing their feet, purified the disciples; wherefore also He lovingly compelled Peter to submit to it: but it was not on this account [with a view to purification thereby] that He enjoined on the disciples mutual washing of one another’s feet; nor is there such great necessity of imitating up to the very letter the Lord’s act of feet washing, as some have decided there is: inasmuch as, for instance, John on no occasion washed the feet of Thomas: and yet there is a greater similarity between the cases of feet-washing by the Lord, and that by brethren mutually, than most persons recognise. In our day, popes and princes imitate the feet-washing to the letter; but a greater subject for admiration would be, for instance, a pope, in unaffected humility, washing the feet of one king [his own equal in rank, and so the exact analogue to the disciples’ mutual washing as brethren] than the feet of twelve paupers. Now that I have made these observations, let me recommend to the reader’s study the dissert. of Ittigius, “de Pedilavio.”—ὀφείλετε, ye ought) because of My example: with which comp. γάρ, for, John 13:15.

Verses 14, 15. - If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, have washed your feet; ye ought also to wash one another's feet: for I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Καθώς, "as," "like as," was used by our Lord rather than , "that which." The ὑπόδειγμα shows that he had set before his disciples a parallel, an example, a symbolic type of the service they were to render to one another, and was not establishing a custom or exact ordinance. The washing of the feet was an Oriental custom of great antiquity as a mark of hospitality (Genesis 18:4; Genesis 19:2; Abigail, 1 Samuel 25:41; see also Luke 7:38, 44). In 1 Timothy 5:10 there is trace of such a custom of Christian hospitality. Considering the ease with which the Church has established a ceremonial from an isolated text, it is remarkable that no more literal use has been made of this injunction. However, Maundy Thursday, a name derived from Dies mandati, was celebrated as the day on which this great command, or that contained in ver. 34, was given - Mandatum novum do vobis - and the feet of the newly baptized were washed. The endeavor to make Augustine the authority for this religious practice is doubtful; but the Council of Toledo (A.D. 694) mentions this particular day as that on which it was appropriate. In the early Gallican Church there was such a ritual, and the forms of pedilavium observed are to be read in early Gothic and Galliean missals. Bernard of Clairvaux tried to convert the ceremony into a sacrament, but without success. And it would seem that some effort was made to introduce it into Spain. "In 1530, Wolsey washed, wiped, and kissed the feet of fifty-nine poor men at Peterborough. The practice was continued by English sovereigns till the reign of James II." (Westcott). No traces of it are to be found in the Ambrosian ritual, but the preservation of the custom is found now in the Russian imperial palace, in the ceremonies of the holy week at Rome, and in the palaces of Vienna, Madrid,Munich. The practice was for a time retained by the United Brethren and Mennonites, and the Tunkers of Philadelphia (see 'Dictionary of Christian Antiquities,' vol. 1. arts. "Baptism," §§ 34, 67, and "Maundy Thursday;" Herzog., 'Encyc.,' art. "Fusswaschung," by H. Merz; and Schaff's 'Herzog.,' art. "Tunkers"). The Church has for the most part looked below the mere form to the real substance of the Lord's teaching, and only thus can we appreciate it adequately. The very injunction would be an inadequate, burdensome one where the feet are covered, and would become impossible and valueless in the Northern and Western world. The service demanded is the self-forgetting ministry of love, which places the interests of self behind and below those of others. Nothing is more theoretically easy and acceptable than this principle, but nothing more difficult of accomplishment. This sentence of our Lord is a noble illustration of the method in which a great principle is made by him the basis of a small duly (cf. Paul's vindication of his own truthfulness and freedom from ἐλάφρια, 2 Corinthians 1:17-20; he based it on God's own faithfulness to promise). John 13:14Your

Inserted in A.V. Better, the Lord and the Master as Rev. Both have the article.

Ought (ὀφείλετε)

The verb means to owe. It occurs several times in John's Epistles (1 John 2:6; 1 John 3:16; 1 John 4:11; 3 John 1:8). In the Gospel only here and John 19:7. Compare Luke 17:10. In Matthew's version of the Lord's prayer occur the two kindred words ὀφείλνμα, debt, and ὀφειλέτης, debtor. Jesus here puts the obligation to ministry as a debt under which His disciples are laid by His ministry to them. The word ought is the past tense of owe. Δεῖ, ought or must (see John 3:7, John 3:14, John 3:30, etc.) expresses an obligation in the nature of things; ὀφείλειν, a special, personal obligation.

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