“Jesus replied, ‘Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to Me.'” – John 13:8b (NLT)
“Jesus replied, ‘A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet, to be entirely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not all of you.'” – John 13:10
In Jewish culture, it is customary to wash your feet before entering into a person’s house. This is to prevent tracking dust/dirt into the house of the host. It is a means of keeping the house clean and in order. The act of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet is something that each one of them would have not only recognized, but also understood the significance of it. Not only was Jesus making a statement of servitude and humility, but He was also saying to them, “I am welcoming you into My house. You have been bathed all over because you have abided in My words and followed My teachings. So now I am cleansing you of the dirt, of the dust, that you tracked with you from the places you have been. I am making you entirely clean.”
Jesus is wiping the dust from the feet of His disciples and telling them that where they came from, they are not tracking even a speck of dust with them into where they are going. It is an arrow that points to His words in Matthew 10:14, “If any household or town refuses to welcome you or listen to your message, shake its dust from your feet as you leave.” This is an act of saying they are not responsible for the refusal of that household or town. In the same way, Jesus wipes the dust from His disciples’ feet as an act of saying that they are not responsible for the places that they came from any longer. The things that Jesus pulled them out of, because they applied His cleansing teaching to their lives and bathed themselves in Truth, their old path has no place in their lives any longer.
Now some things that are important to note here: 1) Jesus makes it very clear that one of the disciples was not clean. We who know the story know that He is speaking of Judas, His betrayer. And 2) Jesus still washed Judas’ feet.
Judas had not abided in the teachings and Truth that Jesus presented, therefore he was not clean. He was not cleansed. Jesus knew His betrayer, He knew that Judas had not bathed any part of his body. Yet in the humility of a servant, Jesus still washed his feet as an act of love to the one who would ultimately betray Him. He pursued Judas to the very end, even knowing that Judas would still turn Him over, and that Judas did not truly belong to Him.
How can I make such a claim concerning Judas? Well there are multiple factors that point to this. The first one comes straight from the mouth of Jesus when He makes it clear that one of His disciples was not clean. And as has already been mentioned, if you are not cleansed by Jesus then you do not belong to Him. So Judas followed Jesus for all that time, yet he never truly belonged to Him.
The other factor is found in this same chapter. Not only does Jesus predict the betrayal of Judas, but He also predicts to Peter that he would deny Him three times that very night. Two acts of betrayal. Because denial of knowing is a form of betrayal. But here is the difference between Judas and Simon Peter: Peter had allowed the words and the teachings of Jesus to wash over him and cleanse him. He was bathed in the way of Truth and had been transformed from his old way of life. From all the filth and dirt which he came from. Judas on the other hand, as already pointed out, never did such a thing.
Then fast forward a bit. What happens to these two men in the end? Peter, after having denied knowing Jesus three times, was ultimately restored and forgiven by Jesus after His resurrection. He was restored and forgiven because he abided in the household of Truth. Judas, however, hung himself. Because he did not abide in Truth, he could not deal with the burden of having betrayed Jesus. And because he could not handle the guilt, he took his own life. He did not belong to Christ because he did not allow Christ to wash him, to cleanse him, as the word means in the Greek.
So, unless we abide in the household of Truth, unless we live according to the teachings of Jesus and allow His words to cleanse us of our old selves, we do not actually belong to Him. Jesus makes this very clear throughout the entirety of His ministry.
The question is, where do you still need to allow Him to wash over you with His Truth?