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Maundy Thursday, Francis Schaeffer, and the Washing of Feet

Thursday, April 2, AD 33, in an upper room of a borrowed house in Jerusalem:

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. . . .

A new commandment [Latin translation of the Greek = mandatum novum] I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. (John 13:1–17, 34)

Francis Schaeffer (1912–1984), a Presbyterian minister and founder of the L’Abri mission fellowship in Switzerland:

If we have the world’s mentality of wanting the foremost place, we are not qualified for Christian leadership. This mentality can . . . fit us for being a big name among men, but it unfits us for real spiritual leadership.

To the extent that we want power we are in the flesh, and the Holy Spirit has no part in us. Christ put a towel around Himself and washed His disciples’ feet.

We should ask ourselves from time to time, “Whose feet am I washing?”

Some churches have made foot-washing into a third sacrament; members wash each other’s feet during their worship service.

While most of us think it is a mistake to make this a sacrament, let us admit that it is 10,000 times better to wash each other’s feet in a literal way than never to wash anybody’s feet in any way.

— Francis Schaeffer, No Little People (1974; reprint, Crossway, 2003), 69

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