“What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.”
The full significance of what Jesus was doing while thus washing his disciples’ feet, was hidden from them; the lesson taught in his example, and which is ever to be the rule of our behavior one to another as disciples of the Son of God, was veiled from their understanding. After Jesus “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?” They might have readily replied, “Why, thou hast washed our feet.” Jesus had certainly done this, but in this act there was that done by him which far transcended in signification the mere outward act. The washing of their feet was simply the external form, or that in, and by which, Christ was pleased to illustrate that which he did for an example that we should follow. O the graciousness, the condescension, the willing ministry of the incarnate Son of God, who verily is meek and lowly of heart. O the amazing grace, the surpassing condescension thus seen in Jesus our dear Savior. What was it then that Jesus did while washing the feet of the disciples which caused him to say, “What! I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter?”
While at Capernaum on a certain occasion, the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven!” This subject seems to have been one that caused trouble in the hearts of the disciples. The teaching of the grace of God in the hearts of poor sinners, is that which humbles them in their own sight, and according to the metions of this grace given them, they will be found fulfilling the royal law of King Emmanuel written in their hearts. – James ii. 8; Jer. xxxi. 33. “In honor preferring one another.” –Romans xii. 10. And the longings of their very souls will be to be found giving heed to the words of our Lord by his apostle Paul: “Let nothing be done through strife and vain glory, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves.” But the true disciples of the Son of God find another law in their members warring against the law of their mind, and bringing them into captivity to the law of sin which is in their members. This captivity often casts the dear child of God into the depths of wretchedness, so that in his pangs lie will cry out, “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death!” He finds he cannot extricate himself; creatures, and creature appliances, all fail, but when God shines, though it be but a ray of light in his heart, piercing the terrible gloom of his dismal prison, giving to his soul the light of the knowledge of Jehovah’s glory that shines forth in the face of the Mediator of the new covenant, hope revives, our meurning is turned into joy, and being thus cheered, in a song of triumphant praise we sing in melodious strains, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” He is our Deliverer. The disciples were subjects of this warfare between the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. These are so contrary the one to the other, that the child of God who is the subject of them, must and does experience conflicts and warfare raging within. How precious was the reply of Jesus to the question of his disciples: “Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily, I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” – Matt, xviii. 2-4; Mark ix. 33-35; Luke ix. 46. We should think that such explicit teaching would quiet and set at rest any questionings as to “who is the greatest!” We journey on with Jesus and his disciples, and come to that memorable night in which the Son of God was betrayed, and in that large upper room where he partook of the passover with the twelve disciples, it is recorded, “There was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.” – Luke xxi. 24. What, at it again? Had not the example, and the decision of Jesus, to whom they had before appealed, already settled the point now again in dispute! Had each one been so humbling himself as a little child, and were all so abased, so insignificant in their own sight? If so, why this strife? Had they been so, they would, in the honor of being the greatest, have preferred one another; but at this time there was sad proof that they needed to be converted from that hateful spirit of Lucifer (Isaiah xiv. 12), that spirit of Hot replies, “Which loveth to have the pre-eminence,” (3 John ix.), and to be brought in lowliness before the Lord, and to be mindful “by love to serve one another.” “Loveth to have the preeminence.” Are we tinctured with this spirit, or are we exempt? I confess with shame that I am not exempt. There have been times when to others there may have been no manifestation of such a thing, but in secret I found it was there, known only to my soul, and to my God. And to the praise of God I feel I can say, where my sin abounded, grace did much mere abound; and I have been humbled and covered with shame, and have blushed before my God on account of the discovery of such sinfulness. I have loathed myself in my own sight, and have cried unto the Lord that he would give me the victory, and grant me his abundant grace, that I might still be a follower of Jesus, who says, “Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” “Loveth to have the pre-eminenee.” This vile affection, inherent in our carnal nature, the old man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, seemed to have the sway in all the disciples. Sometimes this spirit in us, that lusteth to envy, appears to slumber, to be so hidden, to have so subsided that we may become that easy upon the subject, that we judge ourselves free from such a shameful disposition, and we may be ready to say within ourselves, There is not a spark of it in me. We think, though, we can see it raging fiercely in some other one. We may really have settled it in our minds, that we are so meek and lowly of heart, that it could not be that we could be envious, or in any way aspiring to have the pre-eminence. Have you been in this path! If you, dear reader, have not, I can tell you I have; and well do I remember the time, and the trouble and confusion of face when the Lord discovered to me that I was guilty of that which I thought I could not be guilty. O, beloved ones of God, I am a sinner, and in ten thousand ways and shapes I am finding it so. O, how very precious is Jesus to my soul. “He shall save his people from their sins.” The flames of this vile spirit that loveth to have the pre-eminence were raging within the breasts of the disciples; there was a strife among them which should be accounted the greatest. Now the flames of this lire are not easily quenched. Indeed nothing can quench them, no matter what any religionist may say, or think to the contrary. Nothing can quench them but the precious blood of Christ. O, poor sin stricken, meurning sinner, the tidings of the gospel are notes of sweetest joy. Our old man is crucified with Jesus Christ, that the body of sin might be destroyed; that henceforth we should not serve sin. Our Jesus is the destruction of sin. He made an end of it, purged it away, made his people free from it, and has so completely annihilated their sin that it cannot be found: there is none. – Jer. 1. 20. Who then shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth, who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Glory be to the name of the Lord. We have seen how Jesus, in teaching his disciples who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven, illustrates his teaching by putting a little child in the midst of them. The child thus in the midst would see them all above him, and to see the faces of the disciples he would have to look up. In the eyes and conception of the child, the full grown men would all have the pre-eminence. The Son of God also at another time had taught them, saying, The Scribes and Pharisees “love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” – Matt. xxii. 6-12. While washing their feet Jesus said, “What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter.” They knew he was washing their feet; but what he did far exceeded, was of far deeper signification than the external act of washing their feet. This they knew he had done, but that which he taught them in this act, and which teaching they were ever to follow, they knew not. “Thou knowest not now.” “Ye call me Lord and Master, and ye say well, for so I am.” They had ever been ready to give Jesus the pre-eminence. They acknowledged him as their Lord and Master; they had no thought of questioning his authority, for they readily submitted themselves unto him as willing servants. – Psalm cx. 3. Christ Jesus is the greatest, the chiefest among ten thousand. He has the pre-eminence. – Col. i. 18. That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and tilings in earth, and things under the earth. This same Jesus, the Word made flesh, being in the form of Clod, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation, but took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. That pre-eminence, for the possession of which there was such unseemly strife at the passover table, was that in which the greatest, the pre-eminent One, would be able to lord it over God’s heritage; but the dear Savior had in his doctrine told them, “Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” This pathway to honor and greatness in Christ’s kingdom, does not accord with our carnal thoughts and ways of becoming great. Jesus, therefore, our Lord and Master, humbled himself for our example, and took upon him the form of a servant. –1 Sam. xxv. 41. “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 is he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” Jesus abased himself; he ministered to these striving disciples; lie washed the feet of these unworthy worms. He was their servant, and served them. “Whosoever will lie greatest among you.” Is that what we are aspiring to? Let him be servant of all. Let him be one to minister to others. Does some one say that would be too humiliating, that is not the pathway to greatness that I have mapped out for myself! I want to be looked up to, to be in high reputation, to have some authority, to have some under me. If this be our mind, we need not deceive ourselves; we can never attain to greatness in the kingdom of God. “Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister.” “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” “Ministering to the saints.” This is indeed happy service; the sweetest pleasure is felt when we are found serving one another in love. When our Savior was washing the feet of those disciples, it was as though he had said, “Let my mind be in you, learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart,” instead of striving for the dominion over one another, the ascendency, the pre-eminence. Whosoever among you will be greatest, let him be your minister. I am your Lord, I am your Master, I am the greatest, I am the pre-eminent One, yet I am among you, not to be ministered unto, but to minister. I am among you as one that serveth. –Luke xxii. 27. “I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” The glorious gospel of Christ makes known to believers in our Lord Jesus Christ the many channels in which they can “serve one another in love.” How precious is the record in Romans xvi, “I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: that ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succorer of many, and of myself also. Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my helpers in Christ Jesus: who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.” The apostle Paul says, “Ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.” – 2 Cor. iv 5. Does thy brother need a cup of cold water? give it to him. Is he in need? shut not up the bowels of thy compassion from him. If ye say unto him, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it, profit? Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Warn them that are unruly, comfort the feeble-minded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. The Scriptures are full of heavenly precepts, that we may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. The feet of the disciples were defiled, Jesus the preeminent One, the Lord and Master riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments, and took a towel and girded himself; after that he poureth water into a basin, and washed and wiped his disciples’ feet. Jesus did not merely go through the form of serving them; he washed their feet, he really served them. Washing another’s feet was the occupation of the lowly of servants. “And when the servants of David were come to Abigal to Carmel, they spake unto her, saying, David sent us unto thee, to take thee to him to wife. And she arose and bowed herself on her face to the earth, and said, Behold, let thine handmaid be a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord.” – 1 Sam. xxv. 40, 41. Jesus said, “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.” “By love serve one another.” – Gal. v. 13. If I can serve my brother by washing his feet, it is my privilege to do it. To merely assume the attitude of a servant will not suffice. To say with my lips, I am your humble servant, is of no account. Our Savior’s instruction is that in humbleness of mind, and in love, we serve and minister to one another. It is that we are truly servants to the saints in all the channels of service required of us one toward another in the blessed gospel of Christ. It is our sacred right to be found serving each other in love. “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” While we are thus servants to each other in the gospel, there will be none of that bitter, fleshly strife among us, as to which of us shall be accounted the greatest.
May the gracious Lord bless us with the mind that was in Christ Jesus. – Phil. ii. 5.
FRED. W. KEENE.
North Berwick, Maine.
Signs Of The Times
Volume 65., No. 10
MAY 15, 1897