“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.”” (John 13:10–11 ESV)
Jesus takes the disciples (and us) in an unexpected direction as he begins to wash the feet of his disciples. Peter—headstrong, bombastic, passionate—refuses to allow his Master to humiliate himself by washing the feet of his own followers [Greek: “You will never wash my feet forever!]. Washing dirty feet was a work for slaves, not for masters. When Jesus tells Peter that he must be washed or Peter has “no share with me.” It is startling and unexpected. What can he possibly mean by that statement? Does Jesus really, really not like dirty feet?
Peter, expectedly, goes all in. “Then wash all of me, not just my feet, wash me from head to toe,” he exclaims.
Jesus’ response is in vv. 8-9. He tells the disciples that they need to be completely clean. Then he points out that they are clean, “but not every one of you.” He is speaking of Judas Iscariot—betrayer of Jesus. Judas is not clean, but the other disciples are.
John’s only other use of the word “clean” [καθαρός for Greek studs] in his gospel, helps us understand what Jesus means.
“Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.” (John 15:3 ESV).
The “clean” that Jesus is speaking about in both chapter 13 and 15 is a clean that comes from words. We also have the same term used in the beatitudes:
““Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8 ESV)
The word “pure” is the exact same word translated “clean” in John. The clean in heart are the ones who see God.
So to have a part with Jesus—as he goes to his Father—one must be completely clean, and this is a cleansing that does not come from being physically washed, but from listening to and heeding Jesus’ words. John has already explained to us what he means by this in the account of the great revival among the Samaritans. The whole city flocks out to hear Jesus teach and John writes: And many more believed because of his word (John 4.41, ESV).
The Samaritans heard Jesus’ word and believed and were made completely clean.
Since John recounts the foot washing so that we might believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God (John 20.31), we know that he means for us to ask ourselves? Am I completely clean, or am I like Judas, still dirty? The answer to that particular question, dear reader, is found in the words of Jesus.