Blog Entries

Sermon of the Week: No. 612, “Jesus Washing His Disciples’ Feet”

Phillip Ort November 12, 2018

“O that our hearts were equally fixed on God in our days of trial and grief!”


Charles Haddon Spurgeon was amazed by the steadfast love of Christ. Only Jesus Christ, the God-man, could have “so steadfastly set his face” toward an ignominious crucifixion, and when the moment approached not be “disturbed or disconnected.”


Furthermore, the steadfastness of Christ was not mere naiveté. Indeed, as Spurgeon remarked, “he knows exactly right well that he must bear all the wrath of God on behalf of his people.” Such a sight of Christ in his premeditated self-sacrifice caused Spurgeon to exclaim, “What blessed calmness of mind! What hallowed serenity of spirit! O that our hearts were equally fixed on God in our days of trial and grief!”


Spurgeon knew that soon Christ was to be “girt with the bands of death,” and so charged his congregation to “see him…with the towel” and to learn from the Saviour.


In the first section of his sermon, Spurgeon noted “Here is a matter for enquiry,” before asking, “We know that the Saviour washed the feet of Peter; but does he wash our feet also?”


Spurgeon quickly answered in the affirmative, “He has washed all believers, once for all, in his most precious blood.” Here Spurgeon sought to focus on the “feet,” which symbolized not the “Cleansing, as before the bar of justice,” but rather the daily troubles of Christ’s precious people.


First, Spurgeon understood that by washing the disciples’ feet Christ “puts away from us day by day our daily infirmities and sins.” Namely, there is always a fresh fountain of forgiveness flowing from the Saviour’s side. Even for those who “foolishly committed the very sins you repented of weeks ago” there was a fresh washing of grace for “Jesus Christ will have great patience with you.” According to Spurgeon, for the believer who confessed their sin the Saviour would say, “‘I will, be thou clean.’”


Second, Spurgeon knew that the towel and basin testified to the sweetly intimate love of Christ. That morning he reminded his congregation that Christ “watches over the temporal affairs of his people.” Indeed, “not a hair of your head falleth to the ground without his care.” Furthermore, even the “most trifling trouble may be taken in prayer to Christ” with as much “certainty of deliverance as when Hezekiah spread Sennacharib’s letter before the Lord.” In light of such love Spurgeon exclaimed, “O king of glory! the stars would not make a crown worthy of thee.”


In the second section of his sermon, Spurgeon reflected on the scene as a “Matter for adoration.” First he paused to consider “the freeness of the deed.” Christ’s humble service was entirely “unsolicited” and “unexpected.”


Second, Spurgeon was astonished by the humility of Christ. Indeed, footwashing “was the lowest of all offices in the East,” a task reserved for slaves. So when Christ took up the towel Spurgeon exclaimed, “‘Lord! King! Master! God! Everlasting! Eternal! Almighty! King of kings, and Lord of lords! Dost thou – dost thou wash my feet?’”


The glory of Christ’s humiliation was too much for Spurgeon. All he could do was to call out “O my brethren meditate on this!… He whom the angels worship takes a towel and girds himself.” Indeed, Spurgeon wanted his congregation to contemplate Christ “till your hearts melt with love.”


In the third section of his sermon, Spurgeon proclaimed the one acceptable response, “Gratitude.” Reflecting on what had been said, Spurgeon exhorted, “I hope we already feel that heaven-born flame glowing in our own souls.” Furthermore, because of the “precious blood,” believers were “no longer under God as a judge,” but rather as a Father. Indeed, now Christians could confess their sins to their heavenly Father “as a child” and not “as a culprit.”


In the fourth, and final, section of his sermon, Spurgeon concluded by addressing a “Matter for imitation.” Because of what Christ had done, Spurgeon believed that “if there be any deed of kindness or love that we can do for the very meanest and most obscure of God’s people,  we ought to be willing to do it.” The goal was to be “servants of God’s servants.”


“Recollect that Christ’s way of rising is to go down. He descended, that he might ascend; and so must we. Let us count that evermore it is our highest honour and our greatest glory, to lay aside all honour and all glory, and to win honour and glory out of shame and humiliation for Christ Jesus’ sake.”


Why you should take up and read:


As Spurgeon knew, there is an inexhaustible and intimate sweetness in the humility of Christ. Indeed, “Christ’s way of rising [was] to go down.” His humiliation secured both his highest glory and the salvation of his people. For the mind wanting to be washed afresh with the love of Christ the reader is encouraged to take up and read.


Here s the link to the Sermon of the Week:

Phillip Ort serves at the Director of The Spurgeon Library at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City where he is also pursuing a Master of Divinity degree.