Teaching in the Upper Room: #Blessed
Lesson 1: What it is to Be Blessed
#blessed. Not too long ago, it was the hashtag we saw everywhere. About 100 million times to date, people have used it. Maybe you have used it. A scan through what people have tagged as “blessed” reveals selfie after selfie of people trying to look their best while portraying their idyllic life. Others use it to show themselves at the beach on vacation, or attached it to a saying about accomplishing goals. But are these things what it is to be #blessed? The first lesson the Lord Jesus teaches His disciples is about what it is to be blessed.
Supper is in progress. Then the Lord rises. If this is near the start of the supper, it was the time of the first cup of the Passover. At that time the head of the company would give thanks, pass the cup, then depart from the table to wash His hands. Instead, something quite different is happening. The Lord is not washing His hands, but has assumed the form of a servant by putting off his two outer garments and wrapping Himself in a towel, over His loincloth. This was not just the place of a servant, but the lowest of servants – a lesson in itself about what the Lord had come to do at this time (cf. Phil 2:5-8). The disciples had been disputing (again) about who was the greatest among them (Luke 22:25-27). Now by assuming the role of the lowest, the Lord was about to teach them about being blessed.
One by one, feet are being washed. Maybe first the honoured guest [i] Judas had his sandals removed, even while he coveted 30 more silver shekels to add to the money bag he carried. As he comes to Peter, Peter is emphatic. “Lord, do YOU wash MY feet?” The Lord is equally emphatic, “What I MYSELF do YOU do not know now…” Peter’s reply shows he is not backing down, “you shall NEVER EVER wash my feet.” So the discussion continues, with Simon desiring whatever the Lord wills to be in fellowship with Him. As impulsive as Peter was, we can be thankful that His dialogue with the Lord produces a secondary level of teaching – there is both a spiritual side and practical side to footwashing.
The picture the Lord uses is from the culture of their day. Before going to a feast or supper, one would bathe. When they arrived at their destination, their feet would be washed as a result of the dusty roads that had to be trodden. The Lord makes the point: If you’re bathed, you only need your feet washed. This cleansing is the washing of regeneration referred to in Titus 3:5. It is what the Hebrew writer refers to in 10:22: “having our bodies washed with pure water.” It is to be “born of water,” as earlier in John’s gospel. Once bathed, the Lord implies, you need not be bathed again. The Lord is referring to new life which comes by this bathing which comes about through the Word of God and the work of the Spirit of God.
The Lord said in verse 8, “If I wash you not, you have no part with Me.” Those who are bathed need their feet washed. Washing feet is insignificant for the unbathed person, like Judas Iscariot. The bathing secures relationship, while the washing maintains fellowship with Christ. There are two spiritual significances involved with foot washing.
The first is often missed; footwashing may be for refreshment. This was the case in Genesis 18, where Abraham washes the feet of the three strangers who appeared at his tent. We spiritually refresh others through the washing of feet. By sharing something ever so simple from the Word of God, we may refresh other believers.
Secondly, it is for cleansing from defilement. As the Psalmist says, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to Thy word” (119:9). The Scriptures have cleansing properties that we can adhere to and bring to the forefront of the minds of others.
Thus the first lesson to the disciples in the Upper Room was regarding service. Did you notice the change in word order from verse 13 to 14? It is significant because if He is Teacher first and Lord second, we will know these things. But if He is Lord first and Teacher second, we will not only know but we will do them.
Who is blessed? The one who acts like a servant. It is counter-cultural, and sadly to some degree counters ideas pushed in popular Christianity. Blessing is not in the abundance of materials, a warm vacation, or being at your peak fitness. Rather it’s found in visiting the elderly, watching your kids so your wife can relax, or washing dishes at your local church. Blessing is found in walking in the path of our Lord as a servant.
[i] For further interesting discussion on common practices at the Passover Supper at the time of Christ, including seating in the Upper Room, consult Alfred Edersheim’s, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Book 5, Chapter 10. This work is public domain.