sciousness of what He was, whence He came, and whither He was going, that the Lord condescended to this servile act. Observe how circumstantial our Evangelist is in his record of this event. We have each step in the transaction set before us as in a mirror.2 The Lord will instruct them, not by word only, but in deed. He lays aside his garments 3 who had already laid aside His glory. See Him now girding Himself with a towel, the only thing wanting to complete "the form of a servant." "Not only by performing a servile act, but by even assuming a servant's attire," He exhibits "in emblem the character which He had seen fit, in the fulness of His Divine condescension, to assume." Thus prepared, the Lord of glory, in the garb of humility, proceeds to His significant task, who "came not to be ministered unto, but to minister."





St. John xiii. 6–11.

Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no

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part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.


By the time our Lord arrived at Peter, taking them probably in the order in which they were reclining at the table,1 the Disciples seem to have so far recovered from their first surprise. And Peter is the first to ask that question 2 which was doubtless also in the minds of the rest. Full of instruction is the Lord's answer to His Church for evermore. an extended sense we may apply the assuring sentence. Submit to all my dispensations. Believe that there is a reason, although for the time it be hidden from thine eyes.3 But Peter is not to be so persuaded. He is obstinate in his opposition. It is only when the Lord glances at the symbolical meaning of His act, and intimates the possibility of a separation, that the ardent Apostle is overcome. Then, with characteristic ardour, he becomes as eager for the benefit as he had before been resolute in refusing it. In order to understand the saying that follows, perfectly intelligible to those conversant with the country, it is needful to bear in mind the climate and customs of the East; where, before

1 V. 23 below. Chrysostom supposes that He began with the unblushing Judas; but if the conjecture in the text is correct, our Evangelist would be the first to be so ministered to. Certain Roman commentators of course are anxious to make St. Peter here, as everywhere, the first.

2 The contrast in the original is more striking than can be conveyed by any translation. Compare St. Luke v. 8.

3 St. John iv. 25; 1 Cor. xiii. 9, 12. "There seems to be also something of the same kind in the events and occurrences of our life, wherein the providences and overruling intentions of God are not perceived at the time, but are . . . discerned afterwards when they have passed. . . .

The great... Poet of heathen antiquity. represents his deities as not recognized at once in their converse with men, but in their retirings and departure to become evidently discernible as divine. . . . In the meantime it is the trial of faith and patience . . . and anticipates the time when we shall look back and behold God in all those His dealings that now appear dark."-I. Williams On the Gospels, part ii. sec. 3. So The Christian Year, Fourth Sunday after Easter, "Till death the weary spirit free, etc." 2 Esdras v. 34.

4 Clarius describes the custom of the ancients in their baths. After the bath they betake themseves to the apodyterium to put on again the clothes which there they had put off.

going to any banquet, the guest takes his bath; so that on arriving at his host's house, all that he requires is to wash his feet; which, in a country where sandals only were worn, might be soiled by the way. This being done,-and in the East opportunity for such ablution was always accounted a part of hospitality, the guest would be altogether clean, prepared to take his place at his host's table. So with him who has been already washed in "the laver of regeneration," 1 who has been already cleansed by Christ with that washing of which Baptism is the sign and seal, that "great absolving act" needs not to be repeated, as indeed it is not capable of repetition. Yet needs ever such an one evermore, as it were, to wash his feet; submitting himself to the same gracious Lord who is evermore ready to cleanse him from those defilements he gathers as he moves through a sinful world. But let none deceive himself. Even in that little band was one who had failed of this grace of God.3



St. John xiii. 12-17.

So after he 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? 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 he that is sent greater than

Then and there they again wash their feet, to get rid of the dust which they had collected in that passage.

1 Tit. iii. 5.

2 The feet, which Bengel with his perception of the finer shades of

meaning, describes as last to be washed, and first to be defiled.

On the two distinct verbs, rendered indifferently in the E. V. by the one word wash, see Abp. Trench, Synonyms of the N. T., p. 188.

he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye

do them.

The Lord was sometimes His own interpreter. As sometimes we have from His own lips both parable and interpretation, so here He teaches His Disciples both by word and deed. Observe the calmness which characterises all His actions. He quietly resumes the garments which, when adopting the character of a servant, in accordance with Eastern custom He had laid aside, and seats Himself again upon the couch in His character of Lord and Master. These titles, and the order in which they occur, are not without their significance The Disciples had first looked upon Jesus as little more than a Teacher. Afterwards, and by degrees, He led them to reverence Him as Lord. So here, first, He puts these terms in the order in which they had learned to regard Him; Teacher first, and then Lord. Afterwards He repeats them in the order of fact, Lord first, and then Teacher. By these terms too they confessed themselves His scholars and His servants. Let us think, whenever we use them, what the words imply. Not that by this symbolical action we are to suppose that the Lord actually meant that His followers must necessarily occupy themselves in such ministrations; any more than when He bade them take up their Cross and follow Him, He meant of necessity a literal so doing. Thus to interpret would be indeed a servile keeping to the letter, neglecting the spirit of His teaching. And indeed when the Church began to depart from the spirit of her Master's teaching, we find her thus servilely returning to the letter; and from that time, on certain occasions, the supreme Pontiff did actually and ceremoniously wash, as in Rome at this day, the feet, first of twelve, and afterwards of thirteen persons, prepared for the occasion. But He bids

1 V. 13. See St. John iii. 2.

2 The mode of expression in the original is remarkable. The word is in the nominative, with the article; as quoting another's words. Compare Jer. xxii. 18.

3 The Lord bids them do not what but as He has done. It is the genus

(as even Estius remarks) that is here intimated by the species. This particular was a custom of Patriarchal, and even of Apostolic times. 1 Tim. v. 10. The Milanese, even in the days of Ambrose, seem to have begun that practice which the Podoniptæ, (those "tares" of Reformation times)

them imbibe that spirit which would stoop, if needful, to this or any other act of charity. Let it be enough for us, when called to do or to suffer anything to which the natural heart is reluctant, that our Lord and Master was content so to do and suffer. Language like this often fell from His lips;1 and of this very saying He afterwards in this same Gospel 2 reminds them. Now He adds that new beatitude, from which we may learn that "the knowledge of Religion is worthless apart from the practice of it."3 Vain indeed "light without love."

imitated. The nearest approach to a spirituo-literal fulfilment of His charge would seem to be found in the labours of Christian women, in hospitals and elsewhere. The ceremony in Rome takes place on the Thursday in Easter week, when, in the right hand transept of St. Peter's, the Pope washes the feet of thirteen Priests, who represent the twelve Apostles, and a thirteenth, said to have appeared miraculously to Gregory the Great on such an occasion. The Pope afterwards assists at a banquet given to the same in the gallery over the portico. The following account is taken from Cancellieri's Descrizione delle Funzioni della Settimana Santa:

"Appena incomincia questa cantilena. . . s'alza il Pontefice, a cui vien levato il Piviale dal Cardinale Diacono Assistente, e preso un gremiale di cinque palmi di tela battista arriciata, ornata con diciotto palmi di merletto, che gli vien legato alla cintola dall' altro Cardinale Diacono Assistente, preceduto dal Sottoguardaroba in Cappa rossa, e servito dal uno Maestro di Ceremonie, e da due Cardinali Diaconi Assistenti, sale sopra lo Steccato, per incominciare la lavanda de' piedi a tredici sacerdoti, o almeno Diaconi, detti gli Apostoli, che stanno a sedere sopra banchi elevati, vestiti di abito di lana fina biancha, con un Barrettone a guisa di Cappuccio in testa, che scende loro sopra le spalle, e attorno al collo. Questi Sacerdoti fanno il destro piede VOL. II.


ignudo, che vien sostenato a ciasche-
duno di esse dal Suddiacono in Toni-
cella biancha, senza manipolo, a mano
destro del Papa, che genuflesso ne fa
la lavanda, con acqua apprestatagli in
un bacile d'argento dorato da uno
Scudiere in abito rosso, e poi lo
asciuga, e lo bacia. Due Camerieri
segreti gli sostengono lo strascico
della Falda, e due Camerieri extra lo
seguono con due Bacili d'argento.
Uno di essi contiene tredici sciugatoii,
e l'altro altrettanti mazzi di fiori
freschi... Poco dopo i suddetti
tredici Apostoli erano condotti in
una Sala del Vaticano . . . ove trovasi
imbandita una mensa lautissima . . .
Nello stesso tempo, in cui si faceva il
Banchetto priora descritto, potea
vedersene un' altro più magnifico,
disposto in altra sala . .
per i Car-
dinali... Queste tavole s'incomin
ciarono a tralasciare per economia
nel 1793."


1 St. Matt. x. 24, 25; St. Luke vi. 40.

2 Ch. xv. 20.

3 A Plain Commentary. Jer. Taylor speaks of those who believe "the propositions of Scripture as we believe a proposition in the metaphysics, concerning which a man is never the honester whether it be true or false." -Ser. x., The Flesh and the Spirit. "It matters not," he says, "what religion any man is of, if he be a villain."-Via Intelligentiæ.

4 The Christian Year, Advent Sun



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