Washed and Forgiven
George Everard, 1877
"Jesus got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him." John 13:4-5
In the lowly act of condescending love which Christ performed in the Upper room, I see another lesson for the consolation of the whole Church. It is a true and blessed type of His redeeming work. It tells me what as a sinner I so greatly need — and how the blessing may be mine. If I would indeed be a worthy believer, if I would by faith be nourished by the body once given for me, and drink to my soul's health that precious blood which was shed for me — I may learn the secret here. Let me then tarry for a while in the Upper room, and learn for my everlasting peace, what my Lord would teach me.
I see here Everlasting Love stooping low to cleanse and sanctify His people. Christ lays aside His garments, taking the position of a servant. He takes the towel and the basin, and then washes His disciples' feet.
What was this, but an emblem of His whole work? He came from Heaven, He laid aside His Divine glory, and made Himself of no reputation. He took upon Himself man's nature, that He might live on earth as the servant of Jehovah, — yes, more, that He might work and suffer and die in the service of man. He humbled Himself to the death of the cross. He was despised, pierced, bruised, smitten. And why? Was it not that He might cleanse and sanctify His Church, and present her at last, without spot or blemish, to the Father?
I see too the individual application of His redeeming work. He washes the feet of the disciples one by one. He goes to James and John, to Philip and Andrew and Peter, and the rest — and thus manifests His special, peculiar love to each. It is thus with Christ now — He deals with man each alone by himself. He takes them as He took the deaf man aside from the multitude. He says to each one, as to Peter, "If I do not wash you — you have no part with Me."
Nor is this the reception of baptism by water — the rite may be duly administered — but the inward and spiritual grace altogether lacking.
Nor is it the washing of an outward reformation — certain sins in the life may be cast off — and yet the heart remain without any true spiritual renewal.
The true washing which brings salvation is when the soul is led to heart-repentance and living faith in Christ's finished work.
Christ awakens and convinces the soul of sin, by the Holy Spirit. He leads the sinner to acknowledge his lost condition and to cry, "Unclean! Unclean!" He leads him on to discover that these is no salvation but in Him — and that His precious blood-shedding is enough to remove every stain of guilt. Thus is he washed, justified, accepted, saved.
We read of Naaman laying aside his robes of state, and washing seven times in Jordan — and then his flesh is clean as a little child.
So the sinner comes down from the chariot of pride, and, casting off every vestige of self-glorying — is washed and cleansed perfectly in the precious blood.
It may be well to explain further what is intended by washing in the blood. Of course there is nothing material about it. If you could have been sprinkled with the blood which actually flowed from the crucified Savior — it would profit you nothing! If it were possible, as some teach, that you could now, by a miraculous change in the wine, drink of the same blood — it could be of no avail for the cleansing of the soul.
The blood is the life. To be washed in the blood is to have your sins purged by Christ's life being given instead of yours. He gave His life as the sacrifice for your sin, and the Father accepted this on your behalf. You rejoice in this, you place your full confidence in Christ alone and in His all-sufficient offering — and you are washed in His blood and forever justified. Mark this well, for it is the very hinge and turning-point of salvation.
Your sin is ever before your eyes. Pride, selfishness, lust, worldliness, ingratitude to your God and Savior — these and many other sins trouble and burden your conscience. But by-and-by the light shines further, and you see the value of Christ's work. You trust in Him who died in your stead — you cry to Him, "O Lord, I flee to the refuge of Your mercy! I rely upon Your death! I cast myself upon Your promise. Let Your sufferings be instead of mine — Your death instead of my death. In You alone is my hope and salvation."
Dust and ashes is my name,
My all is sin and misery.
Friend of sinners, spotless Lamb,
Your blood was shed for me!
Thus are you thoroughly cleansed from guilt. Your conscience is at rest. You have peace with God. You are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus.
It may be helpful to consider the perfection of this cleansing.
A beautiful thought is thrice given to us, with reference to it. It is compared to the snow as it comes from above: "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow." (Isaiah 1:18.) "Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." (Psalm 51:7.)
Look at that field on which the snow has lately fallen — everything is covered — wrapped up in the fair mantle of snow which has descended upon it. Clods of earth, stones, weeds, blades of grass — all are hidden, not one is to be seen. In every direction nothing scarcely can be seen but the pure, white snow.
And is it not thus with you, believer, in the sight of God? God looks upon you in Christ, as if you had never sinned. Your earthliness, your hardness of heart, your follies, your mistakes, your sins, your failings, your ingratitude and your utter unworthiness — all are alike forgiven and forgotten! You stand before God in the Divine righteousness of the Son of God, perfectly justified in Him from all charge and accusation of evil.
Mark likewise the exceeding beauty of the newly-fallen snow. It fringes the branches of the leafless trees, and forms a canopy over the evergreens. It makes often a sort of terrace over the roofs of our houses and trees, and traces many a fantastic outline in our gardens. Scarcely any natural object has more beauty than sometimes we have seen in the snow, especially when the Sun has just risen upon it.
And is there not precious truth to be found here? If trusting only in the Savior — if His righteousness and blood are upon you by faith — then are you fair and beautiful in God's sight. True, in yourself there is nothing but defilement. Yet, as one with Christ, you are perfect through His loveliness which He has put upon you. The beauty of the Lord God is upon you. The Sun of Righteousness has arisen with healing in His wings — and your Father delights in you — yes, and rejoices over you with joy and singing.
Side by side with this perfect cleansing of justification, Christ renews and sanctifies the soul that trusts in Him. He purifies the heart by faith. He makes the Word effectual by the Spirit, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. He transforms the character, mortifying the love of sin and making the believer desire above all things to be holy and like the Savior.
"Lord, not my feet only — but my hands and my head!" The Christian would have every member consecrated to the Lord's service and freed from the power of evil.
O Lord, Your heavenly grace impart,
And fix my frail, inconstant heart.
Henceforth my chief desire shall be
To dedicate myself to Thee —
To Thee, my God, to Thee.
The story of the Upper Chamber teaches me yet another lesson of great consequence. The believer needs daily renewal and daily cleansing. He abides in a state of justification — yet, for the peace of his conscience, for abiding in fellowship with God, for the maintenance of humility and self-abasement — he needs daily to confess sin, and daily to experience afresh the cleansing power of His blood.
The traveler, though in the bath at the commencement of the day — yet needs the dust washed off from the feet at night. Thus the pardoned, justified believer needs daily to be cleansed afresh from the sin and evil which he may have contracted.
In a large Hotel in Sweden, "the day's reckoning" was placed at night on the bed-room door. So the Christian should night by night recall the faults and failings of the day, and then bring them for pardon to the Savior.
Christian, go often to your Savior. Let nothing be permitted to remain on the conscience. When a still, small voice tells you of sin, however small it may seem — look at once to Christ for pardon and deliverance. Keep close to Him, and ever look to Him for the cleansing that you need.
One thought more. Let every believer be unwearied in praise and gratitude for the inestimable benefit of salvation through the blood. In words not my own, I would remind you of the spirit that should be nourished by every child of God:
"I confess that to me there is nothing in all creation so precious as the blood of Christ. I would rather part with all I have, than part with what I have in this precious blood. I have found in the blood of Christ — pardon, and peace, and everlasting felicity, and blessings, and gifts too vast, too numerous to estimate. I look inward upon this sin-polluted heart, and by this blood I see all my guilt removed. I look backward on my sin-stained life, which cries justly for vengeance — and by this blood I see my sins expiated, and the cry of accusation silenced forever. I look forward to the hour of death, when a lifetime's sins might compass me about in crowding legions — but I see them all scattered and dispersed like a summer cloud — all by this precious blood. I look downward into the dark pit, where wrath and wretchedness are mingled in the sinner's doom — my own just and proper doom — but in this blood I find the ransom that delivers me from the wrath to come. I look upward — upward to the pure and hallowed scenes of Heaven, to the throne of God and the abode of spotless angels — and by that blood I find a full and sufficient title, by which I shall enter into the Heaven of heavens."
"Heaven, it seems to me, has no song loud enough, sweet enough to celebrate the praises of Him who shed His blood for me! It is the song of the saved on earth: 'Unto Him that loved us and washed us from our sins in His blood.' It is the song of the redeemed in heaven — the company who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb: 'You are worthy — for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood.'"
Glory be to Jesus,
Who, in bitter pains,
Poured for me the life-blood
From His sacred veins.
Grace and life eternal
In that blood I find.
Blessed be His compassion,
O merciful God, I thank You for Your inestimable love in my redemption. I thank You for salvation through the death of Christ, and for all the benefits purchased for me by His blood. O Father, I am truly guilty before You. I have sinned against Heaven, and in Your sight. I have broken Your laws. I have forgotten Your love. I have been ungrateful for Your rich and abounding mercies. But I come to You for the pardon which You have promised. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity in the Fountain which has been opened for sinners. Forgive all the sins that are past, and reckon them no more against me. Cleanse me from all my present failings and infirmities, and cover me with the spotless robe of Christ. Sprinkle me day by day with the atoning blood, and make me to hate the sins which crucified my Lord.
I beg You, O Father, make me henceforth to be wholly Yours. I am not my own — for You have redeemed me with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect! (1 Peter 1:18-19.) Help me to praise and bless You with joyful heart, and to yield myself entirely to You. May every member be given up to Your service. In health and in sickness, in life and in death — may I glorify Your holy name, and do that which is pleasing in Your sight.
O Lord Jesus, keep me from all evil, and preserve me blameless to Your kingdom. By Your agony and bloody sweat, by Your cross and passion, by Your precious death and burial, by Your glorious resurrection and ascension — good Lord deliver me. Amen.