He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?”7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet,[a] but is completely clean. And you[b] are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.” (John 13:6-11)
“The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet.” Jesus is washing the feet of the disciples, Peter is rightly scandalized by it. Jesus was breaking propriety and as Peter saw it, he should be washing Jesus feet, not the other way around. But then Jesus is bringing their attention to something greater and the dialogue with Peter illuminates it.
John records the foot washing as a commentary on the Lord’s Supper, and everything that means. The whole thing here is that this is what Jesus does for us in the Lord’s Supper, and early notes and commentaries on this point us also to the daily forgiveness of sins.
When Peter learns that his feet need to be washed should he have a share with him in his kingdom, then he wants to be washed completely. Jesus answers that he who has bathed does not need to wash except for his feet. The reference is to baptism.
It’s a curious thing. The baptisms of the disciples themselves are never recorded, in fact this here might be the only hard reference we have to the baptism that we all know the disciples received. Jesus is saying you don’t bathe twice in this manner. Once is enough, you have been cleaned, you have no need to bathe again, to be baptized again.
Of course, these days, Baptists tend to get baptized more often than they partake of the Lord’s Supper, if they partake of that at all. At least it seems that way on the outside. As if none of them bother to read their Bibles at all. Then again it’s Paul in Ephesians that talks of one baptism, which is outside their two book canon of James and Revelation.
But here Jesus is explicit, if you have been bathed once, (The Greek word Jesus uses here is Louw, which is often translated wash, and used interchangeably with baptism.) you are clean, except for your feet. A person takes a bath walks to his friend’s house, it will merely be his feet that need to be cleaned. His feet touch the ground, his feet pick up dirt.
So do we on our journey to the promised land, as we pilgrimage through this world. We pick up dirt. We sin. Our consciences become unclean. But now before Jesus dies, he institutes those things we need to keep ourselves clean in this world, He gives us communion and the forgiveness of sins by which our feet are made clean. By which Jesus keeps us clean, and delivers to us a clean conscience and a good heart.