“During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” (John 13:2-5)
God is in control. In other words, God is sovereign. Therefore, if God is not sovereign, then God is not God for this means that someone, or something else, is in control and not God. Dr. Guy Richard writes, “For if there were anyone or anything in the universe more powerful or more authoritative than God, then anyone or anything would, by definition, be God.”
Scripture overwhelmingly teaches the sovereignty of God. Here is but a selection.
- I Timothy 6:13-16 – “I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.”
- Psalm 95:1-3 – “Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.”
- Daniel 4:34-35 – “At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”
No being can resist God’s will (Romans 9:19), He rules over the nations (Psalm 22:28), and the kings of the earth are all subject to Him (Psalm 2). God is always enthroned or in power (Psalm 9:7), He works all things to the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11), and always does all that He pleases (Psalm 115:3). Therefore, we should examine and interpret John 13:2-5 in light of this understanding of God’ sovereignty.
God is sovereign in the work of Satan or the Devil. ““During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him,” (John 13:2). Satan cannot do anything unless God sovereignly permits him (Job 1-2). However, we should also take note that Judas was not just a passive participant but rather an eager conspirator in the crucifixion of Jesus. Judas’ wicked heart desired what the devil desired: the death of Jesus. The devil cannot make anyone do anything that either God, or the individual in question, does not want the devil to do.
Secondly, God is sovereign in the work of Jesus Christ. “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God,” (John 13:3). It is important for us to remember that Jesus was in control of all the circumstances He faced up to and following His crucifixion. Jesus previously stated this truth in John 10:17-18.
Third, God is sovereign in the example Jesus sets before us: His disciples. “Jesus…rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” (John 13:3a-5).
There has been an ongoing debate within the church as to whether or not Jesus established a third ordinance of the church, along with baptism and Communion, by washing His disciples’ feet. There are even some evangelical denominations which regularly practice and observe foot-washing services.
The practice of foot washing was a practical observance when a visitor entered another individual’s home. A good host would not only provide food and lodging, but also make sure a menial servant washed the guest’s feet. A comparable example today would be either offering a house and dinner guest a beverage or offering to take their coat and put it in a safe place until they leave.
Dr. John MacArthur explains that, “The dusty and dirty conditions of the region necessitated the need for foot washing. Although the disciples would have likely been willing to wash Jesus’ feet, they would not consider washing each other’s feet. In their society, foot-washing was a task assigned to the lowest-ranking household slaves. It was not an action performed by a peer, except possibly as a rare expression of profound love. Luke points out (22:24) that they were arguing about who was the greatest of them, so that none was willing to stoop to wash feet. When Jesus moved to wash their feet, they were shocked. His actions serve also as symbolic of spiritual cleansing (John 13:6–9) and a model of Christian humility (vv. 12–17). Through this action Jesus taught the lesson of selfless service that was supremely exemplified by his death on the cross.”
The specific practice of foot-washing may be debatable as to it being an ongoing and established ordinance of the church. However, God’s sovereign command that His followers be servants is clear and biblical. See I Peter 4:7-11.
God is sovereign not only in matters pertaining to the devil, but also in the historical atonement of Jesus Christ and the humble servant-hood of Jesus’ disciples. Take time to acknowledge and thank God that He and He alone is in control of all things.
Soli deo Gloria!