When Jesus begins to wash the feet of the disciples, Peter at first refuses. His esteem for the Lord is such that he cannot allow Jesus to perform this task. Jesus responds by stating that “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” He says this to reveal the cleansing power of Christ’s death and Resurrection. Only by actively participating with Him in His death can we be raised with Him in His life.
This is so important, because so many teach that Baptism is merely a symbolic event. I’ve heard it referred to as a “public proclamation,” sort of publicly changing team jerseys, from “team me” to “team Jesus.” But, in so teaching, we remove the regenerative powers of the very Sacrament itself. When we are Baptized, we actively die with Him. We put to death the old man that once lived, and are raised anew in the life of Christ. We fully participate in His death, and in His Resurrection unto life eternal. In so doing, we are cleansed of our sins, and of the power that sin and death once held over us.
Peter responds to this by stating, “Lord, not only my feet, but my hands and head as well,” to which Jesus responds, “he who is bathed need only wash his feet, but is completely cleaned.” See, the bathing is the perfect image of Baptism, wherein we are fully washed of our sins. This washing of the feet, however, is the perfect image of the Sacrament of confession. We, as children of Christ, have been fully bathed (baptized), cleansed of our sins, then we are never again baptized. The council of Nicea confirmed, and in the creed set forth, we affirm, “one baptism for the remission of sins.” However, just as someone returning from a public bath would still get dirt on their feet and thus wash them upon returning home; so too we, after receiving the cleansing of Baptism, will still fall into sin, and thus need to continually be washed of those sins. And this occurs through our continued repentance (1 John 1:9) and through the Sacrament of confession (James 5:16).
See, after we are baptized, we are bathed and our sins forgiven us. And then, as we continue to fall into sin, we need continuously to repent and confess our sins, the “washing of our feet,” and we are fully clean. To seek a second baptism (not only my feet, but my hands and head as well) would be to heretically claim that the cleansing power of Christ’s death was insufficient; however to neglect the washing of feet that is confession is to heretically claim that we are sinless, needless of further cleansing, which John warns us against in his epistle, “whoever claims that they do not sin lies, and the Truth is not in them.” And here, we have Jesus warning us that if we neglect this cleansing then we “have no part in Him.”
May we never again anger God by claiming that the power of His sacrifice, the power of our Baptism, is insufficient to cleanse us of our sins. Similarly, however, may we never neglect the importance of confession of our continued sins, this “washing of the feet” that the Lord commands of us, affirmed by the apostles, and furthered by the teachings of the Church for thousands of years. May we all, children of the Lord, look to the Lord for our salvation, for the forgiveness of the punishment due our previous sins, for the conviction to resist our sins today, and for the guidance to turn away from our future sins. May we place our faith in the Lord Jesus that we are saved, are being saved, and will be saved; and that in the end we will, through His grace and guidance, be counted worthy to enter into the kingdom.
May the grace of the Lord be with us all, my beloved family. Christ is in our midst.