Does the Footwashing Come Before or After the Bread and Wine?
Was the foot-washing Jesus Christ administered to the disciples only a routine matter at the beginning of the Passover service? Is it geared toward humbling ourselves before God prior to partaking of the Passover? Is it a symbol of baptism, as some claim, and therefore required to precede the bread and wine? Did Judas partake of the bread and wine?
This issue has been bandied back and forth by Protestant commentaries and by some in the Church of God. Can we resolve the seeming contradictions in the gospels and find solid biblical understanding?
Matthew and Mark give very abbreviated summaries of the proceedings, but we should examine their record before proceeding with Luke and John.
Matt 26:20-30 Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve.
21 And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.
22 And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?
23 And he answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me.
24 The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.
25 Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said.
26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.
27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;
28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
29 But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.
30 And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.
Some of the key elements we will discuss later are found in Matthew’s account. Was the reference to Judas at the beginning the only time Christ mentioned him that evening? What was the timing of the bread and wine in the meal? Did the reference to drinking it new in the Kingdom occur once or more than once in the proceedings?
Mark 14:17-26 And in the evening he cometh with the twelve.
18 And as they sat and did eat, Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, One of you which eateth with me shall betray me.
19 And they began to be sorrowful, and to say unto him one by one, Is it I? and another said, Is it I?
20 And he answered and said unto them, It is one of the twelve, that dippeth with me in the dish.
21 The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had never been born.
22 And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body.
23 And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it.
24 And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.
25 Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God.
26 And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.
Mark essentially echoes the words of Matthew, adding no detail of consequence to the question at hand.
It was customary in the Worldwide Church of God to have the foot-washing ahead of the bread and wine. For this reason, we began the service in John 13 since none of the other gospel accounts address the footwashing at all. Why did we do this? The gospel of John was written roughly thirty years after this landmark Passover—and apparently some years after the other writers had finished their accounts. John 13 does not even mention the change in symbols from the four-legged lamb to the body and blood of Jesus Christ, but picks the story up with the foot-washing ceremony.
Why? Since the others left the footwashing out, did John add it intending it be done before or after the bread and wine?
The foot-washing done by Jesus Christ apparently did not register strongly enough on the first three writers to cause them to focus on it and explain it, though Luke mentions an after-dinner argument that obviously, as we shall see, led Christ to institute the footwashing.
John addresses the change in symbols to the bread and wine in John 6 where he discusses it in more detail than any of the other gospel writers. The bread and wine change was obviously the focal point of the Passover service that year. Did John begin his Passover service account with the footwashing since he had already discussed the bread and wine in detail in chapter 6? Does that mean the footwashing should follow the bread and wine?
DOES FOOTWASHING SYMBOLIZE BAPTISM?
This is a question that needs answering before we delve further into the order of the Passover service.
What does the Bible say baptism symbolizes?
Rom 6:3-6 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might bedestroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
Baptism symbolizes death, not "humility to one another." There simply is NO scripture that even hints that footwashing symbolizes baptism. Baptism is by immersion, not by water splashed on feet. Immersion typifies a watery grave.
1 Cor. 1:13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
Baptism and crucifixion are linked together here, not footwashing and baptism.
1 Cor 10:1-4 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;
2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;
3 And did all eat thesame spiritual meat;
4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock thatfollowed them: and that Rock was Christ.
The Red Sea is a type of baptism because had the waters receded over Israel they all would have died. They "ate and drank" of Christ—an indication that His body and blood would later symbolize baptism through His death.
Matt 20:22-23 But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able.
23 And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give…
Again, Christ makes it clear that He would die for us, the connection being through baptism, not footwashing.
Luke 12:50 But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!
Clearly, Christ equated His coming death with baptism, not footwashing.
Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
What made the remission of sins possible? His death, symbolized by baptism, makes it possible.
Luke 3:16-17 John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire:
17 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.
Those who receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit will rise to eternal life, while those who receive the baptism of fire will suffer eternal death. Here, the symbolism of baptism includes eternal death, not forgiveness of sins. The symbolism is consistent—again of death, not humility among us.
There is no scriptural foundation for footwashing symbolizing baptism! The concept flies in the face of all the passages that define baptism as symbolizing death, especially the death of our Savior, with whom we are baptized. Baptism represents remission of sin, not brotherly humility, as expressed in footwashing.
To use footwashing in this way in order to try to establish the footwashing as coming before the bread and wine in the Passover service wrests the meaning of the scriptures and has no validity whatsoever—except in the imagination of those who try to interject it into the Passover service.
It is actually even worse than that! It takes the focus off the major purpose of the Passover—that Christ died for our sins and that baptism represents the two major elements of the Passover—His body and blood for us. It cheapens the whole meaning of baptism, taking it from the body and blood of Christ and His awesome sacrifice and putting it in a small basin of water to wash feet! All Bible symbolism has to be defined by the Bible, not by men’s imaginations! The BIBLE says baptism symbolizes death, particularly the death of Jesus Christ. NOWHERE does it even hint that baptism symbolizes man’s humility to man.
We all understand we should be baptized before partaking of the Passover. Since baptism pictures our symbolic death, entwined with His actual death, we take them together, His blood forgiving our sins at baptism. Footwashing does not enter this picture. It symbolizes something else—man’s humility to man.
Baptism represents death and forgiveness of sin. Do we sin against man or God?
Ps 51:1-4 Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight…
David recognized all sin is against God and to Him only do we need to ask forgiveness. He ONLY can forgive and remove the death penalty. Our sin affects men. David’s sin affected the husband Uriah, the child that died, David himself and ultimately all Israel. However, the sins were not against man, but God.It was HIS law David broke. Nowhere does the Bible instruct us to have confessions before men in terms of forgiveness of sin.
Footwashing cannot forgive sin. Baptism in Jesus Christ can--and that is what it represents in the Passover service!
We are ALWAYS to put God first, man second in all aspects of our lives. Why should Passover be any different? Attention to Jesus Christ and His sacrifice is the central theme of Passover. After that comes our relationship with man.
The Ten Commandments are in this order. The first four directly represent our relationship with God, the last six our relationship with man. The summary Christ gave in Matthew 22:37-40 is the same:
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Our repentance and forgiveness hang on Christ’s sacrifice. Entry into eternal life does as well. That has to come first. Acts 2:38 says to repent and be baptized. That means to repent of our sins and be baptized into Christ’s death. Only then do we address our relationship with man. We shall see the same is true in the order of the Passover.
Footwashing does have its place in the Passover ceremony. What is that place and in what order should it occur?
WHAT DOES LUKE RECORD?
Some have discredited Luke’s account of the Passover since his account contradicts the practice of putting the footwashing ahead of the bread and wine. The reasoning is that Luke was not an eyewitness (nor was Mark), so his account is not credible. Can this be?
II Timothy 3:16 tells us "ALL scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness."
This has to include Luke. What does he, in inspired scripture, say?
Luke 1:1-4 Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,
2 Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;
3 It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus,
4 That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.
Luke declares that he received the correct order from the eyewitnesses, that he was a minister of "the Word," that he had perfect understanding, that he wrote them in order and that Theophilus could count on his account as a certainty!
If Luke’s account does not seem to square with the other gospels, do we then throw Luke’s account out? Or do we adjust our understanding to fit ALL the gospel accounts?
Since ALL the accounts are inspired of God, they simply must agree. If they do not, our understanding is lacking somewhere!
The matter is actually quite simple: If the footwashing is placed first, Luke and John contradict one another. If the footwashing is placed after the bread and wine, Luke and John’s accounts can be reconciled.
Let us examine the story as told by Luke and John.
Luke wrote first, so we shall examine Luke’s account first, allowing John the last word, as indeed, his word chronologically came last, some roughly thirty years later.
Luke 22:14-16 And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him.
15 And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer:
16 For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.
Christ says He will not eat of the Passover again until the Kingdom of God—including the bread and wine served there. He uses this expression twice, speaking of the normal Passover meal. Matthew and Mark place this expression after the bread and wine. Is this a mistake on someone’s part or could Christ have said it of both the meal and the symbols? If so, there is no contradiction, just an addition of detail. We will discuss later, in more detail, the fact that Christ did mention some subjects several times that evening.
Verse 19 begins to introduce the change in symbols:
And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.
20 Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.
Luke is telling us that after eating supper, Christ instituted the New Testament symbols of His body and blood. Paul confirms this in I Corinthians 11:23-25:
23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:
24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.
Paul states he received the instruction in these verses directly from Christ—not hearsay! He confirms that it was AFTER eating supper—when He HAD supped (past tense).
This point is very important, for in Luke 22:21, Christ shows that Judas was still at the table:
21 But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table.
22 And truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed!
Some have argued that Judas could not have partaken of the bread and wine since he was not converted and was a betrayer of Christ. The apostle John shows Judas left after the footwashing and eating of the sop. If so, they reason, the footwashing had to come first so he would leave before the bread and wine.
Consider that NONE of the disciples were converted. Christ told Peter in Luke 22:32 that after he was converted, to strengthen the brethren. This was after the Passover service!
Christ was the only converted one at the table! Peter denied Christ three times after this.
What about being the betrayer? Did you and I ever betray Christ in our lives? Daily. Constantly. Does He offer us forgiveness? Undoubtedly. He offered Judas every chance to repent. He specifically offered Judas His own flesh and blood just as He does us and as He did ALL those disciples. Is that somehow wrong???
Do we all accept His body and blood? No, many reject it just as did Judas. But the offer WAS made according to this passage of God-inspired scripture. Judas’ hand was still on the table after the bread and wine!
Since Judas partook of the bread and wine but left right after the footwashing, the footwashing HAD TO COME AFTER THE BREAD AND WINE!!
While the subject is still on the table, we shall address another argument about Judas. Some say that since Satan was influencing him, Christ would not have allowed him to partake of the bread and wine. Remember that Judas had made the deal to betray Christ before the Passover, but had not yet consummated it. Satan was influencing him before the Passover ever arrived. Satan was around. Sometimes Jesus allowed Satan’s presence. Mark 7:25 is an example of Christ refusing to cast Satan out until implored upon to do so.
Satan is allowed to accuse us before the throne of God today (Rev. 12:10). What about you and me? We are "converted." Christ dwells in us as the temple of His Spirit. Does Satan enter that temple? Yes, he does, to tempt and influence us. Does Christ rebuke him for us? No, we have to do that ourselves in the name of Christ. Do we have to fight double-mindedness every day? That is, do we claim to follow Christ, but still have satanic influences enter our minds? Judas had the same problem we do. He gave in.
Satan was there that evening, not just for Judas, but for Peter as well, wanting to "sift him as wheat." The satanic attitude of strife, vanity, ego, competition and me first was in all of them. Christ gave Judas every chance to shake off Satan’s influence and not betray Him. Why should we object to Jesus offering Judas a way out?
Were we sinners when Christ opened our minds? Does He give us every chance? Christ came to save sinners and gave Judas every chance possible. That gives us great hope.
In giving Judas opportunity, Jesus was living what He told us to do:
Matt 5:44-45 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
Do we doubt this? Or have a problem with it?
Notice that after the bread and wine and after the statement about Judas still being there, an argument broke out (Luke 22:19-24). An argument about which of them was the greatest—the smartest, the most spiritual, the cleverest—the greatest in every way, we can probably assume.
Luke 22:24 And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.
Christ went on to address this issue in detail, explaining that humility and serving others is the key, not who is the highest in the pecking order! He explains that seeking preeminence is the way of the gentiles, not of true spirituality.
Here is where Jesus Christ introduces the concept of man’s relationship to man. It is after the relationship with God had been established FIRST. As soon as the Passover was finished, they began their selfish conduct toward one another. This left the door open for the footwashing lesson—man’s humility to man! Luke does not address footwashing, apparently not thinking it was instituted as a regular part of the Passover service. However, he DOES address the fight over greatness. The content of the lesson Christ gave the disciples over the matter is similar to the instruction He gives in relationship to the footwashing in the gospel of John.
The main elements to notice in Luke are:
Christ changed the symbols after eating.
Judas was still at the table after the eating was finished and after the change in symbols.
A prideful argument began afterward—establishing a lack of humility in the attitudes of the disciples.
How does this square with John’s account ofthe Passover?
THE RECORD OF JOHN
John is the only gospel writer who mentions the footwashing. Paul describes the evening in I Corinthians 11, but does not mention the footwashing.
ALL the writers discuss the change of the symbols to the bread and wine, including John in John 6.
Why is this?
The Passover itself is by far the most important part of the evening. It had been instituted in Exodus and kept ever after. Christ kept it before His crucifixion and changed the symbols to offer us salvation through His body and blood. HE, as THE Passover, is the singularly most important event in the history of mankind. He humbled Himself more than any man in history, despite BEING the most important man in history.
The disciples lost sight of what He was doing—and right after He made a tremendously significant step toward the New Covenant in offering the body and blood of GOD for them! They immediately started arguing over which of THEM was the greatest. Luke shows this came after the bread and wine. That argument is what led Christ to institute the footwashing—to show we should humble ourselves as He did—and to each other, not just toward Him.
The footwashing had nothing to do with the symbolism of baptism. Show me ONE verse that even hints at such a thing! It had to do with human pride and vanity as expressed AFTER supper and after the change of the symbols! People do not normally argue before dinner. They usually argue AFTER their tummies are full. First things first! Luke says they did just that.
John apparently wrote about thirty years after the other gospel writers. ALL of them but John, including Paul, discussed the change in symbols to Christ as the Passover lamb. Though the disciples had experienced the footwashing, it obviously did not make the same impression on them as the Passover itself. Maybe they all thought Jesus used the footwashing as a general example, but not as an institution to be repeated each Passover thereafter. In other words, it was somewhat lesser in importance than the "main event."
Before writing his gospel account, John had access to all the others. He saw they all had left out the footwashing. It appears that he began his account by simply picking up where the others had left off—after the changing of the symbols. He did not even discuss the Passover itself at all, but went straight to the footwashing. His account of Christ’s explanation of the meaning of footwashing fits perfectly with Luke’s account of the argument after the bread and wine and Christ’s teaching about masters doing the serving, not lording it over the servants.
Luke and John dovetail perfectly on this matter. John picks it up right where Luke left off! John did not need to repeat what all the others had said about the Passover service—he just had to tie up the last loose end! He had already mentioned the correct symbols in John 6, so why repeat them here? All he needed was to add what had been left out by the others and then give a detailed account of Christ’s final lesson to the disciples. The main theme of that lesson was to love one another. Not to fight and war, but love God above all, and love man as God’s creation.
Luke left off his account having shown Judas was still at the table after the bread and wine, followed by an argument as to who was the greatest. The story flows beautifully with no "contradictions" when we understand John started the story in John 13 right where Luke left off and where he himself left off in John 6.
Notice John 13:1: Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.
2 And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him;
3 Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God;
4 He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.
Notice a movement in time element in these verses. It starts with the time just before Passover and moves to Jesus knowing "His hour had come." "Hour" here has to mean the time had come to begin all these events, obviously not the actual hour of His death. From there the time moves to supper-time. "Supper being ended" is a poor translation. "Supper being served" or "during supper" is more the force of the Greek.
The footwashing issue does not depend on "supper being ended" in this verse to show the footwashing occurred after the bread and wine. There is an undetermined movement of time from verse two to verse four. Supper was in process in verse two. In verse 4 "He riseth from supper." According to Matthew and Mark, the institution of the bread and wine occurred AS they were eating. Luke adds the detail that the symbol of the bread, as his body, was addressed, and then AFTER supper, the wine as His blood. It would seem the bread might have been sanctified just as supper was drawing to a close and the wine AT the close. Remember, Paul stated clearly that Jesus administered the bread and wine AFTER He had supped.
The footwashing could NOT have occurred as they came into the room with dusty feet. In John 13:4, Jesus rose FROM supper. That language sounds as if supper was ending or had just ended when Jesus began to do the footwashing. Matthew and Mark say it was during supper. Luke does not place a specific time during the meal regarding the bread, but clearly states the wine was after.
The key to understanding is Luke’s testimony—that Judas was still at the table AFTER supper and AFTER the changing of the symbols; still there for the bread and wine.
Judas left after the footwashing, with no break in context, according to John. Therefore, the footwashing absolutely HAD to come after the bread and wine! Otherwise, we have to declare Luke’s account in error—which is just what some have done to stick to the tradition of putting the footwashing first in the Passover service. Is it really better to discredit Luke or to change our practice to fit scripture? ALL scripture is profitable for doctrine…Which way would you rather face Christ some day? "I think Luke had it all wrong" or "I changed my practice to conform to Luke’s account in your Word of the Passover service." Which seems safer?
What about the symbolism of baptism in John’s account?
John 13:5-11: After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.
6 Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet?
7 Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.
8 Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.
9 Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.
10 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.
11 For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.
There is no reference whatsoever to baptism in these verses! The only uncleanness here was in the mind of the betrayer, Judas. A general cleansing such as forgiveness of sins at baptism is not the issue. The issue here is that Jesus was willing to wash the feet of His betrayer and wanted the rest of the disciples to have the same attitude toward one another—love your enemy!
Jesus did not wash Peter’s whole body, that is, immerse him. The footwashing had to do with attitude. The first attitude was that of Judas who had just partaken of the bread and wine, but did not repent, so was unclean, or unworthy as Paul put it in I Cor. 11. It is possible for us to take the Passover in a wrong attitude and drink death to ourselves as Paul explained. Judas did just that, dying in shame by hanging himself shortly thereafter
Peter’s attitude was not as it should have been either. He was also into the argument about who was greatest, as related by Luke. Notice that John used the same language in his account that Luke did in explaining what Christ said about their argument:
John 13:15-16: 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 he that sent him."
Luke 22:26-27 But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.
27 For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth.
Luke shows this instruction coming AFTER the bread and wine. John shows it also coming after the footwashing, with Judas leaving shortly thereafter. Therefore, the footwashing had to come after the bread and wine.
As an aside, handing Judas a sop from the table just as Judas left does not have to mean they were still eating—and therefore that the footwashing had to occur before the bread and wine. They had been "dipping together" earlier, but in John’s account of the final sop, Jesus merely handed Judas one. There could easily have been food left after supper was over and the footwashing had already occurred. Jesus could have reached for a sop out of the "leftovers" and handed it to Judas. This point cannot be a defining one as to when the bread and wine and footwashing occurred. It does not prove anything one way or the other.
Some confusion has occurred because Christ made several statements about Judas betraying Him and it is difficult to correlate these statements and make all the gospels conform. Someone drew the conclusion that "Christ was not such a poor public speaker that He would repeat Himself, so we have to correlate all the accounts and make the statements all fit at the same time in each account."
Is that rational? Christ told Peter three times to "feed my lambs, feed my sheep, feed my sheep." He repeated several times to the Pharisees in Matthew 23 that they were hypocrites, sons of snakes, fools and blind and whitened sepulchers. He called them hypocrites SEVEN times in that one chapter! Did that make Him a poor public speaker or a man who knew when to repeat a point enough times so the listeners might finally get it?
In the matter of mentioning the betrayer, Matthew says Christ mentioned betrayal as they were eating and that it was one dipping in the dish with Him. Mark records the same. Luke mentions Christ saying Judas hand was "on the table" AFTER supper and AFTER the bread and wine.
John writes of Judas’ betrayal at the beginning of his account in 13:2, again in verse 11, quotes Psalm 41:9, a prophecy of betrayal in verse 18, again in verse 21 and finally in verse 26 when Christ handed Judas a sop and Judas left. That’s five times!
In the matter of not eating and drinking until the Kingdom of God, Luke quotes Christ as using that example twice, not once, as Matthew and Mark did.
Does that mean Luke is contradicting Matthew and Mark or that he is just adding detail?John mentions the betrayal FIVE TIMES! Is he contradicting the other writers or adding even more detail?
Think for a moment! Suppose you learn one afternoon your life savings and entire retirement fund have been wiped out in a stock market scandal. Arriving home in time for dinner with the family, what will be on your mind? Will you mention it once as you sit down to eat and not again all evening? It will be so heavy in your thoughts; you will discuss it through every part of dinner. You will discuss it from every angle throughout the evening. You will decry those who perpetrated the scam several times. You will not let it go!!
As Jesus Christ sat down to eat, He was facing betrayal and death. Would He discuss what was on His mind? John says He mentioned the betrayer at least five times.
It is easy to become sidetracked trying to correlate all the sayings of Jesus that night. He may have repeated Himself several times on several issues. The fact that one gospel writer mentions a particular reference in one place and another in a different place does not mean they contradict. The example of John mentioning a betrayer five times speaks volumes! If the other writers only mention that example once, we might have trouble knowing just which of many times Matthew or Mark might be referring. It is not so much a matter of contradiction or difficult correlation, but of some writers adding detail.
The main question is whether the bread and wine came before or after footwashing. What are the key elements in that question?
Baptism is a symbol of Christ’s DEATH—His blood—not a symbol of footwashing.
We go "down into a watery grave…" The symbol of baptism simply does not enter the picture in determining whether footwashing comes first. We have to be baptized into His blood and crucified with Him before we can partake of the Passover. THAT is what is most important. Humility to each other comes afterward.
Do we have to humble ourselves first, with footwashing, before accepting the sacrifice of Christ? Or as in all cases in scripture, do we ALWAYS put God first? Man’s relationship to man is addressed secondarily to man’s relationship to God, as in the 10 commandments. We humble ourselves before HIS magnificent sacrifice before we address the footwashing and humility toward man.
Supper was finished or almost finished when the bread and wine was administered (Luke 22:20 and I Cor. 11:25). Luke and Paul did not mistake this!
Judas was still at the table after the symbols of the Passover were changed (Luke 22:21).
Christ offered His sacrifice to Judas, including the bread and wine, whether we like the idea or not. Remember that He offered Himself for YOU when you were still a sinner. He did not come to save the righteous, but sinners. God so loved the (whole) world!
Judas left after the footwashing, so since he was there for supper and the bread and wine, the footwashing had to come after the bread and wine. There is no way around this fact of scripture.
Placing the footwashing before the bread and wine causes difficulties. It makes us have to question Luke’s credibility. That makes us have to question Bible credibility. And by extension, GOD’S credibility since it is in His word. We cannot add to or take from scripture or we are in danger of eternal damnation (Revelation 22:18-19).
By placing the bread and wine before the footwashing and accepting all the gospel accounts as written, we find the gospels fit nicely together with no discrepancy.
All we have to do is change our tradition. How much is the tradition of men worth?I believed wrongly for over fifty years. So what? God used primarily Luke to straighten me out. I can accept that.
Copyright A Congregation of Church of God, 2005
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