Synopsis of the Books of the Bible, by John Nelson Darby, [1857-62], at sacred-texts.com
Now, then, the Lord has taken His place as going to the Father. The time was come for it. He takes His place above, according to the counsels of God, and is no longer in connection with a world that had already rejected Him; but He loves His own unto the end. Two things are present to Him: on the one hand, sin taking the form most painful to His heart; and on the other, the sense of all glory being given to Him as man, and of whence He came and whither He was going: that is, His personal and heavenly character in relationship with God, and the glory that was given Him. He came from God and went to God; and the Father had put all things into His hands.
But neither His entrance into glory, nor the heartlessness of man's sin, takes His heart away from His disciples or even from their wants. Only He exercises His love, to put them in connection with Himself in the new position He was creating for them by entering thus into it. He could no longer remain with them on earth; and if He left them, and must leave them, He would not give them up, but fit them for being where He was. He loved them with a love that nothing stopped. It went on to perfect its results; and He must fit them to be with Him. Blessed change that love accomplished even from His being with them here below! They were to have a part with Him who came from God and went to God, and into whose hands the Father had put all things; but then they must be fit to be with Him there. To this end He is still their servant in love, and even more so than ever. No doubt He had been so in His perfect grace, but it was while among them. They were thus in a certain sense companions. They were all supping together here at the same table. But He quits this position, as He did His personal association with His disciples by ascending to heaven, by going to God. But, if He does, He still girds Himself for their service, and takes water [See Note #49] to wash their feet. Although in heaven, He is still serving us. [See Note #50] The effect of this service is, that the Holy Ghost takes away practically by the word all the defilement that we gather in walking through this world of sin. On our way we come in contact with this world that rejected Christ. Our Advocate on high (compare 1 John 2), He cleanses us from its defilement by the Holy Ghost and the word; He cleanses us in view of the relationships with God His Father, unto which He has brought us by entering into them Himself as man on high.
A purity was needed that should befit the presence of God, for He was going there. However it is only the feet that are in question. The priests that served God in the tabernacle were washed at their consecration. That washing was not repeated. So, when once spiritually renewed by the word, this is not repeated for us. In "he that is washed" it is a different word from "save to wash his feet." The first is bathing the whole body; the latter washing hands or feet. We need the latter continually, but are not, once born of water by the word, washed over again, any more than the priests' first consecration was repeated. The priests washed their hands and their feet every time they engaged in service that they drew near to God. Our Jesus restores communion and power to serve God, when we have lost it. He does it, and with a view to communion and service; for before God we are entirely clean personally. The service was the service of Christ of His love. He wiped their feet with the towel wherewith He was girded (a circumstance expressive of service). The means of purification was water the word, applied by the Holy Ghost. Peter shrinks from the idea of Christ thus humbling Himself. but we must submit to this thought, that our sin is such that nothing less than the humiliation of Christ can in any sense cleanse us from it. Nothing else will make us really know the perfect and dazzling purity of God, or the love and devotedness of Jesus: and in the realisation of these consists the having a heart sanctified for the presence of God. Peter, then, would have the Lord to wash also his hands and his head. But this is already accomplished. If we are His we are born again and cleansed by the word which He has already applied to our souls; only we defile our feet in walking. It is after the pattern of this service of Christ in grace that we are to act with regard to our brethren.
Judas was not clean; he had not been born again, was not clean through the word Jesus had spoken. Nevertheless, being sent of the Lord, they who had received him had received Christ. And this is true also of those whom He sends by His Spirit. This thought brings the treachery of Judas before the Lord's mind; His soul is troubled at the thought, and He unburdens His heart by declaring it to His disciples. What His heart is occupied with here is, not His knowledge of the individual, but of the fact that one of them should do it, one of those who had been His companions.
Therefore it was, because of His saying this, that the disciples looked upon one another. Now there was one near Him, the disciple whom Jesus loved; for we have, in all this part of the Gospel of John, the testimony of grace that answers to the diverse forms of malice and wickedness in man. This love of Jesus had formed the heart of John had given him confidingness and constancy of affection; and consequently, without any other motive than this, he was near enough to Jesus to receive communications from Him. It was not in order to receive them that he placed himself close to Jesus: he was there because he loved the Lord, whose own love had thus attached him to Himself; but, being there, he was able to receive them. It is thus that we may still learn of Him.