Do you have a clear mental picture of the setting of the first celebration of the ordinance of humility as it is given in John 13? Some seem to imagine it something like this:
Jesus and His disciples, with dusty feet, arrived in the evening at the upper chamber where they were to eat the Passover supper. A pitcher of water, a basin, and a towel were there, ready for use, but no special servant appeared to wash their feet. None of the jealous and resentful twelve, who had been quarreling among themselves as to who should be chiefest among them, offered to do the menial task. The Passover supper was spread on the table, but they waited in stubborn pride for their feet to be washed. The embarrassment of it all was keenly felt. The suspense was broken when the Master girded Himself with the towel, poured water into the basin, and washed their feet. When this was done, they sat down together to eat while He conversed with them.
Nevertheless, that is not the way the facts are presented in the Scripture. Christ and His disciples sat down with unwashed feet and ate the Passover meal, after which He rose from the table and washed their feet. Note this statement:
"Christ ate the Passover supper with His disciples, then arose from the table, and said unto them, 'With desire have I desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer.' He then performed the humiliating office of washing the feet of His disciples. . . .
"Jesus then took His place again at the table, whereon was placed bread and unfermented wine, which arrangements had been made according to Christ's directions." Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 1, pp. 201-203.
When we turn to the account by John, the only New Testament writer reporting the foot washing, we find it borne out that this ceremony took place after one supper had ended. The narrative opens by speaking of "supper being ended," and of Judas having purposed in his heart already to betray the Saviour. (John 13:2.) Then "he [Jesus] riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself." Verse 4. The supper that they had been eating, and from which Christ rose to wash the disciples' feet, was the Passover supper, according to Mrs. White. "After he [Jesus] had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and sat down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?" Verse 12. Thus Jesus returned and took His place at the table after He had washed His disciples' feet. This is borne out also in the Spirit of prophecy.
In verse 18 Christ is reported to have said in the words of the psalmist: "He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me." This shows that they ate together after Christ had returned to the table. It was during this second eating that Christ gave the sop to Judas. (Verses 26-30.) This occurred while they were "at,the table." Verse 28. The other Gospel writers likewise testify that it was while Jesus and His disciples were eating that Judas received his portion. (Matt. 26:21-23; Mark 14:18-20; Luke 22:21.)
Thus the washing of the disciples' feet by Jesus occurred between two sittings at the table between the Passover supper and the Lord's Supper.
The Lord's Supper
In the first celebration of the Lord's Supper, as commonly depicted by artists, Christ and His disciples are seen sitting around a long, rectangular table in about the same fashion as a family sits at supper today. One seldom sees in art a true representation of that first communion service as it is described in this statement by the Spirit of prophecy:
"At the time of their deliverance from Egypt, the children of Israel ate the Passover supper standing, with their loins girded, and with their staves in their hands, ready for their journey. The manner in which they celebrated this ordinance harmonized with their condition; for they were about to be thrust out of the land of Egypt, and were to begin a painful and difficult journey through the wilderness.
"But in Christ's time the condition of things had changed. They were not now about to be thrust out of a strange country, but were dwellers in their own land. In harmony with the rest that had been given them, the people then partook of the Passover supper in a reclining position. Couches were placed about the table, and the guests lay upon them, resting upon the left arm, and having the right hand free for use in eating. In this position a guest could lay his head upon the breast of the one who sat next above him. And the feet, being at the outer edge of the couch, could be washed by one passing around the outside of the circle." The Desire of Ages, p. 653.
The expression "man at the table" in John 13:28 is really a phrase formed of a plural participle of the Greek verb anakeimai, meaning "of the ones lying down" or "of the reclining ones." In Luke 22:21, 30 the Greek noun translated as "table" is trapeza, which simply means a dining table. The Greek verb rendered as "sat down" (Matt. 26:20), "sat" (Mark 14:18), and "sitteth" (Luke 22:27) is also from anakeimai (to lie down, to recline). The words "sat down" in Luke 22:14 are translated from anapipto (to fall back, as one does in leaning back in a reclining position).
Hence the Scriptures state that "there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples." John 13:23, 25. That disciple was the beloved John. Wherefore we read:
"When the disciples entered the supper room, their hearts were full of resentful feelings. Judas pressed next to Christ on the left side; John was on the right. If there was a highest place, Judas was determined to have it, and that place was thought to be next to Christ. . . . Judas, in choosing his position at the table, had tried to place himself first, and Christ as a servant served him first. John, toward whom Judas had felt so much bitterness, was left till the last. But John did not take this as a rebuke or slight." Ibid., pp. 644, 645.
Some of these details are important, and a correct mental picture of this first service will help us better to understand its significance.
Communion Bread a Complete Symbol
ROY ALLAN ANDERSON, Secretary, General Conference Ministerial Association
Many inquiries come to our desk asking for a recipe for communion bread, and we are happy to supply this as a tried recipe. Communion bread is symbolic bread therefore the ingredients should be such as can be a fitting symbol of the Lord's body. This recipe calls for whole-wheat flour. Ordinary white flour has actually been so prepared that the original life-giving element has been largely destroyed. This might well be a symbol of a denatured or a devitalized gospel. We need the whole grain to typify a complete Saviour. Some recipes suggest that cream or milk be used. This recipe calls for olive oil, where procurable. This oil, being a symbol of the Holy Spirit, has a definite place in this symbolic bread. In the ancient Hebrew service water and salt were prominent in the sacrificial offering, and Jesus mentioned them symbolically. All and only these ingredients are found in this recipe.
1 cup sifted fine-ground flour (preferably whole wheat)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cold water
1/4 CUP olive or other vegetable oil
Sift the flour and salt together. Pour the water into the oil but do not stir. Add to the dry ingredients and mix with a fork until all the flour is dampened. Roll out between two sheets of waxed paper to the thickness of thick pie pastry. Place on an ungreased, floured baking sheet, and mark off with a sharp knife into bite-sized squares, being careful to prick each square to prevent blistering. Bake at 450 F. for 10-15 minutes. Watch carefully during the last 5 minutes so that the bread will not burn. This recipe will be sufficient to serve about 50 persons.
Counsels on the Lord's Supper
The ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper are two monumental pillars, one within and one without the church. Upon these ordinances Christ has inscribed the name of the true God." Evangelism, p. 273.
"Christ designed that this supper should be often commemorated, in order to bring to our remembrance His sacrifice in giving His life for the remission of the sins of all who will believe on Him and receive Him." Ibid., p. 276.
"To those who receive the spirit of this service, it can never become a mere ceremonial. Its constant lesson will be, 'By love serve one an other.' In washing the feet of His disciples, Christ gave evidence that He would do any service, however humble, that would make them heirs with Him of the eternal wealth of heaven's treasure. His disciples, in. performing the same rite, pledge themselves in like manner to serve their brethren. Whenever this ordinance is rightly celebrated, the children of God are brought into a holy relationship, to help and bless each other. They covenant that their life shall be given to unselfish ministry." The Desire of Ages, p. 651.
"Christ's followers are to bear in mind the example of Christ in His humility. This ordinance is to encourage humility, but it should never be termed humiliating, in the sense of being degrading to humanity. It is to make tender our hearts toward one another." Review and Herald, May 31, 1898.
"In the early days of the advent movement, when our numbers were few, the celebration of the ordinances was made a most profitable occasion. On the Friday before, every church member endeavored to clear away everything that would tend to separate him from his brethren and from God. Hearts were closely searched; prayers for a divine revelation of hidden sin were earnestly offered; confessions of overreaching in trade, of ill-advised words hastily spoken, of sins cherished, were made. The Lord came near, and we were greatly strengthened and encouraged. . . .
"As Christ celebrated this ordinance with His disciples, conviction came to the hearts of all save Judas. So we shall be convicted as Christ speaks to our hearts. The fountains of the soul will be broken up. The mind will be energized, and springing into activity and life, will break down every barrier that has caused disunion and alienation." Evangelism, pp. 274, 275.
"The only greatness is the greatness of humility. The only distinction is found in devotion to the service of others...
"There is in man a disposition to esteem him self more highly than his brother, to work for self, to seek the highest place; and often this results in evil surmisings and bitterness of spirit. The ordinance preceding the Lord's supper, is to clear away these misunderstandings, to bring man out of his selfishness, down from his stilts of self-exaltation, to the humility of heart that will lead him to serve his brother. . . . Christ in the fullness of His grace is there to change the current of the thoughts that have been running in selfish channels. The Holy Spirit quickens the sensibilities of those who follow the example of their Lord. . . .
"Roots of bitterness that have crowded out the precious plant of love are made manifest. Defects of character, neglect of duties, ingratitude to God, coldness toward our brethren, are called to remembrance. Sin is seen in the light in which God views it. ...
"As the lesson of the preparatory service is thus learned, the desire is kindled for a higher spiritual life." The Desire of Ages, p. 650.
"Our churches need to be educated to a higher order of reverence and respect for the sacred service of God." Evangelism, p. 277.
"Everything connected with it [the service] should suggest as perfect a preparation as possible. Every ordinance of the church should be uplifting. They should not be made common or cheap, or placed on a level with common things." Ibid.
"The communion service was not to be a season of sorrowing. This was not its purpose. As the Lord's disciples gather about His table, they are not to remember and lament their shortcomings. They are not to dwell upon their past religious experience, whether that experience has been elevating or depressing. They are not to recall the differences between them and their brethren. The preparatory service has embraced all this. The self-examination, the confession of sin, the reconciling of differences, has all been done. Now they come to meet with Christ. They are not to stand in the shadow of the cross, but in its saving light. They are to open the soul to the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness. With hearts cleansed by Christ's most precious blood, in full consciousness of His presence, although unseen, they are to hear His words, 'Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you.' . . . The communion service points to Christ's second coming." The Desire of Ages, p. 659.
Jesus said, "As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come." 1 Cor. 11:26.
"The love of Jesus, with its constraining power, is to be kept fresh in our memory. Christ has instituted this service that it may speak to our senses. His sacrifice is the center of our hope. Upon this we must fix our faith. . . . Our senses need to be quickened to lay hold of the mystery of godliness." Ibid., p. 660.