How do you forgive someone who has wronged you? Forgiveness is never an easy thing. However, the Bible commands us to forgive one another. Forgiveness is a beautiful thing. In order to experience the beauty of forgiveness, we must follow the example of Jesus.
The Sacrifice of Forgiveness (v. 4). Jesus is at the last supper with His disciples. In that day the common means of transportation was walking. The people wore sandals and the dirt from the roads would cover their feet. When they came into a house they themselves or a servant would wash their feet. Jesus comes into the house and proceeds to wash the feet of His disciples.
Notice the significance of this act by Jesus. He makes a tremendous sacrifice. Jesus left the wonders of heaven to come to this earth in order to bring salvation to mankind. In heaven, He was worshipped. In heaven, He was King. In heaven, He lived in luxury and comfort. But, He ‘laid aside His garments.’ He girds Himself with the clothing of a slave. Look with me at Philippians 2:5-8. Jesus, who is God, left heaven and came to this sin cursed earth. He came not as King, but, as a servant. As a servant, He went all the way to the cross and suffered and died that you and I may be forgiven.
The reason why forgiveness is so hard is because it requires humility. In order for you to forgive someone, you must be a servant. You must lower yourself in order to forgive. That is why not forgiving someone is just as sinful as the wrong that the person did to you. You see, when we do not forgive, we are filled with pride. The root of all sin is pride. ‘Pride comes before destruction.’ Pride will destroy your life. That is why forgiving one another is so important. If you do not forgive, you will destroy yourself with your own pride.
The means of forgiveness (v. 5-8). Jesus tells Peter that if He does not wash him then he will not be made clean. What we learn here is that Jesus is the only one that can take away sin. Forgiveness comes through Jesus. You cannot forgive someone on your own. To truly forgive someone, you must forgive them in the name of Jesus. He is the means of forgiveness. We can forgive one another, because He has forgiven us. Without the forgiveness of Jesus, we cannot forgive each other.
The completeness of forgiveness (v. 9). When Jesus forgives us, He forgives us completely. He forgives us totally. Psalm 103:12 says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us.” Last I checked, the east from the west is a long way. It is infinitely far. Jesus forgives in such a way that He chooses to forget about your sin and never bring it up again. When He takes away sin, He takes it away completely. It is gone forever. Do we forgive that way? Do we forgive completely?
The specificness of forgiveness (v. 10). The Ryrie Study Bible says, “Two different words are used here for ‘wash.’ The phrase literally reads, ‘He who has bathed need not wash except his feet.’ Just as in the natural life a man who has bathed needs only to wash the dust off his sandaled feet when he returns home, so in the spiritual life a man who has been cleansed from sin need not to think that all is lost when he sins in his walk through life. He need only to confess these sins to be entirely clean again.” 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Even though you may be a Christian, there will be times when you will still sin in this life. However, this does not mean that you lose your salvation. Your sins have been paid for. They are under the blood. However, sin does bring consequences in this life. Sin in the life a believer is a serious matter. It is not something to take lightly. When we do sin, we are to confess that sin specifically. As we confess our sin, we are then restored to right relationship with God. Sin hinders our walk with God. Sin removes God’s favor on us. It blocks God’s blessings on us. Therefore, we must stay confessed up. When we sin, we must confess that sin immediately and turn away from it. When we do, God promises to forgive, cleanse, and restore us.
The reality of forgiveness (v. 11). Jesus makes a very somber statement in verse 11. He says that we are not all clean. In other words, there are those who are not forgiven. It is not that forgiveness has not been offered, it’s that forgiveness has not be received. How do we receive forgiveness? Through repentance. Jesus has already provided forgiveness. But, will you receive it? To receive it, you must turn away from your sin. You must not just admit your sin, but, you must forsake your sin. This is just as true in the life of a believer. For example, as a church, we have a responsibility to hold each other accountable to live lives of obedience to God’s Word. When there is someone who is living in sin, we are to confront them and encourage them to repent. However, if repentance does not occur, then consequences must be faced. You see, often times, the sin itself is not really the issue. The issue is an unrepentant heart. The problem is, we love to accept forgiveness. But, we don’t want to repent. My friend, you cannot have forgiveness without repentance. You cannot be confronted with your sin, and say, ‘Oh, I admit my sin, I confess my sin, I know its wrong, but, I’m going to keep on doing it’ and expect that there will be no consequences. This is the reality of forgiveness. If you want to enjoy the benefit and blessing that comes with being forgiven, you cannot continue in your sin. That is why Jesus said, there are some that are not cleansed. Why? Because they have not received forgiveness through repentance.
The example of forgiveness (v. 12-20). Jesus tells His disciples to follow His example. He tells them to wash each other’s feet. In other words, humble yourself as a servant and forgive one another. Will you follow the example of Jesus? Will you put away your pride, humble yourself, and forgive as Jesus has forgiven you?