"I have given you an example"

The necessity of humility for spiritual progress is clearly defined in the narrative of the washing of the apostles' feet as given in the thirteenth chapter of John; but it contains also a more profound and metaphysical meaning, which can be discerned in the light of Christian Science, namely, that purity is attained only through the Christ cleansing, which goes much deeper than the flesh. Peter, aware of his physical cleanness and also unwilling to permit the Master to perform so menial an act, at first refused to allow Jesus to wash his feet; but when the Master said, "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me," Simon Peter flew impulsively to the other extreme and asked for the washing of his hands and head also, not content to wait till the meaning of this symbolic act was revealed to him. All the washing in the world, the mere cleansing of "the outside of the cup and of the platter," strict attention to health laws, the careful observance of the letter of the law regardless of the spirit, are absolutely futile to achieve purity in the real sense; for until we have been mentally cleansed by the Christ-spirit, of which the washing of the apostles' feet by Jesus was emblematic, we are not "all clean."

In the Glossary of "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" (p. 583) Mrs. Eddy defines Christ as "the divine manifestation of God, which comes to the flesh to destroy incarnate error." It is only through patient acquiescence in the cleansing process, in which we have to lay down all human pride and to judge the worth of worldly knowledge in its relation to spiritual understanding, that we are purified from material error through Christ, Truth. The apostles may be said to represent the varied attitudes manifested toward the spiritual idea by mortal mind, from its expression of hate in Judas to its expression of love in John, and their doubts and difficulties as these are experienced by mortals to-day, in some form or other. There is surely no more striking example of the need for obedience, mental purification, and humility than is set forth in this simple incident as related by John.

The Jews gave minute attention to material cleansing, and the laws on the subject were endless, for the belief of purifying the mind and spirit through attention to matter is not specially characteristic of the thought of to-day; it has always prevailed in the history of mankind. Jesus was not the first to declare that purity of thought is the first step toward salvation; but he was the first to demonstrate the fact in such a manner that all could grasp his meaning. Thus we read: "For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean." He alone understood that purification could be effected only through the activity of the Christ-spirit as operative in the individual consciousness.

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Love for the Sunday School
September 7, 1918

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