1It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.
2The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 3Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?"
7Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand."
8"No," said Peter, "you shall never wash my feet."
Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."
9"Then, Lord," Simon Peter replied, "not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!"
10Jesus answered, "A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you." 11For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
12When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" he asked them. 13"You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. 15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
18"I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill the scripture: 'He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.'
19"I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He. 20I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me."
21After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, "I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me."
22His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, "Ask him which one he means."
25Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, "Lord, who is it?"
26Jesus answered, "It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish." Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. 27As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.
"What you are about to do, do quickly," Jesus told him, 28but no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. 29Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the Feast, or to give something to the poor. 30As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.
31When he was gone, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him. 32If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.
33"My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.
34"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
36Simon Peter asked him, "Lord, where are you going?"
Jesus replied, "Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later."
37Peter asked, "Lord, why can't I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you."
38Then Jesus answered, "Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times! (NIV)
In John’s Gospels, Chapters 13 through 19 all deal with a 24 hour period of Jesus’ life – Thursday late afternoon/evening to Friday afternoon. 7 chapters out of 21 chapters in John. 1/3 of the Gospel is devoted to this one day.
Now when we read John’s Gospel, the Thursday evening meal is not the Passover Meal. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all put the meal on Thursday as the Passover Meal. For John, it is the day before the Passover Feast. We see this in verse 29, the disciples think Judas is going to buy things needed for the Passover Feast. In John doing this, we will see that the moment of death for Jesus is the same moment that the Passover Lamb is being sacrificed in the temple. But we will get to that when it comes up in the reading.
Here we have the story of the Jesus washing the disciple’s feet. The story only appears in John. It is wonderful story about the humility and power of Jesus. I had a professor that told us to look for the places where Jesus’ humanity was the weakest and you will find that Jesus’ divinity was at its greatest. The more humble Christ was the more divine he was. And in this picture, we see Jesus humbling himself to take on the most menial job, a job the lowest in the household would do, washing the feet of those who enter the household.
But this room is a borrowed room. There was no one present to perform that duty. None of the others took on that responsibility and so Jesus does. And John tells us that he did it in the full knowledge that everything had been given to him and that his hour of suffering and his hour of being glorified were at hand. And yet, he still took time to love in a very humbling way.
Jesus was always teaching. He didn’t let a moment or an opportunity go by to teach. And her was another opportunity to teach his disciples a valuable lesson. Luke’s Gospel tells us the disciples were still bickering about who was the greatest. It was in this act that Jesus reaffirms his teaching that the greatest among them is the least. We are to always be about serving one another.
Isaiah gave us the image of the Messiah being the suffering servant. The greatest leaders have also been the ones who cared the most about those under them. And it usually showed in their leadership. We are to live lives of service to not only one another, but to the world. We are never to be so full of ourselves that we cannot serve.
And we end this chapter with Peter saying his would lay down his life for Jesus. Jesus responds by asking him if he would really lay down his life for him. He then tells him that he will actually deny him before the night is over.
And this is a powerful point for us to remember. It is not our job to defend Jesus. Too often we get hung up with feeling like we have to justify who Jesus is and why he and God act the way they do. We actually lay down our lives, not in defense of Jesus, but in service for Jesus. We lay down our lives when we serve those who are hungry, those who are sick, those who are in prison, those who are naked, those who are thirsty (Matthew 25:31-46). And we serve in humility.
Where do you see yourself on this spectrum of service and humility? Do we feel there are jobs beneath you in life? How can you serve others the way Christ gave as an example? (Each person will serve differently, so there is no right answer.)
We are all called to serve. How will you respond to that call?
Blessings and Peace