Christ the Servant

Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet (John 13:1-20)

It was now the day before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father.  He had always loved those in the world who were his own, and he loved them to the very end.

Jesus and his disciples were at supper.

The Devil had already put into the heart of Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, the thought of betraying Jesus.  Jesus knew that the Father had given him complete power; he knew that he had come from God and was going to God.

So he rose from the table, took off his outer garment, and tied a towel around his waist. Then he poured some water into a washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Are you going to wash my feet, Lord?

Jesus answered him, “You do not understand now what I am doing, but you will understand later.

Peter declared, “Never at any time will you wash my feet!”

If I do not wash your feet,” Jesus answered, “you will no longer be my disciple.”

Simon Peter answered, “Lord, do not wash only my feet, then!  Wash my hands and head, too!”

Jesus said, “Those who have taken a bath are completely clean and do not have to wash themselves, except for their feet. All of you are clean—all except one.” (Jesus already knew who was going to betray him; that is why he said, “All of you, except one, are clean.”)

After Jesus had washed their feet, he put his outer garment back on and returned to his place at the table. “Do you understand what I have just done for you?” he asked.

You call me Teacher and Lord, and it is right that you do so, because that is what I am. I, your Lord and Teacher, have just washed your feet.

You, then, should wash one another’s feet. I have set an example for you, so that you will do just what I have done for you.

I am telling you the truth: no slaves are greater than their master, and no messengers are greater than the one who sent them.  Now that you know this truth, how happy you will be if you put it into practice!

I am not talking about all of you; I know those I have chosen. But the scripture must come true that says, ”he man who shared my food turned against me.’ I tell you this now before it happens, so that when it does happen, you will believe that ‘I Am Who I Am.'”

“I am telling you the truth: whoever receives anyone I send receives me also; and whoever receives me receives Him who sent me.

Commentary:

The opening verse of chapter 13 sets the scene for the whole of chapters 13 through 17.  Love is one of the key terms, occurring 31 times in these five chapters. 

Jesus now shows his disciples, and through them the people of the world, the full extent of his love.  Love is the laying down of one’s life and to love completely means to love to the end of one’s life.  At the crucifixion, we see the full extent of that love. 

Although Jesus was speakng to Peter, he is also speaking to the disciples as a group.  They have formed a community with Jesus as his body.  He has cleansed his body of disciples through his teaching and deeds and by their receiving Jesus with true faith.  

Judas was an unclean presence among the body of believers and is about to be cleansed from the body of believers.  

When Jesus asks “Do you understand what I have done for you?” (v.12), they do not and will not understand until the crucifixion, but they do understand his washing their feet as an act of humility.

Jesus now spells out the implications for their own lives of what he has done: “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.  I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (vv. 14-15)

Jesus’ instruction is for them to do ‘as’ he has done, not ‘what.’ The footwashing was symbolic.  The disciples are called upon to pass on the same teaching by conveying in both word and deed the selfless love of God through service with humility. And not only to one another but to others, without any self pride or exalted position, but instead exercising their humility through this model of servanthood.

Jesus’ sum-up instruction to his disciples is that whoever accepts Him accepts God, and whoever accepts the teachings of the disciples, accepts them as agents of Jesus, and therefore, heralds of God.  To accept the messenger is to accept the sender of the messenger.

“I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.” (v. 20)

Disciples who represent Christ by bearing the same self-sacrificing love of God will also be agents of eternal life. Each person who claims to be a disciple should walk through their today with a consciousness of being an agent of eternal life on a mission which is only made possible through the closest intimacy with Jesus.