John 13:1-17 – Jesus washes his disciples’ feet
It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel round his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped round him.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’
Jesus replied, ‘You do not realise now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’
‘No,’ said Peter, ‘you shall never wash my feet.’
Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.’
‘Then, Lord,’ Simon Peter replied, ‘not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!’
Jesus answered, ‘Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.’ For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
When 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. ‘You call me “Teacher” and “Lord”, and rightly so, for that is what I am. 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. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
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How many times had they sat down to this Passover meal? They had all done it since they were kids. They loved it when Jesus told them about the time he’d stayed behind and his parents had freaked out. They’d all laughed when he told them that one. Well all except Mary that is, she hadn’t quite forgiven him for that yet! Everyone knew the ritual, the routine. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go.
He’d wanted to keep it intimate, just the thirteen of them in that small, hot room. It was all a bit last minute but the owner had managed to squeeze them in and when they got there it was all laid out ready.
They started eating straight away, telling each other the story that they all knew so well.
Each family gave it their own particular spin but it was all the same story.
They were lost in the familiarity of it when they noticed that Jesus had stood up and was filling a bowl with water. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go.
Surprise surprise, Peter was the first to speak. “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
“Yes”, Jesus replied, and then in that infuriating way of his he said “you’ll understand later”
“But you can’t wash my feet”, Peter cried, “that’s the servant girl’s job!”
“If you won’t let me wash you then you can have nothing to do with me.” Jesus said.
“Well then don’t just wash my feet, why not wash my hands and my head as well?”
In for a penny, in for a pound. That’s Peter through and through!
But Jesus just looked at him and said “you are clean, only your feet need washing.”
Nobody else said anything while he carried on round the table.
Washing. Drying. Washing. Drying. Washing. Drying.
When he’d finished and got back to his seat he looked around and asked,
“Do you understand now?”
“You call me Lord” he said, “You call me teacher, rabbi, and you should, that is what I am.
“But now I, your lord and teacher, have knelt before you as a servant and washed your feet, so you also should do the same for one another.”
Christ does not call us to strive for greatness. He doesn’t ask us to seek fame, or popularity, or riches, though we so often do. He tells us to kneel in the dust, to take on the role of a humble servant girl and wash the feet of a dirty and worn out world so that when people look at us all they see is Jesus.