13. Footwashing

Jesus teaches humility by washing the feet of his disciples (13:1-20).

It was just before the Passover Festival, and Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and return to his Father. Throughout his ministry he had always loved his own, but now he was about to show us the full extent of his love.

Even before the evening meal had gotten underway, the devil had already convinced Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, that he should betray Jesus.

Jesus knew that God had placed everything under his control. He knew that he had come from God and that he was soon to return to him. So he rose from the table and removed his robe. Taking a towel, he tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a washbasin and began to wash our feet, drying them with the towel around his waist.

Modern church near the garden of Gethsemane

But when Jesus came to Simon Peter, he asked in astonishment, "Lord, could it possibly be that you intend to wash my feet?"

Jesus answered, "What I am doing right now you won't fully understand, but in time you will grasp what it means."

"You'll never wash my feet!‚" insisted Peter.

"If I do not wash you," replied Jesus, "you will no longer be one of mine."

"In that case, Lord," exclaimed Peter, "don't stop at washing my feet; pour water all over me!"

Jesus responded, "If a person has had a complete bath there is no need to wash except for the feet. And all of you, except one, are clean. Jesus knew who was about to betray him, and that was why he said that we were all clean, "except one."

When Jesus had finished washing our feet, he put on his robe and returned to his place. He asked, "Do you understand what I have just done to you? You call me your teacher and Lord, and you are right to do so, because that is what I am. Since I, your teacher and Lord, have just washed your feet, you should do the same for one another. I have given you an example, so that you will do for each other what I have done for you. I tell you the truth, a servant is not superior in rank to his master -- a messenger is not greater than the one who sends him. Now that you know these things, God will bless you if you do them.

Headwaters of the Jordan River

"I am not talking about all of you; I know those I have chosen. But the Scripture must be fulfilled that says, 'The one who has shared my table has lashed out against me.'

"I am telling you this before it happens. That way, when it does happen you will believe that I am the one I claim to be. I tell you the truth, whoever accepts one of my messengers, accepts me. And whoever accepts me, accepts the one who sent me."

Jesus foretells his betrayal by Judas Iscariot (13:21-30).

After saying this, Jesus became profoundly disturbed in spirit and said to us, "I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me." We were stunned! We looked around at one another at a loss to know which of us he meant.

I was commonly known as "the one Jesus loved," and I was sitting next to him at the table. Simon Peter motioned to me to find out who Jesus meant. So I leaned back against Jesus and asked, Lord, who will it be?"

Jesus replied, "I am going to dip this piece of bread in the sauce and give it to the one who will betray me."

Then he dipped the bread and gave it to Judas Iscariot, Simon's son. As soon as Judas had accepted the bread, Satan took complete possession of him.

Roman amphitheatre

"Don't wait to do what you intend to do," said Jesus. No one at the table understood what Jesus meant by this. Since Judas was in charge of the money bag, some thought he had been told to buy whatever was needed for the Festival. Others thought that perhaps he was to give some money to the poor. Judas took the piece of bread and left the room without delay.

It was night.

Jesus' followers are to be known for their love for one another (13:31-35).

After Judas had left, Jesus said to us, "Now at last the Son of Man is to enter into his glory, and he will bring glory to God. After God receives glory because of him, God will bring glory to him, and God will do it soon.

"My dear friends, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, but as I told the Jewish authorities, 'You cannot go where I am going.' Now I am giving you a new commandment: Love one another! You are to love one another just as I have loved you. Your love for one another will demonstrate to everyone that you are my disciples."

Peter is rebuffed for his overly confident assertion that he is willing to die for Jesus (13:36-38).

"Lord, where are you going?" asked Simon Peter.

Jesus replied, "You cannot go with me now, but one day you will."

Modern inhabitant of Jerusalem

Peter asked, "Lord, why can't I go with you now? I'm willing to die for you!"

"Willing to die for me?" questioned Jesus. "Not so. I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows you will have denied three times that you know me."