John 13:1–20—Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet
1 Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. 2 It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. 4 So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, 5 and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.
6 When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”
8 “No,” Peter protested, “you will never ever wash my feet!”
Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.”
9 Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!”
10 Jesus replied, “A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet, to be entirely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For Jesus knew who would betray him. That is what he meant when he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. 17 Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.
18 “I am not saying these things to all of you; I know the ones I have chosen. But this fulfills the Scripture that says, ‘The one who eats my food has turned against me.’19 I tell you this beforehand, so that when it happens you will believe that I Am the Messiah. 20 I tell you the truth, anyone who welcomes my messenger is welcoming me, and anyone who welcomes me is welcoming the Father who sent me.”
Points of Interest
- ‘he loved them to the very end’—Jesus is now in the final sprint; he wants to finish strong. He will keep doing, to the very end and to a greater degree than ever before, what he has been doing all along.
- ‘you will never ever wash my feet!’—Peter is aghast that his superior would do something so lowly as wash his feet. He has it right that Jesus is his superior, but he doesn’t really understand what that means. Master and slave isn’t really the right analogy for their relationship. The one Jesus most recently used is shepherd and sheep. A shepherd looks to the needs of the sheep, not the other way around.
- ‘does not need to wash, except for the feet’—Peter then gets carried away in the other direction. Jesus responds, ‘Let’s not go overboard. We’ll just wash what’s dirty.’ I tend to think this is a mood-lightening joke. There may be some spiritual metaphor Jesus is making; but I don’t understand it, and John doesn’t explain it.
- ‘Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them’—rather like with the people who believe in Jesus but won’t admit it in yesterday’s passage, the knowledge is no good unless it’s put into action.
- Betrayal and death are not the end of the story.
- ‘I tell you this beforehand’—once again, Jesus wants them to know that even when things look bad, they’re actually proceeding according to plan. It’s important for them to know this for a couple of reasons. First of all, Jesus does not want them to be unsettled by Judas’ betrayal. Secondly, he’s preparing them for the fact that they too, once he’s gone, won’t always be popular and well-received; that doesn’t mean they have gotten things wrong.
Taking It Home
- For you: How does this story make you feel. Imagine Jesus is washing your feet, what are you sensing? Jesus is showing his followers how to serve. Pray for God to reveal unique ways for you to serve others. FF Family/Household Option: If you want, you could reenact this story by having a family feet-washing. Jesus washed his disciples’ feet to set an example of how he’d like his followers to serve one another. Ask God for something you could you do to serve or help someone else in your family today, then do it.
- For your 6: As Jesus’ life comes to end, he somehow maintains focus on what’s truly most important to him. Ask Jesus to give the same focus to your 6. Pray that they wouldn’t be distracted by whatever feels urgent, but that they would really pursue what matters most to them. Ask Jesus for opportunities to talk with your 6 about the things that matter most to each of you in life.
- For our church: We’re such an egalitarian society that it’s hard to picture just what a big deal it was for the disciples’ superior Jesus to bend down and wash their feet. Think what it would be like Bill Gates or President Obama showing up at your house and then insisting on cleaning your bathroom or taking out your trash. It kind of seems unthinkable, right? Ask Jesus to give our church the same humility to lovingly and patiently serve and honor others in eye-popping ways.