Washing the Disciples’ Feet
Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, “Lord, are You washing my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.” Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, “You are not all clean.” So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. – John 13:1-17.
The occasion was before the Feast of the Passover and Jesus’ impending departure from the earth and separation from His beloved disciples. Jesus knew of His role as the Lamb of God.
Jesus had just had super with the disciples. He knew that the time of His departure was near. He loved his disciples. They had been together for over 3 years and because He loved them, He was concerned about them now that He was going away. Then there was Judas, the betrayer. Jesus loved him also. It is just that Judas failed to understand Jesus and His mission. Judas did not love Jesus; his greed had blinded him into betraying Jesus.
Jesus knew that the Father had given all things into His hands. He was conscious of His universal and absolute dominance. He was also aware of His divine greatness – His supreme power, divine origin, and divine glory. The Logos [Word] knew that He was returning home.
The Disciples’ Desire
The disciples wanted to know as to who would be the greatest in the kingdom [see Matthew 18:1-5]; two even wanted prominent positions in the kingdom! [Matthew 20:20-28].
The Master’s Purpose and Motive.
Jesus declared His mission. “For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.” [Matthew 18:11.] And “[T]he Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” [Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45]. The disciples sought greatness; Jesus displayed and taught them humility. What contrast!
All through His sorrow, Jesus continued to love. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” [2 Corinthians 8:9.] “Blest be the ties that bind!” The loving tie that bound the Master to His disciples was soon to be broken.
“He loved them to the uttermost.”
The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying:
“Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore with loving kindness I have drawn you. – Jeremiah 31:3.
What is He doing!? He is giving them a hands-on demonstration of what He expects of them – humility and loving service.
The Hands-On Lesson
Here is an mini enactment of what Jesus did for the world. He gets up. Removes his outer garment. Warps a towel around His waist. Takes a bowl of water. Washes the feet of each of His disciples, Judas included. He is still their Lord and Master. He takes of His garment and, wearing the servant’s garment, washes their feet. His actions do not degrade His position in any way. The Master serves the Disciples. When He is done washing their feet (symbolic action of making them spiritually clean). He take his garments and sits down again.
What Jesus did for the world.
This foot washing scene parallels what Jesus did for the whole world. He concealed His divine glory and restrained His unlimited privileges. He took on the form of a slave by becoming human and was obedient to the Father to the point of a criminal’s death on the cross. After doing his work of service by dying on the cross for the world, Jesus resumed his glorious form and rightful place in heaven.
We find a beautiful present of this in Philippians 2:5-11.
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
“You should do as I have done to you”
He tells them, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. …If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” – John13:14, 15, 17.
As His disciples/followers, they [and we] are to imitate Him, serving one another in lowliness of heart and mind, seeking to edify another up in humility and love. When we seek prominence, we displease the Lord who promised that true greatness in His kingdom is attained by those with a servant’s heart (Mark 9:35; 10:44). When we have that servant’s heart, the Lord promised, we will be greatly blessed. – John 13:17.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.