The Feast of the Passover has arrived, and Jesus knows his hour has finally come. Having loved his own in the world, he will love them to the end.
We enter the scene of John 13, where Jesus and his disciples are enjoying a last meal together. Celebration abounds, friendship and feasting too. Judas Iscariot, the betrayer, is present, as are the rest of Jesus’ faithful disciples— the men he has allowed to walk and watch his ways. Men, who have been fed by the Bread of Life, with fish and loaves and with words powerful to save, strengthen, and encourage. Men, who have witnessed and performed miracles in his name, bodies healed, and sins forgiven. Men, who have confessed, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-9).
And Jesus is present at the meal. The Lamb of God.
As the action begins, we learn that Jesus knows his Father had given him all things, and so with purpose he rises and moves towards each disciple, tenderly washing their feet. One after another, first the washing and then the drying, with a towel wrapped around his waist. The process is physical, messy and wet, refreshing and warm, and utterly confusing, as Peter makes clear when his turn arrives. “Lord, do you wash my feet?” (John 13:6).
“If I do not wash you, you have no share with me,” Jesus replies (John 13:8), so in characteristic form, Peter enthusiastically requests a full washing, his hands and head as well.
No. A full washing is unnecessary. Peter is already bathed, made clean through faith in the one the Father has sent, justified fully, forever. “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean” (John 13:10). Even so, brokenness and sin will continue to resurface and reattach. Peter must allow Jesus to proceed.
As I Have Done to You
Jesus finishes his work and returns to his place among his friends and betrayer. Do they understand? Can they see that this time of washing is meant as an example? He, their teacher and Lord, has served them from a posture of deep humility, the posture of love. In the same way he has loved them, they are to love one another. “You also should do just as I have done to you,” he says (John 13:15)….