Washing Their Feet

John 13:12-27
12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
     In John 13, we see Jesus, mere hours before his betrayal and crucifixion, taking on the humble task of washing his disciples' feet. This act alone speaks volumes about the heart of servanthood that should characterize all who claim to follow Christ.
     But Jesus doesn't stop there. He goes on to teach his disciples that this kind of humble, self-giving love is not just a nice gesture, but the very essence of what it means to be his disciple. "I have set you an example," he tells them, "that you should do as I have done for you" (John 13:15). True discipleship is not just about accumulating head knowledge or even putting on a good spiritual show. It's about getting down on our knees, rolling up our sleeves, and serving others with the same sacrificial love that Jesus himself embodied.
     What is significant to me is that Jesus chose to teach this lesson in the knowledge of his own impending betrayal. He knew that one of his own, Judas Iscariot, would soon sell him out for a pocketful of silver. And yet, even in this dark moment, Jesus remained steadfast in his mission, fulfilling scripture and confirming his identity as the Messiah. The fact that Jesus chose to teach about humble service and sacrificial love in the face of his own betrayal teaches us several lessons.
     First, it highlights the unwavering commitment of Jesus to his mission. Despite knowing the pain and suffering that lay ahead, Jesus did not shrink back or lose sight of his purpose. He remained resolute in his determination to fulfill scripture and to lay down his life as a ransom for many. This steadfast obedience, even in the darkest of circumstances, is a powerful example for us as his disciples. It challenges us to remain faithful to God's call on our lives, even when the path ahead is difficult or uncertain.
     Second, Jesus' actions in this moment reveal the depth of his love for his disciples, even for Judas, the one who would betray him. The fact that Jesus washed Judas' feet, fully aware of the treachery in his heart, is a stunning display of grace and mercy. It reminds us that God's love extends to all people, even those who have turned their backs on him. As followers of Christ, we are called to embody that same radical, unconditional love, even toward those who have wronged us.
     Jesus' foreknowledge of Judas' betrayal and his willingness to embrace the cross serves to confirm his identity as the Messiah and the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. In this moment, we see the convergence of God’s sovereignty and human free will, as God works through even the sinful choices of human beings to accomplish his redemptive purposes. It is a mystery that reminds us of God's ultimate control over history and his ability to bring good even out of the darkest of circumstances.
     So what does all of this mean for us today? As disciples of Jesus, we are called to follow in his footsteps, serving others with humility and love, even when it costs us dearly. We are called to remain faithful to him, even in the face of betrayal or persecution. And above all, we are invited into the same intimate, abiding relationship with Jesus that the beloved disciple enjoyed.
  1. Jesus' act of washing his disciples' feet and his subsequent teaching on humble, self-giving love reveal that true discipleship is about more than just head knowledge or outward appearances. It's about embodying the sacrificial love of Christ in tangible ways. What are some practical ways we can "wash one another's feet" and demonstrate the heart of servanthood in our daily lives and relationships?
  2. Jesus' unwavering commitment to his mission and his display of grace and mercy toward Judas, even in the face of betrayal, serve as powerful examples for us as his disciples. They challenge us to remain faithful to God's call and to extend unconditional love, even in difficult circumstances. Can you think of a time when you were called to love or serve someone who had wronged you? How did you respond, and what did you learn from that experience about the radical nature of Christ-like love?

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