A Retelling of Jesus Washing the Disciples Feet
Passover was approaching, a time ripe with the image of a sacrificial lamb and Jesus knew that his time had come. He had loved people in this world and it was time to show the disciples the full extent of his love. Behind the scenes the Devil himself was orchestrating a plan so shocking it would influence the heavens and the earth for the rest of eternity. He was readying his army, speaking lies into the ears of Romans and Jews alike, and deceiving Judas Iscariot himself.
But Jesus doesn’t play by the Devil’s handbook. Jesus had different plans in mind. Jesus was going to flip all the lies on their heads and show the world the full extent of his love. He wasn’t mustering up an army. He wasn’t readying this disciples for physical battle. No, for Jesus, showing the full extent of his love meant laying it all down.
Setting aside title.
Setting aside position.
Setting aside influence.
Eventually dying a traitors death on the cross.
He wasn’t thinking less of himself. He wasn’t afraid that he had lost. But he was thinking of himself less so the Father could become more. For this time in history, Jesus took on the role of a slave. He took off his outer clothing and he wrapped a servants towel around his waist. For Jesus, showing the full extent of his love meant trading the throne for a servants towel. He’d rather be on his knees serving those he loved than claiming his rightful throne in heaven.
Jesus put aside being teacher, being the Rabbi, and instead became the disciples’ servant. One by one he went around the room and washed the disciples feet. Even the feet of Judas Iscariot who would betray him. He wasn’t interested in ruling from his throne in heaven, instead, he was more concerned with showing the disciples real love.
The kind of Love that lays down everything,
throne and power included,
to show people their true worth.
Storyline Commentary on John 13:1-17
Setting Jesus knows his time has come, that it was time for him to leave this world and return to the Father. Jesus has shown his disciples love until the end (and still shows us love for that matter).
- Jesus, knowing his time had come
- The Evil one, influencing Judas Iscariot
- Judas Iscariot, the one who sold Jesus out
- Simon Peter, who initially refused Jesus washing his feet, only to turn around and ask Jesus wash all of him.
Tension The evil one put the thought of betraying Jesus into the heart of Judas Iscariot. Jesus gets up from dinner and took off his outer robe, put on a servants towel, and took on the role of a servant.
Jesus knows who is going to betray him.
Jesus stops what he’s doing, puts on his outer robe again, and then reclines at the table with the disciples asking them if they understand what he has just done.
Jesus symbolically lowers himself below the disciples and this is confusing because how can the God of all creation do that?
Resolution The disciples will find themselves blessed if they take on the servant nature of their master.
It’s only in serving others that we fully experience Christ.
You can’t fully experience Jesus in your life without serving others because Jesus was not only a teacher and leader, but also a servant.
You can’t just think of yourself as a servant, you have to become a servant who is willing to do what Jesus did, lower yourself below the status of everyone else around you. If you want to be with Jesus, that’s where you’ll find him.
Why has this scripture endured? This is a scripture that really draws us into the heart and mind of God. The Creator is so different than those who would want to find themselves in power. Jesus gains power by giving it away. Jesus becomes the ultimate leader by becoming the ultimate servant. This is a critical moment for Jesus and John gives us insight into what mattered to Christ, that he loved his disciples to the end, and that he lowered himself in service to them in order to show them how to truly lead.
What is true for them then that is true for us today? This scripture truly highlights the human condition. We still betray Jesus. We still misunderstand Jesus. But Jesus stays faithful. Faithful in ways that defy cultural norms. Leadership in serving. Gaining power by giving it up. Becoming the ultimate teacher but setting role and title aside.
How does this help me love God more? This scripture points to an opportunity where God is at work. If I choose to go to where God is at work (among the homeless, among the sick, among the forgotten) and lower myself like Jesus has lowered himself, then that will be a true act of obedience, one that shows Jesus I truly love him.
How does this help me love others more? Self explanatory. It’s not about choosing to think less of myself, but choosing to think of myself less. When I’m serving someone in need, instead of it becoming a comparison between where I’m at and where they’re at, my mentality should become, how can I lessen myself like Jesus lessened himself so God can truly work. Am I willing to wash dirty stinky feet even when it’s not my job?