Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
Reflection – Allie Ford
Fun fact: feet are gross. If you have ever had the privilege of going to or chaperoning children’s or youth camps, you know that cabins and dorms quickly fill with laughter, dirty laundry, and the horrendous smell of wet shoes and dirty feet.
The disciples’ feet that Jesus washed were no different. Unfortunately for Jesus, the disciples were not wearing clean Nikes or fresh socks. Around 33 AD, the disciples lived in a society that required them to walk as means of transportation. “Following Jesus” quite literally meant traveling for miles across sandy, dirty roads with open-toed sandals. As Jesus took off his outer clothing and wrapped himself in a towel—in a way preparing himself to be stripped and wrapped in cloth a few days later—he demonstrated one of the greatest acts of humility and servanthood: washing his friends’ dirty, dust-covered feet – even washing Judas’s feet.
As shocking as his actions are for the rest of the disciples, Peter is more seriously alarmed: “You shall never wash my feet!” Jesus—the Son of God and the Messiah—cannot possibly lower himself to the ranking of a servant, and how are the disciples expected to do the same?
13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.
Jesus’s actions are not meant to invalidate or refute his identity as Teacher and Lord. He is still the Son of God. Instead, his actions are meant to set an example for Christians. Jesus’s ministry is categorized by radical love and action. By humbling himself, Jesus is preparing to die. He is also preparing his friends and followers for a life without him, to go be fishers of people, and to be servants.
As we continue through this season of Lent, we are invited to reflect on our lives and the life of Jesus. In what ways does Jesus’s life differ from ours? Are we willing to get down on our knees and wash the feet of people who have wronged or will wrong us? Are we willing to sacrifice our pride and “superiority” to love one another? We are called to live a life of mutual servanthood and to know that 1) we are servants of God, and 2) “no servant is greater than his overseer.”
Prayer: God, we admit that we are not quick to get on our knees and metaphorically wash other people’s feet. Humility and servanthood are not easy. Help us to read this passage and realize that Your Son—the man we worship and look to for all the answers—knew that serving You meant serving, loving, and forgiving others. Help us today and every day to be humbled as Your servants and be more willing to pick up our “towels” and crosses and follow You. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.