Scripture reading – John 13

Though the Gospel of John is not a Synoptic Gospel, it does present us with many eyewitness accounts of events that are recorded in the other Gospels. For instance, in John 13:1-2 we have the apostle’s brief account of Christ observing the Feast of Passover with His disciples (the same that we studied in Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-26; and Luke 22:13-20).

Like one who reflects fondly on a loved one’s last words, John looked back and wrote, “Jesus knew His hour was come” (13:1). Already, Judas had agreed with the chief priests, to betray our Lord for thirty pieces of silver (Luke 22:2-5). His act of treachery fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah: “So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver” (Zechariah 11:12b).

Identifying himself as the one “leaning on Jesus’ bosom…whom Jesus loved” (13:23), John gave His readers insight into the drama when Jesus revealed one of the Twelve would betray him (though none suspected Judas, 13:21-30). John also gave an account of the conversation when Peter boasted, “Lord…I will lay down my life for thy sake” (13:37), and Jesus foretold, “The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice” (13:38; Matthew 26:30-35; Mark 14:26-31; Luke 22:31-34).

Love and Humility: Jesus Washed the Feet of His Disciples (13:4-12)

Of the four Gospels, only John recorded that Jesus washed His disciples’ feet. We read, “3Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; 4He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself” (13:3-4). Although an awkward moment for men who often debated who would be the greatest in Christ’s kingdom (Luke 22:24), the disciples allowed Jesus to wash their feet. Only Peter objected to this act of servitude, and asked, “Lord, dost thou wash my feet?” (13:6)

Background – Foot washing was a cultural practice in that day, as households lacked the modern convenience of plumbing and running water. Wealthy citizens of towns and villages would bathe in public baths, and then walk home on dusty streets. Arriving at the house, a servant would meet the master, wash his feet in a basin of water, and dry them with a towel. You see, washing feet was the work of the lowest servant in the household.

Jesus washing the feet of His disciples was an act of love and humility. Imagine, as He washed their feet, among them was Judas, the one who would betray Him. Surely, it was one thing to wash the feet of His disciples; however, it was another to wash the feet of an enemy (13:2, 11). What humility! What grace! What love!

Closing thoughts – In closing, consider with me three spirit traits or heart attitudes we find Christ modeling as He washed the feet of His disciples. The first, persevering love: We read, Jesus “having loved his own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end [continually; to the uttermost]” (13:1).

A second trait was unpretentious humility: He washed “the disciples’ feet [and] wiped them with the towel wherewith he was girded” (13:5). Perhaps it was this act which moved Paul to exhort believers in Philippi when He wrote, “Let this mind [attitude] be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus… 7 [Who] took upon him the form of a servant [slave], and was made in the likeness of men [became man]” (Philippians 2:5, 7b).

Finally, in a day when so many are self-serving, we find Christ modeling enduring commitment, for He commanded His disciples: “If I then, your Lord and Master [teacher], have washed your feet; ye also ought [duty, obligation] to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you” (13:14-15).

Believer, we are duty bound by Christ’s example and His love, to serve others. Do you know, the world will always make room for one more servant?

Will you be that servant?

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