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John 13:1-17, Jesus Washes Feet

Sunday, February 25

Jesus Passes On His Ministry

Narrative Lectionary Daily Devotions written by Kace Leetch from Clergy Stuff.


By now the disciples were getting used to Jesus’ puzzling words and unusual actions. Even so, this one took them by surprise once again. For as often as Jesus spoke of justice and equality, their social structure was just too well ingrained to conquer quickly. They had been following Jesus for three years, learning from him and emulating him – he, their rabbi, and they, his disciples.

But on this Passover, Jesus turned the tables once again. He put on a towel and washed their feet – traditionally the job of the lowest servant in the household. How jarring it must have been, in a culture where class is everything, to have their rabbi demean himself in such a manner!

Peter’s response is priceless. All puffed up, he refused to be part of Jesus’ demeaning himself – until Jesus made it clear that the foot washing was necessary for them to have a share with Jesus. How quickly Peter turned! Well, if foot washing produces a share, then Peter wants to be washed head, shoulders, knees, and toes – a lion’s share of the blessing! I picture Jesus chuckling at this as he points out that isn’t necessary – the feet will be enough.

It might be hard for us to truly understand how incredibly moving and meaningful this act would have been. We are not bound by quite as stringent manners and rules of class as they were. But if you have ever washed another person’s feet, you will know how intimate and vulnerable an experience that can be. For Jesus, who has been at the top of the food chain for 3 years, the vulnerability shown here was just the tip of the iceberg. This vulnerability was tender and intimate – the next would be humiliating and disgraceful.

But it was more than just a preparation for the events to come. It was a handing on of the mission and ministry God had given him, and would continue through his disciples. It was a painfully tangible goodbye – a show of kinship for the suffering they would all endure as a result of carrying the torch. This moment is the calm before the storm – a sweet breath before the turmoil that is to come.

Narrative Lectionary Text: John 13:1-17

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.