John 13:1-17, 31-35 English Standard Version (ESV)
Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet
13Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, Lord, do you wash my feet? 7Jesus answered him, What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.8Peter said to him, You shall never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I do not wash you, you have no share with me. 9Simon Peter said to him, Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head! 10Jesus said to him, The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet,[a] but is completely clean. And you[b] are clean, but not every one of you. 11For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, Not all of you are clean.
12When 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? 13You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant[c] is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
A New Commandment
31When he had gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. 33Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, Where I am going you cannot come.34A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
Maundy Thursday is the day we find Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. This is also the day Jesus introduces the idea of Communion in remembrance of Him. Have you ever noticed how the servanthood Jesus demonstrates – and the Communion with Him He offers – are interconnected?
Maundy is Latin in origin and means “a new command,” which irreversibly gives our mission: Serving while communing with Jesus.
We are all, every one of us, designed to lead in some way, to influence the Kingdom, to serve while communing with Jesus.
Like the soles of our feet, the world in which we reside is besmirched with every kind of filth and pain imaginable.
We don’t have to cast our eyes far to notice the shattered places:
- The couple yelling their way through a divorce down the street from us;
- the child numbed from the death of his military dad we see sitting away from the other kids as we drop our kids off to school;
- the children we see starving on the other side of the world as we unconsciously stroll through Facebook watching a video filmed by a smartphone whose value could feed them for weeks.
Like the disciples, wherever we walk our feet will get dirty.
But even more than that, we are dirty. We are filled with pain and have been shattered. We, before we ever lift our eyes to notice the pain of the world or raise a finger to help, are in need of the washing and Communion Jesus offers.
But like Peter, we resist it mightily.
We say no to Jesus’ offer to wash our feet because we tell ourselves, like Peter, we are here to exalt Him.
And since Jesus commissioned us as leaders, we, like Peter, often disguise our resistance to His offer to cleanse us as exaltation. We say, “Lord, no, I’m only here to praise you.”
It’s really pride, not praise.
And this pride manifests itself as a distorted view of leadership as we serve others because, if we are truly honest with ourselves, we really think leadership is all about leading others to where we want them to go and having them follow. We don’t often think of it as humbling serving them.
If that’s what true leadership is, Jesus let too many people go their own way, make their own decisions, blatantly deny Him as their leader, and outright resist where He was going to qualify as a good leader.
Jesus, of course, led. But, He did so by serving and pointing them with His life to His father.
It’s hard to let go of this distorted view of what it means to lead because we want to be seen as leaders ourselves; or, we exalt other leaders so we can follow them and feel good about being “in” with the right group or mission. But our feet are dirty and our vision is blurred by the dust swirling in our world. We deal with this distortion first by facing our unwillingness to be served, to be truly loved.
We have to expose the dirt we hate about ourselves to Jesus in order for Him to clean us.
We have to present to Jesus willingly the parts of ourselves we’ve secreted away in the soles of our shoes, like some important key we’ve hidden from others that blisters our feet as we walk, but locks away the embarrassing truth of our shame.
Woefully few of us ever truly live the truth that the greatest we can ever be is communing with Jesus on our knees with a towel wrapped around our waist with someone’s dirty feet in our loving, servant hands.
But we have to offer our own soiled feet first.
Like Peter, once we experience and live this kind of love by taking off our shoes and giving Jesus our most vulnerable selves, well, then we’ll want Jesus to wash every bit of our lives!
What does today’s scripture reading and reflection prompt in you? What actions do you feel led to take?
Is there someone you can humbly serve that would require you to look past the dirt and grime in their life in order to do so?
Is your view of leadership really that of a servant? If you are leading others, are you leading them to Jesus?
Have you allowed Jesus into the most vulnerable places of your life? Would you let Him wash your feet?
Image by Sieger Koder, Washing of Feet