John 13 = Jesus’ Washes the Disciples’ Feet
Bible Background: John 13 begins the long ‘farewell discourse’ in John’s Gospel, that all takes place on the last night of Jesus’ life. Remember, John does things differently than Matthew/Mark/Luke. There is a Last Supper in John, but it’s not about Holy Communion, so much as it is about learning to love and serve as Jesus has loved and served them. John 12 includes a very touching story of Mary anointing Jesus’ feet with expensive ointment. He honors her, even while Judas criticizes her. Now Jesus gets very personal with his disciples.
Digging Deeper: 1. We see in this story a few characteristics of John’s Gospel: It’s about love; it’s about an intimate relationship with God/Jesus, and it’s a very embodied story. Since God took on our own flesh and blood in Jesus, our bodies must matter a whole lot!
2. Jesus is in Jerusalem for the 3rd time, for the Passover celebration. In John’s timing though, this is before the actual Passover. In John-Jesus dies on the day the Passover lambs are slaughtered. That’s not a coincidence! Chapter 13 starts with Jesus knowing “that his hour had come”. Previously, we had heard him say “My hour has not yet come!” It has all been building up to this: In the crucifixion, Jesus will lovingly lay down his life for the world, and show the power of love-for God’s glory!
3. Foot washing appears about 8x’s in the Bible, typically as an act of hospitality, sometimes performed by a household slave/servant. For Jesus to take on that role, is upsetting to Peter-who protests-but who then allows Jesus to wash his feet. There’s no “hierarchy” of disciples on John. No “You are Peter, and on this Rock I will build my church.” “A servant is not greater than his master!”
4. There’s plenty of undercurrent in these verses, about Judas, about what will happen next. We aren’t told “Why Judas?” But note, that when Jesus washes feet, Judas is in the room! He too, is the recipient of Jesus’ unswerving love and devotion.
5. “So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” In 13:35, Jesus will give them a “new commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” And adds, “by this, everyone will know that you are my disciples!”
6. If we only had the Gospel of John to go by, we’d have a Sacrament of Foot Washing instead of the Sacrament of Holy Communion. In the 7th Day Adventist tradition, foot washing is a sacred ordinance. It was, understood by John as an act of hospitality, as well as a symbolic washing away of sin (which has baptismal overtones for us!)