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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Do Your Feet Need Washing? John13:1-11

The Upper Room discourse described in John 13-17 included a meal that Jesus shared with his Disciples. I have always read this and assumed that the meal was the Seder of Passover, but John 13:1 clearly states that this was before the Passover.  Perhaps Passover was on Friday, the day of the Crucifixion, but there are questions about that too. Jesus stated that he would be in the grave for three days and three nights. Using Thursday as the day of the Crucifixion would give the right time estimate with Sunday as the Day of the Resurrection.

John does not give the same details the synoptic gospels do of the supper. John refers to the meal and immediately describes the preparation for washing of their feet. I find it very helpful to recall the eating customs of the time. 

They reclined on couches leaning on the left elbow and extending their feet. This position made the foot-washing convenient and much less disturbing to the guests who were eating than sitting at a table would have been.  Jesus’ position was no longer the host and master but that of an obedient servant.

Nobody commented on this ceremony but Peter. His interchange with Jesus seems to be almost a rebuke to the Lord. First, he doesn't want Jesus to undertake this menial duty, but then he requests that he wash his hands and face too. Jesus corrects both these attitudes. 

This washing symbolizes daily communion with Jesus. Peter needed to go to Jesus for help, strength, and forgiveness whenever he was exposed to contact with the world, and Jesus offers us this constant refreshing.  

On a continuing and constant basis, Christians are invited to seek Jesus for forgiveness and encouragement in daily life and ministry.  We are to remain always yielded and humble. 

Peter seems to have thought he was above needing this service, but Jesus told him there was more to this than Peter understood at the time.

 Jesus had foreknowledge, but He did not control people’s behavior.  He knew Judas had would betray Him, but he did not interrupt the plan Judas had made. 

He proceeded with the foot washing and did not exclude Judas. I wonder what Judas’ emotions were at this critical time. Did he agonize when Jesus performed the humble task of cleaning his feet? Did he recognize this as an opportunity to repent? Or was his heart hardened to the path he had chosen?

Jesus in the Upper Room discourse spoke urgently to the disciples emphasizing the importance of this last chance at teaching them before the Crucifixion because He knew they would be scattered and their faith would be tested. 


He was very tense as shown in his language.  His speech was urgent and stressful.  He wanted to be sure they were committed to Him, but that was yet to be seen.  His nature was compassionate, but his need was immediate.  There was no Plan B.  If this was not successful, salvation would never happen.