John 13:1, “1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.
This means the cross is coming, and Jesus is wanting to take these last few moments to press into His closest friends about the most important things.
It is as if He is saying, “You have heard Me teach, you have seen miraculous healings, you have seen crowds gathered, but Jesus wants to make sure they are focused on the most important things. Look at verse 2:
John 13:2, “2 During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him,”
The supper is a reference to the Feast of the Passover, and Judas is a reference to one of Jesus’ closest friends who ultimately doesn’t understand the most important things Jesus is about to communicate.
Think about it practically: Judas has spent time with Jesus. Judas has sat under His teachings. He has had the best small group leader, and gone to the best conferences, but Judas doesn’t get the most important things from Jesus so that he ends up betraying Jesus. Look at verses 3-5:
John 13:3-5, “3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, 4 *got up from supper, and *laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. 5 Then He *poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.”
You need to know at this point in the story people were under the impression that eventually Jesus would cast out the Roman oppressors, take over government, and slide into a position of power. But, in verse 5 we see Jesus doing just the opposite, and getting on His knees and washing the feet of the disciples.
This might sound familiar to us because we have heard the story, or it might sound simple because it doesn’t sound like that big of a deal, but in the context of the story this is earth shattering.
They didn’t wear socks and shoes back then. Their feet were exposed to dirt, mud, animal feces, and you wanted to keep yourself as far from those feet as possible. This was something servants did, and under Jewish culture you couldn’t even require servants to do such a lowly task.
Therefore, when Jesus kneels down to their feet it would have been shocking. Jesus was their Rabi, Jesus was their teacher. Jesus is vs. 3, from God, and returning to God. He healed the lame, the blind, raised the dead, rebuked religious leaders, and is now kneeling down to wash their feet. Baffled! Look at verses 6-8:
John 13:6-8, “6 So He *came to Simon Peter. He *said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” 8 Peter *said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”
Peter cannot imagine why Jesus would take this position of a lowly foot washer. But, when Jesus gets on His knees to wash their feet He is wanting them know the most important things: His mission and His position.
His Mission: When Jesus steps away from the table to get close to the feet of the disciples He is metaphorically modeling His mission of God taking on flesh and coming near to our darkest places.
Theologically it is called the incarnation. It is John 1, “And the Word became flesh.” The LOGOS, the purpose for humanity taking on flesh, and getting close to our smelly feet and more importantly, our stinky souls.
His Position: When He comes near He doesn’t come as one of authority who is seated at the head of the table, dressed in royalty, or seen from afar, but He comes in the position of a servant.
Think about this practically: Who is greater in your eyes? The person who holds the position of our Governor of Texas, or the bus boy at Chuy’s? It’s the governor, but in Jesus, God in the flesh, just the opposite has happened.
We have a God who has all the power. He is resting in the comforts of heaven, and He enters humanity as a baby born in a manger and He draws near to our stinky souls, and positions Himself as a servant.
This is why in verse 8, Peter pushes back and says, “You can’t wash my feet.” You can’t take such a lowly position. Peter doesn’t understand the mission of and the position of Jesus. He’s okay with a Jesus who comes on a mission, but it doesn’t make sense for Jesus to come in such a lowly position.
Therefore, we would do well to ask ourselves, “Do I understand the most important parts of Jesus?” Do I understand the urgency and weightiness of His mission so that it shapes how I live? Am I not just drawn to His mission, but also inviting Him into the darkest places of my soul?