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John 13:1-5

13 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
(John 13:1-5 NIV)

As we noted yesterday, the end of chapter 12 marked the end of Jesus’ public ministry.  As we begin chapter 13, we have a behind-the-scenes look at Jesus’ private time with His disciples before Jesus’ arrest.

As we begin chapter 13, John slows down the clock again, marking time in hours, not in days, weeks, or months.  When the Greeks asked to meet Jesus,  John records that this event marked the time when Jesus’ hour had come.  John reminds us again today that Jesus’ time was now (v. 1).  Everything in Jesus’ life was a prelude to this main event; this is why Jesus had left heaven and came to earth.

Verse 1 also provides the chronological marker for this event.  John tells us in verse 1 that this is “just before” the Passover festival.  As we count the days and time backwards from Jesus’ crucifixion, this places us on Thursday evening, not Friday evening (the official celebration of Passover).  With this meal on Thursday, this means that the meal described here in chapter 13 is the Last Supper, but not the Passover meal.

John does not spend any time on the actual meal events like the other three Gospel accounts do.  Since John’s Gospel was written much later than the other three, John assumes the readers know all about the meal.

In just a moment, Jesus is about to wash His disciples’ feet.  To understand the significance of this event, we must provide the context of the dinner conversation.  Luke writes (Luke 22:24) that “A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest.”

John does not record the squabble among the disciples.  Instead, John records Jesus’ full realization that He was God, and as such, has all power and authority at His command.  Specifically, John records that Jesus knew that (v. 3):

  • the Father had put all things under his power
  • He had come from God
  • He was returning to God

With all this in mind, what did Jesus do?  He took off His outer robes, put some water in a basin, and proceeded to wash and dry His disciples’ feet (vv. 4 – 5).

What would you and I do?  Likely something much closer to declaring ourselves sovereign, far above everyone and everything else.  The last thing we would likely do would be to serve the ones who were supposed to be serving us, especially serving others by performing the lowest chore in the household – washing the feet of the guests.

Think about it – the God of the universe, the Creator, the Holy One, the Almighty One, comes from eternity, takes the role of the lowliest servant, and washes the feet of His Creation?

Could it be that this humble chore of washing the disciples’ feet was, in fact, Jesus’ greatest miracle of all?

May we follow Jesus’ example of serving others as our worship to Him.


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