Reading: John 13:1-17; Philippians 2: 5-8; I John 4: 7-11
The time for public ministry was finally done. The last sick person to be healed had been healed. He would cast out no more demons. No more parables. No more disputes with the chief priests and the Pharisees. When Jesus entered the room on that final night with his disciples—he shut the door on the world. Almost. For a little while anyway. Soon, he would return to the Father. But before that . . . For the moment, his thoughts centered upon the ones he would be leaving behind.
John remembered, “He loved them to the end.” This simple phrase reveals both the duration of his love—and the extent of his love. He couldn’t possibly have loved them more—or longer. In this case, even the end wasn’t the end. He loves them still—as he loves us—and will always love us.
Sometime during that last supper, Jesus did something that shocked everyone. John describes the action as if he is seeing it all again in his memory. He probably was. And it’s as if he still can’t believe what he saw. Jesus got up. He laid aside his garments. (Stripping himself. Emptying himself.) It’s as if Jesus was reenacting the scene he had already done in heaven before coming down here in the first place. Then Jesus picked up a towel—and tied it around his waist. By now everyone in the room was wondering—what’s he doing? He then picked up a pitcher of water, and poured it into a basin—and carried it to the first disciple.
Incredibly, Jesus then knelt to perform the task that should have been done at the beginning of the evening. But apparently, there was no one willing to do it—until then. He washed their feet.
He washed Peter’s feet—in spite of Peter’s protest. I’m sure he even washed the feet of Judas. He did it to teach them all one final lesson about who is truly great in the kingdom of heaven. He made himself the supreme example. He did it to give them a concrete example of how they need to be willing to serve one another in very practical ways from now on.
And he did it as an expression of love. Love isn’t really love until it is demonstrated in meaningful ways. For example, when he did the job no one else was willing to do—because somebody had to do it. Or when he took a deep breath and taught the same lesson one more time to this collection of slow learners.
John never forgot this lesson. I’m sure this scene was somewhere in the back of his mind years later when he wrote to the churches, “ Let us love one another, for love comes from God. . . .”