It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had comefor 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.
2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 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.
6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
18 “I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned against me.’
19 “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. 20 Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”
Jesus Washes the Disciples' Feet
As Jesus prepares the disciples for the crucible of his death and the pain of his departure, what will they need? The same thing every generation of disciples need: not a pep talk, but a deeper understanding and experience of the gospel.
Jesus loved these men “to the end” (v. 1)—that is, to the completion of his work as the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45–49); “to the end” that God will be glorified in the redemption of ill-deserving sinners; “to the end”—to the fullest extent. No one loves us like Jesus, and nothing will ever separate us from his love (Rom. 8:31–39). And his compelling love propels us into faithful service (2 Cor. 5:14).
The water and towel, with which Jesus humbly washed the disciples’ feet, clearly anticipate the humiliation of his cross and blood, by which he would wash their hearts. Peter’s adamant refusal (literally “never to eternity”; John 13:8) demonstrates our innate resistance to God’s grace. Peter wasn’t being noble; he was being foolish, even self-destructive. Unless we submit to the criticism of our uncleanness indicated by our need of the washing of Christ’s blood shed on the cross, we have no life in Jesus. Jesus is always more ready to meet us at the throne of grace than we are willing to meet him there.
Jesus is our substitute before he is our example. The imperative to wash one another’s feet flows out of the indicative of Jesus washing us by his grace. Are we free (and lovingly compelled) to wash one another’s feet in our services of worship? Of course we are; but only as a gospel reenactment of the grace we have received, and when such an expression is accompanied by a lifestyle of servant love. Ritual without humble recognition of and response to the reality of grace is vanity, only fueling sentimentality and self-righteousness.
Jesus is the servant of Yahweh (cf. Isa. 52:13–53:12) who did for us what we could never do for ourselves. Through our union with Jesus, and the encouragement of his love, we are set free to honor one another above ourselves, and to serve each other in humility (Phil. 2:1–11).
*These devos are taken from Crossway's, ESV Gospel Transformation Bible.