John 13:1-20
Jesus Washes The Feet Of His Disciples

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

1. As of John chapter thirteen, we enter into the second half of The Gospel According To John. "The signs" which the Lord performed in different areas and the words which Jesus spoke along with [each] "sign" are recorded up to this point. From here on, the messages directed to his disciples become the main focus, and not the addresses to the Jews in general. Today's passage of scripture is the beginning section to it. "So, it was before the Passover Festival. Jesus realized that the hour had come for him to move from this world unto his father, and he loved his disciples that were in this world, and he totally loved them with the highest love possible," (13:1). And he expressed what kind of love it was by a solitary act. The Lord washed the disciples' feet.

A Footwashing From The Lord Jesus

2. This is the scene of the dinner called "The Last Supper." What we usually think of in connection with this supper is the deeds and the words of the establishment of Holy Communion, or The Lord's Supper. As Jesus gave bread to his disciples, he said, "Take and eat. This is my body." Also, as he handed them the cup, he said, "All of you, drink from this cup. This is my blood shed on behalf of many, the blood of the covenant, that your sins be forgiven." But, John, the writer of this gospel, didn't write down the words of the establishment of the Holy Communion meal, which everybody probably knew. Instead of them, he wrote down another unforgettable act from Jesus. [He wrote down] the event of Jesus' having washed his disciples' feet.

3. This footwashing deed by Jesus needs to be understood in conjunction with the scene in which it was done. If it isn't, then it ends up being a simple object lesson teaching the importance of humility and service. Let's humble ourselves as well like Jesus did. Let us too serve others like Jesus did. If that's all we teach from it, "The Last Supper" wouldn't be much ado about anything because he had been taking meals with his disciples on many occasions so far.

4. In having done this during his "Last Supper" it shows that the footwashing deed is inseparably connected to the death of Jesus. We see this also from the fact that the text begins with "It was before the Passover Festival." The day on which Jesus was crucified and killed was the day of the preparation for Passover, that day when the Passover lamb was slain. Jesus already knew this. It is just as the scripture said, "Jesus realized that the hour had come for him to move from this world unto his father." Jesus, going to die, washed the feet of his disciples.

5. The bread and the wine that Jesus passed out at the last supper pointed to the Lord's body to be broken on the cross and the blood to be shed on it. He said, "Eat this body. Drink this blood," and the events of the cross was indeed his offering up of himself to us like the Lord had shown through the symbolic acts [of the breaking of the bread and the sharing in the cup of wine].

6. In the same way, the symbolical act of his washing the disciples' feet was also pointing to the cross of the Lord, the cross on which the Lord made atonement for sin. Jesus knelt down like a slave and washed the dirty feet of his disciples. In this way, Jesus lowered himself, took on the form of a servant and hung on a cross in order to wash away our sins. This meant that Jesus loved us and completely loved us with the highest love possible.

7. Of course, the disciples probably couldn't have known [at the time] that this scene of the meal was directly connected to Jesus' death. To these disciples, Jesus' actions were nothing but a highly unusual thing to do. That's why Peter was surprised and asked, "Lord, you are washing my feet?!," (verse six). Then the Lord replied, "What I am doing you may not understand now, but later you will," (verse seven).

8. Its meaning was closed to them unto a later day. Jesus would soon be crucified and then resurrected, and afterwards the Holy Spirit would fall, it would be closed until [the Holy Spirit] gave the disciples the illumination to see what the meaning of it was. Therefore, at that time Peter said, "You will never wash my feet or any part of me," and refused to let the Lord wash him. He thought it was too dreadful for him to do that. But, the Lord told Peter in that [state of mind], "If I do not wash you, you will not have any thing to do with me at all," (verse eight).

9. "You will not have any thing to do with me at all." ["You will have no connections to me."] -- That's a pretty harsh statement. But, along with Peter we too need to listen up to this statement. It shows how the connection between Jesus and us can even be made.

10. The relationship between Christ and us comes into being not by our being taught by Christ or our doing something. Neither does it come by our doing something by way of modeling Christ. It's not even by our loving Christ. The relationship between Christ and us comes into being by our receiving the love of Christ that he showed on the cross and by having Christ wash us.

11. Even though we might have straight face reasoning that says, "That's really dreadful," "That's just a bit too much for him to do for me," if we refuse to accept Christ's love, the Lord says, "If I do not wash you, you will not have any thing to do with me at all." Put in opposite terms, no matter what kind of person one is, if he or she is accepting of the love of Christ and receives his washing over him or her, that person is in a valid relationship with Christ.

Following The Example Of Christ

12. So, the Lord has more to say to those who have had Christ wash them, to those who are in a relationship with Christ. "Wherefore, since I as your lord and your master have washed your feet, you must wash each other's feet as well. Just as according to what I have done to you, I have shown the example that you will also do," (verses fourteen and fifteen).

13. "Since I as your lord and your master have washed your feet, you must wash each other's feet as well." Starting from verse thirty-four, this is described in the following manner: "I give you a new commandment. Love one another. As I have loved you, you yourselves, love one another. If you do love one another, by doing that everyone will come to know that you are my disciples," (verses thirty-four and thirty-five).

14. Thus, when we have received a relationship with Christ as persons who have had Christ wash us, then at the same time we also come to receive relationships with others. "Love one another." This "mutuality," [this loving of] "the others" is primarily [the loving of] "the others" as disciples of Christ. He doesn't say, "First love everyone that's out there in the world." He asks of us that we live by forming a congregation of disciples who love one another. In short, [he meant] that it is impossible [to live] a faith life apart from the church, apart from other followers, [to have] a faith life claiming that "I live with just me and Jesus."

15. The main thing in this is the figure that Christ demonstrated. The Lord removed his outer garment, took a hand towel, and wore it around his waist, then drew water into a basin, washed the disciples' feet, and wiped their feet with the towel. As I mentioned earlier, it was to the cross of Jesus which this act [of his] was pointing. But, had Jesus said from the cross, "By what I have done [here on this cross for] you, I have showed you an example that you might do it too," it would have been impossible to accept that statement. To begin with, the atonement for sin on Christ's cross is a unique work done by God's son, and we could never repeat that as an example [for us to follow]. But, it's a whole other story when it is handed over to us as a figure of "footwashing." By [doing it] like this, the Lord handed it over in a form in which we could accept it.

16. Think about it. To begin with, isn't what the Lord said that "As I have loved you, you yourselves, love one another," an astonishing blessing? There is all the difference in the world between the fact that "Christ loved us," and the fact that "We are to love one another." It is as much as all the difference between [his] "hanging on the cross to atone for our sins" and "washing someone's feet." But the Lord made a connection between two things that don't typically have a connection between them. As a matter of fact, this kind of "mutual love" back and forth between one person and another usually isn't seen as much, is it? But, Jesus saw and connected this kind of love to his own love. I would say that's what he meant by "As I have loved you, you yourselves, love one another."

17. In other words, when we love each other, the Lord says, "It is like when I have loved you." When we are ready to forgive each other's sins, he says, "It is like when I have forgiven you." When we are ready to accept one another, he says, "It's like when I have accepted you," and when we wash each other's feet, he says, "It's like when I have washed you." When we consider the meaning behind the Lord's having washed us, what we've done to each other might get to the point of being truly embarrassing. But, that is forgivable. That can be accepted through the Lord Jesus. That is the relationships one for the other in the church.

18. Since this is the truth, shouldn't we try to start from an imitation or a reenactment of this awkward thing of Jesus' footwashing? While we ponder the great love from the cross to which Jesus' footwashing points, while we ponder the amazing love from his forgiveness poured out on us, shouldn't we try to start doing things from a slightly bended knee? When we consider "What it means for us to imitate the Lord's example as demonstrated by way of the footwashing?," though it may just be a small act, I think it will look like we are loving, we are forgiving, we are being accepting, we are offering up intercessory prayer for someone else, we are bearing someone else's heavy burden, we are doing something specific, we're doing what we should, when [it is done] between one another in the church.

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