“Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.” – John 13:1-5

John’s account of the last supper begins with Jesus washing the disciple’s feet. The action is simple, yet its significance is revolutionary. Using the most ordinary and humble means, Jesus conveys the most extraordinary love and commands His disciples to do the same. Jesus is the one who takes the initiative and acts on the behalf of His disciples.

In those times, people commonly washed their own feet. When guests arrived with feet covered with dust from the road, a good host would offer them a basin of water. In some cases the host would have a slave wash the feet of the guests. But it was understood that no free person would stoop to wash the feet of another free person. Hospitality meant offering water and perhaps the services of a slave. It did not mean doing the washing.

A free man or woman washing someone’s feet was basically assuming the position of a slave. The only reason someone would do this voluntarily was to show complete devotion to another person. This is what Jesus does here. He assumes the role of a slave to show the depth of his love for His disciples: “…He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end.” (John 13:1). Jesus does not act out of weakness, but out of strength. John tells us that Jesus has come from God and is going to God, and that God has put all things into Jesus’ hands. Yet the one who has all things in His hands now uses His hands to wash feet. His power comes to expression in self-giving love and service. 

Remember that the devil is at work. “It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.” (John 13:2)  Yet Jesus apparently washes the feet of all the disciples, including those of Judas. The jaw dropping love that Jesus shows here is beyond our understanding.

Jesus tells the disciples that what He has done is not only a gift, but an example. As He has washed their feet, they are to wash one another’s feet (John 13:12-17). By washing the feet of others, they are called to share the love they have received from Christ.

We believe that our proper response as followers of Jesus is to serve selflessly. We are called to love and influence the world by helping others. Concentrate on serving one person. One task at a time, then another. Psalm 119:105 states “our word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” If it’s at our feet, it won’t illuminate the whole road, but rather, one step at a time. Eventually, you’ll look back and see how far you’ve come in being a Christ-like servant.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does Jesus washing the disciples feet mean to you?
  2. What attitude are we to have toward serving others? How did Jesus model it?
  3. How do you feel as you think about what Jesus did to serve you?
  4. What is it about serving others that you find hard to do? What are some things that have prevented you from serving others in the past? What can you do to become more of a servant?