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©Michael Player

Chapter 13:1-10 (ESV)

Posted on August 30, 2023  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 13:1-10 (ESV) - Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

Question to consider: What do the hands and head represent in scripture?

The apostle John did not say what day before the Passover this was, but over the next couple of days, the context makes it evident that this supper was the last one Jesus would share with His disciples before His crucifixion. John wrote that the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas to betray Jesus. As I mentioned during the meal at the house of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary which occurred about 5 days before this one, the final straw for Judas was in hearing that Mary’s anointing of Jesus was to prepare Him for burial.

Sometime after that meal, Matthew and Mark wrote that Judas struck a deal with the Pharisees to provide a means for them to get around the crowds and arrest Jesus.

Luke mentioned in his gospel account that during the supper, after Jesus took the bread and cup and established the New Testament in His blood, the disciples began to argue with one another about who would be greatest in the kingdom. I believe that it was during this argument that Jesus got up and began to wash His disciples feet.

Imagine the sudden silence that fell among them as the very king of this new kingdom performed the act of the lowest servant. Peter said out loud what the other disciples must have been thinking, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” It was undignified for Him to act in this way, but Jesus said, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” This was a reference to Peter and the other disciples having a share of authority in the new kingdom. His response to the disciples arguing in Luke’s account was, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.  Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves. You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Luke 22:25-30)

While we tend to focus on the “lowly” part of this scene, it is also worth noting that in washing their feet, Jesus was anointing them to go out as His apostles— His “sent ones”. Jesus had been washed in this way by Mary at the beginning of His ministry with her tears and hair. Of course, Judas was being sent out to betray Jesus. 

Peter asked Jesus to wash his hands and head. This wasn’t Peter asking Jesus to wash his whole body, but the hands and head were representative of his actions and thoughts. Outside of Judas, the disciples had already been baptized for the forgiveness of their sins (presumably by John). Jesus indicated this by His statement, “Not all of you are clean.”


Dear heavenly Father, thank You for cleansing us from our sin and for continuing to offer us forgiveness and renewal as we come together each week to receive Christ through Your word and sacrament. Stir up in us a desire to use the gifts and abilities You have given us to lift up and serve our brothers and sisters in Christ. Amen.