90 Days with Jesus, Day 62: John 13:1-11: Jesus Demonstrates His Love

John 13:1-11 (90 Days with Jesus, Day 62

It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. 2The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 3Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7Jesus 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!” 10Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

Just as it is most important to consider where one begins a work such as a Gospel, it is also important to consider where one begins to end such a work. John began his Gospel by noting for his readers that the ‘Word became flesh and dwelt among us.’ We are immediately caught up in what is ‘the Word?’ what is, ‘dwelt among us’? and what is ‘became flesh?’ These questions are, in their own time, answered throughout John’s Gospel as he teaches us about Jesus Christ.

But then we move on to where the author begins to end his Gospel. We know, from reading chapter 12 carefully, that now ‘the time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.’ We know now that Jesus is about to face the cross of crucifixion, the humiliation of crucifixion, and the rejection of all people. We know that Jesus is about to be glorified by being ‘lifted up.’ And when he is lifted up, he said, he would ‘draw all men unto himself.’ The cross is just as unavoidable for us as it was for Jesus.

But then John takes us to chapters 13-17 admittedly some of the most profound, theologically charged, chapters of the entire Bible. What is one to make of these chapters? Why would John announce that the time had come only to take us into a quiet room to listen to a very long speech that really answers none of the questions that the disciples happen to ask him? And they do ask a lot of questions.

It seems these chapters are rather out of place. They change the entire focus and pace of the narrative from the ‘Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world’ on his way to Jerusalem to a slowed down, quiet dinner in an out of the way ‘room’ at an undisclosed location. I wonder to myself: Why the drastic change of pace? Why the huge slow down? Why the downshifting? Why did we go from a mad rush to Jerusalem to a slowed down dinner where Jesus answers a bunch of questions that are not on our minds? Why doesn’t he answer the questions we really want answered: How did you create the world? Who’s right: Calvin, Arminius, neither? Seriously: KJV or NIV? Is Catholicism really the true church? Who shot Kennedy? Yet what we discover is that Jesus had none of the sort of things in mind that we have in mind. And even the questions that the disciples did ask were, for the most part, left unanswered. Strange.

And what’s worse is this: Here we have this One who has told us he is from God, the Holy One of God, the King of Israel, the Lamb of God, the Great I Am, the Bread of Life, the Son of God, the Son of Man, and so on and so forth and what does he do but the most embarrassing thing possible: He strips off most of his clothes, kneels down, and washes the feet of his disciples: Including Judas Iscariot! And if that is not the worst of it John says Jesus did this to demonstrate the full extent of his love for us! And if that’s not the worst of it Jesus later says that we are to do the same exact thing for one another: Wash one another’s feet! I’m not sure, all of the sudden, how I really feel about all this.

Here’s what I have noticed about the church though. Jesus left behind some commands for the church. Some call them ‘sacraments.’ I don’t call them sacraments, but I don’t fuss about those who do. He said, “Go and baptize.” There are virtually no churches in existence that do not practice some form of baptism or another. There is also what most call ‘communion’ or ‘Eucharist’ or ‘the Lord’s Supper.’ Most Christians celebrate both of these ‘sacraments’ on a fairly regular and consistent basis. We are very good at doing these things. But here’s the thing I don’t get at all. John says that Jesus washed feet so that he could ‘demonstrate the full extent of his love’ for his disciples. Then Jesus tells his disciples to ‘do the same for one another that he has done for them’ (14, 17). Later Jesus will say, ‘Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another’ (34). And yet this command of Jesus is the one that Christians, nearly across the board, do not practice. We don’t wash feet! Why?

Why don’t we wash feet? We wash the whole body in baptism without batting an eye. We wash the soul, so to speak, in the Eucharist. Why don’t we wash feet the way Jesus did, the way he commanded, in order that we might demonstrate our love for one another, in order that ‘everyone will know we are his disciples’? Why is it that Christians have so much difficulty demonstrating our love for one another? We are even very good at loving the poor, the sick, the lost, the broken, the needy, the helpless, the stranger, the alien, the foreigner—even our enemies! But when it comes to loving one another, when it comes to demonstrating that love for one another—even in something like washing feet—we shrink back and simply, out and out, avoid the command.

I wonder why? Jesus even washed Judas Iscariot’s feet that night. Why don’t we wash anyone’s feet? (Please, before you bother writing in and telling how foot washing was a ‘cultural phenomenon’ don’t. I could equally argue that baptism and communion (which was originally a Passover meal) were cultural phenomena. I don’t buy that argument.)

My point is simple. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, washed feet. He told us to do the same. He did it to demonstrate the full extent of his love. He said by our love for one another would people know we belong to him. Am I missing something? Why don’t we love one another quite the way we should? I confess that it is hard sometimes because it is too easy to despise people who have different points of view than we do when it comes to theology or matters of church polity and practice. I suppose that it comes down to an inflated opinion of our own ideas. That’s why, I think, Jesus didn’t answer the tough questions that night about election and sovereignty, Calvin and Arminius, free will and puppetry, creation and evolution, emerging church or traditional church, and exactly why he answered questions that had to do primarily with his own agenda. And isn’t it true that these badges of honor that we wear are now nothing more than stumbling blocks?

I love the Reformed theologians and the manner in which they approach Scripture (High Scripture). I’m terrified and horrified by the conclusions they draw from that approach. I cherish the conclusions of the non-Reformed theology, but I am sickened by the rather casual approach that they have towards the Word of God. But are either of these positions grounds for un-love for a brother in Christ? No. But you would think that, after reading some Reformed authors, all who don’t accept Reformed theology are whack-jobs without education. And you would think that, after reading some Arminian authors, that all Calvinists are preaching the devil’s handbook. But I wonder if there is room for love in spite of our differences about such things? Indeed, there must be!

If we cannot love one another, in spite of our differences, in spite of our own arrogances, in full recognition of our utter sinfulness, then how can we ‘know these things’ and ‘be blessed if we do them’? (17) I think that the church has missed out on a great deal of the blessing precisely because we don’t practice such things. I think too often we are far too concerned with being right than we are with being in love and loving. I think too often we are concerned with our appearance and with our dignity and with our pride and that is why we explain away foot washing as a mere culturalism that we can discard. I think that is an excuse we make because we really don’t want to serve one another from the heart. Stubborn pride is what it amounts to.

But if Christianity is going to be thrive and amount to anything in this world then our goal and our ambition must be different. We must wash feet. We must humble ourselves before arrogant brothers, we must humble ourselves before betraying enemies, we must humble ourselves before the Church, the Body of Christ, and we must wash feet just like Jesus did. If washing feet was the manner in which Jesus demonstrated the ‘full extent of his love’, how much more will it be for us for whom foot washing is culturally obsolete? Is there any other way we can demonstrate the full extent of our love for one another?

Soli Deo Gloria!


  1. 1 90 Days with Jesus, Day 62: John 13:1-11: Jesus Demonstrates His Love — Goth and Rock blog

    […] pace of the narrative from the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world… source: 90 Days with Jesus, Day 62: John 13:1-11: Jesus Demonstrates His Love, Life Under the Blue Sky: The View From […]

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