John 13:1-17, 31-35 (NRSV)
Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet
Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I 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, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord-and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
The New Commandment
When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
The parade is over (Palm Sunday Last Sunday). The singing and joyous celebrating are now just a memory from Sunday. The palms are all cleaned up, and the city of Jerusalem is quiet. Tonight, we get one last meal with Jesus. But, before the action picks up in Gethsemane tomorrow, we get one last lesson from our Lord.
He tells us to love each other. He doesn’t just give it lip service. He gets down on his knees, pours water into a bowl, and washes the disciples’ dusty feet. This is the love he speaks about. Humble, lowly devotion to the ones you love. It’s a love that carries no glamour. It’s a love that gains you nothing other than sideways glances from others, who would never do something that is beneath them.
Jesus is showing us that love is costly. But more importantly, it is holy. How we love each other echoes an eternity. It is how we identify ourselves as followers of Christ. It is our calling card for the world.
As we, the church, enter into the great three days of Christ’s death and resurrection, I pray we hear this one last lesson about our identity as citizens of God’s Heavenly Reign. People will know us by how we love each other. People will know. People will see where our hearts and our values are by how we fall to our knees and reach out in service to our neighbor. Our promise in Jesus’ resurrection is firm, and our call and identity are clear. When we get to the other side of the big celebration Sunday morning, and those decorations are cleaned up, and we go back out into the world, I pray that this identity shines brightly and clearly.
Lord Jesus, servant of all, we lift up our hearts to your command. Give us the strength to love as you love us. Amen.