Gospel of John Chapter 13

Meditation for Chapter 13, Gospel of John

Jesus washes feet of disciples“Jesus the Servant of Love”

Karen and I hope that you are enjoying this lesson, the first chapter in what is called by the Apostle John, “The Book of Glory”. This particular chapter is so poignant, for it presents an image of our God that is mysterious and hauntingly beautiful. The all powerful, all knowing and almighty Creator of the Universe is humble. How can that be?

During our lifetimes we have each seen hundreds of movies where every scene is carefully composed. Everything in the film is designed to help us visualize the times in which the action of the film takes place, so that we can understand the characters and the story. Unlike the movie makers, the Evangelists, who wrote the Gospels, leave it to us to fill out the details of each scene.

Can we imagine for ourselves what is missing from John’s description of this last supper which Jesus has with His disciples? We can assume that Jesus and the Apostles are in Jerusalem,  for in the previous chapter, the people of Jerusalem were welcoming Jesus as the true king of Israel with palm branches and loud hosannas just before the Feast of the Passover. The Synoptic Evangelists speak of this meal as the Last Supper and describe the events in detail. John does not need to repeat the events of the institution of the Eucharist, since the Eucharist is, during John’s lifetime, already the primary focus of the worship the Christian community offers to God.

Jesus and the Apostles have gathered in someone’s home for dinner. The meal has been prepared for them. But whose house is this? Who has prepared the meal? We are not told the details, but we can assume that the home is large enough to host a meal for at least the twelve Apostles and Jesus. The room, where they are eating, is large enough that all can recline next to the table. The host or hostess is likely a follower of Jesus, as there is no questioning or testing of Jesus by the Pharisees during this meal. This is an intimate setting, a special meal between Jesus and those who were closest to Him.

Jewish custom would have provided either a washing place for the guests’ feet, or more appropriately, a servant to clean the guests’ feet before they entered the dining area. So it is all the more curious that Jesus performs this task as well. The Apostles feet would have already been cleaned. So what is the purpose of the washing? As with all of Jesus’ actions, there is a important meaning behind the event, one that the Apostles will only recognize after Jesus has been glorified.

Who is present at the dinner? We are told disciples, but are there any women, particularly those who supported and followed Jesus? Is Mary, the Mother of Jesus there? Is the owner of the home present? What about servants? What are the Apostles talking about as they eat this special meal? Try imagining the answers to these questions, even imagine yourself present there, as a follower of Jesus.

Suddenly Jesus rises from His place at the table and begins to wash His disciples feet. Everyone at dinner must be shocked by Jesus actions – the guest of honor who takes the place of a servant. Does anyone offer to help, to do the task instead of Jesus? Perhaps those present wonder why Jesus is doing this, as their feet have already been cleaned? Which disciple is first to have his feet washed? Is Peter the only one to object? Is everyone else stunned to silence? Or do they whisper among themselves and look at one another in horror at their Master’s actions? Even John, the beloved disciple, does not offer to help. What about Judas? After the reception Jesus received on His entry into Jerusalem, is Judas offended that the One he thought would be king of Israel is now humbling Himself before His friends? Is Judas ashamed or even disgusted when Jesus washes his feet? Is this the final disappointment for Judas, the moment when he firmly commits himself to handing over Jesus to the Sanhedrin?

Jesus kneels in front of you now. Are you ashamed, or do you object when Jesus prepares to wash your feet? Do you recognize in this tender moment how great Jesus love for you must be, if He is willing to humble Himself before you?

As the textbook tells us, “Christian love is measured not by man’s heart, but by the heart of Christ.” What must we be willing to do for one another if our God, the Creator of all that is, is willing to be our Servant? What must I do to truly love the One who loves me so very much?


If you have any questions or concerns about this lesson, call Karen or me. Our phone numbers are written in your textbook. We welcome your comments and questions. We look forward to seeing you on Tuesday for our last class before Christmas break.

May the love of Christ fill your hearts,

Karen and Franciene