“Read More” to pursue answers in the Gospel of John.
Draw me into your holy Presence, that I might know you as my Father
And manifest the image of Christ in this world, and the world to come. Amen.
Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.
An ominous verse, though even here the emphasis is on Love.
And supper being ended, the devil having now put 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 was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe [them] with the towel wherewith he was girded.
What I find most profound about this is that Jesus’ decision to serve in such a lowly way was motivated by knowledge of his complete dominion and intimacy with God. I certainly know in my own life that the more secure I am, the easier it is to serve sacrificially; conversely, insecurity makes me jealous and tyrannical. Jesus goes the extra mile, even washing the feet of the one who would betray him!
Peter, as usual, finds this wildly inappropriate:
Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.
And then, also as usual, flip flops:
Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also [my] hands and [my] head. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash [his] feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.
Still, let’s give Peter credit for having a high view of Jesus, which motivates both his initial refusal and his latter over-acceptance; even if “high regard” doesn’t imply “deep understanding.”
So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for [so] I am. If I then, [your] Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.
Given the politics between the disciples — or, for that matter, within any sizeable group — Jesus warning is a timely one. Though even the seriousness of this lesson is overshadowed by another ominous note:
I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me. Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am [he]. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.
And, in case they still haven’t picked up on it, he spells it all out — much to their consternation:
When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake.
For once, Simon doesn’t speak out, but rather asks through John:
Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake. He then lying on Jesus’ breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it?
As Tussman says, nothing is as inevitable as a mistake whose time has come. For Judas, that time is now:
Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped [it]. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave [it] to Judas Iscariot, [the son] of Simon. And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly. Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him. For some [of them] thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy [those things] that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor. He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.
I wonder if Jesus had murmured his reply to John, so that the rest of the disciples didn’t know the significant of his gesture (of course, they might just as well have completely missed the point even if they heard it). Regardless, Jesus doesn’t dwell on that, but rather — as usual — on the Father’s glory:
Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him.
“Glory” must be a big deal, given that he says it five times! Part of the reason is to presumably give them some context for understanding his upcoming crucifixion. More than that, though, I think he — like with the footwashing — is trying to lay a foundation for a new kind of leadership; one focused on seeking God’s glory, not our own. Through love:
Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you. A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all [men] know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
Note that Jesus doesn’t deny their desire for glory, but rather redirects it towards God’s glory and the practice of love.
Alas Peter, bless his heart, can’t get past the idea of Jesus going on without them:
Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards. Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake.
Brave words, Peter, but you’ll have to eat them with the crow:
Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice.
God, I know that you long to give me far more than I am willing to receive. Lord, wash my feet, that I may be clean. Let me not betray like Judas or deny like Peter, but rather live out the love you commanded all your disciples to show. Help me to receive you, and all that you have for me, no matter how humbling. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.
About the Title:
Today’s title is a mangled play on crow’s feet.