It's an image that's stuck with us since the childhood Bible school days. Jesus kneeling beside His disciples, washing their feet. What's more, washing the feet of Judas, the one who would go on to betray Him. This kind of love—radical, risky, unconditional—seems so foreign to us. How can we love those who are not only different than us, but those who persecute us?
School's in, and we're diving into a John 13 Bible study on loving our enemies. This may be one of the hardest thing God asks us to do, so it begs to question—how are we exhibiting this in our own lives? How are we showing up and loving those on the fringes, those who disagree with us in every way? It's a heavy topic, but it begs consideration. Grab your Bible and a notepad, and let's embark on this journey together.
He Loved Them Til the End
"It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end." ~ John 13:1
Jesus knew what the next couple of days would ensue. He knew it was the Father's will for Him to be a sacrifice for all of mankind. His end would be grisly and undeserved. He was a spotless lamb to be slain. What a cruel ends to this man's life, the most honorable man to ever walk the earth.
This passage is heavy and sobering. We can't help but read these words and feel the guilt of our sin creep up on our shoulders. We were Christ's enemy. Though we weren't there, our sinful nature brought Him to the cross. Sometimes, it's important to sit with our sin for a little bit and acknowledge its severity. Of course, Jesus never intended us to stay in this shame (we'll touch on that later) but we need a reminder of Jesus' death, and our own sin that led Him there. This news changes us, humbles us, brings us to our knees.
Jesus would love His own, the disciples, until the end of His earthly existence.
They were His own because He called them, served alongside them, and raised them up to do wonderful things in His name.
Jesus Knew All
"The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him." ~ John 13:
Since Jesus is omniscient, in that He knows all, He knew in this moment (and long before) that one of His own disciple would come to betray Him. What's amazing is His response, which was to lower Himself into the position of a servant, humbly washing the feet of His oppressors.
It's important to notice that Jesus knew the Father's plan and could have backed away, but in all of His obedience, continued forward nonetheless. This act is not one of weakness but of triumph and overwhelming authority, as He knew, "The Father had given all things into His hand."
Jesus knew who He was, that He had come from God, and knew where He was headed, to heaven. He didn't question His identity or power. This puts a whole new perspective on this story, establishing Jesus as the victor, not the victim.
A Lesson in Humility
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. ~ John 13:6-11
In this moment, Peter feels uncomfortable with the situation. Jesus washing his feet? That doesn't seem right! Here, Peter cannot accept Jesus' unconditional love and service. It's a brief moment of pride—"You shall never wash my feet!" Jesus replies calmly. As His people, we must accept Christ's sacrifice. We must be cleansed.
"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." ~ Romans 3:23
Although the disciples were so close to Jesus and were doing incredible things in His name, they still needed to be cleansed. It's a lesson in humility. In fact, we must be cleansed if we are to be with Him. That's the truth. We cannot enter into heaven, into Jesus' presence, if we have not confessed our sins and let Jesus' sacrifice wash them away. Since He is a holy God, He demands righteousness.
Love Others as He Loved Us
When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. ~ John 13:12-17
Following Jesus is not just about seeing, it's about doing. Here, we see Jesus telling the disciples to follow in His footsteps and wash each other's feet. Theologian Charles Spurgeon says on this passage, "If there be any deed of kindness or love that we can do for the very meanest and most obscure of God’s people, we ought to be willing to do it—to be servants to God’s servants."
Jesus' legacy of His earthly ministry is one of unparalleled service and humility.
This is the God we serve. This is His character. Is it yours? Ask God to cleanse you, give you a heart for your neighbors, especially those who are different than you. Ask that you may love others with such ferocity and reckless abandon.
Jesus' use of words here are so powerful and poignant, cutting through all pretense and getting to the heart of the matter. Theologian Alexander Maclaren writes on this, “Nowhere else is His speech at once so simple and so deep. Nowhere else have we the heart of God so unveiled to us…The immortal words which Christ spoke in that upper chamber are His highest self-revelation in speech, even as the Cross to which they led up is His most perfect self-revelation in act.”
A Stylish Reminder
As a reminder of Jesus' unparalleled love and commitment, we crafted our Christian t-shirts with Biblical reminders at the forefront. If you're looking for some faith-based, seasonal Christian apparel, we encourage you to check it out. Our creative team is always coming up with new creations for you to wear and love.