Summary: When it came right down to it, Jesus was the one who paused to wash everyone's feet before the Passover meal. What does this action reveal about those who were there and what should we learn from this event? Consider these thoughts from Scott Jewell, our Family Minister.
When I graduated from the seminary in the 90s, I was given two reminders that day. The first was a diploma, to show that you’ve completed their training to lead. The second was a towel to remind you that to lead is to serve. To further reinforce that idea for all students, they placed a statue in front of chapel called The Divine Servant. This statue depicts Jesus washing the feet of Peter. It’s a great reminder that washing feet reveals one’s character. And that’s what we want to look at as we dig in to today’s text in John. We’ll examine what washing feet reveals about 3 people.
The first is Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed. We’re not told much about Judas, about the only good thing was that he was one of the Twelve and it just goes downhill from there. This was not a surprise to Jesus as He’d already be aware of the prophecies:
Psalm 41:9- Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel
Zechariah 11:12-13- Then I said to them, “If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if
not, keep them.” And they weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver. Then the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the lordly price at which I was priced by them. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord, to the potter.
For example, there was the time (John 12:1-8) when Jesus was being given a lunch by Lazarus and his sisters shortly after Lazarus had been brought back to life. Lazarus was at the table, Martha was preparing the meal, and Mary anointed Jesus feet with a very expensive perfume- worth about a year’s wages. Judas reacts to this, questioning why the perfume wasn’t sold to provide for the poor. It’s revealed that he wasn’t actually concerned for the poor. Judas was trusted with keeping the funds for the group but was a thief and had been skimming from the purse.
When he didn’t get his way, Judas made up his mind to betray Jesus and went to the chief priests to negotiate that they’d pay him 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 26:14-16; Mark 14:10-11). Later, when Judas realized Jesus was actually going to die, he let the guilt get the best of him. He threw the money into the temple when the chief priests refused to take it back then went and hanged himself (Matthew 27:3-5)
In our passage today (John 13:18), after He finishes washing the disciples’ feet, Jesus points out the prophecy we read in Psalm 41. In the next section of text (John 13:26-27), Jesus reveals that Judas Iscariot is the one who will betray him by giving him a piece of bread. He then does something unusual. Jesus tells him to go do what he has to do.
I’m reminded of the WWJD bracelets that used to be so popular. Knowing the betrayer was reclining at the table, what does Jesus do? He includes Judas, washed his feet (could have skipped over him), shared bread, gave him permission to proceed.
The second person we want to look at is Peter- the one who bathed. We know a good deal more about Peter, especially his rash, impulsive nature. Jesus knew this would lead to Peter’s denial, just as He knew about Judas’s betrayal. Again, it was prophecied:
Zechariah 13:7- Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.
I picture apostles around a campfire sometime after Jesus had ascended, swapping stories, maybe even filling in some of the gaps for Matthias after he replaced Judas. At some point, they begin roasting Peter.
Maybe it was Matthew who started it out, after all, he wrote all these events down. I remember the time when we were in the boat and a storm arose. The wind and the waves were terrifying and when we saw Jesus walking on the water we thought He was a ghost. Peter cried out the craziest thing I ever heard. “Jesus, if it’s you, tell me to walk to you on the water!” Of course, Jesus told him to come and he actually started out walking on top of the water. (Matthew 14:28-29)
And then Mark chimes in, remember how we used to call him Simon? Jesus asked us who people thought He was and we told Him- a prophet, Elijah, maybe John the Baptist. Then He asked who we say He is. It was Peter that answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus told us that confession would be the foundation of His church and not even the gates of Hades would prevail. (Matthew 16:16)
But then Thomas jumps in. Well, yeah, but then Jesus began to talk about His upcoming death, burial, and resurrection and Peter actually rebuked Him. “Far be it from you, Lord! We won’t let you die!” Jesus told him to get behind Him and called him Satan. (Matthew 16:22-23) He went from “You are the Christ” to “Get behind me, Satan” that quickly.