Posted by: Heather | September 14, 2008

He loved them until the end

In my last blog I got off on a tangent a bit about Jesus washing the disciples feet. I wanted to go back and look at that passage in a little more detail. A couple of months ago when I studied this it was a very exciting study. I thought I would put it down here, so I don’t lose it. I hope you are edified and provoked to love and good works as you read it.

This story is recorded on one Gospel only, the Gospel of John chapter 13. Now the story of the crucifixion doesn’t occur until chapters 18 and 19, so it is easy to make the mistake of separating the foot washing from his ultimate sacrifice, but in reality, by the time 24 hours had passed from the foot washing story in chapter 13, Jesus’ body is in the tomb. Chapters 13-17 occur in about a 5-6hour period.

This 5 chapter story starts with the statement that Jesus “having loved his own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” This is the story of the final sprint at the end of a marathon. God’s revelation of himself which began with the Word saying, “Let there be light” was culminating at this point. He did not only run the race well, he finished the race as the victor by loving his own until the end. This will be contrasted with the fickle and selfish hearts of men toward God when every last person forsakes Christ. (As he said in chapter 16:32 where he predicts that all will leave him)

So here we are coming down the home stretch. Chapter 13 occurs right after supper at the last passover feast. If you compare this story with the other Gospel accounts, you will find that the disciples have been disputing about who is the greatest, and Jesus has instituted the Lord’s Supper.

13:3 says that “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that He had come forth from God, and was going back to God,” He had all power and knew it. They are disputing about who is greatest, but to him there is no dispute, he is the greatest. Picture if you will, these men who are shameless about their filthy dirty feet while in the presence of the ultimate royalty: the King of Heaven. And to top it all off, they are disputing which of them is the greatest in the kingdom. The King of Heaven chose to get up from dinner and take off his outer garment. He wrapped a servants serving towel around his waist, put water in a basin and began to wash the disciples feet.

I think this is a perfect picture of what he came to do. You see, in coming to the end, Jesus will be using everything around him at his disposal to communicate some very important truths to his followers. He begins by making a visual example of how far they have missed it at this point. He takes off his teacher clothes (the very garment that soldiers would be casting lots for in less than 24 hours) and putts on servant clothes, kneels down and washes their feet. Here is where he literally performed the same steps we find in Phil. 2. (who being in very nature God, did not cling to that but set it aside like his garment, and put upon himself the clothes of a servant, and in taking on my sin he became obedient to death, even death on a cross) Lets think about those feet for a second. This occurred in what would amount to a third world culture with animals in the streets as beasts of burden. This was also in Jerusalem during Passover week. On the day of the feast, the streets of Jerusalem literally ran with blood from the sacrifices. From their travels that day, their feet were covered with manure and blood. Jesus takes this filth upon himself as he wiped their feet with the towel around his waist. (like he took my filth upon himself) What a humbling experience it must have been to have the very God of Heaven stoop down and clean their feet. I wonder what thoughts went through their heads as he silently did this. They didn’t know what point he was making yet, but they must have been embarrassed about the conversation they had been having.

When Jesus came to Peter, Peter said “you will never wash my feet” and Jesus said ” if I don’t, you have no part of me”. So now they know this is about more than just having clean feet. Peter wants all of Jesus he can have, so he responds “Wash all of me!” Jesus says that only his feet need washing. In this reference he says that they are all clean except for the one who will betray him. He is referring to being forgiven at this point.

Then after he finishes he puts his regular clothes back on and sat back down with them. He then asks if they know what he has done to them. “You call me Teacher and Lord, and you should because I AM (a reference to being the God at the burning bush). If I as the Lord and your Teacher washed your feet, you should wash one anothers’ feet.”

The reference to being clean implies that this is about forgiving, and the application to them is that they are to be agents of forgiveness. Jesus has so beautifully demonstrated with this living illustration the nature and posture of the forgiveness he offers. You see, God did not stand in heaven with his hands on his hips condemning us. He did not roll his eyes and turn his back on us and say “you are on your own”. He didn’t lean over us with his finger in our faces. He knelt down with the clothing of a servant on and took care of the need. He did not ignore the problem, he dealt with it quietly and humbly.

This is the posture we are to assume as we pass on the forgiveness of God to each other and to the world. We need to understand more than just the fact of God’s forgiveness, we need to understand the attitude and posture of God’s forgiveness if we are going to be effective carriers of this message of forgiveness. The God of Heaven took off his “God clothes” and put on the form of a man, not because we deserved it, because we needed it. He wiped our filth upon himself because we needed him to. He then has offered us the chance to pass this on to others.

Immediately after this there is a brief conversation and then Judas leaves Jesus for the last time on his freshly washed feet. At this Jesus is grieved. As I thought about this I realized that this was not a self pity sort of grief. It was grief knowing what Judas’ end would be, and that the only reason he would not receive that forgiveness was because he would not bring himself back to the feet of Jesus for forgiveness after he messed up. This is the same sort of pride Peter displayed as Jesus was washing his feet. You see, if we are not willing to accept the fact that only Jesus can take our filth away, we have no part of him. Jesus came so far for Judas, but Judas did not accept what was before his very eyes. We don’t know why, we aren’t told. But we have the example as a reminder of our own tendency to try to work it out on our own. What a devastating mistake that would be.

Right after this, Jesus tells them he is leaving them with “a new commandment: Love one another as I have loved you. By this will all men know you are my disciples, by your love for one another.” (right after they were bickering about who is the greatest) What does the world see in us? Do we have the doctrine and theology right, but miss the attitude and posture of God’s forgiveness? Are we bickering over who is the greatest, and who has it most right? If so, how will the world tell the difference between us and the other small minded bigots in the world?




  1. This is very well written and understood! That is all I have to say, you nailed it. Keep writing your thoughts, it is very uplifting!

  2. Hehe. I get the ‘inside track’ on all these thoughts, but I wanted to comment here anyway.Isn’t it amazing how the Bible is it’s own self-contained ‘cross’-reference? 😀Okay, bad pun. Anyway, you’re plugging two of my favorite NT books, so I of course have to jump in and say something. The exchange between Peter and Jesus is interesting. I am also intrigued by the statement that Jesus made about not letting Him wash Peter’s feet. I may be off here, but I am taking this to mean that since the foot washing is not symbolic of salvation, but rather is signifying the resulting attitude of obedience. IF we are not allowing Jesus to daily cleanse our ‘feet’–IF we are not demonstrating this same sense of humility and consideration toward others, IF we are not laying aside our attitude of self-importance, THEN it is a sign that we have no part in the Kingdom. I don’t know why I feel it is important to say that, but I know there was a time when I would have read that particular exchange as “If you don’t let me wash your feet, you won’t be able to get into the club”. The difference between the two is that the first instance has Peter already being a part of the family, and taking his rightful place. The second has Jesus performing some sort of additional soul-saving step–beyond what He did on the cross. Am I making any sense? Ah well, if not, I guess this is what you get for leaving the ‘puter on so your wife can find it when she wakes up in the middle of the night.Also, I wonder about something. As you said, He washed ALL of the disciples feet. Assuming my understanding of the foot washing picture is correct, does this indicate that Judas actually was, or would come to a realization of salvation? I mean, he allowed Jesus to wash his feet… Or is it rather a picture of ‘apostate’ followers; those who make a show of having a part, but are really the goats that Jesus talks about elsewhere.I think I had better go back to bed 😛~H

  3. Heather, you are starting to sound like me! 🙂 I get myself in a lot of trouble, but there are so many scriptures with really tough messages, it is hard to take them lightly, so I am with you, I don’t like to push these under the carpet.

  4. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I don’t think Judas was trying to get Jesus killed. I think he was trying to force the kingdom. I think he just didn’t get it, as to what the kingdom is about. Jesus was trying to show him, and for the last time he didn’t get it. The forgiveness is there for all, but not all access it. That’s my take on Judas in this story.Craig

  5. Well Lyle, I expect you know the cliche about ‘Great Minds’ 😀 But seriously, it seems as though the more difficult a passage is to accept, or understand, the more I feel as though I NEED to work at understanding it. I am a poor loser and hate to think I might be missing something important.Thank you, Mr. Simple Guy for your response. I admit my speculation about Judas is just that. I appreciate the conversation we had off-line concerning this thought. The contrast between Peter, who ‘got it’ and insisted that Jesus do whatever was necessary to keep things in order and Judas, who didn’t understand what Jesus was about, is quite striking. So, I suppose the question I need to ask myself is,~~am I a Peter, or a Judas? Am I part of the family or an interloper?

  6. […] throughout all of Scripture.  We see it as Jesus loves Judas to the end, as Jim pointed out. Jesus is the ultimate personification of God’s grace, as well as all of His divine attributes.  But this did not start in Bethlehem, it did not […]

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