Jesus’ Life and Ministry
Humility at the Last Passover
PETER and John, under instructions from Jesus, have already arrived in Jerusalem to make preparations for the Passover. Jesus, apparently along with the ten other apostles, arrives later in the afternoon. The sun is sinking on the horizon as Jesus and his party descend the Mount of Olives and cross the Kidron Valley. This is Jesus’ last daytime view of the city till after his resurrection.
Soon Jesus and his party arrive in the city and make their way to the home where they will celebrate the Passover. They climb the stairs to the large upper room, where they find all preparations made for their private celebration of the Passover. Jesus has looked forward to this occasion, as he says: “I have greatly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer.”
Traditionally, four cups of wine are drunk by Passover participants. After accepting what is evidently the third cup, Jesus gives thanks and says: “Take this and pass it from one to the other among yourselves; for I tell you, From now on I will not drink again from the product of the vine until the kingdom of God arrives.”
Sometime during the course of the meal, Jesus gets up, lays aside his outer garments, takes a towel, and fills a basin with water. Ordinarily, a host would see to it that a guest’s feet were washed. But since on this occasion no host is present, Jesus cares for this personal service. Any one of the apostles could have seized the opportunity to do it; yet, apparently because some rivalry still exists among them, no one does. Now they are embarrassed as Jesus begins to wash their feet.
When Jesus comes to him, Peter protests: “You will certainly never wash my feet.”
“Unless I wash you, you have no part with me,” says Jesus.
“Lord,” Peter responds, “not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.”
“He that has bathed,” Jesus answers, “does not need to have more than his feet washed, but is wholly clean. And you men are clean, but not all.” He says this because he knows that Judas Iscariot is planning to betray him.
When Jesus has washed the feet of all 12, including the feet of his betrayer, Judas, he puts his outer garments on and reclines at the table again. Then he asks: “Do you know what I have done to you? You address me, ‘Teacher,’ and, ‘Lord,’ and you speak rightly, for I am such. Therefore, if I, although Lord and Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash the feet of one another. For I set the pattern for you, that, just as I did to you, you should do also. Most truly I say to you, A slave is not greater than his master, nor is one that is sent forth greater than the one that sent him. If you know these things, happy you are if you do them.”
What a beautiful lesson in humble service! The apostles should not be seeking the first place, thinking that they are so important that others should always serve them. They need to follow the pattern set by Jesus. This is not one of ritual foot washing. No, but it is one of willingness to serve without partiality, no matter how menial or unpleasant the task may be. Matthew 26:20, 21; Mark 14:17, 18; Luke 22:14-18; 7:44; John 13:1-17.
◆ What is unique about Jesus’ view of Jerusalem as he enters to celebrate the Passover?
◆ During the Passover, evidently what cup does Jesus have passed to the 12 apostles after saying a blessing?
◆ What personal service was customarily provided guests when Jesus was on earth, and why was it not provided during the Passover celebrated by Jesus and the apostles?
◆ What was Jesus’ purpose in performing the menial service of washing his apostles’ feet?