John's Gospel

The Way It Happened

John 13:4-5, The Suffering Servant

So [Jesus] 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.

//This image of Jesus, kneeling, washing the dusty feet of his disciples, has haunted me a bit today. The Gospel of Luke tells us that at the last supper an argument arose between the disciples about who would be the greatest. John’s Gospel does not mention this discussion. It mentions only how Jesus resolved it.

Dinner had already been served, and the foot washing should have been completed long ago, but there were apparently no slaves to attend to the detail. The disciples had plenty of opportunity to humble themselves and perform the task, but they did not; loyal disciples would do for their teachers almost anything a slave would do except wash their feet, which was far too demeaning.

So Jesus took on the servant duties himself. He waited until Judas had left the room and then, knowing his fate was sealed, his execution was in motion, he nevertheless remained with his disciples.

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

Instead of fleeing, Jesus donned the uniform of a house slave: the towel. He was not only performing a service, he was making an identification. He was identifying with the image known from the prophet Isaiah.

The suffering servant.

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