“You will never wash my feet”

Posted Sep 10, 2017

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Daily Scripture

John 13:1-10

1 Before the Festival of Passover, Jesus knew that his time had come to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them fully.

2 Jesus and his disciples were sharing the evening meal. The devil had already provoked Judas, Simon Iscariot’s son, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew the Father had given everything into his hands and that he had come from God and was returning to God. 4 So he got up from the table and took off his robes. Picking up a linen towel, he tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he was wearing. 6 When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

7 Jesus replied, “You don’t understand what I’m doing now, but you will understand later.”

8 “No!” Peter said. “You will never wash my feet!”

Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t have a place with me.”

9 Simon Peter said, “Lord, not only my feet but also my hands and my head!”

10 Jesus responded, “Those who have bathed need only to have their feet washed, because they are completely clean. You disciples are clean, but not every one of you.”

Reflection Questions

Jesus told Peter, “You don’t understand what I’m doing now,” and Peter certainly didn’t. We may not understand, either—most of us wash our own feet in our shower or tub. Things were very different in first-century Palestine. “Washing others’ feet was normally a servile task. Dirt roads made feet dusty…. Disciples served teachers rather than the reverse, and the one act of service specifically not expected even of them was dealing with the master’s feet.”*

  • We saw last week that, even after saying Jesus was God’s anointed king, Peter tried to correct Jesus as soon as he began talking about suffering (cf. Matthew 16:13-23). Letting Jesus wash his feet didn’t at all fit Peter’s dream of his Lord as a glorious king. Many of us are high achievers, and serving a crucified king can be a challenge for us, too. How are you doing at worshiping Jesus as a counter-cultural Savior, who changed the world through self-giving love rather than self-serving clout?
  • Pastor Hamilton honed in on the underlying spiritual question this story asks each of us. “Jesus wanted to make sure his disciples got it. The story in John 13 encourages us to ask this question: Are you—am I—worried about who appears to be the greatest, or are we focused on humbly serving others?”** What’s your answer? Has it changed over time?


Lord Jesus, this is a hard prayer to pray. But I mean it: teach me how to find my glory in serving God and others, as you did, not in having others serve me. Amen.

* HarperCollins Christian Publishing. NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, eBook: Bringing to Life the Ancient World of Scripture (Kindle Locations 240914-240925). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

** Adam Hamilton, John: The Gospel of Light and Life. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2015, p. 96.

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Chris Abel

Chris Abel

Chris Abel is the Young Adults Pastor at Resurrection, and he describes himself as a "Pastor/Creative-type/Adventurer." A former atheist turned passionate follower of Christ, he completed his seminary education in Washington, DC. Before coming to Resurrection, Chris was a campus pastor near St. Louis, MO.

“So he got up from the table and took off his robes. Picking up a linen towel, he tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he was wearing.” -John 13:1-10

In 2011 Quarterback Aaron Rodgers led the Green Bay Packers to the Superbowl. On that cold day in February, 111 million people looked on as he threw pass after pass—eventually completing 24 of 39 pass attempts. They won 31 to 25, and Rodgers’ exemplary performance earned him the title of Most Valuable Player of the Superbowl. He had spent his life aspiring to this moment, and he had finally achieved it.  

Recently, he spoke out to ESPN, sharing what he’s learned in the time since. Here’s an excerpt from the article. 

“But when the Packers' bus left Cowboys Stadium on that chilly night six years ago, he didn't feel like he had risen to a higher plane. Rather, he realized he was still looking for something -- for a sense of clarity, or purpose -- that was beyond his current line of sight. "It's natural to question some of the things that society defines as success," he says. "When you achieve that and there's not this rung -- you know, another rung to climb up in this ladder -- it's natural to be like, 'OK, now what?’”

Aaron Rodgers chased a grand goal and achieved what rare few ever achieve. 

And it left him wanting. 

In our culture today there is this subtle narrative that worms its way into our lives and minds. It says “you are what you achieve, you are what you accomplish.” And for some of us, this narrative pushes us. It drives us. It gives us goals to chase and doors to kick down for the sake of progress. 

We chase one thing to the next, climbing ladders and leaping from goal to goal…

All to prove that we matter. 

And this isn’t a 21st century problem. We even see it 2000 years ago in the discipes. Again and again, their actions and words betray the assumptions they’ve made about their leader: They see him as the foretold King who will establish a new empire. Peter asks Jesus when he’s ready to start this kingdom. James and John want to sit “at his right and left.” Jesus even finds his disciples arguing who will be the greatest in this new empire. They are not doing this for spiritual reasons. 

They’re following the future king of Israel. 

They are motivated by purpose. Achievement. Royalty. (Sound familiar?) 

They are betting on a future king. 

But instead of raising up soldiers, he raises up students. Instead of fighting, he heals. Instead of building boundaries and borders (and walls), he speaks of building a “Kingdom of Heaven” that, incidentally, has no national borders. And instead of being focused on his accomplishments and importance…

…He humbles himself and washes the feet of his students. 

Jesus understood what Aaron Rodgers figured out the hard way. "I've been to the bottom and been to the top, and peace will come from somewhere else."

Maybe peace doesn’t come from achievement. Maybe peace doesn’t come from Super Bowl rings or promotions or big bank accounts. 

Maybe peace comes when we stop trying to force our importance on this world. 

Or, as the writer of Phillipians put it: (Chapter 2:5, Message translation)

“Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all.”

This is not the King his disciples were expecting. This is a King who understands where true peace begins: Not climbing over people to reach the top,

but getting on your knees to serve them.

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