1Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him,“If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 9Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet,but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”12When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16Truly, truly, I say to you, a servantis not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. John 13:1-17
This meal is not about the food. It’s not about eating together, not about sharing a meal together. This is about something deeply intimate. Something timeless. Something to be treasured.
At this meal, Jesus offers an incredibly beautiful portrait of love. Intimate, unconditional, amazing love. Even as his life is drawing to its end here on earth, Jesus remains focused on others. On his disciples.
Even as Jesus prepares to bear the burdens of the world, he bares his heart, his soul, even his human body, to his disciples. As he pours out the water into the basin, he pours out his love in each and every action, in every stroke used to wash his disciples’ feet.
Seeing Jesus like this, so vulnerable, so humble, causes me to catch my breath. Is this really God? Kneeling before these men, wearing only a tunic with a towel wrapped around his waist, serving them in the most lowly of ways by washing their feet. Is this what God is like?
This scene before me is both beautiful and disturbing. Disturbing in that this Jesus who is God has made himself even lower than man. He has made himself a slave, performing a menial task that takes on an incredible intimacy and beauty because it is done by the Lord.
If it were Peter, impetuous Peter, it would seem a normal thing because he loves to step out, to jump in and to do things others might not.
If it were Judas Iscariot, it would be shocking and surreal because of who he is in his heart and what he is about to do.
But it is Jesus. And so it is intimate. Beautiful. Humbling.
So incredibly humbling. And even a little bit painful to behold. Especially when he comes to Judas. The one who will betray him. The one whose heart is not clean even if his feet are.
Jesus knows Judas’ heart. He knows what Judas is going to do. He knew it when he called him to be one of his disciples. He knew it when they shared the Passover meal together. He knew it when they broke bread together and ate of the body and drank of the cup. And he knows still. He knows that Judas will betray him. That Judas will be the one to bring his mission to its close. Even so, he washes Judas’ feet.
With the same love, with the same grace, with the same humility, Jesus kneels before Judas and washes the grime of the city from his feet. He scrubs the sand of the miles away. With gentleness, he dries his betrayer’s feet. He looks Judas in the eyes and Judas knows he knows.
What kind of love is this?
What kind of God is this?
Is this what God is like?
This is amazing love. This is amazing grace. This is who God is.
This is what love is meant to look like.
And I find myself asking, Do I love like this?
Because this is what love is supposed to look like. Jesus says so. I cannot escape his words. I cannot escape his example. I cannot ignore the fact that he washed all of the disciples’ feet. He makes no exception for Judas even though he knows the evil that has overtaken Judas’ heart.
What excuse have I for not doing likewise?
Jesus knew Judas’ heart. Knew his betrayal. And yet he served him.
I have no excuse. I have no excuse to withhold love, to withhold grace, to withhold forgiveness, to withhold helping or serving others. I have no excuse for I know not the heart of any man.
Do I love like this?
If I am honest, I do not. Not nearly as often as I ought. Not if doing so will make me unpopular. Not if doing so will pull me out of my comfort zone. Not if doing so will make me look too “Christian.”
Because if I am honest, I have looked past a homeless man rather than meet his eyes or offer him my kindness.
Because if I am honest, I have not spoken up when words could have made a difference in someone’s life.
Because if I am honest, I have stood on the sidelines, or worse, stood in the middle of conflicts because I didn’t want to hurt anyone else’s feelings.
Do I love like this?
Not often enough. At least not yet.
But I want to.
I want to focus on others the way Jesus focused on others. I want to be a portrait of intimate, unconditional, amazing love. I want to be vulnerable. I want to be humble. I want to bare my heart and my soul for others to see plainly. I want to bear others’ burdens willingly. I want to wash the feet of those who might hurt me or betray me.
I want to love like that. Even if it scares me.
Especially if it scares me.