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John 13:1-15

The Word of God

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" Jesus answered, "You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand." Peter said to him, "You will never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no share with me." Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!" Jesus said to him, "One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you." For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, "Not all of you are clean." After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord-and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.

John 13:1-15
  • Some thoughts on today's scripture

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    • I let myself be touched by the solemnity of this passage. Something momentous is about to happen, something that will reveal more than anything else who Jesus really is. I notice how often the passage speaks of Jesus knowing, and what he does as a result of all this knowledge.
    • I might smile at Peter’s reaction, but I ask myself what would my reaction be if Jesus were to come now to wash my feet. I am totally unworthy to be served so humbly by Jesus, my master and Lord, yet he insists that if I do not let him wash my feet, I will not be able to have a share with him. And I hear him tell me to follow his example, serving others in their needs, with the same attitude.
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    • In these quiet moments I imagine Jesus visiting me, chatting, and then asking for a basin, water and a towel. Surprised, I ask ‘Why?’ He says, ‘You will understand later!’ Can I let him kneel and wash my poor feet, just as they are? Am I moved, perhaps to tears, by what he does? Perhaps no one has ever done this for me since I was a child.
    • After a silence, he explains that he himself lives out a life of loving and humble service, and that he wants me as his disciple to copy what he has done for me. I ask him to show me, day by day, whose needs he wants me to meet. I bring him with me whenever I serve others.
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    • Jesus loved his own, particularly his disciples, right to the end. He showed this in a remarkable way, honouring them by washing their feet. Strangely enough this scene is usually considered as having a connection with the Eucharist.
    • He tells his disciples that, unless he washes them, they can have no part or fellowship with him. Such fellowship is brought about in the Eucharist. His cleansing of them is done, so that they can be fully united with him. It is the start of something greater. The simple prayer ‘Cleanse me, O Lord’ is a useful one.
    • Jesus is both Teacher and Lord, and should be regarded as such. But he is also a humble servant. His disciples need to be the same, wise and ever assisting.
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    • Do I feel like Peter, when Jesus kneels at my feet? Let me hear him whisper to me: ‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.’ Have I the courage and the generosity to accept his humble service and unconditional love?
    • Jesus’ instruction - to do to others what he does to us - was not intended to stop at the Church door. How can I bear witness to a servant God in my life today?
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    • John introduces this story with great solemnity. He takes care to specify precisely the point in Jesus' life when he decides to wash his disciples' feet.. Afterwards, Jesus explains the meaning of what he had done. He holds it up as an example for the apostles to follow. They are to express love within their community with humility and in practical ways. Note that this service is to be mutual: "to wash one another's feet". What are you called to do in your life circumstances?
    • There is no description of the institution of the Eucharist in John's gospel. Commentators see the washing of the feet as taking its place. Do you grasp the common values that underlie both events?
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    • It may be important for us to think of what we want to do for Jesus, to let him know and to seek his approval. Jesus smiles and invites us to listen first - to notice, to be. He asks if can we allow him to serve us. ‘See what I do,’ he seems to say. ‘Accept who I am. Then be who you are!’
    • Jesus says, ‘Later you will understand.’ Sometimes that's not enough for me! I want to understand now. Help me, Jesus, to live as you did even when I don’t fully comprehend what you are asking of me.
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    • The Gospel writer is awestruck at what Jesus did in washing the disciples’ feet. It was the job of a slave. The writer is at pains to point out just who Jesus is - where he came from and where he was going. And yet he performs this work of loving service to show me how to serve.
    • Jesus washes Judas’ feet. Knowing that Judas is shortly going to betray him, Jesus still washes his feet. After that, is there anyone whom I can justifiably not love, or serve?
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    • The fourth Gospel describes the Last Supper without mentioning the Eucharist. Instead it describes Jesus washing his friends' feet. There is a special sort of inter-communion, which is happening every day: when we team up with others who, like our Lord at the Last Supper, are happy to serve people's needs. On his knees like a servant, Jesus turned hierarchies upside down – /If I being your lord and master have washed your feet/ - and celebrated the community of those who serve.
    • Holy Thursday celebrates deep signs of the mystery of God's love. In the washing of the feet and the giving of his body and blood we find signs of Jesus' service and love. His invitation is to allow him serve us, and to receive his body and blood. Maybe in prayer today you can imagine him washing your feet, allowing this intimacy as he touches you in service and care. He wants to be close to you like this. His invitation is that we be as open to him in love as he is to us. We have all been recipients of service in our lives. Maybe in prayer today give thanks for the service of anyone who has brought us close to God. Engage them in your memory; allow your heart be enlarged in thanks to them and to God whose love works with and through them
    • There's much in the gospel story or words of Jesus that we can't immediately understand. He says little about the meaning of the washing of the feet, except that it's about service, and then just that we should do it too. By doing something in the example or name of Jesus, we often find its meaning. Or by just listening to his word, it begins to make sense. This is heart-knowledge, and prayer-knowledge.
    • Jesus is facing his 'hour'. He has no illusions about what lies ahead, of what would be involved in 'departing from this world'. But all his thought is for his disciples; he wants to give them an example of how they should live - in loving service.
    • Jesus loved his own 'to the end', without limits. Where do I place limits to my love of others?
    • Jesus knows who he is - where he has come from, where he is going. He is teaching his disciples that their true identity is to be servants of one another in his image. I ask to learn what I need to learn from this scene.
    • I note how I feel as I see him rise from table and approach me, kneel before me and prepare to wash my feet?
    • John the Evangelist communicates to us what is at the heart of the Eucharist, not by describing the action with bread and wine, but by giving us a lingering look at the servant heart of Jesus. I humbly give thanks for my opportunities to be of service to others. I pray that even my small acts of service may be for the good of the world and for the glory of God.
    • Peter valued his independence; stoutly rejecting Jesus’ ‘unnecessary’ act of humble service. Help me, Lord, graciously to allow myself to be served and to recognise you in those who care for me.