April 8, 2020

John 13:1-5

The final week of Jesus’ life is filled with remarkable events. Each moment seems to be charged with meaning. And that is as it should be. After all, human history has been waiting for this very week. All of creation has been groaning for what Jesus would do on that fateful Friday and glorious Sunday. The fulfillment of the first gospel promise, that God would send a deliverer (Genesis 3:15) has finally reached its fulfillment.

Yet before the terror of the cross Jesus shared a final meal with his disciples on the day typically remembered as Maundy Thursday. In the midst of the meal Jesus did something that shocked his disciples. He wrapped a servant’s towel around his waist, took a basin of water, knelt down and began to wash their feet.

The Apostle John records it this way:

Now 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. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then 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. (13:1-5).

I love how F. W. Krummacher reflects on the scene:

The Lord Jesus, although he was then clearly conscious that his hour of return to the bosom of the Father was near at hand, and although he had already lived more above than on the earth, and heard from a distance the hymns of praise, amid those echoes he was soon to reascend the throne of divine Majesty – yet he did not forget his followers, but still retained so much room for these pilgrims in this vale of death, in his affectionate solicitude and recollection.

And yet how much sorrow of heart had these very disciples occasioned him only a short time before, by their lamentable strife for precedence, and especially by their conduct, when Mary poured the costly ointment upon him. You remember the mild and gentle reply which our Lord then gave them; but so far was it from humbling them, and causing them to acknowledge their fault, that it created discordant feelings within them and even closed and estranged their hearts from him for a season. And yet – O comprehend this depth of fidelity and compassion! And yet – the evangelist writes as if the tears were bursting from his eyes – and yet “having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them to the end.” For it was to this end – is the apostle’s meaning – that he associated with sinners, that he might bear them eternally on his heart. Those whom his Father had given him were more the objects of his affection than the holy angels around the throne of God, and his love to them increased as the end drew near. O how he loved them when he took their sins with him into judgment, and cast himself into the fire which their transgressions had kindled! How he loved them, when his own blood did not seem too dear a price to be paid for them, although it was they who were the transgressors; he loved them to the end; and to this day he loves them that are his in a similar manner. If a feeling of heavenly rapture thrilled through the apostle John at such a thought, let our hearts vibrate in like manner![1]

[1] F.W. Krummacher, The Suffering Saviour (Banner of Truth: Carlisle, 2004) pp. 29-30