John 13:1-17, 31-38, NIV 2011 (https://my.bible.com/bible/111/JHN.13.1-17,31-38)
1-11, 'It was just before the Passover Festival. 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. The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he 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. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
12-17, When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
31-38, When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once. “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!'
It was hard for Jesus to have friends.
Friendship is a hard thing to manage. Genuine, doing life as a community friendship is difficult to keep up with when everything around you seems to push you to keep people at bay. The hardest part about friendship is that while some of our greatest triumphs in life are experienced as the result of friendship, some of our greatest tragedies are likewise the result of friendship as well.
It was hard for Jesus to have friends.
Jesus spent the final day before the Cross getting ready for a meal he would share with his friends. Ever the vagabond, Jesus leaned on the kindness of friends to provide this meal a space to have it, supplies for it, and someone to ensure it was ready when he arrived. When everyone had arrived they began to eat. While all that Jesus needed was present at the meal, his heart stirred to show them the depth of his love. Looking around the room, Jesus searched for something that would speak to his love and would be a constant reminder to his friends of his deep love. Whatever Jesus did, He always seemed to intend it to be carried on with them. And then he saw it: the bowl of water.
So he got up. FIlled up a bowl of water. Took off his outer robe. Tied a towel around his waist and began to wash his friends feet. Powerful scene - except that his friends weren’t having it. In the first century, washing the feet of a guest was considered an honorable thing to do and you were obligated to have the lowliest servant do it. Try for a moment to put yourself back in the 1st century in an audience who was hearing the story for the first time. Jesus’ act wasn’t endearing. It wasn’t sweet and kind. It was shameful and indecent. In the 1st Century, friends didn’t let friends wash their feet. While we don’t have any interaction from the others, Peter does resist Jesus’ action. He cannot fathom why Jesus would stoop so low as to shame himself publicly to wash someone’s feet. Peter knows where those feet have been and Jesus should not be touching them. Peter emphatically tells Jesus “No!” We can’t see it but I can imagine Peter resisting Jesus physically. It is not shocking considering that Peter is found a few times ‘correcting’ Jesus. (Matthew 16:21–23 might be a good reference point).
Eventually Peter acquiesces and allows it— which might be a great reference point for our own lives and how Jesus still seeks to serve us, but we simply won’t have any of it. Jesus’ love for Peter and the others would not deter him. However, Jesus’ friends still didn’t fully understand. At the heart of his act was his single most important teaching on friendship: to be a friend to someone else, we must serve them. In Jesus’ view, a community is made up of friends and friends serve each other. Even if they hadn’t seen it, Jesus had lived this among them his entire ministry. He served his friends every time he
fed the masses with minimal resources.
healed the sick and gave sight to the blind.
showed truths from the Scriptures.
ruffled the feathers of the pious and “healthy.”
made room for the broken, forgotten, and insignificant.
showed compassion to the sinner and the saint.
displayed the love of the Father.
Ultimately, Jesus would display the depth of his love when he would go to the Cross and truly ‘serve’ his friends. But to be fair, the entire ministry of Jesus may have been one consistent act after another of Jesus dying for his friends. We just see the reality of it at the Cross. He taught his friends that in order to be a friend you must be willing to lay down your life in every way for them. Which is why:
It’s so hard for us to have friends.
Praise God for what a friend we have in Jesus.
Go in Peace!