John 13 Devotions
by Pastor Mark Hudson
John 13 has clearly recognizable sections. 1-20; 21-30; 31-35; 36-38. Or you can look at the entire chapter and see the following sections as D. A. Carson does: 1-17 where Jesus washes the disciples’ feet, and 18-30 Jesus predicts His death and then 31-38 where Jesus predicts Peter’s denial.
In the first section the Lord washes the disciples’ feet. I have heard some say that the disciples should have washed one another’s feet before dinner, but no one did. So, Jesus had to wash their feet. There is no indication in the text the disciples didn’t wash their feet before the meal. What is in the text is that Jesus did wash their feet.
This is absolutely stunning. The very One who created water, the disciples, cotton for a towel, Who has life in Himself, humbled Himself by leaving the throne of heaven where He was eternally worshipped to come to earth as a human being. He lived in obscurity, misunderstood by His own family, rejected by the people He formed into a nation, and now hours before His greatest humiliation is acting like a humble servant by washing their dirty feet. We will never get over this. I assume in heaven this will be brought up as a reason to worship the Supreme Being, the Creator of the Universe who washes His disciples’ feet. And this, hours before a violent, humiliating, cruel, unjust, and excruciatingly painful death on the cross. He is focused on His disciples. Jesus is teaching them, loving them, and concerned for their wellbeing.
Notice how Christ, in this one event, teaches on humble service and forgiveness. One of the interesting and sometimes baffling aspects of this teaching is how Jesus intermingles the two subjects. It is hard to separate one thread as distinct from the other. We take v. 10 as addressing the need for continual repentance and forgiveness after one has been justified.
Notice also that Judas was called (John 6:70-71) yet still fell away. This is an interesting aspect of calling. Also reflect on the blaming that happens when someone falls in our day. But here is the perfect Son of Man who has someone betray Him. Consider this next time you blame parents for their unbelieving child, an elder for a pastor who falls, or a church when a leader falls.
In vs. 21-30, Jesus is in complete control of Himself and the circumstances surrounding Judas’ betrayal and the violent and painful death ahead of Him. I can’t imagine anyone else being so composed. Then in vs. 31ff, I find His words fascinating. If most of us had been in that position, we might have railed against the sin of betrayal or how unjust it was for us to be treated this way. We might have run down Judas. Or turned their attention on us and how much support we need. Not Jesus. He speaks of His heavenly Father and the fact that He will be glorified (5 times this is mentioned in vs. 31-32). Jesus was always thinking about His Father. Our Lord also reminds us to love one another in His final hours.
Jesus ends with a hopeful statement in v. 36 that the disciples will understand later. He also tells Peter with unusual straightforwardness that Peter dare not trust in himself. Jesus predicts that Peter will utterly fall away. But also, the Lord know that Peter will fall and get back up again. Jesus has confidence in Peter because Peter will learn to lean on Christ.
Being a servant is not a pleasant or desirable position one strives to attain. Yet service is highly valued by our Lord. This goes against our pride which needs to be crucified repeatedly. But in this chapter, Jesus is issuing a call to serve others. I have never been in favor of literal foot washing in church, but I know others like to serve others that way. The point seems to be to offer practical, humble service to those around us. No matter how lowly. Maybe that means serving in the nursery, taking the trash out, cleaning, setting up or taking down chairs, putting out and putting away tables and the list goes on.
Don’t worry about the next day or two and how much you serve. Think about serving in 2022. Challenge yourself to get more involved. To say yes more when asked to help or asked to be in a class or group. Take the long-term view. If you are young, start being a servant now. Start looking for ways to serve. You would be surprised how easy it is to help someone older living in their own house, for example. You would also be surprised by how much you enjoy serving and how much that person enjoyed you.
We might also pit leadership against service in our minds. But is serving others leadership? Do great leaders serve others? Leadership is responsibility not a reward. Responsibility requires vigilance, diligence, and perseverance. Being responsible is just hard work. Being a Mom responsible for a family is just hard work. It is not glorious to clean toilets, cook every day, and wash underwear. Around our church, if you are serving others, you might find yourself washing dishes, setting up and taking downs chairs and tables, listening to someone with your full attention, meeting with others when you really do not want to leave your house for a meeting, or attending a worship service or event to support someone. Service is not always washing someone’s feet in a literal sense. But it may get close to that.
Dear Father, You know our proud hearts. You know we must repent of our repenting. We can be proud of our service, proud in our humility, and yet, we can also lose ourselves in helping others. You made us to serve You first and foremost and others. We get such satisfaction in serving others. That is another reason to thank and praise You. You give us blessings as we do what is right! Keep our minds on Christ. Remind us of what the King of Glory did when He lived on earth. Keep us lowly and rejoicing in the Servant of God. We pray this in the name of the Risen, Glorious Son of God. Amen.