John 1-12 takes us on a fast and robust theological journey through Jesus’ 3 years of public ministry. John’s mostly Gentile audience learns about Jesus’ identity as God, the only God, as they are coming to faith in Jesus from a polytheistic background. There is so much going on in John’s context that it’s just too much to deal with in a blog post or two.
Jesus has clearly identified himself as God and he has stated his mission, and we have seen how that mission conflicts with the dark kingdom as the true and right kingdom of God comes to heal the creation and rescue a people given to Jesus from the Father who are scattered among the nations of the earth to worship Jesus and be the family of God.
Now, John is going to take 9 chapters to cover the last few hours of Jesus’ life as he prepares his disciples for what is to come. Included in John’s account is the historical eyewitness account of Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and restoration of Peter prior to his ascension (which John does not record). We are going to learn about the Holy Spirit, and God the Father’s love for us.
But we start in John 13 with a most glorious event, the Passover. Jesus takes his disciples through the familiar ceremony/feast and interprets it in light of him being its fulfillment. It’s from this feast Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper.
So long ago, God showed his people his love for them in covering their sin and delivering them from the slavery and false gods of Egypt. In all of that work, God revealed how he would save his people. A lamb was brought into the household for three days beginning on the 10th day of the month of Nisan; the first month in the religious year of the Jewish people. It was watched carefully by the family during those days so the father could determine that it was without blemish or sickness, a perfect lamb for sacrifice.
On the 14th day of Nisan, at twilight, the lamb was killed, its blood spread on the doorposts and lintel of the house to protect the home from the 10th plague: the slaying of the firstborn.
Jesus is referred to as the Lamb of God. He is our Sacrificial Lamb. He went into Jerusalem, during His Triumphant Entry, on the 10th day of the month of Nisan. As He went, he probably saw all the lambs being taken into the households of Israel for the holiday. Like the other lambs, he was examined. And while most of Israel did not agree, he was indeed without any spot, any blemish, and he was indeed perfect because He is the Son of God. He is God incarnate.
On the same day as the Passover lambs for each household were being slaughtered for the feast, Jesus was crucified, this same 14th day of the month of Nisan.
This Passover meal put in place by God so long ago would be celebrated by Jesus and his disciples right before its actual fulfillment so that when it did take place, they would see it, remember all the times they observed it as a child, and particularly remember the night Jesus celebrated it with them and revealed it’s fuller meaning.
He should be served by Peter and the others, but not God. He displays his nature as a servant to those who would be his, and Jesus does this:
John 13:1-15 (CSB) 1 Before the Passover Festival, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 Now when it was time for supper, the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas, Simon Iscariot’s son, to betray him. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had given everything into his hands, that he had come from God, and that he was going back to God. 4 So he got up from supper, laid aside his outer clothing, took a towel, and tied it around himself. 5 Next, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel tied around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who asked him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I’m doing you don’t realize now, but afterward you will understand.” 8 “You will never wash my feet,” Peter said. Jesus replied, “If I don’t wash you, you have no part with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.” 10 “One who has bathed,” Jesus told him, “doesn’t need to wash anything except his feet, but he is completely clean. You are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For he knew who would betray him. This is why he said, “Not all of you are clean.” 12 When Jesus had washed their feet and put on his outer clothing, he reclined again and said to them, “Do you know what I have done for you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are speaking rightly, since that is what I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done for you.
Jesus, the one to whom the Passover points, gets up as the host and takes the role of servant to ceremonially wash his disciples, because after all, he was about to provide the sacrifice that would wash them clean on the inside.
Jesus takes the place of a servant to wash dirt before he takes the place of a sinner to wash sin away on the cross.
Jesus, although God, did not count equality with God as something to be grasped. But he emptied himself and became obedient to the point of death. Even death on a cross.
As we journey to the cross, let us not move too quickly past the model he gives us for humility and service. He deserves the worship of the nations, yet washed the betrayer’s feet.
Marvel at the majesty and love and humility of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.