So what do the disciples need from Jesus before he leaves them? Ultimately, they need to understand and experience the gospel mission: what Jesus came to earth to do. So to illustrate his mission, Jesus kneels to the ground and washes his disciples’ feet. And then he says, “If I, then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”
Don’t be fooled: the sort of selfless, humble love that Christ shows when he washes his disciples’ feet is impossible without divine intervention. John 12:3 tells us that Jesus washed the disciples’ feet because he knew “that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God.”
Jesus knew that he was on his way to the cross to die for these men who shared the upper room with him, and the passage says that “having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (v. 1). On the cross, Jesus would demonstrate that love, and in so doing he would take the sins of these men on himself, ransoming them as children of God. He would fill them with his own Holy Spirit, empowering them to love one another as he commands.
Christ’s work on the cross freed us to be adopted as sons and daughters of the King. And as God’s children, we have the same confidence that Christ had: that the Father has given all things into our hands and that we have come from God and are going back home to God. This is God’s grace, and without it, we could never wash one another’s feet as Jesus commanded.
Prayer: Father, it is only through the good news that Christ has freed us from sin and empowered us with his own spirit that we could follow his example of service. Deepen our understanding of your grace and our identity in you, so that we might love and serve one another with full confidence of who we are in you.