Wednesday, 4 April 2012


13,1   “Now before the festival of the Passover” – In the Synoptic Gospels, the meal that Jesus has with his disciples in the upper room is clearly a Passover meal on the first evening of the Passover (Mk 14,12-16), whereas in John, the final meal occurs “before the festival of the Passover”. This means that in the Synoptic Gospels, the crucifixion of Jesus takes place on the first full day of the Passover festival, whereas in John it occurs before the Passover, or the day of Preparation (Jn 19,31-42). This is because John wants to link the crucifixion of Jesus with the slaughtering of the Passover lambs (Jn 19,14.36). For John, Jesus is the Passover lamb, the lamb without blemish.
“Jesus knew that his hour had come…” – The mention of Jesus’ “hour” introduces the larger narrative of the events of Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, but it also introduces the specific events of the farewell meal. Jesus’ hour marks the end of his ministry in “this world” and his return to the Father.
“Having loved his own who were in the world” – Jesus’ own are those whom he knows and loves, they are those “in the world” who have embraced God’s gift of Jesus.
“he loved them to the end.” – This may be translated as a temporal expression (to the end) or as referring to the quality of Jesus’ love (the full extent). Both meanings are probably intended here. While the love of Jesus will be made manifest in the washing of feet, the full extent of his love will be in the gift of his life. To fully appreciate the meaning of this episode, I would suggest that you apply all your senses in your reading and reflection.
Ø Though John does not describe a room, you may imagine a room. What kind of room is it? What kind of seating arrangements have been made? How is everyone seated? Are they reclining? Are their feet in front or at the back? Where is Jesus seated?
Ø How is he seated? What is the look on his face?
Ø What is the look on the faces of the others?
Ø What is the mood in the room?
Ø Would you be counted as one of Jesus’ own? Why? Have you embraced God’s gift of Jesus? How?
13,2   “The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray him.” - The devil’s decision regarding Judas’ betrayal of Jesus in the context of the meal brings out the tension between fellowship (symbolised by the meal) and betrayal (symbolised by Judas’ heart). The whole event is enacted against the background of good and evil, light and dark, life and death.              If you were in the place of Judas, how would you have responded to the temptation to betray Jesus?
13,3   “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands….” - The “knowledge” of Jesus referred to here is not simply an intellectual knowledge, but an experiential one. It expresses the essence of his ministry. He has come from God, been given all things by God and, will return to God.
Ø Do you sometimes behave as if you were going to remain on earth forever?
Ø Where have you come from?      Where are you going?
13,4-5         “got up from table, took off his outer robe….” - A detailed description of the foot washing is given, so that one can almost picture every action of Jesus. The details are intended to draw attention to the absurdity of the event. The verb used to describe Jesus’ removal of his garments (Greek tithemi) is the same verb used by Jesus to describe the laying down of his life (10,11.15.17-18; 13,37-38; 15,13). The connection is  made between the washing of the feet and Jesus’ gift of life. The wiping of the disciples’ feet links the washing with the anointing of Jesus’ feet by Mary (12,1-8). Foot washing had three main functions. The first was personal hygiene, the second was as an act of hospitality, and the third was as a cultic act. It was a way of welcoming one’s guests; a person’s feet would become dusty from a journey, and the host would provide water so that the guests could wash their feet. The foot washing was normally performed by the guests themselves or by the servants. When Jesus washes his disciples’ feet, he combines the roles of servant and host. When he wraps himself with a towel, he assumes the garb of a servant, but the act of hospitality he offers is the prerogative of the host. This odd combination prompts Peter’s protest. Peter was not able to accept the fact that Jesus was becoming host by being servant, and that to be host meant to serve. Moreover, foot washing occurred before the meal, not in the middle. This was quite unusual and Jesus’ way of turning the world of the disciples upside down.    
Ø When Jesus came to wash your feet, what would be your reaction to him?
Ø What would you say? What would you do?
Ø How would Jesus respond to you?
Ø Would it be easy for you to accept that you can become host only by being servant? That you can be master/mistress only by serving?
13,6-8a       “Lord are you going to wash my feet?” - Peter apparently asks a question, but the tone suggests that he was not going to allow Jesus to wash his feet.
“You will never wash my feet.” - Peter cannot accept that Jesus assumes the role of a servant. He would prefer Jesus to be only host. (This response of Peter can be compared with his response in the Gospel of Mark in which he protests Jesus going to the cross (Mk 8,32).    
Ø If you were in the place of Peter, what would have been your question?
Ø How would Jesus have responded to you?
Ø What would have been your reaction to Jesus’ response?
13,8b “Unless I wash you, you will have no share with me.” - Jesus’ response to Peter’s unwillingness to have his feet washed is strong. The washing of Peter’s feet is stipulated as a necessary condition for Peter’s share (Greek meros) with Jesus. To have a share with Jesus is to have fellowship with him, to participate fully in his life. The foot washing is a symbolic act through which Jesus shares his Father’s home with his disciples. If one removes oneself from this act, then one removes oneself from Jesus and the promises of God in him.           
Ø Do you have fellowship with Jesus? How does it show in your life?
13,9   “Lord, not my feet only but my hands and my head.” - Peter continues to misunderstand the act of foot washing. His response here indicates that he sees it as an act of cleansing, and not in Jesus’ offer of relationship.   
13,10 “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean.” - Jesus rejects Peter’s understanding and brings back the focus of the symbol to its original position of relationship.
13,11 “For he knew who was to betray him…” - The fact that the one who is not clean will be the one who will betray, makes clear that the foot washing is all about one’s relationship to Jesus. To be unclean is not to be unwashed, but to turn away from intimacy and union with Jesus. The point is also being made that, just because Jesus loved to the end, it is no guarantee of a faith response. One must choose to make a gesture of acceptance of the love offered by Jesus. The whole episode of the foot washing, which is Jesus’ act of hospitality, service, and unconditional love, is placed within the context of his betrayal and death.        
Ø Have you responded to the intimacy that Jesus is offering you now? Does this show in your life? How?
Like in the Synoptic Gospels and especially Mark, Jesus explains his way of life to his disciples’ after speaking about his passion, death and resurrection, and their misunderstanding, so here, too, he explains both the symbol of the washing of the feet and his way of life.

13,12-13     “Do you know what I have done to you?” - The introductory question of Jesus is really rhetorical, and intended to draw the disciples’ attention to the central paradox of the foot washing: that he, their Teacher and Lord, assumed the role of a servant. While the one in the position of a Teacher or Lord could expect others to serve him, here he serves. Jesus accepts that he is indeed teacher and Lord, but gives a different interpretation to what these titles mean.
Ø How would you define what authority means?
Ø What, according to you, are the essential qualities of a good leader? How many of these do you possess? What will you do about those you do not possess?
13,14 “So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” - What is true for the teacher must also be true for the disciples’. This means that if the teacher has acted as servant, the disciples must also do the same. For a fellowship to exist between Jesus and his disciples, a fellowship must exist between the disciples themselves.         
Ø How would you understand “foot washing” today?
Ø What does it mean to act as servant? Is it possible to follow Jesus’ instructions? Why?

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