Thursday 24 March 2016

Bible Book:

John 13:1-7, 33-35 Thursday 24 March 2016

Psalm: Psalm 116


Today is Maundy Thursday, when we remember the Last Supper (1Corinthians 11:23-26) that Jesus shared with his disciples.This reading focuses not on the meal itself, but on something thathappened "during supper" (v. 2) - Jesus washed his disciples' feet.Sandaled feet must have got very dusty and dirty, and the act ofcleaning them was one of the most menial jobs that anyone could berequired to do. It would have been unpleasant, humiliating andprobably rather smelly! Yet Jesus claims for himself the task,wearing the practical clothing of a servant for the act (verse4).

Perhaps this is why Peter is so shocked. Most Englishtranslations struggle to capture the full force of his question.Greek has no strict rules about the word order in a sentence, sothe order can be carefully chosen for emphasis. Peter says, 'Lord,you my feet are washing?'. Placing the two pronouns together, atthe front of the clause, emphasises them very heavily. In fact, thepronoun 'you' is not technically needed at all in the Greek, as theverb itself makes it clear who is washing. So including it,especially next to the respectful 'Lord', doubles the emphasis.Peter is demanding, 'Is it foryou, myLord, to washmy feet?' Inhearing Peter's shock, we begin to rediscover for ourselves howradical an act Jesus is performing here. This is a self-giving lovewhich is shown here in sharp contrast to the actions of Judas (John13:21-30).

Jesus speaks of his love for his disciples in verse 34, butshows it also in verse 33, with the affectionate "little children".He tells his disciples what he has before told "the Jews" (v. 33)(by which John usually means the Jewish authorities or Pharisees) -that they can't follow him where he is going. But unlike theoccasions when he has said this to "the Jews" (John 7:34; 8:21), Jesus goeson to promise Peter that he will be able to follow "afterward" (John 13:36). Thismirrors the promise that, although he doesn't understand now, hewill understand later (verse 7).

To Ponder

  • Foot washing is something we can find uncomfortable in churchtoday - why is this? Should we find other rituals to replace it, oris its discomfort the point? How might we show Christ's loving,humble service in culturally appropriate ways?
  • John's Gospel tells us that the meal takes place "beforePassover" (v. 1). The other Gospel writers place it within thePassover festival celebrations (Matthew 26:17-30; Mark14:12-25; Luke 22:7-23) when Jews celebrate God'sliberating acts in bringing the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt.Either way, Passover forms the context for Holy Week and Easter.What significance is there in this timing?
  • Jesus gives "a new commandment, that you love one another. Justas I have loved you, you also should love one another" (v. 34, seealso John15:12-17). This sits alongside the "great commandments", tolove God, and to love your neighbour as yourself. What is thedifference between loving others as we love ourselves, and lovingthem as Jesus loves us?
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