John 13:1-17

Maundy Thursday is a time to look at the important events that happened on the night Jesus was betrayed. We usually call the Last Supper and the accompanying words of Jesus, the Upper Room Discourse. It all began with an act of Jesus so unbelievable the impact still rings in our spiritual ears today.

Jesus was a maverick who changed the concept of leadership and turned it upside down. Until today this maverick is not looking for lords to join his team – he is looking for foot-washers.

If we want to keep being part of Christ’s team, we must stop expecting to be treated like a lord. And instead start living as a servant.

Perhaps the issue is not: “Am I really expecting to be treated like a lord?” But perhaps it is: “Do I really have to do this just because I am a Christian?”

This is one of my go-to passages in ministry. People think being Senior Pastor of a megachurch is glamorous, and that it has many perks and privileges. Our passage reminds me how useless I can be to Christ if my heart is not grounded in His example and teachings.So when I am tempted to ask, “Do I really have to do this just because I am a pastor?” John 13:1-17 tells me “if you won’t do this because your heart is wrong, you are disqualified to pastor.”



On the night of His arrest, when He should have been focused on Himself, Jesus was focused on others. Three things should have been heavy on His heart:

  • He was leaving (v. 1). Jesus knew that the time had come for Him to go. He knew his disciples were far from ready.
  • He was going to be betrayed (v. 2). The devil had already prompted Judas to betray Jesus.
  • He was going to be glorified on the cross (v. 3). “The Father had put all things under his power.” The agony of the cross started long before Calvary and even Gethsemane.

John 13:1 reveals that the shocking thing Jesus did that night was motivated by His love for His disciples. “Having loved his own…he now showed them the full extent of his love.”

This is the attitude of a servant. Instead of demanding that others understand Him, instead of demanding that He be treated better because He was going through the most agonizing night of His life – “He showed them the full extent of His love.”

But what do we do instead? “Why don’t you try to understand me? Why don’t you try to see it from this painful perspective?”

But that is not how Jesus was. He didn’t focus on His needs, His pain. He loved others unselfishly. Is this how we serve?



(vv. 4-5) “He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.

5  Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”

The dusty and dirty conditions of Israel made foot-washing necessary. The dry conditions made the dust stick to feet. The disciples most likely would have been happy to wash Jesus’ feet, but they could never in their lifetimes, imagine washing each other’s feet!

There are two reasons:

  • In their culture, foot-washing was reserved for the lowest servant.
  • We learn from Luke 22:24 that just before this, they had been quarelling about who was the greatest among them. Nobody would ever stoop to wash the other’s feet.

So when Jesus started washing their feet, they were shocked.  The Son of God they should have been serving, was serving them. Through this action, Jesus taught the lesson of selfless service that was ultimately exemplified by His death on the cross.

(v. 11) “For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not everyone was clean.” To serve others humbly means washing the feet of someone who you know will betray you. Can you do that? Is this how we serve?

Jesus served humbly. Instead of focusing on rank, He overturned all human concepts of leadership by showing that when there is dispute about rank and greatness, in God’s sight, the one with a servant’s heart is highest.



The explanation for the object lesson began as Jesus asked  “Do you understand what I just did?” (v.12). And so He tells them: (v. 14) “I your Lord and Teacher just washed your feet. In the same way you also should wash each other’s feet.”

What did He mean? “Instead of asking to be served like lords, I, the one you rightly call the LORD, have served you. Now go and serve each other as servants, not lords!”

Then comes the clincher in (v. 15) “I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”. The word used here in Greek also means “pattern.” Jesus’ purpose in this action was to establish the pattern of loving humility.

What is the aspiration of a servant? Follow (emulate) Christ sacrificially, even if it costs you everything. What is the example we should follow? The two things He just demonstrated: to love unselfishly even when our needs are unmet, and out of that, to serve humbly even when others won’t.

The problem today is that Jesus told us there is a cost to following Him: we must carry our cross. But many want cheap crosses! A missionary was observing a religious festival in one province of the Philippines. As he went from booth to booth checking out the goods being sold he observed a sign above one booth: “Crosses for sale – very cheap.” The missionary thought “that’s what many Christian are looking for today – cheap crosses.”

Some Christians want a cheap cross and a discounted discipleship. The Lord’s cross was not cheap. Why should ours be? We must follow Christ sacrificially, even if it costs everything.

If you would follow Christ all the way it will cost you – you will have to stop insisting you be treated like a lord. And instead start acting like a servant.

What was Jesus’ bottom line? (v. 17) “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”



Until today this maverick is not looking for lords to be part of His team – He is looking for foot-washers. Jesus is looking for surrendered people, no matter how weak, to get down on the floor and wash feet with Him.

May you and I always be down there with Him, getting all dirty with Him. Serving alongside Jesus, our Lord, who showed us the way to serve and to lead.


Devotional for Holy Week

Maundy Thursday

Written by: Dr. Larry P. Pabiona

Greenhills Christian Fellowship