Unlike the Last Supper narratives in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, there is no mention of food or drink here. Food and drink are not the focus. The focus is on Jesus—and what he does for his disciples.As someone whose disciples call him ‘Rabbi’ and ‘Lord,’ Jesus would have been expected to have taken a seat of honor during the meal, like at the head of the table. Others would have done the work of preparing the meal and serving him and his guests, the disciples.
But that’s not what happens here.Jesus leaves his seat of honor, takes off his outer garment, gets down on the ground, and begins washing the feet of his disciples.
Usually what would happen in a meal like this one is that a servant of the host would wash the feet of the guests—immediately as they arrive for the meal.And as we can easily imagine, this would not exactly be an honorable job. People didn’t have shoes. Most people wore sandals—and because of that, their feet would be especially dirty. So the servant would kneel down on the ground as the guest sat above them. Just picture this scene in your minds and you will see how humble a service this really was.
And this is what Jesus does.And we should keep in mind that the servants who washed feet were not paid to be in the service of their master. They were slaves.
So by washing the feet of his disciples, Jesus becomes as a slave to his disciples. It is his slave-service that becomes the focal point of this meal—and the key to understanding his crucifixion.Jesus’ death is a slave service that brings salvation to a lost and needy world.
And when we receive his body and blood at the table, hearing the words “given” and “shed for you,” this is how we are to understand the love behind this great gift.In this meal, Jesus serves you his own precious body and blood, which save you.
And that is so important for us to remember every time we partake of this meal. We don’t come because we are worthy, either in God’s eyes or in the eyes of people; we come to receive Christ’s body and blood because we need it—and because Jesus graciously gives it to us.And with this gift Jesus gives us a command—a command that we obey by following his example…
He says, “by this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”Or, to use the words of the classic Christian campfire song, “they will know we are Christians by our love…”
Christian love is about so much more than being nice to everyone. Jesus says that we are to wash each others’ feet—in other words, we are to serve our neighbors as slaves. As slaves it is our duty to meet the needs of our neighbors.And Jesus’ feet washing reminds us how unglamorous it can be to love our neighbors in this way.
Yet this commandment is a great gift for us.When we serve our neighbors with such a self-giving love, our neighbors will encounter Jesus Christ in us—and we will encounter Christ in them. Lives will be transformed and healed; hope will shine even in times of great darkness.
What a great gift it is to be a part of a community of people who love one another this way.So on this night when Jesus was handed over to be crucified, let us remember: Jesus is here to serve you. He is here so that you may feast on the forgiveness of sins and eternal life through his own precious body and blood. He is here so that you may be assured of God’s unconditional love for you.
He gives you these gifts not because you deserve them, but because he knows that you need them.—Tonight Jesus serves you food and drink through which you shall live forever.
Tonight Jesus serves you food and drink which give you the grace and strength to go forth in hope to serve our neighbors.