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Teaching Humility at the Last Passover

Teaching Humility at the Last Passover

MATTHEW 26:20 MARK 14:17 LUKE 22:14-18 JOHN 13:1-17



At Jesus’ direction, Peter and John have already arrived in Jerusalem to prepare for the Passover. Later Jesus and the ten other apostles head there. It is afternoon, and the sun is sinking in the western sky as Jesus and his party descend the Mount of Olives. This is Jesus’ last daytime view from here until after his resurrection.

Soon Jesus and his party reach the city and make their way to the home where they will have the Passover meal. They climb the stairs to the large upper room. There they find that all preparations have been made for their private meal. Jesus has looked forward to this occasion, for he says: “I have greatly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”​—Luke 22:15.

Many years earlier, the custom of passing a number of cups of wine among the Passover participants was introduced. Now, after accepting one of the cups, Jesus gives thanks and says: “Take this and pass it from one to the other among yourselves, for I tell you, from now on, I will not drink again from the product of the vine until the Kingdom of God comes.” (Luke 22:17, 18) It should be clear that his death is close.

At some point during the Passover meal, something unusual occurs. Jesus gets up, sets aside his outer garments, and picks up a towel. Then he puts water in a basin that is at hand. Ordinarily, a host would see to it that his guests’ feet were washed, perhaps by a servant. (Luke 7:44) On this occasion no host is present, so Jesus performs this personal service. Any of the apostles could have taken the opportunity to do it, but not one of them does. Is it because some rivalry still exists among them? Whatever the case, they are embarrassed to have Jesus wash their feet.

When Jesus comes to Peter, he protests: “You will certainly never wash my feet.” Jesus replies: “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Peter responds with feeling: “Lord, wash not only my feet but also my hands and my head.” How surprised he must be, then, at Jesus’ answer: “Whoever has bathed does not need to have more than his feet washed, but is completely clean. And you men are clean, but not all of you.”​—John 13:8-10.

Jesus washes the feet of all 12, including the feet of Judas Iscariot. After putting his outer garments on and reclining at the table again, Jesus asks: “Do you understand what I have done to you? You address me as ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are correct, for I am such. Therefore, if I, the Lord and Teacher, washed your feet, you also should wash the feet of one another. For I set the pattern for you, that just as I did to you, you should also do. Most truly I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, happy you are if you do them.”​—John 13:12-17.

What a beautiful lesson in humble service! Jesus’ followers should not seek the first place, thinking that they are important and should be served. Rather, they should follow Jesus’ example, not by any ritual of foot washing, but by being willing to serve with humility and without partiality.