John 13:1-17

Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.  Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;  so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.  After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.”  For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.  “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.  Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.  I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.   Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

This Gospel passage “expounds, by means of the symbolic gesture of the washing of the feet, the significance of the life and death of Jesus. From this viewpoint, the borderline between the life and death of Jesus fades. They appear as a single act in which Jesus, God’s Son, washes the soiled feet of mankind. The Lord accepts and carries out the service of a slave, performing a humble task, the lowest in the world, to make us fit for the table, open to one another and to God, to accustom us to the worship of the nearness of God.” (Pope Benedict XVI)
“The action of the washing of the feet becomes for John the representation of what Jesus’ whole life is, His rising from the table, setting aside His garment of glory, bending down to us in the mystery of forgiveness, the service of human life and death. The life and death of Jesus do not stand one alongside the other. The death of Jesus only goes to show the substance, the real content, of His life. Life and death become transparent and reveal the act of love to the last, an infinite love, which is the only true washing of mankind, the sole washing capable of enabling us to have communion with God, capable, that is, of making us free. The content of the account of the washing of the feet can be, therefore, summed up as follows: Jesus takes our part, even if it means suffering, in the divine-human act of love, which is thereby the purification, that is, the liberation of mankind.”  (Pope Benedict XVI)