As the Passover celebration drew closer, the Chief Priests and teachers of the Law tried to find a plan to murder Jesus away from the eyes of the crowd. For if the crowd saw them acting against Jesus, they were terrified it would start a riot!
It was at this time that Satan, the devil, entered into Judas Iscariot who was one of Jesus’ disciples. It was Judas who’d objected to Mary pouring the expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet because he’d wanted to sell it and steal the money for himself. And so Judas, knowing that the chief priests and teachers of the Law wanted Jesus out of the way when the crowd wasn’t around, went to discuss with them the best way to betray Jesus. The chief Priests were delighted to find that one of Jesus’ inner circle, one of His closest friends, was ready to help them and promised him a reward. So Judas began watching for an opportunity to betray Jesus and have Him arrested when the crowds weren’t around.
And so the Passover festival arrived and Jesus sent Peter and John on ahead to make preparations for their celebrations saying, ‘Go and prepare the Passover meal, so we can eat it together’.
‘What’re we supposed to do?’ they asked. ‘Where do you want us to go?’
‘As soon as you enter the city, you’ll see something unusual,’ Jesus told them, ‘A man carrying a water jar on his head (it was normally a woman’s job to carry water). This man will say hello to you. Follow him to the house he goes to. When you get there, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks, ‘Where’s the guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?’ The owner of the house will show you a large upstairs room already set up. That’s the place for our celebration – go ahead and prepare the meal there.’ So Peter and John did what Jesus asked and found everything exactly as He said.
When the time arrived for the meal, Jesus and His disciples reclined together at the table. Jesus already knew that the Father had put everything under His authority, and that He had come from God and would return to God. So He did something that surprised and even shocked His disciples. As they watched, Jesus got up from the table, took off His outer robe and wrapped a towel around His waist. He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet and then wipe them with the towel! This was the job of the lowest servant in a house – to wash the feet of guests! No self-respecting man would do such a job - it was degrading slaves’ work! The roads at that time were dusty and dirty and because people only wore sandals, when a traveller came to your house their feet would be dirty from the road, and so the least important servant or slave would be expected to wash the visitors’ feet. And now Jesus, their Master, their Lord, was washing their feet! It wouldn’t have entered their heads to even think about washing someone else’s feet, and yet here was Jesus doing the work of a lowly slave! They couldn’t believe their eyes!
So when Peter’s turn came he said, ‘Lord! Are you going to wash my feet as well?’
As Jesus knelt down to wash Peter’s feet He said, ‘You don’t understand now what I’m doing, but later you’ll understand.’
‘No way!’ said Peter, unable to cope with the thought of Jesus, His Lord - the Messiah, doing the work of a slave. ‘You’ll never wash my feet!’
‘If I don’t wash you Peter,’ Jesus said, patiently kneeling by Peter’s feet, ‘Then you won’t belong to me.’
Still Peter struggled to understand. ‘Then Lord,’ he exclaimed, ‘Wash my hands and head as well, not just my feet.’
Jesus looked up at Peter, ‘A person who’s already had a bath doesn’t need to wash all over again, he only needs to wash his feet to be entirely clean. And you are clean, although that isn’t true of everyone here.’ Jesus already knew that Judas was going to betray Him.
After washing their feet, Jesus put His robe back on and asked, ‘Do you understand what I’ve just done? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord’, and that’s right because it’s true. But now that I, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you should wash each other’s feet. I’ve given you an example to follow, so do as I have done to you. (P) Don’t you understand that a servant isn’t greater than his Master? Nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. So now you know these things make sure you do them, because that is the path to blessing.’ (PAUSE)
‘I have longed and longed for this hour to come,’ He continued. ‘I have been anxious to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering begins. Because you see, I won’t eat it again until it finds fulfilment in the Kingdom of God.’
Then Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after thanking God for it, He broke it into pieces and gave it to His disciples. ‘This is my body, given for you. Break bread together to remember me,’ He said.
After that He took a cup of wine, thanked God for it and said, ‘Take this wine and share it among you. This is my blood, which seals the covenant between God and His people. It is poured out to forgive the sins of many. I won’t drink wine again until the Kingdom of God comes.’ (PAUSE)
After this Jesus was greatly troubled and exclaimed, ‘One of you will betray me!’
The disciples didn’t know what to say and started looking at each other, wondering who Jesus was talking about. Then Simon Peter motioned to John who was reclining at Jesus’ side to find out who Jesus meant. Leaning towards Jesus, John asked, ‘Lord, who’re you talking about?’
‘It’s the one who I give this piece of bread dipped in sauce to,’ Jesus replied. And taking a piece of bread, He dipped it in some sauce and gave it to Judas Iscariot and said to him, ‘What you’re planning to do, go and do it quickly.’ No one else at the table understood what Jesus meant, thinking perhaps that Jesus was telling him to go and pay for the food or something. But after Jesus had said this, Judas got up and left, and it was night!