Meditation on John 13, selected verses
Pastor Karen Crawford
The Presbyterian Church, Coshocton, OH
April 14, 2022
On this night, as we remember Christ’s Last Supper with his disciples and celebrate our Communion with him, I will have the rare opportunity to serve the bread and cup to each of you.
I will call you by name. For God knows all of our names—and every thought we have before we think it. Every word we are going to say before we say it.
Before we gather at the Lord’s Table for spiritual nourishment, we give God thanks for sending His Son for the healing of the world and that we might learn to follow his life of humility and share in the joy of his glorious resurrection.
It is my hope that as you leave the table refreshed, renewed, and united by the Spirit, you may be strengthened to keep Christ’s “new” command, given on the night he is betrayed by one of his own. When he is troubled in spirit.
“Just as I have loved you,” Jesus says, “you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’
At the beginning of John 13, we learn that this meal isn’t like any other meal Jesus has shared with his disciples. Suddenly, as they are eating, Jesus gets up, takes off his outer robe and ties a towel around himself. He pours water into a basin, and begins to wash their feet! This is not something that is done during a meal. This is not something anyone but the lowliest servant would ever do.
Jesus does this because his hour has come. He knows that the Father has given all things into his hands, and that he has come from God and is going to God.
Peter cries out in horror and embarrassment that Jesus would so humble himself to them, “You will never wash my feet!”
Jesus is still modeling for his 12 disciples—and for us—how to live when he is no longer with them in the flesh.
“You call me Teacher and Lord,” he says, “And you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.”
It is startling to hear how Jesus tells his closest friends, “Not all of you are clean” and, “One of you will betray me.”
Have you ever wondered why he wouldn’t just name Judas as his betrayer? What was the reason for keeping it a secret? Would his disciples have prevented Judas from doing the deed that led to Christ’s dying on a cross?
All we know for sure is that the betrayal is all part of a larger plan for salvation—or at least something God can use to accomplish His glorious purposes. But this doesn’t change how Jesus feels about the betrayal. After making the announcement, he is “troubled in spirit.”
He takes two people into his confidence, then—Peter, the one who protested when Jesus began to wash their feet—and the “disciple whom Jesus loved” reclining next to him. Isn’t that what we do when we are troubled in spirit? And Jesus is fully human, like us, as well as fully God. We seek help from the Heavenly Father who knows us and loves us unconditionally, but we also need the comfort and love of people with us who understand, accept, and encourage us to become what God wants us to be.
The “disciple whom he loved” in the gospel of John is probably the one who wrote this gospel. Rather than naming himself, this phrase could describe any of the disciples. But it’s not just to protect his identity. The writer of John’s gospel wants everyone who hears this to put themselves in the story with Jesus and his disciples on the night that he is betrayed.
For all of Christ’s followers are Christ’s own, the ones whom Jesus has loved and will love until the end.
This passage leads us to believe that Jesus wants to get the evil deed over with, the thing that Judas will do that God will use for good purposes. He says to Judas, ‘Do quickly what you are going to do.’
Judas leaves. And it is night.
We feel the darkness all around—the grief and pain of that moment, the foreshadowing of the suffering that is to come. But we also remember that always, in the darkness, any darkness, there is Light. For Christ was with his disciples then, and he is always with us. And the power of hate and evil never defeats the Power of Love.
It occurs to me as I read this that Jesus loves Judas as much as he loves the others. Judas is one of the 12 that he called to take up their crosses and follow him. This is Jesus modeling an even more difficult command than love one another. Jesus says in Matthew 5:43-48,
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,that you may be children of your Father in heaven…. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
May we who eat from the Bread of Heaven and drink from the Cup of Salvation be empowered to love as Christ loves, and in doing so, bear witness to our faith.
May we be known by our love.
Let us pray.
Thank you, Heavenly Father, for your love, grace and mercy, for accepting us just as we are! Lord, forgive us when we have failed to love our brothers and sisters, our neighbors, and those whom we might see as enemies. We praise you for Jesus, our Savior and Teacher who not only commands us to love, he gives us the perfect example and His Spirit to enable us to love. Fill us now with such love for one another that we bear witness to our faith and your healing, reconciling love. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen