Blog 21 – John13:1-17[1].

The example: secure in God – take the servant role

SNL Sunday 3 March 2013 7.00pm

This blog as usual is written not by John the evangelist but by Derek McKelvey.


When you reread what you have written you are much more aware of the context – what was going on in Jesus’ head and in ours than you ever were at the time. That night our heads were crammed full of fears, the atmosphere in the city was so heavy you could have cut it with a knife – and all the intrigue of setting up the supper with secret signs – a man carrying a water pot indeed, I’m glad he didn’t ask me to do it![2] As I said we were full of fear and so preoccupied by it that we just did not notice that no-one was washing our feet – I had lain down beside Jesus and was not even aware that my feet were still dusty from the street – that’s how furred our brains were.


Then he got up, took off his outer garment, and started washing our feet – talk about red faces – we were so embarrassed that no one spoke and no-one could look at him – that was till he reached Peter who blundered in as usual – and then re-opened his mouth only to change feet. First he won’t let him do it – then he wants a bath! I loved Peter, he was strong – a real rock for us all in the early days after Jesus left – but we often laughed and teased him about putting his brain into gear before he opened his mouth. But he was so often gloriously right as well as spectacularly wrong.


That night Jesus began to explain – and boy were we listening – every word imprinted on us – if we wanted to lead we had to serve – he had said it again and again – but after that night we never ever forgot it. Indeed when anyone got uppity – we used to tease and say ‘Do you need your feet washed?’ That soon brought them back down to earth.


But back to where I began – it’s only now rereading what I wrote that I realize how much of what I’ve understood since is right in there with the story of the foot-washing – and yes I do notice what I left out as well![3]   I realise that in that sacramental setting the whole foot-washing episode can be seen as the sign of baptism – an outward sign that declares our being clean because of what Christ has done for us – as he points out to Peter – you are already clean – and we are!

But what caught my attention more than anything is the introduction – this is what I can now see so clearly – he knew who he was – where he had come from, where he was going to, and that his Father had given him everything he would ever need – this was his security – secure in this he was able to face all that was in front – we were afraid – he was secure in his Father God.

But now I know that you and I have exactly the same status as him, because of him, we too are secure because we know where we have come from, we know where we are going to, we know how we are saved and whose children we are and we know he will always give us everything we need into our hands to do and to endure whatever comes.

That’s who we are. It is amazing!

[1] Commentators divide John’s Gospel into two major sections. Chapters 1-12 are ‘The Book of Signs’ (John’s word for the miracles) and chapters 13-21 are ‘The Book of Glory’ – they regard the first 3 verses of this chapter as the introduction to the second book.

[2] Only women fetched water – for a man to do it was demeaning or showed that he was without a wife, mother sister or daughter to do it for him – therefore a social outcast

[3] This whole chapter and the ones following it are so clearly set in the Upper Room around the table but John is so busy telling the things he needs us to hear and understand that he completely omits any account or even mention of the inauguration of the Lord’s Supper at that table.