Lectionary Year A
March 28, 2002
John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Step II: Disposition

A. Genre

(JW)This passage appears to be a complex hybrid with aspects from different genres. It is somewhat didactic in nature in that Jesus is giving his disciples a practical demonstration of the type of servanthood and love that they ought to demonstrate to one another. He is also teaching them how to receive God's blessing through humility. In another sense, this passage contains elements of a controversy dialogue, where Peter once again becomes indignant with the conduct of the Messiah. The text does not indicate that Peter ever does come to a full understanding of what Jesus is trying to do. This passage also seems to be one of those odd Johanine theophanies, or a new revelation or God's character. This is demonstrated by the fact that Jesus is showing "the full extent of his love" if in fact that rendering is properly grounded.

(BD)This genre is made up of controversy dialogue between Peter and Jesus. It is a theophany and provides a new revelation into God's nature. It is also didactic in terms of Jesus demonstrates just how humble a servant we are to be to one another.

B. Personal Interaction

(JW)What does is mean that Jesus "loved them to the end" within the context of this passage?

If the footwashing is Jesus showing his disciples the full extent of his love, how does it do so? As a demonstration of God's love, how does the footwashing differ from the cross?
Do they offer different pictures of the love of God? What are they? Is one more personal than the other?

What is the proper time that a footwashing should take place? In Jesus' time, did the footwashing usually take place as soon as the guests arrived, during the meal, or after the meal?

If a footwashing usually takes place before the meal, why didn't Jesus do it then?
Was he waiting until he had everyone's attention? Did Jesus just see this as a teachable moment? If so, was it not premeditated? Was he waiting to see if anyone else would do it before he went ahead and did it? Why didn't someone else do it? Was it because they had rented a place at which there was not a specific host?

What is the significance of the fact that Jesus washed Judas' feet?
Who usually did the footwashing in this time? What is the host or the servant?

What does Jesus' statement about being "wholly clean" except for the feet mean? What does that have to do with Jesus' loving them to the end and teaching them how to receive God's blessing by service?
Is Jesus saying that they were already saved but they just needed regular cleansing of sins after receiving salvation?

What does it mean that we have a God who washes the feet of his people?
What does this say about greatness? What kind of standard does this give us for greatness? How does this relate to our standard of greatness in America today?

(BD)1. Did Jesus completely undress to wash the disciple's feet? Was Jesus only wearing a towel?
2. Why don't we consider foot washing a sacrament, since Jesus tells us to we will be blessed if we do?
3. When Jesus explains that Peter "you will understand after these things" does he mean after the foot washing or after Jesus' death?
4. Is the foot washing a symbol of Jesus sacrifice on the cross?
5. Is Peter rejecting Jesus' foot washing symbolic of those who reject Jesus' death on the cross?
6. Why only the feet need to be cleaned?

C. Organization

(JW)For the sake of further study, I think I am going to pursue the historical background on footwashing. A better historical understanding of this practice should help me understand the significance of what Jesus was doing. I am particularly perplexed by the statement, "he loved them to the end," or "showed them the full extent of his love." Is the "end" referring to the end of his time with them on earth? Two of the English translations that I looked at opted for a different interpretation.
I am also concerned with the standard for greatness that Jesus gives here. What does this say about our God and our understanding of achievement and success as Christians and Christian leaders? What does it mean that we have a God who washes the feet of his servants?

(BD)Many of the above questions have no one answer, but Bible dictionary commentaries and secondary sources may potentially add deeper meaning for some questions such as the practice of foot washing during Jesus' lifetime.

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