top of page
St. John.jpg

Not Our Will

John 13:1-17, 32-35

The Rev. Jon Roberts

28 March


Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

1 Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 And during supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4 rose from supper, laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel. 5 Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded. 6 He came to Simon Peter; and Peter said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not know now, but afterward you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part in me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet,[a] but he is clean all over; and you[b] are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “You are not all clean.”
12 When he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant[c] is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of man glorified, and in him God is glorified; 32 if God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. 33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”


Agony in the Garden, Andrea Mantegna.1460, The National Gallery, London

Into dark Gethsemane we go,
to witness and feel
our Savior's woe.

Like him, we are servants to be,
as we follow in darkness
hearing his solemn decree.

The cup which holds the world's demand
is a heavy burden,
clutched by our very hand.

It is not our will to meet,
Yet we watch our Savior
As he stoops to wash our feet. [1]

Our Savior stoops to wash our feet, solemnly telling us, we must be made clean. The night is upon us, and dark shadows begin to fill this upper room of our chancel and the imagined garden of our side chapel. Who among us is unclean? Who will betray Jesus? Lord? Is it I? God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son but why on earth would any of us betray Him?

In the year 1213 King John of England was the first English monarch to perform what is called the Pedilavium, Latin for "Washing of the feet." Out of compassion for his countrymen who were experiencing great hardships, extreme poverty, he knelt before those selected every Maundy Thursday to wash their feet. After which, he would tear a strip from his red cloak and dry them. The water turned dirty as he scrubbed hard. Some said that his tears filled the basin.

What tears do you suppose come down from the face of God? Most likely they were those from Jesus for his disciples. He took them to the upper room where they celebrated the Passover.[2] He told them to remove their sandals and that he would be their servant, washing their feet. "No Rabbi. You must not touch what is unclean". They submitted to his determination. Later, around the table He told them that one would betray him. Cleaning the feet of his disciples, celebrating Passover a night prematurely, and declaring a betrayal, were radical. Jesus broke custom. It was uncomfortable, awkward, painful. He broke custom.
Rabbis and disciples throughout Jerusalem were going to have Passover the next night. That of course would be the night after the Crucifixion. The disciples didn't see the Cross coming. They saw their master followed by thousands in Galilee and now they see him kneeling at the feet of his friends, silently washing their feet, as a Master who acts as a slave to them.

Jesu, Jesu, why would you stoop so low?

This was his last official moment of instruction to the disciples. Out of compassion for them, for the hardships they must tarry, when their souls would be attacked, he taught them how to kneel.
In all accounts, we are served when we kneel before those we love. When we see our Savior kneeling, we begin to say, "That's not right. We should be serving him. He shouldn't touch what is unclean." As innocent and earnest as they are, they betray our Savior's teaching and example. When we say to God, "You can't touch my wounds. You can't touch my feet. You can't touch my sin; we are rejecting his power to heal us.

From kneeling comes healing.

His last official act, the cup he must bear, was to touch the worldly mob and to shame it by the cross. No one saw it coming. The world's demand for pride and anger, lust and gluttony, sloth and envy dominated the thoughts of those who came with torches lit in the garden, led by Judas who betrayed Christ with a kiss. When Christ subjected himself to arrest, the burden of the world was finally resting upon him.
Let us remember dark Gethsemane and live in this moment. It is when we wrestle ourselves and what is our purpose in life. We are to kneel. We are to serve those who we see their dirt yet are not afraid to get them clean. God will teach you how to do it. He will not let you go alone. Whosoever believeth in him shall not perish. It is not our will to meet but rather the Savior's, who stoops to wash our feet.

[1] The Rev. Jon Roberts
[2] John 13:1-35

Join the Discussion
The category is members only, sign up to join in
bottom of page