Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.
When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”
“No,” Peter protested, “you will never ever wash my feet!”
Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.”
Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!”
Jesus replied, “A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet, to be entirely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not all of you.” For Jesus knew who would betray him. That is what he meant when he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.
“I am not saying these things to all of you; I know the ones I have chosen. But this fulfills the Scripture that says, ‘The one who eats my food has turned against me.’ I tell you this beforehand, so that when it happens you will believe that I am the Messiah. I tell you the truth, anyone who welcomes my messenger is welcoming me, and anyone who welcomes me is welcoming the Father who sent me.”
Now Jesus was deeply troubled, and he exclaimed, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me!”
The disciples looked at each other, wondering whom he could mean. The disciple Jesus loved was sitting next to Jesus at the table. Simon Peter motioned to him to ask, “Who’s he talking about?” So that disciple leaned over to Jesus and asked, “Lord, who is it?”
Jesus responded, “It is the one to whom I give the bread I dip in the bowl.” And when he had dipped it, he gave it to Judas, son of Simon Iscariot. When Judas had eaten the bread, Satan entered into him. Then Jesus told him, “Hurry and do what you’re going to do.” None of the others at the table knew what Jesus meant. Since Judas was their treasurer, some thought Jesus was telling him to go and pay for the food or to give some money to the poor. So Judas left at once, going out into the night.
As soon as Judas left the room, Jesus said, “The time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory, and God will be glorified because of him. And since God receives glory because of the Son, he will give his own glory to the Son, and he will do so at once. Dear children, I will be with you only a little longer. And as I told the Jewish leaders, you will search for me, but you can’t come where I am going. So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
Simon Peter asked, “Lord, where are you going?”
And Jesus replied, “You can’t go with me now, but you will follow me later.”
“But why can’t I come now, Lord?” he asked. “I’m ready to die for you.”
Jesus answered, “Die for me? I tell you the truth, Peter—before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.”
“No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!”
“Lied to your parents.
Lied to your friends.
Cheated in school.
Intentionally hurt someone else.
Indulged in sexual sin.”
My cheeks burned pink.
I was one of the hundred 15-year-olds charged to confess my sins as part of a religious rite of passage. During this exercise, my confessor listed sins one by one while, with a nod or shake of the head, I either confirmed or denied my guilt. Though it was meant to make confession easier on our young souls, the drill made my heart beat fast and my stomach tighten as the list grew longer. The feelings of condemnation and judgment I experienced felt insurmountable.
Growing up, I could relate to King David, who said, “I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me” (Psalm 51:3, NIV). I had a nagging sense of falling short. Sometimes, I was not sure why things I did were wrong, like when I messed up a ritual at my church. But sometimes, I was keenly aware of my wrongdoing, like when I spoke spitefully to my brother, though I loved him dearly.
As I carried those moments with me, I wondered how to be better. I felt little relief after confession or ritual prayers meant to ease my guilt. Those moments grew into obsessions with my inadequacy and with becoming clean. And the obsessions grew into thoughts I couldn’t escape.
I learned later that this was due, in part, to an anxiety disorder* that went undetected for years. But even that revelation could not refute the truth that I had chosen to do sinful things which I could not undo.
Years later, I sat across from a friend who’d been determined to help me understand the love of God.
I knew the story she shared about Jesus and the cross, but this time I snapped to attention. I stopped her and said, “Okay. I get it. Here’s what I don’t get. What do I have to do, and what do I have to avoid, to make sure God never stops loving me, to make sure I’m okay?”
She looked me in the eye, smiled, and said, “You never did anything to make God start loving you. You’ll never do anything to make Him stop.”
“Wait ... what? Just like that?” I immediately said.
My dear friend nodded, and I sat stunned, relieved in a way I’d never been before. Tears stung my eyes as I understood. That was why Jesus died: to show me that, in Him, my guilt can be forgiven once and for all, and that I really do belong to Him forever. In Jesus, I’m also free from condemnation and judgment.
As a symbolic act of love and compassion, Jesus washes the feet of His disciples — the disciples who He knew would deny, abandon and betray Him. The disciples could not save themselves, but Jesus could. He does the same for us today.
“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners,” writes the apostle Paul (Romans 5:8, NLT).
A weight lifted for me that day, and we both began to laugh. I was free. I could finally breathe. Later, I learned that I could walk in love rather than worry. Nothing can change what is true about me: I am forgiven and free, and I don’t have to carry the weight of those moments anymore.
Just as Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, God promises that when we “confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all wickedness”(1 John 1:9, NLT). What moments or patterns of sin weigh you down? Write one or two down and confess them directly to God. Give them to Him, remembering that Christ paid for these sins and more when He died on the cross.
Remember these words from Psalm 103.
“The Lord is compassionate and merciful,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He will not constantly accuse us,
nor remain angry forever.
He does not punish us for all our sins;
he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
He has removed our sins as far from us
as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:8-12, NLT).
What does the Bible say about God’s love for me? See verses about God’s love here.
What does it mean to have your identity in Christ? Explore more about how God sees you.
*This devotional addresses a mental health issue that affects people from all walks of life. While addressing pieces of this issue within the context of Christian community is important, there are times when further professional help may be required. It is OK to ask for help! If you are in this situation, please seek out a mental health professional. A tool to find a professional in your area, along with other resources, can be found at https://www.cru.org/us/en/train-and-grow/life-and-relationships/emotions/mental-health-resources.html.
Rebecca Kelsall is a writer for Cru® in Orlando, Florida. Her family consists of herself (a native New Mexican), her husband (a born-and-raised New Englander), their dachshund-beagle, Belle, and their baby boy. Some of her greatest passions include Jesus, culture, family and stories.
As a follower of Jesus, you can have confidence through His resurrection that your sins are forgiven. Everything Jesus promised in His teachings you can trust to be true. You are a child of God, and you will live forever with Him.
If you’ve lived long enough, you’ve experienced dark moments when you’ve felt alone. When the power of death felt present in your life. When you’ve been without. Easter Saturday, and the words of Isaiah, remind us that Jesus, too, experienced what we do.
Reflect with us on what Jesus endured and why He died.
©1994-2023 Cru. All Rights Reserved.