Bible scholars have pieced together details from the four Gospels, especially Matthew, Mark, and Luke, to form a rough timeline of Jesus’ movements and teachings during Holy Week. On Monday, Jesus cursed the fig tree and cleansed the temple. On Tuesday, He shared the lesson about the withered fig tree and taught in the temple complex. He likely taught again on Wednesday, a day often called Spy Wednesday as it may have been the day Judas made his deal with the religious leaders.
The Gospel of John is less detailed than the synoptic gospels and doesn’t provide the travel log for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of Holy Week, but for those of us who love details, we must remember that John’s purpose in writing was to tell us who Jesus is, to help his readers come and see who Jesus really is as their God. In the final verse of his book (John 21:15), he wrote:
Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would need to be written.
John shared the details he felt were the most important details for us to know in order to follow whole heartedly after the Lamb of God. As we wrap up this Come and See study, we’re going to highlight long-held traditions of Passion Week — foot washing (today), a Messianic version of the seder and Passover meal that points to Jesus as the sacrificial lamb (Tuesday), communion (Wednesday), and Tenebrae and prayer (Thursday). We also have special features planned for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
A dozen years ago I witnessed a foot washing ceremony at a wedding, a symbolic act modeled after Jesus’ selfless example in which He washed the feet of His disciples. The bride and groom dipped each other’s feet into a beautiful wash basin and committed to humbly love and care for each other in sickness and in health until death parted them.
Then, two weeks ago, I encountered another foot washing. This time Jamie Harms washed the feet of her teammates (Brianna Hines, Joanna Sheppard, and your narrator for today, Jaime Sherman) as UFC’s camera team (Chris Moore and Hayley Demanett) filmed this act of remembrance. The hope was that you would get a picture of the love and humility Jesus bestowed on His disciples, an account you can read about in John 13. But let’s get real. Both foot washings lacked the most important piece for an authentic, First Century foot bath.
We didn’t show up with the dirty and downright disgusting feet of the sweaty teenage boys* who traveled with Jesus. In a time when just about everyone wore sandals of leather and rope, when roads were dusty and littered with animal droppings, and miles of roads might be traversed on foot in a single day, I’m sure you can guess the state of Jesus and His disciples when they gathered for the Passover meal.
But something went terribly wrong. The disciples committed a social faux pas they haven’t been able to live down nearly 2,000 years later. They didn’t wash the honored guest’s feet, or even offer Him a pitcher of water to wash. In the First Century Jewish world, this was akin to saying, “I really don’t want to be your friend, and I’d much rather you just left right now.”
Instead of criticizing these boys, who were busy bickering over which places of honor they would claim in Jesus’ kingdom, Jesus “rose from supper. He laid aside His outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around His waist. Then He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around Him” (John 13:4-5).
We can only imagine the shock these boys must have felt as they watched their teacher stoop to do the job that not even a male Hebrew slave was required to do. Simon Peter tried to stop Jesus, but the answer was clear: “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me” (John 13:8). Then, just a short time later, Jesus called them His friends (John 15:13-15).
He told these young men, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done to you.”
Jesus showed them — and us today — what it looks like to be humble. And He reminded us that even if our lives look clean on the outside — like the feet of those participating in foot washing ceremonies — we can never be spiritually clean apart from Jesus. We must place our faith in Him for Him to wash our hearts clean. On Good Friday as He was nailed to the cross and as He conquered death through His resurrection three days later, He provided the way for this cleansing. And we praise Him.
*According to Jewish tradition, boys attached themselves to a rabbi when they were between the ages of 13 and 15, which could indicate that Jesus’ disciples were teenagers during His three-year earthly ministry. Other circumstantial evidence that most of Jesus’ disciples were teenagers comes from Matthew 17:24-27 when Jesus told Peter he would find enough for His portion — and Peter’s — of the required temple tax inside a fish. This tax, which we read about in Exodus 30:14, was for Hebrew males 20 and older.
Jamie grew up in Oregon and married her high school sweetheart. After getting married and living for five years in Baltimore, she now lives in Eugene with her husband and two sons. Besides the privilege of working with women at UFC to help encourage and equip them in their walks with Jesus, she enjoys a good cup of tea with a friend, propping her feet up with a book, cooking a delicious meal, spending time with her family, and taking walks in the beautiful Northwest.
UFC Video Team
Chris is the proud husband of Rachel and father to two, soon to be three, little girls. When he’s not doing media for UFC, he’s either reading dusty theology tomes or painting. His favorite movie is Gentlemen Broncos, and if you’ve had more than a 30-minute conversation with him, he’s tried to get you to watch it.
Hayley and her family have been attending UFC for about three years now. She is currently working as UFC’s communications and administration assistant. She was born and raised in Oregon and graduated in 2018 from the University of Oregon with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and communication.