Frontlines

One Last Chore

A precious moment with Jesus and His disciples.

The olive oil lamps flickered. Their wicks had burned low while the men lingered over the Passover table. Tradition and symbolism flavored each element, from the roasted lamb to the bitter herbs.

Fragments of memory taunted the disciples—sacrifice, redemption, something about Messiah. Lately, the Master had spoken of His followers denying Him, of laying down His life, of the shedding of His blood. But surely not He! It must be a parable, for He had come to deliver His people from their Roman oppressors—hadn’t He?

Most of them chatted quietly. Only John noticed Jesus stepping back from the table and tying a thick towel around His waist. John tried to summon James’ attention. Perhaps James would know what Jesus planned. But James was speaking with Peter, who was drumming his fingers on the table and looking distracted. 

When John turned back, Jesus had laid a basin of water on the floor and began to loosen Phillip’s crusty sandal. John chewed his lip. Oh, the humiliation of their Master performing a task beneath the dignity of His followers! The Master scooped water over Phillip’s foot and, gently as a mother, rubbed off the caked-on dirt. Man by man, the Master moved among them, caring for a most basic need. Jesus knew that tonight, these men would flee upon His arrest. But He looked beyond the imminent fear and flight. At this moment, He washed away the dirt. Soon, He would wash away their sins.

They scarcely knew why He humbled Himself to perform the lowliest of servant’s chores. Someday, they would understand. 

Some of the men would die martyrs. Most would carry His words far from Jerusalem. A few would also feel the crucifixion spike in their feet. 

Beloved John! With downcast eyes, he allowed the Master to wash his feet. As an old man, his feet would tread the Isle of Patmos for years, with only His risen Lord’s presence for company. How tired his feet would become walking the barren rocks. But how sweet would their communion be.

Jesus approached Peter. The former fisherman’s bushy brows drew together. He pulled back.

“Lord, You would wash my feet?”

“You don’t understand now, but you will hereafter.”

“You will never wash my feet.” Peter tucked them beneath the couch like a stubborn child.

“If I do not wash your feet, you have no part with Me.” His thumbs paused for a moment on the place where the spike would pierce Peter’s feet someday. 

This night, Judas’ feet would carry him to the chief priests to betray his Master. Even now, beads of sweat sparkled on Judas’ dark curls and streaked from his brow into his beard. Jesus’ eyes caught Judas’ for only a moment. For Judas, could not bear the love and pity in his Master’s gaze. 

Jesus thought of the many feet down through the centuries to come, such beautiful feet, so eager to hurry to a bedside, care for the poor, spread His words. Soon, it would all begin. But first, He must redeem them with the final sacrifice. He would lay down His life as the ransom for many.

He returned to the table to sing a hymn before facing Gethsemane, the trial, the pain, the separation from the Father. Jesus’ heart strummed with love for His followers—His friends—both in this upper room and in ages past and future. They were all worth where His feet would take Him soon. 

“He loved them unto the end” (John 13:1).  

Deborah Jeanne Sergeant lives in Clyde, NY

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