Beginning in chapter 12 of the Book of John, the Pharisees begin actively plotting to kill Jesus and Jesus, knowing this, rides right into Jerusalem and into the center of the plot. With this hostility as His backdrop, to His disciples, Jesus predicts His death and calls His disciples to follow Him. To the crowd, the challenge is made to walk in the light while they still have the light. Then He leaves and hides Himself. The tension is felt by everyone. Jesus has left them holding the weight of His words: Time culminating, light dissipating, judgment, death, salvation. and eternity.
In chapter 13, “knowing that it was time for him to leave this world”, Jesus communes very intimately with His disciples in what has come to be known as the “upper room discourse”. He knows from where He has come and where he is going. He knows His disciples can't possibly grasp the depths of what he is talking about but he presses on. Though what is set before him to do in the next days should justify complete self absorption, silence, and isolation, instead it is here in this place, in His last hours with these chosen friends, that Jesus, in an act of greatest humility, washes their feet. Songwriter Michael Card describes this act in his song entitled The Basin and the Towel .
And the call is to community
The impoverished power that sets the soul free
In humility to take the vow
That day after day we must take up the basin and the towel
And the space between ourselves sometimes
is more than the distance between the stars
By the fragile bridge of the servant’s bow,
We take up the basin and the towel
The example has been laid before them and the tone set for the rest of the evening. After this call to community through his example of humble service, Jesus speaks grievously of how He will be betrayed by one of the very ones whose feet He held and washed. And if this is not enough pain for Him to bear, He has to bring to light a truth not yet realized … Peter’s denial. One of those that He was most intimate with would, out of fear, deny that he ever knew Him. And another would hand him over to those who seek to kill him.
I can not imagine the all body. mind, and soul pain that Jesus endured that night as He anticipated what lay ahead. I can imagine the chaos in the body, minds, and souls of his disciples. The next days for them and for us are cataclysmic.