Thursday was a long day for Jesus. It began with the disciples preparing for the Passover meal as he had instructed them (Mark 14:12-16). The Passover was a remembrance of God’s simultaneous act of judgment and deliverance. God judged the Egyptians by killing their firstborn and he delivered his people through the death of a substitute. It’s no coincidence that Jesus’ death is linked to a new Passover, a new act of judgment and deliverance (1 Corinthians 5:7).
Many things transpired on Thursday: Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, he foretold Peter’s denial, and Thursday ends with Jesus praying through the night in the garden of Gethsemane. But one of the most striking things about Thursday is what Jesus said and did in John 13-17. He washed his disciples feet and he spoke to them at length what is known as the Farewell Discourse. The new commandment to love one another (John 13) was given this day. Jesus sharing that he is the way the truth, and the life (John 14) happened this day. Jesus sharing about him being the true vine and us the branches (John 15) happened this day. His teaching on the Holy Spirit as helper (John 14, 16) and his prayer on his disciples’ behalf (John 17) all happened this day.
In less than 24 hours he would take his place on the cross. John 13:1-5 tells what he was thinking.
“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. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 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”
He knew his hour had come. He loved his disciples to the end. He knew that the Father had given him all things. He knew where he came from and he knew where he was going. So he rose and washed the disciples feet as the Servant King that he is. He even washed Judas’ feet, the one who he knew would soon betray him. Luke tells us that at some point after supper the disciples were arguing among themselves about which one of them was the greatest (Luke 22:24-27). No doubt this foot washing act silenced them and painted a very contrary picture. Jesus was among them as the one who serves (Luke 22:27). Before anyone serves him, he serves them by giving his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).