Jerusalem was busy with activity that week as people were making preparations for the Passover Feast. We knew that Jesus would want arrangements made as well, so John and I went to Him to ask for directions.
As we hurriedly made our way to the house where we would eat later that night, I began to recount excitedly the events as they unfolded over the last few days. “So how long do you think before Jesus overthrows the Romans and seats Himself in the temple?”
John answered with a shrug and said, “I don’t know.”
“What do you mean, you don’t know? Didn’t you see the crowds? Did you hear what they were saying? I have never seen anyone so popular. Have you?”
“No,” John said quietly.
“We are so close to having our freedom. Not long from now, Jesus will overthrow the Romans and seat Himself in the temple, and we will rule and reign with Him…” I stopped. John wasn’t listening. “John, what’s the matter?”
“I don’t know, I mean, did you see the look on the Lord’s face as He was riding into the city.”
“Well…no, I guess I didn’t. Why?”
“He just looked sad to me. In fact, I think He was weeping. He said something like, ‘Your house shall be left to you desolate.’ He just seemed subdued, that’s all. But maybe it’s just me.” The conversation was soon forgotten as we began preparing for the meal ahead.
Later that night we were reclining around the table. There seemed to be a sense of anticipation and anxiety in the air. But none of us quite understood why. We had been discussing the events of the days before, having no idea what lay ahead of us. I am ashamed to tell you that the conversation quickly deteriorated into a dispute among us. The topic: who would be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven? I, of course, thought I had a head start on that position. Wasn’t I chosen to be the leader of the twelve? And hadn’t Jesus given me the keys to the kingdom?
Looking back, I cringe at the thought that the Lord was hours away from being tortured and killed on a cruel Roman cross, and He was watching His disciples arguing about who was the greatest of the twelve. This, after following Him for three years… How could we have been so thick-headed and selfish?
But Jesus didn’t say a word. Instead, He got up from the table, stripped Himself of His garments, and clothed Himself in a towel. After He had poured water into a basin, He began to wash each disciple’s feet. “What is He doing? I thought. Foot washing was a job reserved for the lowest slave in a household, not the King of Glory. This was beneath Him. It was too much. When Jesus reached me, I said, “Lord, are you washing my feet?
Jesus replied, “What I am doing you don’t understand now, but you will after this.”
“Lord, You shall never wash my feet!”
Jesus looked up at me and said, “If I do not wash your feet, you have no part with Me.”
“Then, Lord I need a bath! Wash not only my feet, but also my head and hands as well”
Jesus said to me, “He who is already bathed needs only to wash his feet, because he is completely clean.” He said this to illustrate the permanence of genuine salvation, but also the need for daily forgiveness. Then He added, “But not all of you are clean.” For He knew who would betray Him.
After He sat back down, He continued, “Do you know what I have done for you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 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 do as I have done to you. He who wishes to become the greatest in the Kingdom of God must first be the servant of all.”
At this point Jesus became very troubled. “I tell you the truth,” He said, “One of you will betray Me.” We looked at one another, shocked, not comprehending what He was saying. Who was He talking about? Each one of us questioned Him. “Lord is it I?” I motioned to John to ask Jesus to tell us who it was. But Jesus took bread, and when He had dipped it, gave it to Judas, saying, “What you do, do quickly.” Without a word, Judas got up and left. We had no idea what had just happened. We all assumed that Judas, who was the treasurer, had gone to pay for the meal.
Jesus looked at each of us earnestly. “Tonight you will all fall away because of Me,” What? Desert Him? How could He say such a thing? “Lord,” I said, “I am ready to go to prison with you, and even die with you!” All the other disciples agreed.
The Lord looked at me with compassion in His eyes. “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked for you that he may sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brothers.”
I ignored His warning and said confidently, “Lord, I don’t know about these other fellows, but I am willing to die with you.”
Then Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow twice before you deny Me three times.”
Then Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, saying, “Take, eat, for this is My body, which is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” Afterwards He took the cup saying, “This is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
The atmosphere was solemn as we partook together. None of us would understand the full meaning of what had happened that night until Jesus had risen from the dead. We saw the patterns and the pieces of significance, but it would be some time before it all made sense. After this, we sang a hymn and departed for the Mount of Olives.
We walked together in silence, each lost in his own thoughts. Jesus voice brought us back to reality as He repeated the warning He made earlier that night. “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me, for it is written: ‘I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.”
Again I pledged my loyalty. “Even if all are made to stumble, I will not!”
Jesus turned to me with a knowing look on His face. “Peter, I say to you that today, even tonight, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.”
I turned to Andrew, frustrated, “Can you believe this?” Then more vehemently than I had before, I said, “Lord, if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” And the rest of the disciples echoed my words….