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Forgiving: With Towel and Basin

Forgiving: With Towel and Basin

Editor’s Note: For those of us who aren’t familiar with Jewish traditions, Passover is an eight-day festival which is celebrated from the 15th to the 22nd of the Hebrew month called Nissan. The dates on the American calendar change every year. This year Passover is Friday, April 22 (Shabbat, or Sabbath) in the evening through Saturday, April 30 after sundown.

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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 should do as I have done to you. — John 13:14–15 NKJV

Of all the times we see the bowing knees of Jesus, none is so precious as when He kneels before His disciples and washes their feet.

It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love.

The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God; so He got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing… and began to wash His disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him. — John 13:1–5 NIV

It has been a long day. Jerusalem is packed with Passover guests, most of whom clamor for a glimpse of the Teacher.

The spring sun is warm. The streets are dry. And the disciples are a long way from home. A splash of cool water would be refreshing.

The disciples enter, one by one, and take their places around the table. On the wall hangs a towel, and on the floor sit a pitcher and a basin. Any one of the disciples could volunteer for the job, but not one does.

After a few moments Jesus stands and removes His outer garment. He wraps a servant’s girdle around His waist, takes up the basin, and kneels before one of the disciples. He unlaces a sandal and gently lifts the foot, places it in the basin, covers it with water, and begins to bathe it. One by one, one grimy foot after another, Jesus works His way down the row.

In Jesus’ day the washing of feet was a task reserved not just for servants but for the lowest of servants. Every circle has its pecking order, and the circle of household workers was no exception. The servant at the bottom of the totem pole was expected to be the one on his knees with the towel and basin.

In this case the one with the towel and basin is the King of the universe. Hands that shaped the stars now wash away filth. Fingers that formed mountains now massage toes. And the One before whom all nations will one day kneel now kneels before his disciples.

Hours before His own death, Jesus’ concern is singular. He wants His disciples to know how much He loves them. More than removing dirt, Jesus is removing doubt.

Jesus knows what will happen to His hands at the crucifixion. Within twenty-four hours they will be pierced and lifeless. Of all the times we’d expect Him to ask for the disciples’ attention, this would be one. But He doesn’t.

You can be sure Jesus knows the future of these feet He is washing. These twenty-four feet will not spend the next day following their master, defending His cause. These feet will dash for cover at the flash of a Roman sword. Only one pair of feet won’t abandon Him in the garden. One disciple won’t desert Him at Gethsemane — Judas won’t even make it that far! He will abandon Jesus that very night at the table.

I looked for a Bible translation that reads, “Jesus washed all the disciples’ feet except the feet of Judas,” but I couldn’t find one. What a passionate moment when Jesus silently lifts the feet of His betrayer and washes them in the basin! Within hours the feet of Judas, cleansed by the kindness of the one He will betray, will stand in Caiaphas’s court.

Behold the gift Jesus gives His followers! He knows what these men are about to do. He knows they are about to perform the vilest act of their lives. By morning they will bury their heads in shame and look down at their feet in disgust. And when they do, He wants them to remember how His knees knelt before them and He washed their feet. He wants them to realize those feet are still clean.

You don’t understand now what I am doing, but you will understand later. — John 13:7

Remarkable. He forgave their sin before they even committed it. He offered mercy before they even sought it.


How would you have responded if Jesus, knowing everything about you, knelt before you to wash your feet?

What’s it like for you to experience forgiveness?

What’s been the hardest aspect of giving and receiving forgiveness in your life?


Matthew 6:12–15 NKJV:

And forgive us our debts,As we forgive our debtors.And do not lead us into temptation,But deliver us from the evil one.For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.


Debts, sins, or trespasses — why did Jesus tell us to ask God to forgive us in the same way that we forgive others?

What actions similar to foot washing might we practice in someone else’s life to express our forgiveness toward him or her?

Who needs forgiving in your life?


Ask God to help you answer that last question truthfully. Write out a plan that will allow you to express forgiveness with some word or action.

Ask God to show you relationships in which you need to seek forgiveness. Determine what steps you will take to approach those persons.

Excerpted with permission from Just Like Jesus Devotional by Max Lucado, copyright Max Lucado.

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Your Turn

Share your answers to the above questions on our blog! We would love to hear from you about forgiving as Jesus did! ~ Devotionals Daily