The Urantia Book
The Last Supper
3. Washing the Apostles’ Feet
(1938.3) 179:3.1 After drinking the first cup of the Passover, it was the Jewish custom for the host to arise from the table and wash his hands. Later on in the meal and after the second cup, all of the guests likewise rose up and washed their hands. Since the apostles knew that their Master never observed these rites of ceremonial hand washing, they were very curious to know what he intended to do when, after they had partaken of this first cup, he arose from the table and silently made his way over to near the door, where the water pitchers, basins, and towels had been placed. And their curiosity grew into astonishment as they saw the Master remove his outer garment, gird himself with a towel, and begin to pour water into one of the foot basins. Imagine the amazement of these twelve men, who had so recently refused to wash one another’s feet, and who had engaged in such unseemly disputes about positions of honor at the table, when they saw him make his way around the unoccupied end of the table to the lowest seat of the feast, where Simon Peter reclined, and, kneeling down in the attitude of a servant, make ready to wash Simon’s feet. As the Master knelt, all twelve arose as one man to their feet; even the traitorous Judas so far forgot his infamy for a moment as to arise with his fellow apostles in this expression of surprise, respect, and utter amazement.
(1938.4) 179:3.2 There stood Simon Peter, looking down into the upturned face of his Master. Jesus said nothing; it was not necessary that he should speak. His attitude plainly revealed that he was minded to wash Simon Peter’s feet. Notwithstanding his frailties of the flesh, Peter loved the Master. This Galilean fisherman was the first human being wholeheartedly to believe in the divinity of Jesus and to make full and public confession of that belief. And Peter had never since really doubted the divine nature of the Master. Since Peter so revered and honored Jesus in his heart, it was not strange that his soul resented the thought of Jesus’ kneeling there before him in the attitude of a menial servant and proposing to wash his feet as would a slave. When Peter presently collected his wits sufficiently to address the Master, he spoke the heart feelings of all his fellow apostles.
(1939.1) 179:3.3 After a few moments of this great embarrassment, Peter said, “Master, do you really mean to wash my feet?” And then, looking up into Peter’s face, Jesus said: “You may not fully understand what I am about to do, but hereafter you will know the meaning of all these things.” Then Simon Peter, drawing a long breath, said, “Master, you shall never wash my feet!” And each of the apostles nodded their approval of Peter’s firm declaration of refusal to allow Jesus thus to humble himself before them.
(1939.2) 179:3.4 The dramatic appeal of this unusual scene at first touched the heart of even Judas Iscariot; but when his vainglorious intellect passed judgment upon the spectacle, he concluded that this gesture of humility was just one more episode which conclusively proved that Jesus would never qualify as Israel’s deliverer, and that he had made no mistake in the decision to desert the Master’s cause.
(1939.3) 179:3.5 As they all stood there in breathless amazement, Jesus said: “Peter, I declare that, if I do not wash your feet, you will have no part with me in that which I am about to perform.” When Peter heard this declaration, coupled with the fact that Jesus continued kneeling there at his feet, he made one of those decisions of blind acquiescence in compliance with the wish of one whom he respected and loved. As it began to dawn on Simon Peter that there was attached to this proposed enactment of service some signification that determined one’s future connection with the Master’s work, he not only became reconciled to the thought of allowing Jesus to wash his feet but, in his characteristic and impetuous manner, said: “Then, Master, wash not my feet only but also my hands and my head.”
(1939.4) 179:3.6 As the Master made ready to begin washing Peter’s feet, he said: “He who is already clean needs only to have his feet washed. You who sit with me tonight are clean — but not all. But the dust of your feet should have been washed away before you sat down at meat with me. And besides, I would perform this service for you as a parable to illustrate the meaning of a new commandment which I will presently give you.”
(1939.5) 179:3.7 In like manner the Master went around the table, in silence, washing the feet of his twelve apostles, not even passing by Judas. When Jesus had finished washing the feet of the twelve, he donned his cloak, returned to his place as host, and after looking over his bewildered apostles, said:
(1939.6) 179:3.8 “Do you really understand what I have done to you? You call me Master, and you say well, for so I am. If, then, the Master has washed your feet, why was it that you were unwilling to wash one another’s feet? What lesson should you learn from this parable in which the Master so willingly does that service which his brethren were unwilling to do for one another? Verily, verily, I say to you: A servant is not greater than his master; neither is one who is sent greater than he who sends him. You have seen the way of service in my life among you, and blessed are you who will have the gracious courage so to serve. But why are you so slow to learn that the secret of greatness in the spiritual kingdom is not like the methods of power in the material world?
(1940.1) 179:3.9 “When I came into this chamber tonight, you were not content proudly to refuse to wash one another’s feet, but you must also fall to disputing among yourselves as to who should have the places of honor at my table. Such honors the Pharisees and the children of this world seek, but it should not be so among the ambassadors of the heavenly kingdom. Do you not know that there can be no place of preferment at my table? Do you not understand that I love each of you as I do the others? Do you not know that the place nearest me, as men regard such honors, can mean nothing concerning your standing in the kingdom of heaven? You know that the kings of the gentiles have lordship over their subjects, while those who exercise this authority are sometimes called benefactors. But it shall not be so in the kingdom of heaven. He who would be great among you, let him become as the younger; while he who would be chief, let him become as one who serves. Who is the greater, he who sits at meat, or he who serves? Is it not commonly regarded that he who sits at meat is the greater? But you will observe that I am among you as one who serves. If you are willing to become fellow servants with me in doing the Father’s will, in the kingdom to come you shall sit with me in power, still doing the Father’s will in future glory.”
(1940.2) 179:3.10 When Jesus had finished speaking, the Alpheus twins brought on the bread and wine, with the bitter herbs and the paste of dried fruits, for the next course of the Last Supper.
4. Last Words to the Betrayer
(1940.3) 179:4.1 For some minutes the apostles ate in silence, but under the influence of the Master’s cheerful demeanor they were soon drawn into conversation, and ere long the meal was proceeding as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred to interfere with the good cheer and social accord of this extraordinary occasion. After some time had elapsed, in about the middle of this second course of the meal, Jesus, looking them over, said: “I have told you how much I desired to have this supper with you, and knowing how the evil forces of darkness have conspired to bring about the death of the Son of Man, I determined to eat this supper with you in this secret chamber and a day in advance of the Passover since I will not be with you by this time tomorrow night. I have repeatedly told you that I must return to the Father. Now has my hour come, but it was not required that one of you should betray me into the hands of my enemies.”
(1940.4) 179:4.2 When the twelve heard this, having already been robbed of much of their self-assertiveness and self-confidence by the parable of the feet washing and the Master’s subsequent discourse, they began to look at one another while in disconcerted tones they hesitatingly inquired, “Is it I?” And when they had all so inquired, Jesus said: “While it is necessary that I go to the Father, it was not required that one of you should become a traitor to fulfill the Father’s will. This is the coming to fruit of the concealed evil in the heart of one who failed to love the truth with his whole soul. How deceitful is the intellectual pride that precedes the spiritual downfall! My friend of many years, who even now eats my bread, will be willing to betray me, even as he now dips his hand with me in the dish.”
(1940.5) 179:4.3 And when Jesus had thus spoken, they all began again to ask, “Is it I?” And as Judas, sitting on the left of his Master, again asked, “Is it I?” Jesus, dipping the bread in the dish of herbs, handed it to Judas, saying, “You have said.” But the others did not hear Jesus speak to Judas. John, who reclined on Jesus’ right hand, leaned over and asked the Master: “Who is it? We should know who it is that has proved untrue to his trust.” Jesus answered: “Already have I told you, even he to whom I gave the sop.” But it was so natural for the host to give a sop to the one who sat next to him on the left that none of them took notice of this, even though the Master had so plainly spoken. But Judas was painfully conscious of the meaning of the Master’s words associated with his act, and he became fearful lest his brethren were likewise now aware that he was the betrayer.
(1941.1) 179:4.4 Peter was highly excited by what had been said, and leaning forward over the table, he addressed John, “Ask him who it is, or if he has told you, tell me who is the betrayer.”
(1941.2) 179:4.5 Jesus brought their whisperings to an end by saying: “I sorrow that this evil should have come to pass and hoped even up to this hour that the power of truth might triumph over the deceptions of evil, but such victories are not won without the faith of the sincere love of truth. I would not have told you these things at this, our last supper, but I desire to warn you of these sorrows and so prepare you for what is now upon us. I have told you of this because I desire that you should recall, after I have gone, that I knew about all these evil plottings, and that I forewarned you of my betrayal. And I do all this only that you may be strengthened for the temptations and trials which are just ahead.”
(1941.3) 179:4.6 When Jesus had thus spoken, leaning over toward Judas, he said: “What you have decided to do, do quickly.” And when Judas heard these words, he arose from the table and hastily left the room, going out into the night to do what he had set his mind to accomplish. When the other apostles saw Judas hasten off after Jesus had spoken to him, they thought he had gone to procure something additional for the supper or to do some other errand for the Master since they supposed he still carried the bag.
(1941.4) 179:4.7 Jesus now knew that nothing could be done to keep Judas from turning traitor. He started with twelve — now he had eleven. He chose six of these apostles, and though Judas was among those nominated by his first-chosen apostles, still the Master accepted him and had, up to this very hour, done everything possible to sanctify and save him, even as he had wrought for the peace and salvation of the others.
(1941.5) 179:4.8 This supper, with its tender episodes and softening touches, was Jesus’ last appeal to the deserting Judas, but it was of no avail. Warning, even when administered in the most tactful manner and conveyed in the most kindly spirit, as a rule, only intensifies hatred and fires the evil determination to carry out to the full one’s own selfish projects, when love is once really dead.