The Last Words of a Dying Man


Last words are often the most important words. When someone dies, most of their words are forgotten. However, their last words are often recorded and cherished by their loved ones. This is because, of course, when one is dying, only the things that really matter are spoken – and hopefully, to the people that matter most. So it follows that the most important words ever uttered by a human were the last words of the most important human in history: Jesus. What was his final message?

In John 13, the apostle records that Jesus and his disciples gathered in Jerusalem for what would be his last Passover meal. Amazingly, even though Jesus knew his violent death was imminent (v. 1a), he was primarily concerned with the well-being of his disciples: “He loved them to the end” (v. 1b). It was at the Last Supper that He would show – and tell – them what was most important.

When they had finished eating, Jesus got up from the table. John notes – for those tempted to think that he was purposefully naïve regarding his status – that Jesus was well-aware of his divinity, his mission, and the presence of his betrayer in the room (vv. 3, 10). Incredibly, Jesus shed his outer garment and wrapped a towel around his waist – adopting the garb of a servant. This was an act almost unthinkable for a man of his stature. In so doing, he laid aside his divinity – and his vexation regarding his upcoming execution – to serve his disciples. He grabbed a basin of water, stooped down silently, and began to wash his disciple’s feet.

In first-century Jewish culture, feet were viewed as the lowest part of the man – detestable, disgusting, and repugnant. On the dusty roads of Jerusalem, their sandaled, sweaty feet became unbelievably foul. Think about the noisome smell that is released when a person removes their shoes at school or work. Now imagine stooping down to clean their feet without holding your nose. It was that odious. Even today, throwing a shoe is considered incredibly disrespectful in Middle Eastern culture, likely because of this connection (as former President Bush discovered). In Jesus’ time, the bottom-dwelling task of washing feet was the duty of servants – the lowest of the low. And yet, Jesus became a servant for their sakes.

Peter, recognizing the disrespect Jesus took upon himself – and perhaps, even embarrassed at his own filth – refused to let Jesus wash his feet. But Jesus responded, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me” (v. 8). Peter, evidently confused by his response, replied “then, Lord, not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” (v. 9). Jesus explained that the one who has bathed has no need to wash their whole body, but only their feet. This is a metaphor for the cleansing of a man’s soul – a cleansing that was about to manifest in his own blood on the Cross. Jesus explained further,

“Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you should also wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (vv. 13-14)

As believers, even though we are clean, our feet still need to be washed. Though our souls are spotless by faith, our lives are sullied by the dirt of this world on the dusty road to sanctification. How easy it is to view those “less clean” with contempt – even when our feet are dirty! We simply don’t want their grime to contact us. We don’t wish to be associated with them. But Jesus provided the example: if he, our Master, did not deem it too low for him to associate with the lowly and wash them, how much more should we think so?

Life together is messy. Though we are being saved by grace, we still sin. How easy it is to turn away from the needs of other believers! But Christ sets the example. He instructs us, as our Commander, to enter the mess of each other’s lives. He bids us to wash each other’s feet with the Word (Titus 3:5). And he tells us to love from the heart (1 Peter 1:22).

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

About Gabe Garfield

I am a research meteorologist from Norman, Oklahoma. In addition to my work, I am interested in storm chasing, sports, philosophy, theology, and culture.
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12 Responses to The Last Words of a Dying Man

  1. cshowers says:


    I’m so glad you visited and followed my blog, so that I would be led to check yours out. This post truly ministered to me and blessed me. And I love this scripture in John 13:1b, “having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” How wonderful to be loved by Him. As I read your post, I was compelled to go to youtube and play one of my favorite songs, which I’m sharing with you. I don’t know if you’re already familiar with it, but it just fits with your post.

    Many blessings to you, and thanks for this post,

    • I am glad this post blessed you, Cheryl! What an amazing God we serve … how humble … how long-suffering … how forgiving! There are so many reasons to praise Him!

      And thanks for posting that song! It’s beautiful … and it sticks in your mind. “He loved me to the end.” Praise God!!

  2. shazza91321 says:

    I love that verse of scripture it’s so important as well as your post, amen, life is messy and we as believers have to be in the middle of the mess with our sisters and brothers. Bearing their burdens and interceding on their behalf, until Christ comes.

  3. Reblogged this on angieinspired and commented:
    A lot more words….on feet

  4. I re-blogged this at angieinspired….so good. Thank you

  5. I was so blessed by this post! I understood the significance but had never thought of the complete dirtiness and how it played into this act.
    Thank you!

  6. V.E.G. says:

    “I hope those parents are watching their kids,” Alan, 65, said to Eileen, 62. “That could be really dangerous.”-the last words of hero, “Uncle” Alan Burton Hall.

  7. Kristofer says:

    Hi this is somewhat of off topic but I was wondering if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code with HTML.
    I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding know-how so I wanted to
    get guidance from someone with experience. Any help would be enormously appreciated!

  8. V.E.G. says:

    That car’s going way too fast.–Randall Kent Burris, a hero gave his life saving a woman and her child. Burris is a direct descendant of Pocahontas and John Rolfe. His ancestors has lived in America since 1607. Over four hundred years ago!

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