"Jesus Washes the Disciples Feet" John 13:1-38
Jesus, knowing the approaching events
would change the disciples lives forever, began to instruct and prepare them for His death and
Jesus Washes the Disciples Feet:
Verse 1: "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.
The term, "love," used 31 times in chapters 13-17. Godly love is the willingness to lay down of one's life for another. To love completely to the end of one's life.
Knowing that Judas would betray Him, and that He would be disowned by Peter, and abandoned by all the other disciples, Jesus begins a demonstration of the full extent of His love.
Verse 2: "During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him,"
It appears that this meal did not occur at what is considered to be the customary time for the Passover Feast, so there is some question among Bible Scholars as to whether this
supper they shared was the "Last Supper," or the "Passover Meal."
Although an interesting question, it is rather immaterial in our study of the Gospel of John, because John does not give these details, but begins this teaching with Jesus washing the disciple's feet.
Jesus chose Judas to be His disciple, and we can only wonder why Judas
would want to betray Him. Many scholars believe that Judas expected
Jesus to become King and that he would automatically become the
However, Judas realized, when Jesus praised Mary for anointing Him with the expensive perfume, that His kingdom was not to be physical or political, but Spiritual; and this did not satisfy his greedy desire for money or status.
His betrayal of Jesus brought him a little money, and for a short time, placed him in favor with the religious leaders. Afterward, Judas deeply regretted his actions and attempted to return the money.
Jesus Washes the Disciples Feet:
Verse 3-4: "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."
For Jesus to Lay aside his outer garment means that He was wearing a tunic, (a shorter garment similar to a long undershirt, (the way slaves dressed to serve a meal), (Lk 12:37; 17:8). Jesus then tied a linen cloth around his waist, with which to dry their feet.
Washing the disciples feet was not what one would
expect a master to do. This was most commonly the work of a servant, and submissive wives and children,
(1 Sam 25:41).
According to Jewish text, while Jewish bond slaves were not required to wash the feet of others, it was demanded of the gentile slaves, (Ex 21:2).
Verse 5: "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."
Although a servant was usually given the task of washing the guests' feet, Jesus used this occasion to teach His disciples a lesson in humility and selfless service.
Verse 6: "He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, do you wash my feet?" 7 Jesus answered him, "What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand."
Jesus said that it was "important" for Him to wash Simon Peter's feet. Jesus knew He was washing the feet of one who would soon deny knowing Him.
According to written accounts, the Setting would be an awkward arrangement for most traditions in today's world. The disciples would have been reclined on couches surrounding the tables in a way that would allow them to place their feet away from the table. Jesus would have gone to the outside of this circle to wash each person's feet.
Verse 8-9: "Peter said to him, "You shall never wash my feet." Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no share with me. Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!"
There were strict cultural status boundaries, and Jesus washing the disciples feet completely violated those boundaries to the extent that Peter considered it unthinkable.
Verse 10: "Jesus said to him, The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you."
The word, "bathing," was normally used in reference to a required ceremonial cleansing, in this case before anyone could attend the Feast of the Passover, (John 11:55). However, the way Jesus applied the word "bathing" would mean, Spiritually cleansing.
Verse 11: "For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, "Not all of you are clean."
Judas betrayal of Jesus would render him unclean.
Jesus had always known that Judas would betray Him, nevertheless, had included him in the ceremonial foot washing.
Verse 12: "When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, "Do you understand what I have done to you?"
After Jesus washes the disciple's feet, He asked if they knew what He had done to them. It is clear that they did not completely understand until after the crucifixion.
So Jesus answered His own question:
Verse 13-15: "You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you."
Disciples were to learn by imitating their teachers.
The example Jesus had given, was a lesson in
In that day humility was despised and considered a sign of weakness.
With the disciples reeling from what they considered to be an embarrassing event, Jesus said them, "Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you."
Some Bible scholars believe that Jesus did not intend to initiate a practice to be observed continually, and had washed the feet of others only to demonstrate the meaning of 'servant-hood.
However, there are others who view it as a command of Jesus.
Who can deny that the act of washing the feet of another is a wonderful expression of love, humility, and to some, an act of obedience.
Verse 16: "Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him."
Slaves received authority from their masters, and were more prominent than some free peasants. However, they were always subordinate to, and never greater than their masters.
Verse 17: "If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them."
Knowing, yet not doing, finds no approval anywhere in the teaching of Jesus.
Verse 18: "I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, 'He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me."
The scripture Jesus quoted is Psalm 41:9, a psalm of a righteous sufferer.
John shows that the betrayal did not catch Jesus by surprise. It was also in prophesiy: "He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me" (Psa 41:9).
Jesus and the disciples, including Judas, were sharing what was known as, "table fellowship,' an intimated bond among partaker's; which made Judas' betrayal particularly perverse.
Verse 19: "I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he."
Since the betrayal itself does not begin until the events in verse 27, this psalm given by Jesus, is prophecy. The fact that Jesus had foreknowledge of the event, is emphasized, and offered as evidence of His divinity.
The use of the, "I AM" in verse 19, is considered to be another allusion to the great name for God, in EX 3:14.
Later, after the disciples had witnessed the death and resurrection of Christ, and a short while later saw Him return to heaven, they understood that He was the great, "I AM."
Verse 20: "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me."
After He used this divine name in reference to Himself, He returned to the theme of His mission.
Ancient cultures were taught to respond to agents, ambassadors and representatives, according to the feelings of the person who authorized them. To accept the messenger, was to accept the sender.
The one who represents Christ will meet with the same response
Jesus met as an agent of the Father.
"One of You Will Betray Me"
Verse 21: "After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, "Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me."
Here, the strain of the betrayal is coming to the
forefront. These strong expressions by Jesus reflect the mounting
tension of the approach of the Passover and crucifixion.
The reference to the betrayal in verse 21 is more specific than the earlier hints, when He said, one of you is going to betray me. The effect on the disciples is also more dramatic.
"Jesus was troubled in His spirit:" Greek philosophers stressed the importance of remaining always tranquil and untroubled in spirit. The Gospel of John stresses Jesus' deity, and His humanity, (John 1:140).
There are also many places in the Old Testament where God's passionate feelings surface. (Judg 10:16, Isaiah 63:9-10 , and more.
Verse 22-24: "The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at a table close to Jesus, so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking."
Men would recline on the couches, but women would not dine in the
same room, unless with their own families.
Each person would recline slightly behind the person to his right; thus John could lean his head back, and be even with Jesus' chest. This beloved disciple at the right hand of Jesus, had one of the most honored positions at the feast.
Some commentators think Judas may have been on Jesus' left, the second most honored position.
The Apostle John's vivid account could have only come from an eye witness. It is generally accepted that John is the one described here, as "the one whom Jesus loved."
Simon peter motioned for John to ask Jesus which of them would betray Him.
Verse 25: "So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, "Lord, who is it?" 26Jesus answered, "It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it." So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot."
The dipping of the piece of bread and the offering of it to Judas was a gesture of honor, which many regarded as a final appeal to Judas, the betrayer.
Verse 27: "Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, "What you are going to do, do quickly."
Any one who could act like Judas must surely have been under the influence of Satan.
Verse 28: "Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, "Buy what we need for the feast," or that he should give something to the poor. 30So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night."
Once again, the disciples failed to understand. They thought that since Judas was the treasurer, he had gone to buy food, or to give money to the poor.
Some also thought that doing charitable work before Passover,
would secure God's favor.
It would not have been customary to go outside on Passover night (Ex 12:22), but in John's narrations, Passover apparently began the following day.
The rest of this chapter is the prelude to the "Farewell Discourses," in Chapters 14 - 16.
A New Commandment
Verse 31: "When he had gone out, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once."
Now that Judas had gone to set up his betrayal of Jesus, God's plan of salvation for the whole world had been set in motion. The following scriptures reveal the astonishing manner in which Jesus faced the cross.
Jesus began to speak of His coming glorification:
Verse 33: "Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, 'Where I am going you cannot come."
Teachers sometimes called their disciples, "children," and disciples called teachers, "my father."
Verse 34: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
The Law already required the highest devotion to God, but here, Jesus commands the disciples to love one another.
His new commandment set a new standard: "As I have love you," (Jesus loved them, and the rest of the world, to the point of laying down His life).
We sometimes offer external manifestations of Christ in our lives as proof of our faith; but Christ directs us to something that can not be duplicated without His power, that is to love the way He loved, (unconditionally)!
When God’s love is perfected in us, we receive a love that goes beyond the desire to be loved back. In fact, Christ loved Judas, even though He was aware that he was His betrayer.
Jesus went to the cross so that we could be cleansed of guilt, shame, and wrath. This love is not normal in a world that places itself first. Because of His love, Jesus allowed Himself to be sacrificed.
Jesus Christ has cleansed us from all sin. We are now free to serve and love Him, and to love one another! It is this sacrificial love that will bring forth the joy and peace that passes understanding!
This new commandment presses beyond our natural human inclinations, and is only possible by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus Foretells Peter’s Denial
Verse 36: "Simon Peter said to him, Lord, where are you going? Jesus answered him, "Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward."
Peter asked, “Where are you going. “ Jesus would soon be returning to His home in Heaven, and choosing not to explain, said, let this be enough for now, "You will follow afterwards."
Verse 37-38: "Peter said to him, Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.
Peter asks why he should be required to wait until later; then makes the brave statement that he would give his life for Jesus.
However, as we learned earlier in this study, Jesus knows the heart of all men, (John 2:24-25).
Jesus knew that Peter would someday follow Him and even suffer crucifixion in martyrdom, he was not yet ready. That would come after Jesus’ death and resurrection when the power of the Holy Spirit had been given.
Jesus realized that Peter did not fully understand His mission; nor of the demands and consequences of his commitment to follow.
38"Jesus answered, "Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times."
In an apparent challenge, or as some believe, a reprimand, Jesus said, “Will you indeed lay down your life for me?”
Jesus knew that before the cock could crow three times that morning Peter would would abandon, disown, and even be ashamed to acknowledge that he had ever known Him.
This concludes our study of,
"Jesus Washes the Disciples Feet."
Our Next Study Is:
"I am the Way the Truth and the Life" (John 14:1-31)