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Washing the disciple's feet was not what one would expect a master to do, but was most commonly the work of a servant, or submissive wives and children, (1 Sam 25:41)
Jesus, knowing the approaching events would change the disciple's lives forever, began to instruct and prepare them for His death and resurrection.
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 unconditionally 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 most considered to be the customary time for the Passover Feast, so there is some question 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 and status.
His betrayal of Jesus brought him a little money, and for a brief 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.
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 generally 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 disciple's feet violated those barriers 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 for 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 washed the disciple's feet, He asked if they knew what He had done to them. It is clear that they did not fully 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 true expression of love, humility, and to some, an act of obedience?
The Heart of a Servant
Jesus often spoke of having the heart of a servant. The servants in Jesus’ time were often required to wash the feet of their masters, and others.
In today's world, the person with a servant's attitude is often one of the most loved and helpful people you will ever know.
Even corporate executives who have the loving heart of a servant can make you feel at ease in any situation. At a meeting or party, they may offer to get you a cup of coffee or something to make you more comfortable.
Foot washing, as demonstrated by Jesus, is from the heart and benefits the one doing the washing more than the one receiving.
When Jesus told the disciples that they should wash the feet
of others, He wasn't concerned with dirty
feet, but with the heart of the ones doing the washing.
This concludes our study of,
"Jesus Washes the Disciples Feet."
Our Next Study Is:
One of You Will Betray Me (John 13:16-38)