After my wife and I dated for a bit, I knew she was my lobster. When I finally scraped up enough money to afford an engagement ring, I concocted a plan and set things in motion to perform a proposal that could not be rejected. I must admit that I am not fond of the pressure of a proposal (Especially today. There’s the added stress of a proposal photograph session and/or arranging all your and your wife-to-be’s friends to be present and some exotic local, waiting to celebrate her affirmation to your request.) I planned an evening at the beach followed by a nice dinner in PCB. The evening was to conclude with a candlelit room where I would wash her feet, give her a speech about love and pop the question.
Why would I choose the act of foot washing? 1) We were at Bible college and the motif seemed to fit. 2) I can think of no other act that communicates the idea of love and service. Those two thoughts are not lost on us as we begin John 13.
Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet
13 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” 9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” 10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. 12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
- John adds much more detail here on the night of Jesus’ arrest than the other gospels. Chapters 13-17 cover these events and has been labeled, The Farewell Discourse.
- Jesus’ washing the disciple’s feet 1) symoolizes the spiritual cleansing of the cross (8-10) and 2) displays the importance of humble service (11-17).
- Twice (in verse 1 and 3) John notes that Jesus is aware of where he came from and where he is soon to return – emphasizing his divine omniscience, omnipotence, and sovereignty. How does the omniscient, omnipotent, sovereign Messiah spend his last moments with the disciples? By demonstrating his love for them in an act of humble service.
- v1 – “loved them to the end” – carries a double meaning. In one way, Jesus has loved them “to the end” of his life. In another way, Jesus has loved them as much as he could. William Cook. Jesus Christ Is God (Scotland: Christian Focus, 2016), 201.
- v2 – “devil had already prompted” – John has already mentioned the means through which Judas was tempted in the last chapter. Opportunity for financial advancement was lost when Mary “wasted” it on Jesus’ feet.
- v5 – “An act necessary for comfort and cleanliness for any who have traveled dusty Palestinian roads wearing sandals. Customarily, a host provided guests with water for washing their own feet (Judg. 19:21; Luke 7:44, where the complaint was that Simon had not provided water). Footwashing was regarded as so lowly a task that it could not be required of a Hebrew slave.” Chris Church, “Footwashing,” ed. Chad Brand et al., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 592.
- One could understand Peter’s objection and initial refusal to allow the Son of God to commit such a lowly act. The act of washing feet did not belong to the divine! Jesus, however, tells Peter than there is more at stake here than the current act. This says something about our status with God.
- So, the question becomes, What does Jesus mean when he responds to Peter in v. 8-10? The foot washing is a symbol of what Jesus will accomplish through the cross. A “bath” refers to initial conversion, “foot washing” refers to the need for confession of sin in a believer’s life.
- Jesus now turns this act into a practical teaching regarding service as a display of love to others (11-17). God’s economy is different from our economy. We would not expect a leader to display such lowliness. However, Jesus issues a challenge to his followers, that if he has done something this humble and loving, his followers should do the same for each other.
- v16 – “no servant is greater than his master” – “Self preservation and self-promotion cannot co-exist with a passion for God’s glory…” –William Cook. Jesus Christ Is God (Scotland: Christian Focus, 2016), 203.
- QUES: As a follower of Christ, am I willing to take up a basin and a towel?
Jesus Predicts His Betrayal
18 “I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned against me.’ 19 “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. 20 Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.” 21 After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.” 22 His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant.23 One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him.24 Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.” 25 Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas,the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” 28 But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. 29 Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. 30 As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.
- v18 – “I am not referring to all of you” – Referring back to Jesus’ conversation with Peter about being washed in v. 10.
- v18 – The scripture to which Jesus is referring is Psalm 41.9 – “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.”
- Note the repeated emphasis on Jesus knowing who would betray him – v. 2, 10-11, 18, 21, 26-27. Jesus didn’t happen upon the cross, It was God’s plan for our redemption.
- v19 – Jesus specific motives for mentioning his betrayer is to build faith among the disciples and for them to recognize him as the Messiah. As John reflects back upon this night, this foreknowledge evidently made a big impact on John because of his repeated emphasis on Jesus’ knowledge. It is almost as if John is saying, “Jesus knew what was going to happen and didn’t try and change it. He knew what he was doing.
- v20 – Just as Jesus has a mission, so do we as his disciples. Jesus says to accept a disciple and his message was to accept him and the Father.
- v21, 22 – Jesus’ sudden announcement that one of them would betray him caused stunned silence among the disciples. Who would it be? Would this be intentional or unintentional?
- v23, 24- The details provided within these verses clearly identify the author as an eyewitness. As readers, we can see the narrative take a more personal tone in detail.
- v26 – For the host (Jesus) to offer a guest (Judas) a special piece of bread would be a mark of special favor. It is as Jesus offers Judas one more opportunity to commune with him. Instead, Judas takes what he can for himself and decides to continue in rebellion.
Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial
31 When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once. 33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” 36 Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” 37 Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!
- v31 – It is almost as if Judas’ betrayal was the final piece of the puzzle. Jesus now speaks of his glorification in the past tense, even though it has not been accomplished.
- v33 – “Little children” – a loving and compassionate address from their Lord at a time where the disciples would find understanding of Jesus’ words and the upcoming events difficult to comprehend.
- v34 – The chapter concludes with the same subject in which it began – love. Christian love is not controlled by emotion, but is displayed in action – humble service (13.13-17) and obedience to Jesus (14.15). Cook, 212. The command to love one another is not necessarily new. It can be found in Leviticus 19.18, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” What is new is the command to love as Jesus has loved. The church should strive to dwell in unity, just as the Trinity does. John evidently took Jesus’ words to heart, “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” 1 Jn 4:20–21. One of the greatest stains upon the church is often our treatment of one another.
- v36-38 – Peter glosses over Jesus’ statement on the importance of loving one another and fixates his mind on being separated from his teacher. Peter thinks himself to be a man completely committed to the Lord, time will show that he has a ways to go. This conversation with Peter becomes quite ironic when you realize that it isn’t Peter who will die for Jesus, it is Jesus who will die for Peter.