Today we are talking about Loving One Another, based on John 13:1-17; 34-35.
Purpose: The purpose of this study is to develop the character quality of agape love for fellow Christians. Jesus stooped to love His disciples by meeting a very practical need that they had – dirty feet.
Historical Background: John’s Gospel reports more of the content of Jesus’ instructions to His disciples than does the other three Gospels. Chapters 13-17 concentrate on His teachings on that fateful night in which He was arrested. Before the instruction,Jesus washed His disciples’ feet and predicted His betrayal.
The first 12 chapters of the Gospel of John cover approximately 3 years in the public ministry of Christ. In these chapters John records His earliest contacts with the disciples and how he moved among the people throughout these three years working miracles and preaching His message (John 20:30-31).
Chapters 13-17 are restricted to one evening in Christ’s life. The audience also is limited to the 12 men that He has experienced authentic biblical community with over the past three years. This one evening was the last night before the crucifixion. There are many things that happen on this final evening but John alone records the washing of the disciple’s feet.
There is a change in John’s vocabulary from this point on. In chapters 1-12 this gospel is marked by words like “life” (50 times) and “light” (32 times). In chapters 13-17 the word “life” only occurs 6 times and “light” not at all. In contrast, the word “love” is found only 6 times in chapters 1-12 and 31 times in chapters 13-1 7. Clearly love takes on a new prominence in this farewell discourse.
Historical Chronology: Triumphal Entry & the fig tree [from Bethany to Jerusalem to Bethany] (Thomas and Gundry Sections 128-131). Here we see growing popularity among the masses (John 12:12-16) culminating in his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. At the same time there is a growing hatred from the religious leaders (John 12:19). They were desperately threatened by his words that judged their hypocrisy, but also by the number of people who were attracted to Him and His teaching.
- Official challenge to Christ’s Authority [Jerusalem in the temple] Sec.132-135
- Christ’s response to His enemies’ challenges [Jerusalem in the temple] Sec.136-138
- The Olivet Discourse: Jesus speaks prophetically about the temple and his second coming [from the temple to the Mount of Olives] Sec.139
- Arrangements for betrayal and plot by the Sanhedrin to arrest and kill Jesus [Mount of Olives & the palace of the high priest] Sec.140-142
- The Last Supper [Jerusalem]
- Preparation for the Passover meal in Jerusalem (Sec. 143 – Matthew 26:17-19; Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:7-13). The Passover Feast was an important event in Israel’s) history that commemorated their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. The preparations were incomplete because there was no servant at the door to wash dirty feet.
- Beginning the Passover meal & dissension among the disciples in the upper room in Jerusalem (Sec. 144 – Matthew 26:20; Mark 14:17; Luke 22:14-16, 24-30).
- Washing the Disciples feet in the upper room in Jerusalem (Sec. 145 – John 13:1-20).
- After returning to the table Jesus commands them to follow His example and love one another (Sec. 145-147 John 13:15,17,34,35). “By means of his words to his disciples, we are permitted here to enter into the thinking and emotions of Jesus just before his own crucifixion. Within hours of this event the Lord was hanging upon a cross. In less than twenty-four hours he was dead and buried. These therefore, constitute the last words of Jesus before his own death.” – Ray Stedman
Commanded in the Gospels: John 13:34; 15:12; 15:17
Illustrated in the Book of Acts: Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” The early church in The Book of Acts was characterized by love in action. Their love for one another was expressed in practical ways within their Christian community and outsiders were well aware that they were disciples of Christ because of their love.
Amplified in the Epistles:
- Love [agapao): Romans 13:8; 2 Corinthians 11:11; 12:15; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; 1 Peter 1:22; 2:17; 1 John 2:10; 3:10, 11, 14, 18, 23; 4:7, 11, 12, 20, 21; 5:1-2; 2 John 1:5; 3 John 1:1.
- Love [agape]: Romans 14:15; 1 Corinthians 4:21; 8:1; 13:1-4, 8, 13; 14:1; 16:14; 2 Corinthians 2:4,8; 6:6; 8:7, 8, 24; Galatians 5:13, 22; Ephesians 4:2, 15, 16; 5:2; Philippians 1:9; 2:2; Colossians 1:4, 8; 2:2; 3:14; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 3:12; 5:13; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Timothy 4:12; 6:11; 2 Timothy 1:7; 2:22; 3:10; Philemon 1:5, 7, 9; Hebrews 6:10; 10:24; 1 Peter 4:8; 5:14; 2 Peter 1:7; 3 John 1:6; Jude 1:12.
- Love [phileo): Titus 3:15.
- Brotherly love [philadelphia]: Romans 12:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; Hebrews 13:1; 1 Peter 1:22; 2 Peter 1:7.
1 . What evening of the Passover week did Jesus give His disciples this command to love one another? (John 13:1-2; Matthew 26:20) The Passover feast began on the 15th Nisan at sunset, the Passover lamb being slain the afternoon of 14th Nisan. There seems no real doubt that this meal in John 13:1-30 is the real Passover meal described by the Synoptic Gospels (Mark l4:18-21; Matthew 26:21-25; Luke 22:21-23), followed by the institution of the Lord’s Supper.
Whether this meal was the actual Passover or not has been warmly debated, yet it seems that it occurred on the same night as the arrest and betrayal. If so, it was presumably Thursday night; and the Crucifixion occurred on Friday, the day before the Passover, which would have begun on Friday evening.
Luke states that when the day came on which the Passover lamb was to be sacrificed, Peter and John were sent to arrange the meal that the Lord and his disciples ate that evening (Luke 22:7-14). Matthew 26:17-20 and Mark 14:12-17 agree that the meal was on the day on which the Passover lamb was killed, which preceded the Passover itself. John stated later (John 18:28) that the Jewish delegates could not enter Pilate’s hall on Friday morning because they would be defiled and unable to eat the Passover. In that case, the last Supper must have preceded the Passover by twenty-four hours. If the Passover began on Friday night, the meal could have taken place on Thursday night, but would not have been the standard Passover Feast.
Jesus did celebrate the meal with his disciples on Thursday night, the hearing before Pilate and the Crucifixion took place on Friday, and his body was placed in the tomb before sunset late that afternoon.
John noted that it happened “before the feast of the Passover.” These words might suggest that this incident occurred while the evening meal was being served but before they actually came to the place where the Passover lamb would be eaten.
John alludes to the nearness of the Passover as if to remind his reader that Jesus had been introduced by John the Baptist as the “lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). As the first Passover had been the turning point in the redemption of the people of God, so the Cross would be the opening of a new era for believers.
2. What does John 13:1 tell us about Jesus? The word “know” is in the perfect tense. Vines says that this verb, “signifies, primarily, to have seen or perceived; hence, to know, to have knowledge of.” This word “know” emphasizes the full consciousness of Christ, he was not stumbling into the dark as he faced “his hour.” Jesus had a thorough knowledge of the time schedule he was on to redeem the world.
3. How does John 13:1 describe Jesus’ love for his disciples? The apostles, having joined Christ at this feast, were overcome with selfish ambition (Luke 22:24). They also had given way to greed (Matthew 26:8). In contrast, Christ was filled with love for his disciples. A love [agapesas] that he was prepared to choose through an act of his will to give his life as a sacrifice for their sins and the sins of the entire world.
The opening verse of chapter 13 sets the scene for the whole of chapters 13-17. Love is one of the key terms in chapters 13-17, it occurs 31 times in these five chapters as compared to only six times in chapters 1-12.
Christ had already demonstrated his love for them; choosing them, teaching them, protecting them, and meeting their needs were all reflections of His love. The disciples at this point didn’t fully understand the extent of Christ’s love, but later the writer of this gospel expressed his fuller comprehension of his Savior’s love in the first epistle he wrote.
1 John 3:16 “We know love by this,that He laid down His life for us;and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” The verb “loved” [agapao] describes the act of the will that gives to others’ basic needs without having as my motive personal reward. Agape love involves sacrificing myself and my comfort to meet another’s need.
Vines Expository Dictionary says: “Christian (Agape) love, whether exercised toward the brethren, or toward men generally, is not an impulse from the feelings, it does not always run with the natural inclinations, nor does it spend itself only upon those for whom some affinity is discovered. Love seeks the welfare of all, (Romans 15:2), and works no ill to any, (Romans 13:8-10); love seeks opportunity to do good to ‘all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith,”‘ (Galatians 6:10).
Jesus loved his disciples “to the end” [eis telos] may be rendered “to the uttermost, completely, to perfection, utterly, to the fullest extent. Jesus’ love for His disciples was a perfect, saving, eternal love. With a full knowledge of his coming suffering and death, he was still totally preoccupied with an all-consuming, perfect, and full love for own His disciples.
One commentator writes, “Love is the laying down of one’s life, and therefore to love completely means to love to the end of one’s life (1 John 3:16). The love that has been evident throughout continues right up to the end. At the end, in the crucifixion, we will see the ultimate revelation of that love,that is,its full extent.
These disciples that are being loved are called, “his own” [tous idious]. These disciples were given to him by the Father (John 10:29). Jesus had accepted the responsibility for them and was obliged to instruct and protect them (John 17:6-12). He loved them.
4. What new commandment does Jesus give his disciples in this passage? John 13:34-35 says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love [Present Imperative] one another,even as I have loved you,that you also love [Present Imperative] one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Love itself is NOT a new commandment (Leviticus 19:18). The new thing appears to be the mutual affection that Christians have for one another on account of Christ’s great love for them. Plummer says “the commandment to love was not new, for “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18) was part of the Mosaic Law, but the motive is new; to love one another because Christ has loved us” (1 John 4:19; John 15:12).
The word “new” [kainen] implies “freshness” or the opposite of “worn-out” rather than simply “recent or different.” Another source says, The word “new” signifies what is fresh, in contrast to that which is familiar and well known (1 John 2:7; 3:23; 2 John 1:5; John 15:12, 17).
The “badge of discipleship is love.” Love is to be the distinguishing mark of a Christ follower. In contrast, Jesus said to an unbelieving Jewish audience… in John 5:40-42, Jesus said, “and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. 42 but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves.”
Tertullian tells us that the heathen commented on the Christians: “See they say, how they love one-another!”
In verses 1-17 Jesus models the kind of love that He wants His disciples to practice.
5. What role does the devil play in this Passover meal? (John 13:2) The present participle “during” [ginomenou] tells us that the circumstances that follow happened while the supper was in progress. But before the dinner a Satanic suggestion had already been made to Judas.
One author writes, “The circumstances are listed in detail. Judas had already determined to betray Jesus (John 13:2). His specific motive is not stated, and the impulse is attributed to satanic suggestion. The casual allusion to the devil at this point implies a deeper significance to the conflict than a mere political or theological squabble. The conflict was basically actuated by a rebellion against God, the absolute opposite of the attitude of Jesus. It is possible that Judas, realizing that Jesus’ enemies were implacably hostile and that they were politically powerful, concluded that Jesus was foredoomed to lose in the struggle and so decided that he might as well gain immunity from sharing Jesus’ fate. Judas could compensate himself by claiming the reward for betrayal. His act, however, was more serious than an incidental piece of treachery; he sold himself to the power of evil. As John 13:27 states, “Satan entered into him,” and he came under the devil’s control.”
The text says,”the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot…” The perfect tense verb “having already (now) put” [ede beblekotos] denotes a thought that was literally, thrown or cast into Judas’ heart in the past which remains in his heart and is being exposed at this meal. Luke 22:3 says that Satan entered Judas when he offered to betray Jesus. Hence John’s “already” [ede] is pertinent. John repeats his statement in verse 27. In John 6:70 Jesus a year before had said that He had chosen one that was a devil.
We are told in John 13:27, “After the morsel, Satan then entered into him. Therefore Jesus said to him (Judas), ‘What you do, do quickly.”‘ This wasn’t demon possession but devil possession.
John MacArthur writes – “The fact that the devil entered the heart of Judas” does not exonerate Judas, because his wicked heart desired exactly what the devil desired, the death of Jesus. The devil and Judas were in accord.”
John notes that the devil had already prompted Judas lscoriot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus (John 13:2). It is extremely important to realize that Jesus is going to wash the feet of one who is considering betraying him. Judas has not yet given in to the temptation (John 13:27), but the devil has prompted him, or more literally, “put it into his heart.”
- John 13:18 “I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘HE WHO EATS MY BREAD HAS LIFTED UP HIS HEEL AGAINST ME.”‘
- Psalm 41 :9 “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.” David’s close companion betrayed him; he kicked him while he was “down.” The ultimate fulfillment of this verse is found in Judas (John 13:18, Matthew 26:21).
6. What does John 13:3 tell us about Jesus? The text says, “Jesus, knowing [eidos, repeated from verse 1] that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come forth from God and was going back to God.” John emphasizes the fact that Jesus was not the innocent victim of a plot, unaware of what was transpiring around him. Jesus was fully aware of his authority, his divine origin, and his destiny. John says much more about the inner consciousness of Jesus than the Synoptic Gospels do, either because he was more observant or because Jesus confided in him.
Jesus plainly restates this concept in John 16:28 when He said, “I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father.”
John MacArthur writes, “He faced the betrayal, agony, and death because he knew he would be exalted to the Father afterward, where he would receive the glory and fellowship he had eternally enjoyed within the Trinity (see John 17:4-5, which says, “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. 5 Now, Father,glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”
Jesus is fully conscious of his deity and messianic dignity when he performs the humble act of John 13:4-11.
7. What humble act of service did Jesus perform on the night before his crucifixion? (John 13:4) The immediate situation was that they had come to the banquet room directly from the street. Ordinarily on such an occasion the host would have delegated a servant to the menial task of removing the sandals of the guests and washing their feet. Since the meeting was obviously intended to be secret, no servants were present. None of the disciples were ready to volunteer for such a task, for each would have considered it an admission of inferiority to all the others. John the Baptist had used the act of such a servant as his standard of the lowest and meanest kind of service that could be required of any man (John 1:27).
On the night before His crucifixion, Jesus’ patience must have been taxed, because they still had not learned His oft-repeated lesson on humility. Jesus nevertheless corrected them by wrapping himself in a towel. Jesus “stooped to love them” and modeled a servant’s heart. Washing dirty feet should not have surprised His disciples since He clearly stated that one of His purposes for coming was to serve.
- Matthew 20:28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give
His life a ransom for many.”
- Mark 10:45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
- Philippians 2:5-8 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
8. Who customarily would be at the door when the guest arrived? It was a custom in those times to have a servant honor the guest by washing their feet when they arrived. Feet needed to be washed because when you reclined at dinner, you really didn’t care to recline your head 18 inches from someone’s dirty feet. The roads were either muddy
or dusty. Streets weren’t paved and sidewalks were unheard of. In those days more than human beings traveled the streets so the situation was pretty unsanitary with animal droppings from horses, oxen, and camels. So it was a courtesy to wash a person’s feet when they arrived at your home for a meal.
But when the disciples came to the upper room there was no one there to wash dirty feet. Why didn’t the disciples do it? Because they were having an argument. They were arguing about whom would be the greatest in the kingdom and no one wanted to disqualify himself by becoming a servant. They were seeking rank. I believe Jesus purposefully allowed the meal to start and waited to see whether one of his disciples would volunteer to be the servant. He waited purposefully to the middle of the meal to give one of them the chance to get up and go over and pick up the towel and basin and begin to wash dirty feet. They knew what the custom was.
The dusty and dirty conditions of the region necessitated the need for footwashing. People wore sandals without socks or stockings. It was a mark of honor for a host to provide a servant to wash a guest’s feet;it was a breach of hospitality not to provide for it (1 Samuel 25:41; Luke 7:40-50; 1 Timothy 5:10). Wives often washed their husbands’ feet, and children washed their parents’ feet. Most people, of course, had to wash their own feet.
Although the disciples most likely would have been happy to wash Jesus’ feet, they could not conceive of washing each other’s feet. This was because in the society of the time footwashing was reserved for the lowliest of menial servants. Peers did not wash one another’s feet, except very rarely and as a mark of great love.
9. How did Peter respond to Jesus washing his feet? (John 13:6-7) Peter’s response may have been representative of the common feeling among the disciples that Jesus ought not to demean himself by washing their feet. The two pronouns “you” and “my” stand together at the beginning of the sentence in emphatic contrast. The emphatic use of pronouns in Peter’s surprised question, “Lord, You [su] are washing my [mou] feet?” Kenneth Wuest translates it – “He said to Him, You – my feet you are washing?”
Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter” (John 13:7). The word “realize” [oidas] speaks of absolute and complete knowledge in contrast to the word “understanding [ginosei, future middle] which denotes knowledge gained by experience.
Peter said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me” (John 13:8).
Peter’s reply – “NEVER shall You wash my feet!” reveal both the impetuousness of his disposition and the high regard he had for Jesus. Peter, we may suppose, drew his feet up, as he spoke, in his impulsive humility” (Bernard). Peter felt that Jesus should not degrade himself by assuming such a position.
Slaves were looked down upon in the ancient world (d. Rengstorf 1964b), and Peter cannot stand the thought of his teacher doing the work of a slave (John 13:6). It would have been appropriate for one of the disciples to have washed Jesus’ feet, but the reverse is intolerable.
Peter’s response “Never shall You wash my feet!” [ou me eis ton aiona] is a very strong expression. The beginning of John 13:8 has been translated ”You shall by no means wash my feet as long as the world stands” or “NEVER to all eternity shall you wash my feet!” In the original language, this is a strong double negative [ou me]. Kenneth Wuest literally translates this double negative as “You shall by no means wash my feet, no, never.”
10. What did Jesus mean when he told Peter, “If I do not wash you,you have no part with Me”? (John 13:8) This expresses the necessity, not only for the cleansing of Peter’s feet to make him socially acceptable for the dinner, but also for the cleansing of his person to make him fit for the kingdom of God. The external washing was intended to be a picture of spiritual cleansing from evil. This cleansing was not merely about Peter’s hygiene but about his holiness. Peter couldn’t imagine being separated from Jesus. Peter continued to miss the spiritual lesson, but he was certain of his desire to be intimately joined to Jesus.
It does not say, “you have no part in me,” it’s not referring tq salvation. Peter had already received a spiritual bath when he placed his faith in Jesus as His Savior (Forgiver) and Lord (Leader). So the issue of Peter’s footwashing was connected with his spiritual cleansing that is essential for fellowship and ministry. This is why Christ says “you have no part with me” instead of “you have no part in Me.” Spiritual filth (sin) in our lives always hinders our fellowship with God, one another and ministry effectiveness (1 John 1:3, 6-9.
The result of “confessing our sins” (1 John 1:9) for parental forgiveness is predictable because of the trustworthy nature of our God. God promises to forgive [aphe, “cancellation of debts” or the “dismissal of charges”] and to cleanse [katharizo, purification from the pollution of sin] so that fellowship can be restored.
Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head” (John 13:9). Peter impulsively says, “Not my feet only,but also my hands and my head – Give me a bath!” Peter really doesn’t understand the symbolism behind washing his feet. A.T. Robertson quotes Dods as saying, “A moment ago he told his Master he was doing too much: now he tells him He is doing too little” (Word Pictures in the NewTestament pg. 238)
11. What was Jesus symbolizing by washing the disciples feet? (John 13:9-11) The interpretation of the symbolism is clear: After salvation all one needs is confession of sins, the continual application of Jesus’ death to cleanse one’s daily sins (1 John 1:7; 2:1-2). When Jesus added that not every one of you is clean, he was referring to Judas (John 13:11, 18). This suggests that Judas was not converted.
Jesus said, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet…” John MacArthur writes, “The cleansing that Christ does at salvation never needs to be repeated, it is complete and thorough at the point of conversion. But all who have been cleansed by God’s gracious justification need constant washing in the experiential sense as they battle sin in the flesh. Believers are justified and granted imputed righteousness (Philippians 3:8, 9),but still need sanctification and personal righteousness (Philippians 3:12-14).”
The guest was supposed to bathe before coming to a feast and so only the feet had to be washed on removing the sandals. This cleansing is effected once for all, and is never repeated.
So the bathing (John 13:10) is the cleansing from sin on the cross and that the footwashing would refer to the forgiveness of one’s daily sins. This passage illustrates the doctrinal truth that there is a difference between judicial forgiveness and parental forgiveness.
Judicial forgiveness establishes a permanent relationship with God at the moment of salvation. When a person receives Jesus Christ as his personal Savior, the gavel is dropped in heaven and a person is forgiven for all of his sins (past, present, and future), declared righteous and made a child of God (Colossians 2:13; 1 John 2:12).
The Bible teaches that Satan is answerable to God (Job 1:6-7). It appears that Satan uses these “report-in” sessions as an opportunity to accuse [kategoron] God’s people of disobedience. This is the devil’s constant occupation,”day and night” [komeras kai nuktos]. The godly of all ages have been the target of his slander.
When Satan enters God’s heavenly courtroom and begins to accuse the brethren, Jesus Christ comes to our defense. 1 John 2:1-2 says, “if anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins.” When Satan is accusing us, Jesus Christ is our advocate, [paraklotos] which means our defense attorney. Jesus steps up to the bench and pleads our case. He points out that our sins have been forgiven because we are trusting in his substitutionary death on the cross which satisfied [hilasmos, propitious, 1 John 2:2] the demands of a Holy God. Then the Father says, “This man’s sins have been paid in full, case dismissed!”
Parental forgiveness on the other hand maintains our fellowship with God. Even if a child runs away from home, changes his name, nothing can alter his relationship with his biological parents, but his actions will hinder their fellowship. In the same way nothing can alter our relationship with God, but sin in the life of a believer can hinder his fellowship with Him. This is why believers are encouraged to obtain parental forgiveness (1 John 1:9; Matthew 6:9, 12). We need a daily cleansing so we can experience sweet fellowship with our Savior.
Foot Washing – Parental Forgiveness (Matthew 6:9, 12, 1 John 1:3, 6-10)
Daily cleansing to maintain fellowship with God – John 13:10, Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet,…”
Bath – Judicial Forgiveness (Colossians 2:13, 1 John 2:12)
Total cleansing to establish a relationship with God – John 13:11, For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, “Not all of you are clean.”
12. Why does Jesus say “you are clean, but not all of you?” (John 13:10-11) This was a plain hint of the treachery of Judas who is reclining at the table after having made the bargain with the Sanhedrin (Mark 14:11). A year ago Jesus knew that Judas was a devil and said to the apostles: “One of you is a devil” (John 6:64, 70). The disciples did not suspect that Judas was a counterfeit in the past nor did they suspect him of being the unclean one now.
“Not all of you are clean” is a reference to Judas who was soon to lead the mob to capture Jesus (John 18:3). Jesus had known [eidei, imperfect tense] that Judas would betray him and yet he treated Judas with his usual courtesy. In fact Judas was already engaged in the process. Judas did have his feet literally washed, but he did not enter into the meaning of the event.
13. What second lesson from this footwashing did Jesus want to teach His disciples? (John 13:12) Jesus said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you?” A second lesson Jesus wished to impart to the disciples by this act was one of love and humble service. His question, “Do you know what I have done to you?” is in contrast with his words to Peter earlier: “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter” (John 13:7). The discernment of the disciples developed slowly. It took them a long time to begin to comprehend the intensity of Jesus’ love for them and the nature of his humility in dealing with them. After giving this object lesson in humility, the Lord questioned the disciples in order to draw out the significance of the lesson: “Do you understand” [ginoskete, perfect active indicative] “what I have done for you?” He asked them. (John 13:7). It was a searching question, particularly to Simon Peter and Judas.
14. What titles did the disciples call Jesus that He accepted without reluctance? (John 13:13) He was literally, “The Teacher” [ho didaskalos] and “The Lord” [ho kurios], both titles of respect that placed Jesus on a level above the disciples. Jesus emphasized the fact that as their leader He had stooped to serve their needs so they should do the same for one another.
15. What word in John 13:14 suggests moral obligation to follow Christ’s example? Jesus says, “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher,washed your feet, you also ought to wash one anothers feet.” The verb “ought” [Gr. opheilete] means “to owe a debt” and suggests moral obligation. It occurs several times in John’s Epistles (1 John 2:6; 3:16; 4:11; 3 John 8), but in the Gospel only here and John 19:7. In John 13:14, Jesus teaches that the obligation to ministry is a debt that must be paid. The word ought is the past tense of owe. The phrase “one another” denotes the mutual obligation and reciprocal nature of this love that serves each other.
If the Son of God, the second person of the trinity, the pure and holy, spotless One can get on the floor and wash the filthy feet of 12 self-centered selfish undeserving disciples, then we should be able to love as He loved. If He was willing to stoop to love, shouldn’t we follow his example?
16. Was Jesus instituting foot washing as an ordinance? (John 13:12-17) The “example” does not imply the perpetuation of foot washing as an ordinance in the church. The only other allusion to foot washing in the New Testament is found in 1 Timothy 5:10, where it does not refer to a regular custom, but seems to allude to humble slave like service to the poor. John calls this act an example [hupodeigma] which implies that the emphasis is on the inner attitude of humble and voluntary service for others. This passage emphasizes inner humility, not a physical rite.
The word used here suggests both “example” and “pattern” (Hebrews 4:11; 8:5; 9:25; James 5:10; 2 Peter 2:6). Jesus’ purpose in this action was to establish the model of acts of love done with humility. Not to follow the example of Jesus is to exalt oneself above Him and to live in pride.
Notice the purpose clause, “that [hina] you also should do as I did to you.” The verb “do” [poiete] is a present active subjunctive that is literally translated, “keep on doing.” Doing what? Doing acts of love in humility!
“Jesus, however, does not say to do “what” he did but “as” he did” (IVP). Notice the wording “do as I did to you”, Jesus didn’t say, “what I have done.” Jesus wants his disciples to imitate the spirit of his action, not necessarily the action itself. It is the spirit of humility that Christ modeled. This inner attitude manifests itself by voluntarily doing selfless acts of love, whether foot washing is needed or some other menial task.
Calvin’s comments should be heeded by all who take the practice as one to be perpetuated: “Every year they hold a theatrical foot washing, and when they have discharged this empty and bare ceremony they think they have done their duty finely and are then free to despise their brethren. But more, when they have washed twelve men’s feet they cruelly torture all Christ’s members and thus spit in the face of Christ himself. This ceremonial comedy is nothing but a shameful mockery of Christ. At any rate, Christ does not enjoin an annual ceremony here, but tells us to be ready all through our life to wash the feet of our brethren.”
Calvin here warns against the danger of externalism, he wanted his readers to grasp the spirit and attitude of humble service that Christ modeled.
17. Why does Jesus compare himself with his disciples and the Father? (John 13:16) The text says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him.”
Jesus is saying as my disciples (slaves) you are not greater than your Lord (master Gr. kyriou), so if I can stoop to serve so can you.
Jesus again doesn’t miss the opportunity to remind his disciples that he was sent” [pempsantos] and therefore always conscious of being commissioned by the Father. Jesus included his disciples in the commission (John 20:21) and also included them in the action of servanthood. Jesus portrayed for them the true nature of Christian living: serving one another. And for those who would be willing to take this role on themselves, Jesus said there would be blessings.
18. What “things” do you “know” now from this passage that you need to “do” in order to be blessed? (John 13:17) The word “blessed” means “happy.” The second “if” [eon] in this verse is a third-doss condition. This means that “Happiness is conditional.” The text says there are two conditions for happiness: Just knowing does not bring happiness, nor does just doing these things occasionally. What things is Jesus referring to?
Jesus says if you want to be blessed you must be a Room Maker, Group Lover, Bath Taker, Foot Washer, and Apron Wearer. Jesus says we need to make room for community in our busy lives, love one another to the fullest extent, experience judicial and parental forgiveness and be willing to do any menial task to demonstrate our love on one another.
1. Who is the person in your life who has demonstrated what it means to “wash feet”? What has the person done for you?
2. Are you willing to stoop to love? Is there any task too menial for you?
3. What “things” do you “know” now and need to “do” in order to be blessed? John 13:17
4. How will you put Jesus’ teaching into practice in at least one relationship this week at home, work, or church?
Sources: The questions and answers for this study were gleaned from the following resources.
1 . Serendipity Bible for Groups by: Serendipity House, Zondervan Publishing House, 1998
2. The Gospel of John, Introduction, Exposition and Notes by: F.F. Bruce, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1983
3. The Expositors Bible Commentary, Volume 9 by: Fronk E. Goebelein (General Editor), Zondervon Publishing House, 1981
4. Light in the Darkness, Studies in the Gospel of John by Homer A. Kent Jr., Boker Bookhouse, 1974.
5. The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel by: R.C.H. Lenski, Augsburg Publishing House, 1943.
6. The Gospel of John, A Series of Verse- By-Verse Outline Studies by: John MacArthur Jr., Word of Grace Communications.
7. Making Room for Community by: Rick Leineweber,MP3/CD, Grace Fellowship Church,2004
8. The Gospel According to John by: Leon Morris, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1971.
9. The Words and Works of Jesus Christ by: J. Dwight Pentecost, Zondervan Publishing House, 1981
10. John: The Gospel of Belief by: Merrill C. Tenney, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1948.
11.The Gospel According to St. John by: B.F. Westcott, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1975.
12. The New Testament – An Expanded Translation by: Kenneth S. Wuest, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1961
13.The MacArthur Study Bible by: John F. MacArthur, Jr., Word Publishing, 1997
14. The Chronological Life of Christ Vol.2 by: Mark E. Moore, College Press Publishing Company, 1997
15.Word Pictures in the New Testament Vol.5 by: Archibald Thomas Robertson, Broadman Press, 1932
[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber Jr.]
© Copyright 1994 Richard D. Leineweber Jr.