John – God Speaks!
The emphasis in John 13:1–3 is on what our Lord KNEW, and in John 13:4–5 on what our Lord DID. Jesus knew that “his hour was come.” More than any of the gospel writers, John emphasized the fact that Jesus lived on a “heavenly timetable” as He did the Father’s will.
Jesus also knew that Judas would betray Him. Satan had entered into Judas (Luke 22:3), and now he would give him the necessary thought to bring about the arrest and crucifixion of the Son of God. Judas was an unbeliever (John 6:64–71), so he did not have a “shield of faith” to use to ward off Satan’s attacks.
Finally, Jesus knew that the Father had given Him all things (John 13:3). This statement parallels John 3:35, and it also reminds us of Matthew 11:27. Even in His humiliation, our Lord had all things through His Father.
What Jesus knew helped determine WHAT JESUS DID (John 13:4–5). The disciples must have been shocked when they saw their Master rise from supper, lay aside His outer garments, wrap a towel around His waist, take a basin of water, and wash their feet.
NOTE: Jewish servants did not wash their masters’ feet, though Gentile slaves might do it. It was a menial task, and yet Jesus did it! As a special mark of affection, a host or hostess might wash a guest’s feet, but it was not standard operating procedure in most homes.
Jesus knew that there was a competitive spirit in the hearts of His disciples. In fact, within a few minutes, the men were disputing over which of them was the greatest (Luke 22:24–30). He gave them an unforgettable lesson in humility, and by His actions rebuked their selfishness and pride.
The more you think about this scene, the more profound it becomes. It is certainly an illustration of what Paul wrote years later in Philippians 2:1–16. Peter must have recalled the event when he wrote his first epistle and urged his readers to “be clothed with humility” (1 Peter 5:5). Centuries earlier Micah, the prophet, wrote what God requires of all of us, “And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
The Father had put all things into the Son’s hands, yet Jesus picked up a towel and a basin! His humility was not born of poverty, but of riches. He was rich, yet He became poor (2 Cor. 8:9).
It is remarkable how the gospel of John reveals the humility of our Lord even while magnifying His deity: “The Son can do nothing of himself” (John 5:19, 30). “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will” (John 6:38). “My doctrine is not mine” (John 7:16). “And I seek not mine own glory” (John 8:50). “The word which ye hear is not mine” (John 14:24). His ultimate expression of humility was His death on the cross.
It has well been said that humility is not thinking meanly of yourself; it is simply not thinking of yourself at all. True humility grows out of our relationship with the Father. If our desire is to know and do the Father’s will so that we might glorify His name, then we will experience the joy of following Christ’s example and serving others.
We today, just like the disciples that night, desperately need this lesson on humility. The church is filled with a worldly spirit of competition and criticism as believers vie with one another to see who is the greatest. We are growing in knowledge, but not in grace (see 2 Peter 3:18). “Humility is the only soil in which the graces root,” wrote Andrew Murray. “The lack of humility is the sufficient explanation of every defect and failure.”
Jesus served His disciples because of His humility and because of His love. Contrast John 13:1 with 1:11 and 3:16: Jesus came “unto his own [world], and his own [people] received him not.” “For God so loved the world.” In the Upper Room, Jesus ministered in love to His own disciples, and they received Him and what He had to say.The Greek text says, “He loved them to the uttermost.”
As Peter watched the Lord wash his friends’ feet, he became more and more disturbed and could not understand what He was doing. As you read the life of Christ in the Gospels, you cannot help but notice how Peter often spoke impulsively out of his ignorance and had to be corrected by Jesus. Jesus was trying to teach His disciples the importance of a holy walk.
When the sinner trusts the Savior, he is “bathed all over” and his sins are washed away and forgiven (see 1 Cor. 6:9–11; Titus 3:3–7; and Rev. 1:5). “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Heb. 10:17). However, as the believer walks in this world, it is easy to become defiled. He does not need to be bathed all over again; he simply needs to have that defilement cleansed away. God promises to cleanse us when we confess our sins to Him (1 John 1:9).
But why is it so important that we “keep our feet clean”? Because if we are defiled, we cannot have communion with our Lord. “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me” (John 13:8). The word translated “part” is meros, and it carries the meaning here of “participation, having a share in someone or something.”
When God “bathes us all over” in salvation, He brings about our union with Christ, and that is a settled relationship that cannot change. (The verb wash in John 13:10 is in the perfect tense. It is settled once and for all.) However, our communion with Christ depends on our keeping ourselves “unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). If we permit unconfessed sin in our lives, we hinder our walk with the Lord, and that is when we need to have our feet washed.
When Peter discovered that to refuse the Lord would mean to lose the Lord’s fellowship, he went in the opposite direction and asked for a complete bath!
We can learn an important lesson from Peter: don’t question the Lord’s will or work, and don’t try to change it. He knows what He is doing. Peter had a difficult time accepting Christ’s ministry to him because Peter was not yet ready to minister to the other disciples. It takes humility and grace to serve others, but it also takes humility and grace to allow others to serve us. The beautiful thing about a submissive spirit is that it can both give and receive to the glory of God.
John was careful to point out that Peter and Judas were in a different relationship with Jesus. Yes, Jesus washed Judas’s feet! But it did Judas no good because he had not been bathed all over. Some people teach that Judas was a saved man who sinned away his salvation, but that is not what Jesus said. Our Lord made it very clear that Judas had never been cleansed from his sins and was an unbeliever (John 6:64–71).
It is a wonderful thing to deepen your fellowship with the Lord. The important thing is to be honest with Him and with ourselves and keep our feet clean.
John 12, New Living Translation
Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet
Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. 2 It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. 4 So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, 5 and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.
6 When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”
8 “No,” Peter protested, “you will never ever wash my feet!”
Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.”
9 Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!”
10 Jesus replied, “A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet, to be entirely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For Jesus knew who would betray him. That is what he meant when he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. 17 Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.
How is my serve? What or Who drives my serve?
John 13:17 is the key—“Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.” Some translations say “happy” are you if you do them, meaning do what I do says Jesus. Serve like I serve from a place of unconditional love.
The sequence is important: humbleness, holiness, then happiness.
Happiness is the byproduct of a life that is lived in the will of God. When we humbly serve others, walk in God’s paths of holiness, and do what He tells us, then we will enjoy happiness, no matter what our circumstances might be around us.
Jesus asked the disciples if they understood what He had done, and it is not likely that they did. So, He explained it: He had given them a lesson in humble service, an example for them to follow. The world thinks that happiness is the result of others serving us, but real joy comes when we serve others in the name of Christ. The world is constantly pursuing happiness, but that is like chasing a shadow: it is always just beyond your reach.
Jesus was their Master, so He had every right to command their service. Instead, He served them! He gave them an example of true Christian ministry. On more than one occasion during the previous three years, He had taught them lessons about humility and service, but now He had demonstrated the lesson to them.
The servant (slave) is not greater than his master; so, if the master becomes a slave, where does that put the slave? On the same level as the master! By becoming a servant, our Lord did not push us down: He lifted us up! He dignified sacrifice and service. You must keep in mind that the Romans had no use for humility,and the Greeks despised manual labor. Jesus combined these two when He washed the disciples’ feet.
The world asks, “How many people work for you?” but the Lord asks, “For how many people do you work?”
Studying this section in John’s gospel can stir us emotionally or enlighten us intellectually, but it cannot bless us spiritually until we do what Jesus told us to do. This is the only way to lasting happiness. Be sure to keep these lessons in their proper sequence: humbleness, holiness, happiness. Submit to the Father, keep your life clean, and serve others. This is God’s formula for true spiritual joy.
Dear Heavenly Father, Lord and Savior,
Thank you for demonstrating your love for us in your serve and sacrifice. Help us to improve our serve daily. Help us to walk humbly because of our love for You. Make us holy by cleansing every dark corner of our lives. Following your example brings a happiness/joy the world cannot give. I know. I believe. Thank you.
In Jesus Name, Amen