John 13



Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet (1-17)

1 In Chapters 13-17, John describes the final meal Jesus had with His disciples and the teaching He gave them during and after the meal. This meal was the Passover feast, which is described in Mark 14:12-26.

In this first verse of Chapter 13, John tells us that Jesus knew His time to die had come, and that He would soon return to the Father, from whom He had first come (verse 3). He had loved his own who were in the world, that is, His disciples. Now He was going to show by His death the full extent of his love;99 that is, He was going to show them that He loved them fully—without limit.

2 Judas had already made an agreement with the Jewish leaders to betray Jesus. Therefore, he was looking for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them (Mark 14:10-11).

3 Although Jesus was about to be betrayed and killed, He knew that God had put all things under His power (see John 3:35; 17:2 and comments). He was God’s Son. He had come from God and was going back to God (John 16:28). He had God’s full authority. Yet He was about to perform the work of a slave: He was about to wash His disciples’ feet.

4-5 Luke has written that at the last supper Jesus’ disciples had been arguing about which of them was going to be greatest (Luke 22:24). So Jesus showed them by example that they should not seek to be masters, but rather they should seek to be servants. He told them, “I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27).

Then, to show them that He had not come to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45), He washed their feet. He took the very nature of a servant (see Philippians 2:5-7 and comment).

According to Jewish custom, even the lowliest slave didn’t have to untie his master’s sandals. Thus Jesus was doing the lowest kind of service for His disciples.

6-7 Peter did not really understand the reason why Jesus was washing the disciples’ feet. Jesus told him that he would understand better later, that is, after He had explained the reason (verses 14-15). The word later can also mean “after Jesus’ death and resurrection.” For at that time the Holy Spirit would teach the disciples all things and guide them into all truth (John 14:26; 16:13). Then the disciples would understand the full meaning of all Jesus’ actions and teachings.

8 As Jesus was about to wash Peter’s feet, Peter refused. Peter felt it was wrong that His master and teacher should act like his slave. Rather, Peter would have happily washed Jesus’ feet.

But Jesus said to Peter, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” Jesus’ washing of His disciples’ feet was a sign of His washing them from sin. Only those who have been forgiven and cleansed from sin can have a part with Jesus—can have a part in His kingdom.

9 Peter at once changed his mind. He didn’t want to be shut out of Christ’s kingdom. So he asked Jesus to wash his hands and head too!

10 Jesus then told Peter that only his feet needed washing. Peter had already had a bath. Jesus meant that Peter had already been baptized and had his sins washed away. His whole body was clean; that is, his inner heart and mind and spirit were clean. Once a man is cleansed of his sins through faith in Christ, he doesn’t need to be cleansed of those same sins again (see John 15:3).

In the Middle East in Bible times, if a man was invited to his neighbor’s house to eat, he first took a bath at home. Then as he walked to his neighbor’s house, his feet would become dirty. And so before supper, his neighbor would provide water so that he could wash his feet.

It is the same with Christians. We have all had a spiritual “bath.” But as we walk through the world, we fall into temptation, we sin, we become tired and discouraged. In other words, our feet become dirty. Therefore, we regularly need to “wash our feet” by confessing our sins daily (see 1 John 1:9 and comment). Not only must we wash our own feet; we also must follow Jesus’ example and wash each other’s feet (verse 14). We ourselves cannot purif y our brother; only Christ can do that. But we can admonish one another, and encourage and refresh one another. This is the meaning of foot-washing.

There is a further thing to remember: We must be willing to let a brother wash our feet. Let us not refuse, as Peter did. We must be willing to humbly accept service, as well as give it.

11 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “You are all clean except for one of you” (verse 10). He was speaking about Judas. He knew that Judas was going to betray Him. But Jesus did not tell the disciples at that time; He only said, “One of you is not clean.

12 After washing all His disciples’ feet—Judas’ feet also—Jesus explained the meaning of what He had done.

13-15 Like all good teachers, Jesus taught not only by word but also by example. By the example of washing their feet, He taught His disciples that they should in love and humility serve each other, and help and encourage each other. Each one should consider his brother better than himself (see Philippians 2:3).

In Jesus’ time, a humble man was despised. He was considered weak. But Jesus taught that the humble man is, in fact, the strong man spiritually. He may be despised by men, but he is honored by God.

Some Christians understand these words of Jesus to mean that we should actually wash each other’s feet in a literal manner. They hold foot-washing ceremonies from time to time. They do it as a witness that they are ready to of fer any kind of humble service to their brother.

16 If their master humbled Himself, the disciples should do likewise. They are not higher or better than Christ. Let them not say, “I won’t do such a menial task.” If Christ did it, they can do it. Just as the disciples should expect to be persecuted like their master, so should they expect to humble themselves like their master. … no servant is greater than his master (see Matthew 10:24; John 15:20). As the master does, so must the servant do also.

The disciples were messengers, sent out by their master. To be appointed a messenger of the Son of God was a great honor. But it would also lead to humiliation in the sight of men.

17 Knowing God’s will is not enough. Only those who do God’s will will be blessed (see Luke 11:28; James 1:22; 4:17). For example, we all know that it is right to be humble. But how of ten do we actually humble ourselves?

Jesus Predicts His Betrayal (13:18-30)

18 Jesus had told His disciples that not everyone of them was clean (verse 10). He knew about each one of them. He had chosen them, knowing beforehand that Judas would betray Him. It was prophesied in Psalm 41:9 that one who shares my bread—that is, a close colleague of Jesus—would be the betrayer. He would “lift up his heel” against Jesus, in the same way a horse lifts up its heel before it kicks.

A question arises: if Jesus knew from the beginning that Judas was going to betray Him, how could Judas be considered guilty This same issue also arose concerning the Jews who did not believe in Jesus (see John 12:37-40 and comment). Even though Jesus knew that Judas would betray Him, Judas, like the unbelieving Jews, was nonetheless held guilty. He was responsible for his behavior. Judas was like the Pharaoh of Egypt whose heart was hardened so that God’s glory and power might be manifested (see Romans 9:14-21 and comment).

19 Jesus warned His disciples several times that one of them would betray Him. If He had not told them in advance, their faith would have been completely shattered when they saw Judas, one of their own fellow disciples, come with soldiers to arrest Jesus. Having been warned, the disciples at least would know that it had all been according to God’s plan from the beginning (see John 14:29 and comment).

20 See Matthew 10:40; Mark 9:37; John 12:44-45 and comments.

21 Jesus was troubled in mind by the knowledge that one of His own disciples was going to betray Him. Again He told His disciples about His betrayal. Up to then He had only told them that a close colleague would be the betrayer (verse 18). Now He said that it would be one of the Twelve.

22 When they heard this, the disciples were amazed. Surely none of them would betray Jesus deliberately! They supposed that He meant that one of them would betray Him by accident, without realizing it. “Surely not I?” each one asked (Mark 14:18-19).

23-26 The disciple whom Jesus loved was John, the writer of this Gospel (John 21:20,24). Jesus had a special love for John. of all the disciples, John had the closest relationship to Jesus. Therefore, Peter told John to ask Jesus which of the disciples would be the betrayer.

Jesus told John that He would dip a piece of bread in a dish of sauce and give it to the disciple who would betray Him. Then Jesus dipped the bread and gave it to Judas (see Mark 14:20-21).

27-28 Jesus did not want to tell everyone who the betrayer was. That is why He told John by means of a sign—by dipping the bread. But even John didn’t fully understand the sign. He understood that Judas was to be the betrayer, but he didn’t realize that Judas was going to betray Jesus that very night! Otherwise, he surely would have tried to stop Judas.

29-30 Therefore, when Judas went out, John and the other disciples simply thought that Judas had some business to do for Jesus. He was the treasurer of the group of disciples (John 12:6).

Judas went out into the darkness. For Judas, spiritual night had fallen indeed!

Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial (13:31-38)

31 After Judas had gone out, Jesus began to give His disciples some of the most important teaching He had yet given them, which teaching John now relates for us beginning with verse 31 and going on to the end of Chapter 17.

Judas had gone out to call the Jewish leaders to arrest Jesus. Thus Jesus’ death was about to occur. Therefore, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified.” Jesus was glorified through His death. His glorification, therefore, had now begun.

God was also glorified in him—that is, by Jesus’ death—because Jesus died according to God’s will. Jesus glorified God by following God’s will in complete obedience.

32 God received glory from Christ. Therefore, God would give glory to Christ. God will glorify the Son in himself. The words in himself can mean “in God,” or “in heaven.” They can also mean “in Christ.” That is, God will give Christ a glory of His own. Whichever the meaning is, Jesus was talking about His resurrection. The resurrection would be the sign that God had indeed glorified His Son. This was going to happen at once. There would be no more delay. Jesus’ hour had come.

33 Jesus then told His disciples that He was soon to die. They could not come with Him, because it was not yet their time to die. “Where I am going, you cannot come,” He said to them. They would come later, but not right then (see verse 36).

Jesus had said this same thing to the unbelieving Jews. However, He had also told the Jews, “You will look for me, but you will not find me.”He did not say that to His disciples. Those who do not believe in Jesus in this life will not find Jesus in the next life. They will not live with Jesus in heaven (see John 7:33-34; 8:21 and comments).

34-35 Then Jesus gave the disciples a new command. Love one another. It is of ten called the third great commandment. The second great commandment says: Love your neighbor as yourself (see Mark 12:31 and comment). This third commandment says: Love your Christian brother as Jesus loved you.

Christians must have a special love for each other, a brotherly love. This love must be fervent (1 Peter 1:22). It must be visible to others, because it is by this love that others will know that we are Jesus’ disciples. This love will be the proof that we are His disciples. Men won’t know we are disciples by our great works; they will know it only by our love (see 1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

As I have loved you, so you must love one another. How did Jesus love us? He gave His life for us (see John 15:12-13). To this extent, then, we must love our brother. This is the meaning of true Christian fellowship. But unless one has accepted Christ as Lord, one can have no part in this fellowship.

When other people see our love for each other, they will be attracted to our fellowship. They will want to become part of our fellowship. When they see our love, they will understand how great Jesus’ love was for them. That is why we must love each other as Jesus loved us. By loving each other in this way, our love will then be a testimony to Jesus’ love (see 1 John 3:23; 4:7,11-12,21 and comments).

36 Peter was still thinking about Jesus’ words, “Where I am going, you cannot come” (verse 33). He asked Jesus, “Where are you going?” But Jesus only answered that Peter could not follow right then.

37 Peter sensed that Jesus was talking about His death. So Peter told Jesus that he would go anywhere with Jesus. He was even ready to die with Jesus.

38 Peter was promising more than he could fulfill. He wasn’t ready to die for Jesus. He was about to deny Jesus (see Mark 14:27-31,66-72 and comment). Instead, it was Jesus who was about to die for Peter.

Peter was proud. He had confidence in his own strength. He should have been more humble. Those who think they are strong in themselves will soon find out that they are really weak (see 1 Corinthians 10:12).