John 13:5

5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.

John 13:5 Meaning and Commentary

John 13:5

After that be poureth water into a bason
This also was a servile work, and what properly belonged to servants to do; see ( John 2:5-7 ) . The bason to wash the feet in, called by the Jews (Mylgr) (tbyre) , was fixed by their doctors to hold, "from two logs to nine kabs" F20; not "from two logs to ten", as Dr. Lightfoot has rendered the passage referred to. A "kab" held about a quart of our measure, and a "log" was the fourth part of a "kab".

And began to wash the disciples feet.
This custom of washing the feet was not used by the Jews at their passover, nor at their private entertainments, or common meals, but at the reception of strangers or travellers, which were just come off of a journey, whereby they had contracted dirt and filth, and was a servile work, never performed by superiors to their inferiors, but by inferiors to superiors; as by the wife to the husband, by the son to the father, and by the servant to his master; and was an instance of great humility in any others, as in Abigail, who said to David, "let thine handmaid be a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my Lord", ( 1 Samuel 25:41 ) , upon which place some Jewish Rabbins F21 have this note:

``this she said, (hwneh du le) , "by way of humility", to show, that it would have been sufficient to her, if she became a wife to one of the servants of David, and washed his feet, as was the custom of a wife to her husband.''
But what a surprising instance of humility and condescension is this, that Christ, the Lord and master, should wash the feet of his disciples, when it was their proper work and business to have washed his? Though Dr. Lightfoot says, he does not remember that this was expected from the disciple toward his master, unless included in that rule, "that the disciple is to honour his master, more than his father"; whereas it was a fixed point F23 with the Jews,
``that all works which a servant does to his master, a disciple does to his master, except unloosing his shoe.''

Since therefore it was the work of a servant to wash his master's feet, a disciple was obliged to do this to his master likewise:

and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded;
as he began he went through with his work; and having washed their feet, he wipes them clean; which may design the purity of the lives and conversations of the saints in general, and of the ministers of the Gospel in particular, whose feet are beautiful when shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace, and their conversations are as become the Gospel they preach; both which they have from Christ.


F20 Misn. Yadaim, c. 4. sect. 1. Vid. Misn. Celim, c. 20. sect. 2.
F21 R. Levi ben Gersom & R. Samuel Laniado in I Sam. xxv. 41. Vid. T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 96. 1. & Maimon. Hilch. Ishot, c. 21. sect. 7.
F23 T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 96. 1.

John 13:5 In-Context

3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God,
4 got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself.
5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.
6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?"
7 Jesus answered, "You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand."