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Jesus Washes the Disciples Feet



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In (Jn. 13), we are approaching the final act of the gospel. Jesus has made His entrance into Jerusalem, the hour of the cross has come. In the following few scenes, Jesus will begin teaching and preparing His disciples for His departure.


John is a beautiful account of the life and ministry of Jesus. He tells us why he is writing his account:


John 20:31 “but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”


John is writing to know and believe in Jesus, the Anointed of God. In doing so, John gives us so much to consider. For example, in our text today, I believe we find a glimpse of the glory of Jesus and the meaning of the gospel in the example of Jesus washing the disciple's feet.


TO THE FATHER

John 13:1

“Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” (emph. added)


As we have read and noticed, the words of Jesus, his time, or his hour had not yet come. However, in (Jn. 12), Jesus says, "The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified." (ref. Jn. 12:23). Jesus was to be "lifted up" (ref. 12:32ff); He said these things to signify the type of death He would experience, referencing the cross. But what do we learn new in (Jn. 13)? Jesus will depart from this world to the Father.


What is John doing? John is keying us into the mission of Jesus. In (Jn. 13), as Jesus washes the disciple's feet, we need to read carefully.


John 13:1–3

“Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, 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”


N. T. Wright brilliantly describes how John sets up the rest of his gospel from these first three verses.


“The first three verses form a detailed introduction both to the footwashing scene and to the whole of the rest of the book. Watch how John, like a brilliant artist, fills in the background with three quick strokes of the brush. Understand each of these, and you’ll see not only what the footwashing meant but also what Jesus’ death and resurrection mean.” [1]


If I may do my best to summarize what N. T. Wright describes in his commentary:


First, the scene is before the feast of the Passover. When John mentions the Passover, we know that he wants us to understand that Jesus is applying the Passover meaning to Himself. He is the Passover lamb (1:29; 36). At Passover, Jesus spoke of the Temple being destroyed and rebuilt - speaking of His body (2:19-21). Jesus feeds the multitudes (Jn. 6) at Passover-time as He taught about His body and blood. John wants us to see that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Passover.

Second, Jesus' time had come. And it's not just that Jesus will die on the cross. It goes beyond this. Jesus will leave this world and go to the Father. It's not just that Jesus will die. He will be resurrected raised to new life.

Third, what is now done is the action of supreme love. Going back to the "Good Shepherd" (Jn. 10), the greatest thing the shepherd can do is to lay down his life for the sheep. Jesus "loved them to the end" (He loved them to the uttermost).


WASHING THE DISCIPLE'S FEET


Moving back to the text, John records:

John 13:2–11

“And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, 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 rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. 5 After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. 6 Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, “Lord, are You washing my feet?” 7 Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.” 8 Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” 9 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, “You are not all clean.”


John does not give us a lot of details about the meal itself. Instead, he draws our attention to the act of love and service demonstrated by Jesus. However, during this demonstration of love, selfishness, and greed breaks into the scene. Not in Jesus, but we are told about the person of Judas, who is among Jesus' closest friends.


Judas has already had the threads of deception sewn into his heart. From the time of The Garden, the deceiver shows up to sew in deception and try and disrupt God's purposes. It's no different here as Jesus begins His last steps toward the cross. However, this teaching and example are what God is doing through His Son, Jesus.


Jesus removes His outer garments, wraps a towel around His waist, and pours water into a bowl. Then, Jesus begins to wash the disciple's feet. This act would have been a sign of hospitality offered to guests by the host.


We see this example in Abraham from (Gen. 18). There the Lord, with others, appears to Abraham under the terebinth trees in the heat of the day. Abraham offered water to them to wash their feet and some food for refreshment. Not only was this an act of hospitality, but it was also an act of humility that a servant typically carried out. This is the reason for Peter's shock at Jesus, a rabbi who was washing His student's feet!


John 13:6b-8

“Lord, are You washing my feet?” 7 Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.” 8 Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”


Peter, understanding their culture, does not want their Rabbi, their Teacher, to submit Himself or lower Himself to this place of servitude. This is not the place of a Rabbi but a servant. Peter, though, quickly submits to what Jesus is doing. He wants to be part of Jesus. Although he may not understand everything Jesus is doing, Peter desires to share in Jesus.


John 13:6–9 “Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, “Lord, are You washing my feet?” 7 Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.” 8 Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” 9 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!”


THE GLORY OF THE SERVANT


As we have often seen in John’s gospel, there are many layers to what John is sharing and to what Jesus is teaching. So in (13:12), we are clued in again that there is more going on in this lesson.


John 13:12

“So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you?”


Let’s back up in our text and see how Jesus is revealed as we notice the garments

John 13:3–4 “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 rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself.”


We need to read carefully and focus on the details. Knowing He (Jesus) had come from God and was going to God, Jesus removes His outer garments and puts on the garments of a servant. As a servant, Jesus washes His disciple's feet. Washing their feet is an act of humility, love, and self-sacrifice. After this act of service and sacrifice. After Jesus had washed the disciple's feet, John records, "So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you?" (Jn. 13:12). After Jesus washes the feet of the disciples, He puts His outer garments back on and reclines at His rightful place around the table. In this beautiful account, John reveals Jesus. The Word who became flesh and dwelt among them as they beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (ref. Jn. 1:14).


In Philippians, the apostle Paul expresses this:


Philippians 2:6–11

“who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”


JESUS & THE GOSPEL


Jesus is the gospel. As we begin to understand Jesus, we begin to understand the gospel. Jesus demonstrates selfless love, an attitude of hospitality, and humble service. As we follow Jesus through the gospel of John, we see these characteristics are constant in His life. They are characteristics of the gospel and should be characteristic of our lives as those who follow Jesus.




endnotes:

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


1 Excerpt From: N. T. Wright. “John for Everyone, Part 2.” Apple Books.



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