By: Steve Shirley
"Christ Washes The Disciples Feet" Let's begin by reading (Jn 13:1-17).
(Verse 1) "the Feast of the Passover" This is the final Passover meal that Jesus would take part in while on earth.
(Verse 1) "Jesus knew that His hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father" (Verse 23) "The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified." We have seen it said of Jesus a number of times in the Book of John: "My / His hour had not yet come" (Jn 2:4)(Jn 7:6,30)(Jn 8:20). Now, we see that Jesus' hour HAS come (also see: Jn 16:32, Jn 17:1).
(Verse 1) "having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end." Jesus was about to demonstrate how much He loved them.
(Verse 2) "And supper being ended" This "supper" was taking place on Thursday night, after sunset.
(Verse 2) "the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him" Judas had already made plans to betray Jesus (Mt 26:14-16)(Mk 14:10-11)(Lk 22:3-6). He was now about to put those plans into motion.
"Judas Iscariot" (Son of Simon: Jn 6:71) As we have mentioned previously, he is called a "devil" (Jn 6:70), and a "thief" (Jn 12:6). His betrayal of Jesus can be found in (Mt 26:47-50)(Mk 14:43-45). He betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver - Mt 26:14-16, Mt 27:9-10). He committed suicide by hanging himself (Mt 27:5) right after his betrayal.
(Verse 3) "Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands" Jesus was in total control of everything that was about to happen.
(Verse 3) "(knowing) that He was come from God, and went to God" The clearly points to Jesus' pre-existence.
(Verses 4-5) "(Jesus) began to wash the disciples' feet"
People in Bible times generally wore sandals, or sometimes just went barefoot, and their feet became very dirty when walking from place to place because the roads were unpaved and dusty. When someone was visiting a house as a guest, it was customary, and considered polite, for the host to offer the guest a basin of water in which to wash their feet (Gen 18:4)(Gen 19:2)(Gen 24:32)(Gen 43:24). In some homes, they actually had servants who washed the feet of the master and the guests. Because this was a job done by servants, it was considered a lowly, menial task.
***Note: This act by Jesus may have been preceded by a dispute amongst the disciples as to who was the "greatest disciple" (see: Lk 22:24-30).
(Verses 6 & 8) "Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet?... Thou shalt never wash my feet."
Because this was considered the job of a servant, Peter was going to refuse to let Jesus (his "Master and Lord" - verse 13) do this to him.
(Verses 7-9)(NASB) "What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.... If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me." (Verse 9) Simon Peter then said to Him, "Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head."
As Jesus said, neither Peter, nor the other disciples fully "understood" what Jesus was doing here. However, Peter knew enough to know that he wanted "a part with Jesus." Therefore, he figured "more is better." Put another way, Peter seems to be saying, "If washing my feet will give me a part with you, wash more than my feet so I can have a bigger part with you!"
(Verses 10-11)(NASB) "Jesus said to him, "He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you."
Jesus is talking here about "spiritual cleansing." Once a person had taken a bath (often in a "public" place), they were clean. However, after having taken the bath, that person would have to walk around, and their feet would get dirty again. While their body was still clean, they would have to wash their feet again.
The "bath" equals salvation, being cleansed from sin at salvation ("justification") (Rev 1:5)(1 Cor 6:11)(Titus 3:5). The "bath" need only be done once. "Wash his feet" speaks of the daily "cleansing" that we do after we are saved, confessing our sins and repenting so as to not let sin hinder our relationship with the Lord. (1 Jn 1:9) "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (also see: The Lord's Prayer: "Our Father who art in Heaven... forgive us our trespasses.")
(Verses 13-17) Jesus explains why He has washed their feet. What do you see in these verses?
While the vast majority of Christians see Jesus' act of "foot-washing" as symbolic, some believe that this was something that Jesus "commanded" us to do. As such, they have made it an ordinance on equal footing with baptism and the Lord's Supper. Should we hold "foot-washing" as symbolic, or something we literally need to do? I hold the "symbolic view," and let me explain why.
When Jesus (the master) was willing to wash the feet of the disciples (the servants), He was giving the disciples an "example" (Jn 13:15) of humility and humbling oneself. In (Mk 9:35) Jesus said, "If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all." In addition, He said in (Mt 20:26-28), "... whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; (27) and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: (28) even as the Son of man came not to be ministered (served) unto, but to minister (serve)..." Jesus was modeling this when He took the servant's role of washing the disciples feet.
In addition, here are three other reasons I consider Jesus foot-washing to be symbolic, and not literal.
First, as we mentioned above, this was a custom in Bible times. It is not a custom in our world today, nor is it needed any longer. We do not generally walk around in sandals or bare feet, and when we do, we have paved roads and walkways on which to walk. Plus, we rarely even WALK anywhere now to get from place to place; we drive or take some other mode of transportation.
Second, we see no examples of this being practiced anywhere else in the New Testament. The only other place it is even mentioned in the New Testament is in (1 Tim 5:10), in relation to widows.
Finally, I find making this an ordinance a serious mistake. Whether one sees this as symbolic or literal, I think we can agree that it is a picture of humility and being humble. If we make this an ordinance, and label one who does not follow it as disobeying God (a sinner), then we are saying "You must MAKE yourself humble when we decide to practice foot-washing in our church..." Can we "make" someone humble themselves? Isn't humility something that comes from a work of God inside of us? Do we "really" want to make an ordinance that forces people into humility, and then label them disobedient if they don't?
I would add here, however, that if you somehow think it is "beneath" you to wash the feet of someone else, you might want to consider why. The servant should never consider themselves too good to perform any task or job.
Next, let's read (Jn 13:18-30). "Jesus Predicts His Betrayal (by Judas)."
(Verse 18) "that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me."
The betrayal of Judas was prophesied in the Old Testament. This "Scripture" is found in (Ps 41:9). Brewer's Dictionary give us this definition for "lift up his heel:" "To kick me (physically or morally); to treat with contumely ("insolent or insulting language or treatment") or contempt: to oppose, to become an enemy. As an unruly horse kicks the master who trusts and feeds him."
(Verse 19) "Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he."
As we have mentioned in other places (i.e. Jn 8:24), the "He" in "I am He" is not found in the original Greek. Therefore, Jesus is saying that after this prophecy had "come to pass," and they realized that Jesus had told them about it before it happened ("come"), it would help them to "believe" that Jesus was "I AM!"
(Verse 23) "one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved" This phrase (or a form of it) is found only in the Gospel of John, and it is used 5 times: (Jn 13:23)(Jn 19:26)(Jn 20:2)(Jn 21:7,20). It is referring to the disciple / apostle John, the author of this Gospel. Why do you think John uses this phrase to describe himself?
(Verses 21-26) Jesus says, "one of you will betray Me." John asks, "Lord who is it?" Jesus replies, "It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it." Jesus then "gave (the) bread to Judas Iscariot."
(Verses 27-29)(NASB) "Jesus said to him (Judas), "What you do, do quickly." Verses 28 and 29 show us that the disciples are "totally" clueless as to what Jesus has just said. Rephrasing these verses, "Who will betray you Jesus?" "It is the one to whom I give this bread." Jesus then gives the bread to Judas, and the disciples can't seem to figure out that Judas is going to betray Jesus... Why don't they understand that it is Judas who will betray Jesus?? Can you explain this?
Looking at a parallel account in the Book of Matthew where Jesus spoke of Judas' betrayal, we learn a few more things:
(Mt 26:22-25) And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I? (23) And he answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me. (24) The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born. (25) Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said. (also see: Mk 14:17-21, Lk 22:21-23)
(Mt 26:26-29) After this, they took the Lord's Supper. This is not mentioned in the Book of John.
(Verse 27) "Satan entered him (Judas)." Very clearly a case of demon-possession. This is a matter of controversy amongst some Christians, but as we discussed in John Chapter 8, I do not believe that a Christian can be demon-possessed. Therefore, Judas clearly did not have saving faith like the other disciples. He was not a "Christian."
Again, reasons why I do not believe a Christian can be "demon-possessed:"
1. There is not one place in the Bible that "ever" shows that a Christian was demon-possessed.
2. Our bodies are the temple of God (1 Cor 3:16-17)(1 Cor 6:19-20). When a Christian is born again, the Holy Spirit comes to live inside of him. To say that Satan or demons can possess a Christian is to say that they are dwelling in the temple of God. The Bible shows us this is impossible in three ways.
A: Light and darkness cannot exist in the same place (1 Cor 6:14-15)(1 Th 5:5)(1 Pet 2:9)(Acts 26:18).
B: A house divided against itself cannot stand, and our house is occupied with Jesus (Mk 3:25)(Lk 11:17).
C: We are God's house and occupied by God (Heb 3:6)(2 Cor 5:1-2).
The Bible clearly shows, and gives examples of "non-Christians" being demon-possessed (i.e. Mt 8:28-34, Mt 9:32-34, Mt 12:32-34, Mt 15:21-28). However, nowhere are there verses, or examples of "Christians" being demon-possessed. Christians can certainly be oppressed, and influenced by Satan and his demons working outside of us, but not from inside of us. Christians can be demon-oppressed, but not possessed, non-Christians can be demon-possessed.
(Verse 30) "And it was night." Meant in a "literal" sense, however, it might also be thought of in a "spiritual" sense in that "it was night" for Judas. He would be dead (by suicide) later that day (Mt 27:3-10).
Finally, let's read (Jn 13:31-38).
(Verses 31-32) "glorified" Glorify here means "to bestow honor, praise or admiration" (Webster's) to God.
(Verse 33) "Little children" This term is used nowhere else in the Gospels. It seems that John never forgot Jesus' use of this term though, as he later uses it 7 times in 1st John (1 Jn 2:1,12,18,28)(1 Jn 3:7,18)(1 Jn 4:4)(1 Jn 5:21). Why do you think that Jesus, and later John used this term?
(Verse 33) "Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come."
Jesus said this to the Jews in (Jn 7:34) and (Jn 8:21). What He was saying here (and to the Jews) is that He was returning to Heaven and the Father, and neither the disciples, nor the Jews could not follow Him there. When Jesus said this to the Jews, it was "permanent" for most of them. They would not be able to "come" because they would not accept Jesus as their Savior ("ye shall die in your sins" - Jn 8:24). However, Jesus says to Peter in (verse 36) "Where I go, you (Peter) cannot follow Me NOW; but you will follow later." For Peter, and the disciples, they "would" be able to "come," and be with Him in Heaven, just not yet.
(Verse 34) "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another." (also see: 1 Jn 2:7-11, Mk 12:28-33)
Why did Jesus say this was "a new commandment?" The Old Testament clearly commanded people to "love one another" (i.e. Lev 19:18), right? John MacArthur shares two reasons for this in his study Bible. "...Jesus' command regarding love presented a distinctly new standard for two reasons: 1) it was sacrificial love modeled after His love ("as I loved you"; cf. 15:13), and 2) it is produced through the New Covenant by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit (cf. Jer. 31:29-34; Ezek. 36:24-26; Gal 5:22).
(Verse 35) "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." Love for one another is the mark of a Christian, that sets Christians apart from all other "religions" (see: 1 Jn 4:7-16). Remember the song, "And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love."
(Verse 36) "Where I go, you (Peter) cannot follow Me now; but you will follow later." While Peter missed the meaning here (verse 37), this was actually great news for Peter. Jesus was prophesying that he would one day ("later") be with Him in Heaven!
(Verses 37-38) Peter boldly declares, "I will lay down my life for You." Jesus, knowing the future (because He is fully God), knows that Peter will not be willing to do so before the day ends. He prophesies (NASB), "Truly, truly, I say to you, a rooster will not crow until you deny Me three times." (also see: Mt 26:33-35, Mk 14:29-31, Lk 22:31-34) Let's finish by looking at this prophecy being fulfilled in (Jn 18:15-17, 24-27). (also see: Mt 26:71-75, Mk 16:69-72, Lk 22:54-62)
When Peter said this, the Holy Spirit had not yet been given. His failure to "lay down his life for Jesus" was out of fear and cowardice. However, after Pentecost (Acts Ch. 2), when he received the Holy Spirit, Peter became bold and powerful, and eventually did "lay down his life for Jesus" almost 40 years later (app. 66 or 67 A.D.). ***Note: Jesus prophesied this in (Jn 21:18-19).