John 13:1-3-Jesus and the disciples are celebrating the Passover feast, together. Notice that John tells us three important realities that Jesus knew (“knowing”) and was certain about:
1.-the purpose of His ministry…while His brutal death and the hatred expressed towards Him in the coming hours would abruptly end His life and might make it appear that He had failed in His ministry…He had actually succeeded because He had brought the love of God to man (:1).
2.-the authority of His ministry…despite the accusations that would soon be leveled against Him, it was given to Him by the Father (:3).
3.-the result of His ministry…ultimately, regardless of what was about to happen, He would win the day and return victoriously to where He had come from, the presence of the Father in Heaven (:3).
These three realities were vitally important because they would give Him the faith necessary to face what He would encounter in the coming hours. So, with these realities in mind…Jesus intentionally begins the closure of the final days of His ministry on earth. Notice that there is mention of the fact that Judas had already made the decision to betray Jesus. Perhaps John mentions this, knowing that Jesus was conscious of it, as a means of giving us the first hint at how important Jesus’ awareness of these three realities would be. Without absolute confidence in these realities…Jesus might have become discouraged at the very outset of these last days because one of His own inner circle of followers had betrayed Him.
If we are to be faithful followers of Jesus…then we too must be confident of these three realities in our own lives. Otherwise, we may be tempted to stop short and not finish what God has intended for us to do with our lives.
John 13:4-The “supper” spoken of here is the meal that was a part of the Passover celebration (it preceded the institution by Jesus of the Lord’s Supper).
For an explanation of the Passover celebration and its order of service see:
February 11, Matthew 26:20-30 and April 29, Luke 22:1-30
John 13:4-17-The subject of these verses is forgiveness. It is first explained in terms of our relationship with God (:5-11), then it is explained in terms of our relationship with one another (:12-17).
John 13:5-11-Jesus had prearranged the home where they would share this Passover meal. The roads they would travel to get there were dusty and perhaps even muddy. While a person might have cleaned himself before leaving home to attend a meal…by the time he arrived his feet and legs would likely have become dirty, again. Typically, the disciples would be assembled side-by-side around a table…each one seated on a pillow on the ground…leaning on his elbow for support. Each person’s feet would then be right next to the person next to him. Dirty, smelly feet don’t provide for an appealing atmosphere. So, it was customary for a household servant to wash the feet of those gathered for the meal. Jesus wrapped a towel around His waste, a symbolic act of His accepting the role of the servant, and proceeded to wash the feet of the disciples. He is about to give an object lesson, a living demonstration of forgiveness. When He kneels in front of Peter, he objects. He is dismayed that Jesus, whom He calls “Lord”, would lower Himself from being the Master of the group to a humble servant to the group. It was as if Peter was saying, “Surely it is not appropriate for the leader to lower Himself beneath the others.” Jesus tells him that while he doesn’t fully understand the significance of what He is doing at the moment, he will later. There are two key words that Jesus used that explain the significance of His action in reference to forgiveness. The first is “bathed”. It is a reference to the fact that a person would bathe prior to leaving home in order to be clean. Jesus tells Peter, “He who has bathed…is completely clean” (:10). This bathing is a reference to the initial forgiveness of sin that comes when we accept Jesus as our Savior…when we accept His invitation to sit at the table with Him. It settles once and for all our eternal relationship with God. You never need to “bathe” again, to be saved again. But as we proceed through life, as we walk its roads, there will be times when our feet will get dusty. Believers will sin. They are still believers…they have not lost their salvation…but they can lose the intimacy of fellowship with God that He intends for them to have. It is for this reason that Jesus says that they must “wash”. Here, Jesus is speaking of the forgiveness of sin from a temporal perspective. This person is still saved (his relationship with the Father is eternally secure)…but his fellowship with the Father is hindered. In which case, he needs to repent so that the disruptive consequences of sin will be washed away. Notice that Jesus says, “and you are clean, but not all of you.” John then explains that He was speaking of the fact that not all of them are saved, that one being Judas (:11).
John 13:12-17-Having washed the feet of the disciples, Jesus now applies this symbolic demonstration of forgiveness to their fellowship with each other. He tells them that what He had just done was to be an “example” for them (:15). It is a distinct act of humility to lower yourself directly in front of a person, eye to eye, and wash the dirt off of their feet. This willingness to be humble before another person is intended to impress upon them the motivation to respond in a like manner. The willingness to initiate forgiveness will hopefully result in an equivalent willingness in the other person to respond in forgiveness. Jesus tells them that if it was appropriate for Him to do so with them, then certainly, it was appropriate for them to do so with one another. None of them is to assume that they are superior to the rest and not responsible to have this same attitude (:15-16). There is a double blessing in store for those who are willing to humbly practice forgiving others. Their own heart will be cleansed of any unforgiving attitude…and, they will have ministered in such a way that another believer’s heart will also be pure.
Prayer: Lord, please help me to have a humble heart and to serve others…even as You did. Don’t let there be any attitude of unforgiveness in my heart.