"In chapter 13, John's attention turns from the themes of light and life to that of love. The Passover spent in the Upper Room with the disciples will prove more memorable and critical for their final training. With the cross overshadowing Jesus and the authorities pressing in, the mood becomes tense but the significance of the moment will remain with the disciples long after Jesus is gone." (Harvest study)
Warren Wiersbe divides the first 5 verses on what our Lord knew (vv. 1-3) and on what our Lord did (vv. 4-5). In verse 1 we read that Jesus knew that "His hour was come. It was the time when He would be glorified through His death, resurrection and ascension." In verse 3 we see that "Jesus knew that the Father had given Him all things." Wiersbe adds that "what Jesus knew helped determine what Jesus did." In verses 4-5 we read about Jesus washing the disciples feet. He says, "the disciples must have been shocked when they saw their master rise from supper, lay aside His outer garments, wrap a towel around His waist, take a basin of water, and wash their feet." This was a very significant act because in the culture at that time, "Jewish servants did not wash their master's feet. It was a menial task, and yet Jesus did it!"
"When you know the time you have left is short, the increasing awareness that the clock is ticking keeps you focused in on the main thing. For Jesus, getting His affairs in order meant getting His disciples ready to carry on His commission to go into all the world after His departure. It meant modeling for them an example of love and servant leadership that would, in turn, become the basis for future ministry." (Harvest study)
I love this picture of love by our Savior. Verse 2 says that "having loved His own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love (or He loved them to the last)." One of my favorite Scriptures is Philippians 2:3-5 which reads, "do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interest of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus." This has been a focus of character in our home lately as I desire to move my children from self-focus, to considering and serving others. I have had opportunities to be of service to my grandparents and now our parents. One day my dad commented on how I was often "taking care of grandmas" and asked where I learned to do that. For one, as a believer, I have learned to serve as Christ served. But, I have also come to realize that the seeds of service were planted by my own mom. Growing up, my mom was always in the kitchen after family dinners doing dishes and cleaning up. Whenever she has hosted an event in her home, she always goes out of her way to present a lovely table, to make sure everyone has food they like and waits to serve herself until everyone else has what they need. I cannot get away from the idea that if we claim Christ, then we must model Him in every way to the best of our ability. I find it a privilege to be able to come alongside my parents and grandparents and serve them in various ways. I have also chosen a life of service to my family by being a stay-at-home wife and homeschooling mom. On days that I am weary or frustrated, I remind myself that I always want my husband and children to know that I "loved them to the last". I hope that my example will mean something to my own children as they grow as my mom's example did to me.
In verse 6 we see that Peter was not ready to accept this act of service from the Lord. He told the Lord, "no, you shall never wash my feet." When the Lord told Peter that he could have no part with Him, then Peter asked for his feet, hands and head to be washed. Warren Wiersbe writes that "Peter had a difficult time accepting Christ's ministry to him because Peter was not yet ready to minister to the other disciples. It takes humility and grace to serve others, but it also takes humility and grace to allow others to serve us. The beautiful thing about a submissive spirit is that it can both give and receive to the glory of God."
The washing of the disciples' feet "was symbolic of the cleansing of sin." When Jesus told Peter that he could have no part of Jesus unless He washed him, "what Jesus meant is that pride was getting in the way of Peter's relationship with Jesus and, unless he put his pride aside, he could have no fellowship with Jesus." (Harvest study)
Wiersbe writes, "(Jesus) gave (the disciples) an unforgettable lesson in humility, and by His actions rebuked their selfishness and pride. . . Jesus was the Sovereign, yet He took the place of a servant. He had all things in His hands, yet He picked up a towel. He was Lord and Master, yet He served His followers. It has well been said that humility is not thinking meanly of yourself; it is simply not thinking of yourself at all. True humility grows out of our relationship with the Father. If our desire is to know and do the Father's will so that we might glorify His name, then we will experience the joy of following Christ's example and serving others. We today, just like the disciples that night, desperately need this lesson on humility. . . We are growing in knowledge, but not in grace (2 Peter 3:18). 'Humility is the only soil in which the graces root.' -Andrew Murray - 'The lack of humility is the sufficient explanation of every defect and failure.' Jesus served His disciples because of His humility and because of His love. . . 'He loved them to the uttermost' (Greek text).
In verse 11, Jesus answers Peter's remark about a whole body washing by "teaching that those who have had the washing of spiritual regeneration - a complete cleansing - need only to have their feet washed from time to time in order to be clean. In other words, they don't need to be saved all over again; they only need to keep a short account with God by confessing and receiving His forgiveness" (Harvest study). Wiersbe adds that "when the sinner trusts the Savior he is 'bathed all over' and his sins are washed away and forgiven. However, as the believer walks in the world, it is easy to become defiled. He does not need to be bathed all over again, he simply needs to have that defilement all cleansed away. God promises to cleanse us when we confess to Him." 1 John 1:9 reads, "if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." As the Harvest study sums up, "if (we're) willing to live out what the Bible says (in this verse), (we'll) receive continual cleansing and enjoy fellowship with God."
It also takes humility to acknowledge our sin and to ask for forgiveness. I will never forget the words from the superintendent at my interview for a 6th grade position. He said that he expected his staff to maintain a teachable spirit - we mustn't ever believe we were above correction or instruction. This applies to our daily lives as well. I often have to remind my daughter of this when she becomes defensive over correction. Instead of accepting responsibility for her actions, she wants to divert blame to others. It is not pleasant to be faced with our sin, but we must keep short accounts with the Lord and with one another. Unconfessed sin leads to guilt and shame before the Lord and anger and bitterness between people. It is much better to quickly get over the discomfort of confession and apologizing rather than face a long term broken relationship with the Lord or with others.
In verse 11, we see Jesus' statement that "not all of you are clean." Of course we know that He was referring to Judas Iscariot. Judas obviously had not been "bathed all over" to have his sins washed away and forgiven. Jesus spoke of this in John 6:64.
Following the washing of the disciples feet, Jesus sat down to explain what He had just done. He explained that He had given them an example to follow - an example of humble service. And if they followed his example they would be blessed. Warren Wiersbe writes that "John 13:17 is the key - 'If you know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.' The sequence is important: humbleness, holiness, then happiness. Happiness is the byproduct of a life that is lived in the will of God. When we humbly serve others, walk in God's path of holiness, and do what He tells us then we will enjoy happiness."
Jesus had given the disciples "a lesson in humble service, an example for them to follow. The world thinks that happiness is the result of others serving us, but real joy comes when we serve others in the name of Christ. The world is constantly pursuing happiness, but that is like chasing a shadow: it is always just beyond your reach."
"The servant (slave) is not greater than his master, so, if the master becomes a slave, where does that put the slave? On the same level as the master? By becoming a servant, our Lord did not push us down: He lifted us up! African Proverb - The chief is servant of all."
"Submit to the Father, keep your life clean, and serve others. This is God's formula for true spiritual joy."
The chapter ends with Jesus driving home "the practical application of His teaching to the disciples", "sending out His betrayer, giving His disciples a new commandment, and predicting the future of one of His closest followers." (Harvest Study)
We ask ourselves "how is it possible to be a disciple and go through the motions on the outside but all the while be a traitor on the inside? Judas and Peter were both disciples of Jesus Christ. Both had walked with Him for three and a half years; listened to Him teach and watched Him perform miraculous signs and wonders. Yet, the choices and consequences of these two individuals stand in stark contrast to each other." (Harvest study)
Jesus identifies His betrayer in verses 18-30. This was a fulfillment of Psalm 41:9 where David wrote "even my close friend whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me." David wrote this about Ahithopel who betrayed him and sided with Absalom. Both men committed suicide. Jesus said He told the disciples this so that they would believe in Him. The disciples were "at a loss to know which of them He meant." Jesus identified Judas by saying the one who would betray Him was the one whom He gave the piece of bread when He had dipped it in the dish.
"Following the piece of bread (v. 27), Satan entered Judas and Jesus sent him out with these words: 'What you do, do quickly. Breaking bread with Jesus one last time, Judas then went out immediately and it was night. (v. 30)." (Harvest study) Warren Wiersbe adds that "light and darkness are important spiritual images in this gospel. Jesus is the Light of the World (John 8:12) but Judas rejected Jesus and went out into darkness, and for Judas, it is still night! Those who do evil hate the light (John 3:18-21)."
"It is incredible for us to realize that one of the men who walked and talked with Jesus, who heard the message of salvation over and over, and who witnessed miraculous signs and wonders could betray the very Son of God. And yet, Jesus was longsuffering with Judas right to the very end. No one but Jesus knew that night would be Judas' last. In a few hours he would hang himself from a tree." (Harvest Study)
It is very sobering to realize this about Judas. How could he have missed out on the salvation of the Lord when he was in such close proximity to the Savior Himself? There are many in our very own families who have not chosen to follow after the Lord and it is equally sobering. I so desire that those I love so dearly be with me in paradise for all eternity; not suffering in darkness with those like Judas who have chosen not to follow after Christ. As I do my best to share the love of Christ with them in word and deed and openly share on Facebook and this blog about my relationship with Christ, I know that they are without excuse, like Judas; and I pray earnestly that they will receive the message and not dismiss it.
In verses 31-35 Jesus gave His followers a new commandment - "Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." Wiersbe writes "it is love that is the true evidence that we belong to Jesus Christ. . . And how do we evidence that love? By doing what Jesus did: laying down our lives for the brethren. And the way to start is by getting down and washing one another's feet in sacrificial service."
"Through the solitary suffering and death of the Savior, God would be forever glorified! Whenever believers manifest God's agape love for one another, people are drawn to Jesus Christ. That dimension of Holy Spirit empowered love is absolutely irresistible! When people hear it and see it in evidence, they are attracted, convicted, and transformed by it. When the world witnesses the family of God loving each other in the power of the Spirit, they know and believe that Jesus is real and they want to know Him too. This is truly Christianity in action!" (Harvest study)
I can't help but think of King and Country's song "Proof of Your Love" that speaks about letting our lives be the proof of our love for Jesus. And Moriah Peters' song "Well Done" that talks about how if people walk and talk with us looking for truth then they're going to find that we are following Jesus and how our life should speak loud and clear. And also the lyric in Chris Tomlin's song "All To You" that says, "let the saving love of Christ be the measure of our lives."
In verses 36-38 we read that Peter was willing to lay
down his life for Jesus. Peter did indeed love Jesus, but at this time
"his love was that of a friend rather than someone willing to die for
Him. In fact, not only would Peter not yet be willing to die for Jesus,
(but) Jesus predict(ed) that Peter. . . in just a few short hours" would
deny Jesus three times. (Harvest study)
Even though Peter did not yet "get it" and he did deny
Jesus; Peter finally did gain full understanding and followed faithfully
after Jesus all the remaining days of his life. He did die for his
belief, even asking to be crucified upside down because he did not feel
worthy to die as his Savior had.
"Jesus wasn't through with Peter. After He arose and ascended to heaven, on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), He sent the Holy Spirit to indwell His followers - and Peter was one of them. He became a new man, forever changed because he believed Jesus and was filled with the Spirit. Acts 2:41-43 says the following: 'Then those who gladly received his word were baptized and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship,in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles'. . . What a fantastic testimony about these men - and particularly Peter - who were empowered to finish what Jesus had begun!" (Harvest study)
"Remember that Jesus isn't through with you either - the possibilities are limitless and, more importantly, the promises are infinite! Get as close to Him as you possibly can and then watch in amazement at what He will do in and through your life to glorify His name!" (Harvest study)