Jesus, rabbi and foot washer
Jesus washes feet of the disciples1 Jews were getting ready to celebrate Passover. Jesus knew his time on earth was almost over. He needed to go back to the Father. He would leave behind people he loved. He would love them to death—to the very end.
2 By suppertime, the devil had convinced Judas Iscariot, Simon’s boy, to help Jewish authorities arrest Jesus. 3 But Jesus knew the Father had put him in charge of everything that was all going to happen. Jesus understood that he had come from God and that he was going back to God.
4 He got up from the supper table, took off his robe, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 He poured some water into a bowl and started washing the feet of the disciples. He used the towel to dry their feet. 6 When Jesus got to Simon Peter, the disciple objected: “Lord, do you really think you’re going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus said, “You don’t yet understand what I’m doing right now. But you will.” 8 Peter told Jesus, “There’s no way you’ll ever wash my feet!” Jesus said, “If I can’t wash your feet, you can’t have anything to do with me anymore.”
9 Simon Peter said, “In that case, Lord, wash my feet and my hands and my head!”
10 Jesus said, “You’ve had a bath. Aside from the dust on your feet, you’re clean. Most of you men are clean, but not all of you." 11 Jesus knew who was about to betray him. That’s why he said not all of the men were clean.
Jesus explains why he washed the disciples’ feet12 After Jesus finished washing their feet, he put his robe back on and sat down at the table. He asked the men, “Do you understand what I just did for you? 13 You call me by the respected names of Teacher and Master. You’re right to do that because I am both of those. 14 Your Master and Teacher just stooped to wash your feet, so you shouldn’t be too proud to wash each other’s feet. 15 I just gave you an example to follow. So, follow it. You saw what I did. You need to do it, too.
16 This is the truth. A student isn’t more important than the teacher. And a messenger isn’t more important than the one who sent him to deliver the message. 17 Once you understand this and put it into practice, you’re going to be much better off.
Judas’ betrayal doesn’t surprise Jesus18 What I’m saying doesn’t apply to all of you. I know those devoted to me because I chose them. But the Bible prophecy needed to be fulfilled: ‘A friend of mine who eats my bread will turn against me.’ 19 I’m telling you this ahead of time so that when it happens, you’ll believe I am who I said I am. 20 Listen, this is the truth. When I send people out with a message, anyone who welcomes them is welcoming me, because I’m the one who sent them. And anyone who welcomes me welcomes the Father who sent me.
“One of you will betray me”21 After Jesus said this, he became deeply upset and his spirit collapsed. When he spoke again, he said, “I’m deathly serious. This is the truth. One of you will betray me.”
22 This stunned the disciples speechless. They started looking around at each other. 23 One disciple Jesus deeply loved was sitting right beside him at the table. 24 Simon Peter motioned the disciple to ask Jesus who he was talking about. 25 So the disciple leaned backward, put his head against the chest of Jesus, and said, “Lord, who’s going to do this to you?”
26 Jesus said, “It’s the one I’ll give this piece of bread, after dipping it.” Jesus dipped the bread and handed it to Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son. 27 Judas ate the bread, then Satan came right into him. Jesus told Judas, “That business you need to take care of, do it quickly.” 28 No one at the table had any idea why Jesus said that. 29 Some figured that since Judas carried the group’s money bag that Jesus sent him on a shopping trip to buy whatever the group needed for the Passover festival. Or maybe Jesus sent him to donate something for the poor.
30 So after Judas ate the bread Jesus gave him, he left and went out into the darkness of night. 31 After Judas left, Jesus told the others, “It’s time. The Son of Humans is about to get honored, and God will be honored because of what the Son does. 32 If God is honored because of the Son, God himself will reciprocate by honoring the Son right back—and right away. 33 Dear children, I’ll be with you just a little bit longer. I’ll tell you the same thing I told the Jewish leaders. You can’t come with me. There you have it.
New law to live by: love one another34 I’m going to leave you with a new law to live by: Love one another. You’ve seen how I love you. Love each other like that. 35 Here’s how people will recognize you as my disciples. They’ll see the resemblance when you love each other.
36 Simon Peter said, “Lord, exactly where are you going?” Jesus answered, “You can’t go where I’m going. Not yet. But you’ll follow me later.”
37 Peter said, “Lord, why can’t I go with you now? There’s no place I wouldn’t go because I’m willing to die for you.”
38 Jesus said, “You’ll die for me? Here’s what’s going to happen. Three times you’re going to deny you even know me. The rooster won’t crow in the morning until you do that.”
See note for 11:55.
Psalm 41:9. Bible scholars generally say the Psalms are poems and song lyrics. But Jesus said this verse was a prophecy that predicted Judas.
Possibly a reference to “I’m the Son of God” (John 10:36) or to his identity as the promised Messiah for whom the Jews had been waiting.
The description of this mysterious disciple is more literally “the one Jesus loved.” This becomes a code phrase throughout the rest of the book. It’s how the writer identifies one particular disciple, without using the man’s name. Many have guessed that this was a humble way for John to refer to himself, as the author of this Gospel. Jesus seemed to have had three best friends, men he took with him places where other disciples weren’t invited (Luke 8:51; 9:28). The men were Peter, and the brothers James and John. Peter was not this particular disciple. That becomes clear in John 20:1-10 when both this mysterious disciple and Peter race to the tomb of Jesus. We can exclude James, too, as the dearly loved disciple and author of this Gospel because King Herod executed him a few days after the crucifixion of Jesus (Acts 12:1-2). See also the note for 19:26.
People usually ate meals like this while sitting on the floor. They reclined on cushions beside a table built about as high as a coffee table.
More literally, “glorified,” apparently referring to how people will perceive him after the Resurrection and Ascension.
There’s supposed to be an elephant in the room, but it’s missing. We are reading John’s version of the Last Supper, without a supper. John skips right to the part of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples after the meal. In churches today, the communion service, also known as the Eucharist, is one of the most solemn rituals. Worshipers eat a piece of bread and drink juice in remembrance of Jesus sacrificing his body and shedding his blood for the sins of people. Why do you think John skipped that part of the story? Pick a guess or add one of your own.
- The ritual as we know it had not yet developed.
- John probably wrote his Gospel later than the others, and he didn’t see the need for a fourth version of the story.
- John’s Gospel focuses more on the teachings of Jesus. This was a meal.
- John’s Gospel doesn’t focus here on disciples needing to remember Jesus, but on how they should live when he’s gone.
We can only guess why Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 silver coins and then regretted it when Jewish leaders sentenced Jesus to death— regretted it enough to hang himself. Pick a guess or add one of your own.
- Jesus gave him enough rope to hang himself, so he did.
- If the game was poker, Judas was calling Jesus. He wanted Jesus to show his hand—the hand of a Messiah who would free Israel from the Roman occupying force.
- “Satan got inside the head of Judas Iscariot” (Luke 22:3).
- Judas was the treasurer for the disciples (John 13:29). He liked money and stole from the money bag (John 12:6).
John says “the devil had convinced Judas Iscariot… To help Jewish authorities arrest Jesus” (13:2). John adds, “Judas ate the bread, then Satan came right into him” (13:27). Luke says, “Satan got inside the head of Judas” (22:3). Other Bible versions translate it something like this: “Satan entered into Judas” (New Living Translation). What do you think happened? Did Judas become demon possessed? Or did Satan simply plant an idea in the mind of Judas, and Judas embraced it?
Let’s say Judas was not demon possessed, and that Satan merely tempted him to do something he had been considering. Do you think Judas hoped to force Jesus into a public confrontation with Jewish leaders who supported the Roman occupying army, so the Messiah could lead Jewish rebels to freedom? Or do you think he had some other motive?
Let’s say editors allow the story of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples to appear in only one of the Gospels. What about the Gospel of John do you think would make it the best fit?
It was apparently unheard of for a rabbi to wash the feet of his disciples. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples as a way of showing them that they were to start seeing themselves as servants instead of as people entitled to service. Why do you think Jesus went nuclear on his disciples, with such a powerful, emotion-driven act of humility?
What do you think the disciples thought when they watched Jesus as he “took off his robe, and wrapped the towel around his waist,” (13:4)?
LIFE APPLICATION. Many of us know what it’s like to have Jesus wash our feet. That’s because some of his followers have essentially grabbed a towel and a bowl and cleaned us up. They helped us when we needed it most. When did someone help you in a way that reminds you of what Jesus taught about humility and service?
LIFE APPLICATION. Let’s take the scene of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples into big business today. If the CEO of a housing development Corporation, for example, wanted to motivate employees to take pride in their work, how might he use Jesus’ approach to do that.
LIFE APPLICATION. Jesus told his disciples to live by a new law: “Love one another. You’ve seen how I love you. Love each other like that. Here’s how people will recognize you as my disciples. They’ll see the resemblance when you love each other” (13:34-35). When have you expressed your love in a way that allowed people to see Jesus in you? Or when have you experienced it yourself or seen someone else experience it. No fair talking about a television shows you’ve seen.