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140. Washing the disciples’ feet (John 13:1-20)
When they gathered for the meal that night, Jesus took the place of a servant and washed the disciples’ feet. By this action he symbolized firstly, the need for humility, and secondly, that he, the perfect servant, would cleanse people from sin through his death (John 13:1-5). Peter, not understanding this symbolic action, objected. Jesus responded that if he refused to let Jesus cleanse him, he could not be Jesus’ disciple. By this cleansing, Jesus was referring to cleansing from sin, something that Peter would understand more fully after Jesus had died, risen and been glorified (John 13:6-8; cf. Acts 5:30-31; 1 Peter 1:18-21; 1 Peter 1:18-21; 1 Peter 2:24).
Peter thought that if washing the feet symbolized cleansing, he should be washed all over, to ensure complete cleansing. Again he did not realize that this was what Jesus had just symbolized. The disciples (with the exception of Judas) were already cleansed all over, and needed no further symbolic cleansing. The only washing necessary was the washing of the feet, and that was not for cleansing but for humility (John 13:9-11).
Jesus had given the apostles an example. If he, their Lord and teacher, humbled himself by washing their feet, how much more should they, his servants, humble themselves in serving one another (John 13:12-17). Jesus knew that Judas was a traitor, but the rest were his servants and messengers. Those who received them received him and his Father (John 13:18-20).
141. A traitor among them (Matthew 26:20-25; Mark 14:17-21; Luke 22:21-23; John 13:21-35)
The apostles were surprised when Jesus announced that one of them would betray him, for they did not suspect treachery among them. Perhaps they thought that one of them might unintentionally betray him through speaking carelessly. But Judas knew what Jesus meant (Matthew 26:20-22; John 13:21-25). When Jesus took a piece of bread, dipped it in the dish and gave it to Judas, he was giving Judas a special honour. It was as if Jesus was making a last appeal to him. But Judas’ heart was set on doing evil. Jesus knew Judas’ intentions, but the apostles still did not suspect him of being a traitor (Matthew 26:23-25; John 13:26-30).
Judas’ departure from the room made the death of Jesus certain, though for Jesus that death would be not a misfortune but a glorious triumph. His death would bring glory to God by displaying his immeasurable love for sinful men and women. It would also bring grief to his disciples as they saw their master taken from them. But they were to show no bitterness in their grief; rather, a forgiving love, by which others would see that they were indeed disciples of Jesus (John 13:31-35).
149. Disciples’ failure foretold (Matthew 26:31-35; Mark 14:27-31; Luke 22:24-38; John 13:36-38)
Despite all that Jesus had shown and taught his disciples about humility, and in spite of the death he was about to die for them, they were still arguing about who was the greatest among them. Jesus reminded them again of the different standards in the earthly and heavenly kingdoms. He had given them an example in the way he lived among them, showing that true greatness lay in serving others (Luke 22:24-27). They had stood by him in all his trials, and he wanted them to maintain their loyalty through the time of his suffering and death. Their reward would be to share his rule in the triumphant kingdom (Luke 22:28-30).
Jesus knew, however, that they would all run away and leave him in his final hour. They would be like sheep who scatter in panic when the shepherd is killed. Peter boldly assured Jesus that though others might leave him, he would not. But Jesus knew Peter better than Peter knew himself. Peter would deny him, but the experience would teach him lessons that would remove his self-assurance and give him a new strength in God. After Jesus rose from death and returned to the father, Peter would be the one through whom the group of disciples would learn to be confident and courageous (Matthew 26:31-35; Luke 22:31-34; John 13:36-38; cf. Acts 4:13-31; Acts 5:17-32).
In figurative language Jesus then told them to prepare for the new life ahead. It would be much tougher than anything they had previously known or experienced; they would have difficulty just in preserving their lives (Luke 22:35-37). The disciples misunderstood Jesus’ words, but Jesus felt he had said enough on the matter for the time being, and he left them to think about it (Luke 22:38).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on John 13". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29