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1. The Washing of the Disciples’ Feet. (John 13:1-43.13.11 .)
2. Instructions given; to Wash One Another’s Feet. (John 13:12-43.13.17 .)
3. The Betrayal Foretold. (John 13:18-43.13.30 .)
4. His Own Departure and the New Commandment. (John 13:31-43.13.35 .)
5. The Denial of Peter Foretold. (John 13:36-43.13.38 .)
We reach with this chapter the most precious portion of this Gospel. The multitudes are left behind. Israel has completely rejected Him and now He gathered His own beloved disciples around Himself and gave them the sweet and blessed words of instruction, of comfort and cheer, His farewell. A little while and He would leave them to return to the Glory from which He came. “He is leaving upon earth the chosen companions of His path; those indeed that have hardly ever understood Him,--whose lack of sympathy has been itself one of the bitterest trials, of those that made Him the ‘Man of Sorrows’ that He was. Yet they are his hard-won spoils from the hand of the enemy,--the firstfruits of the spiritual harvest coming in. They are His own, the gift of His Father, the work of His Spirit, the purchase of His blood, by and by to tell out, and, for the ages to come, divine love and power to all His intelligent creation. Nor, spite of their feebleness, can He forget how their hearts awakened by His call, have clung to Him in the scene of His rejection, how they have left their little all to follow Him. Now He is going to leave them in that world whose enmity they must for His sake incur, and in which they would fill up that which was behind of His afflictions for His body’s sake, which is the Church (Colossians 1:24 ). In human tenderness His heart overflows towards them, while in divine fullness; and this is what we find before us now. It is peculiar to John, and furnishes them for the way, and arms them for the impending conflict.”--F.W. Grant.
Our brief annotations are not sufficient to cover all the blessed teachings of these chapters. What a great assurance is given in the first verse of this chapter! He knew that His hour had come to depart out of this world. He knew because He is the Son of God. Then follows the assurance of His love for His own; even unto the end. His love knows no change. His tender, loving words addressed to His own in these chapters fully manifest that love which passeth knowledge.
The washing of the disciples’ feet was a great symbolical action to teach His own the gracious provision made for them during His absence. Some well meaning Christians have applied the words of our Lord, “ye also ought to wash one another’s feet,” in a literal way, and teach that the Lord meant this to be done literally. The words of our Lord to Peter, “What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter” (John 13:7 ), show that underneath the outward action of the Lord in washing the disciples’ feet there is a deeper spiritual meaning. We see Him girded, with a basin of water in His blessed hands, to wash the disciples’ feet. The water explains the spiritual meaning. We have seen that the water in the third chapter is the type of the Word of God. It has the same meaning in this chapter. Peter first refused to have his feet washed; then when the Lord had said unto him, “If I wash thee not thou hast no part with Me,” he asked Him to wash his hands and his head as well. “Jesus saith to him, He that hath been bathed * needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all.” (John 13:10 contains two different words for washing; the one is “bathed” and the other “wash.” This difference is not made in the Authorized Version.) When the Lord spoke of His disciples being bathed and clean every whit, He had reference to the new birth by the water and the Spirit. They were all bathed, born again, except Judas, whom the Lord meant when He said “but not all.” Titus 3:5 reads, literally translated: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us by the bath of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” This great work is done once for all and cannot be repeated, just as the natural birth cannot be repeated with the same individual.
The Lord washed the disciples’ feet, not their hands. Hands are for work and the feet for walking. His action has a meaning in connection with our walk in the world. We contract defilement as we pass on through this world. And defilement severs communion with the Lord. We need therefore cleansing. All disciples need it. This He has graciously provided, and the washing of the disciples’ feet typifies that needed cleansing. He uses His Word to bring this about. This is “the washing of water by the Word.” He is the Advocate with the Father to restore us to fellowship. We must come to Him with our failures, our stumbling, imperfect walk, our defilement, and place ourselves into His hands as the disciples placed their soiled feet in His loving hands. His own perfect light will then search our innermost beings and bring to light what has defiled us, so that, after cleansing, we can enjoy His fellowship and have part with Him. This necessitates confession and self-judgment from our side. If this blessed truth is not realized and enjoyed in faith, if we do not come to Him for this service of love, we are at a distance from Him.
And we are also to walk in the same spirit of serving and wash one another’s feet. As He lovingly deals with us, so we are to deal with one another. The one that is overtaken in a fault is to be restored by him that is spiritual in the spirit of meekness. “He that would cleanse another’s feet must be at his feet to cleanse them.” How little of all this in a practical way is known among God’s people.
The betrayal by Judas is announced, and he goes into the night. The Lord announces also His imminent departure and gives them the new commandment “love one another.” The chapter closes with the prediction of Peter’s denial.
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Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on John 13". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany