Berean Bible Study Notes

John 13, Reprise



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Heavenly Father, please bless our time together. As we start another season of Bible Study, please draw us close to you. Please let this be the year for each of us that we deepen our commitment to you, strengthen our relationship with you and increase our knowledge of you. Draw us into your Word. Give us each a hunger to follow you more closely and learn more of you each day. Be with our families, Lord, and draw them close to you. Keep our children safe. Fill them with your Holy Spirit and grow them into the men and women you would have them be. Give them a hunger to know you, learn about you, talk about you. Give them friends with that same hunger. Keep the evil one away from them. Just keep them on your path, Lord, please. Let your will be done in their lives.

Be with those we love who do not know you. Call them, Lord, so loudly they have to hear. Help them believe in the salvation you offer. Be with our loved ones who hurt or are struggling. Heal their bodies; heal their souls. Use their pain to draw them to you and then please, ease that pain.

Make us ready, Lord, and all those we love, for whatever our futures hold. Please, Father - physically, emotionally, spiritually - make us ready. Help us to trust you fully, completely, no matter what tomorrow brings.

In the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, we ask these things. Amen!

 

Assuming the world holds together a bit longer, I hope to cover some big subjects in the next few months. We'll see what God has in mind for us.

Meanwhile, let's review why we're here. This is a study where we attempt to concentrate on being Bereans:

Acts 17:11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

That means you check out everything, no matter where you hear it, including here. Why? Because we live in a time of growing deception - and every day draws us closer to the great "falling away":

2 Thess 2:3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.

1 Tim 4:1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.

2 Tim 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

Matt 24:4 And Jesus answered and said to them: "Take heed that no one deceives you. . . 11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.

Because of that deception, we need to put on the full Armor of God. (That was our study for our first get-together last year. You might want to review it if you haven't already)

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

Belt of Truth: Stand firm with a true understanding of God and His Word. Just as the Roman soldier's armor started with a thick belt that both protected him and gave him a place to fasten other equipment, so should we start with truth. You can't have a false idea of God or His Word and be able to "fasten" anything to that. We need to know that God's Word - all of it - is true. We need to know that God took on human flesh, died on a cross and rose again. You've got to start with God's truth, as He sees it.

Breastplate of Righteousness: For the soldier, this was the plate that protected his vital organs. It was anchored to his belt, which kept it from slipping out of place. For us, the breastplate is the righteousness found only in Christ - what God sees when He looks at us, if we belong to Jesus. It's not our righteousness. If we slip and think of it that way, we give Satan a spot to attack us, because we will never be righteousness enough to deflect his arrows. Our breastplate should be anchored to truth.

Feet fitted with the Gospel of Peace: A word study of this shows that it means to have a fixture, or a dwelling place, a settled place of habitation. When your feet are fitted with the gospel of peace, it means you have truly settled in to the Gospel. That's where you dwell. As your feet support the rest of your body, so this true understanding of the Gospel supports everything about your life. You have the absolute knowing that you can trust God. You absolutely know that you are forgiven. You absolutely know that God's promises are real. You KNOW that Jesus died for your sins and rose again.

Shield of Faith: The Roman shield was a big, heavy thing that went from knees to chin. You could kneel behind it or group with other soldiers and make an almost impenetrable barrier. The shield of faith is faith in God and His promises. Faith that what He says is true. Faith that Jesus really is God and really took our sins away on the cross. Faith that trusts the goodness of God and takes Romans 8:28 to heart (And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.) It is not dependent on anything, but is the faith that God is good, no matter what happens to you, your children, your loved ones.

Helmet of Salvation: You can possess a helmet without wearing it. You can be saved without making use of it. I believe you can be perfectly saved - going to heaven - but, if you are still in infancy, you are basically useless. A baby is alive, no doubt about it, but she needs everything done for her. We are to "take" the helmet of salvation. It is a command and implies some action on our part. That is not to say that we "take salvation" but that we make use of the salvation we have. You need to have the assurance that there is absolutely nothing that Satan can do to you that can truly hurt you. Even your death is simply the gateway to heaven.

Sword of the Spirit: Paul comes right out and tells us that this is the Word of God. The Roman sword was the machaira. It was much shorter than previous swords, and sharp on both sides. It was not for hacking, but for thrusting. It required close quarters. The machaira required practice. The Roman soldier prepared constantly. What he had done last week wasn't useful to him this week. It meant life or death to him to use his weapon with skill. That's how it must be with us and God's Word. If we are to be effective in speaking to others, and in discerning between truth and deception, we must be familiar with God's Word. We need to know what God says about things. We can learn from what others have to say, certainly, but we also need to be in God's Word itself. Otherwise, it would be like depending on someone else's swordplay without ever wielding a sword ourselves. It doesn't work. Ideally, the Bible should be as familiar to you as the machaira was to the Roman soldier.

So, how do you get to the point of being as familiar with the Word of God as the Roman soldier was with his sword? The same way the soldier did, one day at a time.

Paul says this about studying the word of God:

2 Timothy 2:15 (NIV) Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV) Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

The word translated "do your best" in the NIV or "study" in the KJV is spoudazo (spoo-dad'-zo). It means to endeavour, labor, or study. There is an element of haste to it, like "get to it," or "really exert yourself. In other words, this whole "sword of the Spirit" idea is not effortless. It requires work, practice, diligence. This is not a Sunday morning, "listening to the lesson for the week" kind of thing. This is an every day, "get in there and work at it" thing. It requires as much practice and work as being good at basketball or the clarinet or whatever. If you need more motivation than this, you might want to review Why study the Bible?

Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers. Fill your day with prayer. Long ago, I used to listen to a radio program that came on every morning when I woke up, called "Walk with the King." The host, who has gone before us to heaven, used to always say two things - "Walk with the King today and be a blessing," and "Pray your way through the day." If you're all by yourself in your house or your car, you might even consider singing your prayer. Just remember, if it's important to you, it's important enough to pray about.

 

John 13-17

OK, ready to be Bereans, full armor of God in place (we each have to keep coming back to that and make sure that it is plus practice daily with our machaira), what next? Jesus tells us "what next" in the Upper Room Discourse, John 13 through 17.

Remember,  John himself told us why he wrote his gospel:

John 20:30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

The first twelve chapters of John covered Jesus' public ministry, about three and 1/2 years of time. The last nine chapters will cover the last week that Jesus was on earth, and a full five of those are devoted to the Upper Room Discourse.

Jesus gave us four large discourses, or talks. The first three include the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), where Jesus explains the fuller meaning of the Law, the Kingdom Parables (Matthew 13) where he tells us that the "church" (the visible church, that is - not true believers) will have a dark side and the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24-25), which talks about end times. Although each of those is most complete in Matthew, pieces of each discourse are found in Mark and Luke also. John includes none of those, yet has the longest discourse of all - the Upper Room Discourse - which isn't even touched on in the synoptic gospels. Why?

Remember that Matthew was written to Jews, to help them believe in Jesus as their Messiah. Mark presents Jesus as the suffering servant and seems to be written to the Romans. Luke seems to have been written for Gentiles. Luke presents Jesus as the Son of Man. John, more than any other of the Gospels, was written for the edifying of the church. As he says in his purpose for writing, John presents Jesus as the Son of God, in whom we have life. He seems to be writing for both Jewish and Gentile believers.

The Upper Room Discourse, found only in John, is specifically for believers. It tells us the "what next" of our Christian life - what will fill our lives with meaning as we wait for Jesus to return. When we look at why John wrote his gospel:

John 20:30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

You can see that the first part of verse 31, these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, was pretty much what the first 12 chapters of John were all about, and certainly, the rest of the book will cover that, too. However, these five chapters, John 13-17, emphasize the second part of the verse: and that believing you may have life in His name.

That word "life" is not just eternal life, but the here and now life of a truly fulfilled Christian. That's what we'll be studying the first part of this year.

Overview

First, we need to try to get the time frame of all this in mind. It's Passover, the feast that was instituted to help the Jews remember their exodus from Egypt. Passover is the first of three spring feasts. There are seven all together, three in spring, one in summer and three in autumn. It's helpful to picture the Jewish menorah when you think of them. All are historic and all are prophetic. Jesus perfectly fulfilled the first three feasts at His death and Resurrection.

(For those of you who weren't at the actual study, I had visual aids here. If any of this is confusing without that, please call or write me)

Passover is always the 14th of Nisan, the Jewish month that corresponds to our March/April. The next day, the 15th of Nisan, is the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened bread, which lasts for seven days. During the seven days, there is an overlapping feast called the Feast of First Fruits. It is always held the day after the Sabbath after Passover, so always on a Sunday. (This is going to barely touch on these. Much, much more in this study). Over time, the whole spring feast "season" became known as Passover. The Bible uses the name both ways, so it can be confusing if you don't pay attention to which it means.

Now, this final Passover of Jesus is in the midst of His final week. On the 9th of Nisan, He was in Bethany. That evening, the start of Nisan 10 (remember the Jewish day begins at sundown), is the anointing at the supper. The next day, still the 10th of Nisan, is the Triumphal Entry and the cleansing of the Temple. The next days, Jesus is on full display, just as the Passover lambs were watched carefully for any blemish for the four days between the 10th of Nisan and Passover. (If any of this is foggy in your mind, you may want to review these studies: John 12:1-19, John 12:20-50)

Here's an overview of that final week:

Nisan 10 - Triumphal Entry, Cleansing of the Temple (Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19:28)

Nisan 11, 12, 13 - Teaching in the Temple including parables against the Jewish leadership, Questioning by the Jewish Leadership, Poor widow, Olivet Discourse (Teaching of the second coming), Jews' plot to kill Jesus

Nisan 14 - Last Supper (evening before crucifixion), Foot washing, Judas' betrayal, Upper Room Discourse, Time in the Garden, Arrest & "trial", Crucifixion, Death during time lambs killed

Nisan 15 - Feast of unleavened bread (begins at sundown on day of crucifixion), Jesus in the tomb

Nisan 16 - Saturday Sabbath, Jesus in the tomb at least through sundown

Nisan 17 - Feast of First Fruits - Resurrection Day!

 

On the 13th of Nisan, Jesus tells his disciples to find the upper room where they will have their Passover meal. That evening - after sundown - is already the start of Passover, the 14th of Nisan. Most people will eat their Passover meal the following day, but it's perfectly legitimate for Jesus and the disciples to have their meal at this time, because it's already the 14th of Nisan. (There's a lot more to it than that, and if you're interested in all the various angles, you'll find many links here.) There is a rule in the Torah that I believe was recorded the way it was exactly for this reason - so that Jesus could both eat the Passover meal with His disciples and be killed at the same time as the lambs in the Temple:

Exodus 12:6 (KJV) And ye shall keep it (the lamb) up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.

That "in the evening" in the King James is actually between the evenings in the Hebrew. It's actually incredibly interesting. I encourage you to study the Feasts and how Jesus fulfilled them. Here are a couple links:

CHRIST IN THE PASSOVER

Messiah in the Passover - A Christian Seder Observance

Now, many things happen that evening, and if you only read John, you won't be aware of them. You can find the other gospel accounts in Matthew 26:17-75, Mark 14:12-72 and Luke 22:7-65. Now, bear in mind when you read them that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all use "timing" phrases a bit differently. "Passover" can mean simply Nisan 14 or it can be applied to the whole feast period. "Feast of Unleavened Bread" can mean the actual seven-day feast that starts on Nisan 15, or it can be applied to the whole feast period. Plus, to add to the mix, there might have been different calendars involved. That discussion is gone through much more thoroughly in that previous Feasts study.

Here is a portion from Luke:

Luke 22:7 (NKJV) Then came the Day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover must be killed. 8 And He sent Peter and John, saying, "Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat."

9 So they said to Him, "Where do You want us to prepare?"

10 And He said to them, "Behold, when you have entered the city, a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into the house which he enters. 11 Then you shall say to the master of the house, 'The Teacher says to you, "Where is the guest room where I may eat the Passover with My disciples?"' 12 Then he will show you a large, furnished upper room; there make ready."

13 So they went and found it just as He had said to them, and they prepared the Passover.

14 When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. 15 Then He said to them, "With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16 for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God."

17 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, "Take this and divide it among yourselves; 18 for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes."

19 And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me."

20 Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you. 21 But behold, the hand of My betrayer is with Me on the table. 22 And truly the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!"

23 Then they began to question among themselves, which of them it was who would do this thing.

24 Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest. 25 And He said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called 'benefactors.' 26 But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. 27 For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.

28 "But you are those who have continued with Me in My trials. 29 And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, 30 that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel."

OK, now bearing in mind what has just occurred, let's jump into John. We already went through John 13 once, so we're not going to hit everything.

John 13

John 13:1 (NKJV) Jesus Washes the Disciples' Feet

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.

2 And supper being ended (other texts read "and during supper," which makes more sense. The Greek is more literally "and supper being." In other words, in the midst of the supper.), the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray Him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, 4 rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. 5 After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. 6 Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, "Lord, are You washing my feet?"

7 Jesus answered and said to him, "What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this."

8 Peter said to Him, "You shall never wash my feet!"

Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me."

9 Simon Peter said to Him, "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!"

10 Jesus said to him, "He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you." 11 For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, "You are not all clean."

12 So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

John 13:1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.

That before the Feast of the Passover just means that most people will eat their Passover meal the following night when the Feast of Unleavened Bread starts. Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father. Remember, all through John, Jesus kept saying that "His hour had not yet come." Now, it has. All these events - the Triumphal Entry, the rejection of the Jews, the crucifixion - these are His hour. This is why He came, to die.

John 13:1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.

In just a few hours, Jesus is going to face crucifixion, but instead of looking at that, He takes time to prepare His disciples. These five chapters, John 13 through John 17, show Jesus' love for His own. What He will share with them is not only preparation for what is to come in a few hours, but preparation for us, for the wait until He comes again. Everything He will share here is because of His great love for us.

John 13:1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.

2 And supper being ended (or "and during supper,"), the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray Him,

Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, this is all John says about the Last Supper (other than the betrayal of Judas)!! Again, what happened at that Passover supper is discussed in the other Gospels: Matthew 26:17-35, Mark 14:12-31, Luke 22:7-38.

John 13:1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.

2 And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray Him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, 4 rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself.

Judas is at this supper, knowing that he is going to betray Jesus. Is this a surprise to Jesus? Of course not. In fact, in just a few verses, Jesus will clearly spell out that it is Judas. So, Jesus, knowing that Judas will betray him that very night, washes his feet anyway. He's giving Judas ample opportunity to repent, still lovingly caring for him.

John 13:2 And supper being ended, ("and during supper") the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray Him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, 4 rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself.

I think you need to have that last statement of Jesus in mind when you read John 13:3. God the Father had put ALL things into Jesus' hands. He had come from the glory of the Father and would be returning to the glory of the Father. There, Jesus would be truly recognized for all that He is. Yet, for all that, He rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself.

John Courson says, (Courson, J. 2003. Jon Courson's Application Commentary . Thomas Nelson: Nashville, TN):

There is apparently everything provided for washing, but no one has offered to do this humble task. In that country, the roads are dusty, and everyone wears sandals. Worse, the roads would be covered with manure. Plus, there was no indoor plumbing, and sometimes, human waste was simply dumped in the street. It usually falls to the lowest servant or slave to wash the feet of family and guests. Yet, here, they seem to have started the meal with dirty feet.

John 13:3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, 4 rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. 5 After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. 6 Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, "Lord, are You washing my feet?"

7 Jesus answered and said to him, "What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this."

8 Peter said to Him, "You shall never wash my feet!"

Peter sounds pretty humble, doesn't he? He recognizes that it's not right for the master to be washing the disciple's feet. Yet, think about it. Peter is telling God that He's wrong. That "never" there is the strongest negative you can have. Peter is saying that what Jesus is doing isn't right, which certainly isn't humble.

It was brought up in our discussion that we often do the same thing to God. You're wrong, God! You shouldn't have made me sick, taken my mother away, allowed my husband to leave me, whatever. And, doing so, we are being just as arrogant as Peter.

John 13: 8 Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me."

9 Simon Peter said to Him, "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!"

10 Jesus said to him, "He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you." 11 For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, "You are not all clean."

Jesus, the highest of all, takes on the role of the lowest of all, possibly in response to their earlier argument over who was greater.

Jesus is certainly setting an example of humble service, as He Himself will point out in a little bit. There's a spiritual side to this also, though. When Jesus says, "He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you," He is showing that He is actually referring to spiritual cleansing - something that happened earlier for most of the disciples. What is that spiritual cleansing? It is referring to belief in Jesus as Savior, to salvation.

When Jesus says "He who is bathed", He is using the word "louo" (loo'-o), which means to wash the whole person. The tense is the perfect tense, which means something that is completed in the past and does not need to be repeated - or something that is completed in the past with ongoing effects. The word "wash" used for washing the feet here, is nipto (nip'-to), which means to wash a portion only, like your feet or hands.

So, spiritually, the "louo" washing is our salvation and the "nipto" washing is our sanctification. Or, to put it another way, the salvation of our souls (fully completed) and the salvation of our lives (ongoing). Jesus is saying that there was one among them who was not saved, not a believer - not clean. Yet, Peter was, so why then, does Jesus say to Peter, who DOES believe, "If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me."?

Our "daily walk" needs to be cleansed. We might have been saved, but we also need to have that ongoing cleansing. We need to acknowledge our sin, confess it and be cleansed from it. John says almost the same thing here:

1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

Compare verse 10, If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us to what Jesus said to Peter: If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me. You can see that it is saying the same thing, basically.

In terms of Jesus' model, we need to acknowledge continually that we have filthy feet! As we walk through this world, we will sin! Yet, when we confess our sin, God is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us.

John 13:12 So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Some churches take this very literally and actually have foot washing services. There's nothing wrong with that, but that is not the essence of what Jesus is trying to get across. Jesus set an example of humble service. There is no one in our churches who should be above doing the most humble service. Yet, in terms of the spiritual aspect of what Jesus has shown, what is He saying? We need to help each other keep our lives washed. We need to point out sin (gently, lovingly) and help people find the ongoing cleansing that Jesus offers. Remember the picture of Lazarus in the grave clothes? He needed help getting unwrapped. He couldn't really do it himself. Biblically, washing usually refers to God's Word:

John 15:3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.

Eph 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.

John 13:12 So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

That "blessed" there is not just some ambiguous thing, and it's not just speaking eternally. It means blessed, here and now - fulfilled, as a person, as a Christian. It doesn't necessarily mean physically blessed or physically content. It's the "content" of Paul, who could say he was content no matter what his circumstances were - clothed or unclothed, fed or hungry. To show someone else this kind of love means you don't worry about getting something in return. It's love that comes from God and flows through you to someone else.

In just a few verses, Jesus is going to go into that in more detail:

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

This new mandate or command is where the word "Maundy" of "Maundy Thursday" comes from. Tertullian, in about 197 AD, reported that the Romans were amazed at Christian love, "See how they love one another!" Remember that song, "They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love. Yes, they'll know we are Christians by our love."?

I'm not sure if Christians as a whole live up to that, but it was a command - not a suggestion - from Jesus. The word love is agapao, which means love that is totally given over, to love with your whole heart, to love as God loves.

Why is this a new commandment? Wasn't that part of the Law? In fact, Jesus sums up the Law here:

Matt 22:37 Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

So, what's new? We are to love each other with love greater than the love we have for ourselves. That's how Jesus loved - sacrificially, to the point of taking all our sins on Himself and suffering eternally for us.

In Philippians, Paul has kind of a commentary on this whole idea:

Phil 2:1 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!

Something from Jon Courson: (Courson, J. 2003. Jon Courson's Application Commentary . Thomas Nelson: Nashville, TN )

John 13:14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

That "know" is eido (i'-do), which means to fully know, to completely know. The "blessed" is makarios (mak-ar'-ee-os), which means blessed, but also happy or happier. You will actually be happier if you help others in this way.

 

Now, step back for a bit and look at the larger picture that John (through the Holy Spirit's guidance) is painting in the last couple of chapters. In John 12, we saw the Triumphal Entry, as Jesus intentionally presented Himself as the King of the Jews at the exact time (or at least time period) specified by Gabriel to Daniel. We saw the rejection of the Jews and the discussion of their blinding/hardening. We saw Gentiles seeking Jesus after the Jews rejected Him, and Jesus saying, in effect, now, this is the way it's going to be. (Remember to pay attention to those "nows" in the Bible. They usually mean that a change of some kind has come.) Then, we jump to this scene with the disciples and the foot washing. Jesus is going to spend a long time discussing how things should be among believers until He returns. So, the very first thing He shows us is that believers will humbly serve each other, helping each other wash from the sin of daily living. And, that that will actually make us happier!

Next time, we're going to whiz through the rest of chapter 13 (just for continuity, since we did do that once already) and get started on one of the many concepts in chapter 14. See you then!!