About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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Jesus Washes His Disciples Feet (ch. 13:1-17)


Verse 1 tells us that we are now just before the Passover Feast, and according to many scholars but not all, that would be our Thursday evening.  Remember, a Jewish day began at sunset.  So, in today's terms, their Friday would start on our Thursday evening.  It was this evening that was the traditional time when Jewish people would eat the Passover meal and Jesus and His disciples were now ready to eat.


We should remember that the Passover meal was actually one meal of a week long festival where there were several meals.  The whole Passover week included the 7 days Feast of Unleavened Bread, which also included the Feast of First Fruits.  


Another point of interest is that the Jews actually separated the evening into firs and second evening.  The first evening was when the sun began to set while the second evening was when it was dark.      


In verse 1 John tells us that Jesus "knew that it was now time to leave this world."  His constant communication with His Father would allow Him to know this.  All the way through Johnís account he mentions that Jesusí time has not yet come, but now that changes.  His time is now here.  Once again I suggest that God has a timetable of events that have been pre-arranged.  Nothing happens a second before or a second after this pre-arranged timetable of events.    


Also in verse 1 John tells us that Jesus "loved His own" right up until the very end.  His thoughts were not directed towards Himself in these last few stressful hours but were directed towards doing God's will and those He loved. 


The words "His own" are important and weíve seen this thought before in John.  The words "His own" suggests kinship; suggests family.  Jesus did not feel that all who followed Him were His own.  The crowds that cheered Him on as He entered Jerusalem were just crowds of people on the band wagon.  His Father gave Him certain men and women that He called His own.


Verse 2 tells us that the meal had begun and that the devil had already prompted Judas to betray Jesus.  Just when the devil had prompted Judas we canít be sure.  It could have been on a number of different occasions, each occasion drawing Judas closer to the devil's will.   If I had to guess when the devil prompted Judas it might have been when Jesus told him to stop bugging Mary back in John 12:7.  That was where Judas was upset about Mary using expensive perfume to wash Jesus' feet.  That might have just pushed Judas over the line. 


I find it interesting that while Jesus was with the twelve in ministry He knew that the devil was at work with one of these men He had chosen to be with Him.  You might wonder about all the thoughts that would have gone through Jesus' head during his years of ministry knowing that one of the twelve men He had chosen would betray Him.


Concerning the meal, those eating meals in those days did not sit at tables and chairs as we do today.  The table here would have been low to the ground and in an oval shape.  Cushions were situated around two sides and one end of the table in a horseshoe.  One end of the table was left free so dishes could be removed from the table.  People would lie on the cushion on the floor with one arm and elbow on the table and the other hand free to eat the meal.  Their legs would have been spread out behind them, which, would have made it easy for Jesus to wash the feet of His disciples.     


The important person, and in this case would be Jesus, would sit at the end of the table.  The second most important person to His left, and in this case was Judas, and why, we are not sure, while, the third most important person would sit to the right of Jesus, which would have been John in this case. 


In verse 3 right after John mentions that the devil had already prompted Judas he mentions that Jesus "knew that the Father had put all things under His power."  This means that Jesus became the centre of all things and Lord over all things.  God the Father in one sense of the word stood back and let Jesus be in charge, knowing that Jesus would completely do as He wished.  We should realize that the time will come when Jesus, after putting all tings under His feet, including death, will hand all things back to the Father as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:28.  


Jesus would have known and even seen the devil at work in Judas.  Did this bother Jesus?  Iím not sure.  We do know that since Jesus had all power in the universe that He was in control of the situation even though it looked like He wasnít.


John then states that Jesus knew "that He came from God and was returning to Him," but in the mean time, He would experience great trouble and sorrow in the hours ahead.  I don't think we can begin to comprehend the emotions Jesus must have felt.  I don't think our wildest imagination can begin to know all the things that went through Jesus' mind in these hours.    


Good Jews always washed their hands before eating as required by the Law.  Jews often washed their feet before a meal as well, although that was not required by the Law.  So this is what Jesus did.  He was following a cultural tradition.  After everyone had reclined and was ready to eat, Jesus got up, took off His outer clothing and wrapped a large cloth around His waist, as seen in verses 4 and 5.  He was about to wash His disciples feet.  Here the Lord of all things would humble Himself to wash the feet of those He loved.


In verse 6 Jesus came to Peter to wash his feet and Peter asked if He was going to wash his feet.  In verse 7 Jesus told Peter that he would not understand at that moment what was happening but he would later understand.  I believe the later time when Peter would understand would clearly be after the Day of Pentecost.    

In verse 8 we see a double negative.  Peter basically said "no, you will never" (double negative for emphasis) wash my feet.  Peter being Peter was adamant in his response to Jesus.


Jesus responds to Peter in the second half of verse 8 by saying that if I donít wash your fee Peter you have no part with me.  That would be it.  Peter would have lost the friendship of Jesus.  Peter's relationship with Jesus would be severed.  This tells me that this foot washing experience was more than the institution of a tradition, a tradition that some church groups carry out to this day.  As a matter of fact, I do not believe that Jesus intended this to become some kind of a sacrament or tradition. 


I think this foot washing foretold Jesus' death in the sense that without Jesus shed blood, there would be no washing away of sin from the believers lives.  Paul, in Titus 3:5 actually uses the term "the washing of water by the word."  In one real sense of the word, our sins were washed away at the cross.  Our sins were wiped from God's records because Jesus took the punishment due us for our sins.            


Once hearing Jesus say this, in verse 9 Peter replies by telling Jesus that he didn't just want his feet washed but his head and hands as well.  Once again, this is typical Peter.  He says a hardy "no way" to Jesus, but when He hears that He would lose Jesusí friendship he goes to the other extreme. 


How Jesus responds is interesting and is a spiritual principle.  In verse 10 Jesus says that if a person has had a bath he is basically clean.  He only needs to get his feet cleaned from walking on the dusty streets.  There is a Biblical principle at work here.  We are clean because of the cross of Christ.  We have taken a bath if we are true Christians by giving our lives to Jesus, but, because we live in this corrupt world our spiritual feet get dirty at times and we need to wash them.  We don't need to take a bath.  We don't need to get saved all over again.  We only need to repent of the dirt we pick up and carry on.  This foot washing experience then speaks of the bath that we have taken in Christ on the cross, but there is more to this than that, as we will see.


Jesus then tells the disciples that they are all clean.  Theyíve taken a bath because they gave themselves to Him, but there was one who was not clean.  We know that one was Judas.


In verse 11 John states that Jesus said this because He knew who would betray Him and that he, meaning Judas, was not clean.  This means that Judas had not taken a bath like the others.  Washing Judasí feet would be hopeless.  Why would someone just get his feet washed when his whole body was dirty?  Judas needed a bath, not a foot washing.  Judas never gave his life to Jesus.  He was never really "one of Jesus' own."  Judas was never saved, and, he never got saved.   


There is no reason to suggest that Jesus did not wash Judasí feet.  I believe He might have washed Judas' feet.  I wonder what went through Judasí mind during this foot washing.  He must have begun to know that Jesus knew what was going through his mind.  Judas could have fallen to His knees in repentance during this evening but he didn't.  He had ample time to do so.    


In verse 12 Jesus goes back to His place and asks His disciples if they understood what just took place.  Implied in this question is a "no" answer.  The disciples would not have understood what this all meant, as they did not understand what most things relating to Jesus meant. 


In verse 13 Jesus begins to explain what this exercise meant.  It was a dramatization of another spiritual principle.  Jesus says that they call Him "Teacher and Lord," and what they say is correct.  Jesus acknowledges that He is both a teacher, but most of all, that He is Lord, and in the Hebrew sense of the word "Lord", He claims divinity.  When the disciples called Jesus Lord, they were verbalizing His divinity, whether they actually knew it or not.


In verse 14 Jesus says that sense their Teacher and Lord washes their feet, they should wash one anotherís feet.  Why would this be the case?  In verses 15 and 16 Jesus says that a student is not above his teacher, nor is a servant greater than his master.  This foot washing experience spoke in part to the cross as I've mentioned earlier, but, it was also an example for the disciples to do to each other.  Does this mean that this event should be understood as the first of a foot washing tradition?  I don't think so.    


I donít believe that Jesus wanted to doctrinalize or institutionalize what had just taken place.  What He wanted His disciples to do was to relate to each other in such a way that they could help each other clean the dirt of this world off each other.  Jesus is speaking here of relational joints in what would become known as the Body of Christ.  We are not alone in our Christian walk in this world.  Jesus wants us to relate to each other in such a way that we can help each other when the world gets too much of a hold on our lives.  Cleaning each otherís feet means helping one another when we pick up worldly characteristics that we should not have.  It's all about encouraging, instructing, admonishing, and correcting one another in a spirit of love, grace, and humility.  


In verse 17 Jesus says that "now that you know these things you will be blessed if you do them."  The same applies to us.  There are two points here, knowing and doing.  Once we know, we should then start doing.  The problem we experience is that we donít do what we know.  If we help one another in freeing ourselves from the influence of the world around us, we will be a blessed people.  Maybe this is why we are not so blessed these days.  We're not so blessed because for the most part, the western world church know little to nothing about relating to each other in such a way that we can actually help each other to be free from the world's influence in our lives.  

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