John 13


‘It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so, he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not everyone was clean. When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.’ John 13:1-17

Chapters 1-12 we see Jesus’ ministry to His one nation, the nation rejected Him, John 1:11, He withdraws from public ministry and in chapters 13-17 we have teaching given to the apostles.

There is a difference of emphasis, in chapters 1-12 the dominant words are ‘life’ and ‘light’, introduced in John 1:4. The theme of ‘life’ occurs 50 times, the theme of ‘light’ occurs 32 times.

But in chapters 13-17 the ‘life’ theme occurs only 6 times and the ‘light’ theme not at all, by contrast ‘love’ is mentioned 6 times in chapters 1-12 but 31 times in chapters 13-17.

In the farewell narrative John is showing us love in action, chapters 13-19 deal with the final week in the earthly life of Jesus and we see two significant actions in John 13:1-30.

Before beginning his systematic instruction of the apostles, Jesus does two significant things, He washes His disciples’ feet an object lesson in love and humility and also, He gives a sop and instruction to Judas, setting in motion the chain of events which led to His death.

This verse is by way of introduction of the event now to occur, the reason why Jesus did this is given as ‘He now showed them the full extent of His love’. He loved the men He had spent the last three years training, now He used this opportunity to show them the full extent of His love and His humility.

‘Now before the feast of the Passover’

etc., doesn’t necessarily mean that the events here recorded took place before the Passover. Judas Iscariot already knew what he was to do, he had shown his true colours as a materialist by being guilty of stealing.

Now he had the opportunity to earn money by selling Jesus to the Sanhedrin. He decides that the time is right, perhaps if he lingers longer someone else will earn the thirty pieces of silver. The decision was already made.

Feet washing was practiced because the roads were unsurfaced and uncleaned, in summer, dust, in winter, mud. Feet washing was an essential social requirement. In times of riches a servant performs this service.

How was it taken care of by apostolic group?

No doubt they took turns, on this occasion no apostle willing to do it, Luke 22:24, if John 13 records the observance of the Passover, then on this occasion they were arguing about who should be greatest.

Jesus had all assurance that His objectives were to be reached, He now needed to show the way of humility not arrogance, the feet washing was the lowest task in a household.

It proved one’s servant-hood, so Jesus, fully understanding His Deity as well as His imminent death and return to God, becomes that lowly servant. Jesus washes and dries the feet of those around Him, using the towel wrapped around His waist.

The lowest servant’s role taken on by God himself and note the ‘garments’ in John 13:4+12. Customarily the slave who washed his master’s feet removed both outer cloak and inner tunic, clad only in loincloth, Philippians 2:7.

In man’s view of things, you have many people at the bottom of a ladder in a company, family or even a church or denomination. Jesus shows His disapproval of such views by washing the feet of the disciples, He shows the need for the leaders, as Jesus truly was, to be servants to the masses. It’s a great lesson in humility that we all need to learn.

Jesus washed the feet of all, including Judas, John 13:12, Judas had already conceived the plan to betray his Master, John 13:2. Jesus knew this, John 13:11 / John 6:70-71, but Jesus washed Judas’ feet because He loved him.

Agape love isn’t mere emotional response to someone we like, it is a deliberate act of the well, determination to do good to others, no matter how badly they treat us.

Man’s ladder

Managing director

Area managers

Office managers

Office workers

Tea women,


Messengers etc.

Man’s view of the road to success, many are at the bottom of the ladder and all are trying to ascend it. The man at the top is served by those below him.

Jesus’ ladder






Jesus Christ

Jesus view of the same ladder, He taught the need to accept our place at the top but struggle to serve, and descend the ladder becoming more like Him at each rung.

In John 13:6-9 we see that Jesus eventually works his way around to Peter. Now Peter had a strong tendency to put his foot in his mouth without thinking of the potential consequences.

Peter’s protest,

‘Lord, do you wash my feet?’

is incongruous that his ‘kurios’ should wash His own servant’s feet. He ought to have known that a lesson was being taught by the Master. Even if he didn’t understand the lesson, it was ample clear that Jesus wasn’t involved in a foot cleaning session for the simple sake of it. However, his heart is in the right place.

Jesus says,

‘You do not realise now what I am doing, but one day you will understand’.

Peter immediately shows that he doesn’t appreciate the significance of what Jesus is doing by his violent protest, this shows Peter’s character, curious blend of humility and arrogance.

Peter’s totally unacceptable that His Master should perform this menial act shows his humility and then in the same breath we see his arrogance, he, the servant, presumed to dictate to his Master, Matthew 16:22.

Jesus says,

‘Unless I wash you, you will not share with me’

and look at Peter’s response,

‘Lord not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!’

Peter was a very unstable man. He had just told his Master that He, Jesus was doing too much. He now tells Him that He isn’t doing enough! One moment he courageously walks on the sea, the next moment he is pleading,

‘Lord, save me!’ Matthew 14:28-30

He confesses that Jesus is

‘the Christ, the Son of the living God,’

then soon after he dares to rebuke His Master, Matthew 16:16-22. In the Upper Room, he declares that he will die rather than deny Jesus, but soon he will deny him three times. John 18:25-27 / Matthew 26:69-75.

But there is no denying Peter’s love for Jesus, even here in John 13 he seems to be saying,

‘I want to belong to you completely’

not just my feet, but all of me, Lord. He was impetuous and unreliable, but in him

‘grace gradually won the victory’

and made him the man Jesus wanted him to be.

He seems so emphatic that Jesus will not clean his feet until Jesus tells him his options, then he swings around to the opposite extreme and wants his whole body washed.

The lesson isn’t one of bodily cleanliness, but of spiritual humility. It’s a vital lesson all must learn, but is even more pronounced for those who are in leading positions in the church, they must lead by example, and in humility, with all love and compassion.

Peter didn’t feel worthy of having his feet cleaned by the Lord, and he was well justified for this idea, however none of us deserved or do still deserve redemption, but God’s love for us exceeds His hate for sin. We must be most precious in the eyes of God, or He would never have sent His Son on our behalf.

In John 13:10 we see an everyday example, a man going to feast first bathes completely at home, then on arrival his feet only would be washed. Likewise, ‘you, ‘plural’ are clean’ i.e. spiritually.

‘But not every one of you’,

Judas had already made a bargain with the Sanhedrin to betray Jesus, Matthew 26:14-16 / Mark 14:10-11. Jesus has reassured Peter that he is now clean and now turns His attention to one of the number who isn’t. He doesn’t yet tell the gathering who is to be guilty, but we can be sure both Jesus and the guilty party knew who was being discussed.

Judas may have had had a bath, but he could never wash away the spiritual dirt he had allowed and was now allowing to accumulate within him. We to can do nothing to affect spiritual cleansing and need to rely totally on Jesus’ grace and blood, there must also be a daily cleansing.

In John 13:12-17 we see Jesus the example of humble service. Jesus then completed the task of washing the rest of the disciple’s feet. No one else commented on the action, although they may have been somewhat perplexed by the entire incident. The word, ‘know’ means understand, they knew what he had done, but did they appreciate its spiritual significance.

Jesus re-joined them at the table and started to discuss the event just passed and He points out to them the relationship between them, Jesus is their teacher and their Lord. They rightly called him, ‘The Teacher’, ‘didaskalos’ and ‘The Lord’, ‘Kurios’.

If He, their Kurios and didaskalos had lovingly served them, they ought lovingly to serve one another. By performing this most menial task He had given them an ‘example’ for them to copy.

Is Jesus instituting an ordinance of ‘feet washing’?

What did Jesus say? He said, not

‘…that you should do what I have done to you’


‘as I have done to you’.

Foot washing in both Old and New Testament was a social custom, it met a real need. Present denominational practice of washing clean feet cannot be compared with it.

Absolutely no New Testament evidence that it was ever practised congregationally as an ordinance. 1 Timothy 5:10 classed with bringing up children, showing hospitality, all defined as

‘doing good in every way’.

It would be equally logical to suggest that bringing up children be made a

‘church ordinance’.

Jesus gave them an object lesson in humility, which rebuked their pride. They argued as to who was greatest, Luke 22:24, He had taught them often in word, Matthew 20:25-28. Now He teaches them in deed, in His kingdom true greatness is measured by the yardstick of loving service.

Galatians 5:13, ‘through love be servants of one another’.

It was an example of loving service which should characterise every true disciple in His dealings with other disciples.

We aren’t told to wash each other’s feet as some sort of ceremony, but to be involved with actively serving each other as well as the people around us. This doesn’t mean that the disciples are greater than Jesus, but that our response to our greatness in Christ, having our sins forgiven, and enjoying eternal life, ought to be a response in humility and servanthood, not arrogance as it the norm in the world. We are urged to do these things as Christ did.

‘Truly, truly’, always prefaces a solemn statement, ‘a slave’ ‘doulos’ is not greater than his Master, it is surely not too menial for his slaves.

‘He who is sent’ John 13:16

is apostolos, its sole occurrence in John’s Gospel. They were His sent ones, apostles, Matthew 10:2, He was their sender.

‘If you know this, happy are you if you act upon it’

‘I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfil this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned against me.’ “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.” After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.” His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.” Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. So, Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.’ John 13:18-30

Here, Jesus hints at the coming events and He reminds the disciples present of Psalms 41:9, in which it is prophesied that one close to the Lord would betray Him and so He ensures that the men know when the incident occurs.

‘He who ate my bread’ etc., Psalm 41:9.

They’re, introduced with

‘Even my bosom friend in whom I trusted’.

This is a picture of a close, personal friend, enjoying a relationship of trust, betrays his host. Sharing a meal was more than a social occasion, guarantee of mutual trust between host and guest.

Later, looking back, the apostles would remember that Jesus’ betrayal and death were exactly what He had predicted, John 12:16. He wasn’t the helpless victim of superior forces, He was totally in control of the situation. One sent by God to effect God’s purpose going forward calmly and unafraid, to do what God had planned for him to do.

It will re-enforce their conviction that he is the one written about so many years before. He shows that even at this late stage He is concerned about the Spiritual well-being of the men who are to carry the message to all the world. He uses this opportunity to assure the disciples that all who accept the word they are to bring accept Jesus and therefore accept God as well.

Again, in John 13:20 we find the words, ‘very truly’ which is solemn assurance,

‘and one whom I send’,

an apostle, Matthew 10:40 / Luke 10:16.

These men are to be His inspired representatives, John 14:26 / John 15:26-27 / John 16:13. To receive them, heed their teaching is to receive the Lord Jesus and to receive Him is to receive the Father who sent Him.


‘was troubled in spirit’ John 11:33 / John 12:27.

His prediction

‘one of you will betray me’

is His third reference to the betrayer in chapter 13. One terrible thing lay on the heart of the Lord, He knew the time was coming close, so He needed to tell of this thing.

The Bible says ‘He testified’ as opposed to ‘He told’, this infers more of a declaration, a speech of significant importance, something that He had seen, or been witness to. Thus, this was a prophecy which of course, was soon to be seen to be trust worthy.

‘One of you is going to betray me’,

these words cut to the heart of this group of men.

The disciples were perplexed,

‘at a loss to know which of them he meant’.

They looked at each other, each wondering who was to be guilty of this most hideous crime.

‘One whom Jesus loved’ John 19:26 / John 20:2 / John 21:7+20

Tradition has always understood this to be John. All the Gospels describe this event, all show concern to ensure the individual would not be the guilty party.

In his humility, John never names himself in the account and the other accounts describe John as the one Jesus loved. In John 13:24 we see that each guest reclining at low table, John was next to Jesus. When Jesus said,

‘one of you will betray me’

Peter made a sign or gestured to John, asking,

‘who is it he means?’

John merely leaned back and asked Jesus,

‘Lord who is it?’

The way he recounts the incident, with John 13:27-29 suggests that this was a private interchange, question and answer not heard by the others.

Matthew 26:20-25, although Judas was aware of the decision he had made to betray the Lord, he didn’t want to reveal himself. In John 13:26 we see a piece of bread or meat dipped in sauce which was bitter herbs. Giving a price of bread to a guest was sign of friendship or special favour, this would mean that Jesus wasn’t only identifying the traitor to John but also assuring Judas of His love for him.

It was love’s last appeal, He knew what Judas planned, but to the end held out opportunity to turn from his wickedness of his heinous crime. It was an opportunity to seek restitution from Jesus, but it’s too late, Satan had now entered Judas.

‘Satan entered into him’, Luke 22:3

Judas casts aside all hesitation and gives himself up wholly to Satan’s work. Up to this time he had doubts and impulses to do better, but now he plunges headlong into the bottomless pit. The others didn’t fully understand the events just taken place between Jesus and Judas.

Jesus urges Judas to get the task over with quickly. Judas was arranging for Jesus’ crucifixion. Luke 12:50 I have a baptism to undergo, what tension I suffer, till it is all over! As if He said to Judas, Get on with it. I must get it over with! This is the only time in Scripture where God and Satan gave a man the same command.

The disciples think Jesus is referring to some act of kindness, but the most extreme opposite is true. He is referring to the most terrible crime ever committed against man or God and so, Judas rejects Jesus’ last plea of mercy and Judas goes out into the night. Although it was night, I’m sure that John was referring to more than the obvious, Jesus is the light. It’s always dark when you leave Jesus!

In John 13:28-29, we find a possible problem,

why didn’t John expose Judas?

He and other disciples knew nothing of Judas’ plans and he may not have thought that the betrayal was imminent. All the apostles said,

‘Is it I?’,

so probably they were thinking not of deliberate, calculated treachery, but involuntary betrayal, e.g. as Peter’s denial.

Also, the apostles refused to accept that Jesus was going to a cross. On the other side of Cavalry, it must have seemed incredible that Jesus should urge Judas to do his work of betrayal quickly.

The word ‘night’ marks the time, but probably symbolic also, the forces of darkness were gathering around Jesus, Luke 22:53. Also, Judas deliberately rejected the Light of the World and went out into total spiritual darkness. He ceases to follow and loses the light of life, the picture painted is gloomy and intensely sad.

‘When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once. “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’ John 13:31-35

In between verses thirty and thirty-one, the Gospels place the institution of the Lord’ Supper, ignored here by John. Judas

‘had gone out’,

he hadn’t been forced out, or driven out, but had gone out voluntarily. Jesus knew all along what Judas would do, but foreknowledge is not causation.

Jesus speaks of the coming glorification of the Son and the Father, the two will give each other glory, cause each other to be glorified, the one cannot receive glory without the other also receiving it, the two are one.

Note the repetition of ‘glorified. glorified. glorified. glorified.’ Both He and His Father would be ‘glorified’ i.e. honoured, exalted. ‘Now is the Son of Man glorified’ refers to the departure of Judas, the prelude to Jesus’ death.

There are three facts that we need to remember here

1. His death would be His glorification, exaltation. In the eyes of His enemies He suffered defeat. In the purpose of God, He was victorious.

2. The Father would be glorified in the death of Jesus, God sent His Son for this purpose.

3. God will glorify Jesus ‘in himself’, John 17:5, death will be followed by resurrection, ascension, coronation.

God will do this ‘at once’, He is on the threshold of Gethsemane, Gabbatha and Golgotha. In a matter of hours, He would be arrested in Gethsemane.

The term ‘little children’ in John 13:33 is ‘teknea’ and it’s only used this once is the four Gospels and only elsewhere in 1 John, it’s a term of tenderness and affection, as parent would use for little children greatly loved.

The immediate nature of this occurrence is highlighted; indeed, it was now early evening. Gethsemane was little more than an hour away, soon would that great act of passion commence. John 13:34-35 tells us that soon He will die on the cross, betrayed by a close friend, but His first thought is for the eleven, and not for Himself. The great new commandment is given,

‘love one another’

by this all Christians must live.

The word, ‘love’ is ‘agapao’, this isn’t an impulse from the feelings, it doesn’t always run with the natural inclinations, nor does it spend itself only upon those for whom some affinity is discovered.

It’s a

‘new commandment’

but not new, because love not commanded under Old covenant, Leviticus 19:18 / Matthew 22:37-40. It’s new as to quality and degree,

‘even as I have loved you’, 1 John 3:16

The word ‘love’ is also present tense which means we are to keep on loving one another. John 15:12+17.

‘By this all men will know’

means that love is the badge of discipleship.

Jesus love was of the highest possible order, He loved all so much that He was about to surrender the gift of life that each individual would have the chance of eternal life. His love drove Him out of heaven down to earth, God became man because of love. This love is the love we need have between ourselves and toward those still outside in the dark.

The word for ‘love’ used here is ‘agape’ and refers to the finest love you can ever have for another. This is the love so powerful that it encompasses all the commands given in the Old Testament, leaving nothing outside. The result of this love as all mankind sees it, knowledge that these are of Christ.

Does the world recognise in you that love? Do people know that you are a Christian by your love, for them and others? Love is the test of commitment, enduring unchallengeable love.

‘Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!’ John 13:36-38

The disciples still didn’t fully realise what was soon to occur, Peter asks where Jesus is going,

‘Lord, where are you going?’

Jesus answered,

‘Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you shall follow afterward’.

Jesus was going voluntarily to death, but it wasn’t yet time for Peter to die, he would eventually ‘follow’ his Master to death by crucifixion, John 21:18-19. Peter promises all for Jesus, but Jesus knows better, Peter would deny his Lord three times that evening.

Peter asking why he cannot follow Jesus immediately shows three things of Peter’s personality.

1. His devotion, he wants to be with his Master.

2. His impatience, ‘why cannot I follow you right now?’

3. His self-reliance. ‘I will lay down my life for you’.

All of these are shattered for that time when he was guilty of denying the one he loved. Even Peter wasn’t perfect, he made mistakes as we do.

It’s important to see that Peter was sincere in this assertion, he meant it nut he didn’t know himself as well as Jesus knew him. He revived and became a great apostle for the Lord, Jesus knew the truth of what was to happen. Peter wouldn’t lay his life down for the Lord, but the Lord for him, Peter wouldn’t follow, he would deny.

The prophecy Jesus gives in this regard tells of three great truths of Jesus

1. Jesus the great prophet.

2. Jesus the great sufferer.

3. Jesus the great Saviour. ‘The cock will not crow’ etc., Mathew 26:34 / Mark 14:30 / Luke 22:34.

Mark 13:35 indicates that it marked the third of the four ‘watches’ ‘evening’ 6-9 ‘midnight’ 9-12. ‘Rooster-crowing’ 12-3, ‘morning’ 3-6, hence, what Jesus means seems to be that before 3 am Peter will deny him three times.

The prediction shattered Peter, throughout the Upper Room discourse afterwards he is silent.

Jesus just moments before His departure takes time to teach Peter, who was in many ways the leader in the future this great lesson. This lesson is recorded so we can learn from its experience.

Go To John 14



"One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent.’"

Acts 18:9