John 13:1-17

Sunday Morning Bible Study

June 16, 1996


We've spent the last few weeks looking at the events of the last Sunday before Jesus dies, with His triumphant entry into the city of Jerusalem.

We now forward on to the following Thursday evening, the evening before Jesus is to be crucified.

It's now the time known as "the Last Supper".

Jesus is alone with His disciples in the upper room.

:1-5 Setting the stage for feet washing

:1 before the feast of the passover

Keep in mind that all that's happening in Jesus' life in this last week is building up to the Passover.

It was very important for Jesus' death to occur at just the right time, right at Passover, since the whole feast was a picture of how He would die for our sins, and His blood would cause God to pass over us in judgment.

It is Thursday night.

Jesus would die on Friday afternoon.

:1 Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart

I think this is an amazing thing.

Here is the night when He is going to be betrayed by a close friend, beaten cruelly, and then the next day horribly crucified on a Roman cross.

If I were to know all this ahead of time, I don't think I'd be doing the things that Jesus was doing.

I'd probably cancel church for sure, after all, who needs church when you've got problems like these!

Most likely I'd probably be asking if there were any midnight flights out of Jerusalem.

Or at least I'd probably be asking the disciples to pray for me, to encourage me, to minister to me.

But instead, Jesus is going to be a servant to the disciples.

And He's setting an example for us to follow.


When you're facing your toughest trials, turn to serve others.

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to take your eyes off of yourself and put it on someone else and their needs.

We can see this in the life of David, before he was king.

He was being chased by King Saul, who was jealous of him.

David was running for his life.

While trying to get David, Saul killed almost all the priests, claiming that they were in league with David.


David takes in Abiathar, a fellow fugitive.


David rescues the city of Keilah.

David's men think that they shouldn't worry about other people, they have too many problems of their own.

But David gets his advice from God instead, and helps Keilah.

Oddly enough, the city of Keilah turns against David and informs Saul of David's location.


When David is in the worst situation of all, God delivers him!

Is it any coincidence?

Take your eyes off your situation, go out and look for someone in need, and get to work!


Years ago, Dr. Karl Menninger of the Menninger Clinic was asked, "If someone felt a nervous breakdown coming on, what would you suggest that he do?"

"If you feel a nervous breakdown coming on, I would urge you to find somebody else with a problem -- a serious one -- and get involved with that individual, helping him solve his problem." In helping him to solve his problem, then in reality your own problem is going to disappear. You're no longer thinking internally. You're no longer letting things gnaw at your stomach. You're no longer getting disturbed about yourself because you're not thinking about yourself. You're thinking about others. I don't know what your objective in life might be, but there is something each one of us can do.

:1 having loved his own which were in the world

Talking about His love for His disciples.

:1 he loved them unto the end

I think that John is saying that Jesus kept loving His disciples, right up to His own death.

Even though He would be betrayed.

Even though He would be abandoned.

Even though He would die.

:2 supper being ended

Actually, it would be better translated:

"during supper" - "the Last Supper".

:2 the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him


The Greek word (ballo) for "put into" is the same word used in verse 5 for pouring water into a basin.

It's as if Satan had already poured the idea of betraying Jesus into the mold of Judas' heart, and had been cooking there for some time.

:3 Jesus knowing that ...

At the same time that Satan had been pouring these ideas of betrayal into Judas' heart, something had been going on in Jesus heart.

There were things that He was confident of, things He was assured of.

the Father had given all things into his hands

There was no sense of things being "out of control"

he was come from God and went to God

Jesus knew where He was from and where He was going.

It seems to me that this is at the foundation of what is about to take place.


"There was no identity crisis in the life of Jesus Christ. He knew who He was. He knew where He had come from, and why he was here. And he knew where He was going. And when you are that liberated, then you can serve."

-- Howard Hendricks, "The Problem of Discrimination," Moody Bible Institute Founder's Week Messages, 1979, p.145-146.


Strength comes from security with God.

Jesus was able to do all these loving things because of the things that He knew about His relationship with God.

I think that for many Christians, they never grow very much in their walk with the Lord, because they're always struggling with issues like whether or not they're really saved.

If you don't have a sense of security in your relationship with the Lord, it's going to be pretty hard to be very useful to God.

(1 John 5:11-13 KJV) And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. {12} He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. {13} These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

Do you have the Son?

Then you have the life.

:4 laid aside his garments

Not all his clothes, but just the outer garments.

:4 took a towel, and girded himself

Taking a towel, or, linen cloth, Jesus wrapped it around Himself, so He could use it when drying the disciples' feet.

Jesus is putting on the garments of a servant, a slave.

:5 began to wash the disciples' feet

This was a job usually reserved for servants.

And yet the King of Kings, the Creator of the Universe, has just taken up a towel and started to wash His own students' feet.

Paul describes this:

Philippians 2:5-11 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

made himself of no reputation - kenoo - to empty, make empty; of Christ, he laid aside equality with or the form of God

Jesus laid aside His glory when He came from heaven, but He didn't stop "laying aside" there.

He went on to "lay aside" His garments as well.

Jesus was not too important to be a servant.


The other day on the radio, I heard Greg Laurie talking about being invited over to Billy Graham's house for dinner.

There was Billy Graham pouring his Coke for him.

He was very nervous.

Here's the world's greatest evangelist asking him, "Would you like more Coke?", "Would you like another potato?"


As a young Christian, I thought that our group's evangelism efforts should focus on celebrities. My theory was that the poster people could influence more folks for Christ than us ordinary-Joe types. Occasionally I would hear of a celebrity conversion, but I was usually disappointed that not many seemed to follow. That taught me an important lesson: God doesn't build His kingdom on the fragile backs of star power. Glitz doesn't go very far with the Lord, and Isaiah tells us why: "This is the one I esteem: He who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word" (Isaiah 66:2).

Dana Key of Degarmo and Key, By Divine Design (Nashville, 1995), p. 97.

God just uses ordinary people who are willing to learn the lesson of humble servanthood.

(Mark 10:44 KJV) And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.

:6-17 Setting an Example

:6 Lord, dost thou wash my feet?

Peter is having a hard time allowing Jesus Christ bending down and serving him as a slave.

:7 What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter

Joh 13:7 Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand." (NIVUS)

Peter wouldn't fully comprehend until later just what Jesus had been doing in giving him an example of humility and servanthood.


You may not always catch everything right away.

But that's okay.

As long as you stay "teachable", the Holy Spirit will keep helping you along, teaching you a little at a time.

Joh 14:26 But the Comforter, [which is] the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (AV)

:8 Thou shalt never wash my feet

This is kind of a funny thing to say to a person who you call "Lord"!

He's telling Jesus what He can and can't do!

Peter is having a difficult time allowing Jesus to serve him.

:8 If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me

Jesus clarifies Himself.

No washing, no disciple.

Be careful here -

I don't think Jesus is talking about being "washed in the blood", as in salvation.

The word in Greek that He uses only refers to a light kind of cleansing, not a full cleansing.

I think Jesus is saying that if Peter doesn't allow Jesus to be his Lord, and surrender to Him, then Peter can't be Jesus' disciple.

:9 Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head

Well, if that's the way it's supposed to be, then give me a whole bath!

Peter doesn't want to risk any chance of not having a part with Jesus.

Peter is wrong in what he's asking, but I like his attitude.


It's not how far you can go, it's how close you can get.

Some people want to know how much they can get away with and still be a Christian.

Rather than asking ourselves how far can we get away from Jesus and still be with Him, I think we should be asking ourselves, how close can we get!

:10 He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit

every whit - all, whole, completely

To understand this passage ...

There are two different words used here in the Greek.

that is washed - louo - to bathe, wash

This is a word that hasn't been used in this discussion up to now.

to wash - nipto - to cleanse (especially the hands or the feet or the face)

This is the word that Jesus has been using (as in vs.8).

In those days, a person would normally take a full bath before attending a special feast, like the Passover.

But on the walk over to the meeting place, a person's feet would get kind of dusty and dirty.

And so there was the custom of washing your guests' feet when they arrived at your house.

Jesus is saying, "The guy who has already had his full Saturday night bath is already clean and only needs to have his feet washed".

But Jesus is talking about more than just washing His disciples' feet that Thursday night.

What's Jesus talking about?

The full cleansing -

What happens when we come to Jesus and make Him our Lord.

And He washes us in His blood.

Our sins are forgiven.

We are given a new start:

2Co 5:17 Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (AV)

The cleansing of our feet -

Is talking about the day to day dirt that we get on ourselves as we walk around in the world.

1Jo 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (AV)

:10 ye are clean, but not all

or, "you-all are clean, but not all"

As a group, they are basically clean, though a single person isn't.

:14 ye also ought to wash one another's feet

Some churches take this literally, and have "feet-washing services".

Up to 1731 the Lord High Almoner in England washed the feet of poor saints on Thursday before Easter, a custom that arose in the fourth century, and one still practised by the Pope of Rome. (RWP)

I don't think Jesus means that we need to literally wash each others' feet.

We don't have the same needs as the people did in Jesus' day.

We don't all wear sandals or walk on dirty, dusty streets.

If Jesus meant it as a specific practice, we would see the apostles doing it in the book of Acts.

But it's not there.

Instead, we are to learn from the principle He is teaching.

I think there are two aspects to washing one another's feet:


1. Humbly serving one another.

We need to learn from Jesus' example of humility.

There should be no job or service we wouldn't do for one another.

We see this as part of the list of qualifications for "widows indeed".

The early church supported women who had no family and no means of support, but with qualifications:

1Ti 5:9-10 Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man, 10 Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints' feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work. (AV)

It is simply part of the list of deeds of humble service.

It might be in mowing your neighbor's yard.

It might be in setting up chairs on Saturday afternoon.

It might be in taking out the trash.

2. Bringing cleansing to each other.

By ourselves, we can't really do a thing to help another person become cleaner before God.

That's God's job.

But we can be a part of the ways that God uses to bring cleansing:

a. Confession

Jas 5:16 Confess [your] faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (AV)

Are you there to listen to your friends in confidentiality.

b. Washing with the Word

One way that Jesus cleanses us is by the Word of God.

Eph 5:26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, (AV)

Joh 15:3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. (AV)

As we share God's Word with each other, it kind of scrubs the old toesies.

:16 The servant is not greater than his lord

If Jesus is our Lord, and He took the role of a servant, so should we.

You may be of the opinion that you've finally arrived at the point where you can afford to have people do things for you.


I know I shared this idea roughly about a month ago, but I found the exact quote:

F. B. Meyer once said: "I used to think that God's gifts were on shelves one above the other; and that the taller we grew in Christian character the easier we could reach them. I now find that God's gifts are on shelves one beneath the other. It is not a question of growing taller but of stooping lower; that we have to go down, always down, to get His best gifts."

:17 happy are ye if ye do them

happy - makarios - blessed, happy

Jesus is saying that if you understand these principles of serving others, you will be happy if you obey them.


Happiness comes from washing feet.

In America, we feel it's our "God-given right" to be "happy".

Thomas Jefferson wrote in our "Declaration of Independance": "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"

In our modern society, we take this to mean that we should do everything we can to "pursue happiness".

We think it involves having nice houses and cars, taking a cruise on the Love Boat, or seeing the latest summer movie.

But Jesus says that one of the ways of receiving happiness is by following Jesus' example of humility, servanthood, and ministering to other people.

Dads, if I said to you, "Happy Father's Day", would you be able to receive it?

Do you understand the way to receive it?

It's through humbly serving one another.