Dip This Piece of Bread

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Gospel of John 13:18-14:14

18 “I am not speaking about all of you—I know the men I have chosen. But let this scripture be fulfilled—‘He who eats bread with me has lifted up his heel against me’. Phillips

Back in verse 10, Jesus said, And you are clean, though not every one of you. NIV Here we have much the same phrase, both referring to Judas. When Jesus says he knows the men, he means he knows who will betray him; and who will run and hide but then will come out to be the saints he chose them to become.

Jesus then quotes a short passage from Psalm 41, telling us that it is a sign of the Messiah. Yea, my familiar friend, whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up the heel against me. Genea Bible 1599

Many modern translations do not write heel, even though it is the exact Hebrew word. The reason is a good one. Few Americans are familiar with the meaning of lifting the heel.

There are two things included in the statement by Jesus. When two people eat bread together, they make a covenant between themselves that must never be broken. Should their tribes go to battle against each other, the two men will watch for each other and never strike a blow against the other.

The second part regards striking that blow. That is literally what the phrase, lifting the heel, means. Judas raised his heel against Jesus by selling him out to the authorities. Judas would have known that he was in a covenant with Jesus and that his action broke that relationship. One of today’s greatest insults in the Middle East is throwing a shoe at someone. It is the descendant of the heel.

19 “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. 20 Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.” NIV

Jesus, in these two verses, is telling us different things. First, he says there will be a betrayal, and I am telling you before it happens so you will know I see the future. In addition, Jesus intends to share more about the near future with them—Peter’s denial, etc.

Second, Jesus is speaking to the eleven saying—still in the future—I will send you as witnesses of the Son of Man. Anyone who accepts your testimony will become a child of God. You will stand in for me when I am gone from this world.

These two verses are a bridge to prepare us for the long soliloquy by Jesus to follow.

21 After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. ESV

In this translation, Jesus says, ‘truly, truly. In fact, he said, Amen, Amen, as we have seen before. This is the twentieth time he used the phrase in John. Most modern translations use solemn truth, tell you plainly, very truly, or something similar, but I believe they should stick to the amens because of the ancient connection with the Word coming from God. Jesus testifies here as a witness of God’s Work—Judas will soon begin the greatest Work yet done by God.

When Jesus used the double amen, the disciples realized it was both serious and imminent. In 6:70, we read, Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” In 13:2, John said Judas would betray Jesus. In 13:10, Jesus said, ‘not all of you are clean.’ In 13:18, he pointed to the one who ‘shares my bread.’ These three statements build the intensity of the betrayal leading to, ‘Amen, amen, one of you reclining at this table right now is about to betray me.

These Twelve had lived together for three years. They knew each other and trusted all. No one of them could possibly do such a thing. Their next reaction might have been, ‘Jesus has never been wrong before,’ as they began to assess their friends in a new light.

23 One of his disciples, the one Jesus loved, was at the table to the right of Jesus in a place of honor. 24 So Simon Peter gestured to this disciple to ask Jesus who it was he was referring to. 25 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved leaned back against Jesus’ chest and asked him, “Lord, who is it?” NET 

Here is the first use of the phrase, The one Jesus loved. In the early centuries of the Church, few questioned that John was the author of the Gospel. Almost all believed John was the one Jesus loved. Only in the last four centuries have questions been raised and other names put forth for the author and the one loved.

I do not think we should place too much stress on the ‘place of honor.’ It is, I think, likely that the Twelve rotated through the two couches of honor, one on the right and one on the left. Even as they ate around the campfire, they likely continued the rotation. Remember John and brother James tried to get Jesus to name them his right and left chair-men in Heaven.

We should notice that the Synoptics agree, as Matthew puts it, 26:20When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. There were only thirteen men in the room and at the table. The women would have been serving the food. John says nothing to disagree with that number. Even though John does not name all the Twelve, the Synoptics do. We know the names of the men reclining with Jesus. Peter is exempt (verse 24), but any of the remaining eleven could be the one; yes, Judas included. But I cannot see how any other disciple could be considered, as many suggest.

Peter gesturing is, I think, another of the little bits that only John would know. You can get the image from verse 25 that the men were reclining close together. John was leaning on his left arm and looking at the back of the disciple to his right. They were free to turn and look around as they conversed and ate. John simply leans back and—probably—whispers the question to Jesus. 

26 Jesus replied, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread after I have dipped it in the dish.” Then he dipped the piece of bread in the dish and gave it to Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son. 27 And after Judas took the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” 28 (Now none of those present at the table understood why Jesus said this to Judas. 29 Some thought that, because Judas had the money box, Jesus was telling him to buy whatever they needed for the feast, or to give something to the poor.) 30 Judas took the piece of bread and went out immediately. (Now it was night.) NET

Dipping bread in a dish was the usual way to eat in their culture. It is still common in the Middle East today. The Romans, at least the wealthy, used plates and cutlery. The richest ate from gold plates while the lessers ate from gold-plated lead plates. The lead killed many.

Francis J. Moloney, as quoted by Karen H. Jobes, wrote, Eucharist is a subtheme to the meal and the gift of the piece of bread . . . just as baptism is a subtheme to the footwashing. John was adept at placing these little signposts in among the larger ones.

It seems that only John could hear what Jesus said, likely because he did not want the rest to freak out at the news. At the same time, he wanted the record to include the prior knowledge of Jesus—he knew Judas was going to betray him, and he wanted all of us to know he knew.

There is no big production about giving the bread to Judas, so he must have been close by, perhaps on Jesus’ left, but just as likely a space or two away. They were close enough to reach that far.

Jesus gave the bread to Judas and told him to go quickly. We know what Jesus meant by the words, but John was the only other who knew. Probably, he did not yet understand what betrayal meant—surely not death. Apparently, John said nothing until much later, although Peter would have insisted at once.

Judas is the classic example of a man who wants to be with Jesus, but on his own terms. He rejected Jesus’ teachings about the Heavenly Kingdom in favor of an earthly one. I believe he represents all the people who believe the government or charitable organization can create heaven on earth. They put all their energies into that goal while ignoring the only real Kingdom.

Now to Satan entering Judas. We should note earlier in this chapter this sentence. The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray JesusNIV There may be a difference in encouraging and entering. We know that Judas expected Jesus to claim David’s throne on earth, so had mixed thoughts about what was happening. It all came to a head when Jesus entered Jerusalem to the shouts of the crowd, but Jesus sluffed it off without going anywhere near Herod’s palace. That is likely when Satan prodded Judas—again.

Satan could not enter Judas without God’s permission. He was a follower of the Son of God. When Jesus handed Judas the bread, that was the signal to Satan.

The last four words are more important than just setting the scene. Judas left the Light and went into the darkness. One of John’s favorite images.

31 When he had gone, Jesus spoke, “Now comes the glory of the Son of Man, and the glory of God in him! 32 If God is glorified through him then God will glorify the Son of Man—and that without delay. 33 Oh, my children, I am with you such a short time! You will look for me and I have to tell you as I told the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot follow.’ 34 Now I am giving you a new command—love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 This is how all men will know that you are my disciples, because you have such love for one another.” Phillips

Jesus does not give the Eleven time to gossip or even think about Judas. He begins a new theme. Glory refers to Jesus’ death and resurrection and will reflect the Glory of God. Jesus then states the idea in the opposite terms. God will be glorified, and He will glorify Jesus.

Next, Jesus said, ‘you cannot follow me.’ They had followed him everywhere for three years; of course they would follow him now. Jesus, what do you mean? He did not mean his death. Ten of them would be executed. As nasty as it was, the crucifixion was the easy part. Jesus was going to do what no human could do—he was preparing to enter the lair of the Father of Lies, the Evil One, Lucifer, the Devil, Satan. He would carry out the long-awaited battle between Good and Evil.

As a replacement for Jesus when he was gone, he gave them a new commandment—Love. The Greek word used should not surprise us; it is agapao. That is the word used three times in verse 34. It means to love in a social or moral sense. A slightly different word is used in the next verse—agape, meaning charity. Paul’s beautiful passage about love uses the second word eight times, but never the first.

1 Corinthians 13 If I speak with the eloquence of men and of angels, but have no agape, I become no more than blaring brass or crashing cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of foretelling the future and hold in my mind not only all human knowledge but the very secrets of God, and if I also have that absolute faith which can move mountains, but have no agape, I amount to nothing at all. 3 If I dispose of all that I possess, yes, even if I give my own body to be burned, but have no agape, I achieve precisely nothing. This agape of which I speak is slow to lose patience—it looks for a way of being constructive. It is not possessive: it is neither anxious to impress nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance. Agape has good manners and does not pursue selfish advantage. It is not touchy. 6 It does not keep account of evil or gloat over the wickedness of other people. On the contrary, it is glad with all good men when truth prevailsPhillips

The kind of love Jesus commands us to practice is easy if we take his words literally without splicing in all his teachings on love. Jesus seems to tell Peter to love John, etc. yet, his whole life is an exhibition of loving everyone in his path. We just witnessed Jesus showing unexplainable love to Judas; how can we expect to do less?

36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” 37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times. NET

With this speech, Peter has forgotten Judas for now. He asks a natural question, one the others wanted to ask. This time, Jesus adds a word, you cannot follow me now. He goes on, but you will follow afterward. Now he hints of the deaths among them, but he does not say that nor explain his meaning.

Peter speaks his heart when he promises to die for Jesus if need be. Later, in chapter 18, we will see Peter draw a sword to stop the arrest of Jesus. Only after Jesus reprimands him does he become confused and begin to hide. He would have gladly gone down fighting. We too often give him a hard time for his impulsive words and actions, but he is the leader of the Twelve, now Eleven. Unlike the others, he risked arrest to follow the trial and just did avoid arrest—sadly, by denying his Master.

14 1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” ESV

Again, Jesus does not allow them time to mumble, grumble, or worry. Believe!

The Greek word mone means residence, abode, or mansion. The King James Version for verse 2 reads, In my Father’s house are many mansions. It seems the KJV is more accurate than the more modern translations.

I think the point is that God has a New Jerusalem that will seem like we jumped from Motel 6 to the Ritz. The good news is that we will most likely not remember our old lives or how we mistreated people on earth when we meet them again in the New Jerusalem.

Jesus promises to come back for us. He will get us through the gate, using his passport, and guide us to our new mansions.

Verse 4 requires more thought. How can the Eleven know the way? How can you and I know the way? Jesus tells them they already know the way, but when did he tell them? If all we read is GJohn, we hardly notice the disciples in the first dozen chapters. Part of the answer is in the preceding sentence; Jesus will come to get us. The other part is, Believe!

“Lord,” Thomas remonstrated, “we do not know where you’re going, and how can we know what road you’re going to take?” “I myself am the road,” replied Jesus, “and the truth and the life. No one approaches the Father except through me. 7 If you had known who I am, you would have known my Father. From now on, you do know him and you have seen him.” Phillips

Peter gets a break when Thomas speaks up for the group. He asks the question we considered above, how do we know? You want to know which road to travel? I am the road. Tread on me. Just to make sure you understand who I am, I am both truth and life; there is no other road to the mansions. ALL other roads lead to Hell.

Just in case you missed it the three hundred times I told you in the past three years, if you have seen who I am, you have seen God. If you know me, you know God. If you know God, you know the road.

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves. ESV

Now Philip jumps in where even Peter fears to tread. You just said seeing you is to see God. That does not work for me; show us the Father. We know you are the Messiah from the Father, but you are a human; you can not be the Father.

Even in these printed words, we can hear the weary tone Jesus must have used with Philip. How many times must I tell you, YOU HAVE SEEN GOD.

If you do not believe my words, which are the words of God, at least believe all the witnesses and all the miracles. I know your belief will have some limits, but you must believe.

William Barclay makes five points on Philip’s question. I have freely condensed two pages.  (i) God entered into an ordinary home and into an ordinary family. (ii) God was not ashamed to do a man’s work. He knows the difficulty of making ends meet; He knows the difficulty of the ill-mannered customer and the client who will not pay his bills. (iii) God knows what it is to be tempted. (iv) In Jesus we see God loving. In Jesus we see God caring intensely, yearning over men, feeling poignantly for men and with men, loving men until He bore the the wounds of love upon His heart. (v) In Jesus we see God upon a Cross.

12 “Truly, truly [Amen, amen], I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. ESV

Doing the works of Jesus is easy to understand, but doing greater works? No one can do better than Jesus did.

Except.

The disciples went to Samaria, Syria, Greece, Rome, Spain, even Britain. It was the work of the disciples that the Word of God found its way to the New World. So, yes, the disciples surpassed the work of Jesus—in volume.

I turn again to William Barclay to bring understanding to the last sentence (condensed). [Jesus] said that our prayers made in His name would be granted. The test of any prayer is: Can I make this prayer in the name of Jesus? But the prayer which is based on self cannot expect to be heard, because it is prayed in the name of self and not in the name of Jesus.

Be Righteous and do Good

Mike Lawrence

The Approval of God

LiquidLibrary on Picspree

Gospel of John 12:37-13:17

37 But though he had given so many signs, yet they did not believe in him, 38 so that the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled, when he said, ‘Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’ 39 Thus, they could not believe, and he hardened their heart: 40 ‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they should see with their eyes and understand with their heart, lest they should turn, so that I should heal them’. Phillips

Verse 38 quotes Isaiah 53:1, and Phillips has a good translation here. But let us read the three verses that come at the end of Isaiah 52:13-15. “Indeed, My servant shall prosper, Be exalted and raised to great heights. Just as the many were appalled at him—So marred was his appearance, unlike that of man, His form, beyond human semblance—Just so he shall startle many nations. Kings shall be silenced because of him, For they shall see what has not been told them, Shall behold what they never have heard.” Reading on in 53:2-6. For he has grown, by His favor, like a tree crown, He had no form or beauty, that we should look at him; No charm, that we should find him pleasing. He was despised, shunned by men, A man of suffering, familiar with disease, As one who hid his face from us, He was despised, We held him of no account. Yet it was our sickness that he was bearing, We accounted him plagued, Smitten and afflicted by God; But he was wounded because of our sins, Crushed because of our iniquities. He bore the chastisement that made us whole, And by his bruises we were healed. We all went astray like sheep, Each going his own Way; And the Lord visited upon him The guilt of all of us.” Jewish Study Bible If these last verses sound familiar, good; they are the stuff of Easter.

The second quotation is from Isaiah 6:10. Dull that people’s mind, Stop its ears, And seal its eyes—Lest, seeing with its eyes And hearting with its ears, It also grasp with its mind, And repent and save itself.” Verses 8-9 just before this are also worth noting. Then I heard the voice of my Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me.” And He said, “Go, say to that people: ‘Hear, indeed, but do not understand: See, indeed, but do not grasp.’” Jewish Study Bible

John only recorded a few of the signs because the Synoptics had covered them effectively. But, as we have seen, John stressed their importance in a way the others had not. His reason was the growing misunderstanding of who Jesus was. John insisted that Jesus was fully human and fully God. Any other position was wrong.

Verse 37 speaks directly to all the people in Jerusalem for Passover, most of whom did not believe the signs they had witnessed, heard, or heard about.

John is not saying that God prevented people from believing in Jesus to fulfill the prophecy. Many people have that mistaken idea from reading the OT. We read that God ‘hardened Pharaoh’s heart in the Exodus story.’ But we fail to see the difference between God forcing someone to do what he does not want to do and God knowing what he will do. The phrase is used in Exodus twenty times, but Pharaoh is said to have done it in the first five. JPS Torah Commentary adds this statement. It is only thereafter [the five] that it is attributed to divine causality. This is the biblical way of asserting that the king’s intransigence has by then become habitual and irreversible; his character has become his destiny.

William Barclay again: When we read a passage like this we must understand it to mean, not that God predestined and pre-ordained certain people to unbelief, but that even man’s unbelief can be used to further the eternal purpose of God. . . . There is nothing in this world, not even sin, which is outside the power of God.

One year, the Temple priest counted all the lambs offered for Passover and came up with 256,500. Ten men were required to join together for one lamb. That alone would put the celebrants over two million, but women and children joined in, so most groups had at least twenty per lamb. Do the math. The average population of the city was about 600,000, but most locals left town for a couple of weeks and let their visiting relatives live in their homes. They did their Passover a month later—called the Second Passover.

41 Isaiah said these things because he saw the glory of Christ, and spoke about him. 42 Nevertheless, many even of the authorities did believe in him. But they would not admit it for fear of the Pharisees, in case they should be excommunicated. 43 They were more concerned to have the approval of men than to have the approval of God. Phillips

John makes a small commentary on the quoted passages from Isaiah with verse 41. John says that Isaiah saw the Messiah and saw him as both the Son of Man and the Son of God.

Since about the second century, Jewish teachers have tried to distance their teachings from what the Christians were doing with passages like those in Isaiah. While we Christians have taken liberties with several bits of scripture, these John quoted from Isaiah were believed to be about the coming Messiah before Jesus’ birth. The early Jewish followers of Jesus said, ‘Oh, that’s what Isaiah meant.’

John adds that Jesus had some success reaching people. Those who believed in the signs wanted to believe Jesus was the Messiah but were afraid to do so publicly. There have been closet Christians for two thousand years. Many of them became followers after Pentecost. Sadly, many never did. How many people over the ages have attended church for a lifetime without ever following Jesus?

The job you have for the paycheck, the friends you hang with, the entertainment you enjoy, how you treat your family should all be a reflection of Jesus.

44 And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. 45 And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. ESV

Jesus makes it clear that we cannot separate Jesus and God. Jesus is the earthly human image of God. To believe in Jesus and his signs is to believe in God. You may believe in God without believing in Jesus, but not the other way around.

Here is the light again. Without light, we must walk in darkness.

47 If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. ESV

This statement is not in conflict with other comments about being the judge. Here, Jesus is talking about being the light. If we accept his light, we will not walk in darkness. If we walk in darkness, we will walk in sin. If we walk in sin, we will receive punishment. If we walk in the light, Jesus will tell God, ‘These are my people, let them in.’ If we walk in darkness, Jesus will tell God, ‘I do not know these people, do not let them enter.’ His job as judge is secondary to his role as savior.

William Barclay says it simply. Jesus did not come into the world to condemn men; He came to save men. It was not the wrath of God which sent Jesus to men; it was the love of God.

48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. 49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” ESV

The word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. Imagine the Word posted on a wall, and I stand in front of the Word; if my image is distorted by sin, I will not look like the Word. Jesus is our judge in that we either look like him or we do not. It is not that simple because all of us are distorted with sin, but Jesus can see what we would look like without the pimples of sin. He can also see when the sin is more than skin deep.

Matthew 25 31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. NIV

Every word spoken by Jesus came from God. His commands to us came from the Creator of the universe. We cannot ignore the commands.

Matthew 25 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ NIV

13 1 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. NIV

This reminds us of chapter 2, verse 4. “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” NIV He also refers to his hour in 7:30, 8:20, 12:23, and 12:27. Now, after three years, the hour has arrived. By now, we should understand that he is not referring to an hour but rather to a period of time—in this case, a week.

The more important statement in this verse is his love for the Twelve and the other disciples. Hundreds had followed him during the ministry, but most fell away. Attracted by the glitz of healing, they never became believers.

We cannot know how many people were believers because many could not walk with him, especially among the women who had homes and children to care for. Jesus’ love for those who could not be with him very often was still strong.

Jesus also loved them to the end. John tells us first that Jesus is getting ready to return to his life in Heaven. Then John tells us that Jesus loved all the people God gave to him on his stay on earth. Further, Jesus continues to love them and will always love them, even to the end of his earthly life and to the end of existence. His love for his ‘people’ knows no boundaries.

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, that he should betray Jesus. NET

John speaks of Judas eleven times in the Gospel. In John 6:71, he is called Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, as he is here and again in 13:26. Nowhere else in the NT is Simon, the father of Judas Iscariot, mentioned, yet, John mentions him three times. My guess is that many of John’s readers in the nineties knew Simon. I like to think because he became a believer and active follower. But it is just as likely he was known for something not so nice.

Note that the devil gets the credit for turning Judas’ loyalties away from Jesus. This is classic Biblically rhetoric, even though verse after verse attests to God being in control. What are we to believe? Did the father-of-lies override God’s plan and corrupt Judas, a faithful follower of the Son of Man? Or did God tell Satan to take Judas for his own? A commonly held notion is that God stays aloof of the world and allows the evil one to do whatever damage he wants.

A careful study of the OT will show us a God very much involved in human affairs even though we remain rebellious and unfaithful. Time after time, God forgives us and helps us recover and rejoin Him in fellowship. True, God’s timing spans decades and centuries while we want instant results. Even His prophets were frustrated with Him occasionally.

The bottom line is that we are covered in sin and living in a sinful world where the devil can function. We must suffer the consequences of living in a sin-filled world—deadly storms, diseases, murders, wars, volcanic eruptions, and all the daily pin-pricks of misunderstandings, even from those we love. God allows the Lier his little victories but never allows him to tear anyone away from the protection of His Son. We, like Judas, can choose to do that ourselves. The evil one is always beside us, ready to help us pull away from God, but powerless to force us to do it.

Because Jesus knew that the Father had handed all things over to him, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, he got up from the meal, removed his outer clothes, took a towel and tied it around himself. He poured water into the washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel he had wrapped around himself. NET

In J. Ramsey Michaels commentary on John, he connects the knowing in verse 1 with the knowing in verse 3. First, Jesus knew, or realized, that his time had arrived. Now, God has filled him with the full knowledge of what is to come. He even understands that he is about to return to Heaven and be with his Father again.

Origen, writing about 230 CE, made this observation. The things, therefore, that were not formerly in Jesus’ hands are given into his hands by the Father. And it is not some things and not others that are given into his hands, but all thingsACCS

Augustine, about 410, wrote, Since the Evangelist was about to relate such a magnificent instance of our Lord’s humility, he first wanted to remind us of his majestyACCS

Jesus and God had a unique communication unlike any other human—ever. Because Jesus had a human brain, with all its limitations, God told Jesus what he needed to know at any given time.

Now, Jesus has so little time left as a human that God fills him with all the last details he will need to get through the next few days.

Jesus stood up as they were eating. Read that again—he got up from the meal. All thirteen men were reclining around the table, picking up food with their right hands—even the lefties—talking to one another as at hundreds of other meals.

Jesus stood. Why?

My assumption has long been that no one else was willing to wash everyone’s feet. That does not fit with what we know about the Middle East, then and now. First, they are eating a meal that women prepared for them. Second, two or three of the women would have been at the door to wash the men’s feet as they entered. No one would enter without at least removing his or her sandals. No. One.

We can assume the men reclined with washed feet, so what was Jesus doing? I refer again to J. Ramsey Michaels. In the first three verses, all the participles about what Jesus “knew,” how much he “loved,” and what the devil was up to combine to make the point that the moment for action came in the middle of the meal.

After three years, Jesus is comfortable with the Twelve. They all arrive, have their feet washed, find their places as they talk about the day. The women bring in their food and they begin to eat. For whatever reason, that is when it all came together for their Master. Perhaps his love for them was the final straw. He loved Judas and did not want him to do what he knew he would do.

We think we understand Jesus’ love, but how can we? As the Son of God, his love is perfect; ours is not. In his love, Jesus, during the meal, has to deal with the upcoming failings of all of the Twelve. We stress Judas and Peter in these terrible days; the other ten also failed to speak up and show up. John 19:26-27 may indicate that John stood near the cross. We will look at that later.

Jesus removed his outer clothes, that is, his robe. Underneath was a tunic. That made him look like a lower rank servant. With the towel, bowel, and water, he indeed looked like the servant who sat at the door to wash the feet of all who entered. That is precisely what he intended. The men did not need to rewash their feet; they needed one more lesson in humility and servitude. Time was short, so Jesus acted out a parable. ‘If you cannot do this with everyone you meet, you are not my disciples.’

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.” ESV

Peter has not changed much in three years. He is still impulsive and naive. He is also a natural leader and willing to speak for the group. It is easy to imagine that there may have been some snickering at his more naïve remarks, but not likely in this case. I believe all of the Twelve were aghast that their Master of three years would undertake a slave’s job for any reason, let alone to care for them.

While Jesus is demonstrating that the disciples should live lives of service—as should we—he is also reminding them that cleanliness is about becoming one with Jesus. Our salvation is 100% in the hands of Jesus. The only way to my salvation is to believe in Jesus. There are no good works that will save me. If I put my faith, life, resources, and existence in Jesus, I will want to do the things he did; not to save me but honor him. The book’s title by Thomas à Kempis says it all: The Imitation of Christ.

In the second part of verse 10, Jesus speaks to the Twelve when he says, ‘you are clean.’ We get that when he adds, ‘not all of you.’ He is not saying that Peter is only partly clean. Some of the Twelve are not clean. John has already said Judas will betray Jesus, so we know who he means.

Judas had no intention of killing Jesus, but Jesus knew his action would result in death. Still, Jesus washed the feet of Judas because he loved him. That is the most challenging lesson to take to heart.

Some people are challenging to be around, let alone love. As a public high school teacher, I must confess to ignoring some students as much as possible. I did not want to poke the rattlesnake. The best teachers dealt with them fairly well.

12 When Jesus had washed their feet and put on his clothes, he sat down and spoke to them, “Do you realise what I have just done to you? 13 You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘Lord’ and you are quite right, for I am your teacher and your Lord. 14 But if I, your teacher and Lord, have washed your feet, you must be ready to wash one another’s feet. 15 I have given you this as an example so that you may do as I have done. 16 Believe me, the servant is not greater than his master and the messenger is not greater than the man who sent him. 17 Once you have realised these things, you will find your happiness in doing them. Phillips

Do you realise what I have just done to you? Several translations use the word for you. The Greek means to you, with you, or by you. The single Greek word, humin, has to be two words in English, but which two. As you can see, for you is not an option according to Strong’s.

So what does Jesus mean; what is his intent? Physically, he did it to the disciples. But he also did it for them to help them understand their servant status. The rest of this passage builds on that image.

A key verse is 16; the servant is not greater than his master. Add to that image the detail that the person responsible for washing the feet at the entrance was the lowest member of the house. In most homes, that was the youngest child capable of the task. It was the lowest and most inept servant or slave in the few wealthy homes.

Jesus did the most menial duty a person could do for anyone in those days.

One of my favorite accounts of what Jesus meant comes from the book Shantung Compound by Langdon Gilkey. As a young man just out of college, he went to China in 1940 to teach English. When the Japanese invaded his region, they rounded up all the foreigners and put them in guarded camps. In the first days in Shantung, no one was in charge because the guards were only there to shoot escapees. Eventually, all the toilets filled up to overflow levels, so people used the floors.

Gilkey writes, And so the situation grew progressively worse. It would have continued so had not some Catholic priests and nuns, aided by a few of the Protestant missionaries, tied cloths around their faces, borrowed boots and mops, and tackled this horrendous job. That inspired the few engineers in camp to work out a way to flush the toilets. They did not learn that at MIT.

As we read the Gospels, we see Jesus meeting the needs of people, healing them especially. That was not his most important job. He had to train a band of a hundred or more disciples to be ready to take over his duties when he ‘moved on.’ The Twelve received the most attention as one of their jobs would be to continue the instruction of the others so they could coach new followers.

You will find your happiness in doing them.

Be Righteous and do Good

Mike Lawrence