The Private Teaching
Jesus was sharing what is known as the Lord’s Supper with the twelve disciples. At the beginning of the meal a dispute arose between the disciples as who would be greatest in the Kingdom. (Luke 22:24) Jesus took this occasion to teach the disciples that the greatest in His Kingdom would be measured by service. Jesus arose from the supper table and removed His outer garments and placing a towel around His waist began to wash the disciple’s feet.
John in his Gospel prefaces this act by several phrases that emphasize the incomparable humility of Jesus in this act of washing His disciple’s feet. John declares that is was, “Now before the Feast of the Passover.” That note in time indicates that which we have been pointed to continually throughout John’s Gospel. We are now entering the events leading up to the death of Jesus. Jesus’ death is a fulfillment of the Passover and the offering of the sacrificial lamb. By washing the feet of His disciples Jesus was demonstrating that He had laid aside His existence-form as God. He had assumed the garment of human flesh and taken the place of a servant. Jesus had even stooped to His death on the cross that He might cleanse His followers from sin. John further says that Jesus was conscious, “that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father.” Even then, knowing what He was about to suffer, Jesus was self-forgetful and mindful only of the needs of His disciples. The motive of Jesus’ act is His perfect unfailing love: “having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” His motive is even further emphasized by the fact that He did not shrink from washing the feet of the one who would betray Him, “the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him.” Jesus’ act is a display of supreme humility by the assurance that Jesus was mindful of His universal power, of His divine origin and destiny: “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God.” Slaves were employed the wash the feet of guest as they reclined at the table. Jesus taking on this responsibility showed Himself to be the servant of His disciples. Today Jesus is still the servant to His followers, as He leads us, teaches us through His Word, and intercedes at the throne of the Father for us as our advocate for the forgiveness of our sins.
None of the disciples interrupted Jesus as He went around the table washing each of their feet until He reached Peter. Peter was hesitant to have his Master perform such a menial service and even when assured by Jesus there was a purpose that he would understand later Peter objects. Jesus replied to Peter’s objection, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” Peter then goes to the other extreme and asks Jesus to not only wash His feet but his hands and head also. What Peter failed to realize is that Jesus washing the feet of the disciples was a symbol of a spiritual cleansing which He was seeking to effect. Jesus did wash the feet of the disciples for their physical comfort since they were in a dispute to who was the greater and none would humble themselves to wash the feet of the others.
Jesus did more than wash the disciples feet He also cleansed their hearts. As Jesus went around the table washing their feet all their envy, bitterness, unkindness, and wrath were gone. They were now ready in their hearts to hear the private teachings of Jesus on this last night they would spend together. Jesus knew that they loved Him, and that new life had been given to them by His Spirit, but He realized the need to have their present state of mind corrected.
Jesus was aware that one was to betray Him and his heart was filled with deadly enmity. We know this by His statement, “and you are clean, but not all of you.” How comforting it is to know that as we love our Lord and trust Him, He does not reject us because of sudden failure or a single fault. Jesus has cleansed us from the guilt of sin but we still need a daily cleansing from our daily corruption. We do not need to be washed but once in the blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of our past sins, as Peter had asked. But we do need a daily washing of our feet, as our Lord is willing to do for those who love Him.
Jesus made it plain to the disciples that they are to follow His example of service and not only meet the physical needs of others but also their moral and spiritual needs as well. Jesus promises a blessing to those who follow His example. (1 Peter 5:1-6) Jesus states a prophecy which shows that from such blessedness one of their number, the traitor, will be excluded. (Psalms 41:9) The rest of them will be the representatives not only of their Master but also of His Father.
With the disciples hearts removed of improper mood and temper which would have been an obstacle to the hearing of the words Jesus intended to speak; one more act must be preformed; Jesus must remove the one who would betray him. It would be Jesus’ final message of mystery, love, and cheer.
Jesus restates a fact that He has again and again referred: “Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me.” The disciples are startled by this statement; even though they have heard it before now they are concerned. Peter looked over to the disciple identified as the one whom Jesus loved. This Disciple is believed to be the writer of this Gospel John. Peter signaled John to ask Jesus who was the one who would betray Him. John is reclined beside Jesus on His right and Judas was reclined on the left of Jesus. Jesus gives John a sign by which he would know who the traitor is by dipping a morsel of food in gravy and giving it to him. At the same time Jesus dips the food into the gravy and gives it to Judas telling him to delay no further in carrying out his foul purpose. Jesus uses words that leave the mission of Judas unknown to the disciples, “What you do, do quickly.” Judas immediately leaves and goes out into the night.
Judas shows a most pitiful picture of unbelief contained in the Gospel. Judas had spent three years of his life following Jesus but he resisted the Light, he cherished his sin of greediness, and was untouched by the matchless love of the Master who even stooped to wash his feet. Even now Jesus gave him a last sign of friendship. It was the custom to give a piece of bread like this to a special guest or friend. So Jesus was showing love and honor to Judas when Jesus did this. Judas may have had a final struggle of the soul but Satan had conquered his will.
Judas cannot be excused from his action by saying that he was possessed by Satan. The temptation may have come from Satan but the decision was made by Judas. Neither can the action of Judas be explained by saying that he really did not mean to betray Jesus. That he was only trying to force Jesus into a decisive action that would show Him to be the Messiah. When Judas left the group it was night. This is more than just a circumstance it was an expression of the darkness of a deed. Jesus had come to lead people into the light but one closest to Him had chosen to reject the Light of the World and to walk in darkness.
When Judas left the group the final decision had been made leading to the death of Jesus. Jesus had said many times that His hour would come when He would be glorified and now with Judas on his way to betray Him to the Pharisees Jesus could now say, “Now is the Son of Man glorified.” The time had arrived for His glorification.
It was not only His glorification but the Father’s as well. Jesus would be glorified by the event of the crucifixion and the resurrection, so would the Father be glorified by it. Glorification means that the true and full character can be known for the praise of God. Both God the Father and Jesus the Son would be shown for what they were through the death of Jesus upon the cross and His resurrection from the dead.
Jesus told His disciples that He soon would no longer be physically with them that they would seek Him but would not find. Then Jesus gave them a new commandment which came from the Law of Moses. (Leviticus 19:18) It is fitting that these are the first words in Jesus’ farewell discourse and in was in regards to love since love is the motivation of His death and resurrection. His new commandment to them was to love one another. The measure of this love is spelled out to them, as He loved. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” No one who follows Jesus need wonder the extent of the love he should show towards one another. Jesus expressed it by the extent of His love—-obedience, even to the point of death. Though it came from the Law of Moses it was a new commandment in that it had a higher motive. “Even as I have loved you”
The distinctive mark of a disciple and a Christian is love. The way that people would know the followers of Jesus is by the quality of their love for one another.
Peter wanted to know where Jesus was going. Jesus had said that Peter could not go there at this time but would follow later. This could have been in reference to going to be in the presence of the Father. Or it could have meant the suffering they would share with Jesus. Jesus was going to His death. Those who followed Jesus in faith, including Peter, would follow him in suffering for their faith.
Peter apparently understood the meaning of Jesus’ words and vowed that he was willing to lay down his life for Jesus. Would Peter really follow Jesus all the way even unto death? Jesus questioned the words of Peter because He knew that Peter had spoken hastily. Then Jesus told Peter that even before morning he would deny Jesus three times before the cock crowed. Obedient faith is not easy to come by but Peter did eventually follow Jesus to the cross.
Luke 22:24, 1 Peter 5:1-6, Psalms 41:9, Leviticus 19:18