John 13:1-19 – Jesus loves to the End: The Upper Room Discourse Part 1

Dear Friends,

In this post, we begin a new section in John’s Gospel, Jesus’ final instructions to his disciples before his death and resurrection. Jesus begins this intimate teaching with his disciples in the upper room where He had his Last Supper (Mark 14:15). This meal was the traditional Passover Seder (Matt 26:17ff). The Seder begins with the words, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” The disciples probably answered that question in the same way Jews do today: Because we were slaves in Egypt, but the LORD brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm. As Christians, however, we know that Jesus delivered us with both arms outstretched, and with both hands nailed to a cross. After they leave the upper room, they will make their way to the Mount of Olives as Jesus continues the discourse. We will be looking at John 13-17 as one unified message, commonly known as The Upper Room Discourse. These five chapters, although they cover only a few short hours, contain about half of the red-letter verses in John’s Gospel. This is where Jesus’ most transformational and earth-shattering instructions are given. The Upper Room Discourse has been called ‘the Holy of Holies of Scripture’. Jesus always saves the best for last.

Father, we are living in unprecedented times, watching as many of the things your Son gave as indicators to mark his Second Coming are transpiring before our very eyes. We know and believe that You are more than able to protect us and supply all our need according to your riches and glory in Christ Jesus. As we begin this new section in your precious word, help us to lift out all that You have to say to us. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

John 13:1-19
1 Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come [cf John 7:30; 12:23, 27] that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.

Jesus said [L]o, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. Jesus will never leave us or forsake us. He is the one Person you can always depend on. Knowing He will soon be crucified, He is focusing on his disciples and his final instructions for them. That is loving unto the end.

2 And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him;

John is the only gospel writer not to include the Last Supper. John focuses more on Jesus’ words than the events of the gospel. John therefore picks up after the supper has ended.

3 Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God;
4 He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.
5 After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.

Jesus could have sent Judas away before the meal, or before the foot washing, but He is loving his enemy, even as He commands us to love our enemies (Matt 5:44). He is leading by example (v 15).

6 Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet?
7 Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.
8 Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. [Cf John 15:5]

To be effective servants of Christ, we need to let Him minister to us, then work through us as we minister to others. Peter does not understand what Jesus is doing, but he will understand later (1 Pet 5:5-7).

9 Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.
10 Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all.

Peter is confused. Jesus is telling them that they are clean because they are washed by the word. (Ps 119:9; John 15:3; 1 Cor 6:11; Eph 5:26; Tit 3:5) Jesus chose this time to tell them this because He is about to go to the cross, thus fulfilling the promises in the word. They did not need the foot-washing to cleanse their souls. That was not the purpose of the lesson. Jesus did not need to give Peter a sponge bath. They were already clean, but not Judas.

11 For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.
12 So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?
13 Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.
14 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.
15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.
16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.
17 If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.

James wrote be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. Does that mean we are to literally wash each other’s feet? Some Christians think so. When I am at a meeting where some brother wants to wash my feet, I let him do it, but I do not think that is necessarily what this means in 21st century America. The rule of thumb I was taught is that if a gospel practice is also recorded in the Book of Acts and the epistles, we should continue it in our church services. This would apply to the Lord’s Supper, for example. Foot washing, however, does not meet these criteria. This was an object lesson. Paul was not in the upper room for the foot-washing, but he understood Jesus’ object lesson perfectly (Phil 2). If we are to do what Jesus said when we serve others, the lower and more humble the task, the better. (Jam 4:10) It might be more practical today to wash someone’s dishes (or maybe his bedpan) than his feet.

However, when I first arrived in India in 2014, I was having trouble garnering interest in the gospel from the local people. My usual method of open-air ministry, leading worship on the guitar and then preaching and teaching, was falling flat. Then a fellow missionary emailed me and suggested I try foot washing. There were plenty of homeless people with dirty feet so I figured it was worth a try. To my amazement, the first time I started washing someone’s feet, a crowd immediately gathered to watch what I was doing. Those who had their feet washed appreciated it very much. When I was finished washing feet, everyone listened attentively as I taught the Bible. The doors to their hearts were unlocked and many received Christ as their personal Saviour. This made me happy, just as Jesus promised it would. So yes, there are still places where literal foot-washing is practical. In India, the caste system is very much ingrained into the culture, even today. The Sanskrit word for caste, varna, literally means ‘color’. The highest caste in India is the Brahman caste, the ones with the lightest skin. The lowest caste, the Dalits, have the darkest skin. To see a white man washing the feet of homeless people was a curious sight that caught the attention of passers-by. This may sound strange if you live in the West where many people no longer see color, but to them it was a big deal. In the West we still do, however, treat people very differently depending on how much money they have. Jesus wants us to be servants to all, regardless of money or social status (Jam 2:1-9). He led by example and played the role of a servant.

18 ¶ I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me.
19 Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he.
John 13:1-19

 

So again, Jesus begins his discourse with an object lesson. Jesus was not merely performing a service for the disciples; He was teaching them to have servants’ hearts and to be servants of all. This lesson is for all of us but perhaps especially for pastors. ‘Minister’ literally means ‘servant’. Therefore, a pastor should be the one to serve others, not vice versa. If it sounded like I was speaking disparagingly of the Indian culture above, consider this American anecdote: Back in the early days of Calvary Chapel, when hippies started coming to their little church, many of the congregants protested to the pastor, Chuck Smith. They complained that these young people were attending services with no shoes and ruining the new carpet. The next week before church, Chuck was at the front door washing the feet of the hippies before they entered the building. It is said the hippies liked it and eventually they even started wearing shoes to church. So yes, America has stuck-up religious people just like everywhere else. (This story took place around the time of the Civil Rights Movement, mind you, when much of America was still segregated.) If you’re not satisfied with my explanation of the foot-washing as Jesus merely leading by example (v 15), here is the deeper spiritual meaning: Our feet are where our sandals are (Eph 6:15). Our walk needs to be cleansed by the water of the word for our gospel to be effective. By applying the word to our hearts, Jesus applies the blood to our souls. That is why the water turned to blood in the Exodus (Ex 7:20). The gospel needs to be used when evangelizing. To be effective, we have to keep our feet clean. If we are going to win souls for Christ, we need to let Him wash us, and our feet in particular. That means abiding in the word and using our Christian bar of soap — 1 John 1:9.

In verse 18, Jesus quotes Psalm 41:9, David’s account of his betrayal by Ahithophel. When Jesus read Psalm 41 (cf Ps 55), He knew it was an allegory of how Judas would betray Him. Judas hung himself just as Ahithophel did. He also knew that despite his betrayal, Judas would not triumph over Him (Ps 41:11). When Jesus read the story of Joseph, He knew it was an allegory of how He would be betrayed by his half-brothers, ie us. He also knew that He would be exalted to rule over his brethren just as Joseph was. Jesus may have thought on Psalm 40:7, 8 as the time of the cross drew near: Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart. The word is all about the Word, ie Jesus (John 1:14 et al). If you knew you were about to be crucified, what would you be doing? John’s Gospel not only emphasizes Jesus’ deity, but also his humility. In Jesus’ last hours He washed the feet of Judas and the other disciples, ie the one who would betray Him and the ones who would forsake Him and flee. (Mark 14:50) He did this even as the disciples were arguing over who would be the greatest. (Luke 22:24)

 

Coronavirus Update: Thankfully, a judge struck down Big Pharma’s request for a deadline of 2076 to release all of their test data for the mRNA shots. Their initial release (the first of many) shows there were nearly 158,000 adverse events from the shots prior to the emergency authorization. According to RFK Jr, even their own six-month trials showed that you are 500% more likely to die of a heart attack if you receive the shot. This is what the new world order is trying to distract us from by shifting the focus to the war in Ukraine, a war which they provoked when they started working toward making Ukraine part of NATO, something they promised never to do. All they would have to do to end the conflict is agree to make Ukraine neutral. That should be a viral meme: Neutral not NATO. If the war continues to escalate and leads to mass depopulation, all the better for them and their agenda. The Greeks had a proverb, “Those who the gods destroy they first make drunk with power.” According to Psalm 2, we have nothing to worry about. God is not worried. They are drunk with power and God is going to destroy them. Yet even the most corrupt of the new world order plutocracy can receive forgiveness if they repent and receive Christ (Ps 2:12). If you find yourself troubled by current events, that is an indication you need to spend less time worrying about the news and more time meditating on Scripture. Go to the Lord in prayer and ask Him to take your burden from you. He is able. If you see evil in the world that upsets you, don’t simply wash your hands as Pilate did. Wash someone’s feet.

The next time somebody accuses you of buying into ‘conspiracy theories’ that only stupid or gullible people will fall for, share these two quotes with them:

Commercial and political interests have systematically corrupted people through schools and the press.
— Albert Einstein

In two weeks the sheeplike masses of any country can be worked up into such a frenzy that they are prepared to put on uniforms and kill and be killed for the sake of the sordid ends of a few interested parties.
— Albert Einstein