John 13:1-17

1 Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come 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.

When Jesus knew that his hour was come The time of Jesus public teaching ministry had ended and the final events of his visit to earth were about to take place. While death, burial and resurrection were his first priority, Jesus' personal love for his disciples moved him to take every opportunity to teach and prepare them for his departure and their remaining in this world as witnesses for him.

Before the feast of the passover The other three gospels make it clear that the supper mentioned in verse 2 was the passover meal. While the other Gospels include the events related to the preparation of the supper, John skips immediately to the teaching opportunities which took place before and during the meal. Matthew 26:17-25, Mark 14:12-21 and Luke 22:7-18.

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

[And supper being ended] This is a slight mistranslation in the King James version of the Bible. Actually, the greek words convey while supper was preparing. To support this more accurate translation of the words it may be noticed that, from Verses 26 and 30, it is evident that supper was not ended. In fact it probably was just about to begin. Washing of the feet (verse 5) was a common courtesy offered when a visitor entered into a home. See: Genesis 18:4, Genesis 19:2, Genesis 24:32 and Luke 7:44.

[The devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot] Judas formed his plot six days before this, on occasion of what had happened at the house of Simon the Leper. Matthew 26:14.

3 Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God;

[Knowing that the Father had given] Our Lord, seeing himself almost at the end of his race, and being about to leave his apostles, thought it necessary to leave them a lesson of humility to deliver them from those false ideas which they had formed concerning the nature of his kingdom. On several occasions the disciples had shown too much yearning for worldly honor. If this ambition had not been countered, it would have caused division after the departure of Christ and hindered the establishment of the Christian faith. By his example Christ reinforced what he had so often taught them -- that true greatness consists in the depth of humility, and that those who are willing to be servents of all are highly esteemed by God. See Matthew 18:1-4, Matthew 23:1-12, Mark 9:33-35, Luke 9:46-48, and Luke 22:24-27.

4 He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.

[He riseth from supper] Not from eating, as Bishop Pearce has well observed, but from his place at the table. Probably the dishes were not yet laid down though the guests were seated. According to the custom of the Jews and others in that part of the world, this washing must have taken place before the supper.

[Laid aside his garments] That is, his outer coat, and the girdle wherewith it was girded close to his tunic, or under coat; and, instead of this girdle, he tied a towel about him; 1. that he might appear in the character of a servant; and 2. that he might have it in readiness to dry their feet after he had washed them.

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.

This was a chore of the most menial of slaves. None of the apostles had volunteered to undertake the lowly task. By comparison, when David sent to Abigail, to inform her that he had chosen her for wife, she arose and said: Behold, let thy hand maid be a servant, to wash the feet of the sevants of my Lord, 1 Samuel 25:41.

6 Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet?

Every word here is exceeding emphatic. Peter had often seen the humility of the Lord, but this situation was a little shocking to Peter.

7 Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.

As if our Lord had said, Permit me to do this now, and I will shortly explain to you the nature of this action and my motive for doing it.

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.

[Thou shalt never wash my feet] Peter, through the deepest reverence for his Master, was not prepared to see his Lord so demeaned.

[If I wash thee not] It was a common custom of our Lord to pass from ordinary, temporal things to spiritual and eternal meanings. If the discourse was of bread, water, leaven, father, mother, riches or whatever, he immediately changed the literal sense and, under the figure of these things, spoke of matters altogether spiritual and Divine. See Titus 3:5.

9 Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.

[Lord, not my feet only] If appears that Peter understood our Lord's meaning and saw that this was emblematical of a spiritual cleansing, therefore he requested to be completely washed.

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.

That is, he who has been to the bath, as probably all of the apostles had recently been in order to prepare themselves for the passover supper, did not need another full bath. They needed only to remove the dirt and dust which might have adhered to them as a result of walking from the bath to the place of the supper. A common opinion of the spiritual application is that he who has been washed - who has been justified by the blood of the Lamb, needs only to wash his feet, and to get, by faith, his conscience cleansed again from any fresh guilt which he may have contracted since his justification. One is justified eternally, Hebrews 10:9-10, but, thanks to occasional sin, fellowship may be disrupted. Sin always separates from God and it seems that it is the sinner who flees, God seeks. Genesis 3:8-10.

11 For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.

[Ye are not all clean.] There is no reason to think that Jesus did not wash the feet of all twelve of the disciples, but no external ablutions purify one who does not believe, therefore Judas remained unclean.

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?

[Know ye what I have done unto you?] Our Lord had told Peter, in the presence of the rest, that he would afterwards show the meaning of this washing.

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.

You should be ready, as in my example, to condescend to the weakness of your brethren; to be ready to do the most humble service for them and to prefer the least of them in honor to yourselves.

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.

Christ has enobled the acts of humility by practicing them himself. "As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you." John 20:21.

Based upon excerpts from Adam Clarke's Commentary, 2nd edition published in New York by Lane and Scott, 1850. More recent editions may be purchased from


This page updated 01/13/2007

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