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John 13:1-20 (web)

Removing the Leaven: Part I

Washing the Feet

1  Now before the feast of the Passover,
Jesus knowing that his time had come that he would depart from this world to the Father,
having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
2  After supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot,
Simonís son, to betray him,
3  Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands,
and that he came forth from God, and was going to God,
4  arose from supper, and laid aside his outer garments.
He took a towel, and wrapped a towel around his waist.
5  Then he poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciplesí feet,
and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

6  Then he came to Simon Peter. He said to him, "Lord, do you wash my feet?"
7  Jesus answered him,
"You donít know what I am doing now, but you will understand later."
8  Peter said to him, "You will never wash my feet!"
Jesus answered him, "If I donít wash you, you have no part with me."
9  Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!"
10  Jesus said to him, "Someone who has bathed only needs to have his feet washed,
but is completely clean. You are clean, but not all of you."
11  For he knew him who would betray him, therefore he said, "You are not all clean."

12  So when he had washed their feet, put his outer garment back on,
and sat down again, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you?
13  You call me, ĎTeacherí and ĎLord.í You say so correctly, for so I am.
14  If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, have washed your feet,
you also ought to wash one anotherís feet.
15  For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.
16  Most assuredly I tell you, a servant is not greater than his lord,
neither one who is sent greater than he who sent him.
17  If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
18  I donít speak concerning all of you. I know whom I have chosen.
But that the Scripture may be fulfilled,
ĎHe who eats bread with me has lifted up his heel against me.í
19  From now on, I tell you before it happens,
that when it happens, you may believe that I AM.
20  Most assuredly I tell you, he who receives whomever I send,
receives me; and he who receives me, receives him who sent me."

Discussion Questions

Why did Jesus wash their feet?
Why did Jesus tell Peter that if he didn't wash him he would have no part of him?
What does it mean to wash one another's feet?



As the culmination of his ministry on earth was approaching Jesus wanted to teach his disciples some of his final lessons in following him. Part of the feast of the Passover involved removing all leaven (yeasted bread), and this is what Jesus was symbolically doing and teaching his disciples to do as he would pass on the ministry to them. There are different versions of leaven in the Christian community. Jesus said, "Take heed and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Mat 16:6 which is explained in Matt 16:12 as the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Such teachings are also hypocritical or lead to hypocrisy as Jesus says in Luke 12:1 "Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy." Thus false teachings along with false teachers should be washed out from among the Assembly of believers. Judas himself was the personification of the proverbial wolf among sheep whom Jesus was to drive out shortly. And similarly Paul following Jesus' example, at the end of his ministry in Ephesus exhorted the elders there saying, "Take heed, therefore, to yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the assembly of the Lord and God which he purchased with his own blood.  For I know that after my departure, vicious wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock.  Men will arise from among your own selves, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them." Acts 20:28-30  And to the Galatians Paul writes, "Throw out the handmaid and her son."Gal 4:30 , the handmaid being the doctrine of the circumcision and "her son" being the group of the circumcision itself infiltrating the Christian community as wolves among sheep. Jesus was going to hand over the leadership of the assemby of believers to his disciples and part of their responsibility will be to wash away false teachings and false teachers from among them, as allegorized in the foot washing. One version of the leaven is legalism as advocated by the Pharisees and the group of the circumcision. But another version of the leaven is licentiousness, being the other extreme, and is spoken of by Paul in 1Cor 5 in which Paul was excommunicating an immoral "Christian" from the assembly. In part he says, "Your boasting is not good. Donít you know that a little yeast leavens the whole lump?  Purge out the old yeast, that you may be a new lump, even as you are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed in our place.  Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old yeast, neither with the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." 1Cor 5:6-8 And reading further in that section reveals his application of these concepts in repudiating both the immoral man and his immoral practices. Such is the relevance of feet washing.

vs 2 Judas came to the feast as a hypocrite with every intent to betray the Lord while feigning belief in him. 2Peter 2 gives an extensive description of the licentious partly of which he describes as "reveling in their deceit while they feast with you".

vs 3-5 Here we see a great contrast in the fact that it speaks of Jesus about to enter his glory returning to the Father yet in humility he condescends to the menial and earthy task of washing his disciple's feet, indicating that much as it's the parent's job to change their baby's diapers, so the dirty job is often the task of those in charge. Feet washing was a common practice at the time as people wore sandals and the roads were dusty and full of animal dung. Therefore just as it is common today in some households to remove one's shoes upon entering a house, so it was common then to wash feet. This was carried out either by a servant or by the person himself. When Jesus entered the house of Simon the Pharisee he later criticized him saying, "I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet." Luke 7:44 For Simon was not being particularly hospitable.

But it is interesting at the Passover feast that it was after supper the he washed their feet! Why after supper and not before? You will notice later that Judas also doesn't leave until after supper, indeed it wasn't until after Judas had eaten and drank of the communion bread and wine that he left. These events are correlated. For while Judas was present among them partaking of the feast of communion, their feet were dirty.

vs 6-11 If we don't allow the Lord to serve us, then we can have no part of him. For if we do not allow the Lord to go through the pain and humiliation of suffering and dying for us, he will have nothing to do with us. There are two allegories here with the feet washing. One is that while we are in the world, the assembly though washed and sanctified in God's sight nonetheless will have some dirty members, like Judas which need to be washed away. This seems to be his main point as we notice a number of references to Judas. But secondarily we might also infer another analogy being on an individual basis, we are washed clean of our sins, but there are also sins incurred as we walk on the earth from which we need periodically to be washed (1John 1:9) Analogous to this also is the temple ceremonies established under the Law of Moses in which prior to entry into the Holy Place one would wash in the Bronze laver. "Make a bronze basin, with its bronze stand, for washing. Place it between the Tent of Meeting and the altar, and put water in it.  Aaron and his sons are to wash their hands and feet with water from it. Whenever they enter the Tent of Meeting, they shall wash with water so that they will not die." Ex 30:18-20

vs 12-17 Many today emphasize Jesus being Savior, and somewhat overlook what else he is.  Jesus is Lord and accepting him as Lord obligates us to obey him. But another aspect we should realize is that Jesus is a teacher. And that is clearly evident not simply because he says so, but from his ministry in the gospels. He's always teaching something, even when he serves. Following Jesus means that we also need to be teachers, though maybe not in an official capacity. And as most teachers know, teaching is not simply telling, nor is learning simply a matter of listening. As for washing one another's feet, I don't think this is to be taken literally as some groups do. More importantly is the allegorical applications I mentioned above.

vs 18 And once again his reference to Judas in the context of this foot washing affirms the idea of cleansing the leaven from the group. (Notice also the correlation between "heel" and "feet")

vs 20 Previously Jesus spoke of the correlation between people accepting the Father and people accepting him. Now there is a further correlation. Those who receive the believers also receive Christ and therefore also receive the Father. John later writes, "We are of God. He who knows God listens to us. He who is not of God doesnít listen to us." 1John 4:6 And we will hear Jesus speak more of the disciple's mission in the chapters following.

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Jan 28,2022