The Lord Washes the Disciples' Feet.
SUMMARY.--The Passover Meal.
The Lord Washes the Disciples' Feet.
The Traitor Pointed Out.
The Departure of Judas.
The Discourse to the Disciples.
1. Now before the feast of the passover. Immediately before,
just as Christ was about to sit down with his disciples to the paschal
Jesus knew that his hour was come. The scenes of this hour were
in immediate view of the cross. On the next day the Lord was
2. Supper being ended. The Revision says, "During the Supper."
It is likely that Christ arose near the beginning of the feast, washed
the feet, and then sat down again to the feast. See
The devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot,
etc. The devil planted the seed, but the soil of his heart was ready.
The devil has no power except where there is preparation for him. The
covetous disposition of Judas had prepared the way.
3. Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his
hands. It was with a full consciousness of his divinity, of his
divine power and majesty, of the glory that he had and would enjoy with
God, that he stooped to the menial office that he was about to
4. He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments. Shortly
after they had sat down to the table, he arose, laid aside his outer
robe, girded a towel upon him, and began the lowly office of washing
the feet of twelve men, without a word of explanation. Something more
than ordinary must have caused so remarkable an act. The fact that the
cause has been lost sight of, has caused many to misunderstand the
significance, and to think the Savior was instituting a church
ceremonial, rather than giving a deep, practical, spiritual lesson for
all ages. I will endeavor to explain the circumstances: (1) The
disciples still expected the immediate manifestation of the kingdom.
When they sat down to this Supper they felt it was a kind of state
occasion, and a strife arose among them for precedence. Each wanted the
"chief seat at the feast."
of this unseemly controversy over the old question, "Who should be
greatest?" is found in
(2) Their sandals had been laid off according to custom. They sat down
to the table with dry and dusty feet, but no one brought water to wash
their feet, an eastern duty of hospitality made necessary by their hot,
dusty climate. No apostle volunteered to attend to the office, the duty
of a servant. (3) Then, while they were filled with their ambitious,
envious feelings, and had engaged in strife right at the Lord's table,
after waiting long enough to have it shown that no one would condescend
to the menial, but needful duty, the Lord, full of conscious divinity,
arose, girded on the towel, and began the office. A rebuke to their
ambitious strife, far more powerful than words could have spoken: such
a rebuke that never again do we see a hint of the old question, "Who
should be greatest?" It was Christ's answer to their unseemly conduct,
and a lesson to those Christians "who love the pre-eminence"
for all time. It said, "Let him that would be greatest become the
servant of all."
6. Lord, dost thou wash my feet? The language of Peter is that
of confusion, of astonishment and of remonstrance. The emphasis is on
the word thou.
8. If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Washing, with
the Jews, was a symbolical act, signifying purification from
uncleanliness. That Christ referred to more than a washing with water
was understood by Peter as is evident from his reply. Christ could only
wash with blood the obedient.
10. He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet. We must
seek the spiritual meaning. He who is once cleansed by the blood of
Christ only needs, after this, to come to Christ for partial cleansing;
for the forgiveness of the special sins that make him unclean.
12. Know ye what I have done to you? They knew the act, but did
they comprehend its meaning?
13, 14. Ye call me Master and Lord. Ye ought to follow the
example of humility, self-sacrifice, and service to others, that your
Lord sets you. Instead of seeking the pre-eminence, disputing
concerning the seats of honor, and shrinking from humble service to
each other, ye should follow my example.
15. For I have given you an example. Christ gave an
example, not a church ordinance. It is our duty to follow the
example and render the same kind of service to fellow Christians. To
make his example a ceremonial and follow it literally would be to lose
its spirit. Note the fact that not once else where is it referred to in
the New Testament as a church ordinance, and only once mentioned at
1 Tim. 5:10,
it is named as a mark of a godly widow. Nor is there any mention of it
as a church ordinance until the fourth century. The lesson is that he
who would be greatest must be always ready to serve others in a spirit
of humility and self-sacrifice.
17. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. Know
what things? Of course they knew that Christ had washed their feet. But
did they know what he meant? The meaning is clearly, "If ye understand
the meaning of my act, happy are ye if ye exemplify the same spirit in
18. I speak not of you all. One is a traitor. He is not included
in the beatitude just pronounced in the
19. I tell you before it come . . . to pass. That he is about to
21-28. Troubled in spirit. Because a traitor was present among the
apostles. For the exposure of Judas, see notes on
There was leaning on Jesus'
bosom. It was the custom to recline on a couch, leaning on the
left elbow, at table. John, who was immediately before Jesus, would be
almost at his bosom.
Whom Jesus loved. It was John's joy that Jesus loved him. The
disciples did not know who would be the traitor. At Peter's request,
John, in a low tone, asked Jesus. He gave a sign, and when John saw him
dip a piece of bread into the sop of bitter herbs, always on the
passover table, and give it to Judas, he knew he was meant.
Satan entered into him. He gave himself up at once to
That thou doest, do quickly. Judas understood what these words
meant, but no one else.
30. Went immediately out. It is probable that the Lord's Supper
was instituted, at this point, after Judas went out. It was, as we
learn from Matthew, after the passover. Matthew's order (see
Matt., chap. 26)
is as follows: (1) The Passover;
(2) the Exposure of Judas;
(3) the Lord's Supper.
This is John's order, save that he omits, because well known, to record
the origin of the Lord's Supper here, and simply tells of the departure
31. Now is the Son of man glorified. His weary ministry is about
ended, and he is to ascend his throne. His glorification begins at the
34. A new commandment. The commandment to love was not new,
but such love as Christ commanded was new.
35. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples. The
love and self sacrifice of Christians has done more to extend the name
of Christ than argument. In the early ages, heathen were wont to say:
"See how these Christians love one another."
36-38. Simon Peter said. For notes on Peter's Denial, see
Mark 14:29-31; Luke 22:31-34.