John 13:1-17 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. And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him; Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; He rises from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he pour water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. Then come he to Simon Peter: and Peter said unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou know not now; but thou shall know hereafter. Peter said unto him, Thou shall never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus said to him, He that is washed need not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and you are clean, but not all. For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, You are not all clean. So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know you what I have done to you? You call me Master and Lord: and you say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 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. If you know these things, happy are you if you do them.
‘Before the feast of the passover’ refers to the preparation day for the passover, Nisan the 14th-15th, our Tuesday sunset to Wednesday sunset, the day of the crucifixion. Judas plots to betray Jesus (Matt. 26:14-29; Mark 14:10-25; Luke 22:1-38).
‘End’ to the furthest extent, referring not so much to a period of time, but to readiness to do the most humble service in their behalf.
‘The Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God’ note this statement of His divinity, authority, and coming glory, made just before He humbled Himself to take the place of a slave to wash feet.
‘He rises from supper’ He arose from the supper table when the preparation had been completed and began to wash the disciples’ feet. The reason for this was their argument about who would be “the greatest” among them (Luke 22:24). Earlier He had rebuked this kind of spirit by setting a little child in their midst and stating that they had to become as little children and not seek to lord it over each other (Matt. 18:1-10). He had also rebuked this spirit on other occasions (Mat. 20:20-28; Mark 10:35-45). Years had gone by now and they had not yet learned their lesson on this point. He was seeking to get rid of this passion for worldly honour and dignity which would have wrecked the foundation of the congregations of believers after His death.
They removed their outer robes whenever they worked or slept. ‘Took a towel, and girded himself’ this was the duty of the lowest slave. Some think He began with Judas, so as to meet him with kindness and show how to act toward enemies.
‘Wash’ the Greek word nipto is used that means to wash part of the body and not bapto which means to dip in, immerse, from which we get our word “baptize.”
In verse 7 Jesus said that they won’t understand what He does until afterwards when He explains His actions to them.
Peter didn’t want Christ to do something below His dignity, such as washing their feet. Christ’s answer was that Peter would have no part of Him if he wouldn’t allow the washing. There was something more than mere washing of feet involved. The reason for such an example was to emphasize the absolute necessity of getting rid of self-exaltation among Christians. One must get rid of the spirit of wanting to lord it over all other Christians or he will not be saved. It will damn the soul (Matt. 18:1-8; 23:8-12; Luke 14:7-11; 18:14; 1Pet. 5:1-8).
Peter evidently understood Jesus to refer to spiritual cleansing, so wanted to be completely washed he offered his hands and his head to be washed.
Jews bathed twice to prepare themselves for the passover, and, no doubt, the disciples had done this as well. He that has so bathed needs only to wash his feet of the dust on them from walking between the bath and the supper.
‘You are clean, but not all’ All the disciples were clean from sin except Judas who had permitted satan to use him again. Studying God’s Word washes the mind (renew) and then we can think and act according to the Word.
‘Master and Lord’ this double title was not given except to the most accredited teachers.
‘If I then … have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another’s feet.’ Jesus explained that if He can condescend to do this for them, then they should be willing to do the lowest service for each other and prefer the least in honour to themselves (Php. 2:1-7). The act of washing feet is given to inspire self-denying acts of kindness to all in need. Literal washing of feet was not practised among Christians as an ordinance until the fourth century. No reference is made of it in any New Testament book, thus not commanded for us to uphold, this was a mere illustration were Christ wanted to teach humility to His followers.