Washing the Disciples’ Feet
1 Just before the Passover feast, Jesus knew that his timetn Grk “his hour.” had come to departtn Grk “that he should depart.” The ἵνα (Jina) clause in Koine Greek frequently encroached on the simple infinitive (for the sake of greater clarity). from this world to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now loved them to the very end.tn Or “he now loved them completely,” or “he now loved them to the uttermost” (see John 19:30). All of John 13:1 is a single sentence in Greek, although in English this would be unacceptably awkward. At the end of the verse the idiom εἰς τέλος (eis telos) was translated literally as “to the end” and the modern equivalents given in the note above, because there is an important lexical link between this passage and John 19:30, τετέλεσται (tetelestai, “It is ended”). sn The full extent of Jesus’ love for his disciples is not merely seen in his humble service to them in washing their feet (the most common interpretation of the passage). The full extent of his love for them is demonstrated in his sacrificial death for them on the cross. The footwashing episode which follows then becomes a prophetic act, or acting out beforehand, of his upcoming death on their behalf. The message for the disciples was that they were to love one another not just in humble, self-effacing service, but were to be willing to die for one another. At least one of them got this message eventually, though none understood it at the time (see 1 John 3:16).
2 The evening mealtn Or “Supper.” To avoid possible confusion because of different regional English usage regarding the distinction between “dinner” and “supper” as an evening meal, the translation simply refers to “the evening meal.” was in progress, and the devil had already put into the heartsn At this point the devil had already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, that he should betray Jesus. C. K. Barrett (St. John, 365) thought this was a reference to the idea entering the devil’s own heart, but this does not seem likely. It is more probable that Judas’ heart is meant, since the use of the Greek article (rather than a possessive pronoun) is a typical idiom when a part of one’s own body is indicated. Judas’ name is withheld until the end of the sentence for dramatic effect (emphasis). This action must be read in light of 13:27, and appears to refer to a preliminary idea or plan. of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, that he should betraytn Or “that he should hand over.” Jesus.tn Grk “betray him”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
3 Because Jesustn Grk “Because he knew”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity. knew that the Father had handed all things over to him,tn Grk “had given all things into his hands.” and that he had come from God and was going back to God,
4 he got up from the meal, removedtn Grk “and removed”; the conjunction καί (kai, “and”) has been left untranslated here for improved English style. his outer clothes,tn The plural τὰ ἱμάτια (ta Jimatia) is probably a reference to more than one garment (cf. John 19:23-24). If so, this would indicate that Jesus stripped to a loincloth, like a slave. The translation “outer clothes” is used to indicate that Jesus was not completely naked, since complete nudity would have been extremely offensive to Jewish sensibilities in this historical context. took a towel and tied it around himself.tn Grk “taking a towel he girded himself.” Jesus would have wrapped the towel (λέντιον, lention) around his waist (διέζωσεν ἑαυτόν, diezwsen Jeauton) for use in wiping the disciples’ feet. The term λέντιον is a Latin loanword (linteum) which is also found in the rabbinic literature (see BDAG 592 s.v.). It would have been a long piece of linen cloth, long enough for Jesus to have wrapped it about his waist and still used the free end to wipe the disciples’ feet.
5 He poured water into the washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel he had wrapped around himself.tn Grk “with the towel with which he was girded.”
6 Then he came to Simon Peter. Petertn Grk “He”; the referent (Peter) is specified in the translation for clarity. said to him, “Lord, are you going to washtn Grk “do you wash” or “are you washing.” my feet?”
7 Jesus replied,tn Grk “answered and said to him.” “You do not understandtn Grk “You do not know.” what I am doing now, but you will understandtn Grk “you will know.” after these things.”
8 Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet!”tn Grk “You will never wash my feet forever.” The negation is emphatic in Greek but somewhat awkward in English. Emphasis is conveyed in the translation by the use of an exclamation point. Jesus replied,tn Grk “Jesus answered him.” “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”tn Or “you have no part in me.”
9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, washtn The word “wash” is not in the Greek text, but is implied. Here it is supplied to improve the English style by making Peter’s utterance a complete sentence. not only my feet, but also my hands and my head!”
10 Jesus replied,tn Grk “Jesus said to him.” “The one who has bathed needs only to wash his feet,tn Grk “has no need except to wash his feet.” but is completelytn Or “entirely.” clean.sn The one who has bathed needs only to wash his feet. A common understanding is that the “bath” Jesus referred to is the initial cleansing from sin, which necessitates only “lesser, partial” cleansings from sins after conversion. This makes a fine illustration from a homiletic standpoint, but is it the meaning of the passage? This seems highly doubtful. Jesus stated that the disciples were completely clean except for Judas (vv. 10b, 11). What they needed was to have their feet washed by Jesus. In the broader context of the Fourth Gospel, the significance of the foot-washing seems to point not just to an example of humble service (as most understand it), but something more – Jesus’ self-sacrificial death on the cross. If this is correct, then the foot-washing which they needed to undergo represented their acceptance of this act of self-sacrifice on the part of their master. This makes Peter’s initial abhorrence of the act of humiliation by his master all the more significant in context; it also explains Jesus’ seemingly harsh reply to Peter (above, v. 8; compare Matt 16:21-23 where Jesus says to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan”). And you disciplestn The word “disciples” is supplied in English to clarify the plural Greek pronoun and verb. Peter is not the only one Jesus is addressing here. are clean, but not every one of you.”
11 (For Jesustn Grk “he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity. knew the one who was going to betray him. For this reason he said, “Not every one of you istn Grk “Not all of you are.” clean.”)sn This is a parenthetical note by the author.
12 So when Jesustn Grk “he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity. had washed their feet and put his outer clothing back on, he took his place at the tabletn Grk “he reclined at the table.” The phrase reflects the normal 1st century Near Eastern practice of eating a meal in a semi-reclining position. again and said to them, “Do you understandtn Grk “Do you know.” what I have done for you?
13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and do so correctly,tn Or “rightly.” for that is what I am.tn Grk “and I am these things.”
14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you too ought to wash one another’s feet.
15 For I have given you an examplesn I have given you an example. Jesus tells his disciples after he has finished washing their feet that what he has done is to set an example for them. In the previous verse he told them they were to wash one another’s feet. What is the point of the example? If it is simply an act of humble service, as most interpret the significance, then Jesus is really telling his disciples to serve one another in humility rather than seeking preeminence over one another. If, however, the example is one of self-sacrifice up to the point of death, then Jesus is telling them to lay down their lives for one another (cf. 15:13). – you should do just as I have done for you.
16 I tell you the solemn truth,tn Grk “Truly, truly, I say to you.” the slavetn See the note on the word “slaves” in 4:51. is not greater than his master, nor is the one who is sent as a messengertn Or “nor is the apostle” (“apostle” means “one who is sent” in Greek). greater than the one who sent him.
17 If you understandtn Grk “If you know.” these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
The Announcement of Jesus’ Betrayal
18 “What I am saying does not refer to all of you. I know the ones I have chosen. But this is to fulfill the scripture,tn Grk “But so that the scripture may be fulfilled.” ‘The one who eats my breadtn Or “The one who shares my food.” has turned against me.’tn Or “has become my enemy”; Grk “has lifted up his heel against me.” The phrase “to lift up one’s heel against someone” reads literally in the Hebrew of Ps 41 “has made his heel great against me.” There have been numerous interpretations of this phrase, but most likely it is an idiom meaning “has given me a great fall,” “has taken cruel advantage of me,” or “has walked out on me.” Whatever the exact meaning of the idiom, it clearly speaks of betrayal by a close associate. See E. F. F. Bishop, “‘He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me’ – Jn xiii.18 (Ps xli.9),” ExpTim 70 (1958-59): 331-33.sn A quotation from Ps 41:9.
19 I am telling you this now,tn Or (perhaps) “I am certainly telling you this.” According to BDF §12.3 ἀπ᾿ ἄρτι (ap’ arti) should be read as ἀπαρτί (aparti), meaning “exactly, certainly.” before it happens, so that when it happens you may believetn Grk “so that you may believe.” that I am he.tn Grk “that I am.” R. E. Brown (John [AB], 2:555) argues for a nonpredicated ἐγώ εἰμι (egw eimi) here, but this is far from certain.
20 I tell you the solemn truth,tn Grk “Truly, truly, I say to you.” whoever acceptstn Or “receives,” and so throughout this verse. the one I send accepts me, and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”sn The one who sent me refers to God.
21 When he had said these things, Jesus was greatly distressedtn Or “greatly troubled.” in spirit, and testified,tn Grk “and testified and said.” “I tell you the solemn truth,tn Grk “Truly, truly, I say to you.” one of you will betray me.”tn Or “will hand me over.”
22 The disciples began to look at one another, worried and perplexedtn Grk “uncertain,” “at a loss.” Here two terms, “worried and perplexed,” were used to convey the single idea of the Greek verb ἀπορέω (aporew). to know which of them he was talking about.
23 One of his disciples, the one Jesus loved,sn Here for the first time the one Jesus loved, the ‘beloved disciple,’ is introduced. This individual also is mentioned in 19:26, 20:2, 21:7, and 21:20. Some have suggested that this disciple is to be identified with Lazarus, since the Fourth Gospel specifically states that Jesus loved him (11:3, 5, 36). From the terminology alone this is a possibility; the author is certainly capable of using language in this way to indicate connections. But there is nothing else to indicate that Lazarus was present at the last supper; Mark 14:17 seems to indicate it was only the twelve who were with Jesus at this time, and there is no indication in the Fourth Gospel to the contrary. Nor does it appear that Lazarus ever stood so close to Jesus as the later references in chaps. 19, 20 and 21 seem to indicate. When this is coupled with the omission of all references to John son of Zebedee from the Fourth Gospel, it seems far more likely that the references to the beloved disciple should be understood as references to him. was at the tabletn Grk “was reclining.” This reflects the normal 1st century practice of eating a meal in a semi-reclining position. to the right of Jesus in a place of honor.tn Grk “was reclining in the bosom (or “lap”) of Jesus” (according to both L&N 17.25 and BDAG 65 s.v. ἀνάκειμαι 2 an idiom for taking the place of honor at a meal, but note the similar expression in John 1:18). Whether this position or the position to the left of Jesus should be regarded as the position of second highest honor (next to the host, in this case Jesus, who was in the position of highest honor) is debated. F. Prat, “Les places d’honneur chez les Juifs contemporains du Christ” (RSR 15 : 512-22), who argued that the table arrangement was that of the Roman triclinium (a U-shaped table with Jesus and two other disciples at the bottom of the U), considered the position to the left of Jesus to be the one of second highest honor. Thus the present translation renders this “a position of honor” without specifying which one (since both of the two disciples to the right and to the left of Jesus would be in positions of honor). Other translations differ as to how they handle the phrase ἐν τῷ κόλπῳ τοῦ ᾿Ιησοῦ (en tw kolpw tou Ihsou; “leaning on Jesus’ bosom,” KJV; “lying close to the breast of Jesus,” RSV; “reclining on Jesus’ breast,” NASB; “reclining next to him,” NIV, NRSV) but the symbolic significance of the beloved disciple’s position seems clear. He is close to Jesus and in an honored position. The phrase as an idiom for a place of honor at a feast is attested in the Epistles of Pliny (the Younger) 4.22.4, an approximate contemporary of Paul.sn Note that the same expression translated in a place of honor here (Grk “in the bosom of”) is used to indicate Jesus’ relationship with the Father in 1:18.
24 So Simon Petersn It is not clear where Simon Peter was seated. If he were on Jesus’ other side, it is difficult to see why he would not have asked the question himself. It would also have been difficult to beckon to the beloved disciple, on Jesus’ right, from such a position. So apparently Peter was seated somewhere else. It is entirely possible that Judas was seated to Jesus’ left. Matt 26:25 seems to indicate that Jesus could speak to him without being overheard by the rest of the group. Judas is evidently in a position where Jesus can hand him the morsel of food (13:26). gestured to this discipletn Grk “to this one”; the referent (the beloved disciple) has been specified in the translation for clarity. to ask Jesustn Grk “him”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity. who it was he was referring to.sn That is, who would betray him (v. 21).
25 Then the disciple whom Jesus lovedtn Grk “he”; the referent (the disciple Jesus loved) has been specified in the translation for clarity. leaned back against Jesus’ chest and asked him, “Lord, who is it?”
26 Jesus replied,tn Grk “Jesus answered.” “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of breadsn The piece of bread was a broken-off piece of bread (not merely a crumb). after I have dipped it in the dish.”tn Grk “after I have dipped it.” The words “in the dish” are not in the Greek text, but the presence of a bowl or dish is implied. Then he dipped the piece of bread in the dishtn The words “in the dish” are not in the Greek text, but the presence of a bowl or dish is implied. and gave it to Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son.
27 And after Judastn Grk “he”; the referent (Judas) has been specified in the translation for clarity. took the piece of bread, Satan entered into him.tn Grk “into that one”; the pronoun “he” is more natural English style here.sn This is the only time in the Fourth Gospel that Satan is mentioned by name. Luke 22:3 uses the same terminology of Satan “entering into” Judas but indicates it happened before the last supper at the time Judas made his deal with the authorities. This is not necessarily irreconcilable with John’s account, however, because John 13:2 makes it clear that Judas had already come under satanic influence prior to the meal itself. The statement here is probably meant to indicate that Judas at this point came under the influence of Satan even more completely and finally. It marks the end of a process which, as Luke indicates, had begun earlier. Jesus said to him,tn Grk “Then Jesus said to him.” “What you are about to do, do quickly.”
28 (Now none of those present at the tabletn Grk “reclining at the table.” The phrase reclining at the table reflects the normal practice in 1st century Near Eastern culture of eating a meal in a semi-reclining position. understoodtn Or “knew.” why Jesustn Grk “he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity. said this to Judas.tn Grk “to him”; the referent (Judas) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
29 Some thought that, because Judas had the money box, Jesus was telling him to buy whatever they needed for the feast,tn Grk “telling him, ‘Buy whatever we need for the feast.’” The first clause is direct discourse and the second clause indirect discourse. For smoothness of English style, the first clause has been converted to indirect discourse to parallel the second (the meaning is left unchanged). or to give something to the poor.)sn This is a parenthetical note by the author.
30 Judastn Grk “That one”; the referent (Judas) has been specified in the translation for clarity. took the piece of bread and went out immediately. (Now it was night.)sn Now it was night is a parenthetical note by the author. The comment is more than just a time indicator, however. With the departure of Judas to set in motion the betrayal, arrest, trials, crucifixion, and death of Jesus, daytime is over and night has come (see John 9:5; 11:9-10; 12:35-36). Judas had become one of those who walked by night and stumbled, because the light was not in him (11:10).
The Prediction of Peter’s Denial
31 Whentn Grk “Then when.” Judastn Grk “he”; the referent (Judas) has been specified in the translation for clarity. had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in him.
32 If God is glorified in him,tc A number of early mss (Ì66 א* B C* D L W al as well as several versional witnesses) do not have the words “If God is glorified in him,” while the majority of mss have the clause (so א2 A C2 Θ Ψ Ë13 33 Ï lat). Although the mss that omit the words are significantly better witnesses, the omission may have occurred because of an error of sight due to homoioteleuton (v. 31 ends in ἐν αὐτῷ [en autw, “in him”], as does this clause). Further, the typical step-parallelism found in John is retained if the clause is kept intact (TCGNT 205-6). At the same time, it is difficult to explain how such a wide variety of witnesses would have accidentally deleted this clause, and arguments for intentional deletion are not particularly convincing. NA27 rightly places the words in brackets, indicating doubt as to their authenticity. God will also glorify him in himself, and he will glorify him right away.tn Or “immediately.”
33 Children, I am still with you for a little while. You will look for me,tn Or “You will seek me.” and just as I said to the Jewish religious leaders,tn Grk “the Jews.” In NT usage the term ᾿Ιουδαῖοι (Ioudaioi) may refer to the entire Jewish people, the residents of Jerusalem and surrounding territory, the authorities in Jerusalem, or merely those who were hostile to Jesus. (For further information see R. G. Bratcher, “‘The Jews’ in the Gospel of John,” BT 26 : 401-9.) Here the phrase refers to the residents of Jerusalem in general, or to the Jewish religious leaders in particular, who had sent servants to attempt to arrest Jesus on that occasion (John 7:33-35). The last option is the one adopted in the translation above. ‘Where I am going you cannot come,’sn See John 7:33-34. now I tell you the same.tn The words “the same” are not in the Greek text but are implied. Direct objects in Greek were often omitted when clear from the context.
34 “I give you a new commandment – to lovetn The ἵνα (Jina) clause gives the content of the commandment. This is indicated by a dash in the translation. one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.sn The idea that love is a commandment is interesting. In the OT the ten commandments have a setting in the covenant between God and Israel at Sinai; they were the stipulations that Israel had to observe if the nation were to be God’s chosen people. In speaking of love as the new commandment for those whom Jesus had chosen as his own (John 13:1, 15:16) and as a mark by which they could be distinguished from others (13:35), John shows that he is thinking of this scene in covenant terminology. But note that the disciples are to love “Just as I have loved you” (13:34). The love Jesus has for his followers cannot be duplicated by them in one sense, because it effects their salvation, since he lays down his life for them: It is an act of love that gives life to people. But in another sense, they can follow his example (recall to the end, 13:1; also 1 John 3:16, 4:16 and the interpretation of Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet). In this way Jesus’ disciples are to love one another: They are to follow his example of sacrificial service to one another, to death if necessary.
35 Everyonetn Grk “All people,” although many modern translations have rendered πάντες (pantes) as “all men” (ASV, RSV, NASB, NIV). While the gender of the pronoun is masculine, it is collective and includes people of both genders. will know by this that you are my disciples – if you have love for one another.”
36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied,tn Grk “Jesus answered him.” “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, but you will follow later.”
37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you!”tn Or “I will die willingly for you.”
38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me?tn Or “Will you die willingly for me?” I tell you the solemn truth,tn Grk “Truly, truly, I say to you.” the rooster will not crow until you have denied me three times!
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