Summary: In the account of the expression of Christ’s love, the washing of the disciples’ feet, we see 1) Service Stated (John 13:1), 2) Service Spurned (John 13:2), 3) Service Shown (John 13:3–11), and 4) Service Shared (John 13:12-17).

If there is one reaction that people are having to the recent Roman Catholic pope it is his history and focus on service. Many questions are arising on his Maundy Thursday washing of feet. Some are welcoming the efforts with a sense of new found enthusiasm. Others see the new pope as abandoning the previous focus on tradition.

In the prologue to his gospel, John had informed his readers that there would be two reactions to the Lord Jesus Christ. Many of His people (Israel) would not accept Him; though “He came to His own … those who were His own did not receive Him” (1:11). In the first twelve chapters, John recorded the tragic story of Israel’s rejection of her Messiah. But though the nation as a whole rejected Christ, some individuals did receive Him (1:12). It is to that “little flock” (Luke 12:32) that Jesus here turned in the final hours of His earthly ministry.

As chapter 13 opens, Jesus’ public ministry to Israel has ended. After issuing a final invitation to believe in Him, Jesus “went away and hid Himself from them” (12:36;). The first twelve chapters cover three years; the next six chapters cover one night. In chapter 13 John tells his readers that the Passover Feast was about to begin, but he doesn’t tell his readers when and if Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples as their last supper together (Barton, B. B. (1993). John. Life Application Bible Commentary (267). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House.)

In chapters 13 through 17, Jesus turned from public ministry to those who rejected Him to private ministry to those who received Him. He gave a practical demonstration of His continuing love for the disciples (13:1–17), assured them of the hope of heaven (14:1–3), guaranteed them power for ministry (14:12) and provision for their needs (14:13–14), and promised them the Holy Spirit (14:16–17; 15:26; 16:7), divine truth in the Word of God (14:26; 16:13), peace (14:27), and joy (15:11; 16:22). The common theme that runs throughout these five chapters is Christ’s love for His own. As His earthly ministry drew to a close on the night before His crucifixion, Jesus sought to reassure them of that enduring love He had for them.

In the account of the expression of Christ’s love, the washing of the disciples’ feet, we see 1) Service Stated (John 13:1), 2) Service Spurned (John 13:2), 3) Service Shown (John 13:3–11), and 4) Service Shared (John 13:12-17).

1) Service Stated (John 13:1)

John 13:1 [13:1]Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. (ESV)

The Feast of the Passover was the annual Jewish festival commemorating God’s deliverance of Israel from bondage in Egypt. The name derived from the angel of death’s passing over the houses of the Hebrews when he killed the firstborn of the Egyptians (Ex. 12:7, 12–13). This Passover would be the last divinely authorized one. Notice that John, in mentioning the Passover, here drops the explanatory phrase of the Jews (11:55). It is not the Passover of the Jews which Jesus is about to celebrate, which had degenerated into an empty form (Vincent, M. R. (1887). Vol. 2: Word studies in the New Testament (224). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.)

From this point on there would be a new memorial—not one recalling the lambs’ blood on the doorposts but the blood of the Lamb of God (1:29, 36; Rev. 5:6; 6:9; 7:10, 17; 14:4, 10; 15:3; 19:9; 22:1, 3) “poured out for many for forgiveness of sins” (Matt. 26:28). The Last Supper celebrated by the Lord with His disciples gave Him opportunity to use the elements of the Passover meal to form a transition from the old covenant Passover to the new covenant Lord’s Supper /Communion(1 Cor. 11:23–26).

John repeated Jesus’ declaration that His hour had come (12:23); no longer was it future as in 2:4; 7:30; and 8:20 (cf. 7:6, 8). The Lord knew that the time had come for Him to depart out of this world to the Father. He was in full control of everything that was happening, and was never a victim of circumstances, or of men’s evil schemes.

Though He yearned to return to His full glory in the Father’s presence (cf. 17:5), Jesus never wavered in His focus on loving His own (cf. 10:29) who were in the world. “His own” are now the Twelve, the representatives of the new messianic community, no longer the old covenant community, which had rejected Jesus as Messiah (cf. 1:11; see also 10:3–4, 12; cf. 15:19) (Köstenberger, A. J. (2004). John. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (402). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.).

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