Summary: Jesus and the 12 Disciples celebrated Passover in the "upper room" in Jerusalem. While they were there, the Lord showed these men just how much He really loved them. Other things happened there, too.
Introduction: The apostle John was an eyewitness to many of the events he recorded in his Gospel. One of the most touching, in my opinion, is this episode that took place just hours before the Lord Jesus Christ was crucified. He knew exactly what the Lord meant, when John said the Lord loved them “to the end” or to the uttermost.
Note: words in parentheses were in italics as written in the KJV text.
1 The deeds our Lord performed
Text, John 13:1-11, KJV: 1 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. 2 And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's (son) to betray him; 3 Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; 4 He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. 5 After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe (them) with the towel wherewith he was girded. 6 Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? 7 Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. 8 Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. 9 Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also (my) hands and (my) head. 10 Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash (his) feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. 11 For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.
The 12th chapter of John’s Gospel closes with a summary of our Lord’s public ministry. Beginning with chapter 13, John, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, devotes the rest of his Gospel to the last days of our Lord’s life (chapter 21 could be considered an appendix). John begins this last period of time with selected events in the “Upper Room” where Jesus and the disciples celebrated Passover. Mark 14:12-16 and Luke 22:7-13 have a little more info.
Each of the four Gospels has a record of some of the events that took place in the “upper room”. John alone writes about this particular episode where the Lord showed the disciples clearly how much He loved them. The phrase “loved them unto the end” in the KJV has the idea of yjr amount or depth of His love, rather than the duration or “how long” of that love. In other words, Jesus never stopped loving His disciples!
And John now proceeds to give some additional information as to how the Lord proved His love for the disciples. The “supper” was probably the Passover meal but this is not certain—did they or would they eat any food before they ate the roasted lamb and bitter herbs of the Passover dinner (Exodus 12)? Once the supper was over, Jesus rose up and performed a task that perhaps nobody saw coming, let alone something Jesus Himself would do.
He started to wash their feet.
This was a custom and courtesy in those days. It bears repeating that “shoes” such as we have today were probably unknown to people of those days, let alone socks, nylon stockings, and so forth. The people wore sandals, most likely very open, and would gather dust (and maybe other things) on their feet as they walked from here to there. When they came to a house, someone from the house would take some water and wash the dust off the guests’ feet. Sometimes, though, that custom wasn’t always followed. Luke 7:36-50 tells of a time when a Pharisee named Simon invited Jesus to his house for a meal—but didn’t have anyone wash the feet of Jesus.
John did not say, here, if anyone had washed the disciples’ feet before they took part in observing the Passover meal, but he did mention how Jesus did it. John stated that Jesus laid aside His garments (the outer robe, most likely) then “girded Himself” with a towel. Then the Lord poured water into a “bason”, or something to hold enough water for a foot-washing. Did He take the “bason” with Him as He washed each set of feet?
We do know, and we have John’s testimony, that the Lord not only washed their feet, but wiped them dry using the towel He brought along. Imagine this, the Lord of glory, the Son of God Himself, doing one of the lowliest tasks of all—something a household servant would ordinarily do or be tasked to do, washing dirty feet and then drying them off. What a Savior!