John 13:12-15 (NIV) 12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.
On verses 12-15: Usually washing the feet of guests was what the lowest servant or slave in the house was expected to do. Thus it was inconceivable and shocking for the disciples that Jesus, their Lord and Teacher, would bend down and wash their feet. What was Jesus teaching his disciples in doing this? Jesus says it himself: “Now that I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (v14-15) Because Jesus, the name above every name and the king above every king, was willing to bend down and take on the role of a servant in the lives of people he loved, so Jesus calls us to do the same. Humility is putting others ahead of ourselves, all the while being secure in our own worth and value.
John 13:16 (NIV) 16 I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.
On verse 16: What does Jesus mean in saying this? I believe one of the things Jesus is doing is he’s implying to his disciples, “Remember how I, your Lord and master, have been willing to bend down this way. Since you are my servants and my messengers, be willing to bend down like I have for you. You are not above me or greater than me, so if I’m willing to take on the role of a servant in the lives of others, why shouldn’t you?”
John 13:17 (NIV) 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
On verses 17: Notice that the blessing comes not just from hearing what Jesus tells us to do, but doing what Jesus tells us to do.
John 13:18 (NIV) 18 “I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill the scripture: ‘He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.’
On verse 18: Jesus now shifts to talking about his soon coming betrayal by Judas. Jesus points out that this betrayal would be in fulfillment of Scripture, such as Psalm 41:9, which Jesus quotes here. To lift up your heel against someone means to offend and even betray that person. It’s like being kicked in the back. It’s interesting that Jesus evokes this image of one of his disciples lifting up his heel against Jesus just after Jesus has washed his disciples’ feet. It amazes me that Jesus would wash his disciples’ feet, all the while knowing that one of those feet he washed would be kicking in the back later on.
John 13:19 (NIV) 19 “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He.
On verse 19: Jesus predicts his betrayal here before it happens so that his disciples would realize that he is who he claims to be: the Son of God, the Messiah.
John 13:20 (NIV) 20 I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”
On verse 20: Previously in John 12:44-45, Jesus would say that those who believe him believe the one who sent me (i.e. the Father). Here Jesus recalls this idea again but adds that “whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me”. In other words, how we treat and look at Jesus’ servants says something about how we treat and look at Jesus.
(By the way, sometimes when I read John’s Gospel, I’ll come across a quote from Jesus and wonder “how does this quote connect with what Jesus says immediately before and after that statement?” and sometimes I’m not sure. This is one of those cases. In this case, to be frank, I’m not 100% sure why John includes this statement here. Of course we can try to guess. In any event, we take the statement for what it is: a statement about how accepting Jesus’ messengers means accepting Jesus and accepting Jesus means accepting the Father.)
Lord Jesus, I am amazed at Your humility, how You would willingly take on the role of a servant in the lives of people, even those who were bent on betraying You. Please help me to serve others the way You do, with Your kind of humility. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!