Skip to main content
Business Services > The Baptist Record
> Current Edition > Explore the Bible
with Don Hicks
John 13:12-15, 16-20, 33-35, 36-38
From The Message Bible in John 13:34-35 Jesus said
“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved
you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you
are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” What do
people see when they look and see Christian love?
They see things like the leader of the group taking off their dress clothes,
putting on a towel or an apron and washing the dirty feet of those who had walked
with open sandals down hot dusty roads. How do we know what Christian love looks
like? We read of Jesus, the Lord and Teacher washing the disciples’ feet. The
Rabbi washing the followers’ feet was unheard of humility.
Jesus asked the disciples “Do you understand what I have done for you?” John
13:12 (NIV). This is His continuing teaching because He “knew that His hour
had come to depart from this world to the Father,” John 13:1 (HCSB).
In verses 13 through 15 Jesus helps the disciples understand what He has just
done when He washed their feet, like a house slave would normally do. Jesus
affirmed what all of the disciples would have said. “Ye call me Master and Lord:
and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your
feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example,
that ye should do as I have done to you,” John 13:13-15 (KJV). John had reminded
us of Jesus’ eternal role as “Master and Lord” in verse three: “Jesus knew that the
Father had put him in complete charge of everything, that he came from God and was
on his way back to God,” John 13:3 (The Message). Jesus was preparing to voluntarily
lay down His life and that would be an even more humble act than washing hot, dirty
It is one thing to understand Jesus’ teaching: “So if I, your Lord and Teacher,
have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet,” John 13:14 (HCSB).
It is another thing to know and understand that this kind of teaching about humble
service can only bring satisfaction when actually lived out. These are the words
Jesus used to explain this principle of happiness and satisfaction: “If you know
these things, you are blessed if you do them,” John 13:17 (HCSB).
Not even all of the disciples who had lived with Jesus daily for three years were
ready to apply these teachings of their Lord. Jesus points to the Old Testament
prophesy from Psalm 41:9 to help the disciples gain deeper spiritual understanding
of what they are living through. Jesus spoke of Judas’s treacherous plan when He
said, “The one who eats My bread has raised his heel against Me,” John 13:18 (HCSB).
This statement went right over the disciples’ heads and Jesus spoke more pointedly
to help them understand.
“When Jesus had said this, He was troubled in His spirit and testified, ‘I assure
you: One of you will betray Me!’ The disciples started looking at one another –
uncertain which one He was speaking about,” John 13:22 (HCSB).
Now Peter, being the natural leader of the Disciples, begins to try to figure
this out. We see the dynamics of this group in some very interesting ways.
Peter signals to John, the disciple reclining close beside Jesus, for him to ask
Jesus for more information. John never refers to himself by name but always as
the disciple Jesus loved. Peter apparently accepted this special relationship
between John and Jesus because he is taking advantage of it to ask Jesus this very
Now Jesus answers Peter and John by referring to Psalm 41:9 again: “Jesus replied,
‘He’s the one I give the piece of bread to after I have dipped it.’ When He had dipped
the bread, He gave it to Judas, Simon Iscariot’s son,” John 13:26 (HCSB). None of
the disciples but Judas understood this but Judas did and left immediately to carry
out the betrayal. “And It was night,” John 13:30 (HCSB)
And “When he (Judas) had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man is glorified, and
God is glorified in Him,” John 13:31. . . . “I give you a new command: Love one
another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love on another,” John 13:34. (HCSB)
Hicks is a consultant in the Discipleship and Family Ministry Department, Mississippi
Baptist Convention Board, and a member of Brandon Church, Brandon.