John 13:1-17

Today’s Scripture Focus:  John 13:1-17

                 The first 12 chapters of John cover three years of Jesus’ life.  Actually, it could be argued that it covers much more than that, as the opening verse takes us back to the dawn of time—”In the beginning was the Word…”  However, the focus of John up until this point has been the earthly ministry of Jesus.  John 13-19 will cover a single 24 hour period—the last day in the earthly life of Jesus.  Jewish days start in the evening, rather than at midnight like our Western days.  Therefore, the record of Jesus’ last day begins with the evening meal.   As we have learned, John centers the major events of Jesus’ story around feasts.  This last meal is the feast of Passover.

 Judas, who has barely been mentioned since the beginning of the book, plays a pivotal role in chapters 12 and 13.  In the Gospels, the role of the devil is always to tempt or test followers of God.  Judas has already failed the test and decided to betray Jesus into the hands of the authorities.  Perhaps the scolding he received in Bethany was the final straw.  The point is that everything has been finalized.  Jesus is fully prepared to return to God, and Judas will set the events leading to his death in motion.  Things will happen very quickly—Jesus must now impart final teaching to the disciples before His arrest.

Jesus does this in the form of an object lesson.  Remember how shocking it was in the previous chapter when Mary washed Jesus feet with expensive perfume?  If possible, Jesus’ actions are even more shocking.  Teachers simply did not wash the feet of students.  The streets of that day were basically open sewers, and the primary means of travel was walking.  It was impossible to keep your feet free of filth.  Therefore, before a meal could be eaten, feet must be washed.   This was a job given the person in the home with lowest status—either a servant or a young daughter.  It was a disgusting and degrading job.  We understand Peter’s protest.

When Jesus told Peter that he must allow his feet to be washed, Peter thought he got the lesson.  “Well, I want to be closest one to you, Lord, so wash all of me!”  How shocked he must have been to hear that he didn’t need more washing from Jesus to be more holy.  He needed to pick up a towel and basin, get on his knees, and start washing others!  The lesson Jesus had for the disciples was that the key to following Jesus was not to get cleaner, but to get dirtier.  They must serve one another in love.   Jesus closed the lesson with a  precious promise in verse 17.  “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”  Serving others in love leads to blessing.

  • Go around the table and share prayer requests. Have someone lead in prayer.
  • Let everyone who would like to share anything exciting from their week.
  • Ask these three questions. Let as many answer each one as they would like.


Why do you think it was important in this story to point out that Judas had already decided to betray Jesus before  Jesus washed the disciples’ feet?


Have you ever participated in a foot washing service or ceremony?  Describe your experience. 


What are some ways we might serve one another in love today in ways that humble us?  As a class, pray for opportunities to serve one another so that we might all be blessed!