Jesus and Abundant Life
A Bible Study of the Gospel of John
Jesus’ Personally: Willing to Wash Feet - John 13
When we study scripture it is vitally important that we do so in context. We can dissect a portion of a passage, a single verse, a portion of a single verse or even a word as we study scripture. But we should always keep the context, the surrounding content of that study in mind. John 12-17 begins a section of the Gospel of John where we will see the revelation of Jesus’ personality. In John 12 we saw the stability and trueness of Jesus in that He remained faithful to His mission and Who He was whether faced with victory as in the triumphant entry in Jerusalem or when faced with opposition. Now in chapter 13 we will see that Jesus walked His talk. Jesus said He came to serve (e.g. Mark 10:45) and He actually served. Jesus didn’t merely teach or talk about doing something. Jesus actually did what He taught about. He lived out His teaching before His disciples and the people of His day.
We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves but as I said it’s important to keep the context of the gospel in view. What I want to point out to you is that the Gospel of John contains Jesus most detailed teaching on the Holy Spirit. John is inspired to record three whole chapters of Jesus’ teaching on the Holy Spirit (John 14-16). What is important for us to note contextually is that the teaching on the Spirit is preceded by Jesus teaching and ministry of service. In John 13 Jesus washes the disciples feet, defines discipleship and proclaims His “new commandment” (John 13:34-35). In John 13 Jesus demonstrates service in the most humbling act of washing feet. In this chapter He speaks heart-fully of the sign of His disciples; “that you love one another.” And as we look at the content of this chapter we should always understand that to serve like Jesus served is only possible in the power of the Holy Spirit. The only way to follow in the steps of Jesus is to do so in the power of the Spirit.
In John 13 Jesus says, “For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15). The way we are enabled and empowered to do what Jesus did in John 13 will be explained in the subsequent chapters 14, 15, and 16 where Jesus points His disciples (and us) to life in the Spirit. For Jesus abundant life is life in the Spirit. Contextually speaking, service is His means to introduce the need and provision of the Spirit. If we want to learn about life in the Spirit we must be willing to take a step of faith and serve.
This contextual view of the following chapters is vitally important for the application of what we will learn. For if we ever try to apply the example of Christ’s service in our own strength we will pass out from the pressure of the work. But if we view Christ’s call to serve from a Spirit illuminating position we will learn the joy of serving side by side with our Savior and Lord Jesus.
John 13 (NKJV)
Now before the Feast of the Passover,
The chapter setting is “Now before the Feast of the Passover.” This last week was filled with heightened activity because it was a holy week. It was the week that God’s people were to celebrate the Passover and remember God’s powerful deliverance of His people from slavery in Egypt. The Passover meal is chocked full of revelation about the deliverance from sin that we can receive through faith in Jesus.
when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father,
Keep in mind too that this is a time, “when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father.” Jesus was under no misconceptions of what was going to happen to Him. Jesus knew He was going to the cross. He knew He was going to die a brutal death on that cross. But He also knew that He would soon rejoin the Father. The redemption he would work for the world and the thought of returning to His heavenly abode with the Father buoyed Him and helped Him through what lay ahead. When we face hard times and great pain the thought of joining Jesus is a great source of strength and comfort.
having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.
This chapter of John’s gospel will reveal to us the extent of Jesus’ love. We will learn a lot about love, but in particular the love of Jesus. Jesus’ love is always “to the end.” Jesus loved His disciples “to the end,” and He loves us “to the end.” Jesus loves us to the full extent.
2 And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him,
Their supper had ended. The devil had “already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him,” that is Jesus. This tells us that the devil attacks us in “the heart,” or in the deepest parts of our being. The “heart” is the seat of our will; the part of us where we make decisions. The devil approaches us in our thoughts and attempts to maneuver by deceit, temptation and sinful thoughts into our heart. It’s important we wear our spiritual armor to protect us against the schemes of the devil (cf. Ephesians 6:10-18).
The sword of the Spirit is the word of God. God’s word tells us Satan prowls around like a roaring lion seeking to devour us and that we need to resist Satan in steadfast faith and by God’s grace we will overcome his attacks (1 Peter 5:8-10). God’s word tells us if we submit to God and resist the devil he will flee from us (James 4:7). God’s word tells us that greater is He, God, who is within us than he, the devil, who is in the world (1 John 4:4). And God’s word promises that the God of peace will crush Satan under our feat (Romans 16:20). Judas didn’t have to be overcome and used by the devil. Judas at some point chose to disagree with God’s plan in Christ and then disobey Jesus’ redemptive mission plan. It was at that point of Judas rebellion against Jesus that the devil entered him. Judas may not have understood all that he was becoming a party too, but he is no less culpable for having betrayed Jesus and been instrumental in Jesus wrongful arrest and eventual crucifixion.
It’s very important to understand that the devil could not have “put it into the heart of Judas” unless Judas was open to such a thought. As we will learn further into this chapter, Judas had been entrusted with the responsibility of the “money box” (John 13:29). Judas served Jesus in the financial realm. That was a position of trust and responsibility. Judas used it as an opportunity to betray Jesus and enrich himself. Whenever we use position and responsibility for our own gain we are acting like Judas. How are you handling the responsibilities entrusted to you by Jesus? How are you handling Jesus’ finances in your life?
3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God,
Now notice, Jesus was going to be betrayed and was going to go to the cross, and yet it states, “that the Father had given all things into His hands.” Jesus wasn’t executed on the cross by accident. What is happening is foreknown by God and Jesus and carried out. God is able to utilize the evil sinful decisions of people like Judas to fulfill His righteous redemptive plans. God can cause all things to work together for His good (Romans 8:28).
When we look at the world today we see a great deal of betrayal and sin. Such evil and darkness tempts us to think that perhaps God isn’t working or even that God really isn’t in control. But one of the lessons we glean from the mission of Jesus is that God is able to bring good even from the evil intentions of sinful men.
4 rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself.
In Jesus’ day people walked on dirt roads that beasts of burden travelled on too. There was dirt of all sorts on those roads. People walked everywhere. They wore open sandals and their feet got pretty filthy. It was the dirty black feet of His disciples that Jesus washed. Washing feet was usually reserved for the lowest of the servants. But Jesus assumed this lowest of positions and washed the disciple’s feet. In doing so Jesus was showing that no low service is too low for His disciple to do.
If you were going to die for the sins of the world would you wash the dirty feet of some clueless disciples? Jesus could have told His disciples, “You know, I’m going to be betrayed by one of you and then I’m going to die for you on the cross. I hope you appreciate it!” Jesus might have settled for the cross but He didn’t. He serves to the end. His love never ceases. He uses these precious last hours with His disciples to teach them a valuable lesson about service. There is no excuse not to serve; even when evil men attack and betray you; even when you are going to give your life on a cross.
5 After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.
We should also understand that water is a symbol of God’s word. Later in John Jesus will tell the disciples that they are clean because of the word He has shared with them (John 15:3). It is the water of the word that washes us from sin (Ephesians 5:26).
This is a picture of sanctification. As we walk through life though we are forgiven our sins and have the righteousness of Jesus imputed to us (2 Cor. 5:21), we still get dirty feet. Our body is clean but our feet get dirty. As we live out our lives in Christ we accumulate filth; we may sin in one way or the other. As that happens we live in continual confession to God of our sins and He then cleanses us or sanctifies us (1 John 1:9). The instrument of cleansing God uses is the water of His word.
As we take in God’s word it is as though He pours water on our dirty feet and cleanses them. This also speaks of a regular daily devotional time in the word with the Lord. It is so important to meet regularly one on one with the Lord. We need this in our lives daily.
And when it speaks of wiping our feet it means Jesus wipes our feet through His perpetual intercession on our behalf (Hebrews 7:25). He is always interceding on our behalf to the Father. His prayers wipe away what the water of His word exposes.
6 Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, “Lord, are You washing my feet?”
7 Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.”
8 Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!”
Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”
9 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!”
Peter loved Jesus. He will state shortly that he would die for Jesus. Peter was the one who declared of Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Peter knew Jesus was King. Peter knew Jesus was the Leader and Lord. Jesus was the One Peter had left all to follow (e.g. Mark 10:29-31). So for Jesus to disrobe and bow down to wash Peter’s feet was hard for Peter to accept. For Peter it was inappropriate. A King doesn’t wash dirty filthy feet! But this King does. Jesus is the Servant Shepherd.
And so, when Jesus tells Peter “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me,” Peter was cut to the heart and responded, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!” In other words Peter was fully submitting to His Lord Jesus. By Peter saying Jesus should wash all of him was a way of Peter fully surrendering to Jesus as His Master. Even though Peter didn’t fully understand what Jesus was doing, he obeyed.
There is a principle displayed here. Peter wouldn’t understand the substance of what Jesus was doing until later, but he still obeyed Jesus. And because Peter obeyed he was later in a position to receive Jesus’ revelation. Yes, Peter would fail Jesus. But Peter would also be reconciled to Jesus. Obedience precedes revelation and understanding.
Bible teacher Jon Courson states, “Revelation follows obedience.”  Similarly, the context of John’s gospel reveals service opens the door to the Spirit. John 13 a chapter about Jesus’ service precedes His teaching on the Holy Spirit. This is a further example of obedience preceding revelation.
Is there an area of your life that you are not surrendering to the Lord in, an area of disobedience? Do you want to experience of fullness of the Spirit? Then step out in faith, obey and serve and watch the Holy Spirit begin to show Himself in your life.
10 Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean;
It’s very possible that the disciples had all gone through the ritual cleansing of the micveh in preparation for Passover. If this was the case their bodies were clean but their feet may have accumulated dirt on the way from their ritual cleansing to the upper room.
This ritual cleansing was symbolic of cleansing one spiritually before God; of washing off the accumulated dirt of the common secular world and preparing to offer sacrifice to God. But speaking of “only to wash his feet,” speaks of the daily meeting with God to keep clean from the daily accumulated dirt from the world. We need to meet daily with Jesus for cleansing.
There’s a beautiful picture of sanctification here. We are cleansed from our sins by the blood of Jesus when we trust in Him as our Savior. That is a symbol of justification; our being born again; forgiven our sins; regenerated as a gift of Gods’ grace through faith in Christ. But as we live each day our spiritual feet accumulate dirt that needs to be washed off. We need ongoing cleaning which is sanctification. As we have stated earlier this is accomplished with the water of the word of God and intercession of Jesus on our behalf. Our part is to regularly confess our sins and receive the cleansing.
and you are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, “You are not all clean.”
Not all were clean. Judas was dirty. Judas’ heart was filthy with greed and betrayal. Judas weighed the cost of loyalty to Jesus versus material gain and felt thirty pieces of silver were worth more than Jesus and His mission. Judas was willing to sell out Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Judas had a price; he could be bought. Do you have a price; can you be bought out? Is there a price you would sell out Jesus for?
12 So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.
That Jesus washed the disciples feet and told them that He was giving them an example did not necessarily mean His disciples should institute a tradition of ritual cleansing or washing each other’s feet (though there is nothing against this and it could prove a valuable illustration of service.) The point Jesus is making and that should be followed by His disciples is that no service is beneath a disciple and a disciple should be willing to even wash feet if Jesus their Master and Lord was willing to do so. In other words, pride has no place in the disciples’ life. Disciples of Jesus should be willing humble servants.
16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.
If Jesus was willing and actually did serve in the basest of ways, there is a blessing for those of His followers who are willing and actually do serve in a similarly base circumstance. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5). The humble are exalted by God (1 Peter 5:6). Jesus humbled Himself and was later exalted (Phil. 2:8-9). If we want God’s best it often comes through service of others.
One Bible teacher commented:
“Why humble myself and wash feet? Because after humiliation comes exaltation (Philippians 2:8, 9). Tired of being in the pits? Want to be lifted up to a higher plane? Want to experience joy on a level you’ve never known before and happiness in a dimension you’ve never understood? The key is humility. Just as the branch that bears the most fruit bows the lowest, the one who’s really fruitful in the things of Jesus Christ will bow the lowest to serve others.”  Service can be the driving force to get you out of depression and discouragement. Step out in faith. Take Jesus at His word. And rise up in Him.
17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
Jesus promised a blessing to those who do the things He taught with His foot washing. Does that mean we are to hold foot washing ceremonies in our churches? Maybe but not necessarily. Bible teacher Jon Courson helps us on how to practically apply what Jesus taught when he comments:
In our culture, not everyone wears sandals or goes barefoot. And even if they did, the roads aren’t dusty or muddy—so this passage might not mean washing feet. You’re washing your car in the front yard. Maybe it’s old and cruddy and doesn’t run very well. Instead of complaining about it—why not extend your hose a bit and wash your neighbor’s car? Or maybe it means washing your neighbor’s windows while he’s on vacation. It might mean washing diapers in the nursery—or washing the dishes without being asked.
“That sounds good,” you say, “but I’m going through such hard times right now that I’m not in a position to wash anything.”
Really? At any given point, at every single point in our lives, we live by “basin theology.” That is, we either call for the basin, like Pontius Pilate did (Matthew 27:24) and wash our hands of everything we know to be true of ministry and service—or we take up the basin and wash someone’s feet in humility and love. At the very time Jesus was going through a time of intensity we will never understand this side of eternity, He didn’t wash His hands of those who would deny and betray Him. He washed their feet.
An important key to victorious and blessed Christian living is stepping out in faith and applying God’s word in life and service. The decision is up to you. You can either be a Christian couch potato who sits each week in the pew (if that) and constantly takes in but never gives out. That person will be prone to defeat, depression and discouragement. Or you can step out in faith and serve the Lord and experience the power of the Holy Spirit within and through you. It’s up to you.
18 “I do not speak concerning all of you. I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me.’
Jesus was always very conscious of fulfilling and living by scripture. The betrayal of Judas was a fulfillment of scriptural prophecy (Psalm 41:9). Jesus understood the scriptures must be fulfilled and He lived by them. But this in no way absolved Judas of his cooperation in the devil’s diabolical scheme to murder Jesus. As we will see Judas willfully joins in the plot to bring Jesus down.
19 Now I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He.
Jesus is speaking in particular to the disciples so that when all of the final week’s events played out they would know without a doubt Jesus was Messiah; the Christ predicted prophetically in the Old Testament. But there is a general truth here too. Prophetic revelation is God’s provided preparation. God builds our faith in part through the fulfillment of His prophetic word. The foretelling of world events is evidence of the presence and providence of God in life. When we see prophetic scriptures delivered centuries before and then fulfilled centuries after they were given, it demonstrates the omniscience and foreknowledge of God as well as testifies to the authority and inspiration of His Holy word. And when we see God’s prophetic word coming to pass it shows us God and His word are reliable. And because He and His word are reliable, we can take hope in the words of the God of hope (cf. Romans 15:4 and 13).
20 Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.”
What Jesus says now is absolutely certain; “most assuredly.” And that absolute certainty speaks of our relationship between Jesus, His Father, and His followers. With these words Jesus declares a link between His followers, Himself and His Father. There is a unity between God and His people. Jesus’ disciples are an extension of Him and He is an extension of the Father. We are not God. Jesus is God. We are tools in the Masters hands. We are a secondary extension of God in His work. He can and does work directly with people to save their souls and minister to them. But He also chooses to use disciples in His ministering. Therefore, just as to reject Jesus is to reject God, to reject Jesus disciples is to reject Him and His Father who have ordained representative authority to those disciples. Representing Jesus to the world is a vital part of our calling and life purpose.
We are ambassadors of Jesus. As disciples of Jesus we represent Him. We represent Jesus wherever we go. That is a blessed awesome responsibility. No matter the station in life, it is a platform for us to share Jesus and represent Him to others. And when people reject us and our message, they don’t merely reject us, they reject the Lord.
We have been given great authority. Disciples of Jesus have been ordained or anointed by Him with authority to represent Him. “Now then, we are ambassadors of Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:20-21). Think of that; “on Christ’s behalf.” That is incredible authority; the name of Jesus. But it also means we must represent Jesus in a Christ-like way; “on Christ’s behalf.” How can we do that? Not in our own strength, but in His strength.
We have been given a mission strategy. That authority is in place as long as we represent Jesus in truth according to His will. The truth of our mission message as His ambassadors is “be reconciled to God.” How to be reconciled to God is explained in God’s word. “Your word is truth” (John 17:17). God’s word is breathed by Him as His mission objective and strategy (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We need to study His mission instructions well so that we represent Him accurately. We must be ambassadors of God’s word as well as ambassadors of Him.
We have been given effective weaponry. That authority is effective to the extent the disciple represents Jesus in the power of the Spirit. We must represent Jesus as the Holy Spirit enables us to do so powerfully (Acts 1:8); fruitfully (Galatians 5:22-25); and lovingly (Romans 5:5). We need to use the weapons and instruments God provides (Ephesians 6:10-18). We don’t want to serve as ambassadors in our flesh. We don’t serve effectively if we are bringing attention to ourselves or deviating from God’s truth thinking we know better. When that happens we become a rogue ambassador who will soon be put out of service. No, we serve representing Jesus by being like Jesus in the enabling power Jesus provides.
All of this entails a great responsibility. Being entrusted with authority and power to represent Jesus to the world is a great responsibility. God is pleading with the lost through us. He has a passion for the lost to be reconciled to Him. We are the sailor with a life preserver from God for people lost at sea. Jesus is the lifeline we need to throw to them. Jesus is the oxygen we need to give to those overcome by the smoke of sin. This is an eternal life and death responsibility.
This creates a pretty serious accountability. We are accountable to God for how we represent Him to the world. The world is accountable to God to how they respond to His representatives. How they respond to us reflects on how they are really responding to Jesus. Therefore it’s important for us to reflect Jesus to others in as Christ-like a way as possible. If we go to people in an unchrist-like way then when people reject us they aren’t rejecting Jesus because we aren’t representing Him accurately to that person. The way we serve as an ambassador of Jesus can determine if we are an obstacle or an open door to people receiving Jesus. We should be diligent to prayerfully and in the Spirit serve in our representation of Jesus so that we are a positive not negative part of Jesus reaching the lost.
21 When Jesus had said these things, He was troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.”
The inner 12 and especially the inner-inner three (Peter, James and John) must have been shocked at the statement of impending betrayal of Jesus by one of the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples. The level of betrayal was measured by the trust Jesus had demonstrated to the betraying disciple by making them one of His inner core disciples.
22 Then the disciples looked at one another, perplexed about whom He spoke.
They were all reclined at a U-shaped table close to the floor that was commonly used in that day. The Greeks and Romans called this kind of table arrangement a Triclinium. Those who sat at such a table would often lean on each other. It made for close fellowship.
The twelve were “perplexed” (Greek aporeo) they were full of doubt. The disciples had a hard time believing what Jesus was saying. Jesus had just been welcomed triumphantly into Jerusalem by record crowds. Yes, the religious leaders had opposed him but that was nothing new. The idea that one of His most loyal inner core disciples would betray Him was beyond their comprehension. But it was true.
All the disciples could do was look at each other wondering of whom was Jesus speaking (cf. also Matthew 26:22).
23 Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.
It is believed that the Apostle John is the disciples “whom Jesus loved.” It is a great comfort to be able to lean on Jesus and know He loves you. This is especially the case during times of uncertainty. Jesus is always the best Person to lean on when you are perplexed or confused about a situation in life.
24 Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask who it was of whom He spoke.
25 Then, leaning back on Jesus’ breast, he said to Him, “Lord, who is it?”
Don’t miss the closeness of Jesus to His disciples. And notice the approachability of Jesus. Jesus was really with His disciples. They were close enough that it was easy for John to lean back on Jesus.
Jesus is close to us too. We can lean on Him; even when we doubt or are going through difficult times or situations. And always remember, Jesus is the best One to go to when we have questions that need answers. The Communion Table of the Lord is a good place to recline on Jesus and seek His responses to life’s questions.
26 Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.”
In Middle Eastern culture eating together is a very connecting experience. You would break off a piece of bread and dip it in the food together. So as Jesus ate with Judas we see Judas was still in very close proximity to Jesus and Jesus continued to eat and be in close friendship to Judas. All this and Judas still betrayed Jesus.
And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. 27 Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him.
Judas had already opened himself to the devil in his thoughts and heart. Now with the door opened to the devil the devil steps in and takes over. The apostle Paul spoke of various sins and warned they “give place to the devil” (Ephesians 4:27 in context.) When we disobey the Lord and sin such as through unforgiveness, out of control anger, theft, corrupt and deceitful speaking and other ways, we open the door and invite the devil in. And once inside, the devil will do everything in his power to wreck us and use us to wreck others.
Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” 28 But no one at the table knew for what reason He said this to him. 29 For some thought, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus had said to him, “Buy those things we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. 30 Having received the piece of bread, he then went out immediately. And it was night.
“And it was night.” Yes it was; it was night in more than mere darkness of night. What we see here is a willful giving over of oneself to Satan by Judas. Earlier we saw Judas entertain a satanically inspired thought. Here we see Judas has accepted that dark thought and having received from Satan, Satan now uses that thought to enter Judas. And with Satan allowed by Judas to crowd out Jesus love, Judas acts on Satan’s devilish scheme to betray Jesus.
The disciples are all oblivious to Satan’s deception and the betrayal of Judas. Satan’s schemes and the betrayal of those who give themselves up to him is not uncommon. If you are ever betrayed by someone who goes behind your back to do it, don’t be surprised or think that you necessarily could have stopped it. The nature of Satan and his schemes is to deceive and to deceive means to act in ways that others aren’t aware of.
31 So, when he had gone out,
Judas left, Jesus loved. Judas betrayed, Jesus stayed. As Judas has departed to betray the love of his Master Jesus, as Judas is acting in the most unloving way, Jesus stays and begins to explain His greatest message; love. Jesus could have fled the scene. He could have fled the cross. He could have run away. He had every reason to leave a group of people who persistently didn’t get His message or understand His mission. But Jesus stayed and loved. Remember how this chapter began. It stated, “having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end” (John 13:1). Many times love is determined by whether or not we leave or stay. Love is often quenched when a person leaves or strays or betrays in some way. Judas left, Jesus loved. Judas betrayed, Jesus stayed.
Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him. 32 If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately.
While Judas embarks on his devilish work, Jesus declares the glory of God in all of it. Satan thinks he is defeating Jesus. But in truth Satan is serving God’s purposes and ultimately will be used by God to work His greatest victory. For Jesus, the most important thing was not that He was betrayed or even that He would die, but that God would be glorified. Is that our greatest ambition and concern; that God would be glorified? It should be.
And keep the context in focus here. Jesus “is glorified, and God is glorified in Him” as He teaches His new commandment of love; love like He loves. Loving like Jesus is the greatest way to bring glory to God.
33 Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you.
Jesus speaks to His disciples as children because before they are baptized with the Pentecostal outpouring of the Spirit they are in fact spiritual children. They have reached their limit to follow Him as spiritually constituted at this time. Jesus is going to the cross. The cross is the height of spiritual perfection. The cross of Christ is humanities’ basis for eternal life. The cross of Christ is the greatest demonstration and fulfillment of the love of God. And Jesus will now explain the purpose of what He is about to do at the cross. Jesus is going in a sense where no one else can go; the cross. But Jesus is also going in a sense where anyone who wants to experience His abundant life must go; the cross.
Wait a minute, didn’t you say Judas left but Jesus stayed? Yes, Jesus will leave, but He will leave only that the Holy Spirit can come and expand His ministry of love. It is only by His leaving that His disciples can know Him and His love and be filled and empowered by His love through the work of the Holy Spirit. We will see this in subsequent chapters (John 14-16). And Jesus’ departure is only temporary; He will return (cf. Revelation 19).
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
As Jesus prepares to go to the cross He expresses the motivation behind all that He is submitting Himself to go through; love. The pinnacle of Jesus last words to His disciples is “a new commandment.” This new commandment is about love. Now the Old Testament had taught about love. Deuteronomy is an Old Testament book filled with exhortations to love God and love others (e.g. Deuteronomy 6:5; 11:1, 13; 13:3;19:9; 30:6, 16, and 20). The Old Testament provides Gods’ instruction to love our neighbor (Leviticus 19:18). Song of Solomon and Hosea are love stories about God and His people. So in what way is Jesus teaching on love a new commandment? This is a new commandment from Jesus in “that you love one another; as I have loved you.”
Jesus was not talking about a stone cold law. Jesus was not talking about a touchy feely secular worldly love. Jesus lived a life that exemplified a costly self-giving, self-sacrificing love. He calls His disciples to love and He does not leave the nature of such love up to speculation. Jesus says, “as I have loved you.” The love we are to show others is the love of Jesus. If we want to look at the nature and definition of the love with which we, as Jesus’ disciples, is to love, we have to look at Jesus.
How do we love like Jesus? When we look at the Gospel of John we see the love of Jesus in the following summary:
Jesus demonstrated His love by leaving everything to reach those He loved – John 1:1-18
Jesus demonstrated His love by inviting people to be His disciples and learn from Him by being with Him – John 1:35-42
Jesus demonstrated His love by taking time to explain things to them – John 1:43-51
Jesus demonstrated His love by attending events like weddings with people - John 2
Jesus demonstrated His love by meeting privately with people and sharing the gospel with them – John 3
Jesus demonstrated His love by making time for sinners and talking with outcasts – John 4
Jesus demonstrated His love by taking time to heal people – John 4:46-54; 5:1-15; 9:1-41
Jesus demonstrated His love by feeding people physically – John 6
Jesus demonstrated His love by teaching truth at the risk of being rejected – John 6
Jesus demonstrated His love by pressing on in ministry even though family members opposed Him – John 7:1-36
Jesus demonstrated His love by offering them refreshing in the Holy Spirit – John 7:37-39
Jesus demonstrated His love with grace for those caught red handed in sin – John 8
Jesus demonstrated His love by being a Good Shepherd to people – John 10
Jesus demonstrated His love by weeping for them – John 11 (11:35)
Jesus demonstrated His love by His willingness to accept a mission that required He die for them – John 12:27-36
Jesus demonstrated His love by serving people in the lowliest of ways – John 13
Jesus demonstrated His love by patiently teaching and preparing His disciples for His departure (with details on the Holy Spirit’s ministry - John 14-16
Jesus demonstrated His love by praying for people – John 17
Jesus demonstrated His love by submitting to injustices and going to the cross – John 18-19
Jesus demonstrated His love by receiving back those who had forsaken and betrayed Him – John 20-21
Looking at Jesus is the best way to understand what true love is all about.
Love is a willingness to die for those you love. When we look at Jesus and see the brand of love He was declaring to His disciples to live by the prime nature of this love was a willingness to die for the object of your love. Now we may not ever have to actually give our lives in love, but in order to love like Jesus loved we do need to die to pride, die to complaints, die to ambition, and die to selfishness. To love like Jesus loved is to love in full surrender to the will of the Father. To love like Jesus is to pick up your cross and follow Him. To love like Jesus is to take everything you see as having worth and profit and value and nailing it to the cross for the sake of Jesus. The cross is a place of total trust. The cross is the place where we learn what true love; the commandment of Jesus.
The apostle Paul is inspired to describe Christ-like love later in the New Testament when he writes his first letter to the church in Corinth. The Corinthian church had a big problem with their flesh. They were very gifted but also very immature in their walk with the Lord (1 Corinthians 3:1ff.). The antidote to ministering in the flesh is to minister and serve in the Spirit and the love the Spirit provides. When we look at the context of Paul’s great 1 Corinthian 13 chapter on love it is smack dab in the middle of his discussion of spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12 and 14). In this chapter Paul states the essential and absolute necessity for the believer to do all they do in Christ-like love. In this chapter 13 of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians the Spirit directs him to write:
1 Corinthians 13 (NKJV) - Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
When you think about Paul’s description of love in that chapter it is a picture of Jesus. What does that look like? Let’s look at a few verses of this chapter on love and replace the word “love” with the name of Jesus:
4 [Jesus] suffers long and is kind; [Jesus] does not envy; [Jesus] does not parade [Himself], is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek [His] own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 [Jesus] never fails.
When we look at love that way it is defined in Christ. We learn what love is by looking to Jesus. And His greatest espresso in of that love is on the cross. Look to the cross if you want to know what His love is all about (e.g. Romans 5:8).
Love is the value of everything. Love is the essential ingredient to earthly efforts that have an eternal value and worth. If there is something you should be willing to live for and die for and spend your life mastering, it is love (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). Love gives eternal worth to whatever it does. If you wash the floor with loveless resentment, the work loses all its potential eternal value. But if you wash the floor in love for the Lord and others, it takes on eternal worth. If you give your life in hate it’s meaningless. But if you give your life in love for the Lord and others, it is given eternal worth. Love gives value to everything. Love is the value of everything.
Love patiently helps to bring others along. Christ-like love “suffers long and is kind” (1 Corinthians 13:4a). “Suffers long” (Greek makrothymeo) means literally to be long-spirited. And it is paired with the word “kind” (Greek christeuomai) which means to show oneself useful or act benevolently to help. To be “kind” is to be like “Christ.” The conjunction “and” is inserted by translators but in the original Greek it reads literally suffers-long-kind. Love starts with a spirit or attitude that is committed for the long haul with people. That’s important because the lessons of love and growing in love take a long time. It takes a lifetime to learn Christ-like love. Therefore, this love begins with awareness that to love involves time. This love starts with a commitment that will involve patiently coming alongside others and helping them along. Such love was an essential ingredient in Jesus discipleship of His followers. In love Jesus patiently waited for His disciples to grow in their faith and preparation to lead.
This first ingredient of love is a priority because it establishes love with staying power. It takes time for people to grow in their faith. And the patient staying persistent continued ongoing love of Jesus is what keeps people together to grow in His love. When you love like Jesus you work through problems you don’t give up or run away from them. When you love like Jesus you care enough to sacrifice and endure and work, really work to be one with others. There would be a lot less divorces in our world if spouses really took their vows to heart and truly loved each other. There would be a lot fewer church splits and people leaving churches if the love of the Spirit was truly experienced and lived out. This suffer-long-kind patient loving kindness aspect of love is where love begins. You really can’t experience and build on what follows until by faith you commit to this first prime part of loved defined.
Love helps others along and waits for them to catch up. Love not only waits for others to catch up, it grabs hold of them and helps them along. Practically this love is what holds a marriage together as both spouses grow together. This love is the love that enables the parent to wait for the child to grow and learn their life lessons. This love is what enables pastors to disciple their congregations and help them along to spiritual maturity. This love is what enables teachers to tutor their students to learn their lessons. Love is why Jesus waits for us to grow in our faith. Thank God for His patient love.
Love is not materially oriented. Christ-like love doesn’t envy (1 Corinthians 13:4b). The person who loves like Jesus doesn’t look at others and wish it had what they have. When you love like Jesus you are satisfied with what God gives you. Christ-like love isn’t possession or materially oriented. It doesn’t measure love or communicate love with things but with relationship.
Love is genuine. Christ-like love doesn’t parade itself or present a puffed up image of itself (1 Corinthians 13:4c). Love isn’t about presenting yourself to others in a way that draws attention to you. When you love like Jesus loves you don’t put on a show or see loving as merely acting a certain way. Christ-like love is something you are not something you do. It’s genuine and flows from the heart; from inside.
Love values others. Christ-like love isn’t rude (1 Corinthians 13:5a). Love respects others and speaks to them in a way that shows others are valued. Love doesn’t treat other people as tools to be used or a means to an end. When you love like Jesus you put your arm around people and join them to you and bring them along, you don’t step through them or push them out of the way to get where you want to go.
Love is others oriented. Christ-like love doesn’t seek its own (1 Corinthians 13:5b). Love seeks the best for others even at the expense of its own desires. When you love like Jesus you don’t use people to get what you want. When you love like Jesus you sacrifice yourself so others can attain their best. Christ-like love is others oriented.
Love is humble enough to receive correction. Christ-like love isn’t provoked (1 Corinthians 13:5c). Love is humble and doesn’t proudly take criticism as a personal attack. When you love like Jesus you welcome correction and are teachable. Your top priority is identifying anything in you that may be a detriment to His love fully being in you. Therefore you welcome counsel and teaching and see it as a great benefit to helping you learn to love more.
Love thinks scripturally Christ-like love doesn’t think in evil ways (1 Corinthians 13:5d). Love guards the mind from sinful thoughts that are contrary to the way Jesus would have you think. “Evil” (Greek kakos) means literally depraved, rotten, bad, harmful, ill, wicked. When you love like Jesus you don’t settle for doing things in unloving ways. When you love like Jesus you are spiritual healthy because your thought-life is governed by Jesus and His word.
Love enjoys truth. Christ-like love doesn’t take joy in sin but takes joy in the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6). Love speaks and lives by truth (Ephesians 4:15). A person who loves you will love you enough to share the truth with you even if it may hurt you. And if you truly love like Jesus you will receive loving correction. When you love like Jesus you don’t get your happiness (“rejoice” – Greek chairo – a calm sense of well-being; cheerfulness; happiness) from sinful things but from things that are truthful according to God’s word (compare John 17:17).
Love covers faults. Love is willing to overlook or patiently work through faults (their own faults or the faults of others). Christ-like love bears all things (1 Corinthians 13:7a). To “bear” (Greek stego) means to roof over, cover, endure patiently in silence. In other words, when you love like Jesus you aren’t preoccupied with pointing out every fault of every person. A friend who loves you will have your back even when you mess up. When you love like Jesus you are willing to put up with the faults of others as they grow in their faith.
It says bears “all things.” When you love like Jesus you aren’t a chronic complainer. Loving like Jesus silently bears hardship. That doesn’t mean you never address problems. It does mean you are more apt to silently entrust your circumstances to the Lord than always rise up to defend yourself. To love means you will put up with the trials of life for the sake of Christ. To love means you will press on even when injustices are inflicted on you. When you love like Jesus you press on even when you don’t understand why certain things are being allowed by God. Our love for Jesus and the love of Jesus gets us through the dark times, the times of unknowing, the wildernesses of life.
Love is faithful. Christ-like love believes all things (1 Corinthians 13:7b). When you love like Jesus you love in faith. When you love with Jesus’ love you trust every situation and every person to Him. When you love like Jesus with his love you give people the benefit of the doubt. Love doesn’t assume the worst it assumes the best about people. Love trusts that Jesus is working in people.
Love is hopeful. Christ-like love hopes all things (1 Corinthians 13:7c). Love is always hopeful that God is working out His plans and that it will come to pass. When you love like Jesus your focus is on His promises and you trust in Jesus to fulfill them.
Love is willing to take risks. Christ-like love endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:7d). Living with a Christ-like love puts you in a vulnerable position. To love is risky. When you love this way the risk is that people will not love you back or they will take advantage of you. When you love selflessly like this there is a risk of being hurt or broken by others who abuse your love, look down on you because of your love, manipulate your love, or crucify you because of your love.
Love is triumphant. Christ-like love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8a). This love is worth the risk. This love is our purpose in life. This love of Christ must compel us (2 Corinthians 5:14-16). This love is what Jesus wants for us. This love is what He uses the ingredients of our life to create in us. This love is what makes us ready for heaven.
Love is the mark of success. This love transcends the worth of all other spiritual gifting (1 Corinthians 13:8b). Anything and everything we do in our lives for Jesus must be done with this kind of love. Whatever we do apart from His love will fail as far as he is concerned. We may build big churches and argue people into praying a prayer of salvation or agreeing with our doctrine, but if it isn’t according to the love of Christ it is worthless.
Love is the measure of spiritual maturity. This love is the sign of spiritual maturity in the form of Christ-like love (1 Corinthians 13:9-12). Without Christ’s love we are incomplete Christians. Love is the essential “part” of who we are and what we do. Love is the measure of spiritual maturity; it perfects us. Love is the difference between a spiritual child and being a spiritual adult. It isn’t until we love that we see clearly.
This love is the greatest! (1 Corinthians 13:13). There’s nothing more important than love. Love is what Jesus wants us to learn above everything else. Love is the greatest quality. Love is the greatest commodity. Get love! It’s the greatest!
This love is from the Spirit. Jesus’ kind of love is not easy to live by. That kind of love will be opposed at every step by our flesh, the world and the devil. That is why Jesus follows this call to love like Him with His primary teaching on the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit pours God’s love into our heart (Romans 5:5). The Holy Spirit bears the fruit of Jesus’ love in us (Galatians 5:22-24). Therefore Jesus is really preparing and calling His disciples to an abundant life in the Spirit.
Love is the mark of Jesus. “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Jesus doesn’t say you will be known as His disciples by the size of your bank account, the size of your house, the size of your family or the size of your church. It is love, the particular love of Jesus that His disciples will be known by. If there is one thing, one message, one way of life, one memorial, on legacy to leave behind, if there is one thing to have people remember you by, it should be LOVE; the love of Christ. This should be our goal, our purpose, our reason for being and living. To be known as Jesus disciples by the love you show for one another is the ultimate goal of a disciple of Jesus. Truly “His banner over me” needs to be “love” (Song of Solomon 2:4).
Love people into the kingdom of God. We need to love people into the kingdom of God. We need to love sinners and saints. We have to stop kicking people to the curb and start picking them up and helping them along; helping them to Jesus; to a deeper and more enduring walk with Jesus. Love must permeate everything we do and everything we are known by. Truly a disciple of Jesus should love like Jesus loved. The love of Jesus in a disciple is a fragrant aroma, sensed by all, wherever they are. A disciple of Jesus who loves like Jesus is accessible like Jesus, tirelessly and selflessly serving like Jesus and willing to wash feet and go to the cross like Jesus. Look at Jesus in the gospels and love like that. Be known as Jesus disciple by the love of Jesus.
Sometimes we learn what something is by seeing the contrast of it. Judas is a contrast to Jesus here. We need to see that because too often there is a spirit of Judas in us and we need to identify and forsake that evil loveless spirit. Jesus taught his disciples about His new commandment of Christ-like love on the heels of Judas’ departure to betray Him. Jesus was fully aware of what Judas had left to do. When people examine Judas they sometimes see him in a sympathetic light. They speculate he was only trying to force Jesus’ hand to confront the Romans and Jewish leadership in order to defeat them and establish His kingdom. People look at Judas and assume his intentions were good; it was his method that was sinful. I contend that Judas willfully opened his heart to the devil and so is culpable for what he did. Judas left before Jesus’ teaching on His new commandment of love and the role of the Holy Spirit because he wasn’t interested in that teaching. Judas left, Jesus loved. Judas betrayed, Jesus stayed.
Why wasn’t Judas interested in Jesus’ teaching? The second thing to recognize about Judas is that at some point Judas came to thinking he knew better than Jesus. Pride was involved (and pride goes before destruction – Proverbs 16:18). Judas betrayed Jesus because of pride. At some point the student thought he knew more than the Teacher. Pride is presumptuous. Pride is always at the root of betrayal. Pride is especially at the root of betraying authority or leaders. But there is something more sinister, more devilish, and more demonic at the root of Judas’ betraying treacherous act. Judas left, Jesus loved. Judas betrayed, Jesus stayed.
The third and last point is that Judas stopped loving Jesus. Not only did he stop loving Jesus, but his actions indicate a decision to reject Jesus’ love. We don’t know if Judas ever did love Jesus. But his actions betray the fact that the evidence shows Judas rejected Jesus love personally and in principle. Judas left, Jesus loved. Judas betrayed, Jesus stayed.
Look at Judas’ act of betrayal in light of the love we have seen from Jesus and His word. Judas was unwilling to take up his cross. Judas wanted nothing to do with the cross of Christ. He didn’t think about patiently waiting for Jesus’ plan to pan out. Instead, even if we give Judas the benefit of the doubt (which love does) we see he was impatient about the plan and mission of Jesus. It’s likely Judas envied Jesus popularity just like the religious leaders did. Judas paraded and puffed up himself when he presented himself as knowing better than Jesus. He certainly did not value Jesus as a Person. He certainly sought his own profit in selling Jesus out for money. In his pride the mission plan of Jesus provoked him. To allow Satan to enter you is the height of thinking evil. His act was the height of sin and at some point he chose to rejoice in his decision not the truth of Jesus. He refused to bear what Jesus taught and called His disciples to. He stopped believing in Jesus. He gave up on hoping in Jesus. He wasn’t willing to endure and follow through on Jesus call and mission plan. His love failed. Judas’ never matured spiritually because he discarded the love Jesus offered. Judas refused to believe that the love of Jesus is the greatest (compare to 1 Corinthians 13). Judas left, Jesus loved. Judas betrayed, Jesus stayed. At the heart of Judas’ betrayal is lovelessness.
Beware a spirit of Judas. When we act in unloving ways toward Jesus and others we are turning off God’s road and onto the dangerous path that leads to the cavern of destruction. Beware of that. The choice is before you. Will you stay, listen and learn of Jesus’ love? Or will you act like Judas and leave? The choice is yours.
36 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?”
Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.”
37 Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake.”
38 Jesus answered him, “Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times.
Jesus is going to the cross; God’s instrument of justice, grace and love. Peter wasn’t ready to go there even though he presumed he was. Peter and the disciples would follow Jesus to their own cross after they had experienced their personal Pentecost. But until they did, until they were willing to crucify the flesh with its passions and desires, they were still children in their faith and limited in how Jesus could sue them and spiritually immature. There was still a lot more for them to learn about the new commandment of love; loving like Jesus.
These words are the bridge into the following chapters filled with the final words of Jesus on the Holy Spirit and His final High Priestly prayer. Peter expresses his willingness to die for Jesus, but he will find it harder to live for Him than die for Him. In the end Jesus will draw peter to Himself and reinstitute his place in His plans. But we will learn a great deal as we watch Peter in these final chapters.
 Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 547). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
 Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 549). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
 Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 554). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.