This Sunday we are studying John 13. We are entering a new section of the Gospel of John. Jesus’ public ministry has been the focus of John 1-12. Beginning in John 13 is an extensive section where Jesus is alone with his disciples. Following this section comes the crucifixion and then resurrection of Jesus.
John 13 can be divided into four sections:
John 13:1-11–Jesus Sets an Example for His Disciples
John 13:12-20–Jesus Teaches His Disciples the Meaning of Service
John 13:21-30–Satan Enters Judas
John 13:31-38–Jesus Gives a New Command
As you read each section, remember to first pray that God would help you to understand the text. Second, read each section asking what we might learn about God the Father and about Jesus the Son.
As you read, remember that last week in John 12 was the first time that Jesus said that his time had now come. Before then, he always said that his time was not yet. Notice the beginning of John 13. John repeats that Jesus knows that his time has come. That makes what follows all the more poignant.
In the first section, Jesus provides an example for this disciples to follow. He takes off his outer garment, takes the basin of water and a towel, and he washes the feet of the disciples. Consider what this act tells us about Jesus. What does Jesus think of himself? What does Jesus think of himself in relation to his disciples? What about Judas, who is still at the table at this point?
In the second section, Jesus explains to his disciples the meaning of the foot washing. The action of foot washing followed by Jesus’ explanation sounds quite a bit like the way Jesus taught through his parables. His act of foot washing is the parable. His explanation is the private word Jesus would have with his disciples when he explained his teaching to them. Jesus is Lord and Teacher, yet he washes his disciples’ feet. How much more should we, who are not lords and teachers, wash the feet of others.
The next scene tells of the dinner. There is an interaction between Peter and John, and then John asks Jesus a question, but this whole section is leading up to moment of decision for Judas. In the middle of the meal, Judas arises and leaves to begin the process of betrayal. John concludes, “And it was night.” What a contrast to the light of Christ coming into the world.
After the departure of Judas, Jesus begins teaching the disciples. He offers them a new command, “Love one another.” This is not really a new command. Jesus knows and quotes the Old Testament when it says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Rather, it seems that Jesus is amplifying and emphasizing the importance of this command. This emphasis on loving one another seems to be what Jesus was getting at in the other Gospels when he gave the greatest commandment, “You shall love the Lord Your God” and a second command like it, “To love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus, in effect, was saying, “You have heard it said, ‘Love the Lord your God’ (And you should), but I say to you, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ (because you haven’t been doing this).” This is what Jesus is getting at by saying he is giving them a new command.
Notice at the end of this section what Jesus says about love. Our love is the sign to others that we follow Jesus. It is not by our doctrine (although right doctrine is important), it is not by our dress (though we should dress modestly and appropriately), and it is not by what we say (although we should speak the truth and be prepared to give witness to Christ). Instead Jesus says that people will know we are Jesus’ followers by the way we love one another. Pay attention to what Jesus says and what he does not say. He does not say that people will be won over by our love, but only that they will know who we are and our identity in Christ. Also, he does not say that this happens through our love of them (although we should love all people), but rather that they will know who we are by the way we love each other.
I look forward to seeing our small group Sunday morning.