The Gospel of John chapter 13 begins with what has popularly been called "The Last Supper." Jesus Christ and his disciples gathered together for an evening meal just as they had so many times before. This night, however, would be very different. His disciples came simply to eat. They were in for a big surprise. This night they would hear what is the last recorded teaching of Jesus Christ before his crucifixion.
John 13:1 - Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.
The great significance of this teaching which spans chapters 13,14,15, and 16 was that Jesus knew the hour was coming that he would "depart out of this world" and his disciples were not going with him.
With this in mind, when supper was finished Jesus began with an example:
John 13:4-5,12 - He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded....So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?
In the East the lowliest bond slave or even the son of the bond slave was responsible to wash the feet of his master's family or the guests when they arrived at the home. They wore sandals on their feet so their feet would become very dirty. Whenever someone would arrive at the home, whether it be once or fifty times in a day, the lowly bond slave would be responsible to carry out this service. Have you ever washed someone's dirty feet?
When someone of very high rank or important office would visit, only the head of the house would be allowed to wash his feet or serve him at the table.
If someone that you admired, that held an important position, and that you believed deserved a great deal of honor and respect visited your home; and that person rather than having you wait on and show hospitality to him, said: "Sit down. Allow me. I will make supper. I will serve you. I will wash the dishes"; that might be something like what Jesus Christ had just done for his disciples. You can see what a break from culture this was and what an impact it would have had on the minds of the disciples.
John 13:13-16 - 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. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.
In the performing of this act, Jesus demonstrated his willingness to humble himself as the lowliest of servants while at the same time lovingly exalt his disciples and treat them as royalty. We are not to lord ourselves over one another. We are to humbly serve one another as the Lord Jesus Christ showed us in his actions. We should never think of ourselves as greater or better than any other believer. Jesus Christ humbled himself to each of his disciples - even to the man [Judas] whom Jesus knew had already made a deal for money with the priests to betray him.
If there were ever a time that Jesus Christ really needed someone to serve him and to honor him this night would have been the time. He knew what he was about to go through. Yet even at this critical time in his life he served. He lowered himself to the level of the lowest bond slave - and said that we should do the same.
John 13:17 - If you know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.
If you know that you are suppose to be humble; if you know that you are suppose to serve; if you know these things "happy" (or blessed) are you if you do them. It does not say "acknowledge these things" or "teach other people to do these things". It says do them!
There needs to come a point in our lives where this is not just a knowledge of the Word. But it is manifested outward in our actions. Just to have knowledge of the Word is not enough. It is in the doing of it that we are blessed.
John 13:26b - ... And when he [Jesus] had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.
Here again, an Eastern custom, demonstrated that Jesus Christ "loved them unto the end." Jesus knew that Judas was going to betray him. In fact Judas had already made the arrangements. The "sop" would be dipped by the host into a common dish and it would be given to the guest to whom he wanted to show his greatest love and esteem. By placing the sop to his guests lips the host would demonstrate to all present the love and honor he had for that special guest. Jesus was showing Judas the highest love and honor at this meal knowing full well what his plans were.
Jesus loved Judas. He never tried to manipulate Judas or to coerce him out of his free will to get him to alter his plans. All he did was love him!
John 13:33-35 - Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you.
Earlier, Jesus had told the unbelieving Jews that he would be leaving and that they would not be able to follow him. Now he was telling his disciples the same thing. He was going away and they were not going with him.
After demonstrating his love in the actions he took at the supper, Jesus began the teaching by once again reminding them that he was leaving. Then he presented what he wanted to leave with them: a new commandment!
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
Love one another! It is not a suggestion. It is not just a nice idea. You know, if you have the time ,you might possibly, just maybe, if you feel like it sometime, want to try to love somebody. NO! It is a commandment. It is THE commandment of the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is by carrying out this commandment that "all shall know that we are his disciples."
Jesus did not say that by the houses we own or the money we earn people will know that we are his disciples. Although God wants us to prosper and be in health and have an abundant life. That is not how people will know that we are disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus also did not say that people would know that we are his disciples by the accurate knowledge of God's Word that we have and share. He did not say that proving you are right will show others that you are his disciples.
He also did not say that by the operation of the manifestations of holy spirit will all men know that you are my disciples.
All will know that we are his disciples because we carry out his commandment.
Derived from "A New Commandment"
from the Walking with God class - 1995
presented by John Cortright