Jesus—His Life and Message: Washing the Disciples’ Feet (Part 3)

June 1, 2021

by Peter Amsterdam

The previous article ended with Jesus stating, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”1 We were also told that His disciples were uncertain of whom He spoke.2 This news took them by surprise.

One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table close to Jesus, so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking.3

We are not specifically told which disciple was the one whom Jesus loved, though other references are made to him later in this Gospel.4 Though it is not specifically stated, it is commonly understood that it was the apostle John. It’s likely that Peter was not sitting next to Jesus, as if he were, he could have asked Jesus the question himself; rather, he motioned for John to inquire about it. It is also possible that Judas may have been sitting next to Jesus on His other side, which would have been the honored position. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus was able to speak with Judas without others hearing what He said, so Judas likely was seated very near and possibly next to Jesus at the meal.

So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?”5 

The unnamed disciple leaned in such a way that he could quietly speak to Jesus, perhaps even whispering into His ear, without others hearing what he said.

Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.6

Jesus responded that He would identify the betrayer by an action. It is implied that His response could only be heard by the one who asked Him the question. After saying this, Jesus dipped the bread in a sauce of some sort which was on the table, and offered it to Judas. While the other disciples may have seen Jesus give Judas the morsel of bread, they did not hear the words He had said about the betrayer and therefore they would not have known that Jesus was revealing the one who would betray Him.

Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”7 

This is the only time in this Gospel that Satan is mentioned by name. This Gospel tells us that Satan entered Judas at this moment, and that it was he who inspired Judas’ actions. This time, Jesus spoke to Judas in a manner that the other disciples could hear what He said.

No one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.8

The disciples didn’t see anything to be concerned about when they heard Jesus tell Judas to quickly do what he was going to do. He was responsible for the finances of the group, and it would be normal for Jesus to give Judas instructions to purchase food or to give help to the poor. Having received the morsel of bread from Jesus, Judas left the dinner.

When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once.”9 

Once Judas had left, it was possible for Jesus to speak to the disciples openly and at length. The betrayal was underway, so the glorification of the Son had begun. The glory of the Father is connected to the glory of His Son, as the Father and Son are one in purpose. One author explains: The glory of the Father is bound up with the glory of the Son. The two are one in the purpose of saving sinners. The glory of Christ as he stoops to save us is the glory of the Father whose will he is doing. The cross reveals the heart of God as well as that of Christ.10

“Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’”11

Referring to His disciples as “little children” expressed Jesus’ affection and tender concern for them. The news that He would only be with them for a little while longer was likely difficult to hear, though it wasn’t the first time He had said something like this. Earlier, He had said to the Jewish leaders who opposed Him, “I will be with you a little longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. You will seek me and you will not find me. Where I am you cannot come.”12

In light of Jesus telling His disciples that He was going where they could not come, He made a special announcement:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.13

Jesus was giving instruction to the community of believers by means of a new commandment which focused on their loving one another. The motive for believers to love our neighbor is that Christ has loved us. He lived what He preached, He set the example of love, and He calls His disciples to follow in His steps.

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.14

Jesus reinforced His “new command” of love for one another with a promise. Believers will be known as followers of Christ by the love they have for one another, as love is the distinguishing mark of a believer. The book of 1 John reinforces this understanding.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.15

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.16

Prophecy Regarding Peter

The last three verses of this chapter tell of the apostle Peter’s exchange with Jesus.

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.”17

Peter asked Jesus about His departure, inquiring where He was going. Jesus’ response echoes what He had said earlier, that Peter could not go where He was going at this time; however, He added that Peter would eventually follow Him. Peter was surprised, and perhaps a bit sensitive, at Jesus’ response. He affirmed his willingness to lay down his life for Jesus. However, while he was sincere in what he said, later we read of Peter denying his association with Jesus three times, just as Jesus had predicted.18

Before His eventual arrest and crucifixion, Jesus focused His limited time on teaching and preparing His disciples for what was ahead.


Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

General Bibliography

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1 John 13:21.

2 John 13:22.

3 John 13:23–24.

4 John 19:26, 20:2–8, 21:7–8, 21:20–24.

5 John 13:25.

6 John 13:26.

7 John 13:27.

8 John 13:28–30.

9 John 13:31–32.

10 Morris, The Gospel According to John, 560.

11 John 13:33.

12 John 7:33–34.

13 John 13:34.

14 John 13:35.

15 1 John 4:7–8.

16 1 John 4:11–12.

17 John 13:36–38.

18 John 18:17, 25, 26–27.