John 13:1-2 before the feast of the passover... supper being ended
John's chronology of the final week and crucifixion differs considerably from the synoptic gospels. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are thought to be derived from one source for which Peter was responsible. In all three texts, the "Last Supper" is described as the paschal meal, the celebration which begins in the late afternoon on the fourteenth day of the first Hebrew month, i.e. in the spring (Lev. 23:4-8). Late afternoon or early evening, one male lamb, without blemish, and of the first year was sacrificed (Ex. 12:6). After sunset, technically the fifteenth day of Nisan, the first Hebrew month, the Passover meal was celebrated.
In perhaps the most significant and irreconcilable discrepancy in the gospels, John states that the Last Supper was before the Passover. His record is consistent: the Last Supper was a meal celebrated the night before the rest of the Jews celebrated. He says the reason that the Sanhedrin, which had just condemned Christ of blasphemy, would not enter the Roman judgment hall was to avoid becoming "defiled...that they might eat the passover" (John 18:28). By Matthew, Mark, and Luke's versions, they should have eaten it the night before. John goes on to record the Pilate exchange as occurring the night before the Passover, "it was the preparation of the passover" when Pilate presented a bloodied Christ to the masses declaring, "Behold your King!" (John 19:14). With the crucifixion just hours later, this chronology has Christ's crucifixion at the same time as the slaughter and preparation of thousands of paschal lambs throughout Jerusalem. Finally, the day after the paschal meal was a special holiday, or "high day." Under Jewish law, the first and seventh days of the Passover week were "holy convocations," holy days, or "holidays" that were celebrated as sabbaths regardless of which day of the week they occurred. These holy days were prescribed to be the fifteenth and twenty-first days of the first month (Lev. 23:4-8). John's record clearly indicates that the legs of the thieves were broken and Christ was already dead before the beginning of the "high day" Sabbath, which would again place the crucifixion on the 14th day of the first month (John 19:31).
John's chronology has Christ's death at precisely the same time that the Jews were all killing their paschal lambs. The symbolism here is both powerful and poignant. The synoptic chronology has Christ eating his last meal as the Passover meal. The symbolism here is poignant as well because the promised Paschal Lamb was eating the ceremonial paschal lamb with his apostles. After the meal, the messianic text for the hymn they sang came from psalms (Ps. 115-118), including the phrase, "The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner" (Ps. 118:22). If the Master told his apostles they would be celebrating the Passover meal a day early, the discrepancy could be resolved. But there is no record that He did.
John 13:5 he...began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel
Every Thursday, the First Presidency meets with the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the Salt Lake Temple. On certain occasions, on the same day of the week in which the ordinance was originally instituted, the Prophet washes the feet of all the Brethren. The ordinance, of course, is a great example of how we should serve each other-that there is no task too menial, too servile, or too debasing for a true disciple to perform. But this ordinance not only teaches us of service, it also has the effect of cleansing the recipient from the blood of their generation.
Bruce R. McConkie
"Washing of feet is a gospel ordinance; it is a holy and sacred rite, one performed by the saints in the seclusion of their temple sanctuaries. It is not done before the world or for worldly people. For his day and dispensation Jesus instituted it in the upper room at the time of the Last Supper.
"...December 27, 1832, this command was given to 'the first laborers in this last kingdom': 'Sanctify yourselves; yea, purify your hearts, and cleanse your hands and your feet before me, that I may make you clean; That I may testify unto your Father, and your God, and my God, that you are clean from the blood of this wicked generation.' (D&C 88:74-75.) On that same occasion the command came to organize the school of the prophets, with the express stipulation that 'ye shall not receive any among you into this school save he is clean from the blood of this generation; And he shall be received by the ordinance of the washing of feet, for unto this end was the ordinance of the washing of feet instituted.' (D&C 88:127-141.)
"In the case of this school the ordinance is to be performed by the President of the Church. In compliance with this revelation the Prophet on January 23, 1833, washed the feet of the members of the school of the prophets. 'By the power of the Holy Ghost I pronounced them all clean from the blood of this generation,' he recorded." (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 1: 708-709.)
"On the 23rd of January (1833), we again assembled in conference; when, after much speaking, singing, praying, and praising God, all in tongues, we proceeded to the washing of feet (according to the practice recorded in the 13th chapter of John's Gospel), as commanded of the Lord. Each Elder washed his own feet first, after which I girded myself with a towel and washed the feet of all of them, wiping them with the towel with which I was girded... I then said to the Elders, As I have done so do ye; wash ye, therefore, one another's feet; and by the power of the Holy Ghost I pronounced them all clean from the blood of this generation; but if any of them should sin wilfully after they were thus cleansed, and sealed up unto eternal life, they should be given over unto the buffetings of Satan until the day of redemption." (History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 Vols. 1:323-24)
"...we must attend to the ordinance of washing of feet. It was never intended for any but official members. It is calculated to unite our hearts, that we may be one in feeling and sentiment, and that our faith may be strong, so that Satan cannot overthrow us, nor have any power over us here." (History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 Vols. 2:308-9)
John 13:6 Lord, dost thou wash my feet?
"Perhaps the prime example [of service] is found at the Last Supper. There Christ beautifully demonstrated the principle of service when he knelt and washed his disciples' feet. But as he taught of service, he also taught about receiving. Peter, reacting as we often do when people seek to serve us, drew back, saying, 'Thou shalt never wash my feet.'
"In response Christ warned, 'If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.' (John 13:8.)
"His words are laced with multiple meaning. They capsulize our solemn need to bow to the administerings of the Savior-and to all those who would righteously serve us in his name." (Lenet H. Read, "The Other Half of Giving," Ensign, Mar. 1975, 62)
John 13:8 Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet
Vaughn J. Featherstone
"The Savior's ministry was one of compassion and service. It is beyond my ability to comprehend how any of us today could conceive of the tidal wave of emotions that would come to anyone whose feet would be washed by the very Son of God. No wonder Peter in complete reverence asked, 'Lord, dost thou wash my feet?'...Some things seem to violate every foundation principle we have used to guide our lives. To have him who was the center of all Peter held precious and dear wash his feet was beyond consideration. Peter would have done the same for the Savior, undoubtedly would have crawled on cut glass to him, but to have the Master serve him in this way was too much. Peter said, 'Thou shalt never wash my feet.' (John 13:8.) Each of us would probably have felt as Peter, and thought as he did.
"Many things could have been said to Peter to get him to change his mind. The Savior in a sentence struck at the great nerve center of Peter's loyalty, love, and very life. 'If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.' Peter's firm stance then collapsed to total submission: 'Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.' (John 13:8-9.) The Master was teaching servant leadership." (More Purity Give Me [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1991], 16.)
John 13:9 Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head
Carlos E. Asay
"The significance of Christ washing the feet of his disciples is beyond the understanding of most people...However, all of us, even the gospel novice, can appreciate Peter's desires to place everything on the altar of God, including his hands, head, and feet." (The Seven M's of Missionary Service: Proclaiming the Gospel as a Member or Full-time Missionary [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], epilogue)
John 13:14 If I then...have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet
"One day [as missionaries in Honduras] we approached the one-room, thatched-roof home of the Sorto family...Looking into the open doorway we could see that Brother Sorto was lying on the floor, and the other family members were gathered around. As my companion and I got closer we could see that one of Brother Sorto's thin brown legs was covered with a mixture of dirt and blood. A moment of explanation from Sister Sorto painted a sickening picture. While cleaning a field that morning Brother Sorto had been swinging his sharpened machete from side to side, cutting away the weeds and brush. The machete had slipped and, instead of swinging along the ground, had dug into his shin. He had made his way home and was now lying quietly waiting for the bleeding to stop.
"It quickly became evident that no one quite knew what to do, so my companion and I went right to work. He took the oldest son with him and went down into the pueblo to round up some gauze and perhaps a little rubbing alcohol. I remained with Brother Sorto to clean the dirt and blood from his leg. Sister Sorto brought me a large towel and a basin filled with water that she had been warming over the fire. I tied the towel around my waist and knelt down on the dirt floor next to Brother Sorto. The floor was smooth and hard from being constantly swept with large, dried palm branches. As I began to bathe his feet with the clean water, Brother Sorto looked up, smiled, and took my hand. With the other I continued to clean away the dirt and blood.
"'Esta bien, hermano.'
Ezra Taft Benson
"Do we find it a burden to give of our time to others? Did Christ not heal all those who were brought to Him, even though many a day and a night it seemed the whole city was gathered around Him? Are we sometimes asked to do for others what may seem to be beneath us, or what is tiresome and monotonous? Was not the Son of God born in a stable? Did He not make Himself a servant, even to washing the feet of His disciples, saying to them, 'The servant is not greater than his Lord?' (John 13:16.) Love one another. Serve your fellowman. The example has been given you." (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 448.)
John 13:17 If he know these things, happy are ye if ye do them
Hartman Rector Jr.
"We must not be misled. The only real joy and happiness we can know here upon this earth, as well as in the eternities, will come through obedience to the Lord's commandments. Alma's statement that 'wickedness never was happiness' (Alma 41:10) is still valid. Again he has said, 'If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.' (John 13:17.) He did not say, but could have said, 'Unhappy are ye if you don't.'" ("Success-A Journey or a Destination?" Ensign, July 1973, 58)
John 13:18 He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me
Bruce R. McConkie
"King David...declaimed his betrayal by the traitor Ahithopel in these words: 'Mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.' (Ps. 41:9.) Interestingly, when Absalom failed to follow Ahithopel's counsel, that traitor, as though his name were Judas, went and hanged himself. (2 Sam. 15:10-17; 2 Sam. 17:23.)
"Now we find Jesus quoting David's words and ascribing to them Messianic import, a meaning which was of course intended from the beginning. These words thus become a classical illustration of how Messianic prophecies were often given and of why they can be interpreted only by the power of the Holy Ghost." (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 1: 715.)
John 13:20 He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me
Bruce R. McConkie
John 13:21 Jesus...was troubled in spirit...and said...one of you shall betray me
Hugh B. Brown
"I think one of the greatest pictures ever painted is by Da Vinci, 'The Last Supper.' I was studying, this morning, the expressions on the faces of those twelve men. Sometimes that occasion is called, 'the picture of the hands,' for as Christ announced, '. . . One of you shall betray me,' every man moved forward, and each man gestured 'Is it I?' 'Who is it?' And if you look at the picture carefully you see the hands in the forefront all the way. Then Jesus said, '. . . He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. . .' (John 13:26.) And Judas was there. Can you imagine the pathos, the heartache, the heartbreak, to know that Judas had been with Him, had partaken of His spirit to a degree, had seen His miracles, had testified of Him, and then was about to betray Him?
"There is little more poignant in the suffering of life than that which comes from betrayal, when our friends turn against us. We can fight our enemies on the outside, but there is nothing we look upon with such distaste as a traitor, a traitor to our country, a traitor to the truth, a traitor to the Church. So Christ at this crucial hour said, 'One of you will betray me.' And He knew that during that very night He would be betrayed into the hands of His enemies, go through a mock trial, be condemned without any evidence against Him, and crucified. He knew all that." (The Abundant Life [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965], 295.)
John 13:25 He then lying on Jesus' breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it?
"It is the Savior who used the term 'beloved' in referring to this apostle as 'John, my beloved' (3 Nephi 28:6). I think the Savior used 'beloved' not only because he loved John but because he was loved by John. John was the apostle who leaned on the Savior's breast at the time of the Feast of the Passover. In the gospel of John, we find the Savior's great sermon of love. In fact, John equates the gospel of Jesus Christ with the word love. After the Savior had announced that one of the Twelve would betray him, John, in what I suspect was a somewhat trembling voice, asked, 'Lord, who is it?' (John 13:25).
"John had the same spirit as Brigham Young and J. Reuben Clark Jr., who in some of their great discourses cautioned the Latter-day Saints not to challenge Lucifer by saying they would never deny the Church or the Savior. We can imagine the little drama during the Feast of the Passover when the Savior announced that one of the Twelve would deny him. First of all, it seems logical that everyone would say to himself, 'Well, it must be someone else.' Then, finally, they might ask themselves, 'Is it possible that it could be me? I don't think so. I hope not. But could it be me?' It was John who put word to the question, 'Lord, who is it?'" (Selected Writings of Daniel H. Ludlow: Gospel Scholars Series [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2000], 438.)
John 13:33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you
Howard W. Hunter
"To the very end of his mortal life Jesus was demonstrating the grandeur of his spirit and the magnitude of his strength. He was not, even at this late hour, selfishly engrossed with his own sorrows or contemplating the impending pain. He was anxiously attending to the present and future needs of his beloved followers. He knew their own safety, individually and as a church, lay only in their unconditional love one for another. His entire energies seem to have been directed toward their needs, thus teaching by example what he was teaching by precept. He gave them words of comfort and commandment and caution." ("His Final Hours," Ensign, May 1974, 19)
Jeffrey R. Holland
"This small circle of believers in this scarcely founded kingdom were about to pass through their severest trial, so he would set aside his own increasing anguish in order that he might yet once more serve and strengthen them. It does not matter that no one washed his feet. In transcendent humility he would continue to teach and to cleanse them. He would to the final hour-and beyond-be their sustaining servant. As John wrote, who was there and watched the wonder of it all, 'Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.' (John 13:1.)
"So it had been, and so it was to be-through the night, and through the pain, and forever. He would always be their strength, and no anguish in his own soul would ever keep him from that sustaining role." ("He Loved Them unto the End," Ensign, Nov. 1989, 25)
John 13:34 a new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you
"This is not emotional fluff. This is not pie in the sky, wishful thinking, or idealistic gas. Love is not some subsidiary principle that allows the weepy among us to go off on a crying jag. It's not just something thrown in for the benefit of the sisters or for the super-sensitive 'artsy' types. It is not an option that may be ignored by those who would prefer not to clutter their lives with other peoples' problems. There is a grand key here, probably the grandest of them all. It is this: the heart and soul of the gospel is love, and all the rest is commentary. Whatever else we may perceive religion to be, we are wrong-for true religion is love in action-God's love for us and our love for God and for our neighbors." (Following Christ: The Parable of the Divers and More Good News [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1995], 137.)
Vaughn J. Featherstone
"How often have we read the words 'a new commandment I give unto you'? The Ten Commandments had sounded down through the millennia since Moses' time, and now an additional commandment came from the Master: 'That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.' (John 13:34.)
"Only those who are true possessors of charity can measure up to the full stature of this new commandment. This is the commandment that lifts us to the more noble and virtuous life. We cannot nor ever will love one another as He has loved us until we exercise in our own lives the full dimensions of charity. Those who practice charity may not always receive the promised benefits and ultimate successes. Ours is a different time schedule, but by and by we will all learn and know that 'charity never faileth.' (Corinthians 13:8.) The pure love of Christ will eventually triumph over all the evils, including power, pride, boasting, worldly acclaim, cruelty, wars, perversion, sadness, and heartache. The Lord through His servants has promised that charity will never fail. One day charity, the pure love of Christ, will triumph over all the world. Those who are possessors of charity will triumph over all evil and will dwell with the author of this 'new commandment' forever and forever." (The Incomparable Christ: Our Master and Model [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1995], 78-79.)
Gordon B. Hinckley
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in.
Joseph B. Wirthlin
"Imagine for a moment the result if everyone were to love one another as Jesus loves his disciples. We would have no bickering, quarreling, strife, or contention in our homes. We would not offend or insult one another either verbally or in any other way. We would not have unnecessary litigation over small matters. War would be impossible, especially war waged in the name of religion." (Finding Peace in Our Lives [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1995], 28.)
Elder John Longden
"The English statesman, William Gladstone, said: 'We look forward to the time when the power of love will replace the love of power; then will our world know the blessing of peace.' What a difference the placing of words makes. The love of power or the power of love-worlds apart!
"It is essential to love God, love his Son Jesus Christ, and love our neighbor as ourselves...Do you think a teacher who drove some twenty miles in a battered old car whenever there was a meeting to pick up just one little girl who lived in a remote area of the stake had a love of God for her fellow men? I doubt that anyone really knew what she was doing. I just happened to hear about it.
"Oh, may God give us the faith and the desire to put this commandment of the Lord into effect. '. . . love one another; as I have loved you, that ye shall also love one another.' (Ibid., 13:24.) Then the world may know that we are true disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ." (Conference Report, October 1963, Afternoon Meeting 31.)
"It is a time-honored adage that love begets love. Let us pour forth love-show forth everlasting increase; cast our bread upon the waters and we shall receive it after many days, increased to a hundredfold. Friendship is like Brother Turley in his blacksmith shop welding iron to iron; it unites the human family with its happy influence." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 316).
John 13:35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another
George Q. Cannon
"It is evident that the Savior designed that the spirit of oneness and of love and union should characterize His disciples and those who obeyed His commandments...They were to be distinguished as His disciples by their love one for another. If this characteristic should be absent, there would be nothing, according to these words, to distinguish His disciples from those who were not His disciples...where this love and this union, which He so beautifully describes, are absent, then there is evidence that His commandments are not being kept and that those who are in that condition are not His disciples.
"In these words that I have read we have the means of testing His Gospel and of proving who are His disciples. When men say they want some evidence concerning the truth of the Gospel, they have in these characteristics the tests by which they can ascertain for themselves whether those who profess to be the disciples of the Lord are such in reality. (Nov. 14, 1897, MS 60:146)" (Gospel Truth: Discourses and Writings of President George Q. Cannon, 160.)
David B. Haight
"The two commandments-to love God and to love man-had been taught separately by Jewish teachers, but Jesus brought them together and made the second like the first. By the example of his own life, he made love of God and love of mankind the heart of the gospel. 'By this,' he said, 'shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another' (John 13:35).
"Besides loving God, we are commanded to follow what to many is a more difficult commandment: to love all, even enemies, and to go beyond the barriers of race or class or family relationships. It is easy, of course, to be kind to those who are kind to us-the usual standard of friendly reciprocity. But we are commanded to cultivate genuine fellowship and even a kinship with every human being on earth. Whom should we bar from our circle? We might deny ourselves a nearness to our Savior because of our prejudices of neighborhood or possession or race-attitudes that Christ would surely condemn. Love has no boundary, no limitation of good will." (A Light unto the World [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1997], 124.)
Elder Carl B. Pratt
"We are reminded of the Savior's words, 'By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another' (John 13:35). Will nonmembers, new converts, and visitors to our chapels recognize us as His disciples by the warmth of our greeting, by the ease of our smiles, by the kindness and genuine concern that shine in our eyes?
"Let us pay more attention to those who are new to our congregations. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught: 'For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? ... And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others?' (Matt. 5:46-47).
"In building the kingdom of God, every positive act, every friendly greeting, every warm smile, every thoughtful, kind note contributes to the strength of the whole. It is my prayer that we may be open and outgoing, friendly, and helpful to all who come among us. But let us give special care and concern for the new converts to the Church. When we detect a halting step or a stumble as they begin their journey on the gospel path, let us be there to lift and support with words of kindness and concern; let us be available to give gentle, loving counsel that will strengthen and sustain. Let us conscientiously look for occasions to show that love which the Savior admonished us to have when He said, 'A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another' (John 13:34)." ("Care for New Converts," Ensign, Nov. 1997, 12)
John 13:36 thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards
Jesus explains that Peter can't follow him to a martyr's grave. Peter, as we shall soon learn, was not ready for death. Yet, the Master hints at the manner of Peter's death-for the chief apostle would indeed follow Christ in death by crucifixion. The Master later prophesied, 'when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God' (Jn. 21:18-19). Tradition states that Peter was crucified up side down. Indeed, Peter was to follow Christ in so many ways-even in the manner of his death. Adam Clarke noted:
"Ancient writers state that, about thirty-four years after this [After Jesus' prophecy], Peter was crucified; and that he deemed it so glorious a thing to die for Christ that he begged to be crucified with his head downwards, not considering himself worthy to die in the same posture in which his Lord did. So [wrote] Eusebius, Prudentius, Chrysostom, and Augustin." (Clarke's Commentary, Matthew to Revelation, 663)
John 13:38 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice
All of us know what it is like to have a bad day. In this respect we can sympathize with Peter, for the Passover unequivocally becomes the worst day in Peter's life. First, he impetuously demonstrates his misguided understanding when Christ washes his feet (v. 6-10). Second, he vows to lay down his life for Jesus' sake and is told he will deny him thrice. Third, Peter comfortably sleeps while Christ suffers the pains of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:40-43). Fourth, he misguidedly tries to defend Christ by cutting off the ear of Malchus (Jn. 18:10-11). Finally, he fulfills Jesus' prophecy by denying him three times (Mark 14:66-72). All of this occurred within a 24-hour time period-truly Peter had a bad day!
The great message of Peter's bad day is that all of us make terrible mistakes. In our actions and disobedience we have denied Christ three times and then some. We don't accuse Peter for his mistakes, for we are guilty of worse. But we are encouraged by the Lord's forgiveness. If the Lord could make this man Peter into the greatest apostle ever, he can certainly work some magic with us as well. So, next time you have a really, really bad day, remember Peter's brilliant comeback. It is possible for all of us.