John 13

Chapters thirteen through seventeen have almost no parallel in the Synoptics. With the exception of the Passover meal itself and Jesus’ prophecy that Peter would deny him (John 13:21-38), the rest of this exceptional section is found only in John.

At some point during the Passover meal, Jesus prepared himself to wash the feet of his disciples, including Judas Iscariot (John 13:1-17). John noted that this came from the proper perspective of who Jesus was and his role in God’s eternal plan (John 13:3). Based on Jesus’ interaction with Peter, it seems clear that this was a symbolic gesture, not something that is required to be repeated throughout the Church Age. Jesus told Peter, “If I do not wash you, you have no share in me” (John 13:8), yet he acknowledged that Peter had already been cleansed. As he had done so frequently, Jesus was speaking spiritually while using a physical illustration. In this we find the seeds of the principle John later developed that a believer (someone already cleansed) needs “maintenance cleaning” through confession of sin (1 John 1:5-10). Additionally, this represented humility in service toward one another that Jesus did expect them to continue (John 13:12-17).

In John 13:21-30 Jesus foretold his betrayal by Judas. Here again John helps clarify how Jesus could speak so plainly yet the disciples did not understand. It appears that John quietly asked Jesus who the betrayer would be.1 Jesus’ response, then, was to John, not to the entire room, so when he spoke to Judas, no one understood or reacted against him, including Peter.

Only after Judas left do we find the beginnings of new teachings, especially in the next three chapters. The first was that the disciples should learn to love one another with Christ’s own love, as a major display of their faith to an unbelieving world (John 13:31-38). Probably in an attempt to show that he was ready for the task, Peter swore that he would always follow Jesus, only to be told that he would actually deny him.


  1. Since John asked at Peter’s request, who would draw his sword later that evening (John 18:10), it is not a stretch to think that Peter was ready to take care of the betrayer right then.