the festival of the Passover: That is, Passover of 33 C.E.—See study note on Joh 2:13.
having loved: Love becomes a prominent theme throughout the remaining chapters of John’s Gospel. In the first 12 chapters of John’s account, the Greek verb a·ga·paʹo (to love) and the noun a·gaʹpe (love) are used a combined total of eight times. But in John chapters 13 to 21, these terms appear a total of 36 times. In fact, Jesus’ deep love for his Father and for his disciples is nowhere made more apparent than in the closing chapters of John’s Gospel. For instance, all four Gospel accounts reveal Jesus’ love for Jehovah, but only John records that Jesus explicitly stated: “I love the Father.” (Joh 14:31) And it is during Jesus’ parting counsel to his disciples that he not only states that Jehovah loves him but also explains why.—Joh 15:9, 10.
loved them to the end: The Greek phrase used here likely refers to the end of Jesus’ life as a human. However, others understand the Greek expression in this context to mean “loved them completely (fully); loved them continually.”
he wrapped it around his waist: Or “he girded himself.” Usually, it was a slave’s job to wash and dry the feet of others. (Joh 13:12-17) By performing this menial task, Jesus taught his disciples a powerful lesson about the attitude Jehovah requires his servants to display. The apostle Peter, present that night, may have had this event in mind when he later admonished fellow believers: “All of you clothe [or, “gird”] yourselves with humility.”—1Pe 5:5; ftn.
wash the feet of the disciples: In ancient Israel, sandals were the most common footwear. They were little more than a sole strapped to the foot and ankle, so a traveler’s feet would inevitably get dirty from the dusty or muddy roads and fields. Therefore, it was customary for a person to remove his sandals upon entering a home, and a hospitable host would make sure that his guest’s feet were washed. The Bible contains a number of references to this practice. (Ge 18:4, 5; 24:32; 1Sa 25:41; Lu 7:37, 38, 44) When Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, he used this custom to give them an object lesson in humility and in serving one another.
that was wrapped around him: Or “with which he was girded.”—See study note on Joh 13:4.
you men are clean: The disciples had just had their feet washed by the Master and were completely clean physically. Yet, one of them was spiritually unclean. Like the deceitful Pharisees who cleansed the outside of a cup or dish but left the inside dirty, Judas Iscariot was physically clean but spiritually unclean.—Mt 23:25, 26.
he knew: Since Jesus could discern the thinking and attitudes of those around him, it is clear that Judas did not have a treasonous attitude when he was selected to be an apostle. (Mt 9:4; Mr 2:8; Joh 2:24, 25) However, when Judas later began to develop a bad attitude, Jesus detected it and was able to identify his betrayer. Despite knowing that Judas would betray him, Jesus still washed the feet of this traitor.—See study notes on Joh 6:64; 6:70.
should: Or “are under obligation to.” The Greek verb used here is often used in a financial sense, basically meaning “to be indebted to someone; to owe something to someone.” (Mt 18:28, 30, 34; Lu 16:5, 7) Here and in other contexts, it is used in the broader sense of being obligated to or under obligation to do something.—1Jo 3:16; 4:11; 3Jo 8.
wash the feet of one another: The context of this statement shows that Jesus is here teaching his faithful followers to show humble concern not only for their brothers’ physical needs but also for their spiritual needs. He had just given his disciples a lesson in humility and service to one another when he, their Master, washed their feet. Then he said: “You men are clean, but not all of you,” indicating that he was not just talking about a literal washing of feet. (Joh 13:10) At Eph 5:25, 26, Jesus is spoken of as cleansing the Christian congregation with “the bath of water by means of the word” of truth. The disciples could imitate Jesus’ example by helping one another to keep clean from daily temptations and the entanglements with this world that might contaminate a Christian.—Ga 6:1; Heb 10:22; 12:13.
one who is sent: Or “a messenger (an envoy); an apostle.” The Greek word a·poʹsto·los (derived from the verb a·po·stelʹlo, meaning “to send out”) is rendered “apostle(s)” in 78 of the 80 occurrences in the Christian Greek Scriptures. (At Php 2:25, this Greek word is rendered “envoy.”) The only occurrence of the Greek term in John’s Gospel is in this verse.—Mt 10:5; Lu 11:49; 14:32; see study notes on Mt 10:2; Mr 3:14 and Glossary, “Apostle.”
eating my bread: Eating bread with someone was a symbol of friendship, indicating that the guest was at peace with his host. (Ge 31:54; compare with Ex 2:20 and 18:12, where the Hebrew expression “eat bread” is rendered “eat” and “eat a meal.”) A person who ate bread with his host and afterward did him harm was considered to be the vilest of traitors.—Ps 41:9.
has lifted his heel against me: Or “has turned against me.” Jesus here quotes the prophetic words of Ps 41:9, which literally reads “has made [his] heel great against me.” There David used figurative speech about a traitorous companion, perhaps referring to Ahithophel, “David’s adviser.” (2Sa 15:12) Jesus applies these words to Judas Iscariot. In this context, the expression thus indicates a treacherous action, one threatening harm to the person against whom the heel is “lifted.”
the one whom Jesus loved: That is, the one whom Jesus especially loved. This is the first of five occurrences mentioning a certain disciple “whom Jesus [or “he”] loved” or “for whom Jesus had affection.” (Joh 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20) It is generally believed that this disciple is the apostle John, the son of Zebedee and the brother of James. (Mt 4:21; Mr 1:19; Lu 5:10) One reason for this identification is that the apostle John is not referred to by name in this Gospel, except for the mention of “the sons of Zebedee” at Joh 21:2. Another indication is found at Joh 21:20-24, where the expression “the disciple whom Jesus loved” is used with reference to the writer of this Gospel. Also, Jesus said of that apostle: “If it is my will for him to remain until I come, of what concern is that to you?” This suggests that the one referred to would long survive Peter and the other apostles, a description that fits the apostle John.—See study notes on Joh Title and Joh 1:6; 21:20.
close to: Lit., “in the bosom of.” This expression refers to the way people were positioned at a dining table in Jesus’ day. Guests reclined on their left side with a cushion supporting their left elbow. A guest could lean back on the bosom, or chest, of a friend reclining next to him and engage in a confidential conversation. (Joh 13:25) Being “close to,” or “in the bosom of,” someone meant being in a special relationship of favor and close fellowship with that person. This custom was apparently the background for the expressions used in Lu and Joh.—See study notes on Lu 16:22, 23; Joh 1:18.
for the festival: Apparently referring to the Festival of Unleavened Bread, which began after the Passover.
Little children: In the Gospels, there is no earlier record of Jesus’ addressing his disciples with this affectionate expression. The Greek word here rendered “little children,” te·kniʹon, is the diminutive form of the word teʹknon (child). In the Christian Greek Scriptures, diminutives are often used to indicate affection and familiarity. (See Glossary, “Diminutive.”) This expression could therefore also be rendered “dear children” or “beloved children.” It occurs nine times in the Christian Greek Scriptures and is always used in a figurative sense, referring to disciples.—Ga 4:19; 1Jo 2:1, 12, 28; 3:7, 18; 4:4; 5:21.
new commandment: The Mosaic Law required that a person love his neighbor as he loved himself. (Le 19:18) It called for neighbor love but not necessarily for self-sacrificing love that would go even to the point of giving one’s life for a fellow human. Jesus’ commandment was “new,” or unprecedented, in that he said: just as I have loved you. He gave his followers a perfect model to follow in how to love and live unselfishly for others, a love that would move a person to die for others. Both Jesus’ life and his death exemplified the love called for by this new commandment.—Joh 15:13.
life: Or “soul.” The meaning of the Greek word psy·kheʹ, traditionally rendered “soul,” has to be determined by the context. Here it refers to Peter’s life, which he says he is willing to give up for Jesus.—See Glossary, “Soul.”
life: Or “soul.” The meaning of the Greek word psy·kheʹ, traditionally rendered “soul,” has to be determined by the context. Here it refers to Peter’s life.—See study note on Joh 13:37 and Glossary, “Soul.”
a rooster: All four Gospels mention that a rooster would crow, but only Mark’s account adds the detail that the rooster would crow twice. (Mt 26:34, 74, 75; Mr 14:30, 72; Lu 22:34, 60, 61; Joh 18:27) The Mishnah indicates that roosters were bred in Jerusalem in Jesus’ day, lending support to the Bible account. This crowing likely occurred very early in the morning.