6

In John 13 at the last supper Jesus goes to wash his disciples feet. Initially Peter resists but Jesus insists he must carry out this action and states in 13:7

“You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

This action of washing his disciples feet is put forward as an example of service and humility - but there appears to be an additional hidden symbolic or prophectic meaning which Jesus seems to point to by saying the disciples will understand its meaning later (potentially when they receive the Holy Spirit). Is the understanding of this action ever explained in scripture or if not is there a common belief as to what this "hidden meaning" was which Jesus was pointing to ?

4

Is the understanding of this action ever explain in scripture?

I think so, in few verses later, John 13:

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.

Now Jesus explained:

13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.

This is actually practiced by some Christian groups today. I participated in one of these fellowships in Saint John, Canada, a long time ago.

15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

OP: This action of washing his disciples feet is put forward as an example of service and humility

fully agree. That's it.

If not is there a common belief as to what this "hidden meaning" was which Jesus was pointing to ?

There may be a hidden meaning but I wouldn't actively search for it since I'm satisfied with the obvious meaning.

0
3

It is the spiritual significance behind Jesus washing His disciples’ feet that is of real importance.

Jesus was graphically illustrating a lesson that He taught verbally many times (Matthew 18:2, Luke 9:46). “Whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43-45).

Peter’s refusal to let Jesus wash his feet came from a knowledge that he was totally unworthy to have the sinless Son of God serve him as would a common servant. Peter was correct in his assessment of his relative worth, but what he missed was that God doesn’t minister to us because of our worth but because of His love (Romans 5:8 and 1 John 4:8).

Even though Peter’s attitude looked so holy and humble, he was actually resisting God’s will and committing an act of pride.

This is the same principle that the Lord used when ministering to Abram in Genesis 12:2. God said, “I will bless thee...and thou shalt be a blessing.” Peter wanted to serve Jesus but not to be served by Jesus. Jesus was telling Peter that unless he received Jesus’ ministry to him, Peter would be unfit to serve Him.

1

John 13:7 What was Jesus referring to when he said "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

Correctly as you said, "this action of washing his disciple's feet is put forward as an example of service and humility to their brethren ." Besides the caring of the physical needs of his followers Jesus cared for their "spiritual needs", this is evident in verse 10, therefore, they would need to care for the spiritual needs of one another from the temptations and sins of the world. (Gal. 6:1)

John 13:7-10 NASB

7 Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing, you do not realize right now, but you will understand later.” 8 Peter *said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no place with Me.” 9 Simon Peter *said to Him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus *said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet; otherwise he is completely clean. And you are clean—but not all of you.”

Jesus cared for the spiritual needs of His followers. (Emphasis and inserts in verse mine)

10 Jesus *said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet; otherwise he is completely clean.( spiritually ) And you are clean—but not all of you.” (this is a reference to Judas)

Paul urges his brethren to "Support One Another."

Galatians 6:1 NET

6 Brothers and sisters, if a person is discovered in some sin, you who are spiritual restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness. Pay close attention to yourselves, so that you are not tempted too.

1

Besides humility and service, Jesus’ act of washing his disciples’ feet also represents his love and forgiveness. Through his action and the words that accompanied them, Jesus was essentially telling his disciples that he knew who they were, that they were good men, though not perfect, but that he loved and forgave them nonetheless.

  • v10 Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet; otherwise he is completely clean. And you are clean—but not all of you.”

They did not understand what he was doing then. Later, after Peter has denied Jesus and the other disciples with the exception of John have abandoned him, they would understand the symbolic and prophetic meaning of his words and actions that night. Though Jesus has not yet returned to console them, they would remember his words and the washing of their feet and understand that they have already been forgiven.

If the text ends at verse 10, it would mean that Jesus was speaking about the disciples only as individuals and saying that each of them were “clean”, but not all over. Verse 11, however, adds a different layer of meaning.

  • v11 For He knew the one who was betraying Him; it was for this reason that He said, “Not all of you are clean.”

Thus Jesus' words also apply to the disciples as a whole and reveal that all of them were “clean”, except one. Rather than prophetic, the meaning of his words was immediately applicable since Judas was already plotting to betray him. However, this fact was unknown to the other disciples at the time and again would only become clear to them later.

As a final thought, Peter’s initial refusal to have his feet washed by Jesus was, I think, a genuinely humble response. However, it also showed that he had not yet understood what Jesus was trying to teach them about leadership - about the love, mercy, humble service and sacrifice that it entails. Only later, when Peter has learned this lesson, would he be ready to follow in Jesus’ footsteps.

  • v36 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going, you cannot follow Me now; but you will follow later.”
1

Not to offend anyone. I am a muslim and we also wash our feet before performing salah (prayer). It is called wudu (ablution). Maybe that's what Jesus was teaching his disciples. Maybe that's the way of the prophets.

1
  • Hi Muhammad, no problem - everybody is welcome to participate on this site regardless of background or religious views! Please do take the Site Tour to learn more about the SE format. Since questions here are about the text in its own context, the key element that's perhaps missing here is some evidence/citation that ablution was a contemporary practice, and what exactly this was supposed to mean to the disciples, ideally by drawing on the text of John.
    – Steve Taylor
    Nov 3 at 8:26

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.