John 13:5
After that he pours water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded.
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(5) After that he poureth water into a bason.—Better, . . . into the bason. It was the bason in the room, commonly used, and now ready for suck purposes. The water was at hand. All suggested then that one of the disciples might have performed this act which the Lord now performs. That it was commonly regarded as an act of reverence from an inferior to a superior is made clear by the Rabbinical passages quoted here by Schottgen and Lightfoot. (Comp. Note on Luke 7:44.)

And began to wash the disciples’ feet.—The exactness of the narrative notes that the act was only begun, and was interrupted by the objection of Peter. This word “began” is frequent in the earlier Gospels, but it is only in this touch of accuracy that St. John uses it.

13:1-17 Our Lord Jesus has a people in the world that are his own; he has purchased them, and paid dear for them, and he has set them apart for himself; they devote themselves to him as a peculiar people. Those whom Christ loves, he loves to the end. Nothing can separate a true believer from the love of Christ. We know not when our hour will come, therefore what we have to do in constant preparation for it, ought never to be undone. What way of access the devil has to men's hearts we cannot tell. But some sins are so exceedingly sinful, and there is so little temptation to them from the world and the flesh, that it is plain they are directly from Satan. Jesus washed his disciples' feet, that he might teach us to think nothing below us, wherein we may promote God's glory, and the good of our brethren. We must address ourselves to duty, and must lay aside every thing that would hinder us in what we have to do. Christ washed his disciples' feet, that he might signify to them the value of spiritual washing, and the cleansing of the soul from the pollutions of sin. Our Lord Jesus does many things of which even his own disciples do not for the present know the meaning, but they shall know afterward. We see in the end what was the kindness from events which seemed most cross. And it is not humility, but unbelief, to put away the offers of the gospel, as if too rich to be made to us, or too good news to be true. All those, and those only, who are spiritually washed by Christ, have a part in Christ. All whom Christ owns and saves, he justifies and sanctifies. Peter more than submits; he begs to be washed by Christ. How earnest he is for the purifying grace of the Lord Jesus, and the full effect of it, even upon his hands and head! Those who truly desire to be sanctified, desire to be sanctified throughout, to have the whole man, with all its parts and powers, made pure. The true believer is thus washed when he receives Christ for his salvation. See then what ought to be the daily care of those who through grace are in a justified state, and that is, to wash their feet; to cleanse themselves from daily guilt, and to watch against everything defiling. This should make us the more cautious. From yesterday's pardon, we should be strengthened against this day's temptation. And when hypocrites are discovered, it should be no surprise or cause of stumbling to us. Observe the lesson Christ here taught. Duties are mutual; we must both accept help from our brethren, and afford help to our brethren. When we see our Master serving, we cannot but see how ill it becomes us to domineer. And the same love which led Christ to ransom and reconcile his disciples when enemies, still influences him.Began to wash ... - It was uniformly the office of a servant to wash the feet of guests, 1 Samuel 25:41. It became a matter of necessity where they traveled without shoes, and where they reclined on couches at meals. It should be remembered here that the disciples were not sitting at the table, as we do, but were lying with their feet extended from the table, so that Jesus could easily have access to them. See the notes at Matthew 23:6. 5. began to wash—proceeded to wash. Beyond all doubt the feet of Judas were washed, as of all the rest. Poureth water into a bason; begins first to wash his disciples feet, then to wipe them with the linen cloth he had taken. All this was done in the form of a servant; so they used to do, as to guests that came to dine or sup with their lords or masters. After that be poureth water into a bason,.... This also was a servile work, and what properly belonged to servants to do; see John 2:5. The bason to wash the feet in, called by the Jews was fixed by their doctors to hold, "from two logs to nine kabs" (t); not "from two logs to ten", as Dr. Lightfoot has rendered the passage referred to. A "kab" held about a quart of our measure, and a "log" was the fourth part of a "kab".

And began to wash the disciples feet. This custom of washing the feet was not used by the Jews at their passover, nor at their private entertainments, or common meals, but at the reception of strangers or travellers, which were just come off of a journey, whereby they had contracted dirt and filth, and was a servile work, never performed by superiors to their inferiors, but by inferiors to superiors; as by the wife to the husband, by the son to the father, and by the servant to his master; and was an instance of great humility in any others, as in Abigail, who said to David, "let thine handmaid be a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my Lord", 1 Samuel 25:41, upon which place some Jewish Rabbins (u) have this note:

"this she said, , "by way of humility", to show, that it would have been sufficient to her, if she became a wife to one of the servants of David, and washed his feet, as was the custom of a wife to her husband.''

But what a surprising instance of humility and condescension is this, that Christ, the Lord and master, should wash the feet of his disciples, when it was their proper work and business to have washed his? Though Dr. Lightfoot says, he does not remember that this was expected from the disciple toward his master, unless included in that rule, "that the disciple is to honour his master, more than his father"; whereas it was a fixed point (w) with the Jews,

"that all works which a servant does to his master, a disciple does to his master, except unloosing his shoe.''

Since therefore it was the work of a servant to wash his master's feet, a disciple was obliged to do this to his master likewise:

and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded; as he began he went through with his work; and having washed their feet, he wipes them clean; which may design the purity of the lives and conversations of the saints in general, and of the ministers of the Gospel in particular, whose feet are beautiful when shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace, and their conversations are as become the Gospel they preach; both which they have from Christ.

(t) Misn. Yadaim, c. 4. sect. 1. Vid. Misn. Celim, c. 20. sect. 2.((u) R. Levi ben Gersom & R. Samuel Laniado in 1 Samuel 25.41. Vid. T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 96. 1. & Maimon. Hilch. Ishot, c. 21. sect. 7. (w) T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 96. 1.

After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.
John 13:5 εἶτανιπτῆρα. Each step in the whole astounding scene is imprinted on the mind of John. “Next He pours water into the basin,” the basin which the landlord had furnished as part of the necessary arrangements, [νιπτῆρα is only found here; but ποδανιπτήρ is not so rare; see Plut., Phocion, 20, where ποδονιπτῆρες filled with wine were provided for the guests.]—καὶ ἤρξατο νίπτειν … “nihil ministerii omittit” (Grotius). [Plutarch says of Favonius that he did for Pompey ὅσα δεσπότας δοῦλοι μεχρὶ νίψεως ποδῶν.] He “began” to wash the feet of the disciples; “began,” perhaps because, as Meyer suggests, the washing was interrupted, but this is not certain.5. into a bason] Better, into the bason, which stood there for such purposes, the large copper bason commonly found in oriental houses.

began to wash] Began is not a mere amplification as in the other Gospels (Matthew 11:7; Matthew 26:22; Matthew 26:37; Matthew 26:74; Mark 4:1; Mark 6:2; Mark 6:7; Mark 6:34; Mark 6:55; Luke 7:15; Luke 7:24; Luke 7:38; Luke 7:49; &c. &c.), and in the Acts (Acts 1:1, Acts 2:4; Acts 2:18; Acts 2:26, &c.). The word occurs nowhere else in S. John, and here is no mere periphrasis for ‘washed.’ He began to wash, but was interrupted by the incident with S. Peter. With whom He began is not mentioned: from very early times some have conjectured Judas.

Contrast the mad insolence of Caligula—quosdam summis honoribus functos … ad pedes stare succinctos linteo passus est. Suet. Calig. xxvi. Linteum in a Greek form is the very word here used for towel.John 13:5. Εἶτα, [after that] next) There is no doubt but that the disciples must have been in a great state of expectancy as to what He was preparing to do.—τόν) [the basin, not a]. There was generally within reach, in the room where the supper was, a foot-basin, of metal or of wood, as our wash-hand basin in the present day. This is the force of the article.—ἤρξατο, He began) A new and marvellous “beginning.” The word is rare in John.—νίπτειν, to wash) Great condescension, and yet becoming. The angel did not do so to Peter, Acts 12:8.A bason (νιπτῆρα)

Only here in the New Testament. From νίπτω, to wash.

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