Today’s read of John 13 begins the final third of the book, which largely covers the three or four days surrounding the betrayal, death, and resurrection of Jesus. This chapter opens with Jesus celebrating that final Passover with His disciples – the last supper.
Two people are featured in this chapter (aside from Jesus): Peter, and Judas. Both of them had spent the last three years walking with Jesus, listening to His teaching, observing how He interacted with people, and witnessing miraculous, supernatural events. On this night, they each sat across from Jesus and shared the Passover meal. Just prior to eating, Jesus had knelt before them and washed both their feet. They had the same opportunity and access to truth. They lived parallel lives for three years in the presence of Jesus, who was God in the flesh.
Peter would deny Jesus.
Judas would betray Jesus.
Peter would repent of his denial and return to Jesus.
Judas would regret his betrayal but take his own life and die in his sins.
What made the difference?
Jesus revealed the heart of the matter during the foot washing. Peter is offended that the Master he loved – the One he knew was the Son of God – would humble Himself and perform the task of the lowliest of servants. He protests when Jesus comes to him.
John 13:8-11 – Peter said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.” Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, “Not all of you are clean.”
Peter was completely clean.
Judas was not.
Following Jesus is not just a matter of “hanging out” with His people. It’s more than hearing the preaching of His Word. It’s more than sharing meals or observing what happens to others who interact with Jesus. Belonging to Jesus is a matter of being washed and made completely clean.
Salvation isn’t something we do, it’s something that is done to us; it occurs as we respond by faith and repentance to the Holy Spirit’s conviction of sin. The Spirit of God regenerates our dead spirit and pours the very life of Christ in us.
Titus 3:4-7 – But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Jesus is talking about the same spiritual birth He explained to Nicodemus: Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5). John opens his gospel with the same truth: But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:12-13).
At this point, Peter’s faith was weak, but it was real. He had surrendered fully to the work of God and according to Jesus, he was completely clean. He would be tested, and at times would falter, but his faith would prove genuine as he returned to God and allowed the Spirit of God to transform him. In contrast, Judas did not believe Jesus was who He said He was, as evidenced by his willingness to betray Him to the Pharisees. He would realize later what He had done, but instead of repenting, the guilt and shame (and the influence of Satan, who by this time possessed him) sent him into eternity, lost and condemned forever.
Have you been washed? Are you completely clean, needing only to wash off the dirt from the world we inevitably pick up as we walk this life? Or are you like Judas, appearing as part of the kingdom because you spend time with His people, but have never truly repented of your sins and been washed clean by the Spirit of God? Only you can answer that question.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 – Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.