John 13:31-35 (at the Last Supper, right after Judas leaves)

When he [Judas] had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.


When Jamie and I drop our kids off at their classes for church, Youth Group, Awana, snow camp, a party, etc., we often tell them how we want them to act. They will sometimes ask “what if…,” and we’ll share our thoughts and desires for how we’d want them to handle different situations. It’s a reminder that we aren’t going to be physically present with them for a time, and we want them to carry our teaching and instruction with them.

In the last hours before his betrayal, arrest, trial, and crucifixion, Jesus shares a meal with his disciples. As he opens an extended time of teaching and prayer with his closest followers and friends, he begins by reminding them he would soon be departing.[1] He then gives them a new commandment (instruction).

As Jesus prepares his disciples for a time without him physically present, what does he say? How does he want his “little children” (his deeply loved ones) to act? We’ll take a couple articles to pause here with Jesus. We’ll look first at the words and events leading up to the new commandment, and then we’ll focus on the new commandment itself.

The Last Supper (Seder)

While there is some debate about the meal Jesus shared with his disciples the night before he was crucified, most hold the view that it was a traditional Jewish Seder meal. I conferred with Bill Borghard, an FCC attendee who has led Seders in the past, on a few points regarding a Seder. Here are a couple highlights of our conversation (I have Bill’s permission to share and he’s reviewed and approved before publication).

  • With the specific mention of unleavened bread, the tradition of footwashing, and singing a hymn after the meal, Scripture clearly indicates that the Last Supper was a Jewish Seder meal to celebrate Passover.
  • Seder is the Hebrew word for order (or procedure). There are 14 steps in a traditional Seder meal.[2]

With this setting established we can trace through the words and events of the night as we lead up to Jesus giving his disciples a new commandment.

The Host Washes His Betrayer’s Feet

One of the first things done on the actual night of the Passover Seder meal is footwashing as guests enter the home. This is done by a servant or slave. It is not something the host (in this case, Jesus) would do, yet this is exactly what Jesus does. Peter typically steals the scene here as he has the dialogue with Jesus, but we’re going to zoom in on Jesus’s interaction with another person in the room–namely, Judas.

I wonder what Jesus thought as he washed Judas’s feet. We see a couple verses later that Jesus clearly knew Judas would betray him this night. Did he look at Judas? Did he look down? Did he cry? I don’t know, and I can only imagine the scene–but I do know that Judas was there and received these moments from Jesus, and that is significant. Jesus washed Judas’s feet along with the other disciples, and I imagine he took just as much time and care washing Judas’s feet as he did the others’. The One who keeps the world, including Judas’s feet, together (Col. 1:17) now holds them in his hands as he wipes away the dirt and grime of the day. Pause here and meditate–what a Savior.

The Host Shares a Meal

It means something that it was after the footwashing and at least some courses of the meal that Jesus then said to Judas, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” After serving his betrayer. After showing him kindness.

Throughout the gospels we get a consistent impression that Jesus was in complete control of the events leading up to his death on the cross–he let it all happen. Nothing took him by surprise. And Luke tells us that Judas was already planning his betrayal with the chief priests.[3] He didn’t improvise in the moment. Knowing this, Jesus could have easily orchestrated events so Judas was not there. Or he could have pushed Judas out immediately, before anything else happened. He does ensure Judas is not in the room when he gives his last teaching and prayer before his crucifixion–those moments are for his true disciples. But he doesn’t prioritize Judas’s absence. Instead, he chooses to include Judas in these moments. He loves first.

This is all leading up to Jesus’s command to his disciples to love one another as he has loved them. We’ll spend some time with this command in the next article, but here is another good point to pause and reflect.

“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” (Jesus, in Luke 6:35-36)

[1] John 7:33-34 and 8:21 are earlier references in John of Jesus foretelling his departure.

[2] There was a lot more to our conversation but we don’t have space for it here. If you’d like more info about the Passover Seder as observed at the time of Jesus, click here.

[3] Luke 22:3-6.

Author: David Faith