These verses contain the second part of the discourse spoken by Jesus after he washes the feet of his disciples. In the first part (
13:12-15), Jesus teaches his
disciples about the meaning of his washing their feet, and the implications
that this action has for their lives as his disciples.
In the second part of this discourse (
13:16-20), Jesus teaches about
discipleship in general and the relationship that the disciples share with him.
The double Amen at 13:16,
and at 13:20, forms an
inclusion and so brackets and highlights what Jesus says in between. The
disciples must remember that their role, in their relationship with Jesus, is
that of servants to their master. If they understand this and act on it, then
they will be blessed. They must, at every stage, know where their authority
ends. The sayings which are highlighted by the inclusion are in 13:18-19 and contain a prediction of
betrayal. Jesus is aware of who the betrayer is and also knows that it is not
an outsider, but one who has eaten at table with him. Ps 41:9 is quoted here to
accentuate the intimacy of the betrayal. The betrayer is someone whose feet he
has washed, one with whom he has broken bread and one whom Jesus has loved to
the very end. This foreknowledge of the betrayer also means that Jesus is in
control of the events that lead to his death and is not taken by surprise. Another
reason for informing his disciples about his betrayal, in advance, is so that
they may realize who Jesus is: Son of God. Even as he is betrayed, he will
reveal himself as God for us.
Since Jesus has been sent by God, he has God’s stamp and authority. The disciples, who are in turn sent by Jesus, have the authority and stamp of Jesus. Thus, if anyone accepts the disciples, they are in effect accepting Jesus. Just as Jesus shares fully in God’s work, so the disciples share fully in Jesus’ work of giving life to all and giving it in abundance.
Jesus’ act toward us, in love, manifested symbolically in the washing of the feet and sharing of bread, presents every one who sits at his table with a choice: One can embrace Jesus’ gift to us and embody one’s embrace of that gift through one’s own acts of love or, one can turn one’s back on Jesus’ gift of love. This means that merely sitting at Jesus’ table, and even eating the bread that he gives, is not the full story. It has to be continued in the giving of self to others and is only completed when this is done. We then enter into community with Jesus and with one another.