13:14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you too ought to wash one another’s feet. 13:15 For I have given you an example 1 – you should do just as I have done for you. 13:16 I tell you the solemn truth, 2 the slave 3 is not greater than his master, nor is the one who is sent as a messenger 4 greater than the one who sent him.
1 sn I have given you an example. Jesus tells his disciples after he has finished washing their feet that what he has done is to set an example for them. In the previous verse he told them they were to wash one another’s feet. What is the point of the example? If it is simply an act of humble service, as most interpret the significance, then Jesus is really telling his disciples to serve one another in humility rather than seeking preeminence over one another. If, however, the example is one of self-sacrifice up to the point of death, then Jesus is telling them to lay down their lives for one another (cf. 15:13).
2 tn Grk “Truly, truly, I say to you.”
4 tn Or “nor is the apostle” (“apostle” means “one who is sent” in Greek).
5 tn The ἵνα (Jina) clause gives the content of the commandment. This is indicated by a dash in the translation.
6 sn The idea that love is a commandment is interesting. In the OT the ten commandments have a setting in the covenant between God and Israel at Sinai; they were the stipulations that Israel had to observe if the nation were to be God’s chosen people. In speaking of love as the new commandment for those whom Jesus had chosen as his own (John 13:1, 15:16) and as a mark by which they could be distinguished from others (13:35), John shows that he is thinking of this scene in covenant terminology. But note that the disciples are to love “Just as I have loved you” (13:34). The love Jesus has for his followers cannot be duplicated by them in one sense, because it effects their salvation, since he lays down his life for them: It is an act of love that gives life to people. But in another sense, they can follow his example (recall to the end, 13:1; also 1 John 3:16, 4:16 and the interpretation of Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet). In this way Jesus’ disciples are to love one another: They are to follow his example of sacrificial service to one another, to death if necessary.