13:4 he got up from the meal, removed 1 his outer clothes, 2 took a towel and tied it around himself. 3 13:5 He poured water into the washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel he had wrapped around himself. 4
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 5 – you should do just as I have done for you.
1 tn Grk “and removed”; the conjunction καί (kai, “and”) has been left untranslated here for improved English style.
2 tn The plural τὰ ἱμάτια (ta Jimatia) is probably a reference to more than one garment (cf. John 19:23-24). If so, this would indicate that Jesus stripped to a loincloth, like a slave. The translation “outer clothes” is used to indicate that Jesus was not completely naked, since complete nudity would have been extremely offensive to Jewish sensibilities in this historical context.
3 tn Grk “taking a towel he girded himself.” Jesus would have wrapped the towel (λέντιον, lention) around his waist (διέζωσεν ἑαυτόν, diezwsen Jeauton) for use in wiping the disciples’ feet. The term λέντιον is a Latin loanword (linteum) which is also found in the rabbinic literature (see BDAG 592 s.v.). It would have been a long piece of linen cloth, long enough for Jesus to have wrapped it about his waist and still used the free end to wipe the disciples’ feet.
4 tn Grk “with the towel with which he was girded.”
5 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).