The Lord Jesus, after He had supped with His disciples, washed their feet, and said to them: Know you what I, your Lord and Master, have done to you? I gave you an example, that you also may do likewise.
12. So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said to them, Know you what I have done to you? 13. You call me Master and Lord: and you say well; for so I am. 14. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another’s feet 15. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16. Verily, verily, I say to you, The servant is not greater than his lord: neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. 17. If you know these things, happy are you if you do them. 18. I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, He that eats bread with me has lifted up his heel against me. 19. Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, you may believe that I am he 20. Verily, verily, I say to you, He that receives whomsoever I send receives me; and he that receives me receives him that sent me.
AUG. Our Lord, mindful of His promise to Peter that he should know the meaning of His act, you shall know here after, now begins to teach him: So after He had washed their feet, and had taken His garments, and was sat down again, He said to them, Know you what I have done to you?
ORIGEN. Know you, is either interrogative, to show the greatness of the act, or imperative, to rouse their minds.
ALCUIN. Mystically, when at our redemption we were changed by the shedding of His blood, He took again His garments, rising from the grave the third day, and clothed in the same body now immortal, ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father, from whence He shall come to judge the world.
CHRYS. He speaks now not to Peter alone, but to all: you call Me Master and Lord. He accepts their judgment; and to prevent the words being set down merely to favor on their parts, adds, And you say well, for so I am.
AUG. It is enjoined in the Proverbs, Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth. For it is dangerous for one to praise himself, who has to beware of pride. But He who is above all things, howsoever He praise Himself, extols not Himself too highly. Nor can God be called arrogant: for that we should know Him is no gain to Him, but to us. Nor can anyone know Him, unless He who knows, show Himself. So that if to avoid arrogance He did not praise Himself, He would be denying us wisdom. But why should the Truth fear arrogance? To His calling Himself Master, no one could object, even were He man only, since professors in different arts call themselves so without presumption. But what free man can bear the title of lord in a man? Yet when God speaks, height cannot exalt itself; truth cannot lie; it is for us to submit to that height, to obey that truth. Wherefore you say well in that you call Me Master and Lord, for so I am; but if I were not what you say, you would say ill.
ORIGEN. They do not say well, Lord, to whom it shall be said, Depart from Me, you that work iniquity. But; the Apostles say well, Master and Lord, for wickedness had not dominion over them, but the Word of God. If then I your Lord and Master have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.
CHRYS. He shows us the greater, that we may do the less. For He was the Lord, but we, if we do it, do it to our fellow-servants: For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.
BEDE. Our Lord first did a thing, then taught it: as it is said, Jesus began both to do and to teach (Acts 1:1).
AUG. This is, blessed Peter, what you were ignorant of; this you were told that you should know afterwards.
ORIGEN. But it is not necessary for one who wishes to do all the commandments of Jesus, literally to perform the act of washing feet. This is merely a matter of custom; and the custom is now generally dropped.
AUG. This act is done literally by many, when they receive one another in hospitality. For it is unquestionably better that it should be done with the hands, and that the Christian disdain not to do what Christ did. For when the body is bent at the feet of a brother, the feeling of humility is made to rise in the heart, or, if it be there already, is confirmed. But besides this moral meaning, is not a brother able to change a brother from the pollution of sin? Let us confess our faults one to another, forgive one another’s faults, pray for one another’s faults. In this way we shall wash one another’s feet.
ORIGEN. Or thus: This spiritual washing of the feet is done primarily by Jesus Himself, secondarily by His disciples, in that He said to them, you ought to wash one another’s feet. Jesus washed the feet of His disciples as their Master, of His servants as their Lord. But the object of the master is to make His disciples as Himself; and our Savior beyond all other masters and lords, wished His disciples to be as their Master and Lord, not having the spirit of bondage, but the spirit of adoption, whereby they, cry, Abba, Father (Rom 8:19). So then before they become masters and lords, they need the washing of the feet, being as vet insufficient disciples, and savoring of the spirit of bondage. But when they have attained to the state of master and lord, they then are able to imitate their Master, and to wash the disciples’ feet by their doctrine.
CHRYS He continues to urge them to wash one another’s feet; Verily, verily, I Say to you, The servant is not greater than his lord, neither He that is sent greater than He that sent Him; as if to say, If I do it, much more ought you.
THEOPHYL. This was a necessary admonition to the Apostles, some of whom were about to rise higher, others to lower degrees of eminence. That none might exult over another, He changes the hearts of all.
BEDE. To know what is good, and not to do it, tends not to happiness, but to condemnation; as James said, To him that knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin (James 4:17). Wherefore He adds, If you know these things, happy are you if you do them.
CHRYS. For all know, but all do not do. He then rebukes the traitor, not openly, but covertly: I speak not of you all.
AUG. As if to say, There is one among you who will not be blessed, nor does these things. I know whom I have chosen. Whom, but those who shall be happy by doing His commandments? Judas therefore was not chosen. But if so, why does He say in another place, Have not I chosen you twelve? Because Judas was chosen for that for which he was necessary, but not for that happiness of which He says, Happy are you, if you do them.
ORIGEN. Or thus: I speak not of you all, does not refer to, Happy are you if you do them. For of Judas, or any other person, it may be said, Happy is he if he do them. The words refer to the sentence above, The servant is not greater than his lord, neither He that is sent greater than He that sent Him. For Judas, being a servant of sin, was not a servant of the Divine Word; nor an Apostle, when the devil had entered into him. Our Lord knew those who were His, and did not know who were not His, and therefore says, not, I know all present, but, I know whom I have chosen, i.e. I know My Elect.
CHRYS. Then, that He might not sadden them all, He adds, But that the Scripture must be fulfilled, He that eats bread with Me, has lifted up his heel against Me: strewing that He knew who the traitor was, an intimation that would surely have checked him, if anything would. He does not say, shall betray Me, but, shall lift up his heel against Me, alluding to his deceit and secret plotting.
AUG. Shall lift up his heel against Me, i.e. shall tread upon Me. The traitor Judas is meant.
CHRYS. He that eats bread with Me; i.e. who was fed by Me, who partook of My table. So that if injured ever by our servants or inferiors, we need not be offended. Judas had received infinite benefits, and yet thus requited his Benefactor.
AUG. They then who were chosen ate the Lord; he ate the bread of the Lord, to injure the Lord; they ate life, he damnation; for he that eats unworthily, eats damnation to himself (1 Cor 11:27). Now I tell you before it come, that when it is come, you may believe that I am He, i.e. of whom that Scripture foretold.
ORIGEN. That you may believe, is not said, as if the Apostles did not believe already, but is equivalent to saying, Do as you believe, and persevere in your belief, seeking for no occasion of falling away. For besides the evidences the disciples had already seen, they had now that of the fulfillment of prophecy.
CHRYS. As the disciples were about to go forth and to suffer many things, He consoles them by promising His own assistance and that of others; His own, when He says, Happy are you if you do them; that of others, in what follows, Verily, verily, I say to you, He that receives whomsoever I send, receives Me; and he that receives Me receives Him that sent Me.
ORIGEN. For he that receives him whom Jesus sends, receives Jesus who is represented by him; and he that receives Jesus, receives the Father. Therefore he that receives whom Jesus sends, receives the Father that sent. The words may have this meaning too: He that receives whom I send, had attained unto receiving Me: he who receives Me not by means of any Apostle, but by My own entrance into his soul, receives the Father; so that not only I abide in him, but the Father also.
AUG. The Arians, when they hear this passage, appeal immediately to the gradations in their system, that as far as the Apostle is from the Lord, so far is the Son from the Father. But our Lord has left us no room for doubt on this head; for He said, I and My Father are one. But how shall we understand those words of our Lord, He that receives Me, receives Him that sent Me? If we take them to mean that the Father and the Son are of one nature it will seem to follow, when He says, He that receives whomsoever 1 send, receives Me, that the Son and an Apostle are of one nature. May not the meaning be, He that receives whosoever I send, receives Me, i.e. Me as man: But He that receives Me, i. e as God, receives Him that sent Me. But it is not this unity of nature, which is here put forth, but the authority of the Sender, as represented by Him who is sent. In Peter hear Christ, the Master of the disciple, in the Son the Father, the Begotten of the Only Begotten.