Book of Glory: The Last Supper (John 13:1—17:26)
The Book of Signs concludes with chapter 12, and chapter 13 opens the Book of Glory. The main theme here is the glorification of the Son by His obedient acceptance of the passion, death, and Resurrection. He must endure for the salvation of humankind. It is called the Book of Glory since the power of God is manifested through enduring a horrible death and by divinely rising from the dead on the third day, something no human being could ever duplicate.
Chapter 13 opens with an act of complete humility. It was just before the Passover meal and Jesus got down on His knees with a bowl of water and began to wash the feet of His disciples. This was a symbolic act. Jesus’ greatest foe was the devil, who is the epitome of pride, and the opposite of pride is humility. Therefore, by washing His disciples’ feet Jesus practiced humility to conquer pride (the devil).
Even though Jesus said: “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:14—15), only the Anabaptist and Seventh Day Adventist churches regard this as a sacrament/ordinance that must be done, as in the case of Baptism or Eucharist. Other Christians may do this minor ritual as an option on Holy Thursday.
The ensuing dialogue between Jesus and Peter is equally as critical as the actual foot washing. Symbolically, the washing of feet was to represent service since “the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve” (Mark 10:45). However, the disciple Peter at first refused to allow Jesus to bathe his feet. But Jesus told him, “unless I wash you, you have no part with me” (John 13:8). Peter impetuously replied by asking Jesus to wash his hands and head as well. Jesus then replied: “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean” (John 13:10). Many Bible scholars believe this symbolic washing of just the feet when a person has already had a bath refers to repentance in the Christian after his or her washing in baptism. It is only the dirty feet that need washing, not the whole body.
Chapters 14 to 17 comprise the final discourse Jesus gave to His disciples before being arrested, condemned, and crucified. They entail words of encouragement since the men were discouraged and sad after hearing from Jesus that He would die, that one of them would betray Him, that Satan was after them, and that they would all be scattered around the world. More than a pep rally, these discourses were meant to edify, encourage, and aspire the disciples to be His true and faithful followers.
There are seven “I AM” sayings of Jesus in John's account of the Gospel. I am: the Bread of Life (John 6:35); the Light of the World (John 8:12); the Good Shepherd (John 10:14); the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25); the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6); the True Vine (John 15:1); and just I AM (John 8:58 and 18:5).
The most comforting of words spoken at this time are very often used at Christian funerals: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:1—3).
Another passage that brings consolation is:
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.”