Jesus washes his disciples’ feet. Hearing this passage read in church creeped me out as a kid, and I never really understood why anyone would do that or what the significance was. Note that it wasn’t recorded in any other gospel. Some churches take this story very seriously and actually do ceremonial foot washing at a special service in the evening of Maundy Thursday (the eve of Good Friday). I never knew what the word “Maundy” meant, so just looked it up – surprise! It means ‘foot washing’. Ugh. So why does Jesus do this? Back to the apologists. It was an act of humility; he came not to be served but to serve; not as the king but as the ‘suffering servant’ of Isaiah 53. You can read the whole apologist argument at this link. It grosses me out.
The remainder of the chapter skirts around the story of the Last Supper, even though John doesn’t recount the actual supper in the same way that the other gospels do. Bonus point to John for fitting in another OT verse and claiming it was prophesy (v 18 quotes Psalm 41:9). (More hokum – that psalm was just David’s paranoid whining.) In v 19 John claims that Jesus offered a sign, in direct contradiction to previous gospels which disparaged anyone who demanded a sign (see Matthew 16:1-4).
Then we get to the part about Judas, and it’s significantly different from the previous versions. In the other gospels, Jesus doesn’t indicate at the Last Supper which disciple will betray him. He just vaguely states that it’s someone present who shares the bowl of food. But in John, Jesus gives the game away, stating that it’s the person to whom he hands the bread – and then he hands it to Judas. How stupid! All Judas has to do is refuse to take the bread – wouldn’t you? Duh! Then, in another deviation, John states that only then does Satan come into Judas and direct him to betray Jesus. In all the other gospels, Judas has already betrayed Jesus. It gets worse – Jesus then tells Judas to hurry up and do what he has to do, and the rest of the disciples are clueless – how stunned must they be? Jesus just said what it was! (And how do any of these gospel writers know what was going through people’s minds, anyway?)
The last section is about Jesus predicting Peter’s denial. John inserts a schmaltzy speech about entering into glory, ending with a directive to love one another. Sounds nice, but it’s hardly been fulfilled.
Let’s just call this the chapter of grandiose inspirational speeches. It’s the epitome of Jesus at his megalomaniacal best. How many familiar quotable quotes are in here? Let’s count them:
1. Let not your heart be troubled… (v 1).
2. In my father’s house there are many mansions… (v 2) The Gospel of John is a staple of the traditional ‘burial of the dead’ service.
3. I am the way, the truth, and the life… (v 6).
4. Anyone who has seen me has seen the father… (v 9).
5. I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works… (v 12-14). That’s a testable claim – it’ll prove the bible false right there!
6. If you love me, obey my commandments (v 15).
7. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you (v 27). (Has Christianity ever been peaceful?)
Did I miss any favorites?
In the last half of the chapter (starting at v 15), Jesus promises the ‘Holy Spirit’. I read and reread this part, but no matter how I try to make sense of it, it still sounds like woo. What the heck is a ‘holy spirit’ anyway? And v 30-31 make it clear that this is just another death/end-times cult. Read these verses in a modern translation and see if you think they could have been uttered just as easily by Jim Jones as by Jesus. Make sure to read the whole chapter to get the flavor for just how full of himself this guy was and what a power trip he was on (at least in John’s imagination).
Christians really love the warm fuzzy message in v 1-8, because they see themselves in the analogy.
Let’s read it from an outsider’s point of view; now it’s not so warm and fuzzy. Anyone who does not accept, and remain faithful to, Jesus, will be ‘pruned’ from the tree, allowed to wither, and then cast into the fire. Without Jesus, you are a worthless nothing. Likewise, v 9-17 come with a direct threat: You are my friends if you do what I command. Wow – hostage syndrome or what? V 13 sounds very noble, but in the context of this speech, Jesus is telling his followers that they need to be willing to die for the cause. And v 16 is just plain creepy – you didn’t choose me; I chose you. Sounds like a bad movie villain. Jesus is just like any other controlling cult leader. This link lists the characteristics of cults. It totally cracks me up that it’s from an apologist website. Christians just don’t recognize themselves and their own practices in it. Pot, meet kettle.
The last part of Jesus’ oration is aimed at persuading people that being persecuted and rejected is desirable. We still see this persecution complex today; it’s part of cult brainwashing – the world is against us! Stay strong! It’s actually sickening when read as a non-believer. V 18-19 are used by JW’s to isolate their members by preventing them from participating in any outside groups or organizations, and v 18 is apparently one of Ann Coulter’s favorite bible verses. V 22 makes it clear that anyone who has heard of Jesus and rejects him has no excuse – back to the threat. V 23 was used by Martin Luther to justify his mistreatment of the Jews. And v 25 is another out-of-context quote from one of David’s whiny paranoid psalms (Ps 35:19); but I’ll give John another point for fitting it in here. Horrid, this whole section.