Lesson 73: John 13

“Lesson 73: John 13,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2016)

“Lesson 73,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual

Lesson 73

John 13


After eating the Passover meal, Jesus washed His Apostles’ feet and identified Judas as His betrayer. Despite the turbulence of the final week of His mortal ministry, Jesus focused His teachings on obedience, service, and love—attributes that defined His life and should define the lives of His disciples in all ages.

Suggestions for Teaching

John 13:1–17

Jesus washes His Apostles’ feet

Before class, copy the following diagram on the board:

New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual

Read the following questions aloud, and invite students to ponder how they would answer (explain that they do not need to answer aloud):

  • Where would you place yourself on this continuum?

  • Would you like to be happier than you currently are?

  • Can you think of someone whom you would like to help become happier?

Invite students to look for a principle as they study John 13 that will help them know what they can do to be happier.

To help students understand the context of John 13, remind them that Jesus celebrated the Passover feast with His Apostles. Summarize John 13:1–3 by explaining that as Jesus shared this last supper with His Apostles before His Crucifixion, He knew that He would soon be killed and return to His Heavenly Father.

Invite a student to read John 13:4–5 aloud, and ask the class to follow along, looking for what Jesus did after He and His Apostles finished eating the Passover meal. Explain that the phrase “laid aside his garments” in verse 4 means that Jesus took off an outer garment, similar to someone removing a jacket in our day.

  • What service did the Savior perform for His disciples?

Explain that “in New Testament times, people wore open sandals, walked on mostly dirt roads that accumulated the filth of beasts, and had only irregular access to bathing water. Their feet became very dirty, and washing another person’s feet could have been a distasteful task. … This custom of hospitality was usually performed by the lowest level of servants” (New Testament Student Manual [Church Educational System manual, 2014], 242). During this final supper, “Christ quietly arose, girded himself as a slave or servant would, and knelt to wash the Apostles’ feet” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “He Loved Them unto the End,” Ensign, Nov. 1989, 25).

Jesus Washing the Feet of the Apostles

Show the picture Jesus Washing the Apostles’ Feet (Gospel Art Book [2009], no. 55; see also

  • If you had been there when Jesus washed His Apostles’ feet, how might you have reacted if Jesus started washing your feet?

  • What does the act of washing His Apostles’ feet reveal about Jesus’s character?

Invite a student to read aloud Joseph Smith Translation, John 13:8 (in the Bible appendix). Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Peter said when the Savior began to wash his feet.

Invite a student to read aloud Joseph Smith Translation, John 13:9–10 (in the Bible appendix). Ask the class to follow along, looking for Peter’s response to what the Lord told him.

  • What do we learn about Peter from his response, recorded in verse 9, to what the Lord told him? (Peter respected the Lord and wanted to follow Him completely.)

Explain that by washing His Apostles’ feet, the Savior not only performed a beautiful act of service, but He also fulfilled the law of Moses and instituted a sacred ordinance (see Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 1:708–9). This ordinance was restored in our dispensation through the Prophet Joseph Smith (see D&C 88:74–75, 137–41).

Invite a student to read John 13:11 aloud, and ask the class to follow along, looking for why Jesus said the Apostles were “clean, but not all.”

  • Who was the Savior referring to when He said the Apostles were “clean, but not all”? (Judas Iscariot, who would shortly betray Him.)

Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from John 13:12–17. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Savior taught His Apostles after He washed their feet.

  • According to verses 13–16, what example did the Savior set and invite His Apostles to follow? (Even though the Savior was “Master and Lord” [verse 13] and the greatest of all, He served others.)

  • Based on the Savior’s promise to His Apostles recorded in verse 17, what blessing will we receive as we follow His example by serving others? (Using their own words, students should identify a principle similar to the following: As we follow the Savior’s example by serving others, we will be happier.)

  • Why do you think we will be happier if we serve others as the Savior did?

Ask students to think of a time when they were happier because they followed the Savior’s example by serving others. Invite several students to share their experiences with the class. You may want to share one of your own.

To help students learn one way they could apply this principle, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

Ballard, M. Russell

“In your morning prayer each new day, ask Heavenly Father to guide you to recognize an opportunity to serve one of His precious children. Then go throughout the day with your heart full of faith and love, looking for someone to help. If you do this, your spiritual sensitivities will be enlarged and you will discover opportunities to serve that you never before realized were possible” (“Be Anxiously Engaged,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2012, 31).

  • According to Elder Ballard, how can we find opportunities to serve others?

Encourage students to follow the Savior’s example by serving others. Consider inviting students to be prepared during the next few class sessions to report their experiences serving others.

John 13:18–30

Jesus identifies His betrayer

Summarize John 13:18–30 by explaining that after Jesus taught His Apostles that they would be happy if they served others, He said that one of them would betray Him. When John asked Jesus who would betray Him, Jesus indicated that one of His Apostles (Judas) would betray Him.

John 13:31–38

Jesus teaches His disciples to love one another

Ask students if someone has ever accused them of not being Christians, or true disciples of Jesus Christ, because they are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If any students raise their hands, ask how they responded to the accusation that they are not Christian. If no one has had this experience, ask:

  • How would you respond if someone told you that you are not a Christian?

Invite a student to read John 13:34–35 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Savior said would help others recognize that the Apostles were disciples of Jesus Christ.

  • According to verse 34, what commandment did Jesus give His Apostles?

  • According to verse 35, what would others know if the Apostles loved one another as Jesus loved them?

  • What principle can we learn from the Savior’s teachings to His Apostles? (Using their own words, students should identify a principle similar to the following: As we love one another as Jesus Christ loves us, others will know that we are His disciples.)

  • According to what you have studied this year about Jesus Christ, in what ways does He show that He loves people?

To help students feel the truth and importance of the principle they just identified, invite a student to read aloud the following account, which was related by Elder Paul E. Koelliker of the Seventy:

Koelliker, Paul E.

“Two young missionaries knocked on a door, hoping to find someone to receive their message. The door opened, and a rather large man greeted them in a less-than-friendly voice: ‘I thought I told you not to knock on my door again. I warned you before that if you ever came back, it would not be a pleasant experience. Now leave me alone.’ He quickly closed the door.

“As the elders walked away, the older, more experienced missionary put his arm on the younger missionary’s shoulder to comfort and encourage him. Unknown to them, the man watched them through the window to be sure they understood his message. He fully expected to see them laugh and make light of his curt response to their attempted visit. However, as he witnessed the expression of kindness between the two missionaries, his heart was instantly softened. He reopened the door and asked the missionaries to come back and share their message with him.

“… This principle of having love one to another and developing our ability to be Christ-centered in how we think, speak, and act is fundamental in becoming disciples of Christ” (“He Truly Loves Us,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2012, 17).

  • How did the missionaries described in this account follow the Lord’s counsel to love one another?

Invite students to sing “Love One Another” (Hymns, no. 308), and ask them to think about someone they know who is easily recognizable as a disciple of Jesus Christ because of the love he or she shows to others. After singing the hymn, invite students to share the names of the persons they thought of and to explain specific ways those persons show their love for others. Consider telling the class about someone you thought of as well.

Encourage students to write in their class notebooks or scripture study journals what they will do to better love others as the Savior loves them.

Summarize John 13:36–38 by explaining that after Peter declared that he would lay down his life for Jesus Christ, Jesus told Peter that he would deny Jesus three times before the rooster crowed.

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Scripture Mastery Review

Lead students in a scripture chase by using clues to help them practice quickly locating passages in their scriptures. For clues, you could use key words, context statements, doctrines and principles, and application ideas from the scripture mastery cards. You could also make up your own clues. Scripture chase activities in which students race to locate passages can help them actively engage in learning scripture mastery passages. When using scripture chase activities, do them in a way that does not cause hurt feelings or offend the Spirit. Help students avoid treating their scriptures irreverently or being overly competitive. Also consider inviting students to compete against a standard rather than against each other. For example, students could race against the teacher, or they could race to see if a certain percentage of the class can find a particular passage in a specified amount of time.

Commentary and Background Information

John 13:1–17. The Savior’s washing of His disciples’ feet

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained that the Savior’s washing of the disciples’ feet showed His unfailing devotion to His disciples:

“In the midst of [the Last Supper], Christ quietly arose, girded himself as a slave or servant would, and knelt to wash the Apostles’ feet. (See John 13:3–17.) This small circle of believers in this scarcely founded kingdom were about to pass through their severest trial, so he would set aside his own increasing anguish in order that he might yet once more serve and strengthen them. It does not matter that no one washed his feet. In transcendent humility he would continue to teach and to cleanse them. He would to the final hour—and beyond—be their sustaining servant” (“He Loved Them unto the End,” Ensign, Nov. 1989, 25).

John 13:4–12. Washing of feet is a gospel ordinance

The Joseph Smith Translation provides an additional insight into the washing of the disciples’ feet: ‘Now this was the custom of the Jews under their law; wherefore, Jesus did this that the law might be fulfilled’ (Joseph Smith Translation, John 13:10 [in the Bible appendix]).

Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught:

“The full significance of this is not apparent to the casual reader, nor should it be, for the washing of feet is a sacred ordinance reserved to be done in holy places for those who make themselves worthy. It is evident, however, that the Jews also had sacred ordinances performed in their temple, a knowledge of which has not been preserved, nor could it be, in any literature that has come down to us” (The Mortal Messiah, 4 vols. [1979–81], 4:38–39).

A note of caution: You do not need to go into detail beyond Elder McConkie’s statement regarding the sacred ordinance of washing of feet performed in temples “for those who make themselves worthy.” Remember this caution from President Spencer W. Kimball:

“Occasionally one asks questions or attempts to speak about ordinances which are out of his knowledge and aside from his responsibility. A teacher is doing a disservice to his students when he incites curiosity or encourages discussion about those things which are not a part of their lives or of their experience—certain blessings that are touched upon in the scriptures, certain opportunities which are limited and which are given only by those who have the special authority and under special circumstances. … It would surely be wise for our teachers to leave these subjects alone and not worry about them nor worry students about them” (“The Ordinances of the Gospel” [address to seminary and institute of religion faculty, June 18, 1962], 2–3).

John 13:17. “Happy are ye if ye do them”

President Thomas S. Monson stated that happiness comes from serving others:

“To find real happiness, we must seek for it in a focus outside ourselves. No one has learned the meaning of living until he has surrendered his ego to the service of his fellow man. Service to others is akin to duty—the fulfillment of which brings true joy” (“Guideposts for Life’s Journey” [Brigham Young University devotional, Nov. 13, 2007], 4,

John 13:23. “There was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples”

“In New Testament times, those dining at formal meals often reclined on low couches placed around tables, leaning on their left arms with their heads toward the table and their feet pointed away from the table. Therefore, the guest seated to the right of the host would have leaned toward the host. This appears to have been where the Apostle John sat, ‘leaning on Jesus’ bosom,’ or reclining toward Jesus, during the meal (compare Luke 16:22). This position would have allowed John, the disciple ‘whom Jesus loved,’ to have private conversations with the Savior that would not have been heard by everyone at the meal, such as the one concerning Judas’s betrayal (see John 13:23–28)” (New Testament Student Manual [Church Educational System manual, 2014], 242).

John 13:34–35. “Love one another”

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles talked about the importance of love and discipleship:

“Love is the beginning, the middle, and the end of the pathway of discipleship. … In the end love leads us to the glory and grandeur of eternal life. …

“When Jesus gave His disciples a new commandment to ‘love one another; as I have loved you’ [John 13:34], He gave to them the grand key to happiness in this life and glory in the next.

“Love is the greatest of all the commandments—all others hang upon it. It is our focus as followers of the living Christ” (“The Great Commandment,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2007, 28–29, 30–31).

After quoting John 13:34–35, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught:

“The love the Savior described is an active love. It is not manifested through large and heroic deeds but rather through simple acts of kindness and service” (“Finding Joy through Loving Service,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2011, 47).

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency stated:

“Love is the defining characteristic of a disciple of Christ” (“The Love of God,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2009, 22).