"The messenger of a man is as himself" - Talmud Bavliy. Beracot
What follows is an extension of Yeshua’s teaching regarding Him being the all existing Light in which a disciple should walk (practice faith: halakhah). This is worth remembering in light of the ritual washing of feet (means of walking, halakhah) Yeshua now performs for His disciples.
1Moreover, before the Festival (chag[H]) of the Passover (ha-Pesach[H]:to pass over), Yeshua[H A] (YHVH Saves, Joshua), seeing, perceiving (eido[G]) that His certain definite time, fixed season, hour (hora[G]) had come, in which He would pass over (metabaino[G]) from this world (ho kosmos[G], ha-olam[H]) to the advantage of (pros[G]) the Father (ho Pater[G], Ha-Av[H]), having entirely loved (agapao[G], ahav[H]) those belonging to Him who were in the world (ho kosmos[G], ba-olam[H]), He entirely loved (agapao[G], aheivam[H]) them toward (eis[G]) the taxing goal (telos[G]).
These events appear to take place the evening prior to Pesach (Passover) during the first of two possible Seders (ritual Passover meals) practiced by post exilic Jews in the first century CE. If this is not a Seder then the Seder accounts of the other Gospels must fit between the current passage and the arrest of Yeshua which soon follows. Regardless, the Greek text calls this a formal (deipnon[G]) meal, which seems to fit with the Seder theory.
It is no coincidence that the Greek metabaino[G] means to “pass over”. Thus, Yeshua is about to become the figurative Pesach Lamb of Israel and pass over from this world into death and resurrection “to the advantage of the Father”, meaning in order to provide the means by which the Father might be reconciled to His children (humanity).
In the case of Messiah “entirely loving” His disciples, His people ethnic Israel, He would now pretext the fulfilment of that love (death on a cross) by acting the role of the lowliest servant of the household. Thus, He entirely loved them with the taxing goal of their redemption in mind (His death and resurrection).
2 During the formal (evening) meal (deipnon[G]: probably one of two Passover Seders in the post exilic returned Jewish community of first century occupied [Roman] Israel), the devil (ho diabolos[G], ha Satan[H]: accuser, slanderer) having already put into the inner being, heart (ho kardia[G], ha-leiv[H]) of Yehudah[H] (Judah: praise) Ish Kariot[H] (a man of Keriot[H], A town in the south of Judah: Joshua 15:25), the son of Shimon[H] (heard), to betray Him (Yeshua), 3 Seeing, perceiving (eido[G]) that the Father (ho Pater[G], Ha-Av[H]) had given (natan[H]) all things (et ha-kol[H]) into His hands (b’yado[H]), and that He had originated (apo[G]) from God (Theos[G], Elohiym[H]) and was going back to God (Theos[G], Elohiym[H]),
“The Father had given all things into His hands” tells us that Yeshua was completely free to choose whether He would go through with His mission. Elsewhere we read:
“For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life, breath, soul existence so that I may take it up again. No one, nothing has taken it away from Me or separated Me from it, but I lay it down on My own initiative, in My Own power, by My Own choice. I have authority, power, choice to lay it down, and to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” -Yochanan 10:17-18
4 He rose from the formal (evening) meal (deipnon[G]: probably one of two Passover Seders in the post exilic returned Jewish community of first century occupied [Roman] Israel), and put aside His garments, outer clothing (himation[G]); and taking a towel, He girded Himself. 5 Then He poured water (hudor[G], mayim[H]) into the basin (nipter[G]), and began to ritually wash (nipto[G]) the disciples’ (talmidim[H]) feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.
In John’s Gospel Yeshua acts out the teaching that He is recorded as having given in the Gospel according to Mark 10:43-44.
The Greek text uses the word nipto[G] which can refer to ritual washing. In the present context Yeshua rises from the dining table in order to wash the feet of His disciples. This means that the practical feet washing performed for guests entering the home had already occurred prior to the meal upon the arrival of Yeshua and His disciples. In short, their feet were already clean (of the dust of the road). Therefore, the correct translation is “began to ritually wash the disciples’ feet”.
It is not by accident that the water is poured into a basin and Yeshua strips down to His undergarment, a seamless white garment like that of the priesthood of Israel.
“Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Yeshua, took his garments and divided them into four pieces; and they also took his undergarment (chiton) which was seamless, woven from top to bottom entirely. Therefore they said among themselves, ‘Let’s not tear it, but instead cast dice to decide who gets it’.” -Yochanan 19:23
“17 Adonai spoke to Moses saying, 18 “You will also make a basin of bronze with a bronze stand for washing. You are to place it between the Tent of Meeting and the altar and put water in it. 19 Aaron and his sons are to wash their hands and their feet there. 20 Whenever they go into the Tent of Meeting or come near to the altar to minister, to present an offering made by fire in smoke to Adonai, they are to wash with water so that they do not die. 21 They are to wash their hands and their feet, so that they do not die. It is to be an eternal statute for them, to him and to his offspring throughout their generations.” -Shemot (Exodus) 30:17-21 TLV
Yeshua is not only taking on the role of the lowliest servant of the household, as the Priest like Melkiy-tzedek (Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 5 through 7), He ritually washes the priests whom He has chosen to administer His Gospel when He ascends to the Father. Therefore, as is necessary before the priests approach the altar where His death will take place, He washes their feet as a symbol of their identity in Him and the role that they are to play in the events that follow. The text of Exodus 30:17-21 tells us that the ritual washing of the priests cleanses them for approaching the Holy God of Israel. This is one of the reasons for Yeshua’s dialogue with Kefa (Peter).
6 So He came to Shimon Kefa[H] (Simon: hears; Peter: Rock) who said to Him, “Adonay[H] (Kurios[G], Lord), do You wash my feet?” 7 Yeshua[H A] (YHVH Saves, Joshua) answered and said to him, “What I do you do not see, perceive, recognize (eido[G]) now, in this moment (arti[G]) but you will know it intimately (ginosko[G], yodeia[H]) hereafter.”
It is interesting to note that Simon Peter’s name essentially means “He hears the Rock”. HaShem is the Rock of Israel, her place of strength and shelter, and His Son Yeshua is the physical manifestation of God as Rock.
“The Ruach Adonai has spoken through me
and His word is on my tongue.
3 The God of Israel has said,
the Rock of Israel has spoken to me,
‘He who rules over men righteously,
he who rules in the fear of God--
4 he is like the light of the morning when the sun rises,
a cloudless morning of glistening
as grass springs from the earth.’” -2 Samuel 23:2-4 TLV
Yeshua responds to Shimon Kefa by placing a marker in his mind that he is to recall later at such a time as is important for him to perceive of what Yeshua has done and the role that Simon Peter has been given in the outworking of God’s kingdom through Messiah Yeshua.
8 Kefa[H] (Peter: Rock) said to Him, “You will never wash my feet!” Yeshua[H A] (YHVH Saves, Joshua) answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” 9 Shimon Kefa[H] (Simon: hears; Peter: Rock) said to Him, “Adonay[H] (Kurios[G], Lord), then wash not only my feet (rag’lay[H]), but also my hands (yaday[H]) and my head (roshiy[H]).”
Kefa (Peter) protests because he does not want the Rabbi Whom he venerates, respects, and adores to lower himself to a place of dishonour and servitude. He may be brash but his heart is in the right place. However, Yeshua is focused on the time that is at hand and has no time for playacting Kefa’s misplaced zeal. Therefore, Yeshua is harsh with Kefa because of His deep love for this disciple. “Snap out of it son, this is for your good!” Kefa’s response is incredible, rather than be deterred he doesn’t skip a beat but says “Okay, I’m in boots and all!”
Yeshua is washing feet because He has recently explained that those who desire to serve Him must become His disciples and walk (using their spiritual feet) in His Light.
Kefa adds the symbolism of hands (actions) and head (leader, governor of the body), and Yeshua responds…
10 Yeshua[H A] (YHVH Saves, Joshua) said to him, “He who has bathed, washed the whole body (louo[G]) needs only to ritually wash (nipto[G]) his feet, moreover he is completely clean, pure (katharos[G]); and you are clean, pure (katharos[G]), but not all of you.” 11 For He saw (eido[G]) the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, “Not all of you are clean, pure (katharos[G]).”
Yeshua explains that in Him His disciples are entirely clean and need only be reminded of the fact that in their transcendent state of salvation in Him they must, at least for a while, continue to walk their faith in the sin affected world as ones who have been redeemed (past, present, future) and are being sanctified (Hebrews 10:14). This mysterious tension between certain salvation and continued sanctification is explained further in Yochanan’s first letter:
“5 Now this is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you—that God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with Him and keep walking in the darkness, we are lying and do not practice the truth. [a] 7 But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of His Son Yeshua purifies us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. [b] 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” -1 John 1:5-10 TLV
“But not all” refers to Yehudah (Judas), who has clearly not placed his trust in Yeshua as King Messiah and is therefore intent on following the desires of his baser nature and has been enticed by the lies of the father of lies Satan.
12 So when He had ritually washed (nipto[G]) their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know (ginosko[G], hay’da’tem[H]) what I have done to you? 13 You call Me the Teacher (Moreh[H]) and the Lord (ho Kurios[G], Adon[H]); and [b]you are right, for I am (eimi[G]). 14 If I then, the Teacher (Moreh[H]) the lord (ho Kurios[G], Adon[H]), ritually washed (nipto[G]) your feet, you also ought to ritually wash (nipto[G]) one another’s feet. 15 For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.
Here Yeshua says “Do you ginosko (know)” rather than “Do you eido (perceive, see)”. This is because He is asking them if they have gained knowledge that will result in practice.
The message is that as disciples of Yeshua they are to follow His example of service and to affirm one another in the priesthood they share in Him. This is pretexted by the Torah which says that the ethnic, religious, empirical Jewish people have been chosen as a nation of priests. Therefore, the Gospel and priesthood of Messiah continues to be first for the Jew. Yeshua is saying that the gifts and calling of God upon the ethnic Jewish people are irrevocable (Romans 1:16; 11:29).
“and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.” -Shemot (Exodus) 19:6 NASB
Only then is the offer of priesthood in Messiah extended to the nations, not as usurpers of Israel’s rightful place but as participants in the faith (a spiritual relationship) of Abraham. The later does not negate the former, nor does it cause the former to cease.
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvellous light;” -1 Peter 2:9 NASB
16 Amen[H] [G]Amen[H] [G] (B’emet[H], B’emet[H]), In truth, In truth, It’s certain, it’s certain, I (Aniy[H]) say to you, a bond servant (doulos[G]) is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you see, perceive, recognize (eido[G]) these things, you are blessed (well off) if you do them.
The double amein reminds us once again of the firmly established truth of what follows. Yeshua admonishes His disciples to accept the sight He has imparted to them and see with spiritual clarity the King Messiah as their ever present Servant King and the Father as the Originator of Israel’s relationship to Himself. Yeshua’s disciples must remember that He is greater than they and has submitted Himself to His Master YHVH. Therefore, they should emulate their Master Yeshua for God’s glory. In doing so Yeshua promises them that they will experience true blessing as a result of their right actions in emulating Him.
"R. Meir says, who is greatest, he that keeps, or he that is kept? from what is written in Psalm 91:11, he that is kept, is greater than he that keeps: says R. Judah, which is greatest, he that carries, or he that is carried? from what is written in Psalm 91:12, he that is carried, is greater than he that carries: says R. Simeon, from what is written, in Isaiah 6:8, הוי המשלח גדול מן המשתלח, "he that sends, is greater than he that is sent".'' - Bereshit Rabba, fol. 68. 1.
“If you recognise these things blessed are you if you do them.”
"he that learns but not to do", it would have been better for him, if he had never been created; and says R. Yochanan, he that learns but not to do, it would have been better for him if his placenta/membrane (secundine) had been turned upon his face, and he had never come into the world.'' - Hieros. Beracot, fol. 3. 2.
18 I don’t speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but that the Writing (graphe[G], ketviy[H]) may be fully filled, ‘He who eats My bread (lachmiy[H]) has lifted up his heel (akeiv[H]) upon Me.[Psalm 41:10(9)]’
“Even my close friend in whom I trusted,
Who ate my bread,
Has lifted up his heel against me.
10 But You, O Lord, be gracious to me and raise me up,
That I may repay them.
11 By this I know that You are pleased with me,
Because my enemy does not shout in triumph over me.
12 As for me, You uphold me in my integrity,
And You set me in Your presence forever.
13 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
From everlasting to everlasting.
Amen and Amen.” -Psalm 41:9-13 NASB
We note that the fullness which the Gospel writer is alluding to begins with betrayal but ends with the betrayed one held up in His integrity and set before God’s presence forever.
“Lifted up his heel” is a Jewish idiom that means “He was inspired by his pride to do harm”.
19 From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe, trust, be persuaded (pisteuo[G], v’he’emantem[H]) that I am (ego eimi[G]).
“From now on” is an indication that Yeshua will no longer teach them in mashaliym (parables) but will speak in clear terms.
Yet again the Greek phrase ego eimi reflects the Divine title “I AM”.
Yeshua is placing yet another mental marker in the minds of the disciples so that when they see what is to come (His death, resurrection, and ascension), they might be certain of His Deity.
20 Amen[H] [G]Amen[H] [G] (B’emet[H], B’emet[H]), In truth, In truth, It’s certain, it’s certain, I (Aniy[H]) say to you, the one who receives whomever I send receives Me; and the one who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.”
Again, the double amein establishes the truth of what follows.
Those who receive the disciples and their message of Yeshua’s Gospel are, in a spiritual and transcendent way, receiving Yeshua Who will dwell in them by His Spirit, that is the Spirit of the Father and the Son. Subsequently those who will receive the messengers (disciples) sent by Yeshua will receive Yeshua Himself and in doing so will receive God the Father in perfect reconciliation and preordained eternal relationship. Of course, the opposite is also true. Those who reject those sent by Yeshua (His disciples, including modern believers) reject Yeshua and in turn reject the Father. This is especially true of those who reject Jewish believers who bring the message of the King Messiah Yeshua.
של אדם כמותו ששלוחו
"the messenger of a man is as himself".
- Talmud Bavliy. Beracot, fol. 34. 2. Kiddushin, fol. 41. 9. & 42. 1. & 43. 1. Bava Metzia, fol. 96. 1.
“Whoever claims to abide in Him must walk as Yeshua did!” -1 Yochanan (John) 2:6
© Yaakov Brown 2020
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.