Twelve New Leaders For Twelve Old Tribes (john 13:1-20)

12 apostles for 12

Twelve new leaders for twelve old tribes (John 13:1-20)

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

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After the recent events discussed in the previous chapter, it was clear to Jesus that this would be the last Passover he would spend with his beloved disciples. You may recall that he had come to this decision when the God-fearing Greeks sought him out. The content of this chapter comes on the heels of the previous confrontation with the hoi Ioudaioi, and Jesus’ presentation of himself as the good shepherd. There  he accused the current leadership of Israel of being the evil shepherds who did not care for the sheep. This verse begins by stating that as the Good Shepherd of Israel, Jesus loved his own sheep with the highest commitment and dedication possible.

During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

It is clear in this passage, one of his last interactions with his disciples that Jesus wanted to personally model something very important. However, it is crucial that we don’t see this as simply his personal example for all believers (while the principle of course applies to everyone). The supper was very special, because it was one of Jesus’ last training sessions with the new leadership of Israel he was about to leave in his place. This is in contrast to today, when in many churches apostles and their office are not considered to be of much importance.

The number twelve was not coincidental. Jesus chose twelve apostles because his plan included the full renewal of Israel. The 12 heads of the tribes of Israel were to be replaced by the 12 Jewish apostles who would lead Israel into the renewed future defined by redemption.

Just read this description of the New Jerusalem:

“It had a large, high wall with twelve gates. Twelve angels were at the gates, and the names of the twelve tribes of Israel were written on the gates. There were three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the lamb were written on them.” (Rev.21:12-14)

So as we read in vs. 3 “knowing that that the Father had given all things into his hands” Jesus rose up to wash up the feet of his disciples. As we noted earlier, this was one of the last and most important leadership training sessions he would have with those who were to become the good shepherds of Israel. They were to rule Israel with compassion, care and a sense of ownership. This was in contrast to the “bad shepherds” Jesus had come to replace. We must not move forward before at least mentioning the fact that God had given everything into Jesus’  hands did not mean that now people should serve him (a rather logical conclusion), but that He should now serve them.

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He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.” 12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.

Peter makes his opposition known by simply voicing the bewilderment of other disciples. Jesus answers him that unless he lets Jesus wash his feet, Peter would not be able to share in the crucial service of the good shepherds. Peter, perhaps, thinking that Jesus is talking about ceremonial water cleansing offers to go through the entire ceremony (mikvah). Jesus specifies that he does not have the water ceremony in mind, rather that he only requires his leader-servants to have hearts of humility and utter commitment to serve God’s people. Jesus would later challenge Peter by the context of Ezekiel’s prophecy of the evil of shepherds of Israel: “Feed my sheep!” (Ezek.34)

16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.

It was either the task of the youngest family member or a servant to wash the dusty feet of newly arrived guests coming into a house from the outside. Jesus carried out the job of the servant. The disciples were Jesus’ servants. The conclusion was inescapable. If he did it, how much more should they be willing to do the same! They must become trustworthy and not self-seeking to be able to truly be shepherds of God’s people – Israel.

17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. 18 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ 19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.

Though this is not his focus, Jesus predicts future events. Everything was done so that the Apostles would be strengthened in their faith before a time of very difficult service (for most ending with martyrdom) that lay ahead of them.

 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”

In this concluding remark, Jesus once again shows the importance of the twelve apostles he was leaving in his place. He gave them all the authority necessary to rule. Receiving them would mean receiving Jesus; just as receiving Jesus meant receiving his Father. It follows, therefore, that whoever receives one of the twelve apostles receives God Himself.

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  1. Marc Mercury

    ADDITION to the above comment by Marc.
    The Feast of Trumpets will be on the
    last Blood Moon. Will some of us feel the rapture on that Special Jewish holiday?

  2. Marc Mercury

    Love You Dr. Eli,
    Do not give up on me ok? I will not give up on you.
    4 Blood Moons all in a row , all on Jewish holidays. Will the Final Blood Moon
    coming up in 2015 for the Feast be the final rapture call?
    Will there be the final trumpet of God sounding the Tikiah Godolah, that symbolizes the Hope of Redemption.
    That hope is only thru the acceptance of Jesus your Messiah that the disciples preached and Paul who wrote 2/3rds of the New Testament and Issiah prophecied 900 years before His birth . He said ” His name shall be called (Emmanel) Hebrew means GOD WITH US.
    The Great IAM, EXODUS 3 vs 14, John 8 vs 58, John Chapter 1 vs 1 and 14.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Marc, thank you for writing. In my opinion nothing of real significance (on the level we are talking about) will happen in 2015.

  3. Marc Mercury

    Thanks 4 your comment Dr. Eli..

    ” He gave them …, Receiving them would mean receiving Jesus; just as receiving Jesus meant receiving his Father. It follows, therefore, that whoever receives 1 of the twelve apostles receives God Himself.”
    Dr.Eli, Like Saul,(PAUL) who was an apostle legate, when the voice of Christ called out to him, “Why do you persecute ME”,as all believers who are one in the Spirit with God, like rejecting or accepting 1of the apostles would be the same.
    When are you going to accept “THE MESSAGE OF THE GOSPEL OF SALVATION THROUGH YASHUA HA MASHIACH” ? By rejecting that Gospel that they preached you are rejecting them as well as your Messiah’s shed blood 4u?Hugs

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Makes sense to me

  4. Dorothy Adams

    I agree with most everything you said except the last thing. When He says whoever receives the one I send receives me and the one who sent me, I believe He is talking about the Holy Spirit. Which He sends in the upper room. John 14:26

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Yes, Dorothy, one can look at it that way too. But have you considered this verse? “So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” (John 20:21)

  5. Elias Ndlovu

    So how do we receive the twelve apostles that were appointed by Jesus? Who are they ?Are they Gentiles or Jewish? Please clarify.שלום

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Dear Elias, as far as we know there were not non-Jewish apostles. Naturally one cannot “physically” receive the apostles. But many still reject the Jewish teaching of the NT which is their work, thus actually not receiving them and rejecting their message.

  6. Joan

    Shalom Dr Eli
    Thanks for this post. That is why I love Jesus because thru Him have I learnt HUMILITY which you hardly find in the church today. Most people either know it all & yet understand very little. I’m also reminded of the mind of a child. We must be thirsty in order to be filled otherwise we will remain stunted in our growth.

    in Christ Joan

  7. Irene De Zambrano

    Muy buenas noche Dr.. lo que quiero saber nada tiene que ver con este tema. Twngo un compañero Cristiano al igual que yo. Pero en esto días dijo que el no trabaja el día del shaba por que él es Cristiano Judio y de igual manera lo hizo el día de las cuatro lunas de Sangre! ¿Quisiera saber de esto estoy confundida?

    1. Eric de Jesús Rodríguez Mendoza


      Shalom Irene!

      Gracias por Escribir.
      No podría yo invitarte a practicar otra cosa que lo que Dios ordenó, como lo es, el día de Shabat, el cual empieza el viernes a la puesta del sol, y culmina el día Sábado la puesta del sol correspondiente…
      Respecto de las lunas de sangre, resulta llamativo, pero personalmente no le hallo un significado concreto aun, más allá de que sea una señal del día del juicio.

  8. Kat

    This article stirred up many questions in regards to leadership training for the 12 Apostles. I think I could better understand it if I had insight into the Biblical Hebrew word “perfect” and how it affected the Jewish mindset.  I think my word “perfect” distorts the meaning.

    1. Eric de Jesús Rodríguez Mendoza


      Shalom Kat.

      The definition of “perfect” in hebrew is: To get apart from evil and evilness and to be God’s fearer… as is writen: “in you (God) doesn’t inhabit the evil”, as we are called to be perfect like our father who is in heavens..

      1. Kat

        Eric, were you substituting a Greek definition for a Hebrew word? 🙂 Set apart sounds like holiness. I am trying to understand the difference between complete and perfect from a Torah perspective because I think I missed something in translation.

  9. Elizabeth Buckley

    Hi Eli. I love your explanation of the washing of the disciples’ feet ….”However, it is crucial that we don’t see this as simply his personal example for all believers (while the principle of course applies to everyone)” So, often I have seen this turned into a religious ceremony, and even though it is done with reverence and humility the practical application is lost. Most of us around the world don’t need to have the dust washed off our sandal clad feet. But, when it is applied in principle the lesson becomes rather how we are to look for real ways to serve each other.
    Thank you for all your wonderful teaching! I have shared your website with many here in Kentucky USA.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Very true, Elizabeth. Thanks and Welcome to the forum!

  10. Ben Ibach

    Shalom, Dr. Eli: Is your book finished and available yet? Also, is Rabbi Saul the 12th Jewish head? Toda, Ben Ibach

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Not yet, but I am getting close :-). The answer to your second question. I think so.

      1. Lois

        If Saul is the twelfth head, what place does the apostle chosen by lot to replace Judas have?was the casting of lots displeasing to God? Or was this the twelfth apostle to the Jews and Saul to the Gentiles? And was this the last mention of using lots because after this, the Holy Spirit came, to whom we look for guidance? This is what I think but I am interested to hear your thoughts on the same.

        1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg


          Thank you for your comment. Each apostle, no matter which one, is part of the community of apostles. Each, as do the others, have a responsibility to be the servants of Israel as their teacher taught them to be. I am not sure what you mean by who replaces who. Please clarify what you are asking.

          1. Lois

            Dr. Eli,
            Thank you for your response. To clarify, in Acts 1:15-26, Peter, in a group of about 120 persons who are called brethren, refers to the betrayal of Judas Iscariot, quoting from two Psalms (69 and 109), saying that he needs to be replaced. They put forth two candidates, pray and then cast lots. It falls to Matthias and he is then numbered among the eleven apostles. He appears to take the place of Judas and the apostles appear to be only those twelve. Until Paul comes along with a special commission from Jesus. I first was thinking, the apostles were misguided and did not wait for Jesus to do the choosing. But later, thought, perhaps ,Paul to the Gentiles, different commission.