What does John 13:9 mean?
ESV: Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!"
NIV: "Then, Lord," Simon Peter replied, "not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!"
NASB: Simon Peter *said to Him, 'Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head!'
CSB: Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not only my feet, but also my hands and my head."
NLT: Simon Peter exclaimed, 'Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!'
KJV: Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.
NKJV: Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!”
Verse Commentary:
When Jesus began to wash the feet of the disciples, He acknowledged they would not understand it (John 13:6–7). Despite assurance that understanding would come later, Peter stubbornly refuses to allow his Master to act like a servant (John 13:8). In response, Jesus gives an ultimatum: let Me do this, or else have nothing to do with Me at all.

Peter's response is an appeal for Jesus to not only wash his feet, but his head and hands, as well. Peter seems to understand that this foot-washing has a spiritual meaning. Whatever benefit Jesus is imparting, he wants as much of it as possible. A mention of the hands is often symbolic of work or effort. The head is the center of one's thinking. If Jesus is offering divine "cleansing," Peter sincerely wants that to apply to his behavior and his thoughts.

Still, this is a stubborn and demanding response. As Jesus will point out in the next verse, it falls short of grasping the full meaning. Jesus will distinguish between those who are "bathed" and need only to be "washed," as opposed to those who are entirely unclean. In the context of this exchange with Peter, and a reference to Judas' betrayal, Jesus next remark has major implications for how we interpret salvation.
Verse Context:
John 13:1–11 begins the ''private'' phase of John's gospel, as Jesus meets with the disciples for a Passover meal. As usual, John skips details covered in other Gospels in order to add his own memories. Jesus performs the task of a lowly servant: washing others' feet. Jesus reassures everyone that this task will make more sense later. Peter is offended by his master acting like a slave, but Jesus responds that washing is necessary for those who follow Him—and not all of those present are clean. That subtly points to Judas, who has already made plans to betray Jesus. A ''full-body'' washing only needs to happen once, while ''foot washing'' needs to be done more frequently. This helps explain the difference between once-for-all salvation, and routine confession of sin.
Chapter Summary:
Jesus meets with a smaller group, possibly only the twelve disciples, in a private setting. Before eating a meal, Jesus performs the work of a lowly servant, washing the feet of the disciples. He explains that this is an object lesson. Their Lord is willing to serve in humility, so they are obligated to do the same. Jesus also predicts His impending betrayal, subtly telling Judas to leave and complete His conspiracy. The disciples don't realize what's happened, however. Peter foolishly brags about his loyalty. Jesus responds with a cutting prediction: Peter will deny his relationship to Christ three times in the next few hours.
Chapter Context:
The first twelve chapters of the gospel of John describe the public ministry of Jesus. Starting in chapter 13, most of what John describes are the last private moments Jesus enjoys prior to His crucifixion. This begins with Jesus washing the disciples' feet, establishing both an example and a command for humble service. Jesus also predicts His impending betrayal and Peter's cowardly denials. Following chapters contain Jesus' last instructions to the disciples, including a rich collection of truths which are central to the Christian faith.
Book Summary:
The disciple John wrote the gospel of John decades after the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke were written. The author assumes that a reader is already familiar with the content of these other works. So, John presents a different perspective, with a greater emphasis on meaning. John uses seven miracles—which he calls "signs"— to prove that Jesus is, in fact, God incarnate. Some of the most well-known verses in the Bible are found here. None is more famous than the one-sentence summary of the gospel found in John 3:16.
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