John 13 – Jesus, the Loving Servant
Alexander Maclaren wrote of this remarkable section, John 13-17: “Nowhere else is His speech at once so simple and so deep. Nowhere else have we the heart of God so unveiled to us…The immortal words which Christ spoke in that upper chamber are His highest self-revelation in speech, even as the Cross to which they led up is His most perfect self-revelation in act.”
A. Jesus washes the disciples’ feet.
1. (1) Jesus and His disciples at a last meeting before His arrest.
Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.
a. Now before the feast of the Passover: This gives us a time reference. Jesus was about to share a meal with His disciples, and scholars disagree whether this meal was actually on the Passover, or if it was the Passover meal, but celebrated the day before.
i. The chronology is an issue because in some passages, it seems that Jesus was crucified on the day of Passover. In other passages, it seems that Jesus was crucified the day after Passover. There are scores of potential solutions to the problem, but it’s hard to say which one is the final answer.
ii. “The verbs for ‘reclining’ [John 13:23]. . . suggest that, although this meal fell ‘before the (official) festival of the Passover’ (verse 1) it was nevertheless treated by the participants as a Passover meal.” (Bruce)
iii. This debate has contributed to one practical difference among Christians. “From time immemorial western Christendom uses for the Eucharist unleavened bread, eastern Christendom has from time immemorial insisted on the bread being leavened. The East asserts, and rightly, that the Last Supper was eaten on the night before the nation ate the Passover, and infers that it was, therefore, eaten with ordinary leavened bread. The West asserts, and rightly, that the Passover eaten by our Lord and the Twelve was a genuine Passover, as He Himself calls it (Luke 22:15) and as all the Synoptists agree in calling it, and infers that it was, therefore, eaten with full Mosaic ritual and therefore with unleavened bread.” (Trench)
b. Jesus knew that His hour had come: Jesus lived His life in anticipation of this hour. He knew when it had not yet come (John 2:4). Up to this point, Jesus enjoyed a unique protection because His hour had not yet come (John 7:30, 8:20). Now, Jesus knew that His hour had come. He spoke of this awareness in John 12:23-27 and even said that for this purpose I came to this hour.
i. Indeed, His hour had come. Jesus’ public ministry was over. In close to 24 hours, Jesus would hang on the cross. This was the beginning of the end, and Jesus used these last precious hours to serve and prepare His disciples.
c. That He should depart this world to the Father: The cross is not specifically mentioned in John 13:1, but casts a shadow over almost every word. We see the shadow of the cross over His hour had come. We see the shadow of the cross over loved them to the end. But we also see the shadow of the cross over depart this world. It is phrased softly, but there is an iron-hard reality underneath the soft cover. Jesus would only depart this world through the cross.
i. “When one is leaving for a distant country, and has transacted all necessary business with the outside world, he is fain to spend the few remaining hours in the sweet intimacy of the family circle.” (Morrison)
d. Having loved: Surely, Jesus had loved His disciples. He led them, taught them, cared for them, and protected them. What Jesus gave them was already more than any other teacher or leader would or could give his followers.
e. Having loved His own: There is a love Jesus has for all people, and then there is a love for His own. It isn’t so much that Jesus’ love is different, but the dynamic of the love relationship is different. The love of Jesus for His own is greater because it has a response, and love answers to love.
i. Jesus has done some things for all men. He has also done all things for some men – His own who were in the world.
ii. “God’s wider love for ‘the world’ (John 3:16) is not displaced by this concentrated love of Jesus for his friends, but it is they who experience it in its fullness.” (Bruce)
iii. These disciples and all disciples were and are really His own, belonging to Jesus.
· They were His own because He chose them
· They were His own because He gave Himself to them
· They were His own because His Father gave them to Him
· They were His own because He would soon purchase them
· They were His own because He conquered them
· They were His own because they yielded themselves to Him
f. He loved them to the end: Jesus had loved His own. But He hadn’t finished loving them. He would love them to the end. The idea behind the phrase to the end is “to the fullest extent, to the uttermost.”
i. “ ‘To the fullest extent’ is a better rendering of the original eis telos than KJV ‘unto the end.’ It does not mean that Jesus continued to love his disciples only up to the end of his career but that his loved has no limits.” (Tenney)
ii. To the end means to the end of Jesus’ earthly life. Though the disciples gave up on Him, He never gave up on them. Though they stopped thinking about Jesus, and were only thinking of themselves, He never stopped thinking of them. Whose problems were worse – Jesus’ or the disciples’? Who was concerned more for the other? He loved them to the end.
iii. To the end means a love that will never end. Jesus will never stop loving His own. It isn’t a love that comes and goes, that is here today and gone tomorrow.
iv. To the end means a love that reaches to the fullest extent. Some translations have “He loved them to the uttermost.” Jesus poured out the cup of His love to the bottom for us.
2. (2-3) The heart of Judas and the heart of Jesus.
And supper being ended, the devil having 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 to God,
a. Supper being ended: Some ancient manuscripts have supper was now in progress instead of supper being ended. This probably makes more sense, and the difference is one letter in the ancient Greek manuscripts.
i. “‘Supper was now in progress’ is a preferable reading to the variant ‘Supper having ended,’ chiefly because the sequel (verses 12:30) makes it plain that supper had not ended. The point is that supper had already begun when Jesus rose from the table and began to wash the disciples’ feet.” (Bruce)
ii. “Some mss read being ended (genomenou) and others ‘while still in progress’ (ginomenou). Both readings are well-attested.” (Tasker)
b. The devil having already put it into the heart of Judas: It may be that a better translation is the devil had already made up his mind that Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, should betray him. Satan looked for a man to betray Jesus, and had probably cultivated Judas for a long time. Now the choice was made. Judas was his man.
i. Bruce favors the reading that it was the devil’sheart that held the evil impulse against Jesus, and that the devil impressed it from his heart to Judas.
c. Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands: This wasn’t something that Jesus came to know just at this hour. Several years before in His ministry, Jesus said The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. (John 3:35) But this means that at this particular time, and in this particular circumstance, it was important that Jesus knew the Father had given all things into His hands.
i. It was important because of the hour. Jesus was about to face the agony of crucifixion and the terror of standing in the place of guilty sinners before the righteous wrath of God the Father. At the same time, Jesus went into this situation as a victor, not as a victim. He could have backed out any time He wanted to, because the Father had given all things into His hands.
ii. It was important because of the circumstance. Jesus was about to lower Himself, literally stooping in humble service to His disciples. As He served in this humble way, He did not do it from weakness. He did it from a position of all authority, because the Father had given all things into His hands.
iii. The Gospel accounts often don’t tell us the motive or the thinking behind what Jesus did. This is different. John told us exactly why Jesus washed their feet and spoke to them with so much love in the following chapters. Perhaps he asked Jesus, and Jesus told him.
iv. “John says much more about the inner consciousness of Jesus than the Synoptics do, either because he was more observant or because Jesus confided in him.” (Tenney)
d. And that He had come from God and was going to God: Jesus didn’t only know His authority, He also knew His relationship with God. He knew His identity, as one who had come from God, and as one who was going to God. Knowing His past with God the Father, and His future with God the Father, He determined to glorify Him in the present.
i. Sometimes in demanding better treatment people think or say, “Do you know who I am?” Jesus knew His greatness more than anyone, and it made Him give better treatment to others instead of expecting it Himself.
ii. “It was not in spite of but because of His consciousness of His divine origin and destination, that He rose from supper, and assumed the dress and posture of a slave; for s servant in truth He was, being none other than the ideal Servant delineated in Isaiah’s prophecy.” (Tasker)
3. (4-5) Jesus washes the feet of His disciples.
Rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.
a. Rose from supper and laid aside His garments: With short, vivid statements John described the remarkable thing Jesus did on that unforgettable night. We have the sense that when John wrote this many years after the fact he could still remember every detail.
i. “John’s account reads like that of an eye-witness who had watched with wonder and suspense — short staccato sentences.” (Trench)
ii. “Each step in the whole astounding scene is imprinted on the mind of John. ‘Next He pours water into the basin,’ the basin which the landlord had furnished as part of the necessary arrangements.” (Dods)
b. Began to wash the disciples’ feet: At this moment of deep meaning, Jesus did something that must have almost seemed crazy. He began to do the job of the lowest servant in the household. He began to wash the disciples’ feet.
i. At this critical moment, at this evening before the torture of the cross, Jesus did not think of Himself. He thought about His disciples. Truly, this was loving them to the end. After all, Jesus’ disciples treated Him badly and were about to treat Him even worse, forsaking Him completely; yet He loved them.
ii. Jesus completely gave Himself to washing their feet. He was thorough in the work. First, He rose from supper. Then Jesus laid aside His garments, which had to remind Him of what waited in just a few hours, when He would be stripped of His garments and be crucified. Jesus then took a towel and girded Himself. Finally Jesus poured water into a basin. If Jesus wanted to just display the image of a servant, He would have had a servant or one of the disciples do all this preparation work. He then would have quickly wiped a damp cloth on a few dirty feet and consider the job done. That would give the image of servanthood and loving leadership, but Jesus gave Himself completely to this work.
iii. This was an extreme act of servanthood. According to the Jewish laws and traditions regarding the relationship between a teacher and his disciples, a teacher had no right to demand or expect that his disciples would wash his feet. It was absolutely unthinkable that the Master would wash His disciple’s feet.
c. And to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded: As Jesus went around the table, washing and drying the feet of His disciples, it was a dramatic scene. Luke 22:23 says that the disciples entered the room debating who was greatest. By what He did, Jesus illustrated true greatness.
i. It was customary that the lowest servant of the house would wash the feet of the guests as they came into the house, especially for a formal meal like this. For some reason, this didn’t happen when Jesus and the disciples came into the room. They ate their meal with dirty feet.
ii. This was more awkward than we might think. First, because of the sandals they wore and the roads they walked on, the feet were dirty. Second, the disciples ate a formal meal like this at a table known as a triclinium. This was a low (coffee-table height), U-shaped table. The guests sat and their status at the meal was reflected by how close they were to the host or leader of the meal. Because the table was low, they didn’t sit on chairs. They leaned on pillows, with their feet behind them. The unwashed feet were easily seen and perhaps smelled.
iii. None of the disciples were interested in washing each other’s feet. Any of them would have gladly washed Jesus’ feet. But they could not wash His without having to be available to wash the others’ feet, and that would have been an intolerable admission of inferiority among their fellow competitors for the top positions in the disciples’ hierarchy. So no one’s feet got washed.
d. Began to wash the disciples’ feet: In all of this, Jesus acted out a parable for the disciples. Jesus knew actions speak louder than words. So when He wanted to teach the proud, arguing disciples about true humility, He didn’t just say it – He showed it. He showed it in a way that illustrated His whole work on behalf of His own.
· Jesus rose from supper, a place of rest and comfort
· Jesus rose from His throne in heaven, a place of rest and comfort
· Jesus laid aside His garments, taking off His covering
· Jesus laid aside His glory, taking off His heavenly covering
· Jesus took a towel and girded Himself, being ready to work
· Jesus took the form of a servant, and came ready to work
· Jesus poured water into a basin, ready to clean
· Jesus poured out His blood to cleanse us from the guilt and penalty of sin
· Jesus sat down again (John 13:12) after washing their feet
· Jesus sat down at the right hand of God the Father after cleansing us
i. “It is a parable in action, setting out that great principle of lowly service which finds its supreme embodiment in the cross.” (Morris)
ii. “ ‘Knowing that He came from God, and went to God,’ and that even when He was kneeling there before these men, ‘the Father had given all things into His hands,’ what did He do? Triumph? Show His majesty? Flash His power? Demand service? ‘Girded Himself with a towel and washed His disciples’ feet’!” (Maclaren)
iii. “The form of God was not exchanged for the form of a servant; it was revealed in the form of a servant. In the washing of their feet the disciples, though they did not understand it at the time, saw a rare unfolding of the authority and glory of the incarnate Word, and a rare declaration of the character of the Father himself.” (Bruce)
iv. Decades later, when Peter wrote to Christians about humility, he put it like this: Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility (1 Peter 5:5). More literally, Peter wrote: “wrap the apron of humility around yourself.” What Jesus did here remained in his mind and heart.
4. (6-8) Jesus overcomes Peter’s objections and washes his feet.
Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, “Lord, are You washing my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.” Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”
a. You shall never wash my feet: Perhaps Peter thought, “All these other disciples missed the point by letting Jesus wash their feet. He wants us to protest, and proclaim that He is too great, and we are too unworthy, to have Him wash our feet.” So, Peter made this dramatic statement.
i. “This was an immoderate modesty, a proud humility.” (Trapp)
ii. At the same time, Peter clearly felt uncomfortable with having Jesus perform such a humble act of service for him. This example of the servant’s heart of Jesus made Peter and the others look proud by comparison.
iii. “The word my is not emphatic. The having his feet washed is a matter of course; it is the Person who is about to do it that offends him.” (Alford)
b. If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me: Peter had to accept this from Jesus. He became a pattern for us. If we do not accept the humble service of Jesus to cleanse us, we have no part with Him.
· Peter preached the good news of the kingdom and cast out devils in Jesus’ name – and still needed his feet washed
· Peter saw Jesus transfigured in His glory together with Moses and Elijah, an amazing spiritual experience – and still needed his feet washed
· Peter’s own feet walked on the water in an amazing act of faith – and still needed his feet washed
i. This foot washing was a powerful lesson in humility but it was more than that. It also shows that Jesus has no fellowship, no deep connection with those who have not been cleansed by Him.
ii. “The same well-meaning but false humility would prevent him (and does prevent many) from stooping to receive at the hands of the Lord that spiritual washing which is absolutely necessary in order to have any part in Him.” (Alford)
iii. We are grateful Jesus did not say, If you do not have great holiness, you have no part with Me. We are happy He did not say, If you are not a Bible expert, you have no part with Me. Having a part with Jesus begins simply with receiving something from Him, not achieving something our self.
iv. This statement of Jesus also shows us that the literal foot washing was not so important. Judas had his feet literally washed, but he had no part with Jesus because Judas did not let Jesus wash him in the sense Jesus meant here.
v. “It is not the area of skin that is washed that matters but the acceptance of Jesus’ lowly service.” (Morris)
5. (9-11) Peter tells Jesus to wash him completely.
Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, “You are not all clean.”
a. Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head! Peter, in his request to be fully washed, was still reluctant to let Jesus do as He wanted. Peter wanted to tell Jesus what to do. Jesus – though the servant of all – still was and is God’s appointed leader. He would not allow Peter to dominate this situation and set things on a wrong course.
i. “Peter’s humility is true enough to allow him to see the incongruity of Jesus washing his feet: not deep enough to make him conscious of the incongruity of his thus opposing and dictating to his Master.” (Dods)
ii. “A moment ago he told his Master He was doing too much: now he tells Him He is doing too little.” (Dods)
iii. Sometimes we show a servant’s heart by accepting the service of others for us. If we only serve, and refuse to be served, it can be a sign of deeply rooted and well-hidden pride. “Man’s humility does not begin with the giving of service; it begins with the readiness to receive it. For there can be much pride and condescension in our giving of service.” (Temple)
b. He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet: Speaking in the long Biblical tradition of using physical washing as an illustration of spiritual cleansing, Jesus taught there is an initial bathing that is distinct from an ongoing washing. We need to be bathed by our trust in Jesus and what He did for us on the cross; there is a sense in which that is done once for all. Yet afterward we must continually have our feet washed in ongoing relationship with and trust upon Jesus.
i. “The priest of God, when consecrated first, was washed from head to foot, and so baptised into the service of the sanctuary; but each time he went to offer sacrifice be washed his feet and his hands in the brazen laver.” (Spurgeon)
6. (12-14) Jesus explains what He did, and calls His disciples to follow His example.
So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”
a. Do you know what I have done to you: Jesus entire life was a lesson and example to the disciples. Here He felt it was important to specifically draw attention to the lesson of what He had just done. The washing of their feet meant something and Jesus would not leave the understanding of that up to chance.
b. You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am: Jesus recognized and encouraged the commitment of the disciples to Him. He was their Teacher and He was their Lord and in this sense they had no other Teacher or Lord.
c. You also ought to wash one another’s feet: As their Teacher and Lord Jesus commanded them to show the same humble, sacrificial love to one another. The example of Jesus should mark their attitude and their action. This was and is true for every follower of Jesus Christ (all who call Him Teacher and Lord), but should be even more so for those who are or desire to be leaders among God’s people.
i. “If there be any deed of kindness or love that we can do for the very meanest and most obscure of God’s people, we ought to be willing to do it — to be servants to God’s servants.” (Spurgeon)
ii. You also ought to wash one another’s feet: Some try to fulfill this with foot washing ceremonies. Surely, if this is done with the right heart it can be a blessing, but Jesus didn’t refer to a ceremony here. “Every year they hold a theatrical feet-washing, and when they have discharged this empty and bare ceremony they think they have done their duty finely and are then free to despise their brethren. But more, when they have washed twelve men’s feet they cruelly torture all Christ’s members and thus spit in the face of Christ Himself. This ceremonial comedy is nothing but a shameful mockery of Christ. At any rate, Christ does not enjoin an annual ceremony here, but tells us to be ready all through our life to wash the feet of our brethren.” (Calvin, cited in Morris)
iii. “The studied formality of the pedilavium on Maundy Thursday, when bishops, abbots and sovereigns have traditionally washed the feet of paupers, may commemorate our Lord’s action but in the nature of the case it can scarcely fulfill its spirit.” (Bruce)
d. Wash one another’s feet: We, like the disciples, would gladly wash the feet of Jesus. But He tells us to wash one another’s feet. Anything we do for each another that washes away the grime of the world and the dust of defeat and discouragement is foot washing.
i. It is easy for us to criticize those with dirty feet instead of washing them. “In the world they criticize: this is the business of the public press, and it is very much the business of private circles. Hear how gossips say, ‘Do you see that spot? What a terrible walks that man must have had this morning: look at his feet! He has been very much in the mire you can see, for there are the traces upon him.’ That is the world’s way. Christ’s way is very different. He says nothing, but takes the basin and begins to wash away the stain. Do not judge and condemn, but seek the restoration and the improvement of the erring.” (Spurgeon)
ii. If we are going to wash one another’s feet, we should be careful of the temperature of the water. Sometimes we try to wash someone with our water too hot – we are too fervent and zealous. Sometimes our water is too cold – we are cold and distant in heart to them. The temperature needs to be in the middle. We should also remember that we cannot dry-clean someone else’s feet. Jesus washed us with the washing of water by the word (Ephesians 5:26), we should use the same “water” in ministering to others.
7. (15-17) The importance of following Jesus’ example of humble service.
“For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”
a. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you: Jesus was far more than an example to the disciples and they needed more than an example. Yet Jesus certainly was an example to those disciples and all who would follow Him. They must take Him as an example for both attitude and action.
i. “There are too many of us who profess to be quite willing to trust to Jesus Christ as the Cleanser of our souls who are not nearly so willing to accept His Example as the pattern for our lives.” (Maclaren)
b. A servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him: If Jesus – who is our master and who sends us – if this Jesus humbly served in this way, it is even more appropriate for His servants and sent ones to do so.
i. He who is sent: “This occurrence of the noun translated ‘one who is sent’ (Greek apostolos) is the only one in this Gospel, and it is used in no official sense.” (Bruce)
ii. “He gives the assurance that those whom He sends as His apostles will be identified with Himself and with God.” (Dods)
c. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them: The theory of being humble and being a servant isn’t worth very much. But the practice of being a servant pleases God, fulfills our calling, bringing blessing and happiness.
i. “If there is a position in the church where the worker will have to toil hard and get no thanks for it, take it, and be pleased with it. If you can perform a service, which few will ever seek to do themselves, or appreciate when performed by others, yet occupy it with holy delight. Covet humble work, and when you get it be content to continue in it. There is no great rush after the lowest places, you will rob no one by seeking them.” (Spurgeon)
B. Jesus sends Judas away after favoring him.
1. (18-20) Jesus reveals that one at the table will betray Him.
“I do not speak concerning all of you. I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me.’ Now I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He. Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.”
a. I know whom I have chosen: When Jesus chooses a person He knows them. He does not choose apart from His knowledge of who they are and what they will do. It was important for Jesus to tell the disciples that He was not surprised by the betrayal that would soon happen.
b. Lifted his heel against me: Jesus had Psalm 41:9 in mind as He said this. It had the sense of a treacherous, unexpected attack or taking cruel advantage of someone. In Biblical culture the code of hospitality and a shared table meant that if one who eats bread with Me did afterward lift up his heel against Me, it was great betrayal and treachery.
c. I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am: Jesus didn’t tell His disciples that one of them would betray Him because He just learned about it. He knew it all along. Jesus told them this so the faithful disciples would remain confident in Him.
d. He who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me: Jesus reminded all His disciples – the faithful ones and Judas – that His work was not finished. Judas would not win; the work of Jesus would continue and they would be sent as His representatives. He also wanted Judas to know that rejecting Him meant rejecting the God who sent Jesus.
2. (21-26) Jesus identifies Judas as His betrayer, and shows Judas love one last time.
When Jesus had said these things, He was troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.” Then the disciples looked at one another, perplexed about whom He spoke. Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask who it was of whom He spoke. Then, leaning back on Jesus’ breast, he said to Him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.” And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.
a. He was troubled in spirit: Judas’ betrayal of Jesus troubled Him. Jesus was not unfeeling or emotionally detached from the events surrounding His passion. He loved Judas, and was troubled for Judas’ sake, much more than His own.
i. “Though John pictures Jesus as in control of the situation he does not want us to think of Him as unmoved by the events through which He is passing.” (Morris)
b. Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me: By revealing that one of them was a traitor, Jesus showed that He was in control of these events; He was not taken by surprise.
c. Perplexed about whom He spoke: It was not obvious to the other disciples that Judas was the one. There was nothing suspicious about him in this sense. They wondered if Jesus meant some kind of accidental, unintended betrayal, one that any of them might commit (Matthew 26:22).
d. Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask who it was of whom He spoke: Peter’s question to John (here mentioned as the disciple whom Jesus loved) may have been prompted by a desire to take preventative action. Peter couldn’t discreetly ask Jesus, so he asked John.
i. “The fact that Peter beckoned to the disciple whom Jesus loved in an attempt to obtain information about the identity of the traitor suggests that he was not next to Jesus; otherwise he could have spoken to Him directly.” (Tasker)
ii. Whom Jesus loved: John referred to himself with this phrase four times in his Gospel, each connected with the cross in some way.
· Here in the upper room (John 13:23)
· At the cross of Jesus (John 19:26)
· At the empty tomb (John 20:2)
· With the risen Jesus at the Sea of Galilee (John 21:20)
iii. “We know that it must have been John, for many reasons; but still he does not say so. He hides John behind the love of Jesus, which proves that John gloried in the love of Christ, but did not boast of it egotistically.” (Spurgeon)
e. Leaning back on Jesus’ breast, he said to Him: At a special or ceremonial meal like this they would lay on their stomachs around a U-shaped table, leaning on their left elbow and eating with their right hand. It seems that from John’s position next to Jesus, he could lean back and be close enough to speak quietly to Jesus and still be heard.
i. A disciple sat at each side of Jesus. “One of them was John the divine, and the other was Judas the devil. One of them was the seer of the Apocalypse, the other was the son of perdition.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “The place of honor was to the left of, and thus slightly behind the principal person. The second place was to his right, and the guest there would have his head on the breast of the host. Plainly this was the position occupied by the beloved disciple.” (Morris)
iii. “The normal posture at a table was sitting, as rabbinical sources indicate, clearly enough; reclining was the posture reserved for special meals, such as parties, wedding feasts, and the like.” (Bruce)
iv. “The verbs for ‘reclining’ suggest that, although this meal fell ‘before the (official) festival of the passover’ (John 13:1), it was nevertheless treated by the participants as a passover meal.” (Bruce)
f. It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it: The giving of the dipped bread designated special honor, something like a toast at a banquet. It was a mark of courtesy and esteem.
i. “It seems not unlikely that Judas was in the chief place. From Matthew’s account it seems clear that Jesus could speak to him without being overhead by the others (Matthew 26:25).” (Morris)
ii. “When Jesus offers Judas a special morsel from the common dish, such as it was customary for a host to offer to an honoured guest, it is a mark of divine love which ever seeks to overcome evil with good.” (Tasker)
iii. Sometimes we imagine people are against us when they are not and it makes us suspicious, unpleasant, and afraid. Jesus knew Judas was against Him yet His love and goodness seemed to become greater instead of lesser. Jesus even gave Judas the chance to repent without revealing him as the traitor to all the other disciples.
iv. Earlier at this dinner, the washing of feet displayed a degree of sacrificial love and service not seen before the cross. Now, the giving of the dipped bread to Judas showed the height of love for enemies, previous to the cross.
v. Jesus identified the betrayer to John, and seemingly to none of the other disciples. John did not stop or oppose Judas and he did not explain why. Perhaps he did not immediately grasp what Jesus said or found it so shocking that it momentarily confused him.
3. (27-30) The departure of Judas.
Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” But no one at the table knew for what reason He said this to him. For some thought, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus had said to him, “Buy those things we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. Having received the piece of bread, he then went out immediately. And it was night.
a. After the piece of bread, Satan entered him: It was already in the heart of Judas to betray Jesus (John 13:2). Yet when Judas rejected the love and favor of Jesus it broke some barrier within him and Satan entered him.
i. “In accepting the sop Judas shows himself completely impervious to the appeal of love; and from that moment he is wholly the tool of Satan.” (Tasker)
ii. “Satan could not have entered into him had he not granted him admission. Had he been willing to say ‘No’ to the adversary, all of his Master’s intercessory power was available to him there and then to strengthen him.” (Bruce)
b. What you do, do quickly: Jesus knew Judas was now past any appeal to conscience or heart. Set on his course, it was best to get it done with. Judas believed that he was the master now; that Jesus would have to deal with what Judas did. The sooner this delusion reached its end, the better.
i. Matthew 26:25 tells us something else Jesus said to Judas. When Jesus said one of them would betray Him (John 13:21), they all asked, Is it I? (Matthew 26:22). When Judas – sitting right next to Jesus – asked this, Jesus said to him privately, You have said it (Matthew 26:25). The point is, Judas knew that Jesus knew that this disciples would betray his Master.
ii. “Two things, then, appealed to him at the moment: one, the conviction that he was discovered; the other, the wonderful assurance that he was still loved, for the gift of the morsel was a token of friendliness. He shut his heart against them both; and as he shut his heart against Christ he opened it to the devil.” (Maclaren)
c. No one at the table knew: If they (especially Peter) had known they would have stopped Judas. They believed Judas had business to do on behalf of the group, either to pay the expenses for the dinner or to give something to the poor.
i. That he should give something to the poor: “It is well known that our Lord and his disciples lived on public charity; and yet they gave alms out of what they had thus received. From this we learn that even those who live on charity themselves are expected to divide a little with those who are in deeper distress and want.” (Clarke)
d. He went out immediately: With the taste of the piece of bread that showed the love and favor of Jesus still in his mouth, Judas left his fellow disciples, left his Master and went out into the night. Perhaps the events earlier at the dinner made Judas decide that he didn’t want anything to do with a foot-washing Messiah, with a Messiah who would perform such a humble act.
i. “His act, however, was more than an incidental act of treachery; he sold himself to the power of evil.” (Tenney)
ii. Judas shows us that fallen man needs more than an example and even more than good teaching. Judas had the best example and the greatest Teacher, and was still lost.
C. A new commandment.
1. (31-32) Jesus declares the cross as supreme glorification, not supreme humiliation.
So, when he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him. If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately.”
a. Now the Son of Man is glorified: When Judas left Jesus knew that everything was set in motion for His arrest, trials, humiliation, condemnation, beatings, crucifixion, and burial. He spoke of coming death as glorification (John 12:23). Now it was to happen.
i. “It was not that the presence of Judas, as some have thought, hindered the great consummation imported by this glorification, but that the work on which he was gone out, was the actual commencementof that consummation.” (Alford)
b. Glorified . . . glorified . . . glorified . . . glorify . . . glorify: Jesus made five references to glory in the space of two verses. With good reason, the world looked at the cross and could only say, humiliated, disgraced, cursed. Jesus looked at the cross and knowing what would be accomplished at it could truthfully say, glorified.
i. The cross most perfectly made known the heart of Jesus; and for Jesus, to be known was to be glorified. The love of Jesus was about to be revealed in a new way. “If His death is His glorifying, it must be because in that death something is done which was not completely by the life, however fair; by the words, however wise and tender; by the works of power, however restorative and healing.” (Maclaren)
ii. “Jesus is looking to the cross as He speaks of glory. Origen employs the striking phrase ‘humble glory’ to express this idea of glory.” (Morris)
iii. “He calls his death his glory, esteems his crown of thorns more precious than Solomon’s diadem; looks upon his welts as spangles, his blows on the face as ingots, his wounds as gems, his spittings on as sweet ointment, his cross as his throne.” (Trapp)
2. (33) Jesus plainly reveals His soon departure.
“Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you.”
a. Little children: This is the only place in the Gospels where Jesus addressed His disciples as little children. He didn’t mean it as an insult. He meant it with a sense of tenderness, care, and recognition of their present dependence and immaturity.
b. I shall be with you a little while longer . . . Where I am going, you cannot come: This would have been like an earthquake to the disciples. They had literally left everything to follow Jesus, and expected to be high-ranking officials in His government when He took political control of Israel as Messiah. After three years they now heard Him say He would leave.
3. (34-35) Jesus tells of a new commandment.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
a. A new commandment: The specific ancient Greek work used here for new here implies freshness, or the opposite of outworn, rather than recent or different. It isn’t that this commandment was just invented, but it will be presented in a new, fresh way.
i. “ ‘New’ (kainen) implies freshness, or the opposite of ‘outworn’ rather than simply ‘recent’ or ‘different.’” (Tenney)
ii. “The ‘new commandment’ (mandatum novum in the Vulgate) has given its name to the anniversary of the Last Supper: Maundy Thursday.” (Bruce)
b. That you love one another: We might have thought the new commandment was for us to love Jesus in an outstanding way. Instead, Jesus directed them and us to love one another, emphasizing that there should be a special presence of love among followers of Jesus Christ.
c. As I have loved you: The command to love wasn’t new; but the extent of love just displayed by Jesus was new, as would be the display of the cross. Love was newly defined from His example.
i. “We are to love our neighbor as ourselves, but we are to love our fellow-Christians as, Christ loved us, and that is far more than we love ourselves.” (Spurgeon)
d. By this all will know that you are My disciples: Jesus said that love would be the identifying mark of His disciples. It wasn’t that love for the outside world was not important or relevant, but it wasn’t first. There are other measures of discipleship, but they come after this mark.
· Jesus would mark us as His disciples by our love for one another
· We can mark ourselves as His disciples by our love for one another
· The world can mark us as His disciples by our love for one another
i. “So Tertullian reports the pagans of his day (a century after this Gospel was published) as saying of Christians, ‘See how they love one another!’” (Bruce)
4. (36-38) Peter’s denial of Jesus is predicted.
Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.” Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake.” Jesus answered him, “Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times.”
a. Lord, where are You going: Peter (and the other disciples) did not yet understand Jesus. Peter perhaps thought that Jesus was going on a long journey without them. Peter wanted more of an explanation.
b. Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward: Peter didn’t understand, but Jesus did. Jesus understood that Peter could notfollow Him unto death now, but afterward he would.
c. Lord, why can I not follow You now: Peter knew he was the disciple of Jesus, and the disciple’s duty was the follow the rabbi. Peter felt so committed to his discipleship to Jesus that not only would he follow Him, but also lay down my life for Your sake.
i. We believe Peter. He would have died for Jesus right then but he later failed because his devotion was based on emotion, and in the soon-to-come crisis emotion would fail him.
ii. We might say that Judas’ denial of Jesus was deliberate and planned; Peter’s denial of Jesus was accidental and spontaneous. Peter’s denial was terrible, but it wasn’t the same as what Judas did.
iii. We see a different Peter when his walk is no longer built on emotion, but on the work of Jesus on the cross and the power of the Holy Spirit. “Christ must first die for Peter, before Peter can die for him.” (Clarke)
d. Till you have denied Me three times: Peter confidently said that he would follow Jesus and even die for him. Yet when the test came he could not stand being laughed at for Jesus’ sake. To him, a servant-girl’s tongue was sharper than an executioner’s sword. Before the next morning dawned he would deny he even knew Jesus three times.
i. “When Peter protested, our Lord showed him that He knew all the weakness lurking within him better than he himself could know it.” (Morgan)
ii. “Cockcrow was the third of the four Roman night-watches, halfway between midnight and dawn.” (Bruce)
iii. The denial was burnt in his memory. When Peter preached in Acts 3, he charged them with denying Jesus (Acts 3:14). Towards the end of his life he described some dangerous men as those who denied the Lord (2 Peter 2:1).
©2015 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission