Notes on John 13
Setting of the chapter
Chapters 13 to 17 of John’s Gospel are often called “Upper Room Ministry”, but it should be remembered that only the events of chapters 13 and 14 took place in the upper room. In 14:31 the Lord said, “Arise, let us go hence”, so He and His disciples presumably left the upper room at this point, (although some think that this was just a signal to the disciples to be ready to depart, and they did not do so until the end of chapter 16). In chapters 15 and 16 further ministry is given, but we are not told whether it was while they were still in the upper room, or elsewhere. Chapter 17 records the prayer of the Lord Jesus, and again we are not told where it was uttered, but we do know that it was not in Gethsemane, because John 18:1 says, “When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which He entered, and His disciples”. The next verse tells us that this garden, that John does not name, was often resorted to by Christ with His disciples, John 18:2, which is why Judas knew where to find Him. Luke does not name the garden either, but he does call it “the place”, as if it was well-known to the disciples, which indeed it was.
In Chapter 12 we find principles relating to both Israel and the Gentiles during the time of Christ’s absence.
In Chapters 13 and 14 we find principles to guide believers in their assembly life.
In Chapters 15 and 16 there are principles that guide believers as they live in the world.
In Chapter 17 we gain insight into the present heavenly ministry of Christ for His own as He “ever liveth to make intercession for them”, Hebrews 7:25.
In John 1:11 we read that the Lord Jesus “came unto His own, and His own received Him not”. His own in this context are His own people, the nation of Israel. Sadly, however, as the verse says, they did not welcome Him nationally as their Messiah. So it is that the next verse speaks of those individuals who did receive Him, for they believed on His name, and were born of God. They were therefore in a fit state to say with John, “and we beheld His glory”, verse 14. It was God’s purpose to show the glories of His Son to those to whom He gave the capacity to appreciate it. Once John has described to us those who have eternal life through the new birth, and who can therefore see the glories of the Son of God, he can begin to describe the ways in which that glory was displayed.
In John13:1 John describes this same company of believers as “His own”, so they have replaced the nation. In chapter 12:36 a very solemn thing happened, for we read, “These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide Himself from them”. This no doubt refers to the day before the beginning of the Passover, of which we are told nothing by the gospel writers. The nation is given a foretaste, by this temporary hiding, of the long period of two thousand years when He will be hidden from the nation, until the unveiling when He comes to earth to reign. He is not hidden from His new company of His own, however, for He graciously makes His presence known amongst them.
It is very probable that the Lord’s Supper was instituted in between verses 30 and 31. If this is the case, then we could think of the chapter as giving us help as we prepare to eat the Supper. John first of all gives us details about the Lord Jesus in a prologue. His departure out of the world by way of Calvary; His love for His own; the betrayal by Judas; the competence of Christ as one the Father entrusts with His affairs; His pre-existence, (“from God”), and His return to the Father, (“to God”), with everything accomplished; all these matters are brought before our minds by the apostle so that we may intelligently remember the Lord.
Then secondly, the desire of the Lord to be with His own is evident as He meets with them in the Upper Room. Our coming together should be out of love to Him, and not because of habit, or for the sake of appearances. It is noticeable that John speaks of Christ’s love “unto the end”, and then Judas’ heart, full of bitterness and hatred until he achieved his, (and the Devil’s) end.
Thirdly, John deals with the matter of defilement, and shows that as we come to eat the Lord’s Supper we should do so with undefiled feet. We should beware of eating and drinking unworthily, 1 Corinthians 11:27-32. The inadvertent defilement that we contract simply by passing through this world day by day must be dealt with by the application of the word of God.
Fourthly, we are warned about disloyalty as the Lord Jesus foretells the betrayal by Judas. The apostle Paul reminded the Corinthians that is was “the night He was betrayed” that the Lord instituted the Supper. They, and we, should beware of being disloyal to the one who has done so much for us.
Fifthly, we are told of the desire for discernment, as Peter asks John to enquire who the betrayer was. It is good to have a desire to not betray the Lord, but rather, to do those things that are true to His cause.
It is to those who seek discernment, that disclosure is given, but only to those who, like John, are close to the Lord, and who love Him deeply.
Finally, and seventhly, the Lord speaks of being glorified, and we are beyond the Supper, rejoicing in those glories that have come to Him following His departure, and expecting His return, (as spoken of in the next chapter), for it is then that we shall follow Him to heaven. So it is that we show the Lord’s death “till He come”, 1 Corinthians 11:26.
Structure of the chapter
|(a)||Verses 1-3||Prologue by John|
|(b)||Verses 4-5||Procedure of Christ|
|(c)||Verses 6-9||Protest by Peter|
|(d)||Verses 10-17||Prototype for the believer|
|(e)||Verses 18-19||Prophecy by Christ|
|(f)||Verses 20-30||Perfidy of Judas|
|(g)||Verses 31-38||Pathway of Christ and His people|
(a) Verses 1-3 Prologue by John
John begins three of his writings, (this gospel, his first epistle and the book of Revelation), with a prologue which prepares us for the following content. Here, however, he gives another prologue to make the distinction between the first twelve chapters and what follows. In chapters 1 to 12 Christ presents Himself to the world as the Son of God come out from the Father. In chapters 13 to 17 He presents Himself as the one who is going back to the Father. This change merits an extra prologue to draw attention to it.
Verse one and verses two to four have the same structure. There is a reference to time, then a reference to the Lord’s knowledge, then a reference to Christ’s care. These references are firstly general, then more specific. We could set it out as follows:
Verse 1: General
Period Before the Feast of the Passover.
Perception When Jesus knew that His hour was come.
Provision Having loved His own…loved them to the end.
Verses 2-4: Specific
Period Supper being ended…now put into the heart.
Perception Knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands.
Provision He riseth from supper…wash the disciples feet.
13:1 Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end.
Now before the feast of the Passover- we should distinguish between the Feast of the Passover, meaning the whole festival as ordained by God in Leviticus 23:4-8, and the Passover Supper, which was to be eaten on the 14th day of Nisan in the evening. John is referring to the whole period of eight days, beginning with the Passover festival, and then continuing with the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread which followed immediately after. We see that this is the case from the gospel records. “Now the first day of the feast of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto Him, ‘Where wilt Thou that we prepare for Thee to eat the Passover?'” Matthew 26:17. So the 14th day of Nisan was included in the festival of Unleavened Bread, and reckoned to be its first day. This is confirmed by Mark, who adds that the first day of Unleavened Bread was “when they killed the Passover”, Mark 14:12, meaning the Passover lamb. Luke is very explicit, and writes, “Now the feast of Unleavened Bread was nigh, which is called the Passover”, Luke 22:1. This explains why the priests refused to enter Pilate’s residence, because they did not wish to enter a house where there would be leaven, and this would defile them so that they could not eat the goat of the sin offering that was to be offered on the first day of Unleavened Bread. Little did they realise that as they ate this sin offering to make atonement for the congregation, (see Leviticus 10:17), the true Sin Offering would be hanging on the cross they gave Him, taking away the sin of the world.
John’s Gospel links with the Old Testament by means of references and comparisons with the history of Israel. He structures the gospel around the first festival of their religious year. He mentions three of the four Passovers during the Lord’s ministry, in chapters two, six, and here. The feast of chapter 5 was not said to be the Passover, for John emphasises there the fact that it was the Sabbath day, the weekly festival for Israel, and mentioned first in Leviticus 23.
There were three things associated with the Passover. First, the idea of a new beginning as a people, for in Exodus we find the first mention of the expression “congregation of Israel”, for the Passover and the giving of the law would form them into a nation. This corresponds to the first Passover in John, when the Lord spoke to Nicodemus about the need to be born again, for being of the nation by natural birth did not put anyone in the Kingdom of God. He, and they, needed a new beginning.
The second mention of the Passover is in John 6, the chapter that speaks of the flesh of Christ as “flesh indeed”, John 6:55. The people ate the flesh of the lamb on Passover night, and were thus strengthened for the journey through the wilderness. The Lord announces a new provision, to strengthen believers on the pilgrimage to heaven.
The third mention is in our verse, and in the subsequent chapters a new prospect opens out to the disciples, as the Lord speaks of going away to His Father, and of them being on that way too. They find themselves to have new prospects as pilgrims on their way to the heavenly Canaan. Of course this Passover is going to be different to the others, for during it the true Passover Lamb is going to be sacrificed, and He is going to utter that triumphant cry, “It is finished”, for all the shadows of the law are fulfilled in Him, and so become obsolete.
When Jesus knew that His hour was come- this statement links with “He riseth from supper” in verse 4. The intervening detail is information John believes we need to know to gain an insight into the atmosphere in which the Lord Jesus rose from supper, and thus began His washing of the disciples’ feet.
The word for “know” here is not the one that means to get to know, but the one that indicates spiritual insight. It is a participle perfect, which indicates that He did know and continued to know. So it not that the Lord suddenly discovers that the critical moment has come. Rather, it is His constant awareness of the will of the Father that enables it to be said that He knows. He would have wakened that morning to converse with His Father, and would listen as the learned, not as the ignorant, Isaiah 50:4. He heard as a learned one, and therefore could speak as a learned one. They would speak together as equals, for He was privy to the ongoing Divine conversation, of which we gain a little insight from Genesis 1:26; 3:22; 11:6,7. He could say, “I speak that which I have seen with My Father”, John 8:37, which means that He had perfect insight into the mind of His Father, and spoke to men accordingly. He did not modify the insights in any way, for He could also say, “And I know that His commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak, therefore, even as the Father said unto Me, so I speak”, John 12:50. It is no surprise, therefore, that the Lord Jesus was fully aware of the situation, and knew full well that the time of His departure from this world by way of death and resurrection was approaching. All believers depart from this world by death, but they do not have an immediate resurrection to enable them to be with Christ in heaven, for their spirits depart, and their body is buried, awaiting His coming. With Christ it is different, for He will die, will rise, and then ascend to His Father.
There are seven references to “the hour” throughout John’s gospel, as follows:
1. In 2:4, we have the Lord’s words to Mary His mother, “Woman, what have I to do with thee, Mine hour is not yet come”. In other words spiritual relationships are more important than natural ones, and those spiritual relationships can only come after His death, so that they can be firmly rooted in His resurrection, and sealed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
2. In 7:30 the hostility of the Jews is in evidence, and John assures us that “no man laid hands on Him, because His hour was not yet come”. He would die at the appointed time and in the appointed way, and by killing Him His enemies would show they rejected that He came from the Father.
3. In 8:20 the point is that the authorities will show they know not the Father.
4. In 12:23 we read the Lord said, in response to information that Greeks wished to see Him, “The hour is come, that the Son of Man should be glorified”. The thought of Gentiles being blessed causes Christ to think of what must lie between, even His death and resurrection, the means by which those Gentiles will be saved. Because He is Son of man He is relevant to Greeks as well as Jews, for that title associates Him with all men, just as the title “Son of God” tells of His eternal link with the Father as His equal.
5. In verse 27 of that same chapter, the Lord is troubled by the thought of “the hour”, showing us that it is not a period He will pass through casually, but it will involve deep suffering for Him. He will not turn aside from the hour, because that is what He came from heaven to pass through.
6. The emphasis in the verse we are considering, however, is that it includes His return to the Father, thus being similar to Luke’s expression “when the time was come that He should be received up”, Luke 9:51.
7. In 17:1, when He refers to it in His prayer to His Father, He links it with a request for glory, so what happens during the hour will be His claim to glory, as well as being the enduring of suffering.
Being eternal in His nature, the Son of God is able to compress so much into an “hour”; not, indeed, of sixty minutes, but a critical space of time.
That He should depart out of this world unto the Father- just as the nation of Israel had been delivered from Egypt, and called by God to journey to Canaan, so Christ, the true Israel, is about to make His journey to heaven. Unlike the nation, however, which took forty years, because of their unbelief, for Him it will be “straitway” that He is glorified, as He will say in 13:32. Note the dignified way in which He will go. He will depart of His own will. Men would indeed cast Him out, but He only went at His pace, and at His time.
He would depart to the Father, and in so doing would ascend to our God and Father too, 20:17. He will take His people to be where He is, eventually, but meanwhile they must learn to tread the heavenly pathway down here, as He did. He used the word for ascend which is the equivalent of the Hebrew word used of the burnt offering as the ascending offering, with the sweet savour of the burning arising to heaven. So Christ will ascend to heaven with all the sweet savour of His sacrifice at Calvary upon Him, and will also rise in virtue of that sweet savour.
He would later on describe His mission with the words, “I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father”, John 16:28. The one who sent Him was pleased to receive Him back, not as the prodigal’s father did, after a time of anxiety and shame, but in the fulness of His love and approval.
Having loved His own which were in the world- those He has gathered around Him from the nation are now designated His own, for He had to leave the nation in its unbelief. There are so separated to Himself that they can be described as being in the world, not of Israel. This is a phrase the apostle Paul uses in Ephesians 2:12 to describe the far-off Gentiles, with no claim on the covenants God made with Israel. Here John uses it of Jews, who have become Christ’s own, and they have saved themselves from the perverse generation that will crucify Christ, see Acts 2:40. He had been given them by the Father “out of the world”, 17:6, but they are still in it as to the body, verse 11. He had been sent into the world, and soon they would be also, John 17:18, 20:21.
He loved them unto the end- He declares in 15:9 that He had loved them as His Father loved Him, such was the intensity and character of His love. The word translated “end” is derived from a Greek verb meaning “to set out for a definite goal”. It is “the point aimed at as a limit, or the conclusion of an act or state, or the result or purpose”, (Strong’s Concordance). We could think of the end as being the conclusion of all that is involved in His hour, whether it be His rejection by men on earth, or His reception by the Father in heaven. The work of the cross and the ascent to heaven have been achieved and accomplished out of love for His own. He went to the cross to die so as to sever them from their sins; He ascended to heaven to join them to Himself and His Father. All the while He was accomplishing these things He was loving them with Divine love. He “loved the church and gave Himself for it”, Ephesians 5:25, and He loves it still, for He “nourisheth and cherisheth it”, as a husband does who loves his wife, verse 29.
How sad it is that soon those disciples will test His love, as they have tested it before. Their every mistake and misunderstanding had come to light during His ministry, yet He loved them to the end. Their slowness of heart to believe would cause Him grief, but still He loved them. Peter would soon deny Him, but He still loved him; all the disciples would forsake Him and flee, but still He loved them. We know this is true because He subsequently went to the cross for them. If the “many waters” of the believers’ failures did not quench love, then nothing will, Song of Solomon 8:7.
13:2 And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him;
And supper being ended- there were two suppers in the Upper Room that night. The first, at which Judas was present, and then the first eating of the Lord’s Supper, after Judas had gone out. The apostle Paul referred to this when he wrote that “After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped”, 1 Corinthians 11:25. This does not mean “after He had drunk of the cup”, or else we could expect to be told that He handed them the bread “after He had eaten”. The correct sense is learned from Luke’s account of the institution of the Lord’s Supper, “Likewise the cup after supper”, Luke 22:20. So to return to our verse, “supper being ended” means that the Passover Supper was finished, not just in terms of the performance of it that night, but also as far as the disciples were concerned for the whole of the ensuing age. They would no longer need to keep the memorial of the slain lamb in Egypt, because they would be in the good of what “Christ our Passover” did, when He was “sacrificed for us”, 1 Corinthians 5:7. As far as they were concerned, the Jews’ Passover would give place to “our Passover”.
There are some who wish to read this verse “and supper being come”, but this is a mistake. The Received Text uses “genomenou”, meaning “having taken place”, and this is how we should read the words. The alternative rendering “ginomenou” meaning “taking place”, is from those manuscripts such as the Siniaticus and Vaticanus that display corruption and depravity, and are not to be trusted. They cannot even agree amongst themselves. Sadly, they are the manuscripts that modern translators favour.
The devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him- he is given his full name here, as if to formally and officially identify him as the Traitor. For four thousand years the Devil had sought to prevent the birth of Christ by attacking the line of the Messiah. After He had been born he sought to destroy Him by various means. So it seems strange at first to realise that the Devil now seems to be furthering His death, especially as that death will result in his own overthrow, Hebrews 2:14; John 12:31. But then we realise that all is under God’s control, and He is allowing the Devil to display his hatred so that his character might be fully shown. It is true that the betrayal by Judas was that which started the process which culminated in Christ’s crucifixion, but He was in fact delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, Acts 2:23. All is under Divine control. This is clearly demonstrated by the fact that Christ chose Judas to be an apostle after a night of prayer to God, Luke 6:12-16. We may be sure, then, then Judas’ presence amongst the apostles was not a mistake. The Lord was well aware of his character, saying, “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil”, John 6:70. And John adds, “He spake of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray Him, being one of the twelve”, verse 71.
There are several things that could have combined to turn Judas from an apostle to a betrayer. We know that he was a thief, John 12:6, and had charge of the finances of the apostolic band, (“the bag”), so there was an element of covetousness. We know that after Mary had poured her costly ointment on Christ, Judas went immediately out to the chief priests and said, “What will ye give me”, Matthew 26:14. So love of money contributed to his downfall, as it has to many others.
Perhaps he thought that just as the Lord had evaded the hostility of the crowds on other occasions, He would do so again, and escape crucifixion, and then Judas could disappear with the money; not only what was in “the bag”, but the thirty pieces of silver also. It was only when Judas saw that the authorities had condemned the Lord, and had sent Him, bound, to Pontius Pilate, that he went and hanged himself, Matthew 27:2,3.
Another element in his treachery may have been disillusionment with the Lord over His refusal to claim His rights. Was Judas of the tribe of Judah, the kingly tribe? The names are the same. Was he a royalist, eagerly expecting the Lion of the tribe of Judah to accept the sceptre? See Genesis 49:10. It is interesting to note that the Lord calls him a devil in the same chapter in which He had refused to be made king by the will of the people, John 6:70,15.
When the Lord calls Judas a devil He does not mean that he is not a man. Rather, it is that even at that point in time, twelve months before the crucifixion, he is being influenced by Satan just as the devils are.
There were several ways in which the apostle Paul could have described the time at which the Lord’s Supper was instituted, but he was inspired to write, “the Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed took bread”, 1 Corinthians 11:23. Thus there is a solemn reminder of the circumstances in which the Lord instituted the supper, and a caution for the Corinthians to not betray the Lord’s interests as they were in danger of doing. The Corinthians would do well to consider whether their behaviour was not, in fact, to some degree a betrayal of the Lord Jesus.
The betrayal was the basest act of disloyalty that has ever been committed, yet in such circumstances the Lord Jesus was not thinking of His own welfare, but the spiritual welfare of His own. All the disciples questioned the Lord as to whether they were the betrayer, Matthew 26:21,22. How solemn to remember that in the heart of each believer is the potential to be disloyal!
13:3 Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He was come from God, and went to God;
Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands- this indicates that all that the Lord Jesus would do and say in the upper room was, as ever, in the exercise of His firstborn role. He is not only the Only begotten Son of God, equal with Him, unique and alone as to His person, but He is Firstborn Son too, charged with the task of acting for the Father’s interests and those of His own. The firstborn son in a family had a prophetic, priestly and kingly function. As prophet, he unfolded the mind of the father to the rest of the family. As priest, he introduced the family into the presence of the father, and as king, he exercised authority in the family on behalf of the father. It is easy to see how that the Lord Jesus fulfils these duties in relation to the family of God. In the consciousness of His insight into His Father’s will, He acts in the upper room for the sake of the interests of the Father, and the interests of the family.
We should remember that the ones who were especially at risk on Passover night were the firstborn sons of all in Egypt, whether Egyptian or Israelite. At midnight those firstborn sons who were not sheltered by the blood of the Passover lamb were slain. Those who were sheltered, were preserved, for God passed over their houses, sheltering them from the destroying angel. In the case of Israel, the Passover lamb and the firstborn were different. In our case, God’s Firstborn is also our Passover lamb. On the other hand, God did call the nation His Firstborn, Exodus 4:22, so they had a responsibility to represent God to the other nations, but they miserably failed, and Christ, God’s firstborn, needs to step in. Perhaps this is one reason why He is called Israel in Isaiah 49:3.
And that He was come from God, and went to God- He was on earth to do the will of God, having come from God for that very purpose. His attitude of heart is expressed in His words, “Lo, I come to do Thy will O God”, Hebrews 10:9. That He did accomplish the will of God is seen in the fact that He has sat down on the right hand of God, Hebrews 10:12. The God who sent Him has received Him back with honour. The psalmist spoke of the sun, “which rejoiceth as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a young man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof”, Psalm 19:5,6. So it was with the Son of God, coming out of the chamber of the Father’s house, rejoicing to engage in energetic movements on earth, and not only coming out, but going back to where He began, with the warmth of His love diffusing everywhere.
He is the only one who can be conscious of coming from heaven and from God. We did not come from heaven to earth at our conception, but He was conscious of having done so, for He can speak of things that pertained in heaven.
We are told seven things about the pre-existent Christ, as follows:
1. He was in the sphere of Divine harmony: Philippians 2:6, where there was no rivalry, no pride, no selfishness. He came to bring that harmony into the hearts of those who believe on Him, and also to expose the discord in the world.
2. He was in the sphere of Divine Love, for He could say “Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world”, John 17:24. God is love, and love must have an object, so the Son was there whenever God was love, which is eternally.
3. He was in the sphere of Divine glory. He spoke to His Father about “the glory which I had with Thee before the world was”, John 17:5. He asks to be glorified with that glory again, but He has to ask, because He has become man, and man is not constituted so as to have Divine glory.
4. He was in the sphere of Divine Purpose. He was “delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God”, Acts 2:23. He was there when God promised eternal life, Titus 1:2. He was the lamb foreordained before the foundation of the world, 1 Peter 1:20. His “goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting”, Micah 5:2.
5. He was in the sphere of Divine Choice. Believers were “chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world”, Ephesians 1:4.
6. He was in the sphere of Divine power. We read, “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse”, Romans 1:20. God’s power is eternal but He chose the point at which He would put it forth.
7. He was in the sphere of Divine communion. The apostle John writes, “For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us”, 1 John 1:2.
(b) Verses 4-5 Procedure of Christ
13:4 He riseth from supper, and laid aside His garments; and took a towel, and girded Himself.
He riseth from supper- having built up a picture for us of what was on the Lord’s mind, John now tells us how He acted. We have been told that the Passover supper was ended. This was true not only in the literal sense, but also the figurative, for the Lord’s Supper, soon to be instituted, will occupy the disciples during the present age until the Lord comes. In preparation for that Supper, however, there must be cleansing. John does not tell us about the Lord’s Supper, no doubt to avoid any confusion with John 6:53-57 and the idea of eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Son of man. That is the Lord’s Table, and should not be confused with the Lord’s Supper. The apostle Paul warned about eating that Supper unworthily, and one of the ways we might do that is to do it with “unwashed feet”; in other words, with the defilement of the world upon us.
And laid aside His garments- by this is meant His outer garments of course, so that He alters from being a joyous celebrant of the Passover Supper, to the lowly slave, ministering to the needs of the guests. He has not changed as to His person, (so has not “laid aside His glory” as some speak), but has changed as to His ministry. Far from dispensing with His glory when He became man, we read He manifested it forth, John 2:11, and His apostles saw it, John 1:14, and bear witness to it, 1 John 1:3. What He did do, however, was show that glory in a way that could be taken in by enlightened minds. To see God in the full blaze of His glory is not possible for man, so He graciously varied the way in which He displayed it. We could illustrate it using the gold that was intertwined in Aaron’s high priestly garment. A solid lump of gold was beaten into a flat plate, and then cut into wires and threaded through the weave of the garment, Exodus 39:3. So the gold was the same, but it had taken another form, enabling it to be used in a different way. So Christ’s Divine glory remained the same, but the way it appeared altered.
But He laid aside more than one garment, for the word is in the plural. So He must have dispensed temporarily, (for He wore His own garments to the place of crucifixion, Matthew 27:31), with His girdle. Now on the night of the original Passover the Israelites were to have their loins girded, their shoes on their feet, and their staff in their hand, Exodus 12:11. They were to be ready to move with haste out of the land of Egypt. Here it is not so much a question of pilgrimage, although that side of things will come out later when Christ speaks of the way to the Father, but of what to do after contact with the world has made us unfit to eat the Lord’s Supper because defilement has been contracted.
The apostle Peter later on exhorted his readers to lay aside “all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings”, 1 Peter 2:1. No such exhortation was needed by the Lord Jesus, for He did no sin and knew no sin.
What must Judas have thought as he watched the Lord take the place of the slave, for he had sold Him for the price of a wounded slave, Exodus 21:32, Matthew 26:15.
And took a towel- there were two parts of the Passover Supper where it was traditional to wash hands, but this is different, for the Passover is over. This is not a modification of former things, but the institution of a new concept, that of the need to “wash feet” before the Lord’s Supper.
And girded Himself- He who is in the form of God had, at conception, taken upon Himself the form of a servant, and this He demonstrates yet again, but now in a new way. The next verse makes clear that He girded Himself with the towel, or else we might wonder whether He did two things, take a towel, and gird Himself with something else. He has divested Himself of the robe that would most need girding up to keep it out of the way. He girds His inner garment, the one that was “without seam, woven from the top throughout”, John 19:23. He has become a servant for ever, so it is not just a question of having loins girded as the Israelites did on the night of their departure from Egypt. Rather, He is indicating that when He returns to heaven He will return as a servant, and will continue to minister to His people. So the laying aside of His garments is not symbolic of Him coming to earth, but of Him going back to heaven, and ministering to His people’s needs from there. And He is preparing His people for a ministry like this too, on the earth.
13:5 After that He poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith He was girded.
After that He poureth water into a bason- notice He does all that the servant is expected to do. Not one of the disciples was quick-thinking enough to realise what was happening, and spring up and assist by pouring the water into the bason. How often we are not only “slow of heart to believe”, Luke 24:25, but also slow to rise to the occasion.
He had commissioned Peter and John to prepare the Passover, meaning the supper. When they asked where He wanted them to prepare it He replied, “Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house where he entereth in”, Luke 22:10. No doubt the water was from this pitcher. The bason was a wash-bason, so it was designed for the task, like the water. All necessary resources were available then, as now.
So one of the features of this house was that the water was there. Not only was it the place where the Lord’s Supper would be instituted, but also the place where fitness to eat the Supper was ensured. Oftentimes in Scripture water is a figure of the word of God. For example, the psalmist asked, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? The he answered the question by saying, “By taking heed thereto unto Thy word”, Psalm 119:9. This fits in with the situation in our passage. By “cleanse his way” the psalmist meant “cleanse himself after he has made his way through the world”. There is no hope of cleansing the ways of the world, but we can cleanse away the defilement that comes upon us from the world.
And began to wash the disciples’ feet- the Lord Himself will make a distinction in verse 10 between washing all over, or bathing, and washing just a part of the body. Here He is concentrating on the feet, that part of us which has contact with the earth, representing contact with the world. By “begin to wash” is meant, “starting to wash the feet of the disciples, one by one”.
And to wipe them with the towel wherewith He was girded- not only would this dry their feet, but it would also ensure that every trace of defilement was wiped away. Just one speck of the world’s defilement is enough to spoil the Supper. It is “the little foxes” that “spoil the vines”, Song of Solomon 2:15. We need to “take us the foxes”, in other words, identify them and deal with them.
(c) Verses 6-9 Protest by Peter
13:6 Then cometh He to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto Him, Lord, dost Thou wash my feet?
Then cometh He to Simon Peter- just as there were two Judas’ amongst the apostles, so also there were two Simons, Matthew 10:2,4, hence John’s addition of the other name of Peter. Simon was the name his father gave him, Matthew 16:17, whereas Peter was the name the Lord gave Him, John 1:42. Although he was called “first” in the list of apostles in Matthew just referred to, he was not washed first by the Lord. When believers come together to eat the Lord’s Supper, the question of gift and office is in the background. Christian priesthood knows no hierarchy. There is but one High Priest, and He is in heaven.
And Peter saith unto Him, ‘Lord, dost Thou wash my feet?’ The Greek language has the facility to emphasise words, and here the words “thou” and “my” are emphatic. This is shown by the order of the words in the Greek original, which is this: “Lord, Thou of me dost wash the feet?” On a future occasion Peter would say, “Not so, Lord”, Acts 10:14, which is a contradiction in terms. If He is our Lord, we ought not to say “Not so” to Him. To his credit, Peter is here affirming his belief that Jesus is Lord, but he is doing it in such a way as undermines His authority. If He is Lord, we must allow Him to wash our feet, and not protest under the pretence of humility. If Peter was so concerned about the Lord doing the servant’s task, why did he not spring up to do it himself?
13:7 Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.
Jesus answered and said unto him, ‘What I do thou knowest not now- here is the counterpart to the emphatic words of verse 6. Here it is, “What I (emphatic) do thou (emphatic) knowest not now”. Peter’s protest is used by the Lord as the introduction to teaching about the meaning of the feet-washing. The reason he was concerned was because he did not understand. Peter understood perfectly that the Lord was physically washing his feet, and that was all Peter saw in it until he was enlightened as to the significance.
But thou shalt know hereafter’- this does not mean that Peter would have to wait until he got to heaven before he could understand. Men speak of “the hereafter” in this way, but the Lord means “after these things”, whether we think of this meaning after He had explained it in verses 12-14, or after the Spirit had come at Pentecost to guide them into all the truth. When Peter understood the significance, far from protesting about his feet being washed, he would welcome it.
13:8 Peter saith unto Him, ‘Thou shalt never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered him, ‘If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me.’
Peter saith unto Him, ‘Thou shalt never wash my feet’- it is one of Peter’s characteristics that he tries to pursue a course even though he has really been stopped in his tracks. He has called Jesus Lord, he has received the answer to his question, he has been told that he will know soon, but he still persists with the protest. From saying “dost Thou” he moves on to saying, “Thou shalt never”. He is issuing an ultimatum to his Lord, something that should never be done. He is not making a prediction that the Lord will never wash his feet, but is giving an order. This is why the answer is given in such forthright terms. This is the only statement by an individual disciple in the upper room, as far as John’s record goes, which does not begin with the word “Lord”.
Jesus answered him, ‘If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me’- so the feet-washing is not a mere option, let alone something that can be refused, but is vitally necessary. As any reliable lexicon will tell us, there are two words for wash used in this passage. One, “nipto”, is used in verses 5,6,8 (twice), 10, (“wash his feet”), 12, 14, (twice). It is used when the blind man washed the clay away that the Lord had put on his eyes, John 9:7,11, 15. He washed part of his body.
The other word, “louo”, is used in verse 10, “he that is washed”. This word is used in Hebrews 10:22, where we read, “our bodies washed with pure water”. It is also found in Revelation 1:5, “washed us from our sins in His own blood”. Clearly the word has the idea of washing all over, or totally. We shall see the significance of these two words when we come to consider verse 10.
So Peter learns that if he does not allow the Lord to wash his feet, he has no part with Him. The Lord cannot associate at all with one who refuses to allow Him to do as He wills. And this is what the preposition used here, (“meta”), means. It means to be “in the midst of”, or “among”, or “between”. There is no vital union indicated in the word, simply association. As a physical action, the washing of the feet was designed, in the first instance, to impress upon the disciples that they must allow the Lord to have His way. The further meaning of it comes out in verses 10, 14 and 15. This is why Judas’ feet would have been washed, (for we read, “after He had washed their feet”, verse 12), for he had been chosen to be an apostle, and this involved subjection to Christ’s will. The psalmist had spoken of him as Messiah’s “own familiar friend”, Psalm 41:9, and that they had “walked unto the house of God in company”, Psalm 55:14. He would soon leave the upper room, formally renouncing his apostleship, but before he does this, the Lord will make final efforts to rescue him from his mad career, even to the extent of washing the heel that was lifted up against Him, verse 18. By allowing the Lord to wash his feet, Judas was giving himself a further opportunity to change his mind.
13:9 Simon Peter saith unto Him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.
Simon Peter saith unto Him, Lord, not my feet only- with characteristic fervour, and in his strong and commendable desire to have part with the Lord, Peter errs again. It is easy to criticise Peter, but do we have his zeal? Before, he had tried to impose his will on the Lord by resisting the washing of his feet. Now he is resisting again by not being content with what the Lord was doing, and suggesting He should do more. We should always accept the Lord’s will for us, for His will is best. No good comes by trying to dictate to Him.
But also my hands and my head- if having one’s lower body washed means association with Christ, Peter reasons that to have one’s middle and upper parts also washed will mean even closer association with Him. This is equivalent to saying “wash me all over”, hence the response of the next verse.
(d) Verses 10-17 Prototype for the believer
13:10 Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all.
Jesus saith to him, He that is washed- we now come to the alternative word for washing, the one which involves the whole body. Peter learns that he does not need hands and head washed again, for that has been done once and does not need to be repeated.
Needeth not save to wash his feet- there is no necessity for a repeat of the all-over washing. But what does need to be repeated is the washing of that part which has contact with the earth. In other words, our walk through this world needs the truth of God applied to it, and adjustment made, if necessary. It is not that we cannot do worldly things with our hands, or think worldly things with our head, because we easily can.
The Lord is making a distinction between an initial washing, and an intermittent washing, Since the feet suggest our walk, and our walk is the way we move through this world, the feet supply sufficient meaning for the Lord’s purpose. As we move on the pilgrim pathway, we do so in the world. That world is defiling, so the feet become contaminated, and need to be washed. Notice that although it is the Lord who is washing the feet here, it is the individual believer who needs to attend to his own defilement.
The inadvertent defilement that comes to us as we pass through this world does not constitute sin, but it does mean that we are unsuited to the Lord’s presence. We must take steps to apply the Word of God to the situation and distance ourselves from the defilement. All our sins are cleansed by the blood of Christ in an on-going way, 1 John 1:7, but the defilement from unwitting sins needs only the application of the truth of the Scriptures to deal with it.
Peter and John had been to the temple that afternoon to present the lamb for sacrifice at the altar. They first would have bathed in the pool outside of the temple walls, thus washing all over. But the temple courts had dusty floors, (as we know from the fact that the Lord wrote in the dust in John 8:6), so that in between bathing and coming to the altar their feet had become defiled. There were stone foot-baths provided, however, for this specific purpose, and they would have washed their feet in these. So they knew the difference between bathing all over and washing the feet.
But is clean every whit- that is, wholly clean, with no part unclean. So the Lord is making a distinction here between initial cleansing and ongoing cleansing. So what are these two cleansings? Peter was to know the answer to that “hereafter”. It would come after Pentecost, after which the believers would be guided into all truth. The truth relevant to this matter is set out in Titus 3:4-7, where we read, “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life”. Now the word regeneration has to do with a new state of things. The word is only used elsewhere to refer to the time of Christ’s kingdom, “in the regeneration”, Matthew 19:28. So there is such a thing as a washing that fits us for a new state of things in which there is no defilement.
Now the apostle Paul spoke of Christ sanctifying and cleansing the church “with the washing of water by the word”, Ephesians 5:26. The word for washing being connected with the all-over sort of washing the Lord spoke of in the upper room. It corresponds to the next phrase, “ye are clean”. So we learn that one reason why Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it was so as to sanctify and cleanse it, (that is, make it holy and free from all defilement), and this He did through the all-over washing of water by the word. When the word of the truth of the gospel comes to seeking souls, they not only learn of their sinfulness, but also of their defilement. Now the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin, 1 John 1:7. This is judicial cleansing, and satisfies the demands of the righteousness of God. But those sins resulted in defilement, so there needs to be a remedy for that too. When the word is believed, it has the effect of separating them from sin’s defilement, just as when we have a bath, the water separates us from the defilement on our bodies. The ground on which this can be done is the shed blood of Christ, which gives God the right to cleanse those who repent and believe. So it is that the water of the word has become the means whereby the benefit of the death of Christ for sin is made good to the one who believes. Because the word of the gospel always points us to Christ’s death as the answer to sin, it is not in itself the means of salvation, as if to by-pass what Christ did at Calvary, but is the agency whereby the salvation is made known.
And ye are clean- whether they realised it or not, (and most probably they did not at that time), when the apostles had first believed on the Lord Jesus, they had come into the good of that which would be secured for them by His death on the cross. They were credited in anticipation, just as Old Testament men had been justified in virtue of what God’s Son would do at Calvary. See Romans 3:25, where “sins that are past” refers to sins committed in past Old Testament times.
But not all- although he had been chosen as an apostle, had worked miracles, and had preached the word of the kingdom, Judas was not a true believer. Because of that he had never known the all-over cleansing that is needed for entry into the kingdom. His feet had been washed physically, but his soul was unclean morally.
13:11 For He knew who should betray Him; therefore said He, Ye are not all clean.
For He knew who should betray Him- the Lord was not taken by surprise when Judas eventually betrayed Him. He had chosen him after a night of prayer, Luke 6:12-16, so it was done in full fellowship with His Father. It is not that He chose Judas so that he could be the betrayer, but chose him to give him the opportunity to change his mind about betraying Him, and thereby be an incentive to others to repent also. Alas, it was not to be, but Judas cannot say that he had no chance to be true to Christ.
Therefore said He, Ye are not all clean- so John gives us the explanation, so that we might be in no doubt what “ye are not all clean” means.
13:12 So after He had washed their feet, and had taken His garments, and was set down again, He said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?
So after He had washed their feet- with no difference made in Judas’ case, for his feet were washed too. Because he had not been washed all over, the washing of his feet simply signified the desire of Christ to have him as an associate, if he was prepared to believe. It was one of Christ’s final appeals to him.
And had taken His garments- He had removed His outer garments to signify His servant role. He had taken the form of a servant when He came into manhood, and He had displayed that by being dressed as a servant would. Now He takes His garments again to show, not that He had ceased being a servant, (for He will never do that, since it is part of His person now), but to remind them that He is also their Lord and Master. He has taken the form of a servant, and “form” means “reality in manifestation”. It is not the mere adoption of the guise of a servant, whilst not being so really. He has integrated servant-hood into His being, so it is permanent.
And was set down again- this is the position of the teacher. In the synagogue, men stood up for to read, and sat down to teach, as we see from Luke 4:16,20,21. He will now give them far-ranging instruction that will fortify them for His absence, but the first thing that is needed is fitness to be associated with Him, to have part with Him.
He said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Clearly, He is not asking if they realised He had washed their feet, for that was obvious. Not so obvious was the meaning of what He had done. That meaning was on several levels, as we shall see. The fact that there is no response to this question shows that they have not yet grasped the full meaning. Perhaps they did not like to admit this, and so remained silent, even Peter.
13:13 Ye call Me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.
Ye call Me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am- even though Jesus was His personal name, the disciples never called Him this. They had a sense of His greatness, and would never presume to be so familiar as to use this name. Of course, because the gospel records are historical in nature in the first instance, the writers constantly call Him Jesus. But when they record the conversations of the disciples with Him, it is evident that they never address Him as such.
There is a lesson here, for the Spirit of God would exalt Him in our thinking so that we call Him Lord. No man can do this meaningfully except by the Spirit of God, as 1 Corinthians 12:3 makes clear. It is because the disciples had heard Him as the Master, or Teacher, they intelligently called Him Lord. And in this they are an example. The first name that Saul of Tarsus gave to Him was “Lord”, even though He announced Himself to him as Jesus of Nazareth, Acts 9:4,5.
13:14 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.
If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet- note the change of order. As Teacher they may learn from Him, both by word and example. This will result in them recognising Him as Lord, the one who owns them, and who has authority over them. If their Lord had washed their feet, then surely they could bring themselves to wash one another’s feet in humility. But He is still Master, so has further things to teach them, and this will further enhance His Lordship in their minds.
Ye also ought to wash one another’s feet- it is the responsibility of all believers to seek the welfare of their brothers and sisters in Christ by helping them to keep free from the defilement of the world, and if there is defilement, giving help to wash it away by the careful application of the Word of God. So not only is the individual believer responsible for washing his own feet, “he that is washed…wash his feet”, verse 10, but also has a responsibility towards others.
It was a common courtesy in the East to wash the feet of your guests as they arrived at your house after a journey on the dusty roads. Simon the Pharisee failed to do this when he invited the Lord into his house, Luke 7:44-46, and the Lord pointed this out to him. It was not as if the Lord arrived uninvited, and Simon was caught unprepared. Simon was shamed by his omission, but also by the fact that a woman he derided as a sinner had done what he had failed to do.
But this is more than common courtesy, for believers should not need to be exhorted to act politely. Remember how that Aquila and Priscilla took Apollos aside into their home, and “expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly”, Acts 18:26. It is true that Apollos was not defiled by the world as such, but nonetheless the principle holds good, that they adjusted his pathway, and in that sense washed his feet.
13:15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.
For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you- their washing of others’ feet should be the direct result of responding to His example. It would not be mere natural politeness. Notice it is “as I have done”, not necessarily “what I have done”. The washing of saints’ feet may take many different forms. The Lord is not establishing a ritual for believers to follow. The literal washing with water simply illustrated the true washing that was behind it. The example is not the mode of washing, but the fact that He, the Lord of all, had done it in true humility. It was an example of humility, not of technique.
13:16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord- here is the first of the seven-fold use of the expression “Verily, verily” of the upper room ministry. The expression always introduces truth that is different, and yet we might think that it is obvious that a servant is not greater than the lord he serves. Yet He had just acted as a servant, and they must not have the slightest idea in their minds that this means He is any the less their Lord. They are only servants, whereas He is servant and Lord. These particular servants are not greater than this particular Lord, even if that Lord is a servant. That being the case, they ought to find it easy to do the humble task, if He, their Lord, had done it; they were not greater than He.
Neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him- they might have wrong thoughts about their servant-hood because they were apostles. They might think they were above serving because of their office. But even “sent ones”, (which is what apostles are), are not, and cannot be, greater than the one who sent them, even the Lord Himself. And if that is true of apostles, it must also be true of all believers, for they are sent also in John 20:21. His example of humility is for us all.
13:17 If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.
If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them- if they have insight into the meaning of these things, and practice them, they will be truly blessed. Happiness depends on what happens, and here what happens is the practice of the Lord’s teaching. James tells us that “whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, that man shall be blessed in his deed”, James 1:25.
We can now list what are the different aspects of the act of feet-washing, as follows:
1. A powerful reminder of the humility of Christ.
2. A righteous act whereby He washed Judas’ feet to enable him to have nominal part with Him, in the interests of purity.
3. A gesture seeking to arrest Judas on his mad course.
4. An example showing them what they should do to one another.
5. To distinguish between all-over washing and part-washing.
6. To demonstrate physically what needs to be done spiritually.
(e) Verses 18-19 Prophecy by Christ
13:18 I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with Me hath lifted up his heel against Me.
I speak not of you all- from speaking of those who are happy because they do their Lord’s will, the Lord now reverts back to speaking of the one who is the most miserable, because he was the betrayer, and did Satan’s will.
I know whom I have chosen- Judas had been chosen to be an apostle after a night of prayer. His election to office was not a mistake, and the eleven apostles need to be assured of that, so that their confidence in the Lord’s wisdom and judgement might not be impaired. The Lord knew Judas’ heart, and He knew their hearts too. There are different ways in which men are described as having been chosen. For example, believers were “chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world”, Ephesians 1:4; “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth”, 2 Thessalonians 2:13; “He called unto Him His disciples, and of them He chose twelve”, Luke 6:13. It is the latter example that is in view here, choice to serve as an apostle.
But that the scripture may be fulfilled- the Lord did not choose Judas so as to fulfil Scripture. The Traitor Psalms, (Psalms 41, 55, 69, and 109), do not name him. The word “but” indicates a contrast between what the Lord desired for Judas, and what Judas decided to do for himself, to his own ruin. The choice of Judas could very well have been designed to bring him to a proper recognition of Himself, and to deliver from wrong thoughts about the Messiah. We might think of the words as follows: “I know whom I have chosen, but, (lest you think that I destined Him to be the betrayer and consequently go to perdition, let Me tell you that I chose him so that he could eat bread with Me, and thus have close contact with the truth I taught), but in the event he, of his own will, lifted up his heel against Me”.
He that eateth bread with Me hath lifted up his heel against Me- Judas was brought into the inner circle, sharing fellowship at table with the Lord of glory, yet from that privileged position he fell into perdition. The preposition translated “with” is the same as in verse 8, showing that it is simply association that is in view, not union. A person is not necessarily united when they share a meal together, as Judas did. This is an awful warning to all others who claim to associate with Christ yet have no life within, and at last side with the enemy. Like a horse that is angry, and turns its back only to lift its hoof to kick backwards, so Judas turned his back on Christ and dealt Him a painful blow.
13:19 Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am He.
Now I tell you before it come- the Lord subjects Himself to the test of a prophet. If a prophecy came true, then the prophet was genuine. If otherwise, he was to be stoned to death, Deuteronomy 18:20. God had promised to Moses in that chapter that He would send a prophet to speak to the people, verse 15. Peter assures the nation that that prophet was Christ, Acts 3:22-26.
That, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am He- their appreciation of His person would be increased, and their faith strengthened when they realised, in the dark hours between His arrest and His resurrection, that He knew all things. Not only did He know all things, but demonstrated the fact by making known these things to them. As God said about Abraham, “Shall I hide from Abraham the thing which I do?” Genesis 18:17. Just as Abraham was “the friend of God”, James 2:23, so these eleven apostles were His friends, John 15:14, and He did not hide from them what was about to take place.
God challenged the powers of evil to foretell the future, Isaiah 41:21-24. Only God knows the end from the beginning. The Lord here asserts His Deity with the expression “I am He”, thus linking Himself with the God who said to Moses “I am”, Exodus 3:14. When He had declared to the Jews “Before Abraham was, I am”, they had taken up stones to stone Him. Now He asserts the same thing, and the apostles make no protest, for they continue to believe in His Divine Pre-existence. Even the trauma of knowing that one of their number is a traitor, soon to be revealed to them, will not shake them. They need to have strong faith in His person for in just a few moments their faith is going to be tested.
(f) Verses 20-30 Perfidy of Judas
13:20 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth Me; and he that receiveth Me receiveth Him that sent Me.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth Me- here is the second “verily, verily” of the evening. It prefaces a statement that is of the utmost importance for them to grasp. They are about to be shocked by the revelation that Judas, one of their number, is a traitor. They need the encouragement that the Lord has such confidence in them that to receive them as His apostles is to receive Him. Such is the dignity of their position, and such is the position that Judas forfeited by his treachery.
And he that receiveth Me receiveth Him that sent Me- because He and the Father are one in essence, and also because, flowing from that, their aims are identical, to receive the one is to receive the other, just as when the Spirit was given, it was the Father and Son who came, John 14:23. The apostles are heartened, surely, by being told that they have a part in the reception of Divine Persons. Judas, on the other hand, was being party to the advancement of the agenda of Satanic forces. He was refusing to receive the Son, and as a consequence was not receiving the Father. He was not a true believer therefore, for John wrote later, “Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father”, 1 John 2:23, words which come soon after he writes that there were antichrists, who “went out from us”, verse 19.
13:21 When Jesus had thus said, He was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray Me.
When Jesus had thus said, He was troubled in spirit- having demonstrated His Deity, we now find the Lord’s real and sensitive manhood is manifest as He is troubled to the very core of His being, His spirit. This is no superficial emotion, but a feeling of sorrow and trouble that was deeply and keenly felt. To think that His “own familiar friend”, Psalm 41:9, should do such as thing as to betray Him! And not only this, but Judas’ act will set in motion a series of events which will result in Him being condemned and crucified.
This shows us that betrayal and disloyalty are particularly distasteful to Christ, and we should be very careful to not manifest these features even in a mild form.
And testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray Me- the third “verily, verily” comes soon after the second, for events are moving quickly. We noticed in verse 2 how that John names Judas in full, as if he is being brought into a court of law and charged. Here it is the same, for Jesus testified, as if He was in court. He bore witness to what He knew. The fact that it had not yet happened did not matter, for the future is known to Him infallibly. The “verily, verily” is needed this time because the other eleven disciples will be very reluctant to believe it is so.
13:22 Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom He spake.
Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom He spake- despite the Lord’s words in John 6:70, (“Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?”), they had not realised the full import of His words. John can tell us when, many years later, he is writing his gospel that “He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon”, verse 71. Note again the full title, reflecting that when John wrote his gospel the guiltiness of the man had become evident to him. But it was evident to Christ all the time.
Clearly, Judas had given the other disciples no indication of his nature, and what was being planned in his heart, so that the disciples were taken completely by surprise. In Matthew’s account, we read, after the Lord had told them one of them would betray Him, “And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto Him, ‘Lord, is it I?'”, Matthew 26:22. Self-doubt overwhelmed them all. Perhaps they did not fully realise the wickedness of what Judas would do. He could surely only do it as Satan impelled him. The other disciples were not thus influenced.
It is noticeable that when Judas asks “is it I”, he calls the Lord “master”, and not his Lord. This is characteristic of him. Those who fail to recognise the Lordship of Christ are more likely to betray him. Judas’ question had, in fact, been answered a thousand years before, in one of David’s traitor psalms. We read, “For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him: but it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide and mine acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company.” Psalm 55:12-14. These are David’s words about Ahithophel, the Old Testament traitor, who went from being David’s advisor to siding with Absalom, who sought to usurp David’s throne. The words “it was thou” are the answer to Judas’ question in Matthew 26:22.
13:23 Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.
Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples- it was the custom to recline on cushions at the Passover Supper, (which would be set out on a low table either suspended from the ceiling, or standing on the floor), leaning on one’s left elbow, with the legs stretched out behind. Jesus’s bosom would refer to the fold of the outer garment which would form a sort of pouch. Eastern shepherds would carry the lambs in their bosom, as the Messiah is said to do in relation to His people, Isaiah 40:11.
Whom Jesus loved- this is the expression John uses to describe himself. John does not mean to imply that the Lord did not love the others, nor is he being conceited, as if he were superior, but rather, that John was conscious of that love and responded to it. He himself declares that “Jesus…loved His own”, verse 1, so he is not claiming exclusive rights to Christ’s love. He uses the phrase to describe himself here, when he is leaning on Christ; in 19:26 when he is found standing by Christ’s cross; in 21:7 as the one recognising the Lord, and in 21:20 as one following Him. Each of these instances would repay meditation. These are all the marks of one who loves the Lord, and is conscious of the Lord’s love for him. In 20:2 the other word for love is used, “phileo”, when Peter is included.
13:24 Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom He spake.
Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him- perhaps Peter was on the opposite side of the table to John, and gestured to him so that they both leaned forward to speak quietly to one another.
That he should ask who it should be of whom He spake- note that is the one who has a deep appreciation of Christ who is able to ask Him questions. Peter’s experience at the feet-washing had showed him that he was not so intelligent about spiritual things as he thought. He is confident, however, that John is different. He is in such close touch with the Lord that he will be free to ask what Peter does not feel free to ask.
13:25 He then lying on Jesus’ breast saith unto Him, Lord, who is it?
He then lying on Jesus’ breast saith unto Him, Lord, who is it? Normally, as the Supper was eaten, there would be a space between each guest. Now, however, John leans back onto the actual bosom of Christ, close to His heart, so to speak, to easily ask the question. Perhaps Peter and John feel that the betrayer was not to be made known, as the Lord had said in general terms, “one of you”, and therefore John leans back to ask quietly.
Afterwards, John became known as the one who “also leant on His breast at supper”, John 21:20. Is this not the sort of reputation that we should all desire to have?
13:26 Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when He had dipped the sop, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.
Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it- it was customary at the Passover Supper to eat a morsel consisting of a piece of the lamb, some unleavened bread, wrapped together with bitter herbs. This would be eaten after being dipped in vinegar. It therefore contained the elements of the whole meal. The lamb to remind of the means of deliverance at the original Passover time; the unleavened bread to remind of the need to purge out the leaven because the Feast of Unleavened bread followed straight after the Passover night, and the bitter herbs to remind of the bitter experiences the Israelites had as they were oppressed by the Egyptian taskmasters.
But the Supper of the Passover is over, and the Lord’s Supper has not yet been instituted, so this is not part of a normal procedure. It is devised by Christ as a last attempt to arrest Judas on his downward path. At an ordinary meal, a host might give to a favoured guest a choice morsel, and this is what the Lord does here. He does not offer it to John, “whom Jesus loved”, however, but to Judas. It may be that Judas was reclining the other side of Christ to John, so it would not be so striking for him to receive the morsel first. This is perhaps the last appeal to Judas, unless we count the words, “betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss” as the last. After that happened, Judas stood with the band that came for the arrest, whereas here, after the morsel, Judas leaves the apostles, and the Lord. What a revelation of the heart of Christ, that He was prepared to give the morsel reserved for the favoured guest to the one who was His betrayer, if that will bring him back from the brink of disaster!
And when He had dipped the sop, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon- again we have the full name, as if in a court of law. We cannot know what struggles were in the heart of Judas at this point, but he was goaded on by Satan, and even this act of appeal by Christ did not move him.
13:27 And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly.
And after the sop Satan entered into him- this is the second time this phrase has been used. Luke tells us that Satan entered into Judas before he went to the high priests to discuss how the betrayal might take place, Luke 22:3. To take such a step was not possible for a man in his ordinary mind. Satan must so infiltrate that mind that Judas will do his will and not God’s. So it is here, for he is about to actually carry out the deed, and again he needs supernatural strength to carry it out.
It is hardly likely that the Lord would have allowed a Satan-possessed man, in the ordinary sense of the expression, to be in the upper room. Nor would He have touched him, as He must have done to wash his feet. With the possible exception of Luke 13:11-16, where the Lord touched the woman with the spirit of infirmity, we never read of the Lord having physical contact with demon-possessed persons.
John gives the time as “after the sop”, emphasising that the giving of the sop was a definite gesture on the part of the Lord.
Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly- that He knew who the betrayer was is testimony that He is truly God, but this expression reveals yet again that He is truly man also, and does not wish to prolong the interval until the arrest. The fact that after this the Lord continued with His disciples in unhurried discourse with them, and then communed with His Father, shows that He knew when the arrest would take place. He did not hurry away from the upper room immediately after Judas had gone out.
He also commands Judas to go, because He wants the maximum time with His own before the arrest, and He wants as little time as possible in the company of one into whom Satan has entered. Even though Judas would go immediately to the priests, the Lord controlled the moment when they would come to arrest Him in the garden.
13:28 Now no man at the table knew for what intent He spake this unto him.
Now no man at the table knew for what intent He spake this unto him- it seems that the disciples are somewhat in a state of shock, as the news that one of their number is a traitor sinks in to their minds. Events have overtaken them, and they are clearly having difficulty in realising the true import of the Lord’s words and actions. It was not that they were dull intellectually, (their writings show this not to be the case), but they no doubt could not bring themselves to think that Judas would betray their Lord, that out from the very closest circle of favour would come one with such a terrible idea in his mind. The last thing they thought was that Judas would sink so low as to actually deliver the Lord up to the authorities. They probably were thinking of betrayal in a mild sense. After all, they would all forsake Him and flee in an hour or two’s time; was that not in one sense betrayal?
It may even be the case that they were prevented from knowing the awful truth, lest they be utterly downcast. The truth of the resurrection was withheld from them, Luke 18:31-34, so this may also have been.
13:29 For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor. It was common at Passover time to give to the poor so that they could buy the things necessary for the keeping of the feast. The lamb had already been purchased and slain, of course, but the Feast of Passover was followed immediately by the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread, and there were other duties to perform. So whether the needs of the apostles, or the needs of the poor, this was what they thought Judas was charged to meet.
(g) Verses 31-38 Pathway of Christ and His people
13:30 He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.
He then having received the sop went immediately out- this picks up the narrative from the giving of the sop in verse 26. Unwittingly, Judas by this action submits to the Lordship of Christ, for He does go out quickly and immediately. It was not the obedience of a believing heart, however. There comes a moment, at the very end of time, when every knee shall bow to Jesus in recognition that He is indeed Lord. When Judas stood with the arrest party in the garden, he went backwards and fell to the ground in response to the words from Christ, “I am He”. This too is a foretaste of what shall happen at last. It is said of Cain after he had slain his brother Abel, that he “went out from the presence of the Lord”, Genesis 4:16, and now Judas follows in his footsteps.
And it was night- it has been observed many times how that John tells us of external, physical circumstances to bring out moral conditions. In 18:18 we read, “it was cold”, (like Peter’s heart); in 18:28, “it was early”, for the authorities were eager to convict Him. Here the darkness of the night, (for the moon will not rise until midnight), is a reflection of the darkness in Judas’ heart. The eternal darkness also, of his eternal destiny, Jude 13. All this is in strong contrast to the light of the glory of Christ which is about to be the brighter displayed.
It could well be that it is at this point that the Lord institutes the Lord’s Supper. The betrayer has gone, together with Satan who had entered into him. It can now be truly called “the night in which He was betrayed”, 1 Corinthians 11:23.
13:31 Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in Him.
Therefore, when he was gone out- it is ironic that he who never addressed Christ as Lord responds immediately to His direction to do immediately what he intended to do. All shall recognise Christ as Lord at the last, whether willingly or unwillingly, Philippians 2:11. As a result of the departure of Judas. the Lord is free to speak of glory. It is as if all that Judas represented in terms of the hostility of the nation and the enmity of Satan has gone away. Once the Lord’s Supper, with its remembrance of Himself and the proclamation of His death, has been instituted, and is over, the Lord can dwell on future glories. The departure of Judas made a very deep impression on John, for his love to Christ was in marked contrast to Judas’ betrayal. He wrote later, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us”, 1 John 2:19. He is writing of antichrists, and Judas was the one amongst the apostles who showed himself to be antichristian.
Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified- Judas has gone out into the dark night, but the glory shines in the Upper Room still. Note He calls Himself Son of Man. It is as a man that He is going to be reinstated to His place in heaven. The glory He had with the Father as His Son eternally, is going to be His in manhood. He is so confident of a ready reception to the Father’s house that He speaks of being glorified as if it has already happened. This is how He will speak in His prayer to His Father in chapter 17. For example, “I am no more in the world, but these are in the world”, verse 11. Yet He does not presume upon His Father, for He asks for the glory to be given Him. He is still subject to His Father, as well as confident of His approval.
And God is glorified in Him- His work at the cross will bring every attribute of God into fullest display, so that there is a glorifying of God even in the cross. So He is not expecting glory for Himself alone, but to glorify His Father even more. He will pray like this in John 17:1 when He asks to be glorified so that He might further glorify the Father. There is no sense of seeking to disturb Divine order. Judas no doubt thought that He was heading for disgrace because He had failed to set up His kingdom. Christ was privy to the Divine programme, and would wait God’s time to receive glory. He will come to reign “in His own glory, and in His Father’s”, Luke 9:26.
13:32 If God be glorified in Him, God shall also glorify Him in Himself, and shall straightway glorify Him.
If God be glorified in Him, God shall also glorify Him in Himself- if what He has just spoken of comes to pass, as it surely will, then it will be because God has personally glorified Him. It is a move by God the Father in relation to the Son. It will not be glory bestowed mediately, as by angels glorifying Him with their worship, for example. It will be a personal and direct bestowal by His Father.
And shall straightway glorify Him- so the glorifying will not be delayed, for the Lord has given His Father ample reason to honour Him immediately He returns to heaven. As Peter wrote, “God raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory”, 1 Peter 1:21, as if there was no interval from the resurrection to the ascension. He will not have to wait until the time of the kingdom, for He shall come in glory to set up that kingdom, and then sit on “the throne of His glory”, Matthew 25:31, so the glory spoken of here will already be His when He comes out of heaven to reign. So Judas’ dark deed will be the instigation of events which will glorify God for all eternity. As the psalmist said, “Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee”, Psalm 76:10.
13:33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek Me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you.
Little children- now that the false apostle has left, and shown himself to be without eternal life, the Lord can address His own genuine apostles with a term of endearment and comfort. It reassures them that He does not harbour suspicious thoughts about them, but addresses them as members of the family of God. He has made it clear that He knew the heart of Judas and what evil thoughts lurked there. By the same token He must know theirs, and He here indicates that He believes them to be genuine. This will be a great encouragement for them in the short-term, when He is arrested and crucified, and long-term too, when He is absent from them after His ascension. That this expression made a deep impression of John is seen in the fact that he uses it seven times in his first epistle.
Yet a little while I am with you- this is the first of several mentions of this phrase in these chapters, and the Lord is gently introducing the idea of His departure from them. They must not expect Him to rise from the dead and then remain upon the earth.
Ye shall seek Me- the Jews would seek Him to arrest Him, they would not seek Him for salvation. As He said in Gethsemane, when they came to arrest Him, “Whom seekest thou?”, John 18:4. The disciples however, whose hearts were true to Him and not hostile, would seek Him out in resurrection, first of all. Yet they sought Him in the wrong place, initially, for when the women came to the empty sepulchre the angels said, “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen”, Luke 24:5,6. Now that He is gone back to heaven it is the great privilege to seek Him there. As the apostle Paul wrote, (and his ministry was especially designed to direct us heavenwards), “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set you affection on things above, not on things on the earth”, Colossians 3:1,2. When He was born the angels pointed out where He was. After He had risen, they pointed out where He was not.
And as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you- this is a reference to John 8:21. The reason the Jews could not follow Him was because they would die in their sins, and therefore not get to be with Him in heaven. The reason the disciples would not be able to follow Him was because He was going to the cross to die for others’ sins, and they could not follow Him there.
13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another- the Law of Moses commanded men to love their neighbour, Leviticus 19:18, but it gave no power to put this into effect, for it was “weak through the flesh”, Romans 8:3. The apostles, however, have just been addressed as little children, so they are in the family of God and therefore have eternal life within. When they love one another they are expressing the life of the God who is love.
The commandment is new in the sense that, once He has left them and the Spirit has come at Pentecost, for the first time there will be those with the power within themselves to carry it out, for the indwelling Spirit will enable them to fulfil the righteousness of the law, Romans 8:4.
As I have loved you, that ye also love one another- this is another reason why the commandment is new; for the newness lays in the example that is given. According to the manner in which He had loved them, (such is the force of the word “as”), they are to love one another as fellow-members of the family of God. Later on He will say, “As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you: continue ye in My love”, John 15:9. Clearly then this is no half-hearted sort of love, but is as intense as the love between the Father and the Son eternally, (for it is “the Father hath loved”- the Lord is looking into eternity).
13:35 By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another.
By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another- since God is love, where there are those who love like He does, there must be Divine life. The apostle John puts it negatively in his epistle, with the words, “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now”, 1 John 2:9. To be in the light is to be a believer. The world must be given the opportunity to see love in exhibition, not now directly by the Lord, but through His people. Disciples are learners, and they must learn to love like He does.
13:36 Simon Peter said unto Him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow Me now; but thou shalt follow Me afterwards.
Simon Peter said unto Him, Lord, whither goest thou? In the references to going away in John 7:34, and 8:21, the Jews surmised that He was going to the dispersed Jews amongst the nations. The Lord gave them a hint as to what He meant by saying that He came from above, but since they did not believe that He had come from heaven, the words were lost on them. And Peter, although he believed that Christ was the Son of God, does no know where the Lord is going, for he cannot understand how the Lord can go somewhere he cannot.
Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow Me now- notice that Peter has been so taken up with the idea of the Lord going that he is ignoring the matter of love to his fellow-believers. Peter, and all of them, must learn that the Lord had a unique journey to make, even to Calvary, then to the grave, then to heaven. That Peter did learn this lesson is seen in the fact that he says of the Lord “who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree”, 1 Peter 2:24. Peter insists that He went on that journey alone.
But thou shalt follow Me afterwards- they could not follow Him in that journey literally, but they would do so spiritually, for believers are crucified with Christ, buried with Christ, raised with Christ, and seated in heavenly places in Christ, Romans 6:6,4; Ephesians 2:5,6. There was also a particular way in which Peter would follow, because the Lord will tell him after His resurrection that “when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee wither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God”, John 21:18,19. And so it came to pass, for Peter is said to have died by crucifixion. So he did follow afterwards, but in such a way as to preserve the uniqueness of the work of Christ. When the Israelites were about to cross the Jordan, they were to keep a space of two thousand cubits between themselves and the ark, and God said, “Come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have passed this way heretofore”, Joshua 3:4. The ark must be clearly seen to lead the way. When the waters of Jordan are stayed, then they could follow, but not before.
13:37 Peter said unto Him, Lord, why cannot I follow Thee now? I will lay down my life for Thy sake.
Peter said unto Him, Lord, why cannot I follow Thee now? Peter was not ready for the answer to that question, but he would understand later, after Pentecost.
I will lay down my life for Thy sake- Peter has a sense that the Lord is going into danger, and he is willing to protect Him, as he showed by his use of the sword in Gethsemane. He uses the same wording as the Lord did when He spoke of laying down His life for the sheep, John 10:11. Peter, for all his zeal, cannot match that work, or that level of devotion.
13:38 Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for My sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied Me thrice.
Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for My sake? The question is turned back upon Peter so that he can think harder about what he has said.
Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied Me thrice- here is a further statement prefaced by the formula “verily, verily”, because Peter is in no mood to accept what will be said, so the Lord pre-empts his natural response by His word of certainty and authority.
We should distinguish between the cock crowing to signal the beginning of the last watch of the night, which was called “Cock-crowing”, and the crowing of the cock at any time of the night. The cock-crowing watch extended from 2am until 6am, when the day was reckoned to begin. It has recently been found that not only do hens have a pecking-order, to establish their place in the hierarchy among them, but cocks have a crowing-order, by which they establish their place. Now Mark tells us that after Peter had denied his Lord the first time, he went out into the porch of the High Priest’s Palace court, and a cock crowed. This was a warning to Peter, for when the list of apostles is given to us by Matthew, the wording is, “The first, Simon, who is called Peter”, Matthew 10:2. Now we know that the Lord Jesus, the last Adam, has control of the birds of the air, Psalm 8:8; Hebrews 2:5-9; 1 Corinthians 15:45, so He it is who prompted the cock to crow at this precise moment as a warning to Peter, as if to say, “You are the first amongst the apostles, just as the cockerel you have just heard is first among the others, so remember the warning I gave you about three denials”. Sadly he went on to deny twice more, and again the Lord controlled the cock, this time not allowing it to crow until the moment of His choosing, for He had said to Peter, “Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny Me thrice”, Mark 14:30.
After He had said these words to Peter, He took them into Gethsemane, and Peter was able to witness the three sessions of prayer the Lord Jesus had in the Garden. He found them sleeping as He came back from prayer, and commanded them, “Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation”, Mark 14:38. Sadly, they were asleep each time He came; is it any wonder that Peter fell into temptation? It is good for Peter that the Lord prayed for him, because Satan had desired to have him, otherwise who knows what he might have done? But in the ordering of God good came from it, for the Lord also said, “when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren”, Luke 22:32. And this he was able to do both by preaching and by writing, for his three denials, and his three sessions of sleeping, were dealt with by the Lord by the lake, John 21:15-17, and a three-fold assertion of love for the Lord was a sign that he was converted, and thereafter could strengthen his brethren so that they did not deny their Lord. As Peter wrote many years later,
But the God of all grace,
who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus,
after that ye have suffered a while,
make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.
To Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever, Amen”,
1 Peter 5:10,11.