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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
John 13

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-38


The Last Supper

1-17. The Supper and the Feet-washing. This supper is identified by almost all modern authorities with the Last Supper, which took place on Thursday night at Jerusalem (Matthew 26:20; Mark 14:17; Luke 22:14). Writing to supplement the synoptists, St. John omits practically all that they have recorded, and this accounts for his omission of the institution of the Holy Communion. The points peculiar to St. John are the feet-washing, the incident of the sop, the details about the beloved disciple, and the wonderful discourses, of which the synoptists give no hint.

1. Before the feast] St. John corrects the impression, which many have derived from the synoptic narratives, that the Last Supper was the actual Jewish Passover. It was, in fact, a Christian Passover, held the day before the Jewish feast (John 18:28), and probably not conformed in all respects to the Jewish ritual. There is, for example, no mention of a lamb, though it is possible that there may have been one. Unto the end] or, 'to the uttermost.'

2. Supper being ended] or, 'during supper' (RV). But inasmuch as feet-washing took place at the beginning of a meal, much is to be said for the rendering,' supper having been served.' The devil] Judas had so often yielded to Satan's evil suggestions that now he made no resistance. Heart stands here as often for the soul, or inner man.

4. Riseth] The disciples had been disputing (Luke 22:24) which of them should be accounted greatest, and, as we gather from Christ's rebuke (Luke 22:27), not one of them would serve at supper, for fear of being thought inferior to the others. Jesus, therefore, after waiting a little for one of them to offer, rose Himself. Not content with waiting at table, which might upon occasion be done by a person of good position (John 12:2), He washed their feet, the function of a slave. Feet-washing took place before a banquet, and was occasionally omitted, though its absence might be remarked (Luke 7:44). St. John's account supplements St. Luke's by recording the symbolical act by which our Lord enforced His words, 'I am among you as he that serveth' (Luke 22:27).

8. If I wash thee not] Besides the literal, the evangelist sees in these words a symbolical meaning: 'Unless I wash thee from thy sins, thou hast no part with Me': see John 13:10.

10. He that is washed (i.e. has bathed his whole body) needeth not save to wash his feet] This is a parable of things spiritual. The complete bathing or immersion stands for the full and complete forgiveness which Christ offers to His disciples in Holy Baptism, and which cannot be repeated: the washing of the feet symbolises the daily forgiveness of sins committed after Baptism by repentance and prayer.

Not all] The apostles had repented of their pride and ambition, and had received forgiveness from our Lord (John 15:3), except Judas, who could not be forgiven, because he cherished his sin.

12. Set down] rather, 'reclined at table': see John 13:23.

14-17. Our Lord now draws from the incident the more obvious lessons of humility and willing service to others, as in St. Luke (Luke 22:24-30).

14. This precept was obeyed literally by many ancient Churches on Maundy Thursday, and still is by the Roman and Eastern Churches.

18-30. Jesus indicates the Traitor.

18. I do not call you all happy (blessed), for I know that among you is a traitor. But My choice even of the traitor is in accordance with the prophecy of Scripture. The scripture] The quotation is a free one from Psalms 41:9. The speaker is David, but since David is a type of Christ, the words are treated as a typical prophecy of Christ's betrayal.

19. That I am he] i.e. the Messiah; or, 'that I AM' (see John 8:58).

20. Lest the knowledge that there is a traitor among them should weaken their confidence in one another, and in their divine call to the apostolate, Jesus hastens to assure them that they will receive the fullest divine powers from Himself and His Father for the work of the ministry.

21-30. Cp. the parallel accounts in Matthew 26:21; Mark 14:18; Luke 22:21. St. John's main point is that the designation of the traitor was private, not public. It was made in a whisper to St. John only, and even to him the name was not mentioned. St. John's account is altogether probable. Had Jesus denounced the traitor clearly and openly, Judas would never have left the room alive.

23. Leaning on (RV 'reclining in') Jesus' bosom] The guests lay on their left sides, on separate but adjacent couches, each supporting his head upon his left hand, with his left elbow resting upon a cushion. The first place of honour (behind Jesus) was probably occupied by St. Peter; the second place of honour (in front of Jesus) was occupied by St. John. St. John, therefore, could easily lean back on Jesus' bosom.

26. Answered] evidently in a whisper, so that St. Peter could not hear. A sop] RV 'the sop.' The sop handed to another was a pledge of good will, like our old custom of taking wine with a person. At the Passover the sop consisted of three things wrapped together, the flesh of the paschal lamb, a piece of unleavened bread, and bitter herbs. 27. The sop was the last appeal of divine love to Judas. He rejected it, and straightway at that moment the devil obtained full possession of his soul.

30. Went immediately out] St. John represents Judas as departing before the institution of the Holy Communion (see John 13:34). The synoptists (or, at least, St. Luke) seem to represent him as remaining and communicating. St. John's account is altogether more probable.

Night] The word has tragic emphasis. It was night literally, a time appropriate for deeds of darkness; also it was night spiritually in the soul of Judas, in which the light of God's Spirit had been for ever quenched.

John 13:31 to John 17:26. The Last Discourses of Jesus to His disciples. We come now to what is perhaps the most precious part of the whole evangelical history, those wonderful discourses, delivered by our Lord in the upper room just after the institution of the Lord's Supper. St. John alone records them. Like a consecrated priest, the evangelist conducts us into the Holy of Holies, revealing the inmost thoughts, desires, and aspirations of our divine Redeemer.

31-35. The Lord's Supper (Holy Communion) and the New Commandment of Love. Relieved of the traitor's presence, our Lord institutes the rite of Holy Communion, which is to take the place of the Passover, and proceeds to explain its significance as a pledge and bond of love among the disciples (John 13:34-35), and afterwards as a means of union and communion with Himself (John 15:1.).

31. Now is the Son of man glorified] viz. by death. His death was already virtually accomplished, when the traitor went forth to arrange for His arrest.

32. God shall also glorify him] viz. by raising Him from the dead, and exalting Him to His right hand in heaven. In himself] i.e. in the Father's peculiar glory, which the Son of God resigned at His Incarnation: cp. John 17:5; Philippians 2:8-11.

33. Little children] This touching designation is almost, if not altogether, peculiar to St. John (1 John 2:1, 1 John 2:12, 1 John 2:28; 1 John 3:7, 1 John 3:18; 1 John 4:4; 1 John 5:21). In extreme old age, when too feeble to preach, he used to be carried into Church, and simply to say to the people, 'Little children, love one another.'

Ye shall seek me] 'You will be left here on earth for a time; but, unlike the Jews, you will seek Me and will find Me, for if you love one another, I will answer your prayers, and reveal Myself to you.' Ye cannot come] not at once, but hereafter, for 'I go to prepare a place for you' (John 14:2).

34. A new commandment] Love is the fulfilling of the Law. The old commandment to love one another (Leviticus 19:18), which our Lord regarded as the essential feature of the Law, is now reenacted in a higher sense, and grounded on a new motive, viz. the Love of Christ for all mankind, as shown in His Atoning Death. The feast which commemorates this death is to be the great bond of love and union among Christians.

36-38. Peter's denial foretold] Parallel with Luke 22:31-34, and similar in character to Matthew 26:31; Mark 14:27, q.v.

36. Thou shalt follow] a prophecy not only of Peter's martyrdom, but, as the event showed, of the manner of his martyrdom (crucifixion): see John 21:18, John 21:19.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on John 13:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/john-13.html. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, July 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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