Christ Washing His Disciples' Feet
Below is an Analysis of the passage which is to be before us:—
1. Christ's unchanging love, verse 1.
2. Judas's inveterate hatred, verse 2.
3. Christ's return to the Father, verse 3.
4. Christ performing a slave's work, verses 4, 5.
5. Peter's blundering ignorance, verses 6-9.
6. Bathing and cleansing, verse 10.
7. The traitor excepted, verse 11.
We are now to enter upon what many believers in each age have regarded as the most precious portion of this Gospel, yea, as one of the most blessed passages in all the Word of God. John 13begins a new section, a section clearly distinguished and separated from what has gone before. At the beginning of the Gospel two things were stated in connection with the outcome of Christ's mission and ministry: the nation, as such, "received him not": this has been fully demonstrated, especially in chapters 5 to 12; second, those who did "receive him" were to be brought into the place of children of God. In chapters 13to 17 we see Christ alone with His own, separated from the world, telling them of their peculiar portion and privileges.
At the close of Christ's public ministry, we are told "He departed and did hide himself from them"; that Isaiah, from the nation ( John 12:36). In 13to 17 we find the Savior, in most intimate fellowship with His disciples, revealing to them the wondrous place which they had in His love, and how that love would be continually exercised on their behalf now that He was about to leave them and go to the Father. He had told them that, "the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many" ( Matthew 20:28). All through His career Christ had "ministered" to His own, but now, His public ministry was over and He was on the eve of giving His life a ransom for them, to be followed by Him taking His place on high. It would, therefore, be natural for the disciples to conclude that His "ministry" unto them was also ended. But not so. It would continue, and that is what this blessed section of John's Gospel is primarily designed to show us. He loved these disciples (and us) not only unto the Cross, but "unto the end." His return to the Father would neither terminate nor diminish the activities of His love for His own: in Heaven He is still occupied with the interest of His people.
The central design of the "Paschal Discourse" of Christ was to lead His own into a spiritual understanding of their new place before the Father, and their new position in the world, as distinguished from the portion and place which they had had in Judaism. What we have in John 13to 17 takes the place of the long Olivet discourse recorded by each of the Synoptists. Here, instead of taking His seat upon the Mount, He brings the disciples, in spirit, into Heaven, and reveals the glories, blessedness, and holiness of the Sanctuary there. Instead of treating of the horrors of the Tribulation, He discloses to the family of God the activities of their great High Priest, as well as their own sorrows and joys during the time of their journey through this wilderness.
While there is a marked contrast between what we have at the close of John 12and the beginning of 13, there is also a close link of connection between them, a link which further develops the progressive unfolding of truth in this wondrous Gospel. In chapter 12Christ had spoken of Himself as "the corn of wheat" which had to die in order that it might bring forth "much fruit." As we have seen, this speaks of union and communion—blessedly illustrated in the opening scene, the "supper" in Bethany. But here in chapter 13and onwards, He makes known His own most gracious work for maintaining believers in fellowship with Himself. Two things, each most blessed and evidencing His perfections, are to be noted. First, His eye is on the heavenly sanctuary ( John 13:1); second, His eye is upon His own ( John 13:4). He guards the holy requirements of God, and He cares for and ministers to His people. We are left here in this world, and its dust is defiling, unfitting us for entrance into the Holiest. Here in John 13we see Christ fitting us for that place. It is important for us to recognize, though, that it is God's interests which He has at heart in washing our feet! Christ is here seen as the Laver which stood between the brazen altar and the sanctuary, and which was approached only after the brazen altar had done its work.
There is a further link between John 12,13which brings out a most blessed contrast—let the student be constantly on the lookout for these. At the beginning of John 12we behold the feet of the Lord; in John 13we see the feet of the disciples. The "feet" of Christ were anointed, those of the disciples were washed. As the Savior passed through this sinful world He contracted no defilement. He left it as He came: "holy, harmless, and undefiled." The "feet" speak of the walk, and the fact that Christ's feet were anointed with the fragrant spikenard tells of the sweet savor which ever ascended from Him to the Father, perfectly glorifying Him as He did in every step of His path. But in sharp contrast from Him, the walk of the disciples was defiled, and the grime of the way must be removed. Note, also, that the anointing of the Savior's feet is given before the washing of the disciples' feet—in all things He must have "the preeminence" ( Colossians 1:18)!
That which opens this section and introduces the "Paschal Discourse" is the Lord washing the feet of His disciples. The first thing to observe, particularly, is that it was water and not blood which was used for their cleansing. It is deeply important to note this, for many of the Lord's own people seem to be entirely ignorant about the distinction. Their speaking of a Revelation -application of the blood, of coming anew to "the fountain" which has been opened for sin and uncleanness when they have transgressed, proves that this is only too sadly true. The New Testament knows nothing whatever of a Revelation -application of the blood, or of sinning Christians needing to be washed in it again. To speak of such things is to grossly dishonor the all-efficacious sacrifice of the Cross. The blood of Jesus Christ God's Son cleanseth us from all sin ( 1 John 1:7). By "one offering he hath perfected forever them that are set apart" ( Hebrews 10:14). This being Song of Solomon, what provision, we may ask, has been made for the removal of the defilements which the Christian contracts by the way? The answer is "water."
A careful study will show that in the Old and New Testaments alike the "blood" is Godward, the "water" is saintward, to remove impurity in practice: the one affects our standing, the other our state; the former is for judicial cleansing, the latter is for practical purification. In the types, Leviticus 16 makes known God's requirements for the making of atonement; Numbers 19 tells of God's provision for the defilements of the way, as Israel journeyed through the wilderness. The latter was met not by blood, but by "the water of purification." Judicial cleansing from the guilt of all sin is the inalienable portion of every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. Moral cleansing, the practical purification of the heart and ways from all that defiles and hinders our communion with God is by water, that Isaiah, the Word, applied to us in power by the Holy Spirit.
"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" ( John 13:1). This opening verse supplies us with the first key to what follows. What we have here anticipates that which was in view in Christ's return to the Father. He graciously affords us a symbolic representation of His present service for us in Heaven. He is seated at the right hand of the Majesty on High, but He is there in our interests, ever living to make intercession for us, ever there as our Advocate with the Father, ever maintaining and succouring us by the way.
"Now before the feast of the passover," immediately before, for on the morrow Christ was to die as the true Lamb. The "passover" itself was eaten at the close of the fourteenth day of Nisan ( Exodus 12:6, 8); but "the feast," which lasted seven days, began on the fifteenth ( Numbers 28:17). What we have here, then, transpired on the eve before our Lord's death.
When Jesus knew that his hour was come." Christ is the only One who has ever trod this earth that was never taken by surprise. All was known and felt in the Father's presence. "That he should depart out of this world": note "this world," not "the world." It is striking to see how frequently this term occurs at the close of His life: "And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world" ( John 9:39); "He that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal" ( John 12:25); "Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the Prince of this world be cast out" ( John 12:31). "This world" was evidently a terrible place in the Lord's mind! He could not stay here. He had made the world ( John 1:10), but sin has made this world what it is. Note "that he should depart out of this world unto the Father," not unto heaven! How blessed! It was the Father's presence His heart desired!
"Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end." "His own"! After all the previous conflicts with an unbelieving world, after all His unavailing appeals to Israel, Christ now comforts His heart by lavishing His love upon the few who despised Him not. What a blessed expression"his own"! "Ye are not your own" ( 1 Corinthians 6:19); we belong to Christ. We all know the delight which comes from being able to call something our own. It is not so much the value of what is possessed which constitutes this satisfaction, as it is the simple consciousness that it is mine. It is the Holy Spirit here declaring the heart of the Savior in the terms of love. It is not with our poor estimate of Him, still less with our wretched selves, that He would occupy us. He would have us taken up with Christ's thoughts about us! We belong to the Lord Jesus in a threefold way. First, by the Father's eternal election. We are the Father's love-gift to the Son: "chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world." Second, we are His by His own redemptive rights. He paid the purchase price. He bought us for Himself: "Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it." Third, we are His by the effectual call of the Holy Spirit. If any one be in Christ, he is a new creation, and we are created anew by the Third Person of the Holy Trinity: "born of the Spirit."
"He loved them unto the end." Here is the care of the Good Shepherd for the sheep. Unto "the end" of what? Who can define it? First, unto the end of our earthly pilgrimage. We need the assurance of His love as we pass through this wilderness. We shall not need it when we see Him face to face and know as we are known. But we do need the full assurance of it now. And what a resting-place for the poor heart amid all the buffetings of this life—the bosom of the Savior! It is here that John turned ( John 13:23), and it is blessedly accessible to us, in spirit. Yea, it is to maintain us in the unending enjoyment of our place there, that the Lord Jesus is here seen washing the disciples' feet before He begins the long discourse which follows to the end of chapter 16. The love of Christ must be occupied about its objects, and this is what we see here. God is "light" ( 1 John 1:5), and God is "love" ( 1 John 4:16). In the first twelve chapters of this Gospel Christ is seen as light, revealing the Father, exposing men ( John 1:7; 3:19; 8:12; 9:5). But now we behold Him (with "his own") as love (cf. John 13:34; 14:12; 15:9; 17:26, etc.). But mark it, it is a holy love. Divine love cannot allow that which is unclean. Therefore does the holy love of Christ begin by removing defilement from the feet of His disciples! Most blessed is this. We delight to contemplate the love which caused Him to lay down His life for us, but let us never lose sight of the present activities of it.
"He loved them unto the end? Not only unto the last, but to the farthest extent of their need and of His grace. He knew that Philip would misunderstand Him, that three of them would sleep while He prayed and agonized, that Peter would deny Him, that Thomas would doubt Him, that all would "forsake him"—yet He "loved them unto the end"! And so it is with us, dear Christian reader. "His own" are the objects of HIS love; "unto the end" is the extent of His love. He loves us unto "the end" of our miserable failures, unto the "end" of our wanderings and backslidings, unto the "end" of our unworthiness, unto the "end" of our deep need.
His love no end or measure knows,
No change can turn its course;
Eternally the same it flows
From one eternal Source.
The first part of our verse intimates two things about the Lord Jesus at this time: the Cross was before Him with all its horrors; the joy of returning to the Father was before Him with all its bliss; yet neither the fearful prospect of woe nor the hope of unspeakable rest and gladness shook His love for His own. He is the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever, therefore His love never varies. He is eternal, therefore has He loved us with an everlasting love. He is Divine, therefore is His love different from all others, passing human knowledge.
"And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's Song of Solomon, to betray him" ( John 13:2). What a fearful contrast! From love to hate; from the Savior to Satan; from "his own" to the traitor! The mention of Judas here seems to be for the purpose of enhancing the beauty of what follows. The Devil had full mastery over the heart of the betrayer: thus in figure the Cross was passed—Satan had accomplished his design.
"Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God" ( John 13:3) "These statements of Christ's Divine origin, authority, and coming glory, are made so as to emphasize the amazing condescension of the service to which He humbled Himself to do the office of a bondslave" (Companion Bible).
"Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; he riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself" ( John 13:3, 4). "It was not in forgetfulness of His Divine origin, but in full consciousness of it, He discharged this menial function. As He had divested Himself of the ‘form of God' at the first, stripping Himself of the outward glory attendant on recognized Deity; and had taken upon Himself ‘the form of a servant,' so now He laid aside His garment and girded Himself; assuming the guise of a household slave. For a fisherman to pour water over a fisherman's feet was no great condescension; but that Hebrews, in whose hands are all human affairs and whose nearest relation is the Father, should thus condescend, is of unparalleled significance. It is this kind of action that is suitable to One whose consciousness is Divine. Not only does the dignity of Jesus vastly augment the beauty of the action, but it also sheds new light on the Divine character" (Dr. Dods).
Three things are to be carefully noted here as reasons why He washed His disciples' feet on this occasion. First, He knew that His hour was come when He should depart out of this world ( John 13:1); second, He loved His own unto the end ( John 13:1); third, because all things had been given into His hands, and He that had come from God was returning to God—for these reasons He arose from the table and girded Himself with a towel. As we shall see, all of this finds its explanation in the Lord's words to Peter, "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me" ( John 13:8). For three years the disciples had had "a part" with Him. But now He was about to leave them; but before doing so He would assure them (and us) that His wondrous love continues undiminished and unchanged after His return to the Father. Christ began a service in the Glory which, in another manner, He will continue forever. The service in which He is now engaged is to maintain our "part" with Him.
There has been much controversy as to what "supper" is referred to here in John 13. Most assuredly it was not the "Lord's Supper," for in John 13:26 we find Christ giving the "sop" to Judas, and the Synoptists make it unmistakably plain that this was at the paschal supper. The Lord's Supper receives no mention in the fourth Gospel. On this fact Bishop Ryle strikingly says, "I think it was specially intended to be a witness forever against the growing tendency of Christians to make an idol out of the sacraments. Even from the beginning there seems to have been a disposition in the Church to make a religion of forms and ceremonies rather than of heart, and to exalt outward ordinances to a place which God never meant them to fill. Against this teaching St. John was raised up to testify. The mere fact that in his Gospel he leaves out the Lord's Supper altogether, and does not even name it, is strong proof that the Lord's Supper cannot be, as many tell us, the first, chief, and principle thing in Christianity. His perfect silence about it can never be reconciled with this favorite theory. It is a most conspicuous silence, I can only see one answer: it is because it is not a primary, but a secondary thing in Christ's religion."
"He riseth from supper." In the order of events this comes right after what we read of in John 13:1: the time-mark there being connected with Christ's action here. Evidently it was just before the beginning of the meal that the Lord Jesus rose from the table—the meal being the paschal one. It is important to note that John's narrative carries everything on in strict connection from this point to John 14:31, and then on to John 18:1: therefore this "supper" and Christ's discourse to His disciples was at once followed by the going forth to Gethsemane. The question of Peter in John 13:24 is inexplicable if the paschal supper had already taken place (as quite a number have insisted), for the Synoptists are explicit that our Lord named the betrayer during this meal. Most of the difficulty has been created by the first clause of John 13:2, which should be rendered, "when the supper arrived," i.e, was ready. Mark how that 13:12 shows us Christ resuming His place at the table.
"He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments: and took a towel, and girded himself" ( John 13:4). Everything here, we doubt not, has a deep symbolical meaning. The "supper" was the paschal one, and clearly spoke of Christ's death. The rising from supper and the laying aside of His garments (cf. John 20:6) pictured our Lord on the resurrection-side of the grave. The girding Himself speaks of service, the heavenly service in which He is now engaged on behalf of His people. It is a wonderful thing that the Lord never relinquished His servant character. Even which the modern advocates of the Song of Solomon -called sacramental system can never get over, or explain away. If the sacrament of the Lord's Supper really is the first and chief thing in Christianity, why does St. John tell us nothing about it? To that question after His return to the Glory He still ministers to us. Beautifully was this typified of old in connection with the Hebrew servant in Exodus 21. "If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free . . . If the servant shall plainly say I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free, then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, and unto the door-post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him forever" (verses 2-5, 6). This has been expounded at length in our "Gleanings in Exodus." Suffice it now to say that it affords us a most blessed foreshadowment of the perfect Servant. Christ will "serve forever." To-day He is serving us, applying the Word (by His Spirit) to our practical state, dealing with what unfits us for fellowship with Himself on high. Luke 12:37 gives us a precious word upon His future service: "Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them." And how will He "serve" us then? By ministering to our happiness and enjoyment as "His guests"!
"After that he poureth water into a basin," etc. ( John 13:5). Everything here is Divinely perfect. Seven distinct actions are attributed to the Savior: "He (1) riseth from supper, and (2) laid aside his garments, and (3) took a towel, and (4) girded himself. After that he (5) Poureth water into a basin, and (6) began to wash the disciples' feet, and (7) to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded." It was their feet which He here proceeded to wash. Their persons were already cleansed. They had been brought out of Judaism, and a heavenly portion was now theirs—a place in the Father's House. But their conduct must be suited to that House. Their walk must be in accord with their heavenly calling. They must be kept clean in their ways.
The water with which the Savior here cleansed the soiled feet of His disciples was an emblem of the Word: "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word" ( Psalm 119:9). Fully and blessedly is this brought out in Ephesians 5:25, 26:"Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.""Every clause of this passage is found here in John 13. He ‘loved' them, the Church. He ‘gave himself' for them, the ‘supper' setting forth that: that He might ‘sanctify,' separate to Himself, thus they were ‘his own'; and ‘cleanse' it with the washing of water by the Word. It is complete; His constant, perfect provision for our being kept clean" (Mr. Malachi Taylor). It is to be particularly observed that the Lord did not leave this work unfinished or half done: like a perfect servant, our Lord not only "washed" their feet, but He "wiped" them as well!
"Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet?" ( John 13:6). Simon was ever blundering, and his sad faults and failings are recorded for our learning. "In Divine things the wisdom of the believer is subjection to Christ and confidence in Him. What He does we are called on to accept with thankfulness of heart, and as Mary said to the servants at the marriage-feast, ‘Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.' This Simon Peter did not, for when the Lord approached him in the form of a servant or bond- Prayer of Manasseh, he demurred. Was there not faith ‘working by love' in Peter's heart? Both, undoubtedly, yet not then in action, but buried under superabundant feeling of a human order, else he had not allowed his mind to question what the Lord saw fit to do. He had rather bowed to Christ's love and sought to learn, as He might teach, what deep need must be in him and his fellows to draw forth such a lowly yet requisite service from his Master... Too self-confident and indeed ignorant not only of himself and the defiling scene around, but of the depths and constancy of Christ's love, Peter says to Him, ‘Lord, dost thou wash my feet?' Granting that he could not know what was not yet revealed, but was it comely of him, was it reverent, to question what the Lord was doing? He may have thought it humility in himself, and honor to the Lord, to decline a service so menial at His hands. But Peter should never have forgotten that as Jesus never said a word, so He never did an act save worthy of God and demonstrative of the Father; and now more than ever were His words and ways an exhibition of Divine grace, as human evil set on by Satan, not only in those outside, but within the innermost circle of His own, called for increased distinctness and intensity.
"The truth is we need to learn from God how to honor Him, and learn to love according to His mind. And if any man think that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know; this, too, was Peter's mistake. He should have suspected his thoughts, and waited in all submissiveness on Him who, as many confessed that knew far less than he did, ‘hath done all things well,' and was absolutely what He was saying, truth and love in the same blessed Person. The thoughts of God are never as ours, and saints slip into those of Prayer of Manasseh, unless they are taught of God, by faith, in detail, too, as well as in the main; for we cannot, ought not, to trust ourselves in anything. God the Father will have the Son honored; and He is honored most when believed in and followed in His humiliation. Peter therefore was equally astray when he once ventured to rebuke the Lord for speaking of His suffering and death, as now when he asks, ‘Dost thou wash my feet?í" (Bible Treasury).
"Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter" ( John 13:7). We take it that the force of this Isaiah, briefly, as follows: Peter, this gives a picture, a sample, of the work which I shall perform for My people when I return to the Father. You do not see the significance of it now, but you will later, when the Holy Spirit has come. This was really a rebuke; but given tenderly. Peter ought to have known that in his Lord's mysterious action there must be a purpose and a meaning in it worthy of His subjection to the Father and expressive of His love for His own. But like us, Peter was dull of discernment, slow to learn. Instead of gladly submitting to the most high Sovereign now performing the service of a slave, he plunges still further into worse error: "Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet." It was ignorance, yea, affection, which prompted him; but that did not excuse him. But how blessed that he had, and that we have, to do with One who bears with us in our dullness, and whose grace corrects our faults!
"Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet" ( John 13:8). We are all ready to censure Peter for not complying immediately with the Lord's will when he knew it. But let us beware lest we be guilty of something more inexcusable than what we condemn in the apostle. Peter said he would not submit, yet he did, and that very quickly. Is it not sadly true of us, that we often say we will submit, and yet remain obstinately disobedient? As another has said, "We do not use Peter's words, but we act them, which he durst not do. What, then, is the difference between us and him? Is it not just the difference between the two sons in the parable—the one of whom said, ‘I go, and went not,' the other of whom said, ‘I will not go, and afterwards repented and went?' Which of these did the will of the father? Whether do you think Peter's refractory expression, or our disobedient conduct, most deserving of censure?"
"Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me" ( John 13:8). "If I wash thee not": we cannot wash our own feet; we are totally incompetent, not only for the saving of our souls, hut also for the cleansing of our defiled walk. Nor has even the Word apart from His living presence any efficacy. Our feet must be in His hands, that is to say, we must completely yield to Him. It is not simply that we are to judge our ways according to our apprehension of the Word, and its requirements, but He must interpret and apply it, and for this we must be in His presence.
But what is meant by "no part with me?" Ah, here is the key that unlocks the chamber that conducts us to the very center of this incident. The word "part" has reference to fellowship. This is seen from our Lord's words concerning the sister of Martha: "Mary hath chosen that good part" ( Luke 10:42). The meaning of this word "part" is clearly defined again in 2Corinthians 6:15, "What concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?"
What is the "washing"? "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me." It is something which is needed by all believers. We say "believers," for though all such have a portion in Christ, how often they fail to enjoy their "part" with Him. This "washing" is something more than confession of sin and the consequent forgiveness. It is the searching out of the Word, in the presence of God, of that which led me into evil; it is judging the root, of which sins are the fruit. Yet this "washing" must not be limited to God's remedy for our declension and failure, rather should we view it as His gracious provision for our daily need, as a preservative and preventative against outward failures. We need to get alone with our Lord each day, opening our hearts to the light as the flower does its petals to the sun. Alas! that we have so little consciousness of our deep need for this, and that there is so little retirement and examination of our ways before God. To really place our feet for washing in the blessed hands of Christ is to come before Him in the attitude of the Psalmist: "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" ( Psalm 139:23, 24). This is imperatively necessary if, while in such a defiling place as this world, we are to have a "part" with Him.
"Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head" ( John 13:9). Here, with characteristic impulsiveness, Peter rushes to the opposite extreme. As he hears that he could have no part with Christ except the Lord wash him, he is ready now to be washed all over. It was the passionate outburst of a warm-hearted if dull-minded disciple. Nevertheless, his ignorance voiced another error. He needed not now to be washed all over. The sinner does, but the saint does not. It is only our walk which needs cleansing.
"Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit" ( John 13:10). The distinction which our Lord here drew is of vital importance. "He that is washed," better, "He who has been bathed," that Isaiah, his whole person cleansed: "needeth not save to wash his feet," then is he completely fit for communion with the Lord. There is a washing which believers have in Christ that needs not to be ever repeated. In Him there is to be found a cleansing which is never lost. "By one offering he hath perfected forever them that are set apart" ( Hebrews 10:14). The believer has been purged from all sin, and made meet to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light ( Colossians 1:12). This purging needs no repetition. It is of first moment that the Christian should be dear upon this basic truth. The benefits which Christ confers upon the believer are never recalled; the efficacy of His precious blood abides upon him eternally. The moment a sinner, drawn by the Holy Spirit, comes to Christ, he is completely and finally cleansed. It is the apprehension of this which gives a finn rock for my feet to rest upon. It assures me that my hope is a stable one; that my standing before God is immutable. It banishes doubt and uncertainty. It gives the heart and mind abiding peace to know that the benefits I have found in Christ are never to be recalled. I am brought out from under condemnation and placed in a state of everlasting acceptance. All this, and more, is included in the "bathing" which Christ has declared needs not to be repeated. I stand resplendent in the sight of God in all the Savior's beauty and perfections. God looks upon believers not merely as forgiven, but as righteous: as truly as Christ was "made sin" for us, so have we been "made the righteousness of God in him."
But side by side with this blessed truth of a bathing in Christ which needs not, and cannot be, repeated, stands another truth of great practical importance: "He that is bathed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit." There is a partial cleansing which the believer still needs, a daily washing to counteract the defiling effects of this world. Our daily contact with the evil all around causes the dust of defilement to settle upon us so that the mirror of our conscience is dimmed and the spiritual affections of our heart are dulled. We need to come afresh into the presence of Christ in order to learn what things really are, surrendering ourselves to His judgment in everything, and submitting to His purging Word. And who is there that, even for a single day, lives without sin? Who is there that does not need to daily pray, "Forgive us our trespasses''? Only One has ever walked here and been unsoiled by the dust of earth. He went as He came, unstained, uncontaminated. But who is there among His people that does not find much in his daily walk that makes him blush for shame! How much unfaithfulness we all have to deplore! Let me but compare my walk with Christ's, and, unless I am blinded by conceit or deceived by Satan, I shall at once see that I come infinitely short of Him, and though "following his steps" (not "in his steps" as it is so often misquoted), it is but "afar off." So often my acts are un-Christlike in character, so often my disposition and ways have "the flesh" stamped upon them. Even when evil does not break out in open forms, we are conscious of much hidden wrong, of sins of thought, of vile desires. How real, then, how deep, is our daily need of putting our feet in the hands of Christ for cleansing, that everything which hinders communion with Him may be removed, and that He can say of us, "Ye are clean"!
Is it not most significant that nothing is said in this chapter about the washing of the disciples' hands? Does it not point a leading contrast between the Mosaic and the Christian dispensations? Under the law, where there was so much of doing, the priests were required to wash both their hands and their feet ( Exodus 30:19); but under grace all has been done for us, and if the walk be right, the work will be acceptable!
"And ye are clean, but not all. For he knew who should betray him; therefore said Hebrews, Ye are not all clean" ( John 13:10, 11). Christ here referred to Judas, though He did not name the Traitor. Judas must have known what He meant, but his conscience was seared as with a red-hot iron, and his heart was harder than the nether mill-stone. Even this touching exhibition of the condescending love and grace of Christ toward His disciples made no impression upon him. In less than one hour he went forth to sell his Master. In his case it was not a matter of losing spiritual life, but of manifesting the fact that he never had it. It was not a sheep of Christ becoming unclean, but of a dog returning to his vomit. Unspeakably solemn warning is this for those who, for a time, maintain an outward form of godliness, but are strangers to its inward power.
The following questions are to help the student prepare for the next lesson:—
1. What is the typical teaching of verse 12?
2. What is the important lesson on reverence in verse 13?
3. How are we to obey, verses 14, 15?
4. What is the thought suggested by verse 16 coming right after verses 14, 15?
5. What lessons are to be learned from verse 17?
6. What is the meaning of verse 19?
7. What blessed truth is expressed in verse 20?
Christ's Example For Us
The following is given as an Analysis of the second section of John 13:—
1. Christ's searching question, verse 12.
2. Christ's dignity and authority, verse 13.
3. Christ's example for us to follow, verses 14, 15.
4. Christ's warning against pride, verse 16.
5. Christ's approval of practical godliness, verse 17.
6. Christ's word about the Traitor, verses 18, 19.
7. Christ's encouragement to His servants, verse 20.
The opening portion of John 13makes known the provision which Divine love has made for failure in our walk as we journey through this world-wilderness, and the means which are used to maintain us in fellowship with Christ. Its central design is stated by the Lord when He said to Peter, "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me." The washing of our feet is imperative if we are to enjoy fellowship with the Holy One of God. "Grace" has given us a place in Christ, now "truth" operates to maintain our place with Christ. The effect of this ministry is stated in verse 10: "He that is bathed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit."
There is a double washing for the believer: the one of his entire person, the other of his feet; the former is once for all, the latter needs repeating daily. In both instances the "washing" is by the Word. Of the former we read, "Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God" ( 1 Corinthians 6:10, 11). And again, "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 Spirit' ( Titus 3:5). The "washing of regeneration" is not by blood, though it is inseparable from redemption by blood; and neither the one nor the other is ever repeated. Of the latter we read, "Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it: That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water By The Word. That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish" ( Ephesians 5:25-27). This same distinction was plainly marked in the Old Testament. When Aaron and his sons were consecrated, they were bathed all over ( Exodus 29:4; Leviticus 8:6): but at the "laver" it was only their hands and feet which were daily cleansed ( Exodus 30:19, 21).
In our last chapter we pointed out how that the "blood" is Godward, the "water" saintwards. The one is for legal expiation, the other for moral purification. Now, while both the "bathing" ( Titus 3:5) and the "washing" of the saints' feet is by the "water of the word," there is a "cleansing" by blood—"the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin" ( 1 John 1:7). But this "cleansing" is judicial, not experiential. The precious blood has not been applied to my heart, but it has cancelled my guilt. It has washed out the heavy and black account which was once against me on high. A "book of remembrance'' is written before God ( Malachi 3:16), but in it there is not left on record a single sin against any believer. Just as a damp sponge passed over a slate removes every chalk mark upon it, so the blood of Christ has blotted out every transgression which once was marked up against me. How deeply significant, then, to read that when the Roman soldier pierced the side of the dead Savior that "forthwith came there out blood and water" ( John 19:34)! The blood for penal expiation, the water for moral purification. But mark the order: first, the "blood" to satisfy the demands of a holy God, then the "water" to meet the needs of His defiled people!
The distinction between the bathing of the entire body and the washing of the feet was aptly illustrated by the ancient custom of bathers. A person returning from the public baths, was, of course, dean, and needed not to be Revelation -bathed. But wearing only sandals, which covered but part of the feet, he quickly needed the foot-bath to cleanse himself from the dust of travel encountered on his way from the baths to his home. Even to-day bathers in the sea are often seen going to their dressing-room with a pail of water to cleanse their soiled feet. This may be regarded as a parable of the spiritual life. Believers were bathed, completely cleansed, at the new birth. The "dressing-room" is Heaven, where we shall be robed in white raiment and garments of glory. But the pail of water is needed for our present use in connection with the daily walk.
In the second section of John 13the Lord Jesus makes a practical application to the disciples of what He had just done for them. He intimates very plainly that,, there was a spiritual meaning in His washing of their feet: Know ye not what I have done to you?" He tells them expressly that they ought to wash one another's feet. If they shrank from such lowly service, He reminds them that none other than Hebrews, their Master and Lord, had done so much for them. He warns them that a theoretical knowledge of these things was of no value, unless it resulted in an actual carrying out of them: "If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them." Then He recurs again to the fact that one of their number must be excepted. The presence of the traitor seems to have cast a shadow upon Him, but He tells them beforehand that the Scriptures had predicted his defection, so that when the betrayer delivered up their Master into the hands of His enemies the faith of the other disciples might not falter. Finally, He encourages them with the assurance that whosoever received His servants received Himself, yea, received the One who had sent Him. What dignity that gave to their calling!
"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?" ( John 13:12). It is important to note that it was from the "supper" that the Lord arose when He girded Himself for the washing of His disciples' feet; to it He now returns. Typically, it was Christ's "leaving the place of communion, as if this were interrupted, until His necessary work for them should renew it once more. He rises, therefore, from supper, and girded Himself for a fresh service. His sacrificial work is over, the shedding of blood is no more needed, but only the washing of water; and here also not the ‘bath of regeneration' ( Titus 3:5 Gk.), but simply as He pointed out to Peter, the washing of the feet. It is defilement contracted in the walk that is in question; and He puts Himself at their feet to wash them. As of old, Jehovah could say to Israel, ‘Thou hast made me to serve with thy sins' ( Isaiah 43:24), so may He still say to us; but His unchanging love is equal to all possible demands upon it. Notice here that all the disciples need it, and that thus He invites us all to-day to put our feet into His hands continually, that they may be cleansed according to His thought of what is cleanness, who alone is capable of judging according to the perfect standard of the Sanctuary of which He is indeed Himself the Light" (Numerical Bible).
"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?" This is the sequel to what we read of in John 13:4. There He had lain aside His outer garments, here He resumes them. We believe that the former act had a double symbolical meaning. First, we are told, "he riseth from supper": what supper is not here specified. Now, "supping" speaks of communion, therefore when we are told "he riseth from supper and laid aside his garments and took a towel and girded himself," the first and deepest meaning would be, He left His place on high, where from all eternity He had been the Father's delight, and with whom He had enjoyed perfect communion as the Song of Solomon, but now divested Himself of His outward glory and took upon Him the form of a servant. But the "supper" is also the memorial of His death, hence the rising from it and the laying aside of His garments would suggest the additional thought of His resurrection. Now, we believe that the Lord's action here in John 13:12 connects with and is the sequel to the first thing pointed out above. The putting on of His garments and the sitting down again would typify His return to the Father's presence, the resumption of His original glory ( John 17:5), and His resting on high.
The Lord was about to explain (in part) and enforce what He had done unto the disciples. Before pondering what He had to say, let us first admire the calmness and deliberation which marked His actions. He quietly resumed His garments (there is no hint of the apostles offering to assist Him!) ere He seated Himself upon the couch or cushion, in His character of Teacher and Lord, thus giving His disciples time to recover from their surprise, collect their thoughts, and prepare themselves for what He was about to say. This gives additional meaning to His posture. Note that ere He began the "Sermon on the Mount" He first seated Himself ( Matthew 5:1); so it was while seated in a ship ( Matthew 13:2) He delivered the seven parables of the kingdom; so while He "sat upon the mount of Olives" ( Matthew 24:3), He gave His longest prophetic announcement; so here He seated Himself before giving the great Paschal Discourse. The force of these notices is seen by comparing them with Luke 5:3: "He sat down and taught the people." Study the passages in John's Gospel where Jesus "stood," and then where He "walked"—see John 7:1 and our remarks.
"So after he had washed their feet," that Isaiah, the feet of each of the twelve. "We may learn an important lesson here as to dealing with offenders in the assembly. The Lord knew all about Judas, and all he was doing, but treated him as one of the apostles, till he displayed himself. There may be suspicion about some individual, that all is not right with him; but mere suspicion will not suffice to act on. The matter must come clearly out, ere it can be rightly dealt with. Were this remembered, cases of discipline, instead of causing trouble in the assembly through lack of common judgment, would be clear to all unprejudiced persons, and the judgments of the assembly be accepted as correct. Has it not at times been the reverse?" (Mr. C. E. Stuart).
"He said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?" Very searching was this. In washing the feet of His disciples He had not only displayed a marvellous humility, which He would have them take to heart, but He had eared for them in holy love. Not only had He saved them, but He was concerned about their fellowship with Himself, and for this, strict attention must be paid to the walk. For when the feet are soiled, the dust of this world must be removed. In His question the Lord illustrates how that it is His way to teach us afterwards the good which He has already done for us; as we grow up in Him in the truth, we are enabled to enter into and appreciate more deeply what at first we understood but slightly. The same grace which brought salvation teaches us, that "denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope" ( Titus 2:11, 12). Deeply humbling is it to discover how little we understood the love and the grace which had been acting on our behalf.
"Know ye what I have done to you?" "This is a question which we should often put to ourselves respecting what our Lord says, and what He does to us. None of His works are ‘the unfruitful works of darkness.' They are all full of meaning. They are all intended to serve a purpose, and a good one;, and it is of importance, in most cases, that we should be aware of it. If we look at His work in the light of His Word, and seek the guidance of His good Spirit, we shall generally be able to discern His wise and benign purpose, even in dispensations at first sight very strange and mysterious. He only can explain His intentions, and He will not suffer His humble, enquiring disciples to remain ignorant of them, if it be for their real benefit to know them" (Dr. John Brown).
"Ye call me Master and Lord: and )re say well; for so I am" ( John 13:13). Beautifully does this bring out the fact that the Lord Jesus is "full of grace and truth." Though He had lust fulfilled for His disciples the most menial office of a slave, yet He had not abandoned the place of authority and supremacy. He reminds them that He is still their "Master and Lord," and that, by their own confession, for the word "call" here signifies address—"Ye address Me as Master and Lord." In thus owning the incarnate Son of God they "did well." Alas! that so many of His professing followers now treat Him with so much less respect than that which He here commended in the Twelve. Alas! that so many who owe their all for time and eternity to that peerless One who was "God manifest in flesh," speak of Him simply as "Jesus." Jesus is the Lord of glory, and surely it is due the dignity and majesty of His person that this should be recognized and owned, even in our very references to Him. We do not expect that those who despise and reject Him should speak of Him in any more exalting terms than "The Nazarene," or "Jesus"; but those who have been, by amazing grace, given "an understanding, that we may know him that is true" ( 1 John 5:20) ought gladly to confess Him as "The Lord Jesus Christ"!
"Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am." Surely this is sufficient for any humble-minded Christian. If our blessed Redeemer says we "say well" when we address Him as "Master and Lord," how can we afford to speak of Him in terms upon which His approval is not stamped? Never once do we find the apostles addressing Him as "Jesus" while He was with them on earth. When He exhorted them to make request of Him for an increase of laborers He bade them, "Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest" ( Matthew 9:38). When He sent forth the disciples to secure the ass on which He was to ride into Jerusalem, He ordered them to say, "The Lord hath need of him" ( Luke 19:31). When He required the use of the upper room, it was "The Lord saith, My time is at hand; I will therefore keep the passover at thy house" ( Matthew 26:18).
Above, we have said that the apostles never once addressed our Lord simply as "Jesus." Mark, now, how they did refer to the Blessed One. "And Peter answered him and said, LORD, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water" ( Matthew 14:28). "And when his disciples James and John, saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them?" ( Luke 9:54). "And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?" ( Matthew 26:22). "And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, saying, The Lord is risen indeed" ( Luke 24:33, 34). "Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest" ( John 14:5). "That disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord" ( John 21:7).
It may be objected that the Gospel narratives commonly refer to the Lord as "Jesus." It was Jesus who was led of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the Devil. It was Jesus who was moved with compassion as He beheld the sufferings and sorrows of humanity. It was Jesus who taught the people, etc. This is true, and the explanation is not far to seek. It was the Holy Spirit of God who, through the pens of the Evangelists, thus referred to Him, and this makes all the difference. What would be thought of one of the subjects of king George referring to the reigning monarch of Great Britian and saying, "I saw George pass through the city this morning"? If, then, it would be utterly incongruous for one of his subjects to speak thus of the king of England, how much more so is it to refer to the King of kings simply as Jesus! But now, king George's wife might refer to and speak of her husband as "George" with perfect propriety. Thus it is that the Holy Spirit refers to our Lord by His personal name in the Gospel narratives.
Our modern hymns are largely responsible for the dishonor that is now so generally cast upon that "worthy name" ( James 2:7), and we cannot but raise our voice in indignant protest against much of the trash (for such it is) that masquerades under the name of "hymns" and religious "songs." It is sad and shocking to hear Christians sing "There's not a friend like the lowly Jesus." There is no "lowly Jesus" to-day. The One who once passed through unparalleled humiliation has been "made both Lord and Christ" ( Acts 2:36), and is now seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high. If the earnest student will turn to the four Gospels and note how different ones addressed the Son of God he will be well repaid. The enemies of Christ constantly referred to Him as Jesus ( Matthew 26:71, etc.), and so did the demons ( Mark 1:23, 24). Let us pray God to deliver us from this flippant, careless, and irreverent manner of speaking of His Blessed Son. Let us gladly own our Savior as "Lord" during the time of His rejection by the world. Let us remember His own words: "All should honor the Song of Solomon, even as they honor the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him" ( John 5:23). This is no trivial or trifling matter, for it stands written, "By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned" ( Matthew 12:37).
"If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet" (verse 14). "Master" means teacher. The "teacher" is believed; the "Lord" is obeyed. Here Christ proceeded to enforce and apply what He had just done unto them. The connection is obvious, not only with what precedes, but also with that which follows. If the Greatest could minister to the least, how much more should the lesser minister to his equal! If the Superior waited upon His admitted inferiors, much less should that inferior wait upon his fellows. And mark the premise from which He draws this conclusion. He did not say, "I am your teacher and Lord," but "Ye call me teacher and Lord." It was from the confession of their own lips that He now proceeds to instruct them. The order in which these titles occur is significant. First, these disciples had heard Christ as "teacher," and later they had come to know Him as their "Lord." But now Christ reverses the order: "If I then, your Lord and teacher." Why is this? Because this is the experimental order now. We must surrender to Him as "Lord," bowing to His authority, submitting to His yoke, before He will teach us!
"Ye also ought to wash one another's feet" ( John 13:14). So they ought, and why had they not already done so? The supper-room here was already supplied with water, pail, and towel. Why had not they used them? Luke 22:24 tells us, "And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest." This occurred, be it noted, at this very time. It was then that the Savior shamed them by saying, "For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as He that serveth" ( Luke 22:27).
"Ye also ought to wash one another's feet." Let us consider the application of these words to ourselves: "In discovering any stain that may be resting on the feet of our brethren, we are not to blind ourselves to its presence, or to hide from ourselves its character by calling evil good. If we are to be honest and faithful in respect of ourselves, we shall be equally honest and truthful in respect of others. On the other hand, we have to beware of looking on the sins and failures of our brethren with Pharisaic complacency and cold indifference. What condition is more awful than that one who finds his joy in searching out iniquities, and exulting in exposing and magnifying them when discovered? Such, indeed, have reason to remember that with whatsoever judgment they Judges, they shall be judged; and that the measure they mete out to others shall be meted out to themselves again. How continually should we remind ourselves that the love of the same gracious Lord that is toward us is toward our brethren likewise, and that one of our chief privileges is the title to appeal to it and intercede on their behalf, asking that sins, even of deepest dye, may be removed; and that the deserved results of chastisement and sorrow might be averted. So we should not be as those who ‘bite and devour one another,' but be as those who ‘wash one another's feet'" (Mr. B. W. Newton).
Yes, a most needful word is this for us all, ever ready as we are to lift up the skirts of a brother and say, "See how soiled his feet are"! But much exercise of soul, much judging of ourselves, is needed for such lowly work as this. I have to get down to my brother's feet if I am to wash them! That means that "the flesh" in me must be subdued. Let us not forget that searching word in Galatians 6:1, 2: "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." I must be emptied of all sense of self-superiority before I can restore one who is "out of the way." It is the love of Christ which must constrain me as I seek to be of help to one of those for whom He died. It is as "dear children" ( Ephesians 5:1) that we are called upon to be "imitators of God"! Very wonderful and blessed is what is here before us: when the Lord appoints on earth a witness of His ways in Heaven, He tells us to wash one another's feet, and to love one another ( John 13:34). There must be a patient forbearing with our brother's faults, a faithful but tender applying of the Word to his particular case, and an earnest and daily intercession for him: these are the main things included in this figure of "washing." But let us not stop short at the "washing": there must be the "drying," too! The service when done must be regarded as a service of the Fast. The failure which called for it, is now removed, and therefore is to be buried in the depths of oblivion. It ought never to be cast against the individual in the future.
"For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you" ( John 13:15). It is well known that not a few have regarded this as a command from Christ for His followers now to practice literal foot-washing, yea, some have exalted it into a "Church ordinance." While we cannot but respect and admire their desire to obey Christ, especially in a day when laxity and self-pleasing is so rife, yet we are fully satisfied that they have mistaken our Lord's meaning here. Surely to insist upon literal foot-washing from this verse is to miss the meaning as well as the spirit of the whole passage. It is not with literal water (any more than the "water" is literal in John 3:5; 4:14; 7:38) that the Lord would have us wash one another. It is the Word (of which "water" is the emblem) He would have us apply to our fellow-disciples' walk. This should not need arguing, but for the benefit of those who think that the Lord here instituted an ordinance which He would have practiced today, we would ask them to please weigh carefully the following points:
That that which the Lord Jesus here did to His disciples looked beyond the literal act to its deep symbolic significance is clear from these facts: First, the Lord's word to Peter, "What I do thou knowest not now" ( John 13:7): certainly Peter knew that his feet had been literally washed! Second, the further words of Christ to Peter, "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me" ( John 13:8): certainly there are multitudes of believers that have a part with Christ who have never practiced foot-washing as a religious ordinance. Third, His words, "Ye are clean, but not all" ( John 13:10): Judas could never have been thus excepted if only literal foot-washing was here in view. Fourth, His question, "Know ye what I have done to you?" clearly intimates that the Lord's act in washing the feet of the disciples had a profound spiritual meaning. Fifth, note that here in John 13:15 the Lord does not say "Ye should do what I have done unto you," but "as I have done to you!" Add to these considerations the fact that this incident is found in John's Gospel, which Isaiah, pre-eminently, the one which treats of spiritual relationships under various figures—bread, water, Shepherd and sheep, vine and the branches, etc, and surely all difficulty disappears.
"For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you." We take it that the force of these words of Christ is this: I have just shown you how spiritual love operates: it ever seeks the good of its objects, and esteems no service too lowly to secure that good. It reminds us very much of the Lord's words following His matchless picture of the Good Samaritan who had compassion on the wounded traveler, dismounting, binding up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, setting him on His own beast, bringing him to the inn and taking care of him—"Go, and do thou likewise" ( Luke 10:33-37). When real love is in exercise it will perform with readiness difficult, despised, and even loathsome offices. There are some services which are even more menial and repulsive than the washing of feet, yet, on occasion, the service of love may call for them. It should hardly be necessary to add, that Christians living in Oriental lands, where sandals are worn, should be ready to wash literally the feet of a weary brother, not simply as an act of courtesy, but as a service of love.
"For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you." We believe that one thing included in this comparative "as" is that it looks back to a detail in John 13:4 which is usually overlooked: it was as girded with a towel that Christ washed the feet of His disciples, and that which was signified by the "towel" applies to us. The "towel" was that with which Christ was girded: it bespoke the servant's attitude. Then the Lord used that with which He was girded upon their feet: emblematically, this was applying to them the humility which marked Him. Mr. Darby tells us that it was a linen towel which was employed, and in the New Testament "linen" signifies "the righteousness of saints" ( Revelation 19:8, R.V.). It was His own spotless love which fitted Him to approach His disciples and apply the Word to them. How searching is all of this for us! If we would imitate Him in this labor of love we must ourselves be clothed with humility, we must employ nothing but the Word, and we must have on the linen towel of practical righteousness to dry with.
"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"
( John 13:16). The Lord acts as His own interpreter. He here gives plain intimation of the meaning of His symbolic action. He draws an important lesson from what He had just done, the more needful because He was about to withdraw from them. It would fare ill with His people if their leaders were found disputing among themselves, devouring one another. Surrounded as they were by Judaism and Paganism, lambs in the midst of wolves, much depended upon their humility and mutual helpfulness. Much needed by every Christian, and especially by those engaged in Christian service, is that word of Christ's, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart."
"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." That this is of more than ordinary importance is evidenced by the solemn and emphatic "Verily, verily" with which the Lord prefaced it. Moreover, the fact that at a later point in this same discourse the Lord said to His apostles, "Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord" ( John 15:20), shows that it is one which is specially needed by his ambassadors. How many a dark page of "Church History" had never been written if the ministers of Christ had heeded this admonition! How vain the pretensions of those who have lorded it over God's heritage in the light of this searching word! Sad indeed have been the manifestations of Nicolaitanism in every age. Even before the last of the apostles left this world he had to say, "I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the pre-eminence among them, receiveth us not" ( 3 John 9); and the same spirit is far from being dead today.
"If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them" ( John 13:17). If ye know what "things"? First, the vital need of placing our feet in the hands of Christ for cleansing ( John 13:8). Second, the owning of Christ as "Master and Lord" ( John 13:13). Third, the need of washing one another's feet ( John 13:14). Fourth, the performing of this ministry as Christ performed it—in lowly love ( John 13:15). Now, said our Savior, If ye know "these things," happy or blessed are ye if ye do them. A mere speculative knowledge of such things is of no value. An intellectual apprehension, without the embodiment of them in our daily lives, is worse than useless. It is both significant and solemn to note that the one Christ termed a wise man that built his house upon the rock Isaiah, "Whoso heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them" ( Matthew 7:24). No one knows more truth than the Devil, and yet none works more evil!
"If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them." "It has been well remarked that our Lord does not say, ‘Happy are ye if these things be done to you,' but ‘Happy are ye if ye do them.' We are apt to suppose that we should be happy if men loved us, and were ready on every occasion to serve us. But, in the judgment of Christ, it would more conduce to our happiness that our hearts were like His, full of love to all our brethren, and our hands like His, ever ready to perform to them even the humblest offices of kindness. We often make ourselves unhappy by thinking that we are not treated with the deference and kindness to which we consider ourselves entitled. If we would be really happy, we must think more of others and less of ourselves. True happiness dwells within; and one of its leading elements is the disinterested self-sacrificing love which made the bosom of Jesus its constant dwelling-place" (Dr. John Brown).
"I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen" ( John 13:18). The immediate reference is to what the Lord had said in the previous verse. Just as in John 13:10 He had said to the twelve, "Ye are dean," and then added, "but not all," so after saying, "Happy are ye if ye do them," He at once says, "I speak not of you all." Faithfulness required Him to make an exception. There was no happiness for Judas; before him lay "the blackness of darkness for ever." When Christ said, "I know whom I have chosen" it is evident that He was not speaking of election to salvation, but to the apostolate. Where eternal election is in view the Scriptures uniformally ascribe it to God the Father. But where it is a question of ministry or service, in the New Testament, the choice and the call usually proceed from the Lord Jesus—see Matthew 9:30; Matthew 20:1; Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:24; Acts 26:16; Ephesians 4:11, etc. His words here in John 13:18 are parallel with those in John 6:70: "Have not I chosen you twelve? and one of you is a devil?"
"But that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me, hath lifted up his heel against me" ( John 13:18). As to why the Lord Jesus chose Judas to be one of the twelve, see our remarks on John 6:70, 71. Very remarkable is this statement here in the light of the context. Christ had washed the feet of the very one whose heel was raised against Himself! Into what depths of humiliation did the Son of God deign to descend! He now foretells the defection of Judas, and announces that this was but the fulfillment of the prophetic Word. The reference is to the 41Psalm, which exposes the awful character of the betrayer; the 109th Psalm makes known the outcome of his treachery. Christ then had suffered the traitor to remain with Him that the Scriptures might be fulfilled; but as soon as the "sop" had been given to Him, Christ would say, "That thou doest, do quickly" ( John 13:27). "How wondrous the patience which, knowing all from the beginning, bore all to the end, without a frown or sign of shrinking from the traitor! But so much the more withering must be the sentence of judgment when it comes from His lips, the Lord of glory, the hated and despised of men" (Mr. W. Kelly).
"He that eateth bread with me, hath lifted up his heel against me." The local reference in Psalm 41is to what David suffered at the hands of Ahithophel, but that was but a foreshadowrnent and type of what the Savior suffered from Judas. In now quoting from this prophetic Psalm the Lord Jesus evidenced His Divine knowledge of what lay before Him, and testified to the inestimable value of the Scriptures. Nothing proves more conclusively their Divine origin than the accurate and literal fulfillment of their prophecies. Predictions were made of events which were not to transpire till hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of years afterwards, minute details are furnished, and the specific accomplishment of them can only be accounted for on the one ground that He who knows the end from the beginning was their Author.
The wording of this prophecy about Judas is very striking. "His heel! the most contemptible rejection possible: was it not such to sell the Lord of glory for the price of a slave? It was as if he would inflict upon Christ the Serpent's predicted wound ( Genesis 3:15)? (F. W. Grant.)
"Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am" ( John 13:19). What care did He evince for His own! What blessed proof was this of His loving them "unto the end"! Christ would here assure the disciples that everything which befell Him, even that which was most staggering to faith, was but the strict fulfillment of what had long ago been recorded. He was the great One typified and prophesied throughout the Old Testament, and He now assures the apostles of Judas' perfidy before he went forth to bargain with the priests, that they might know He had not trusted in him, nor had He been deceived by him, as had David by Ahithophel! Thus, instead of the apostles being stumbled by the apostasy of one of their number, it should strengthen their faith in every written word of God to know that that very Word had long before announced what they were on the eve of witnessing. Moreover, their faith in Christ should be strengthened, too. By calling their attention to the fulfillment of Psalm 41He showed them that He was the Person there marked out; that He was a true Prophet, announcing the certain accomplishment of David's prediction before it came to pass; and that He was the great "I am" who "searcheth the hearts and trieth the reins of the children of men," being fully acquainted with their secret thoughts and most carefully concealed designs.
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me" ( John 13:20). At first sight there appears to be no connection between this verse and the ones preceding, yet a little thought will soon discover the link between them. The Lord had been exhorting His disciples to follow the example which He had given, assuring them they would be happy if they did so. Then He announced the apostasy of Judas. Now He informs them that their vocation was by no means affected by the defection of the betrayer. "The whole circle of the apostles seemed to be disorganized by the treachery of Judas; and therefore the Lord confirms the faithful in their election, and that very fittingly by a repetition of that earlier promise ( Matthew 10:42) on which all depended" (Stier). It was the Lord comforting His own and most graciously establishing their hearts by turning their attention away from the traitor to their Master, who abides forever the same, as does the Father.
Judas had been one of the twelve whom the Lord had sent forth to preach the Gospel and to work miraculous signs in His name ( Matthew 10). Would then all that he had done as an apostle be discredited, when his real character became known? This important question here receives answer from our Lord: "He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me." The Lord knew how apt His people are to despise the work done if the worker proves to be unworthy; therefore does He teach us to look beyond the instrument to the One who sent him. The Lord has the right to appoint whom He pleases. If, then, the message is from God's Word, reject it not because the messenger proves a fraud. What matters it to me whether the postman be black or white, pleasant or unpleasant, so long as he hands me the right letter?
"He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me." There is another important principle here. The apostles were the ambassadors of the Lord, and in the person of an ambassador the sovereign himself is received or set at naught. As His ambassadors, how circumspectly ought each of His servants to walk! And as His ambassadors, how dutiful and respectful in its reception should the Church be of them! As He was sent from the Father, so they were sent from Him. By this gracious analogy He arms them with authority and inspires them with courage. Thus the Lord fully identifies them with Himself.
The following questions need studying to prepare for our next lesson:—
1. What three things are dearly implied in verse 22?
2. Why did not Peter ask the Lord directly, verse 24?
3. Why did Jesus say to Judas, verse 27?
4. In how many respects was the Son of man glorified at the Cross, verse 31?
5. What attributes of Cod were glorified at the Cross, verse 31?
6. In what sense was it a "new commandment," verse 34?
7. What is the meaning of verse 36?
Below is an Analysis of the passage which is to be before us:—
1. The betrayer and his identification, verses 21-26.
2. The departure of Judas and the thoughts of the Eleven, verses 27-30.
3. A threefold glorification, verses 31-32.
4. The new commandment, verse 34.
5. The badge of Christian discipleship, verse 35.
6. Peter's questions, verses 36-37.
7. Christ's warning prediction, verse 38.
We have entitled this chapter Christ's Warnings: it scarcely covers everything in the passage, yet it emphasizes that which is most prominent in it. At the beginning of our present section Christ warns Judas; at the close, He warns Peter. In between, there are some gracious and tender instructions for the beloved disciples, and these too partake very largely of the nature of warnings. He warns them against misinterpreting the nature of His death, John 13:31-32. He warns them of His approaching departure, John 13:33. He warns them of their need of a commandment that they should "love one another", John 13:34. He warns them that only by the exercise of love toward each other would it be made manifest that they were His disciples, John 13:35.
Our passage opens with a solemn word identifying the Savior's betrayer. This betrayer had been plainly announced in Old Testament prophecy: "He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me" ( Psalm 41:9). "A man's foes," said the Lord, "are they of his own household" ( Matthew 10:36), and fearfully was this verified in His own case. A "familiar friend" became a familiar fiend. How this exposes the error of those who suppose that all that fallen man needs is example and instruction. Judas enjoyed both, yet was not his evil heart moved. For three years had he been not only in the closest possible contact, but in the nearest intimacy with the Savior. His had been a favored place in the innermost circle of the Twelve. Not only had he listened to the daily preaching of Christ as He taught the people, not only had he witnessed most, at least, of His wondrous miracles, but he had also gazed upon the perfections of Christ in His private life. And yet, after all this, Judas was unmoved and unchanged. Nothing could more forcefully demonstrate our Lord's utterance, "Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God"! So near to Christ, yet unsaved! What a challenge for every heart!
The case of Peter points a most solemn warning of quite another character. Outwardly Judas posed as a disciple of Christ; inwardly Simon was a believer in Him. The one exhibits the sin and madness of hypocrisy; the other the danger and sad results of self-confidence. It was to Peter that the Lord said, "The spirit (the new nature) indeed is willing, but the flesh (the natural man) is weak." But this utterance was never intended as an excuse, behind which we might take refuge when we fail and fall; but was given as a lasting warning to have "no confidence in the flesh" ( Philippians 3:3). The Holy Spirit has faithfully recorded the sad defection of one who was especially dear to the heart of the Savior, that all Christians who follow Him might seek grace from God to avoid the snare into which he fell.
From a human view, Peter failed at his strongest point. By nature he was bold and courageous. Probably there was not a stouter heart among the apostles. He quailed not before the marvellous scene on the Mount of Transfiguration. He it was who stepped out of the ship and started to walk across the waves to Christ. And he it was who drew his sword in the Garden, and smote the high priest's servant as the officers arrested his beloved Master. No coward was Peter. And yet he trembled in the presence of a maid, and when taxed with being a disciple of Christ, denied it with an oath! How is this to be explained? Only on the ground that in order to teach him and us the all-important lesson, that if left to ourselves, the strongest is as weak as water. It is in conscious weakness that our strength lies ( 2 Corinthians 12:10). Peter was fully assured that though all should be offended yet would not he ( Mark 14:29). And, without a doubt, he fully meant what he said. But he did not know himself; he had not learned, experientially, the exceeding deceitfulness of the human heart; he knew not as yet that without the upholding power and sustaining grace of the Lord he could do nothing ( John 15:5). O that we might learn from him.
"We fancy sometimes, like Peter, that there are some things we could not possibly do. We look pityingly upon others who fall, and plume ourselves in the thought that at any rate we should not have done so. We know nothing at all. The seeds of every sin are latent in our hearts, even when renewed, and they only need occasion, or carelessness, or the withdrawal of God's grace for a season, to put forth an abundant crop. Like Peter, we think we can do wonders for Christ, and like Peter, we learn by bitter experience that we have no might and power at all. A humble sense of our own innate weakness, a constant dependency on the Strong for strength, a daily prayer to be held up, because we cannot hold up ourselves—these are the true secrets of safety" (Bishop Ryle). Surely the outstanding lesson for us in connection with the fall of Peter is this: "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" ( 1 Corinthians 10:12).
"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" ( John 13:21). The Lord had been ministering to His disciples, teaching and comforting them. He had spoken of their future, but in the midst of these anticipations a dark shadow falls upon Him, troubling Him. Already had He hinted at it, now He proceeds to testify more plainly to the traitor who was among the Twelve. The Lord was "troubled in spirit." It is remarkable that this is mentioned most frequently by the very Evangelist whose special design it was to portray the Lord Jesus as God manifest in flesh—cf. John 11:33, 38; 12:27. These statements prove the reality of His humanity, showing that He had a real human soul as well as body. They also prove that it is no infirmity or imperfection to be troubled by the presence of evil. Christ was no stoic: He felt keenly all that was contrary to God. Really, none was so truly and so completely sensitive as He. He was the Man of sorrows, and it is just because He has Himself passed through this scene, suffering within at every step of the way, that He is able to be touched with "the feeling of our infirmities."
"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." It is well to remind ourselves that what the Lord Jesus endured upon the Cross was but the climax and completion of His sufferings. Throughout His life He suffered at the hands of Satan, His enemies, and His friends. He felt acutely the unbelief and hostility of the scribes and Pharisees. His tearful lament over Jerusalem evidences the depths of His anguish over Israel's rejection. Here it was the bitter sorrow of seeing one of the apostles deliberately becoming an apostate. Nothing wounds more deeply than ingratitude; and that one, who had been a constant companion with Him for three years, should now raise his heel against Him, was a sore trial. If Judas was unmoved, the Lord was not. Seeing no beauty in Christ after all he had heard and witnessed during years of closest contact with Him, unaffected by His marvellous grace to sinners, caring only for paltry gain, dominated by self, and the rebuke he had received in Simon's house rankling within, he turned against his Master and arranged to sell Him to His enemies. No wonder the Lord was "troubled" as He thought of such deceit, treachery, and cupidity. He had said "Ye are clean, but not all," and still Judas retained his place, and gave no sign of retiring.
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me." There is a melancholy emphasis on the pronoun here: one of you at the table with Me; one of you whose feet I have just washed; one of you who have had the high honor of being My first ambassadors, shall take advantage of your intimacy with Me and knowledge of My ways, to guide the enemy to My place of retirement, and deliver Me into the hands of those who seek My life. He was "troubled" by the enormity of the crime, and no doubt, too, over the awful doom which lay before Judas.
How deeply "troubled" the Savior was we may learn from His words in Psalm 55: "Wickedness is in the midst thereof: deceit and guile depart not from her streets. 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" (verses 11-14). How vividly this brings out before us the grief with which the Man of sorrows was "acquainted"! How deeply His holy soul was stirred, we may learn from the solemn but righteous imprecations which He called down upon the base ingrate in Psalm 109: "Let his days be few; and let another take his office; let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow" (verses 8, 9), etc.
"Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake" ( John 13:22). Three things are made very evident by this verse: one thing about the disciples, one about Judas, and one about the Lord Himself. First, it is plain that what Christ had said in John 13:18 had made no impression upon the Eleven. And this was the most natural. No doubt their minds were so occupied with what the Savior had just done for them that they had scarcely recovered from their surprise. They were so impressed by His amazing condescension that His statement "He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me" fell upon ears that heeded Him not. But now He speaks more plainly and directly, and they exchanged puzzled glances with each other, wondering which of them it was to whom He had referred.
Second, the fact that "The disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake" is proof positive that Judas had succeeded in concealing his turpitude from his fellows. His outward conduct had given the other apostles no occasion to suspect him. To what lengths cannot hypocrisy go! Matthew tells us that when Christ announced to the Twelve that one of them should betray Him, "They were exceedingly sorrowful, and began every one of them to say, Lord, is it I?" ( Matthew 26:22), upon which Matthew Henry says: "They are to be commended for their charity, in that they are more jealous of themselves than of each other. It is the law of charity to hope the best, because we assuredly know, therefore we may justly expect, more evil of ourselves than of our brethren. They are also to be commended for their acquiescence in what Christ said. They trusted, as we would do well to do, more to His words, than to their own hearts, and therefore do not say, ‘It is not—it cannot be—I'; but ‘Lord, is it I?' See if there be such a way of wickedness, such a root of bitterness in me, and discover it to me, that I may pluck up the root, and stop up that way." Boldly playing his role of duplicity to the last, Judas dares to ask, "Master, is it I?" ( Matthew 26:25)—a clear proof, though, that he was unsaved, for no man can say Lord Jesus but by the Holy Spirit ( 1 Corinthians 12:3).
Third, the fact that the apostles were perplexed, wondering to whom the Lord had referred, brings out most blessedly the infinite patience with which Christ had borne with the son of perdition. Throughout His ministerial life He must have treated Judas with the same condescending grace, gentleness, kindness, as the Eleven. He could not have exhibited any aversion against him, or the others would have noticed it, and known now of whom He spake. How this tells of the perfections of our Savior! His kindness ill-requited, His favors unappreciated, His holy soul loathing such a sink of iniquity so near to Him—yet He bowed to the sovereign will and authoritative word of the Father, and patiently bore this trial.
"Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved" ( John 13:23). Here is one of those striking contrasts in which this Gospel abounds, and a most blessed one it is. Our attention is diverted for a moment from the base treachery and horrible hatred of Judas to one whom Christ had attracted, whose heart had been won by His beauty, and who now affectionately reposed on the Savior's breast. It is blessed, and an evident mark of the Holy Spirit's guidance to see how John here refers to himself. It was not "one who loved Jesus," though truly he did; but "one of his disciples whom Jesus loved." Nor does he mention his own name—love never advertises itself.
"Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake" ( John 13:24). This is one of many statements in the New Testament which effectually disposes of the Roman Catholic figment that Peter was the pope of the apostolate. As one of the older Protestant writers well said, "So far from Peter having any primacy among the apostles, he here uses the intercession of John." There was no doubt a moral reason why Peter put his question through John, instead of asking it direct. Is it not clear from John 13:6, 8, 37 that Peter's state of soul was not altogether right before God? And, does not his fearful fall, that very evening, supply still further proof? Matthew tells us that after the arrest of the Savior, Peter "followed him afar off unto the high priests' palace" ( Matthew 26:38), and a sense of distance began to make itself felt in Peter's soul even here—there was a measure of reserve between himself and the Lord.
"He then lying on Jesus' breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it?" ( John 13:25). The contrast here between John and Peter is very noticeable. John was close to the Lord: affection had drawn him there. He was so near to Christ and his spirit so unclouded, he could look up into the face of the Savior and ask Him any question. This is the blessed portion and privilege of every Christian. Alas! that so many are like Peter on this occasion—ready to turn to a brother, rather than to the Lord Himself. Why is it that when the average Christian meets with some difficulty in his reading of the Word, or some problem in his spiritual life, he says, "I will ask or write brother Song of Solomon -and-so?" Why not enjoy the blessed privilege of referring directly to the Lord Jesus? It is a question of intimacy with Him, and that is very searching. While there is any self-confidence, as in Peter's ease, or any known hindrance in my spiritual life, that at once places me at a moral distance from Christ. But is it not blessed to see that, at the end, Peter came to the same place which John is seen occupying here? "And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee" ( John 21:17). He threw open his heart. What was it but saying, Lord, there was a time when I would not ask You questions, but now I can invite You to look into my heart! Let us then come before Him now, asking Him to search our hearts and put His finger on anything that hinders us from having direct access to Him in everything. Let us ever be on the watch that we do not enjoy a greater intimacy with some brother than with the Lord Himself.
"Jesus answered, He it Isaiah, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it" ( John 13:26). It seems clear from what follows that these words of Christ must have been whispered to John or spoken in such a low tone that the other disciples were unable to catch them. At last the Lord Jesus identified the betrayer. The mask of hypocrisy which he had worn had thoroughly deceived the apostles, but He with whom "all things are naked and open" cannot be imposed upon. While man looked on the outward appearance, He looks upon the heart; so He now unmasks the false disciple, and shows him to be—what He always knew, though none else suspected that he was—a traitor.
"And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon" ( John 13:26). The sign given by Christ to identify the betrayer was suggestive and solemn. "It was a mark of honor for the host to give a Portion to one of the guests. The Lord had appealed to the conscience of Judas in John 13:21, now He appeals to his heart" (Companion Bible). The "sop" was, most probably, a piece of unleavened bread, now dipped in the sauce prepared for the eating of the paschal lamb. That Judas accepted it shows the unthinkable lengths to which he carried his hypocrisy. Determined as he was to perpetrate the foulest treachery, yet he hereby renews his pledge of friendship. It' makes us think of the "Hail Master" and the "kiss" when he was in the act of delivering Him to His enemies. But how wonderful, how blessed, the meekness of our Lord; surely none but He could have acted thus. In complete command of Himself, no sign of ill-will toward the one who had already taken counsel with the chief priests, He gives him the sop. Closely did this correspond with the prophetic declaration already referred to, "He that eateth with me hath lifted up his heel against me."
"And after the sop Satan entered into him" ( John 13:27). The receiving of the sop, expressive of friendship, ought to have broken him down in an agony of repentance; but it did not. He was like those mentioned in Hebrews 6:8: ground on which the rain came oft, but which instead of bringing forth herbs, bore only thorns and briars, whose end is to be burned. It is remarkable to note that not until now are we told of Satan's entrance into him. Equally striking is it to observe that as soon as he had received the "sop" the Enemy took full possession of his only too willing victim.
"Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly" ( John 13:27). Fearful words were these. Space for repentance had now passed forever. His doom was sealed. But what else lay behind these words of Christ? We believe it was the formal announcement of the Savior surrendering Himself to the Father's will. It was as though He said, I am ready to be led as a lamb to the slaughter; go, Judas, and do that which you are so anxious to do; I will not withstand thee! But again; may we not regard this word of Christ as in one sense parallel with the one He had addressed to the Devil at the close of the great temptation. There was a needs-be for Him to be tempted of the Devil for forty days; but when that needs-be was fully met, He said, "Get thee hence, Satan" ( Matthew 4:10). Song of Solomon, in order that Scripture might be fulfilled, it was necessary for there to be a Judas in the apostolate, so that he could eat with Christ. But now that prophecy had been accomplished, now that the traitor's heel had been lifted against his Master, Christ says, "Depart"! Moreover, was not this the formal dismissal of Judas from the Lord's service? Christ had called him to a place in the apostolate: for three years He had used him: now He announces his discharge; later, another shall "take his bishoprick." Finally, we believe it can be established from the other Gospels that it was right after this that the Lord instituted His own "supper" as a lasting memorial of Himself; but before doing so He first banishes the traitor, for that "supper" is for His own only.
"Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him" ( John 13:28). At this point John, at least, and most probably Peter also, knew who it was who should betray their beloved Master, yet in the light of this verse it is evident that none of them suspected that the act of treachery was so soon to be perpetrated. None of them perceived the awfulness of the issues then pending.
"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" ( John 13:29). "These thoughts of the disciples were mistaken ones, but they do them no discredit. They are excusable and even praiseworthy. They indicate the operation of the charity which thinketh no evil, but is ever disposed to put on words and actions the most favorable construction they will reasonably admit. The mistakes of charity are wiser and better than the surmises of censoriousness, even when they turn out to be according to the truth. Judas had all along been a bad man; but hitherto he had given no such evidence of his unprincipled character as would have warned his fellow-disciples to entertain suspicions of him. Knowing that he was the treasurer and steward of this little society, they supposed that the words of the Master might refer to his speedily obtaining something which would be requisite for the feast of the passover, which lasted for a week; that he should immediately give some alms to the poor.
"It is plain from these words that our Lord and His disciples were in the habit of giving, especially at the time of the great festivals, out of their scanty pittance, something to those more destitute than themselves. Their ‘deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality': and by His example He has taught us not merely that it is the duty of those who may have but little to spare to give of that little to those who have still less, but that religious observances are gracefully connected with deeds of mercy and alms-giving. He joined humility with piety in His practice as well as in His doctrine; and in this He hath left us an example that we should follow His steps" (Dr. John Brown). To these remarks we may add that the fact the disciples had supposed Judas had gone to purchase things for "the feast" is clear proof that the Lord did not work miracles in order to procure the food needed by Himself and His apostles. It also shows that they did not beg, but managed their temporal affairs with prudence and economy (cf. John 4:8).
But far different were the base designs of Judas from what the apostles had charitably supposed. "It was not to buy things needful, but to sell the Lord and Master; it was no preparation for the feast, but that to which it, not they, had ever looked onward—the fulfillment of God's mind and purpose in it, though it were the Jews crucifying their own Messiah, by the hands of lawless men; it was not that Judas should give to the poor, but that He should who was rich yet for our sakes became poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich" (Bible Treasury).
"He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night" ( John 13:30). There is something more here, something deeper, than a mere reference to the time of the day. As Judas went forth on his dastardly errand, there then began that "hour" of the Power of darkness ( Luke 22:53), when God suffered His enemies to put out the Light of life. Song of Solomon, too, it was "night" in the soul of Judas, for he had turned his back on "the light." Like Cain he went out from the "presence of the Lord"; like Baalim he loved "the wages of unrighteousness"; like Ahithophel he went to betray his "familiar friend." It was night: "Men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil": fitting time was it, then, for the son of perdition to perpetrate his dark deed! "Immediately" he went: his feet were "swift to shed blood"!
"Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified" ( John 13:31). A most remarkable word was this. The Lord Jesus spoke of His death, but He regarded it neither as a martyrdom nor as a disgrace. There is nothing quite like this in the other Gospels. Here, as ever, John gives us the highest, the Divine viewpoint of things. The Savior contemplates His death on the shameful tree as His glorification. "It seems very strange that, in these circumstances, Jesus should say, ‘Now—now is the Son of man glorified.' It would not have been wonderful if, on the banks of Jordan after His baptism, with the mystic dove descending and abiding on Him, and the voice of the Eternal pealing from the open heaven, ‘This is my beloved Song of Solomon, in whom I am well pleased'; or, on the summit of the Mount of Transfiguration, when ‘His face did shine as the sun, and His garments became white as the light,' and Moses and Elijah appeared with Him in glory, and a voice came forth from the cloud of glory. ‘This is my beloved Song of Solomon, hear him,' our Lord had said, in holy exaltation, ‘Now is the Son of man glorified'! But, when these words were spoken, what was before the Redeemer but the deepest abasement, and the severest sufferings—heavy accusations—a condemnatory sentence—insults—infamy—the fellowship of thieves—the agonies of death—the lonely sepulcher! How does Hebrews, in these circumstances, say, ‘Now is the Son of man glorified'" (Dr. John Brown).
But wherein was Christ's death on the Cross His glorification? Notice, first, that He said, "Now is the Son of man glorified." It was the Son of God as incarnate who was "glorified" on the Cross. But how? Wherein? First, in that He there performed the greatest work which the whole history of the entire universe ever witnessed, or ever will witness. For it the centuries waited; to it the centuries look back. Second, because there He reversed the conduct of the first man. The first Adam was disobedient unto death, the last Adam was obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross. The glory of man is to glorify God; and never was God more glorified than when His own incarnate Son laid down His life in submission to His command ( John 10:18); and never was human nature so glorified as when the Son of man thus glorified God. Third, because through death He destroyed him who had the power of death, that is the devil ( Hebrews 2:14). What a notable achievement was this, that One made in the likeness of sin's flesh should accomplish the utter defeat of the arch-enemy of God and man! Fourth, because at the Cross was paid the ransom-price which purchased for Himself all the elect of God. What glory for the Son of man was this, that He should do what none other in all the realm of creation could do (through immeasurable suffering and shame)—"bring many sons unto glory." The manner in which He wrought this work also glorified Him: He was a willing sufferer; the price was cheerfully paid; He was led, not driven, as a lamb to the slaughter; He endured the Cross, despising the shame; and not until offended justice and a broken law were fully satisfied did He cry, "It is finished." Finally, by virtue of His Cross-work, a glory was acquired by the Mediator: there is now a glorified Man at God's right hand ( John 17:22). "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name" ( Philippians 2:10).
"And God is glorified in him" ( John 13:31). What a theme! One which no human pen can begin to do justice to. The Cross-work of Christ was not only the basis of our salvation, and the glorification of the Son of man Himself, but it was also the brightest manifestation of the glory of God. Every attribute of Deity was superlatively magnified at Calvary.
The power of God was exceedingly glorified at the Cross. There the kings of the earth and the rulers took counsel together against God and against His Christ; there the terrible enmity of the carnal mind and the desperate wickedness of the human heart did their worst; there the fiendish malignity of Satan was put forth to its fullest extent. But God had laid help upon One that is mighty ( Psalm 89:19). None was able to take His life from the Savior ( John 10:18). After man and Satan had done their worst, the Lord Jesus remained complete master of Himself, and not until He saw fit did He lay down His life of Himself: never was the power of God more illustriously displayed. Christ was crucified "through weakness" ( 2 Corinthians 13:4), offering no resistance to His enemies: but it is written, "The weakness of God is stronger than men" ( 1 Corinthians 1:25), and gloriously was that demonstrated at the Cross, when the power of God sustained the humanity of Christ as He endured His outpoured wrath.
The justice of God was exceedingly glorified at the Cross. Of old He declared that He "will by no means clear the guilty" ( Exodus 34:7), and when the Lord laid on our blessed Substitute "the iniquities of us all" He hung there as the Guilty One. And God is so strictly and immutably just that He would not spare His own Son when He had made Him to be sin for us. He would not abate the least mite of that debt which righteousness demanded. The penalty of the broken law must be enforced, even though it meant the slaying of His well Beloved. Therefore did the cry go forth, "Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts: smite the Shepherd" ( Zechariah 13:7). The justice of God was more illustriously glorified by the propitiation which was made by the Lord Jesus than if every member of the human race were to suffer in Hell forever.
The holiness of God was exceedingly glorified at the Cross. He is "of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity" ( Habakkuk 1:13), and when Christ was "made a curse for us" ( Galatians 3:13) the thrice Holy One turned away from Him. It was this which caused the agonizing Savior to cry, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Never did God so manifest His hatred of sin as in the sufferings and death of His Only-begotten. There He showed it was impossible for Him to be at peace with that which had raised its defiant head against Him. All the honor due to the holiness of God by all the holy angels, and all the cheerful obedience and patient suffering of all the holy men who have ever existed, or ever will exist, are nothing in comparison with the offering of Christ Himself in order that every demand of God's holiness, which sin had outraged, might be fully met.
The faithfulness of God was exceedingly glorified at the Cross. God had sworn, "The soul that sinneth it shall die," and when the Sinless One offered to receive the full and fearful wages of sin, God showed to all heaven and earth that He had rather that the blood of His Fellow be spilt than that one tittle of the Word should fail. In the Scriptures He had made it known that His Son should be led as a lamb to the slaughter, that His hands and His feet should be pierced, that He should be numbered with transgressors, that He should be wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities. These and many other predictions received their exact fulfillment at Calvary, and their accomplishment there supplied the greatest proof of all that God cannot lie.
The love of God was exceedingly glorified at the Cross. "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son" ( John 3:16). "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" ( 1 John 4:10). "The light of the sun is always the same, but it shines brightest at noon. The Cross of Christ was the noon-tide of everlasting love—the meridian-splendor of eternal mercy. There were many bright manifestations of the same love before; but they were like the light of the morning that shines more and more unto the perfect day; and that perfect day was when Christ was on the Cross, and darkness covered all the land" (McLaurin).
O when we view God's grand design,
To save rebellious worms,
How vengeance and compassion join
In their sublimest forms!
Our thoughts are lost in rev'rent awe—
We love and we adore;
The first archangel never saw
So much of God before!
Here each Divine perfection joins,
And thought can never trace,
Which of the glories brightest shines—
The justice or the grace.
"If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him" ( John 13:32). "This verse may be paraphrased as follows: ‘If God the Father be specially glorified in all His attributes by My death, He shall proceed at once to place special glory on Me, for My personal work, and shall do it without delay, by raising Me from the dead, and placing Me at His right hand.' It is the same idea that we have in the seventeenth chapter more fully. ‘I have glorified thee on the earth; now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own selfí" (Bishop Ryle).
"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" ( John 13:33). Here for the first time the Lord Jesus addressed His disciples by this special term of endearment, "little children." It is striking to observe that the Lord waited until after Judas had gone out before using it: teaching us that unbelievers must not be addressed as God's "children"! "Ye shall seek Me" tells of their love for Him, as the "little children" had expressed His love for them. "Whither I go, ye cannot come" seems to have a different force from what it signified when addressed to the unbelieving Jews in John 7:33. He declared to them, "I go unto him that sent me . . . and where I Amos, thither ye cannot come." The reference is the same in John 8:21. But here the Savior was not speaking of His return to the Father, but of His going to the Cross—thither "they" could not come. In His great work of redemption He was alone. Just as in the type, "There shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation when he (the high priest) goeth in to make an atonement" ( Leviticus 16:17), so in the antitype.
"A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another" ( John 13:34). "The immense importance of Christian love cannot possibly be shown more strikingly than the way that it is urged on the disciples in this place. Here is our Lord leaving the world, speaking for the last time, and giving His last charge to the disciples. The very first subject He takes up and presses on them is the great duty of loving one another, and that with no common love; but after the same patient, tender, unwearied manner that He had loved them. Love must needs be a very rare and important grace to be so spoken of! The want of it must needs be plain proof that a man is no true disciple of Christ. How vast the extent of Christian love ought to be" (Bishop Ryle).
"A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another." The nation now disappears. It is no question of loving one's neighbor, but of Christ's disciples, and their mutual love according to His love. Nor is it here activity of zeal, in quest of sinners, blessed as that is; but the unselfish seeking of the good of saints, as such, in lowliness of mind. The Law required love of one's neighbor, which was a fleshly relationship; Christ enjoins love to our brethren, which is a spiritual relationship. Here, then, is the first sense in which this "commandment" was a new one. But there is a further sense brought out by John in his Epistle: "A new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you" ( 1 John 2:8). Love had now been manifested, yea, personified, as never before. Christ had displayed a love superior to the faults of its objects, a love which never varied, a love which deemed no sacrifice too great. Scott has well observed on this new commandment, "Love was now to be explained with new clearness, enforced by new motives and obligations, illustrated by a new example, and obeyed in a new manner."
"By this shall all know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" ( John 13:35). Love is the badge of Christian discipleship. It is not knowledge, nor orthodoxy, nor fleshly activities, but (supremely) love which identifies a follower of the Lord Jesus. As the disciples of the Pharisees were known by their phylacteries, as the disciples of John were known by their baptism, and every school by its particular shibboleth, so the mark of a true Christian is love; and that, a genuine, active love, not in words but in deeds 1Corinthians 13gives a full exposition of this verse.
"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" ( John 13:36). How evident it is that even the Eleven had not grasped the fact that their beloved Master was going to be taken from them! Often as He had spoken to them of His death, it seems to have made no lasting impression upon them. This illustrates the fact that men may receive much religious instruction, and yet take in very little of it, the more so when it clashes with their preconceptions. The Christian teacher needs much patience, and the less he expects from his work, the less will he be disappointed. Christ's words here, "Whither I go" had a different meaning than in John 13:33. There He had spoken of taking His place alone in death: here He refers to His return to the Father, therefore is He careful to add, "thou shalt follow me afterwards."
"Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake" ( John 13:37). Peter knew and really loved the Lord, but how little he as yet knew himself! It was right to feel the Lord's absence; but he should have heeded better the mild, but grave, admonition that where Christ was going he was not able to follow Him now; he should have valued the comforting assurance that he should follow Him later. Alas! how much we lose now, how much we suffer afterwards, through not laying to heart the deep truth of Christ's words! We soon see the bitter consequences in Peter's history; but we know, from the future words of our Lord in the close of this Gospel, how grace would ensure in the end the favor, compromised by that self-confidence at the beginning, which He here warned against.
"But we are apt to think most highly of ourselves, of our love, Wisdom of Solomon, moral courage, and every other good quality, when we least know and judge ourselves in God's presence, as here we see in Peter; who, impatient of the hint already given, breaks forth into the self-confident question, ‘Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake.' Peter therefore must learn, as we also, by painful experience, what he might have understood even better by subjection of heart, in faith, to the Lord's words. When He warns, it is rash and wrong for us to question; and rashness of spirit is but the precursor of a fall in fact, whereby we must be taught, if we refuse otherwise" (Bible Treasury).
"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" ( John 13:38). Once more the Lord manifests His omniscience, this time by foretelling the fall of one of His own. Utterly unlikely did it seem that a real believer would deny his Lord, and not only Song of Solomon, but at once follow it up with further denials. Little likelihood did there appear that one who was so devoted to Christ, who had enjoyed such unspeakable privileges, and who was expressly warned that he should "watch and pray lest ye enter into temptation," should prove so unworthy. Yet incredible as it might appear to the Eleven the Lord foresaw it all, and here definitely announces the fearful sin of Peter. He knew that so far from Peter laying down his life for His sake, he would that very night try to save his own life, by a cowardly denial that he was His disciple. And yet the Lord did not cast him off. He loved even Peter "unto the end," and after His resurrection sought him out and restored him to fellowship again. Truly such love passeth knowledge. O that we were so fully absorbed with it that, for very shame, we might be withheld from doing anything that would grieve it.
The following questions are to help the student to prepare for the lesson on the first section of John 14:—
1. What is meant by "believe also in me," verse 1?
2. What is meant by the "Father's House," verse 2?
3. How is Christ "preparing a place for us," verse 3?
4. What is meant by "the way," verse 4?
5. What did Philip mean, verse 8?
6. How did the disciples see the Father in Christ, verse 9?
7. What "works' sake" did Christ refer to in verse 11?
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Pink, A.W. "Commentary on John 13". "A.W. Pink's Commentary on John and Hebrews". https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany