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The feast of the passover - See the notes at Matthew 26:2, Matthew 26:17.
His hour was come - The hour appointed in the purpose of God for him to die, John 12:27.
Having loved his own - Having given to them decisive and constant proofs of his love. This was done by his calling them to follow him; by patiently teaching them; by bearing with their errors and weaknesses; and by making them the heralds of his truth and the heirs of eternal life.
He loved them unto the end - That is, he continued the proofs of his love until he was taken away from them by death. Instances of that love John proceeds immediately to record in his washing their feet and in the institution of the Lord’s Supper. We may remark that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He does not change; he always loves the same traits of character; nor does he withdraw his love from the soul. If his people walk in darkness and wander from him, the fault is theirs, not his. His is the character of a friend that never leaves or forsakes us; a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. Psalms 37:28; “the Lord ...forsaketh not his saints.” Isaiah 49:14-17; Proverbs 18:24.
Supper being ended - This translation expresses too much. The original means while they were at supper; and that this is the meaning is clear from the fact that we find them still eating after this. The Arabic and Persic translations give it this meaning. The Latin Vulgate renders it like the English.
The devil - The leader or prince of evil spirits.
Having now put it into the heart - Literally, having cast it into the heart. Compare Ephesians 6:16; “The fiery darts of the wicked.” See Acts 5:3; Luke 22:3. The meaning of this passage is that Satan inclined the mind of Judas to do this, or he tempted him to betray his Master. We know not precisely how this was done, but we know that it was by means of his avarice. Satan could tempt no one unless there was some inclination of the mind, some natural or depraved propensity that he could make use of. He presents objects in alluring forms fitted to that propensity, and under the influence of a strong or a corrupt inclination the soul yields to sin. In the case of Judas it was the love of money; and it was necessary to present to him only the possibility of obtaining money, and it found him ready for any crime.
Jesus knowing ... - With the full understanding of his dignity and elevation of character, he yet condescended to wash their feet. The evangelist introduces his washing their feet by saying that he was fully conscious of his elevation above them, as being intrusted with all things, and this made his humiliation the more striking and remarkable. Had he been a mere human teacher or a prophet, it would have been remarkable; but when we remember the dignity of his nature, it shows how low he would stoop to teach and save his people.
Had given all things ... - See the notes at Matthew 28:18.
Was come from God - See the notes at John 8:42.
Went to God - Was about to return to heaven. See John 6:61-62.
He riseth from supper - Evidently while they were eating. See John 13:2.
Laid aside his garments - His outer garment. See the notes at Matthew 5:40. This was his mantle or robe, which is said to have been without seam. It was customary to lay this aside when they worked or ran, or in the heat of summer.
Took a towel and girded himself - This was the manner of a servant or slave. See the notes at Luke 17:8.
Began to wash ... - It was uniformly the office of a servant to wash the feet of guests, 1 Samuel 25:41. It became a matter of necessity where they traveled without shoes, and where they reclined on couches at meals. It should be remembered here that the disciples were not sitting at the table, as we do, but were lying with their feet extended from the table, so that Jesus could easily have access to them. See the notes at Matthew 23:6.
Dost thou wash my feet? - Every word here is emphatic. Dost thou - the Son of God, the Messiah - perform the humble office of a servant - toward me, a sinner? This was an expression of Peter’s humility, of his reverence for Jesus, and also a refusal to allow him to do it. It is possible, though not certain from the text, that he came to Simon Peter first.
Thou knowest not now - Though he saw the action of Jesus, yet he did not fully understand the design of it. It was a symbolical action, inculcating a lesson of humility, and intended to teach it to them in such a manner that it would be impossible for them ever to forget it. Had he simply commanded them to be humble, it would have been far less forcible and impressive than when they saw him actually performing the office of a servant.
Shalt know hereafter - Jesus at that time partially explained it John 13:14-15; but he was teaching them by this expressive act a lesson which they would continue to learn all their lives. Every day they would see more and more the necessity of humility and of kindness to each other, and would see that they were the servants of Christ and of the church, and ought not to aspire to honors and offices, but to be willing to perform the humblest service to benefit the world. And we may remark here that God often does things which we do not fully understand now, but which we may hereafter. He often afflicts us; he disappoints us; he frustrates our plans. Why it is we do not know now, but we yet shall learn that it was for our good, and designed to teach us some important lesson of humility and piety. So he will, in heaven, scatter all doubts, remove all difficulties, and show us the reason of the whole of his mysterious dealings in his leading us in the way to our future rest. We ought also, in view of this, to submit ourselves to him; to hush every murmur, and to believe that he does all things well. It is one evidence of piety when we are willing to receive affliction at the hand of God, the reason of which we cannot see, content with the belief that we may see it hereafter; or, even if we never do, still having so much confidence in God as to believe that what He does is right.
Thou shalt never wash my feet - This was a decided and firm expression of his reverence for his Master, and yet it was improper. Jesus had just declared that it had a meaning, and that he ought to submit to it. We should yield to all the plain and positive requirements of God, even if we cannot now see how obedience would promote his glory.
If I wash thee not - This had immediate reference to the act of washing his feet; and it denotes that if Peter had not so much confidence in him as to believe that an act which he performed was proper, though he could not see its propriety - if he was not willing to submit his will to that of Christ and implicitly obey him, he had no evidence of piety. As Christ, however, was accustomed to pass from temporal and sensible objects to those which were spiritual, and to draw instruction from whatever was before him, some have supposed that he here took occasion to state to Peter that if his soul was not made pure by him he could not be his follower. Washing is often thus put as an emblem of moral purification, 1 Corinthians 6:11; Titus 3:5-6. This is the meaning, also, of baptism. If this was the sense in which Jesus used these words, it denotes that unless Christ should purify Peter, he could have no evidence that he was his disciple. “Unless by my doctrine and spirit I shall purify you, and remove your pride Matthew 26:33, your lack of constant watchfulness Matthew 26:40, your anger Matthew 26:51, your timidity and fear Matthew 26:70, Matthew 26:74, you can have no part in me” (Grotius).
Hast no part with me - Nothing in common with me. No evidence of possessing my spirit, of being interested in my work, and no participation in my glory.
Not my feet only ... - Peter, with characteristic readiness and ardor, saw now that everything depended on this. His whole salvation, the entire question of his attachment to his Master, was involved. If to refuse to have his feet washed was to be regarded as evidence that he had no part with Jesus, he was not only willing, but desirous that it should be done; not only anxious that his feet should be cleansed, but his hands and his head - that is, that he should be cleansed entirely, thoroughly. Perhaps he saw the spiritual meaning of the Saviour, and expressed his ardent wish that his whole soul might be made pure by the work of Christ. A true Christian is desirous of being cleansed from all sin. He has no reserve. He wishes not merely that one evil propensity should be removed, but all; that every thought should be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ 2 Corinthians 10:5; and that his whole body, soul, and spirit should be sanctified wholly and be preserved blameless unto the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, 1 Thessalonians 5:23. His intellect, his will, his affections, his fancy, memory, judgment, he desires should be all brought under the influence of the gospel, and every power of the body and mind be consecrated unto God.
He that is washed - This is a difficult passage, and interpreters have been divided about its meaning. Some have supposed that it was customary to bathe before eating the paschal supper, and that the apostles did it; Jesus having said, “he that hath bathed his body is clean except in regard to his feet - to the dirt contracted in returning from the bath, and that there was need only that the feet should be washed in order to prepare them properly to receive the supper.” They suppose, also, that the lesson which Jesus meant to teach was that they were really pure John 15:3; that they were qualified to partake of the ordinances of religion, and needed only to be purified from occasional blemishes and impurities (Grotius). Others say that there is not evidence that the Jews bathed before partaking of the Paschal Supper, but that reference is made to the custom of washing their hands and their face. It is known that this was practiced. See the Matthew 15:2 note; Mark 7:3-4 notes. Peter had requested him to wash his hands and his head. Jesus told him that as that had been done, it was unnecessary to repeat it; but to wash the feet was an act of hospitality, the office of a servant, and that all that was needed now was for him to show this condescension and humility. Probably reference is had here to internal purity, as Jesus was fond of drawing illustrations from every quarter to teach them spiritual doctrine; as if he had said, “You are clean by my word and ministry John 15:3; you are my followers, and are prepared for the scene before you. But one thing remains. And as, when we come to this rite, having washed, there remains no need of washing except to wash the feet, so there is now nothing remaining but for me to show you an example that you will always remember, and that shall complete my public instructions to you.”
Is clean - This word may apply to the body or the soul.
Every whit - Altogether, wholly.
Ye are clean - Here the word has doubtless reference to the mind and heart.
But not all - You are not all my true followers, and fitted for the ordinance before us.
Who should betray him - Greek: “He knew him who was about to betray him.”
Know ye what ... - Do you know the meaning or design of what I have done unto you?
Ye call me Master - Teacher.
And Lord - This word is applied to one who rules, and is often given to God as being the Proprietor and Ruler of all things. It is given to Christ many hundred times in the New Testament.
Ye say well ... - Matthew 23:8, Matthew 23:10.
So I am - That is, he was their Teacher and Instructor, and he was their Sovereign and King.
Ye also ought to wash ... - Some have understood this literally as instituting a religious rite which we ought to observe; but this was evidently not the design; because:
- There is no evidence that Jesus intended it as a religious observance, like the Lord’s Supper or the ordinance of baptism.
- It was not observed by the apostles or the primitive Christians as a religious rite.
- It was a rite of hospitality among the Jews, a common, well-known thing, and performed by servants.
- It is the manifest design of Jesus here to inculcate a lesson of humility; to teach them by his example that they ought to condescend to the most humble offices for the benefit of others. They ought not to be proud, and vain, and unwilling to occupy a low place, but to regard themselves as the servants of each other, and as willing to befriend each other in every way. And especially as they were to be founders of the church, and to be greatly honored, he took this occasion of warning them against the dangers of ambition, and of teaching them, by an example that they could not forget, the duty of humility.
The servant is not ... - This was universally true, and this they were to remember always, that they were to manifest the same spirit that he did, and that they were to expect the same treatment from the world. See the notes at Matthew 10:24-25.
I speak not of you all - That is, in addressing you as clean, I do not mean to say that you all possess this character.
I know whom I have chosen - He here means evidently to say that he had not chosen them all, implying that Judas had not been chosen. As, however, this word is applied to Judas in one place John 6:70, “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?” it must have a different meaning here from that which it has there. There it evidently refers to the apostleship. Jesus had chosen him to be an apostle, and had treated him as such. Here it refers to purity of heart, and Jesus implies that, though Judas had been chosen to the office of apostleship, yet he had not been chosen to purity of heart and life. The remaining eleven had been, and would be saved. It was not, however, the fault of Jesus that Judas was not saved, for he was admitted to the same teaching, the same familiarity, and the same office; but his execrable love of gold gained the ascendency, and rendered vain all the means used for his conversion.
But that the scripture ... - These things have occurred in order that the prophecies may receive their completion. It does not mean that Judas was compelled to this course in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled, but that this was foretold, and that by this the prophecy did receive a completion. “The scripture.” This is written in Psalms 41:9. It is commonly understood of Ahithophel, and of the enemies of David who had been admitted to his friendship, and who had now proved ungrateful to him.
May be fulfilled - See the notes at Matthew 1:22. It is difficult to tell whether this prophecy had a primary reference to Judas, or whether it be meant that it received a more complete fulfillment in his case than in the time of David. The cases were similar; the same words would describe both events, for there was an exhibition of similar ingratitude and baseness in both cases, so that the same words would fitly describe both events.
He that eateth bread with me - To eat with one was a proof of friendship. See 2 Samuel 9:11; Matthew 9:11; Genesis 43:32. This means that Judas had been admitted to all the privileges of friendship, and had partaken of the usual evidences of affection. It was this which greatly aggravated his offence. It was base ingratitude as well as murder.
Hath lifted up his heel - Suidas says that this figure is taken from those who are running in a race, when one attempts to trip the other up and make him fall. It was a base and ungrateful return for kindness to which the Lord Jesus referred, and it means that he who had been admitted to the intimacies of friendship had ungratefully and maliciously injured him. Some suppose the expression means to lay snares for one others, to kick or injure a man after he is cast down (Calvin on Psalms 41:9). It is clear that it denotes great injury, and injury aggravated by the fact of professed friendship. It was not merely the common people, the open enemies, the Jewish nation that did it, but one who had received all the usual proofs of kindness. It was this which greatly aggravated our Saviour’s sufferings.
Now I tell you before it come ... - They would see by that that he had a knowledge of the heart and the power of foretelling future events, and must therefore have been sent by God. This does not imply that they had no faith before this, but that their faith would be increased and strengthened by it.
He that receiveth ... - This sentiment is found in the instructions which Jesus gave to his disciples in Matthew 10:40. Why he repeats it at this time cannot now be known. It is certain that it is not closely connected with the subject of his conversation. Perhaps, however, it was to show how intimately united he, his Father, his apostles, and all who received them were. They who received them received him, and they who received him received God. So he who betrayed him, betrayed, for the same reason, God. Hence Judas, who was about to betray him, was also about to betray the cause of religion in the world, and to betray God and his cause. Everything pertaining to religion is connected together. A man cannot do dishonor to one of the institutions of religion without injuring all; he cannot dishonor its ministers or the Saviour without dishonoring God. And this shows that one prominent ground of the Saviour’s solicitude was that his Father might be honored, and one source of his deep grief at the treason of Judas was that it would bring injury upon the whole cause of religion in the world.
Troubled in spirit - See John 12:27. The reason of his trouble here was that Judas, a professed friend, was about to betray him. He doubtless foresaw the deep and dreadful sorrows of his approaching death, and was also deeply affected with the ingratitude and wickedness of a professed friend. Jesus was man as well as God, and he felt like other men. His human nature shrank from suffering, and his tender sensibilities were affected not less deeply than would be those of other men by baseness and treason.
Testified - He bore witness to the truth; openly declared what he had before intimated - that one of them would betray him.
Doubting of whom ... - The word translated “doubting” denotes that kind of anxiety which a man feels when he is in perplexity, and knows not what to say or do. We should say they were at a loss. See the notes at Matthew 26:22.
Leaning on Jesus’ bosom - This does not mean that he was at that time actually lying on his bosom, but that he occupied a situation next to him at the table, so that his head naturally fell back on his bosom when he spoke to him. See the notes at Matthew 23:6.
Whom Jesus loved - This was doubtless John himself. The evangelists are not accustomed to mention their own names when any mark of favor or any good deed is recorded. They did not seek publicity or notoriety. In this case the appellation is more tender and honorable than any mere name. John was admitted to special friendship, perhaps, because the natural disposition of our Saviour was more nearly like the amiableness and mildness of John than any of the other disciples (Robert Hall). The highest honor that can be conferred on any man is to say that Jesus loved him. Yet this is an honor which all may possess, but which none can inherit without his spirit and without loving him. It is an honor which cannot be won by wealth or learning, by beauty or accomplishments, by rank or earthly honors, but only by the possession of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price, 1 Peter 3:4; compare Romans 8:9.
He then lying on Jesus’ breast - This is a different word from the one rendered John 13:23 leaning. It means falling back or reclining on the bosom of Jesus. When Peter spake, John laid his head back on the bosom of Jesus, so that he could speak to him privately without being heard by others.
Jesus answered - That is, he answered John. It does not appear that either Judas or the other apostles heard him.
Shall give a sop - The word translated “sop” means a morsel, a piece of bread, or anything else eaten - as much as we are accustomed to take at a mouthful. Jesus was about to dip it in the sauce which was used at the Passover. The word “dip,” in the original, is that from which is derived the word “baptize.” It means here that Jesus would dip it into the sauce as we do a piece of bread. It is probable that it was not an unusual thing for the master of a feast to help others in this way, as it does not appear to have attracted the attention of the others as at all remarkable. It was an indication to John who the betrayer was, and a hint which Judas also probably understood.
After the sop - After he had taken and probably eaten it. By this Judas saw that Jesus knew his design, and that he could not conceal his plan. He saw, also, that the other disciples would be acquainted with it; and, aroused by sudden anger, or with the apprehension that he should lose his reward, or that Jesus might escape, he resolved on executing his plan at once.
Satan entered into him - The devil had before this put it into his heart to betray Jesus John 13:2, but he now excited him to a more decided purpose. See Luke 22:3; also Acts 5:3; “Why hath Satan filled thine heart,” etc.
What thou doest, do quickly - This showed to Judas that Jesus was acquainted with his design. He did not command him to betray him, but he left him to his own purpose. He had used means enough to reclaim him and lead him to a holy life, and now he brought him to a decision. He gave him to understand that he was acquainted with his plan, and submitted it to the conscience of Judas to do quickly what he would do. If he relented, he called on him to do it at once. If he could still pursue his wicked plan, could go forward when he was conscious that the Saviour knew his design, he was to do it at once. God adopts all means to bring men to a decision. He calls upon them to act decisively, firmly, immediately. He does not allow them the privilege to deliberate about wicked deeds, but calls on them to act at once, and to show whether they will obey or disobey him; whether they will serve him, or whether they will betray fits cause. He knows all their plans, as Jesus did that of Judas, and he calls on men to act under the full conviction that he knows all their soul. Sin thus is a vast evil. When men can sin knowing that God sees it all, it shows that the heart is fully set in them to do evil, and that there is nothing that will restrain them.
No man at the table knew - This shows that Jesus had signified to John only who it was that should betray him.
The bag - The traveling-bag in which they put their common property. See the notes at John 12:6.
Have need of against the feast - The feast of the Passover. This feast continued seven days, and they supposed that Jesus had directed him to make preparation for their needs on those days.
It was night - It was in the evening, or early part of the night. What is recorded in the following chapters took place the same night.
Now is the Son of man glorified - The last deed is done that was necessary to secure the death of the Son of man, the glory that shall result to him from that death, the wonderful success of the gospel, the exaltation of the Messiah, and the public and striking attestation of God to him in the view of the universe. See the notes at John 12:32.
If God be glorified in him - If God is honored by him. If the life and death of the Messiah be such as to lead to the honor of God, such as shall manifest its perfections, and show his goodness, truth, and justice, then he will show that he thus approves his work.
God shall also glorify him - He will honor the Messiah. He will not suffer him to go without a proper attestation of his acceptance, and of the honor that God puts on him. Jesus here confidently anticipated that the Father would show that he was pleased with what he had done. He did it in the miracles that attended his death, in his resurrection, ascension, exaltation, and in the success of the gospel. We may remark that God will always, in the proper time and way, manifest his approbation of those who live so as to promote the honor of his name.
In himself - Or by himself; by a direct and public expression of his approbation. Not by the ministry of angels or by any other subordinate attestation, but by an expression that shall be direct from him. This was done by his direct interposition in his resurrection and ascension to heaven.
Shall straightway - Immediately, or without delay. This refers to the fact that the time when God would put this honor on him was at hand. His death, resurrection, and ascension were near.
Little children - An expression of great tenderness, denoting his deep interest in their welfare. As he was about to leave them, he endeavors to mitigate their grief by the most tender expressions of attachment, showing that he felt for them the deep interest in their welfare which a parent feels for his children. The word “children” is often given to Christians as implying:
1.That God is their Father, and that they sustain toward him that endearing relation, Romans 8:14-15.
2.As denoting their need of teaching and guidance, as children need the aid and counsel of a father. See the corresponding term “babes” used in 1Co 3:1; 1 Peter 2:2.
- It is used, as it is here, as an expression of tenderness and affection. See Galatians 4:19; 1 John 2:1, 1 John 2:12, 1 John 2:28; 1 John 3:7, 1 John 3:18; 1 John 4:4; 1 John 5:21.
Yet a little while I am with you - He did not conceal the fact that he was soon to leave them. There is something exceedingly tender in this address. It shows that he loved them to the end; that as their friend and guide, as a man, he felt deeply at the thoughts of parting from them, and leaving them to a cold and unfeeling world. A parting scene at death is always one of tenderness; and it is well when, like this, there is the presence of the Savior to break the agony of the parting pang, and to console us with the words of his grace.
As I said unto the Jews - See John 7:34.
So now I say to you - That is, they could not follow him then, John 13:36; John 14:2. He was about to die and return to God, and for a time they must be willing to be separated from him. But he consoled them John 13:36 with the assurance that the separation would be only temporary, and that they should afterward follow him.
A new commandment - This command he gave them as he was about to leave them, to be a badge of discipleship, by which they might be known as his friends and followers, and by which they might be distinguished from all others. It is called new, not because there was no command before which required people to love their fellow-man, for one great precept of the law was that they should love their neighbor as themselves Leviticus 19:18; but it was new because it had never before been made that by which any class or body of people had been known and distinguished. The Jew was known by his external rites, by his uniqueness of dress, etc.; the philosopher by some other mark of distinction; the military man by another, etc. In none of these cases had love for each other been the distinguishing and special badge by which they were known. But in the case of Christians they were not to be known by distinctions of wealth, or learning, or fame; they were not to aspire to earthly honors; they were not to adopt any special style of dress or badge, but they were to be distinguished by tender and constant attachment to each other.
This was to surmount all distinction of country, of color, of rank, of office, of sect. Here they were to feel that they were on a level, that they had common wants, were redeemed by the same sacred blood, and were going to the same heaven. They were to befriend each other in trials; be careful of each other’s feelings and reputation; deny themselves to promote each other’s welfare. See 1 John 3:23; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; 1 Peter 1:22; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; Galatians 6:2; 2 Peter 1:7. In all these places the command of Jesus is repeated or referred to, and it shows that the first disciples considered this indeed as the special law of Christ. This command or law was, moreover, new in regard to the extent to which this love was to be carried; for he immediately adds, “As I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” His love for them was strong, continued, unremitting, and he was now about to show his love for them in death. John 15:13; “greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” So in 1 John 3:16 it is said that “we ought also to lay down our lives for the brethren.” This was a new expression of love; and it showed the strength of attachment which we ought to have for Christians, and how ready we should be to endure hardships, to encounter dangers, and to practice self-denial, to benefit those for whom the Son of God laid down his life.
By this shall all men ... - That is, your love for each other shall be so decisive evidence that you are like the Saviour, that all people shall see and know it. It shall be the thing by which you shall be known among all men. You shall not be known by special rites or habits; not by a special form of dress or manner of speech; not by special austerities and unusual customs, like the Pharisees, the Essenes, or the scribes, but by deep, genuine, and tender affection. And it is well known it was this which eminently distinguished the first Christians, and was the subject of remark by the surrounding pagans. “See,” said the pagan, “see how they love one another! They are ready to lay down their lives for each other.” Alas! how changed is the spirit of the Christian world since then! Perhaps, of all the commands of Jesus, the observance of this is that which is least apparent to a surrounding world. It is not so much that they are divided into different sects, for this may be consistent with love for each other; but it is the want of deep-felt, genuine love toward Christians even of our own denomination; the absence of genuine self-denial; the pride of rank and wealth; and the fact that professed Christians are often known by anything else rather than by true attachment to those who bear the same Christian name and image. The true Christian loves religion wherever it is found equally in a prince or in a slave, in the mansion of wealth or in the cottage of poverty, on the throne or in the hut of want. He overlooks the distinction of sect, of color, and of nations; and wherever he finds a man who bears the Christian name and manifests the Christian spirit, he loves him. And this, more and more as the millennium draws near, will be the special badge of the professed children of God. Christians will love their own denominations less than they love the spirit and temper of the Christian, wherever it may be found.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on John 13". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28