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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

John 13

Verses 1-99

Chap. 13

We now enter upon the second main division of the Gospel. The Evangelist has given us thus far a narrative of Christ’s Ministry presented to us in a series of typical scenes (1:18 12:50). He goes on to set forth the Issues of Christ’s Ministry (13 20). The last chapter (21) forms the Epilogue, balancing the first eighteen verses (1:1 18), which form the Prologue.

The second main division of the Gospel, like the first, falls into three parts: 1. the inner Glorification of Christ in His last Discourses (13 17); 2. the outer Glorification of Christ in His Passion (18, 19); 3. the Victory completed in the Resurrection (20). These parts will be subdivided as we reach them.

13 17. The inner Glorification of Christ in His last Discourses

1. His Love in Humiliation (13:1 30); 2. His Love in keeping His own (13:30 15:27); 3. the Promise of the Paraclete and of Christ’s Return (16): 4. Christ’s Prayer for Himself, the Apostles, and all Believers (17).

Chap. 13:1 30. Love in Humiliation

This section has two parts in strong and dramatic contrast; 1. the washing of the disciples’ feet (1 20); 2. the self-excommunication of the traitor (21 30).

1. Now before the feast of the passover ] These words give a date not to any one word in the verse, whether ‘knew’ or ‘having loved’ or ‘loved,’ but to the narrative which follows. Their most natural meaning is that some evening before the Passover Jesus was at supper with His disciples. This was probably Thursday evening, the beginning of Nisan 14: but the difficult question of the Day of the Crucifixion is too long for a note and is discussed in Appendix A.

when Jesus knew ] Or, Jesus knowing ( v . 3). The Greek may mean either ‘although He knew’ or ‘because He knew.’ The latter is better: it was precisely because He knew that He would soon return to glory that He gave this last token of self-humiliating love.

his hour was come ] See on 2:4, 7:6, 11:9. Till His hour had come His enemies could do nothing but plot (7:30, 8:20).

that he should ] Literally, in order that He should , of the Divine purpose. See on 12:23.

depart out of ] Or, pass over out of: it is the same verb and preposition as in 5:24.; ‘hath passed over out of death into life.’

his own ] Those whom God had given Him, 1:11, 12, 17:11; Acts 4:23 , Acts 24:23 .

unto the end ] The end of His life is the common interpretation, which may be right Comp. Matthew 10:22 and 24:13, where the same Greek expression is translated as it is here; and 1 Thessalonians 2:16 , where it is translated ‘to the uttermost.’ In Luke 18:5 ‘continual coming’ is literally ‘coming to the end.’ In all these passages the meaning may either be ‘at the last, finally,’ or, ‘to the uttermost, utterly.’ To the uttermost is perhaps to be preferred here. Comp. the LXX. of Amos 9:8 ; Psalms 12:1 .

2. supper being ended ] There are two readings here, but neither of them means ‘being ended,’ moreover the supper is not ended ( v . 26). The common reading would mean ‘supper having begun,’ and the better reading, ‘when supper was at hand,’ or, ‘when supper was beginning.’ “It was the custom for slaves to wash the feet of the guests before sitting down to meat; and we are tempted to suppose that the symbolical act, which our Evangelist relates here, took the place of this custom.” S. p. 214.

the devil … to betray him ] The true reading gives us, The devil having now put it into the heart , that Judas, Simon’s son, Iscariot, should betray Him . Whose heart? Only two answers are possible grammatically; (1) the heart of Judas, (2) the devil’s own heart. The latter is incredible, if only for the reason that S. John himself has shewn that the devil had long been at work with Judas. The meaning is that of the received reading, but more awkwardly expressed. ‘To betray’ is literally S. John’s favourite form ‘in order that he should betray.’ The traitor’s name is given in full for greater solemnity, and in the true text comes last for emphasis. Note the position of Iscariot, confirming the view (see on 6:71) that the word is a local epithet rather than a proper name.

3. Jesus knowing ] The Greek is the same as of ‘when Jesus knew’ in v . 1, and may have either of the two meanings given there. Here also ‘because He knew’ is better.

given all things ] Comp. Ephesians 1:22 ; Philippians 2:9-11 .

and went to God ] Better, and is going to God .

4. He riseth from supper , &c.] Or, from the supper: the article perhaps marks the supper as no ordinary one. “This is the realism of history indeed.… The carefulness with which here, as in the account of the cleansing of the temple, the successive stages in the action are described, proclaim the eye-witness.” S. p. 216. One is unwilling to surrender the view that this symbolical act was intended among other purposes to be a tacit rebuke to the disciples for the ‘strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest’ (Luke 22:24 ); and certainly ‘I am among you as he that serveth’ ( v . 27) seems to point directly to this act. This view seems all the more probable when we remember that a similar dispute was rebuked in a similar way, viz. by symbolical action (Luke 9:46-48 ). The dispute may have arisen about their places at the table. That S. Luke places the strife after the supper is not fatal to this view; he gives no note of time , and the strife is singularly out of place there, immediately after their Master’s self-humiliation and in the midst of the last farewells. We may therefore believe, in spite of S. Luke’s arrangement, that the strife preceded the supper. “One thing is clear, that S. John, if he had read S. Luke’s Gospel at this point, has not copied or followed it. He proceeds with the same peculiar independence which we have noticed in him all through.” S. p. 215.

his garments ] Or, His upper garments , which would impede His movements.

5. into a bason ] Better, into the bason , which stood there for such purposes, the large copper bason commonly found in oriental houses.

began to wash ] Began is not a mere amplification as in the other Gospels (Matthew 11:7 , Matthew 11:26 :22, 37, 74; Mark 4:1 , Mark 4:6 :2, Mark 4:7 , Mark 4:34 , 55; Luke 7:15 , Luke 7:24 , Luke 7:38 , Luke 7:49 ; &c. &c.), and in the Acts (1:1, 2:4, 18, 26, &c.). The word occurs nowhere else in S. John, and here is no mere periphrasis for ‘washed.’ He began to wash, but was interrupted by the incident with S. Peter. With whom He began is not mentioned: from very early times some have conjectured Judas.

Contrast the mad insolence of Caligula quosdam summis honoribus functos … ad pedes stare succinctos linteo passus est . Suet. Calig. xxvi. Linteum in a Greek form is the very word here used for towel.

6. Then cometh he ] Better, He cometh therefore, i.e. in consequence of having begun to wash the feet of each in turn. The natural impression is that S. Peter’s turn at any rate did not come first. But if it did, this is not much in favour of the primacy of S. Peter, which can be proved from other passages, still less of a supremacy, which cannot be proved at all.

dost thou wash my feet? ] There is a strong emphasis on ‘Thou.’ Comp. ‘Comest Thou to me?’ (Matthew 3:14 .)

7. What I do thou knowest not ] Here both pronouns are emphatic and are opposed. Peter’s question implied that he knew, while Christ did not know, what He was doing: Christ tells him that the very reverse of this is the fact. On ‘now’ see note on 16:31.

hereafter ] Literally, after these things (3:22, 5:1, 14, 6:1, 7:1, 19:38). ‘Hereafter’ conveys a wrong impression, as if it referred to the remote future. Had this been intended the words used for ‘now’ and ‘afterwards’ in v . 36 would probably have been employed here. The reference probably is to the explanation of this symbolical action given in vv . 12 17. This seems clear from the opening words ( v . 12), ‘ Know ye what I have done to you?’ all the more so, because it is the same word for ‘know’ as here for ‘thou shalt know’ ( ginôskein ); whereas the Greek for ‘thou knowest’ in this verse is a different and more general word ( oidas ): ‘what I am doing, thou knowest not just now, but thou shalt recognise presently.’ See notes on 7:26 and 8:55.

8. Thou shalt never wash my feet ] The negative is the strongest form possible; ‘thou shalt certainly not wash my feet for ever.’ See on 8:51, and comp. Matthew 16:22 .

no part with me ] The Greek is the same as in Matthew 24:51 and Luke 12:46 . The expression is of Hebrew origin; comp. Deuteronomy 10:9 , Deuteronomy 12:12 , Deuteronomy 14:27 . To reject Christ’s self-humiliating love, because it humiliates Him (a well-meaning but false principle), is to cut oneself off from Him. It requires much more humility to accept a benefit which is a serious loss to the giver than one which costs him nothing. In this also the surrender of self is necessary.

9. not my feet only ] The impetuosity which is so marked a characteristic of S. Peter in the first three Gospels (comp. especially Luke 5:8 and Matthew 16:22 ), comes out very strongly in his three utterances here. It is incredible that this should be deliberate invention; and if not, the independent authority of this narrative is manifest.

10. He that is washed ] Rather, He that is bathed (comp. Hebrews 10:22 and 2 Peter 2:22 ). In the Greek we have quite a different word from the one rendered ‘wash’ elsewhere in these verses: the latter means to wash part of the body, this to bathe the whole person. A man who has bathed does not need to bathe again when he reaches home, but only to wash the dust off his feet: then he is wholly clean. So also in the spiritual life, a man whose moral nature has once been thoroughly purified need not think that this has been all undone if in the walk through life he contracts some stains: these must be washed away, and then he is once more wholly clean. Peter, conscious of his own imperfections, in Luke 5:8 , and possibly here, rushes to the conclusion that he is utterly unclean. But his meaning here perhaps rather is; ‘If having part in Thee depends on being washed by Thee, wash all Thou canst.’ S. Peter excellently illustrates Christ’s saying. His love for his Master proves that he had bathed; his boastfulness ( v . 37), his attack on Malchus (18:10), his denials (25, 27) his dissimulation at Antioch (Galatians 2:0 ), all shew how often he had need to wash his feet.

but not all ] This is the second indication of the presence of a traitor among them (comp. 6:70). Apparently it did not attract much attention: each, conscious of his own faults, thought the remark only too true. The disclosure is made gradually but rapidly now ( vv . 18, 21, 26).

11. who should betray him ] Or, him that was betraying Him . The Greek construction is exactly equivalent to that of ‘He that should come’ (Matthew 11:3 ; Luke 7:19 ); in both cases it is the present participle with the definite article ‘the betraying one,’ ‘the coming one.’

therefore ] Or, for this cause : see on 12:39.

12. was set down ] The Greek verb occurs frequently in the Gospels (and nowhere else in N.T.) of reclining at meals. It always implies a change of position (see on v . 25, and comp. 6:10, 21:20; Matthew 15:35 ; Mark 6:40 : Luke 11:37 ).

Know ye ] ‘Do ye recognise the meaning of it?’ (see on v . 7). The question directs their attention to the explanation to be given.

13. Master and Lord ] Or, The Master ( Teacher ) and the Lord . These are the ordinary titles of respect paid to a Rabbi: ‘Lord’ is the correlative of ‘servant,’ so that ‘Master’ might be a synonym for that also; but the disciples would no doubt use the word with deeper meaning as their knowledge of their Master increased. In the next verse the order of the titles is reversed, to give emphasis to the one with this deeper meaning.

14. your Lord and Master, have washed ] Rather, the Lord and the Master , washed . For the construction comp. 15:20 and 18:23.

ye also ought to wash one another’s feet ] The custom of ‘the feet washing’ on Maundy Thursday in literal fulfilment of this typical commandment is not older than the fourth century. The Lord High Almoner washed the feet of the recipients of the royal ‘maundy’ as late as 1731.James 2:0 was the last English sovereign who went through the ceremony. In 1 Timothy 5:10 ‘washing the saints’ feet’ is perhaps given rather as a type of devoted charity than as a definite act to be required.

15. as I have done to you ] Not, ‘ what I have done to you,’ but ‘ even as I have done:’ this is the spirit in which to act self-sacrificing humility whether or no it be exhibited precisely in this way. Mutual service, and especially mutual cleansing, is the obligation of Christ’s disciples. Comp. James 5:16 .

16. The servant is not greater than his lord ] This saying occurs four times in the Gospels, each time in a different connexion: (1) to shew that the disciples must expect no better treatment than their Master (Matthew 10:24 ); (2) to impress the Apostles with their responsibilities as teachers, for their disciples will be as they are (Luke 6:40 ); (3) here; (4) with the same purpose as in Matthew 10:24 , but on another occasion (15:20). We infer that it was one of Christ’s frequent sayings: it is introduced here with the double ‘verily’ as of special importance (1:51).

he that is sent ] An Apostle ( apostolos ).

17. happy are ye if ye do them ] Better, blessed are ye , &c. It is the same Greek word as is used in 20:29 and in the Beatitudes both in S. Matthew and in S. Luke. Comp. Luke 11:28 , Luke 11:12 :43; Matthew 7:21 ; Revelation 1:3 .

18. I speak not of you all ] There is one who knows these things, and does not do them, and is the very reverse of blessed.

I know whom I have chosen ] The first ‘I’ is emphatic: ‘ I know the character of the Twelve whom I chose ; the treachery of one has been foretold; it is no surprise to Me.’ Comp. 6:70.

but that ] This elliptical use of ‘but that’ (= ‘but this was done in order that’) is frequent in S. John: 1:8, 9:3, 14:31, 15:25; 1 John 2:19 . Here another way of filling up the ellipsis is possible; ‘But I chose them in order that.’

may be fulfilled ] See on 12:38. The quotation is taken, but with freedom, from the Hebrew of Psalms 41:9 ; for ‘lifted up his heel’ both the Hebrew and the LXX. have ‘magnified his heel.’ (See on 6:45.) The metaphor here is of one raising his foot before kicking, but the blow is not yet given. This was the attitude of Judas at this moment. It has been remarked that Christ omits the words ‘Mine own familiar friend whom I trusted:’ He had not trusted Judas, and had not been deceived, as the Psalmist had been: ‘He knew what was in man’ (2:25).

He that eateth bread with me ] Or, He that eateth the bread with Me . The more probable reading gives, My bread for ‘the bread with Me.’ The variations from the LXX. are remarkable. (1) The word for ‘eat’ is changed from the common verb ( ἐσθίω ) used in Psalms 41:10 to the much less common verb ( τρώγω ) used of eating Christ’s Flesh and the Bread from Heaven (6:54, 56, 57, 58, where see notes), and nowhere else in the N.T., excepting Matthew 24:38 . (2) ‘Bread’ or ‘loaves’ ( ἄρτους ) has been altered to ‘ the bread’ ( τὸν ἄρτον ). (3) ‘My’ has possibly been strengthened to ‘with Me:’ to eat bread with a man is more than to eat his bread, which a servant might do. These changes can scarcely be accidental, and seem to point to the fact that the treachery of Judas in violating the bond of hospitality, so universally held sacred in the East, was aggravated by his having partaken of the Eucharist. That Judas did partake of the Eucharist seems to follow from Luke 22:19-21 , but the point is one about which there is much controversy.

S. John omits the institution of the Eucharist for the same reason that he omits so much, because it was so well known to every instructed Christian; and for such he writes.

19. Now ] Better, as the margin, From henceforth (comp. 1:51, 14:7; Revelation 14:13 ). Hitherto Christ had been reserved about the presence of a traitor; to point him out would have been to make him desperate and deprive him of a chance of recovery. But every good influence has failed, even the Eucharist and the washing of his feet; and from this time onward Christ tells the other Apostles.

before it come ] Add to pass , as in the next clause. Comp. 14:29. The success of such treachery might have shaken their faith had it taken them unawares: by foretelling it He turns it into an aid to faith.

may believe that I am he ] See on 8:24, 28, 58.

20. He that receiveth , &c.] The connexion of this saying, solemnly introduced with the double ‘verily,’ with what precedes is not easy to determine. The saying is one with which Christ had sent forth the Apostles in the first instance (Matthew 10:40 ). It is recalled at the moment when one of them is being denounced for treachery. It was natural that such an end to such a mission should send Christ’s thoughts back to the beginning of it. Moreover He would warn them all from supposing that such a catastrophe either cancelled the mission or proved it to be worthless from the first. Of every one of them, even of Judas himself, the saying still held good, ‘he that receiveth whomsoever I send, receiveth Me.’ The unworthiness of the minister cannot annul the commission.

21 30. The self-excommunication of the traitor

21. he was troubled in spirit ] Once more the reality of Christ’s human nature is brought before us (comp. 11:33, 35, 38, 12:27); but quite incidentally and without special point. It is the artless story of one who tells what he saw because he saw it and remembers it. The life-like details which follow are almost irresistible evidences of truthfulness.

22. looked one on another ] ‘Began to enquire among themselves’ (Luke 22:23 ). The other two Evangelists say that all began to say to Him ‘Is it I?’ They neither doubt the statement, nor ask ‘Is it he? ’ Each thinks it is as credible of himself as of any of the others. Judas asks, either to dissemble, or to see whether he really was known (Matthew 26:25 ).

23. there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom ] Better, there was reclining on Jesus’ lap . It is important to mark the distinction between this and the words rendered ‘lying on Jesus’ breast’ in v . 25. The Jews had adopted the Persian, Greek, and Roman custom of reclining at meals, and had long since exchanged the original practice of standing at the Passover first for sitting and then for reclining. They reclined on the left arm and ate with the right. This is the posture of the beloved disciple indicated here, which continued throughout the meal: in v . 25 we have a momentary change of posture.

whom Jesus loved ] This explains how S. John came to be nearest (see Introduction ii. iii. 3 b ), and “out of the recollection of that sacred, never-to-be-forgotten moment, there breaks from him for the first time this nameless, yet so expressive designation of himself” (Meyer). Comp. 19:26, 21:7, 20; not 20:2. S. John was on our Lord’s right. Who was next to Him on the left? Some think Judas, who must have been very close for Christ to answer him without the others hearing.

24. that he should ask … spake ] The better reading gives, and saith to him, Say who it is of whom He speaketh . S. Peter thinks that the beloved disciple is sure to know. The received reading, besides being wanting in authority, contains an optative mood, which S. John never uses.

25. lying on Jesus’ breast ] Our version does well in using different words from those used in v . 23, but the distinction used is inadequate. Moreover the same preposition, ‘on,’ is used in both cases; in the Greek the prepositions differ also. In v . 23 we have the permanent posture; here a change, the same verb being used as in v . 12 (see note). The meaning is leaning back on to Jesus’ breast . Comp 21:20, where our translators give a similarly inadequate rendering. “This is among the most striking of those vivid descriptive traits which distinguish the narrative of the Fourth Gospel generally, and which are especially remarkable in these last scenes of Jesus’ life, where the beloved disciple was himself an eye-witness and an actor. It is therefore to be regretted that these fine touches of the picture should be blurred in our English Bibles.” Lightfoot, On Revision , p. 73.

Some good MSS. insert ‘thus’ before ‘on to Jesus’ breast’ (comp. 4:6).

26. to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it ] The text here is uncertain, but there is no doubt as to the meaning. Perhaps the better reading is, for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him . Copyists have possibly tried to correct the awkwardness of ‘for whom’ and ‘to him.’ In any case ‘sop’ or ‘morsel’ must have the article. The Greek word is derived from ‘rub’ or ‘break,’ and means ‘a piece broken off:’ it is still the common word in Greece for ‘bread.’ To give such a morsel at a meal was an ordinary mark of goodwill, somewhat analogous to taking wine with a person in modern times. Christ, therefore, as a forlorn hope, gives the traitor one more mark of affection before dismissing him. It is the last such mark: ‘Friend, wherefore art thou come?’ (Matthew 26:50 ) should rather be ‘Comrade, (do that) for which thou art come,’ and is a sorrowful rebuke rather than an affectionate greeting. Whether the morsel was a piece of the unleavened bread dipped in the broth of bitter herbs depends upon whether this supper is regarded as the Paschal meal or not.

And when , &c.] The true reading is, Therefore , when He had dipped the morsel He taketh and giveth it . The name of Judas is once more given with solemn fulness as in 6:71, Judas the son of Simon Iscariot . Comp. v . 2.

27. Satan entered into him ] Literally, at that moment Satan entered into him . At first Satan made suggestions to him ( v . 2) and Judas listened to them; now Satan takes full possession of him. Desire had conceived and brought forth sin, and the sin full grown had engendered death (James 1:15 ). Satan is mentioned here only in S. John.

Then said ] Once more we must substitute therefore for ‘then.’ Jesus knew that Satan had claimed his own, and therefore bad him do his work.

do quickly ] Literally, do more quickly ; carry it out at once, even sooner than has been planned. Now that the winning back of Judas has become hopeless, delay was worse than useless: it merely kept Him from His hour of victory. Comp. Matthew 23:32 .

28. no man … knew ] Even S. John, who now knew that Judas was the traitor, did not know that he would act at once, and that it was to this Jesus alluded.

29. For some of them ] Shewing that they could not have understood.

had the bag ] See on 12:6.

against the feast ] This agrees with v . 1, that this meal precedes the Passover.

to the poor ] Comp. 12:5; Nehemiah 8:10 , Nehemiah 8:12 ; Galatians 2:10 .

30. He then having received the sop ] Better, He therefore having received the morsel . The pronoun here and in v . 27 ( ekeinos ) indicates that Judas is an alien. Comp. 7:11, 9:12, 28. The last two verses are a parenthetical remark of the Evangelist; he now returns to the narrative, repeating with solemnity the incident which formed the last crisis in the career of Judas.

went immediately out ] This is no evidence as to the meal not being a Paschal one. The rule that ‘none should go out at the door of his house until the morning’ (Exodus 12:22 ) had, like standing at the Passover, long since been abrogated. “When Satan entered into him, he went out from the presence of Christ, as Cain went out from the presence of the Lord.”

and it was night ] The tragic brevity of this has often been remarked, and will never cease to lay hold of the imagination. It can scarcely be meant merely to tell us that at the time when Judas went out night had begun. In the Gospel in which the Messiah so often appears as the Light of the World (1:4 9, 3:19 21, 8:12, 9:5, 12:35, 36, 46), and in which darkness almost invariably means moral darkness (1:5, 8:12, 12:35, 46) a use peculiar to S. John (1 John 1:5 , 1 John 1:2 :8, 1 John 1:9 , 11), we shall hardly be wrong in understanding also that Judas went forth from the Light of the World into the night in which a man cannot but stumble ‘because there is no light in him’ (11:10). Thus also Christ Himself said some two hours later, ‘This is your hour, and the power of darkness’ (Luke 22:53 ). For other remarks of telling brevity and abruptness comp. ‘Jesus wept’ (11:35); ‘He saith to them, I am He’ (18:5); ‘Now Barabbas was a robber’ (18:40).

These remarks shew the impropriety of joining this sentence to the next verse; ‘and it was night, therefore, when he had gone out;’ a combination which is clumsy in itself and quite spoils the effect.

13:31 15:27 . Christ’s Love in keeping His own

31 35. Jesus, freed from the oppressive presence of the traitor, bursts out into a declaration that the glorification of the Son of Man has begun. Judas is already beginning that series of events which will end in sending Him away from them to the Father; therefore they must continue on earth the kingdom which He has begun the reign of Love.

This section forms the first portion of those parting words of heavenly meaning which were spoken to the faithful eleven in the last moments before His Passion. At first the discourse takes the form of dialogue, which lasts almost to the end of chap. 14. Then they rise from the table, and the words of Christ become more sustained, while the disciples remain silent with the exception of 16:17, 18, 29, 30. Then follows Christ’s prayer, after which they go forth to the garden of Gethsemane (18:1).

31. Therefore, when he was gone out ] Indicating that the presence of Judas had acted as a constraint, but also that he had gone of his own will: there was no casting out of the faithless disciple (9:34).

Now ] With solemn exultation: the beginning of the end has come.

the Son of man ] See on 1:51.

glorified ] In finishing the work which the Father gave Him to do (17:4); and thus God is glorified in Him.

32. If God be glorified in him ] These words are omitted in the best MSS., and though they might easily be left out accidentally owing to the repetition, yet they spoil the balance and rhythm of the clauses.

God shall also glorify him ] Better, And God shall glorify Him . This refers to the heavenly glory which He had with the Father before the world was. Hence the future tense: the glory of completing the work of redemption has already begun; that of departing to the Father as the Son of Man and returning to the Father as the Son of God will straightway follow.

in himself ] i.e. in God: as God is glorified in the Messianic work of the Son, so the Son shall be glorified in the eternal blessedness of the Father. Comp. 17:4, 5; Philippians 2:9 . Between this verse and the next some would insert the institution of the Eucharist.

33. Little children ] Nowhere else in the Gospels does Christ use this expression of tender affection ( teknia ), which springs from the thought of His orphaned disciples. S. John appears never to have forgotten it. It occurs frequently in his First Epistle (2:1, 12, 28, 3:7, 18, 4:4, 5:21), and perhaps nowhere else in the N.T. In Galatians 4:19 the reading is doubtful. ‘Children’ in 21:5 is a different word ( paidia ).

a little while ] See on 7:33, 34, 8:21.

Ye shall seek me ] Christ does not add, as He did to the Jews, ‘and shall not find Me,’ still less: ‘ye shall die in your sin.’ Rather, ‘ye shall seek Me: and though ye cannot come whither I go, yet ye shall find Me by continuing to be My disciples and loving one another.’ The expression ‘the Jews’ is rare in Christ’s discourses; comp. 4:22, 18:20, 36.

34. A new commandment ] The commandment to love was not new, for ‘thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself’ (Leviticus 19:18 ) was part of the Mosaic Law. But the motive is new; to love our neighbour because Christ has loved us. We have only to read the ‘most excellent way’ of love set forth in 1 Corinthians 13:0 , and compare it with the measured benevolence of the Pentateuch, to see how new the commandment had become by having this motive added. There are two words for ‘new’ in Greek; one looks forward, ‘young,’ as opposed to ‘aged;’ the other looks back, ‘fresh,’ as opposed to ‘worn out.’ It is the latter that is used here and in 19:41. Both are used in Matthew 9:17 , but our version ignores the difference ‘They put new wine into fresh wineskins.’ The phrase ‘to give a commandment’ is peculiar to S. John; comp. 12:49; 1 John 3:23 .

as I have loved you ] These words are rightly placed in the second half of the verse. They do not mean ‘love one another in the same way as I have loved you;’ but they give the reason for the fresh commandment ‘ even as I have loved you.’ S. John states the same principle in the First Epistle (4:11) ‘If God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.’ Comp. 15:13.

35. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples ] This is the true ‘Note of the Church;’ not miracles, not formularies, not numbers, but love . “The working of such love puts a brand upon us; for see, say the heathen, how they love another,” Tertullian, Apol. xxxix. Comp. 1 John 3:10 , 1 John 3:14 . ‘My disciples’ is literally, disciples to Me .

36. Lord, whither goest thou? ] The affectionate Apostle is absorbed by the declaration ‘Whither I go, ye cannot come,’ and he lets all the rest pass. His Master is going away out of his reach; he must know the meaning of that.

thou shalt follow me afterwards ] Alluding probably not merely to the Apostle’s death, but also to the manner of it: comp. 21:18, 19. But his hour has not yet come; he has a great mission to fulfil first (Matthew 16:18 ). The beautiful story of the Domine, quo vadis? should be remembered in connexion with this verse. See Introduction to the Epistles of S. Peter, p. 56.

37. I will lay down my life ] St Peter seems to see that Christ’s going away means death. With his usual impulsiveness (see on v . 9) he declares that he is ready to follow at once even thither. He mistakes strong feeling for moral strength. On the phrase ‘lay down my life’ see last note on 10:11.

38. I say unto thee ] In the parallel passage in S. Luke (22:34) Christ for the first and only time addresses the Apostle by the name which He had given him, ‘I tell thee, Peter ;’ as if He would remind him that the rock-like strength of character was not his own to boast of, but must be found in humble reliance on the Giver.

S. Luke agrees with S. John in placing the prediction of the triple denial in the supper-room: St Matt. (26:30 35) and S. Mark (14:26 30) place it on the way from the room to Gethsemane. It is possible but not probable that the prediction was repeated; though some would even make three predictions recorded by (1) S. Luke, (2) S. John, (3) S. Matt. and S. Mark. See introductory note to Chapter 12 and Appendix B.

thrice ] All four accounts agree in this. S. Mark adds two details: (1) that the cock should crow twice , (2) that the prediction so far from checking S. Peter made him speak only the more vehemently, a particular which S. Peter’s Gospel more naturally contains than the other three. S. Matthew and S. Mark both add that all the disciples joined in S. Peter’s protestations.

It has been objected that fowls were not allowed in the Holy City. The statement is wanting in authority, and of course the Romans would pay no attention to any such rule, even if it existed among the Jews. Plummer, A. (1902). The Gospel According to St John, with Maps, Notes and Introduction . The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges (260 273). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on John 13". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cgt/john-13.html. 1896.