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[4. The fuller Revelation, and Growth of Faith among the Disciples (John 13:1 to John 17:26).
(1) Now before the feast of the passover.—Comp. John 12:1; John 12:12; John 12:36, and Excursus F: The Day of the Crucifixion of our Lord.
When Jesus knew that his hour was come . . .—He knew during the course of His earthly work that His hour was not yet come, and again and again declared this. (Comp. Note on John 2:4; John 7:6; John 11:9.) Now He knows with equal certainty that the hour is at hand that He should depart unto the Father. Having loved his own which were in the world . . .—By “his own” are here meant those who by believing on Him had received power to become the sons of God; those who by walking according as they had light were becoming sons of light. They are the true members, of the family of God. (Comp. Note on John 1:11-12.) The words as here used refer specially to those who had been called by Him, and had left all and followed Him. He is the head of this family, and He knows that these His “little children” (John 13:33) will be left as orphans (John 14:18). He would depart “out of the world;” they would be left “in the world,” as sheep among wolves, and as sheep without their shepherd. St. John places these facts in touching contrast. His thoughts are for them and not for Himself. For Him there would be the return to the glory of His Father’s throne, but His mind dwells on the bereavement and sorrow of those He leaves behind, and this moves Him to a special manifestation of His love.
He loved them unto the end—It has been usual to explain these words of the continuance of our Lord’s love—“Having loved His own, He continued to love them until the last moment.” This is, of course, true, but is a truth so certain and necessary from every conception of our Lord’s character as St. John has portrayed it, that we may doubt whether he would in this formal way state it. And though the phrase rendered “unto the end” sometimes means “finally”—as, e.g., in the New Testament, Luke 18:5, and 1 Thessalonians 2:16 (see Notes)—the sense, “unto the end” is very rare, and the general meaning is, “in the fullest degree,” “up to the limit.” It thus answers exactly to our “extremely.”
What seems not to have been noted is that the whole sentence may be a common Hebrew idiom in Greek dress. It belongs to the simple syntax of a primitive people to express intensity by repetition. The Vale of Sodom was “pits, pits of bitumen “(Genesis 14:10). Esau asked Jacob to feed him with “that red, red, thing” (Genesis 25:30). The intensity of the verbal idea was expressed in like manner by a simple form of the verb which brought the thought before the mind, and then by the special form which denoted the action. This is sometimes preserved in the English, as, e.g., in Genesis 20:17—“That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed” (I will bless thee abundantly, and will multiply thy seed exceedingly). Sometimes it is not. We have, e.g., in Amos 9:8, “I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, saith the Lord,” where the Hebrew is literally, “Destroying I will not destroy . . . (Vulgate, conter ens non conter am). In these passages the English exactly follows the Greek—i.e., the Greek in the passage of Genesis repeats the words as the Hebrew does, and in that of Amos, expresses the intensity by an adverbial phrase (εìs τέλος). Now that phrase is exactly the same as the one used by St. John here, and which is rendered “unto the end.” St. John was a Jew writing in Greek. May we not naturally expect a Hebrew thought in Greek form? He thinks of the intensity of our Lord’s love, and speaks of it in the simple expressiveness of the old Hebrew phrase, “Loving, he loved them with fulness of love.” (Comp. John 12:13.) This is not given as an amended rendering, because authority has been sought for it without success; but it is offered, as an explanation, to the reader’s judgment. The student will find in Schleusner s Lexicon Veteris Testamenti other instances which support this view.
(2) And supper being ended.—The reading here is uncertain, but neither reading justifies our translation. It should probably be, “And it now becoming supper time.” As a matter of fact, the supper was not ended (John 13:12; John 13:26); but they had already reclined, and were, as we say, ready for supper.
The devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot.—The better reading is, The devil having now put it into the heart, that Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, should betray Him. But the sense must be that of our version, “The heart of Judas” (the devil having suggested). The alternative interpretation, “the heart of the devil” (the devil having conceived) is opposed to all scriptural analogy. For the fact, comp. Notes on Matthew 26:14, and Luke 22:3.
For “Judas Iscariot,” comp. Notes on Matthew 10:4; Matthew 26:14. The name is given here in the sad fulness of this mournful record. The fact is recorded hero to explain the references to Judas which follow in our Lord’s words (John 13:10; John 13:18; John 13:21; John 13:26-27; John 13:30).
(3) Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands . . .—This explains the act of humility which follows. With the full consciousness of His supreme power and divine origin, and’ of the divine glory to which He was about to return; yes, because He was conscious of all this, He left the disciples an example of the self-denial which is the necessary outcome of love. “Subsisting in the form of God, He thought it not a thing to be grasped at to be equal with God, but emptied Himself by taking upon Him the form of a servant, and being made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6). (Comp. for the thought of the gift of all things, Notes on 1 Corinthians 15:25; Ephesians 1:22.)
(4) He riseth from supper, and laid aside’ his garments.—Comp. Notes on Luke 22:0 et seq. We there read of “a strife among them which of them should be accounted the greatest.” It is placed by St. Luke after the Supper; but our Lord’s words, “I am among you as he that serveth,” point almost certainly to a connection with this parabolic act. There had been, we may well think, some self-assertion in acts or omissions, which He by His act rebukes. They may have claimed, each above his brother, the place of honour at the table, or it may be that no one had offered the customary refreshment of water for the feet, before sitting down to meat (Luke 7:44). “We cannot say what was the immediate cause which suggested His act, but if we attempt to realise the whole scene, we must believe that there was in the disciples themselves some such cause. The garment laid aside would be the outer garment, which would impede His action, leaving the tunic, which was the ordinary dress of a servant.
And took a towel, and girded himself.—This was itself a mark of the servant’s position, and was meant to signify His assumption of the servant’s work. The successive minute details of this picture carry with them their own authenticity.
(5) After that he poureth water into a bason.—Better, . . . into the bason. It was the bason in the room, commonly used, and now ready for suck purposes. The water was at hand. All suggested then that one of the disciples might have performed this act which the Lord now performs. That it was commonly regarded as an act of reverence from an inferior to a superior is made clear by the Rabbinical passages quoted here by Schottgen and Lightfoot. (Comp. Note on Luke 7:44.)
And began to wash the disciples’ feet.—The exactness of the narrative notes that the act was only begun, and was interrupted by the objection of Peter. This word “began” is frequent in the earlier Gospels, but it is only in this touch of accuracy that St. John uses it.
(6) Then cometh he to Simon Peter.—Men who have come to these words with minds full of opinions with regard to the position of St. Peter have, of course, understood them to express that he had precedence of the other Apostles; while others have formed the opinion that Judas Iscariot was first. It is a point of no importance, and cannot be determined. The natural impression from this verse, however, is that St. Peter’s turn came after that of at least one other, and the impression from John 13:24-25 is that St. John himself, being nearest to his Master, was that other.
Lord, dost thou wash my feet?—For the title, comp. Matthew 16:22. The word “Thou” is to be strongly emphasised, but the common error of reading “my” as an emphatic word is to be avoided. The act is in itself natural; perhaps is even one that he had expected from some of the less prominent in the apostolic band. What he cannot understand is that his Master should do it. “Lord, dost Thou wash my feet?” Comp. with this feeling of the Apostle at the close of our Lord’s life that of John the Baptist at its commencement (Matthew 3:14-15).
(7) What I do thou knowest not now.—Here both pronouns are emphatic, and convey a rebuke to Peter. His words had almost implied that the Lord’s .act was wholly out of place, as of one who knew not what he was doing. The opposite was really the case. “What I do thou knowest not now.”
But thou shalt know hereafter—i.e., in the teaching which is to follow (John 13:13-17). The word rendered “hereafter” is different from that rendered “afterwards” in John 13:36. The precise meaning is “after these things.” The sense, then, is “What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt come to know presently.” (Comp. John 13:17.)
(8) Thou shalt never wash my feet.—For the word “never,” comp. Note on John 8:51. The incidental touches of character where individual apostles are named in this Gospel are in striking agreement with the more fully-drawn character of the other evangelists, and the value of their evidence for the authorship cannot be over-estimated. They are perfectly artless, but are beyond the most consummate art. We feel that it is the loving, impulsive, but self-confident Peter of the earlier Gospels who is speaking here. He does not wait for that after-knowledge which our Lord promises him. He sees no ground on which our Lord’s act can possibly be one which he can permit. Note that the emphasis is on the negative. The pronoun “my” is again not to be emphasised, nor is “Thou” in this passage. “Thou shalt never wash my feet.”
If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.—Our Lord has already intimated (John 13:7) that His deed was symbolic, and He now refers to the truth underlying the outer act. The key to His meaning is to be found in His own words in John 13:13-17. By the act of washing their feet, He, their Lord, taught the spirit of self-sacrifice and love in opposition to the spirit of self-seeking and pride which ruled even in the Apostles’ hearts. That lesson every servant and apostle of Jesus Christ must learn, for the servant is. not greater than the Lord, nor the Apostle than the Sender. That lesson Peter was refusing to learn in the pride of his own impulsive will, which seemed to be humility. But unless he learns to accept the love of Christ’s humiliation, and is so cleansed by its power that he yields his human will wholly to the divine, and learns in self-sacrifice what the spirit of Christ really is, he can have no part in Him. The lesson is a hard one, but it is necessary; the sacrifice of will may be harder than that of life; but the strong man must become as the little child before he can enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
For the phrase, “Thou hast no part with me,” which is again a Hebrew thought in Greek dress, comp. Matthew 24:51, and Luke 12:46. It is frequent in the Old Testament. See, e.g., Deuteronomy 12:12, “He hath no part nor inheritance with you.”
(9) Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.—Peter still misunderstands the meaning; but he is true to his loving impulsive character. No part with his Master! He will give up anything, everything. He knows not what this washing means, and cannot conceive that it is fitting for Christ to wash his feet; but if it in any sense can mean having a part with Christ, then not the feet only, but the whole man.
(10) He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet.—Better, He who has bathed . . . St. Peter’s words have implied that he was wholly unclean, and needed for feet, and head, and hands, for the whole man, a moral cleansing. Christ answers that this was not so. The man who has been bathed is clean, but his feet coming in contact with the dust of the road need to be washed. It was so morally. They had been cleansed; their whole moral life had been changed, but they were liable to the corruption of every-day life through which they walked, and needed to be cleansed from the pollution of it. That day had furnished an example; their pride and self-seeking was of the spirit of the world, and not of the spirit of Christ; His act was a cleansing from that, but it did not imply that they were not clean. The lesson is that all, from Apostles downwards, need the daily renewing of the grace of God; and that none should find in failure, or even in the evil which clings to his daily path, reason for questioning the reality of the moral change which has made him the child of God.
And ye are clean, but not all.—This is the moral application, accompanied by the mournful thought that it was not true of all. One there was among those who had been bathed who had allowed evil to enter into his heart and pollute it. For him cleansing had been neglected, and the daily corruption of the world had remained; evil thoughts had been harboured, until at length they had made corrupt the whole man. (Comp. Note on John 15:4.)
(11) For he knew who should betray him.—Comp. John 18:2, and Note on Matthew 26:48. This is the first reference to the betrayal during the feast. The words are words of warning, spoken in the love which even then might have redeemed and cleansed the heart, if it had been open to receive it. The feet of Judas were washed by his Master. Had he learnt the lesson of humility and love, he might have conquered the foul spirit of ambition and covetousness which was carrying him to destruction.
(12) And was set down again.—This means in the reclining position customary at meals. Comp. Luke 11:37; Luke 22:14; and in this Gospel John 6:10; John 21:20. Here it implies that the washing the feet preceded the supper (John 13:1).
Know ye what I have done to you?—This question is asked, not to be answered, but to direct their attention to what He had done, and to the interpretation which follows—“Do ye perceive what I have done? This is the meaning of it.”
(13) Ye call me Master and Lord—i.e., Master in the sense of Teacher. The word in the original is not “Rabbi.” (Comp. Note on John 11:28.) The Jewish pupils called their teachers “Rabbi” and “Mar” (Teacher), and it was not permitted to any pupil to call his teacher by his proper name (Sanhedr., fol. 100, §1). The word “Master” here refers to His position as their Teacher; the word Lord to the reverence which they paid to Him. These were the common titles of everyday life which He here asserts for Himself.
(14) Ye ought also to wash one another’s feet.—The argument is à fortiori. If He had so humbled Himself as to do the work of a servant for them, much more ought they to humble themselves for each other. To make his words as striking as possible, they are prefaced by the emphatic I, and “Master and Lord” is repeated from the previous verse, but in the inverse order, to give special prominence to the word of greater dignity.
(15) That ye should do as I have done to you.—The example is in the principle, not in the specific act; it is not “that which I have done to you,” but “according as I have done to you.” The imitation is to be worked out in applying the same principle of love and self-sacrifice in all the varying circumstances of life in which we are placed.
(16) The servant is not greater than his lord.—These words have already occurred in the earlier Gospels in another connection. (Comp. Note on Matthew 10:24, and Luke 6:40.) They occur again in this Gospel in John 15:20.
(17) If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.—The first clause of this verse assumes their knowledge of the things which He had been teaching them (John 13:13-17). They were, indeed, old lessons taught before in word, and now taught in act and word.
The second clause makes their blessedness depend upon their combining action with knowledge. They had known the truth before, but their knowledge had not profited them, and they needed on this very day to be taught them again.
(18) I speak not of you all.—The thought of their blessedness brings back again the dark thought that there is one present who will not do these things, and who cannot therefore be blessed.
I know whom I have chosen.—Comp. Note on John 6:70. The pronoun is strongly emphatic. “I (for My part) know whom I have chosen.” (See next verse.)
But that the scripture may be fulfilled.—Comp. Note on John 12:38. There is an ellipsis after “but,” which is most simply filled up by some such phrase as “all this was done;” “but all this was done that the Scripture . . .” (Comp. John 19:36 and Matthew 26:56.) Others would make the connection to be, “But I have chosen them that the Scripture . . .”
He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me.—Comp. especially Note on the quotation in John 2:18, from Psalms 61:0. The present words are a free rendering of the Greek (LXX.) of Psalms 41:9; but the LXX. follow the Hebrew more literally, and read, “hath made great his heel.” This is here interpreted to mean, “lifted up his heel,” which the Bible version of the Psalm gives, with the literal rendering magnified in the margin. The Prayer Book version follows the Vulgate in reading “hath laid great wait for Me.”
Our Lord’s quotation omits the earlier part of the verse, “Mine own familiar friend whom I trusted.” He knew whom He had chosen. “He knew what was in man, and did not trust Himself to them” (John 2:24-25).
It is by no means certain that we are justified in following the title of the Psalm, and ascribing it to David. It is not improbable that here, as in Psalms 69:0, we have the words of Jeremiah, and the special reference to the friend is unknown. If the Psalm was by David, then, as the king was the type of Christ, Ahithophel is doubtless the type of Judas. In any case the baseness of the treachery lay in the fact that the betrayer was one who did eat bread with the psalmist. He was, as our word expresses it, a “companion” (one who breaks bread with), but to this the Orientals attached a sacredness which even the Bedouin of the desert would honour. But there was one then professing to be His Apostle, eating bread with Him, and yet planning to betray Him.
(19) Now I tell you before it come.—The marginal rendering is to be preferred. (Comp. John 1:51; John 14:7.)
Ye may believe that I am he.—Comp. Note on John 8:24; John 14:29. The result of His henceforth declaring these things unto them before the events, will be that they will find confirmation of their faith in Him as the Messiah. Had He not then declared His knowledge of all, and traced even His choice of Judas to the will of God, there would have been room for doubt whether that choice was consistent with His being the Messiah.
(20) He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me.—The thoughts presented to their minds in the preceding verses are—(1) their mission as His servants; (2) the betrayal by one of their own number; (3) the announcement of this beforehand that in the event it may be a confirmation of their faith. They are to go forth, then, and to be content if their path is as that which their Master has trodden. They are not to be disheartened by treachery even in their midst, for this He had foreseen. The words spoken when they were called to be Apostles still hold true. Their honour and encouragement is in the fact that they are Apostles from Him, as He is an Apostle from the Father. This truth is one of those solemn utterances on which He would have them dwell, and is therefore introduced by “Verily, verily.” (Comp. Note on John 1:51.) For the words, which are exactly the same as those of the first commission, comp. Note on Matthew 10:40.
(21) He was troubled in spirit.—Comp. Note on John 11:33. He has spoken of the future of those who are true to their commission as Apostles. He now turns in deep emotion to him of whom those words cannot be spoken. The “Verily, verily,” and the three verbs, “was troubled,” “bare witness,” “spake,” perhaps imply that there was a pause in which His feeling checked His words, but that the witness to the truth demanded that they should be spoken, painful as they were. For the words themselves, comp. Note on Matthew 26:21.
(22) Then the disciples looked one on another.—Comp. Matthew 26:22 et seq., and the parallel in Mark 14:19 and Luke 22:23. St. Matthew and St. Mark both state that they expressed their doubt in words, and St. Luke’s narrative implies this questioning, but as addressed to one another, not to our Lord (“And they began to inquire among themselves”). St. John remembers the look of astonishment, and the way in which each tried to read the countenance of his brother as they all heard the words, which asserted that there was a traitor in their midst. He was nearest to our Lord, and knew what others may not have known, how Peter beckoned to him, and how he put the question to our Lord. This is the moment which has been caught in Leonardo da Vinci’s famous masterpiece in the refectory of the Dominican Fathers at Milan. The painting itself has almost passed away, but perhaps no work of art is so widely known. The three Apostles mentioned in the text are all on the right of our Lord. John is nearest to Him, and leaning towards Peter, who stretches behind Judas to speak to “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Judas, clutching the bag and upsetting the salt, declaring in every feature of that wondrous face, which cost Da Vinci a whole year’s study in the lowest quarter of the city, that he is the traitor, is on the right hand of John, and between him and Peter. This verse can have no better comment than a study of this great picture, accompanied by the chapter in Lanzi’s Storia Pittorica or Mrs. Jameson’s Sacred and Legendary Art, would provide, and Englishmen have a noble copy of it in their own National Gallery. (See the Sacred and Legendary Art, Ed. 3, 1857, vol. i., p. 209.)
(23) Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom.—Leonardo’s picture is in one respect misleading, and, like most paintings of the Lord’s Supper, has not represented the method in which the guests reclined rather than sat at table. Each leaned on his left arm, leaving the right arm free. The feet were stretched out behind the guest on his right hand, and the back of the head reached near to the bosom of the guest on the left. (Comp. Note on John 13:25.) The Jews followed this Persian method of reclining on couches at meals from the time of the Captivity, and this method of eating the Passover had the special significance of security and possession of the Promised Land, as opposed to the attitude of one undertaking a journey, which was part of the original institution (Exodus 12:11).
One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved—i.e., John himself. (Comp. John 21:2; John 21:7; John 21:20-23, and Introduction, p. 375.) The same designation occurs also in John 19:26.
(24) Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him.—The tense in the original is present. “Simon Peter therefore beckons,” or, makes a sign. We have to remember that these Apostles were both members of the first group, who are from some special characteristics nearer to our Lord than the others. They had both been disciples of the Baptist (John 1:40-41), and we may think of them in the earlier as in the later work as in a special sense companions and friends. (Comp. John 20:2; Acts 3:1; Acts 4:13.)
That he should ask who it should be of whom he spake.—The better reading is, and saith unto him, Say who it is of whom He speaketh. St. Peter supposes that the disciple whom Jesus loved is more than any other in the confidence of his Master, and that he knew who was here referred to, and makes a sign to him to tell what he knew.
(25) He then lying on Jesus’ breast.—Several good authorities, including the Vatican and the Cambridge MSS., insert the word “thus.” “He then leaning thus . . . ,” describes the action just as it took place (comp. Note on John 4:6); but the balance of authority is against the insertion. The action is, however, exactly described in the original, for the words “lying” and “breast” are both different from those in John 13:23. The English preserves this difference, but hardly conveys the full meaning. There the beloved disciple is described as reclining towards his Master’s bosom. Here he leans upon (or leans back upon, as many good authorities read), the Master’s breast, and asks Him the question, “Who is it?”
(26) He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it.—The better reading is probably, He it is for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him; but the change does not affect the sense. The pronouns are emphatic. “He it is for whom I . . .”The word “morsel” or “sop” occurs in the New Testament only in this context. The meaning is illustrated by the use in the LXX. in Ruth 2:14 (“Come thou hither, and thou shalt eat of the bread and dip thy morsel in the vinegar”); and Job 31:17 (“And if I ate my morsel alone, and did not impart it to the orphan”). The cognate verb occurs twice in the New Testament—Romans 12:20 and 1 Corinthians 13:3. (See Notes on these passages.) The original root of the word means “to rub.” Hence it is “anything rubbed or broken off.” It was often used for a mouthful just like “morsel,” which means literally, a little bite. As used here, the word means any portion of food. The general explanation that the morsel was dipped in the Charosheth (comp. Note on Matthew 26:28) implies that this supper was the Paschal Supper. (See Excursus F: The Day of the Crucifixion of our Lord.)
Our Lord would preside at the meal, and distribute to each guest his portion. When John asked the question, He was about to give the morsel to Judas. He avoids the name, and makes the act which He is about to perform convey the answer to the question. That act is the token of friendship and love which even now would redeem the heart full of treachery, if that heart would but receive it. (Comp. John 13:18.)
He gave it to Judas Iscariot.—Better, He takes and gives . . . , with the majority of good MSS. Note the solemn and sad fulness with which the name of Judas is again given by the Evangelist. (Comp. John 13:2.)
(27) And after the sop Satan entered into him.—The Greek expresses more vividly the very moment when the mind finally cast out love, and left itself as a possession for Satan. “And after the sop, then Satan entered into him.” It was at that moment, when the last effort had been tried, and tried in vain, when the heart hardened itself to receive from Jesus the sacred pledge of love, while it was plotting in black hatred how to betray Him; it was then that hope took her flight from a realm of gloom where she could no longer dwell, and light ceased to shine in a darkness that would not comprehend it.
Then said Jesus unto him.—Better, Jesus therefore said unto him. It was because He read the secrets of the heart, and saw that it was wholly given up to evil that He said it.
That thou doest, do quickly.—The Greek is exactly, more quickly. “Carry out your plans even more quickly than you have proposed. Do the fatal deed at once. It is resolved, and every effort to win thee has failed. A fixed resolve is nothing less than the deed itself.”
(28) Now no man at the table knew.—This is a comment of the Apostle’s, as he writes in remembrance of the impression made at the time upon all who were present. They heard our Lord say to Judas, “What thou doest, do quickly; “but none of them knew until afterwards that these words referred to the betrayal.
(29) Because Judas had the bag.—Comp. Notes on John 12:6.
Buy those things that we have need of against the feast.—Here, again, it will be better to postpone the consideration of details in the order of the events of this week, and to deal with the question as a whole. (Comp. Excursus F: The Day of the Crucifixion of our Lord.)
That he should give something to the poor.—Such gifts seem to have been made at all festivals. Their thought was probably of gifts to enable the poor to obtain the lamb and other requisites for keeping the Passover.
(30) He then having received the sop.—Comp. Note on John 13:27. The narrative is resumed from that point, John 13:28-29 being an explanatory note added by the writer. Returning to the record of what took place, he dwells again on the moment of receiving the sop as that in which the betrayer took the fatal step which could not be retraced.
And it was night.—These words doubtless state the physical fact that at the time when Judas left the room the darkness of night had already come on. He went out, and went out into the darkness of night. We cannot say that the writer meant them to express more than this, and yet we feel that there is in them a fulness of meaning that cannot have been unintentional. It was night; and he stepped forth from light into darkness; from the presence and guidance of the Light of the World, to be possessed by and guided by the prince of darkness. It was night; and St. John could hardly have written these words without remembering those he had written but a short time before: “If a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him.” (See Note on John 11:10.) Comp., for the way in which St. John gives emphasis to a tragic fulness of meaning by expressing it in a short detached sentence, John 11:35; John 18:40.
[(2) THE LAST WORDS OF DEEPEST MEANING TO THE FAITHFUL FEW (John 13:31 to John 16:33).
His glory is at hand, because He is going to the Father; they are therefore to love one another (John 13:31-38);
In the Father’s house He will receive them to Himself. He is the Way, the Truth, the Life (John 14:1-10);
Being in the Father, He will be present in the disciples (John 13:11-24):
(α) By answering their prayers (John 13:12-14);
By sending to them the Paraclete (John 13:13-17);
By abiding in them (John 13:18-24).
His legacy of peace to them (John 13:25-31).]
(31) Now is the Son of man glorified.—Comp. Notes on John 11:4; John 12:28. The going out of Judas is the sign that the betrayal and death of the Son of Man was at hand. In that was the glory of His accomplished work, and He speaks of this glory as present. It lies so immediately before Him that it is at once realised; and the brightness of the vision over-powers all thought of the darkness of the path which leads to it.
God is glorified in him.—This is a re-statement of the thought which has met us whenever the work of the Son has been dwelt upon. It was the Father’s work too. The glory of the Son of Man in the redemption of the world was the glory of God, who gave His only-begotten Son, that by Him the world might be saved. There is a contrast drawn here between the humanity and the divinity united in the person of our Lord. In Him, i.e., in His person, in the person of the Son of Man suffering and crucified, there were manifested the attributes of the majesty and glory of God. It was an utterance to the world, in a fulness never heard before, of the Justice, Holiness, and Love which are the nature of God.
(32) If God be glorified in him.—These words are omitted by a majority of the best MSS.
God shall also glorify him in himself.—The tense now changes to the future, and the glory thought of is that of the Father’s throne. The words “in Himself,” refer to “God,” not to “the Son of Man.” The thought is that the humiliation by which God is manifested to the world is the glory of God in the person of the Son of Man, and that this shall be followed by the glory of the Son of Man in the person of God, not simply and generally by His return to the glory of the pre-incarnate state, but by His return to it as the Son of Man. (Comp. Notes on John 17:4-5.)
And shall straightway glorify him.—This accounts for the present tense of the last verse. The whole is present to His mind as occurring forthwith.
(33) Little children, yet a little while I am with you.—The thought of His own glory brings with it the thought of their state of orphanage when He shall have departed from them, and He addresses them as “Little children,” with a word of tenderness spoken only here by Him. The word impressed itself upon the mind of St. John, and it occurs elsewhere in the New Testament only in his First Epistle (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), and in an uncertain reading in the striking words of St. Paul, “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you.” (See Note on Galatians 4:19, and comp. Introduction, p. 371.)
For the remainder of the verse, see Notes on John 7:33-34; John 8:21.
(34) A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another.—There is no reference in the context to the Ten Commandments, and we are not therefore to seek the meaning of the “new commandment” in any more or less full contrast with them. They also taught that a man should love his neighbour as himself; and the fulfilment of the law is love. The contrast here is between what our Lord had said unto the Jews and what He now says to the disciples. He had said, and says again, “Whither I go ye cannot come.” To the Jews he added, “Ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins” (John 7:34-35). For those who believe in Him, He has no such decree of separation, but a new and different commandment, by which His spiritual presence would be at once realised and proved. Love to one another, and therefore sacrifice of self for another’s good, would be, in the truest sense, a realisation of His presence in their midst. (Comp. Note on 1 John 2:8.)
For the meaning of the word “commandment,” comp. Note on John 10:18.
As I have loved you.—More exactly, Even as I loved you. (Comp. Note on John 13:1.) The punctuation of our version is to be maintained. It is not, as it has sometimes been read, “That ye love one another, as I have loved you . . .” The earlier clause gives the principle of the new commandment. The latter clause repeats this, and prefaces the repetition by words referring to His own acts of love, which should be an example for them. The word “as,” or “even as,” does not refer to the degree of His love, but to the fact; and the special instance of love then present to the mind was the feet-washing upon which the whole of this discourse has followed.
(35) By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples.—The thought of their state of orphanage when He should depart from them is still present. He gives them a bond of union, by which they should always be linked to Him and to each other in the principle of love. The followers of great Teachers and Rabbis had their distinctive marks. Here was the distinctive Christian mark, which all men should be able to read. It is instructive that the characteristic mark of Christianity should thus be asserted by its Founder to consist, not in any formulary or signs, but in the love which asserts the brotherhood of man. The apologists of the first centuries delighted in appealing to the striking fact of the common love of Christians, which was a new thing in the history of mankind; and while the Church has sometimes forgotten the characteristic, the world never has. By their love for each other, for mankind, for God, is it known or denied that men who call themselves Christians are really Christ’s disciples.
(36) Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou?—Comp. John 13:33. The earnest, loving nature of the Apostle dwells upon the words which tell of the Master’s departure. He is prepared to follow Him to danger, or even to death, and, that he may do so, asks whither it is that He is going.
Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now.—Our Lord does not give the answer which St. Peter had sought, but repeats the statement of John 13:33. For St. Peter, as for the others, the place must be prepared and the way opened before they could follow (John 14:2). For him, as for his Master, the day’s work was to be done before the night would come, and it was not done yet. But that night would come, and he would hereafter follow his Master in a more literal sense than any of which he thought. (See Notes on John 21:18-19.)
(37) Lord, why cannot I follow thee now?—True to his impulsive, self-confident character, St. Peter is impatient of the delay imposed upon him. He is ready, in the fulness of his love, now, and does not dream that in the moment of trial he will be found wanting.
(38) wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake?—Comp. for this phrase Note on John 10:11. The pronouns are emphatic, and there is a solemn emphasis in the repetition of what St. Peter had said. He was using words of which he knew not the full meaning. He spoke of laying down his life for his Lord. He would hereafter be able to follow, because his Lord would lay down His own life for him.
For the remainder of the verse, comp. Notes on Matthew 26:34; Mark 14:30; and Luke 22:34.
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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on John 13". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany