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Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him; Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; he riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean. So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.
We begin, with this thirteenth chapter, the study of the second part of John’s gospel. We have seen how in the first twelve chapters the Lord Jesus presented Himself to the world in every possible aspect that the Holy Spirit could portray Him to men and women, in order that they might be convicted of their sin and brought to know Him as their Savior. Now as we enter upon the second great division of the Gospel, we see our Lord manifesting Himself to His disciples and to those who have received His testimony and accepted Him as Lord and Savior. It is they who are referred to in this verse as “his own.”
We read, “Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that His hour was come” (v. la). All the way through He has been looking forward to this hour-the hour when He was to go to the cross to be made sin for us, and when He was to pass on from the cross and the tomb up yonder to the glory. Jesus, knowing that the set time had arrived when He was to go to the Father, “having loved His own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end” (v. 1b). We have seen how in chapter 1 that expression, “his own,” is found. “He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (v. 11), that is, He came to His own country, His own city, His own temple where everything spoke of His glory, but His own covenant people, the majority of Israel, received Him not. “But as many as received him, to them gave he the power to become the sons of God” (v. 12). And these are the ones spoken of now as “his own.” “Having loved His own which were in the world.” They are His own in a fivefold sense:
1. They are His own by creation. He brought them into being. The very life we have comes from Him.
2. But then more than that, they are His own by redemption. He went to the cross to purchase them. Of course, He had not yet died on the cross when He contemplated this little group in the Upper Room, but He looks at the cross as though it were in the past. He had come for that purpose.
3. They are His own by the Father’s gift. In the seventeenth chapter of this book, seven times over Jesus speaks to the Father of the “men that thou gavest me out of the world.” We who are saved have been given to the Son by the Father. In that sense we are His own.
4. More than that, we are His own by right. He had to work in our hearts and consciences convicting us of sin, and that led to repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. So we were born of the Spirit and made the children of God.
5. Then we are His own by subjugation. It was His own grace that ended our rebellion and brought us in chains of love to His feet. So we belong to Him in this fivefold sense.
All believers are included in this number of whom the Spirit says, “Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.” Someone has translated that last expression, “He loved them all the way through.” Through what? Through everything. He loved Peter all the way through his boasting and failure, and He loved him back to victory and faithfulness. And, thank God, when once He takes up a poor sinner in grace, He loves him all the way through. It can be said of every Christian, “Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.” “[For] he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
And now we learn from this chapter something of how He cares for His own. After His grace has saved us from judgment, we see how He watches over His saints and keeps their feet clean as they go through a defiling world. In other words, we have here an acted parable. He is picturing that service with which He has been occupied now for nineteen hundred years since going back to the glory.
“And supper being ended” (v. 2a). That word ended might be left out, for it is clear that the translators have placed it there without authority. The supper was not ended. It should read, “And supper being,” or “during supper.” “The devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him” (v. 2b). Oh, the pity of it! Judas, who had walked with Him for three-and-a-half years, had heard His words of grace, seen His works of power, beheld His wonderful life, and yet his heart was never won for Christ. Jesus knew all about him. He was not deceived. The Lord said of him, “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?” (6:70). Judas had never been regenerated. His hard heart had never glowed with love for Christ. He was one of the Twelve, but he was not one who actually had been born again. It shows how one may be temporarily religious, be under the best of instruction, and see the most marvelous evidences of the working of divine power and yet, after all, never truly turn to God as a repentant sinner and own Christ as Lord. The ways of Judas might well speak to everyone of us, warning us to examine ourselves to see whether we be in the faith or not.
Judas is about to betray Him. In the light of this, we read, “Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God” (v. 3). Let those words sink into the heart. Jesus knew that the Father had given all things into His hands. Later on we hear Him saying, “All authority is given to me in heaven and earth.” He says, “Go … and [disciple] all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you alway” (Matthew 28:19).
You remember of old, in Genesis, the servant who went down to get a bride for Isaac, said to the parents of Rebecca, “My master has given all that he has unto Isaac,” and so God has put everything into the hand of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now Jesus knew that He had “come from God, and went to God.” In His great high-priestly prayer He said, “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I lad with thee before the world was” (John 17:5). He came from the Father. As Micah puts it, “[His] goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2). He came from God’s fullest glory to the cross of Calvary, then back to God He went, and there He sits at the right hand of the Father to make intercession for us.
In view of all this, He takes the servant’s place. “He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded” (John 13:4-5). Our blessed Lord, He who is sovereign of the universe, takes the place of a slave. He went to one after another to wash the defiled feet of His disciples. It was customary in homes in those days to do that when a guest was entertained. A servant would come and wash his feet. But there was no one to do that for the disciples or for Jesus, and so Jesus takes the servant’s place. He who had deigned to take upon Him the form of a poor man girds Himself with a towel and goes from one to the other and washes their feet.
As He does this, Simon Peter is watching Him. He sees Him go first to one and then another of his fellow disciples, washing and wiping their feet. Peter’s heart is filled with indignation. “Why, will John allow Him to do anything so lowly as that. And Thomas, and Matthew! Wait until He comes to me. I will never let the Lord humiliate Himself like that at my feet.” Finally, He came to Simon Peter, and Peter said, “Lord, dost thou wash my feet?” (v. 6). In the original, he uses two emphatic pronouns here, “Dost thou wash my feet?” And in those two words Peter puts himself in vivid contrast with the Lord Jesus Christ.
But listen to the answer of Jesus. He uses two emphatic pronouns also. “Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter” (v. 7). “Peter, I am doing something that you do not understand now.” If it was simply a matter of washing the disciples’ feet in literal water- that was clear to Peter. He was doing the work of a servant, cleansing their feet. But Jesus says, “No, Peter, there is a picture here. You do not yet comprehend.” “What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.” When was that “hereafter” to be? When would Peter really enter into the meaning of this and understand what it meant for Jesus to wash his feet? It was after he fell into the muck and mire of sin, after he, because of cowardice, denied his Lord and declared that he never knew the Man. Then it was that Jesus sought him and applied the water of the Word to Peter’s denied feet, and made him fit once more to walk in fellowship with the Lord.
But right now Peter did not understand, and Jesus indicates that the understanding is to be in the future. Peter, not realizing, said to Him again with greater emphasis, “Thou shalt never wash my feet” (v. 8a). You know it does not do to be too positive. “Thou shalt never wash my feet.” But Jesus answered, and I think there was wonderful tenderness in His voice as He met Peter’s loud affirmation in His own quiet tender way, “If/wash thee not, thou hast no part with me” (v. 8b). Shall we not take those words home to ourselves? For they are not only for Peter, they are for all believers to the end of time. Jesus says to you, my friend, to me, to everyone of us, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.”
Now notice what Jesus did not say, and then notice what He did say. He did not say, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part in me.” He did say, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.” What is the difference between “part in him,” and “part with him?” Well, “part in him,” is life, and Peter already had divine life. He was already “in him.” To be in Christ is just the opposite of being in Adam. We are in Christ by new birth. And Peter had been already born of God. He had already received Him as his Savior, and so he was in Him. But now Jesus says, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me,” and with Him is communion. With Him is fellowship. Every believer is linked up with the Lord Jesus Christ by two links. There is the link of union, and the link of union is so strong that the weight of a world could not break it. He says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (10:27-28). It might be translated: “They shall never, by any means, perish, neither shall any pluck them out of My hand.” That is the link of union.
But there is also the link of communion. The link of communion is so fragile that the least unconfessed sin will break it in a moment, and the only way it can be reformed is by confessing and forsaking the sin that snapped it.
And so Jesus says, “If I wash thee not, thou [canst have] no part with me.” He means, “If I am not daily washing thee from the defilement that continually clings to one’s feet, you cannot have fellowship with Me.” Is there anything more precious than knowing that you can go to Him about everything? You can tell Him all your trials and difficulties, your joys, and so forth. You can go to Him with thanksgiving and praise. It is so easy to go to Him with our troubles and distress and spread our sorrows and worries before Him-and we should do that. He enters into them all with us. It is written, “In all their affliction he was afflicted” (Isaiah 63:9). But He would have us share our joys with Him, too, when things are bright and glad, and tell Him all about those things that fill our hearts with cheer. But we can’t do this and have fellowship with Him if we are defiled by unconfessed sin. We must be clean to enjoy communion with Christ. “If I wash thee not, thou [canst have] no part with me.”
Now Peter goes to the other extreme. He says, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head” (John 13:9). As much as to say, “Oh, Lord, I did understand, but if having part with You means being washed by You, I won’t resist any more. You can give me a full bath if you want to.” But Jesus says, “No, Peter, you are wrong again. ‘He that is [bathed] needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean” (vv. 10-11). He knew who should betray Him, so He said, “Ye are not all clean.” Judas had never known that first cleansing of regeneration. What is it the Savior is telling us here? Why, this: when a Christian fails and becomes defiled in thought or deed or word, he does not thereby cease to be a Christian-he does not cease to be a child of God and have to begin all over again-but he simply needs to have his feet washed. He needs to have his walk cleansed.
So many dear Christians with sensitive consciences feel that if they sin, it is all over with them, and they are lost again. The enemy of our souls comes to us and says, “It’s all up with you now. You will have to start all over again.” Some dear people are always getting saved over and over again! I remember an incident that would have been almost amusing if it had not been so sad. A dear young fellow came out to the front of the church where I was preaching. He made a profession, and we thought we had a new convert and rejoiced over him as such. After we had prayed with him and given him encouraging and assuring Scripture passages, one of his friends came up to him and said, “Well, I am glad to see you out here at the front again. How many times have you been converted now?” “Oh,” he said, “this makes ninety-nine times.” Poor, dear fellow! He had such a tender conscience that he thought that every time he sinned that he had to get regenerated all over again. In other words, he was trying to get a full bath every time he became defiled! “He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit.”
You see, in those days, a rich householder had a large bath in the center court, and when he rose in the morning he would step down into the bath and have a complete cleansing. Then he went out with his open sandals. As the streets of those oriental cities were very filthy, when he came back to the house, one of his servants came and washed his feet. He did not have a bath every time he came in, but he did need to have his feet washed.
When we are cleansed by the precious blood of Christ we are washed all over, once for all. That does not have to take place again. “The blood of Jesus Christ his [God’s] Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). That is, it cleanses us continually. We are always clean in that sense.
But now, “he that is [bathed] needeth not save to wash his feet,” and feet speak of our walk. We read, “He will keep the feet of his saints” (1 Samuel 2:9), so every time we fail as believers we are to go to our blessed Lord, and say, “Cleanse [me now by] the washing of water by the word.” We read in Ephesians 5:25-26, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.” You see the Word of God is likened to water. In Psalms 119:9 we read, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.” Suppose my hand becomes defiled and unclean. What do I do? Why, I go and apply the water, and after I apply the water, the uncleanness disappears. When my heart and conscience have become denied, what do I do? I let the blessed Lord apply the water of the Word. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). The Word of God is the water that is applied to our hearts and consciences and cleanses us from all defilement.
Jesus recognized the fact that they had not all had the initial cleansing. Judas had not known that cleansing. “He knew who should betray him.” Judas had never been washed by Christ at all. Then after He had washed their feet and had taken His garments and sat down, He said, “Know ye what I have done to you?” (v. 12). Well, of course they saw what He had done, but they had not learned the hidden lesson yet. So He said, “Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet” (vv. 12-14).
Will you notice one thing here that I am afraid many Christians overlook? He says, “You call me Master and Lord, and ye say well; for so I am.” What do you call Him? He approved these disciples calling Him “Master” and “Lord.” Have you ever noticed this in reading the New Testament, that no lover of the Lord Jesus Christ is ever represented as addressing Him individually by His proper name? We never read that Peter said “Jesus” when addressing Him. We never read that John said it. You never read of anyone saying, “Lovely Jesus,” “Sweet Jesus,” and so forth. That is very significant, is it not? How do they speak of Him? “Master,” “Lord,” “My Lord,” “My God,” and so forth. And He commends them for that. “Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.” Whenever the Holy Spirit is guiding us in our prayers when we address Him, we will magnify Him. He will lead us to recognize Him as Lord. Some people address our Savior in a way that they would not address the President of the United States. If you were presented to the President you would not call him by his given name. You would not dare do that. You would use some expression of appreciation of the dignity of his office. You would be afraid to do otherwise. Well, when you address your Savior next time, just remember that, while His name is Jesus, He is our Master and our Lord, and the Holy Spirit loves to glorify Him.
“Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.” Now what is He telling us here? Some dear people, some of the most godly people I have ever met, believe that the Lord was instituting a third Christian ordinance, and so they observe from time to time what they call the “Washing of Feet.” But I am afraid sometimes one forgets that Jesus said, “What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.” If it was a matter of literally washing feet in water, they knew all about it. But it is easy to miss the real meaning of this act.
How do we wash one another’s feet? What was the water? The water was the Word. Of what do our feet speak? Our ways. We wash one another’s feet when we apply the Word of God to our ways. When a Christian slips a bit you say, perhaps, “He was a wonderfully fine out-and-out Christian, but now he is getting a bit worldly.” But what are you going to do about it? You can just ignore it and pass it by, or you can criticize and say very unkind things, but neither of these methods will help very much. You can go to the dear brother or sister and tenderly point out from the Word of God the mistake they are making, the sin into which they are falling. You can show them how their lives are becoming defiled. Thus you wash their feet.
Did you every try to wash your brother’s feet? There is a Scripture passage that reads, “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him” (Leviticus 19:17). It takes grace to be kindly faithful. Some say to me, “Oh, well, I have tried it, but it doesn’t do any good.” We need much grace ourselves to wash another’s feet. If you are going to wash your neighbor’s feet, you ought to be careful about the temperature of the water. You would not go to anyone and say, “Put your feet into this bucket of scalding water, and I will wash them for you.” Ice water is just as bad. Some people go at you in such a way that you just shrink back from them. Some are so hot, and some are so cold and icy and formal. You don’t appreciate either, do you?
The proper thing is this, when you see your brother going wrong, get into the presence of the Lord about it. Then remember the word that tells us, as recorded in Galatians 6:1: “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” When you go to your brother go like this, seeking to apply the Word of God faithfully. He must be in a very bad state indeed if he will not listen. If he is not ready, you can continue to pray and wait for the time when God may permit you to help him.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. (John 13:16-17)
I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me. Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake. Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake. He then lying on Jesus’ breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it? Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly. Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him. For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor. He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.
The central theme of this particular section is the treachery of Judas. When one considers the privileges that Judas had enjoyed and realizes how little impression they made upon his heart and mind and what the final result was, these things might well cause each one of us individually to examine ourselves and search our hearts in the presence of God. Here was a man, who, for three-and-a-half wonderful years, walked with the blessed Son of God. He had opportunities to see His wondrous works of grace, heard the marvelous things that came from His lips, saw His life (he could see what others could not see), and surely must have known that here was one who was evidently a superhuman person moving among them. John said, you remember, “We beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” Judas had the opportunity of thus beholding Him. He must have had many a quiet talk with Him, and he must have been highly esteemed by the rest of the disciples. Yet all the time he had never yielded his heart to the Lord Jesus Christ.
You remember the Savior said, “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?” (John 6:70). He did not say, “one of you shall become a devil,” but, “one of you is a devil.” And when He speaks to the Father, as in the seventeenth chapter, He says, “Those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled” (17:12). We might think perhaps, reading that verse carelessly, that He meant, “Those that thou gavest me I have kept and have only lost one, the son of perdition.” But that is not what He said. The son of perdition was not one of those who had been given to Christ by the Father. He was in Christ’s company but he was never of that company. It is quite possible to have an interest in Scripture, to be exercised to a certain extent about a needy world, to act and talk like a Christian, and yet never be born of God. This ought to challenge us to face the questions, “Have I ever honestly come to God as a repentant sinner? And have I put my trust in Him, and yielded my heart and life to Him?”
I said a moment ago that Judas was evidently very highly respected by the disciples. You might ask, “On what do you base that supposition?” He was the chosen one to be the treasurer of the little company. When you choose a treasurer you always want a man of probity and of integrity, of good reputation, one whom you can confide in as one above suspicion of dishonesty. So the impression that Judas made on the disciples in those early days, at least, was that of a man of absolute reliability. We may almost say, in fact, Judas was the real gentleman of all the Twelve. Most of them were hard-working men. They came from the region about the Sea of Galilee where the poorer class of people dwelt. But Judas came from Judea from a town called Kerioth, and he was perhaps the most distinguished man of the entire apostolic company. And yet he was the one man whose heart Jesus never won and whose conscience Jesus never truly reached.
In our last message we noticed that Jesus said, “He that is [bathed] needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all” (13:10). And the Holy Spirit explains why He said that, “for he knew who should betray him, therefore he said, Ye are not all clean” (v. 11). That is a marvelous thing. The Son of God saw through this man during those three-and-a-half years, and He sees through hypocrites today. He sees into the very heart of people who are not real. Outwardly they may appear to be true and genuine, but Christ sees into the heart and knows if any are not clean.
He tells us in verse 18, “I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, he that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me.” He knows all those who have put their heart trust in Him. Judas’s treachery was foreknown, but this does not mean that he was foreordained to do that dreadful thing. Nothing of the kind. There is a great deal of difference between God’s foreknowledge and God’s foreordination. He looked down through the ages and knew what Judas would do, but He never foreordained it. If you can think of a man as free who is led captive by the Devil, Judas was free. He was free to yield to Christ or to Satan, and so you and I can choose. We should not blame our failures and sins on any predetermined fate. God has never decreed that any man or woman should live in sin, or that anyone should be lost. The Lord Himself said, “Ye will not come to me that ye might have life” (5:40). To all men He says, “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17). So Judas could have been saved, but he would not trust Jesus. God foreknew this, and so his sin was spoken of beforehand in the book of Psalms. The Lord Jesus knew it. All the time He was with him, Jesus knew what was going on in his heart, and He knew he was to be the agent of the Devil to deliver Him to wicked men.
He said, “Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he” (13:19). In other words, He says, “I don’t want you to think that I was helplessly put into the hands of my captors, that I was taken by surprise. I have foreseen all this. I know what is going to take place. I must be crucified.” But He told them that the third day He would arise again from the dead. “When that time comes,” He says, “you will understand that I am.” Again He uses the divine name, “I Am.”
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me” (v. 20). It was of comfort for the apostles, as a little later they were to commence the work of the evangelization of a lost world. They were to go as His representatives. Paul said in after years, “We are ambassadors for Christ.” An ambassador speaks for his government, and as Christ sends His servants into the world they go out to witness for Him. That’s why He could say, “Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained” (20:23). This is not some peculiar priestly function, but it means that every servant of Christ can go to any sinner and say, “I come proclaiming the remission of sins if you come to Christ, and if you refuse to come to Christ for the remission of sins then they cannot be remitted.” This authority have all His servants. Whosoever receives them, receives Him.
“When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit” (13:21a). Though He was God, our Lord was a true Man. He was not only God but God manifest in flesh. In becoming man He took a human spirit, a human soul and a human body. Here we read, “He was troubled in spirit.” As He looked forward to what was ahead, He groaned in anguish as He thought of the judgment that the treachery of Judas was to bring down upon that guilty man. No soul will ever be lost without filling His soul with grief. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me [one of you who has been so close to Me, who has shared so many things with Me, one of you who has failed to believe Me and trust Me]- one of you shall betray me” (v. 21b). Oh, I wonder if He looks down from heaven today and if His holy eyes can discern here and there among those who read these pages one who is unreal and hypocritical. I wonder if He is saying, “One of you shall betray me.” For, if one professes the Christian name only and does not have genuine heart trust in Him, there is no telling to what depths of iniquity he may sink.
The disciples were troubled, and doubted of whom He spoke. They could not trust themselves. They each wondered, “Could it be I?” They asked one of another, “Is it I?” On His bosom was leaning one of His disciples, John, the human author of this book, who never refers to himself by name. He was the youngest of the apostles. One of the early church writers, Tertullian, says John was an adolescent when called by Jesus. This lad was very dear to the Son of God. Oh, how Jesus loves to see young men and women giving themselves to Him, yielding themselves wholly to Him. Young people, there is nothing greater on this earth than to bring your young lives to Christ. You can be sure of this, that He will indeed love you as an individual. You remember that young man who came to Him with his question about eternal life, and Jesus put him to the test: “Sell all that thou hast,… and come, follow me” (Luke 18:22), and the young man turned away sorrowful for he had great possessions. Jesus, looking upon him, loved him. He saw the possibilities in that youth. He saw what might be if he would yield himself to Christ.
Here was young John whose affectionate heart went out to Christ in a way that older ones perhaps would not have felt like expressing. He lay with his head upon the bosom of the Lord. Simon Peter beckoned to him and said, “Ask Him to tell you of whom He speaks.” “[John] saith unto him, Lord, who is it?” (John 13:25). And Jesus, in a very low voice, said, “He… to whom I shall give a [morsel]” (v. 26). It was customary in those days to hand a morsel to some special one as a token of real affection. And Jesus said, “John, notice the one to whom I give this morsel. He is the one who will betray Me.” So Jesus dipped the morsel and handed it to Judas. Judas! Will he receive it? Judas had the impudence to reach out and take it from the One for whose arrest he had already been bargaining.
And we read, “After the sop Satan entered into him” (v. 27a)-in a new way now. Judas, by this further act, had put himself absolutely under the domination of the Devil. Now it is all over with Judas, and there is no more possibility of repentance. Jesus recognized that he had crossed the deadline. So the Lord Jesus turned to him and said solemnly, “[What] thou doest, do quickly” (v. 27b). As much as to say, “Judas, you have sold yourself to the Devil. You have despised every opportunity of mercy. You have trampled on My love and grace. You have hardened your heart against the goodness of God. Now, Judas, make an end of it. What thou doest, do quickly.”
No one at the table understood what He meant. Some of them thought because Judas was the treasurer of the company that Jesus may have meant, “Go buy those things that we have need of against the feast.” They did not know that the traitor was about to sell the Lord for thirty pieces of silver. Some thought perhaps Jesus had told him to give something to the poor. Is not that interesting? Would they have thought that if such had not been a common thing in the life of our Lord? Don’t you see, He was accustomed to do that. He always thought of the poor. He said, “Ye have the poor always with you” (Matthew 26:11). It was very natural for them to think, “Now He has learned of some poor needy one, and He is sending Judas out to minister to him.” That was the heart of the Son of God. Oh, what a contrast to the heart of Judas! His heart was filled with covet-ousness. He was going out to line his purse with the silver that came from the sale of the Son of God.
“He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night” (John 13:30). It is always night when people turn their backs on God. It is always night when they trample the goodness of Jesus beneath their feet. And if you are doing that today, the sun may be bright outside, but it is night inside your heart until Jesus, the light of life, comes in. For Judas, there was never again to be light. He went out and it was night in his poor dark soul, and, for him, the beginning of the blackness of darkness that goes on forever. Oh, how many of us can thank God that in the riches of His grace, He has won these poor hearts of ours. Why did Judas trample on all His love? We cannot understand it, but we may be sure He had every opportunity to be saved.
Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you. A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards. Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake. Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice.
Our Lord and His disciples were still in the Upper Room where they had observed that last Passover together, as we learn from the other Gospels, that had been followed by the institution of the Lord’s Supper, that sacred feast of love that has been kept by God’s beloved people all down through the centuries since. Judas had left the little company. Moved by the worst of motives, controlled by covetousness, he had gone out to meet the chief priests and to receive the money they had promised him in view of a little later betraying the Lord Jesus into their hands. And now as the Savior was left alone with the Eleven whose hearts were strangely troubled because of certain things He had already told them, He spoke with a new joy and said, “Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him” (v. 31).
It did not look as though God was about to be glorified, and during the next three days they must have had plenty of doubts indeed as to God being glorified in the events that took place. The Lord had said that He was going out to die, that He was to be betrayed into the hands of sinners. Could that glorify God? He had said that He was to be buried and then raised again, and it was in this, His death and His resurrection, that God was to be glorified. For in His sacrificial death upon the cross, He was to settle the sin question in a way that would meet every claim of the holiness of God’s nature and the righteousness of His throne. And we may say that in that death of His upon the tree, God has received more glory than He ever lost by Adam’s sin, and by all the guilt and enmity and iniquity that came into the world since.
For after all, men are but finite-finite sinners it is true-and as such have dishonored God. It could be said of every man, “God in whose hand thy breath is, … hast thou not glorified” (Daniel 5:23). But the Lord Jesus was the infinite One who had linked Deity with humanity in order that He might give Himself a ransom for our souls. And because He was Himself infinite, the work He did upon Calvary’s cross had infinite value. Therefore, we are right in saying that God received more glory out of that work than He ever lost by finite man’s sin. And as proof that He has been glorified, God raised His Son from the dead, glorifying Jesus, the One who had accomplished the work. “If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him” (John 13:32).
The thought of the Father’s glory was very much in the heart of Jesus at this time. In fact-it may seem strange to some of us to say it-but our Lord apparently was far more concerned about glorifying God than He was about saving sinners. How we like to think the opposite! We like to think that our salvation was the important thing, that the great thing Jesus came to do was to save our souls. And He did come for that. “The Son of man came,” He said, “not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45). “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). But there was something greater than the salvation of sinners that occupied His heart, and that was glorifying the Father. So in the seventeenth chapter when we see Him before God as our great High Priest, anticipating the work of the cross, we hear Him saying, “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” (John 17:4). God’s glory is first, and then that finished work of the cross by which our souls are saved.
I remember hearing of a Universalist, a man who believed that all men will eventually be saved, saying once to an earnest Christian, “I have a far higher conception of the work of the atonement than you have, for you believe that even though Christ died on the cross there are thousands upon thousands, perhaps millions, of men who will be lost forever. I have a far higher view of the atonement than that. I believe that if one soul were ever lost since Christ has died, His atonement would be the greatest failure that has ever taken place in the universe.”
The Christian replied, “Oh, no. I have a higher conception of it than that. I dare to say even though not one soul were ever saved, the atonement has been the greatest success of anything that has ever taken place in the universe, for in that atoning work God has been honored and glorified as He never could have been otherwise.”
But now the wonderful thing is that our salvation is linked up with God’s glory. You see, God’s heart went out to sinful man, but He could not save sinners until sin was settled for, for it would violate the righteousness of His throne. He could not save sinners if it involved His acting in a way that was contrary to the holiness of His nature. So His own beloved Son, the Eternal One, the One whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting, became incarnate. In humility He became Man and went to that cross, paid the full price of our redemption, and every claim that God had against a sinner was met. Now God can be “just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:26). So our salvation and God’s glory stand or fall together. “Christ… hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour” (Ephesians 5:2). Because of God’s satisfaction in the work His Son has accomplished, He can now open His arms and invite every guilty sinner to come to Him and offer full, complete pardon and justification from all things. Yes, cleansing from every guilty stain to those who come in the name of Jesus. Have you come?
A lady on one occasion came to a servant of God. When asked if she was saved, she replied, “I don’t understand it. I see that Jesus died for me, but surely there is something I must do. That seems too simple a way for anyone to be saved.”
And the other said, “My dear friend, it was God who sent His Son to die. It was God who put on Him all that our sins deserved. Christ has borne that judgment for you, and now God is satisfied, and if God is satisfied surely you should be.”
She looked up somewhat startled as she said, “I had never seen it that way before. Surely I should be satisfied with that which satisfies God. Yes, I can trust Him. I can take Him at His Word.”
Have you done that? Do you realize that on the cross the sin question has been settled? Now when you receive the Lord Jesus, you stand cleared of every charge.
He who glorified God on the cross has been raised from the dead, taken up to the Father’s right hand, and there God has glorified Him with His own self with the glory that He had with the Father before the world began.
Jesus was looking upon all this as an accomplished fact when He spoke as He did as recorded in verses 31-32. And then He added, “Little children [only a few more hours and then He was going out to die], yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you” (v. 33). He was going away, and He was going to leave His disciples in the world to be witnesses for Himself. While He was here, He said, “I am the light of the world” (8:12; 9:5). But He was going back to the heavens from whence He came, and the disciples, after He left here, were to shine as lights in this gloomy world.
It was then He gave this new commandment. “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (vv. 34-35). It was His last charge to His saints before He went to the cross. Looking down through the years, He knew they would be in a hostile world and be hated of all men for His name’s sake, and He pleaded with them, “Don’t hate one another. Don’t be ungracious and unkind and quarrelsome and discourteous to each other. You who have been redeemed by the same precious blood, indwelt by the same Holy Spirit. ‘Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you’ (Ephesians 4:32). ‘A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another.’”
May we not well challenge ourselves and each one ask the question in his or her own heart, “How have I answered to this command of my Savior? Am I characterized by love for my brethren in Christ? Or have I so far forgotten my responsibility as a Christian that I have permitted malice and envy and jealousy and even hatred to well up in my heart? Have I cherished these evil things?” There are children of God who are cold and hard and indifferent and critical and unkind. We may well face these things in the presence of God.
How much bitterness has been engendered through the years by religious controversy! I remember reading of a striking incident in the life of that wonderful man of God, Samuel Rutherford, whose last words are embodied in that beautiful hymn, “Immanuel’s Land.” Rutherford, the author of a whole volume of heavenly letters that bear the celestial aroma, was a Church of Scotland minister, and his place of ministry a little Scottish town known as Anwoth. There he labored among a happy group of earnest believers. But there were troubles in connection with the Government. The British Government had declared that the Scottish Church must no longer follow the Presbyterian order, which was that which Rutherford used, and sought to impose an altogether different, and as the Scots thought, foreign order of things upon them. And Rutherford was one of those devoted ministers who for conscience’s sake refused to admit and would not acknowledge the authority of the king’s bishops.
Because he refused to conform, Rutherford was banished to Aberdeen and put in prison there. He always said he would not permit a bishop of any kind to stand in his pulpit. But before he left, while he was still pastor in the church, there came one night to the manse a stranger. Knocking at the door, Rutherford himself welcomed him. The stranger did not give his name, but said he was on his way and would be glad of accommodations for the night. They ate together. Afterward, Rutherford took up the Word of God, and then he said, “Now we have the catechism, the reading of the Scriptures and prayer, and we expect every visitor to participate with us.” It was a good old-fashioned custom. I wish we had more like it today. So the servants were called in and Rutherford read the Scripture. Then he began to catechize the whole house and turned eventually to the stranger, and he said, “How many commandments are there?”
The stranger looked up, and without batting an eye, answered, “Eleven.”
Rutherford looked abashed. “I asked how many commandments there are.”
“Yes, I understood. Eleven.”
“I am surprised that in all the Scottish realm there should be found a man so ignorant that he doesn’t know there are only ten commandments.”
And then the stranger looked up and said, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another.”
“Oh,” said Rutherford, “what is your name, stranger?”
He said, “My name is Usher. I am archbishop of Ireland.”
An archbishop in Rutherford’s home! The man who had said he could have no fellowship with anyone who held to another ecclesiastical order than his own. Broken, ashamed of his harshness, Rutherford begged the stranger to lead them all in prayer, and responded fervently as the archbishop bore them all up before God.
Oh, how we need to be reminded of this eleventh commandment, “A new commandment give I unto you, That ye love one another.” It is not enough, my brethren, to know that you are saved. It is not enough that you stand firmly, as I hope you do, for the fundamental truths. Back of all fundamental truth there is a great fundamental experience that everyone of us should have.
“Though I preach with the tongue of men and of angels, and have not [love],… and though I… understand all mysteries, and all knowledge;… and have not [love], I am nothing… And though I give my body to be burned, and have not [love], it profiteth me nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). It would be well for every one of us to test ourselves every little while by the thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians. “Love suffereth long and is kind. Love envieth not. Love is not boastful. Love is not conceited. Love doth not behave itself discourteously. Love is not self-seeking. Love is not quickly angry. Love thinketh no evil” (see vv. 4-5). That is, love doesn’t impute evil and try to judge people’s motives. “Love rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” (vv. 6-7).
We might take these words as a character sketch of our Lord Jesus Christ. You could put in His name here, and they all would be true of Him. “Christ suffereth long and is kind. Christ envieth not. Christ vaunteth not Himself. Christ is not puffed up. Christ does not behave Himself unseemly. Christ sought not His own. Christ was not easily provoked. Christ thinks no evil. Christ rejoices not in iniquity. Christ beareth all things, Christ believeth all things, Christ hopeth all things. Christ endureth all things. Christ never fails.”
If you and I have the mind of Christ, this divine love will be manifested in us. If it is not, then all our talk about being fundamentalists, all our talk about standing for the truth goes for very little indeed. We may be tremendously in earnest in contending for certain great outstanding facts, but if we contend in a bad spirit, we only harm the cause that we represent. And if back of our contention for the faith there is no sincere love for our brethren, yes, love for all men, then we dishonor the One who Himself is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
He has said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35). That is, we do not prove we are His disciples by striving for a creed, however great and exact it may be. We do not prove we are His disciples by insisting on the fact that we believe in an inspired Bible, blessed as that is. We do not prove that we are His disciples by loudly proclaiming our faith in the virgin birth and perfect humanity of our Savior, His atoning work, His physical resurrection, and His present intercession at God’s right hand. We do not prove to men and women that we are really Christians by insisting that we believe in the premillennial coming of our Lord Jesus and all these great and precious verities, but, “by this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Let us not forget this, and let us examine ourselves faithfully and honestly, and see if we are allowing hatred and malice in our hearts while presuming to be holding to our Lord Jesus Christ.
Not only here does He speak of this, but in chapter 15, verses 12-14, He says, “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” You see, real love is unselfish. Love delights to bear and do. Do not talk about loving one another if you are not concerned about serving one another as God enables.
Look at 1 John. The beloved disciple who heard our Lord utter these words never forgot them. We are told that when he was an old man, after he was too feeble to walk, he used to be carried into the assembly of the saints at Ephesus. Then two of the elders would assist him to his feet while he gave a few words of godly counsel to the people of God. And it is said that he always ended with this expression, “Little children, love one another.” And here it is written in 1 John 2:7-10, “Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past and the true light now shineth. He that saith he is in the light and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.”
Look at 1 John 3:17-18: “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.”
Love is a very practical thing. To what extent are we manifesting it toward those in more difficult circumstances than ourselves? To what extent are we manifesting it to those who have failed and sinned? Are we content simply to point out their faults and criticize and say hard, unkind things? Or do we love them enough to go to them in the Spirit of Christ and seek to recover them to Himself? “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another.”
But now Simon Peter for the moment listens but does not hear. What our Lord has said, recorded in these two verses, appears to make no impression upon him at all. He is still thinking of what the Savior said a little while before, “Whither I go, ye cannot come.” And with that in mind, he breaks in and destroys for the moment the continuity of thought. “Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go [that is, to death], thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards” (John 13:36). Our Lord was speaking as a prophet. He was going to be crucified. Peter was not ready for that, though he did not realize it. But Jesus said, “Some day you will follow Me even in that,” and he did. For in his old age we are told Peter, too, was crucified. Peter laid down his life on a cross as a martyr for the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
But Peter did not understand, did not recognize his own limitations. “Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake” (v. 37). He meant every word of it. Evidently he thought he was prepared for that. But he did not know the deceitfulness of his own heart.
“Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice” (v. 38). In the original text there is no break between the last verse of chapter 13 and the first verse of chapter 14. What is Jesus really saying? Listen to it, and be encouraged if you have failed.
Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice. Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. (13:38-14:1)
“Peter, I know you are going to fail Me. You do not realize how untrustworthy your heart is. But, oh, Peter, when at last you discover the corruption that is there and you are brokenhearted to think of what you have done, I want you to remember, Peter, I love you still and am going to prepare a place for you.”
Do you know this Savior? Oh, if you do not, I would plead with you, acquaint yourself with Him and be at peace. He wants you to know Him, and He bids you come to Him today. He says, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (6:37).
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on John 13". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany