Bible Commentaries
John 13

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole BibleCommentary Critical

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Verse 1

1. when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father—On these beautiful euphemisms, see on :-; :-.

having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end—The meaning is, that on the very edge of His last sufferings, when it might have been supposed that He would be absorbed in His own awful prospects, He was so far from forgetting "His own," who were to be left struggling "in the world" after He had "departed out of it to the Father" ( :-), that in His care for them He seemed scarce to think of Himself save in connection with them: "Herein is love," not only "enduring to the end," but most affectingly manifested when, judging by a human standard, least to be expected.

Verse 2

2. supper being ended—rather, "being prepared," "being served," or, "going on"; for that it was not "ended" is plain from :-.

the devil having now—or, "already."

put into the heart of Judas . . . to betray him—referring to the agreement he had already made with the chief priests ( :-).

Verse 3

3. Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, &c.—This verse is very sublime, and as a preface to what follows, were we not familiar with it, would fill us with inexpressible surprise. An unclouded perception of His relation to the Father, the commission He held from Him, and His approaching return to Him, possessed His soul.

Verse 4

4, 5. He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments—outer garments which would have impeded the operation of washing.

and took a towel and girded himself—assuming a servant's dress.

Verse 5

5. began to wash—proceeded to wash. Beyond all doubt the feet of Judas were washed, as of all the rest.

Verse 6

6-11. Peter saith . . . Lord, dost thou wash my feet?—Our language cannot bring out the intensely vivid contrast between the "Thou" and the "my," which, by bringing them together, the original expresses, for it is not good English to say, "Lord, Thou my feet dost wash?" But every word of this question is emphatic. Thus far, and in the question itself, there was nothing but the most profound and beautiful astonishment at a condescension to him quite incomprehensible. Accordingly, though there can be no doubt that already Peter's heart rebelled against it as a thing not to be tolerated, Jesus ministers no rebuke as yet, but only bids him wait a little, and he should understand it all.

Verse 7

7. Jesus answered and said . . . What I do thou knowest not now—that is, Such condescension does need explanation; it is fitted to astonish.

but thou shall know hereafter—afterwards, meaning presently; though viewed as a general maxim, applicable to all dark sayings in God's Word, and dark doings in God's providence, these words are full of consolation.

Verse 8

8. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash, &c.—more emphatically, "Never shalt Thou wash my feet": that is, "That is an incongruity to which I can never submit." How like the man!

If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me—What Peter could not submit to was, that the Master should serve His servant. But the whole saving work of Christ was one continued series of such services, ending with and consummated by the most self-sacrificing and transcendent of all services: THE SON OF MAN CAME not to be ministered unto, but TO MINISTER, AND TO GIVE HIS LIFE A RANSOM FOR MANY. (See on :-). If Peter then could not submit to let his Master go down so low as to wash his feet, how should he suffer himself to be served by Him at all? This is couched under the one pregnant word "wash," which though applicable to the lower operation which Peter resisted, is the familiar scriptural symbol of that higher cleansing, which Peter little thought he was at the same time virtually putting from him. It is not humility to refuse what the Lord deigns to do for us, or to deny what He has done, but it is self-willed presumption—not rare, however, in those inner circles of lofty religious profession and traditional spirituality, which are found wherever Christian truth has enjoyed long and undisturbed possession. The truest humility is to receive reverentially, and thankfully to own, the gifts of grace.

Verse 9

9. Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head—that is, "To be severed from Thee, Lord, is death to me: If that be the meaning of my speech, I tread upon it; and if to be washed of Thee have such significance, then not my feet only, but hands, head, and all, be washed!" This artless expression of clinging, life-and-death attachment to Jesus, and felt dependence upon Him for his whole spiritual well-being, compared with the similar saying in John 6:68; John 6:69 (see on John 6:69- :), furnishes such evidence of historic verity such as no thoroughly honest mind can resist.

Verse 10

10. He that is washed—in this thorough sense, to express which the word is carefully changed to one meaning to wash as in a bath.

needeth not—to be so washed any more.

save to wash his feet—needeth to do no more than wash his feet (and here the former word is resumed, meaning to wash the hands or feet).

but is clean every whit—as a whole. This sentence is singularly instructive. Of the two cleansings, the one points to that which takes place at the commencement of the Christian life, embracing complete absolution from sin as a guilty state, and entire deliverance from it as a polluted life (Revelation 1:5; 1 Corinthians 6:11) —or, in the language of theology, Justification and Regeneration. This cleansing is effected once for all, and is never repeated. The other cleansing, described as that of "the feet," is such as one walking from a bath quite cleansed still needs, in consequence of his contact with the earth. (Compare Exodus 30:18; Exodus 30:19). It is the daily cleansing which we are taught to seek, when in the spirit of adoption we say, "Our Father which art in heaven . . . forgive us our debts" (Matthew 6:9; Matthew 6:12); and, when burdened with the sense of manifold shortcomings—as what tender spirit of a Christian is not?—is it not a relief to be permitted thus to wash our feet after a day's contact with the earth? This is not to call in question the completeness of our past justification. Our Lord, while graciously insisting on washing Peter's feet, refuses to extend the cleansing farther, that the symbolical instruction intended to be conveyed might not be marred.

and ye are clean—in the first and whole sense.

but not all—important, as showing that Judas, instead of being as true-hearted a disciple as the rest at first, and merely falling away afterwards—as many represent it—never experienced that cleansing at all which made the others what they were.

Verse 11

6-11. Peter saith . . . Lord, dost thou wash my feet?—Our language cannot bring out the intensely vivid contrast between the "Thou" and the "my," which, by bringing them together, the original expresses, for it is not good English to say, "Lord, Thou my feet dost wash?" But every word of this question is emphatic. Thus far, and in the question itself, there was nothing but the most profound and beautiful astonishment at a condescension to him quite incomprehensible. Accordingly, though there can be no doubt that already Peter's heart rebelled against it as a thing not to be tolerated, Jesus ministers no rebuke as yet, but only bids him wait a little, and he should understand it all.

Verse 12

12-15. Know ye what I have done?—that is, its intent. The question, however, was put merely to summon their attention to His own answer.

Verse 13

13. Ye call me Master—Teacher.

and Lordlearning of Him in the one capacity, obeying Him in the other.

and ye say well, for so I am—The conscious dignity with which this claim is made is remarkable, following immediately on His laying aside the towel of service. Yet what is this whole history but a succession of such astonishing contrast from first to last?

Verse 14

14. If I then—the Lord.

have washed your feet—the servants'.

ye—but fellow servants.

ought to wash one another's feet—not in the narrow sense of a literal washing, profanely caricatured by popes and emperors, but by the very humblest real services one to another.

Verse 15

12-15. Know ye what I have done?—that is, its intent. The question, however, was put merely to summon their attention to His own answer.

Verse 16

16, 17. The servant is not greater than his lord, &c.—an oft-repeated saying ( :-, &c.).

If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them—a hint that even among real Christians the doing of such things would come lamentably short of the knowing.

Verse 18

18, 19. I speak not of you all—the "happy are ye," of :-, being on no supposition applicable to Judas.

I know whom I have chosen—in the higher sense.

But that the scripture may be fulfilled—that is, one has been added to your number, by no accident or mistake, who is none of Mine, but just that he might fulfil his predicted destiny.

He that eateth bread with me—"did eat of my bread" ( :-), as one of My family; admitted to the nearest familiarity of discipleship and of social life.

hath lifted up his heel against me—turned upon Me, adding insult to injury. (Compare Hebrews 10:29). In the Psalm the immediate reference is to Ahithophel's treachery against David (2 Samuel 17:1-23), one of those scenes in which the parallel of his story with that of His great Antitype is exceedingly striking. "The eating bread derives a fearful meaning from the participation in the sacramental supper, a meaning which must be applied for ever to all unworthy communicants, as well as to all betrayers of Christ who eat the bread of His Church" (STIER, with whom, and others, we agree in thinking that Judas partook of the Lord's Supper).

Verse 19

19. I tell you before . . . that when it comes to pass, ye may believe—and it came to pass when they deeply needed such confirmation.

Verse 20

20. He that receiveth whomsoever I send, receiveth me, &c.—(See on :-). The connection here seems to be that despite the dishonor done to Him by Judas, and similar treatment awaiting themselves, they were to be cheered by the assurance that their office, even as His own, was divine.


Verse 21

21. When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, One of you shall betray me—The announcement of :- seems not to have been plain enough to be quite apprehended, save by the traitor himself. He will therefore speak it out in terms not to be misunderstood. But how much it cost Him to do this, appears from the "trouble" that came over His "spirit"—visible emotion, no doubt—before He got it uttered. What wounded susceptibility does this disclose, and what exquisite delicacy in His social intercourse with the Twelve, to whom He cannot, without an effort, break the subject!

Verse 22

22. the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake—Further intensely interesting particulars are given in the other Gospels: (1) "They were exceeding sorrowful" ( :-). (2) "They began to inquire among themselves which of them it was that should do this thing" ( :-). (3) "They began to say unto Him one by one, Is it I, and another, Is it I?" ( :-). Generous, simple hearts! They abhorred the thought, but, instead of putting it on others, each was only anxious to purge himself and know if he could be the wretch. Their putting it at once to Jesus Himself, as knowing doubtless who was to do it, was the best, as it certainly was the most spontaneous and artless evidence of their innocence. (4) Jesus, apparently while this questioning was going on, added, "The Son of man goeth as it is written of Him, but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It had been good for that man if he had not been born" (Matthew 26:24). (5) "Judas," last of all, "answered and said, Lord, is it I?" evidently feeling that when all were saying this, if he held his peace, that of itself would draw suspicion upon him. To prevent this the question is wrung out of him, but perhaps, amidst the stir and excitement at the table, in a half-suppressed tone as we are inclined to think the answer also was—"Thou hast said" (Matthew 26:24- :), or possibly by little more than a sign; for from Matthew 26:24- : it is evident that till the moment when he went out, he was not openly discovered.

Verse 23

23-26. there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved—Thus modestly does our Evangelist denote himself, as reclining next to Jesus at the table.

Peter . . . beckoned to him to ask who it should be of whom he spake—reclining probably at the corresponding place on the other side of Jesus.

Verse 25

25. He then lying—rather leaning over on Jesus' bosom.

saithin a whisper, "Lord, who is it?"

Verse 26

26. Jesus answeredalso inaudibly, the answer being communicated to Peter perhaps from behind.

He . . . to whom I shall give a sop when I have dipped it—a piece of the bread soaked in the wine or the sauce of the dish; one of the ancient ways of testifying peculiar regard; compare :-, "he that eateth bread with Me."

And when he had dipped . . . he gave it to Judas, &c.—Thus the sign of Judas' treachery was an affecting expression, and the last, of the Saviour's wounded love!

Verse 27

27-30. after the sop Satan entered into him—Very solemn are these brief hints of the successive steps by which Judas reached the climax of his guilt. "The devil had already put it into his heart to betray his Lord." Yet who can tell what struggles he went through ere he brought himself to carry that suggestion into effect? Even after this, however, his compunctions were not at an end. With the thirty pieces of silver already in his possession, he seems still to have quailed—and can we wonder? When Jesus stooped to wash his feet, it may be the last struggle was reaching its crisis. But that word of the Psalm, about "one that ate of his bread who would lift up his heel against Him" (Psalms 41:9) probably all but turned the dread scale, and the still more explicit announcement, that one of those sitting with Him at the table should betray Him, would beget the thought, "I am detected; it is now too late to draw back." At that moment the sop is given; offer of friendship is once more made—and how affectingly! But already "Satan has entered into him," and though the Saviour's act might seem enough to recall him even yet, hell is now in his bosom, and he says within himself, "The die is cast; now let me go through with it"; fear, begone!" (See on Psalms 41:9- :).

Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly—that is, Why linger here? Thy presence is a restraint, and thy work stands still; thou hast the wages of iniquity, go work for it!

Verse 28

28, 29. no man . . . knew for what intent he spake this unto him . . . some thought . . . Jesus . . . said . . . But what we need . . . or, . . . give . . . to the poor—a very important statement, as showing how carefully. Jesus had kept the secret, and Judas his hypocrisy, to the last.

Verse 30

30. He then, having received the sop, went immediately out—severing himself for ever from that holy society with which he never had any spiritual sympathy.

and it was night—but far blacker night in the soul of Judas than in the sky over his head.


Verse 31

31. when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified—These remarkable words plainly imply that up to this moment our Lord had spoken under a painful restraint, the presence of a traitor within the little circle of His holiest fellowship on earth preventing the free and full outpouring of His heart; as is evident, indeed, from those oft-recurring clauses, "Ye are not all clean," "I speak not of you all," &c. "Now" the restraint is removed, and the embankment which kept in the mighty volume of living waters having broken down, they burst forth in a torrent which only ceases on His leaving the supper room and entering on the next stage of His great work—the scene in the Garden. But with what words is the silence first broken on the departure of Judas? By no reflections on the traitor, and, what is still more wonderful, by no reference to the dread character of His own approaching sufferings. He does not even name them, save by announcing, as with a burst of triumph, that the hour of His glory has arrived! And what is very remarkable, in five brief clauses He repeats this word "glorify" five times, as if to His view a coruscation of glories played at that moment about the Cross. (See on :-).

God is glorified in him—the glory of Each reaching its zenith in the Death of the Cross!

Verse 32

32. If God be glorified in him, God shall also—in return and reward of this highest of all services ever rendered to Him, or capable of being rendered.

glorify him in himself, and . . . straightway glorify him—referring now to the Resurrection and Exaltation of Christ after this service was over, including all the honor and glory then put upon Him, and that will for ever encircle Him as Head of the new creation.

Verse 33

33-35. Little children—From the height of His own glory He now descends, with sweet pity, to His "little children," all now His own. This term of endearment, nowhere else used in the Gospels, and once only employed by Paul (Galatians 4:19), is appropriated by the beloved disciple himself, who no fewer than seven times employs it in his first Epistle.

Ye shall seek me—feel the want of Me.

as I said to the Jews— (John 7:34; John 8:21). But oh in what a different sense!

Verse 34

34. a new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another—This was the new feature of it. Christ's love to His people in giving His life a ransom for them was altogether new, and consequently as a Model and Standard for theirs to one another. It is not, however, something transcending the great moral law, which is "the old commandment" ( :-, and see on :-), but that law in a new and peculiar form. Hence it is said to be both new and old (1 John 2:7; 1 John 2:8).

Verse 35

35. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples—the disciples of Him who laid down His life for those He loved.

if ye have love one to another—for My sake, and as one in Me; for to such love men outside the circle of believers know right well they are entire strangers. Alas, how little of it there is even within this circle!

Verse 36

36-38. Peter said—seeing plainly in these directions how to behave themselves, that He was indeed going from them.

Lord, whither guest thou?—having hardly a glimmer of the real truth.

Jesus answered, . . . thou canst not follow me now, but thou shalt follow me afterwards—How different from what He said to the Jews: "Whither I go ye cannot come" (John 8:21).

Verse 37

37. why not . . . now? I will lay down my life for thy sake—He seems now to see that it was death Christ referred to as what would sever Him from them, but is not staggered at following Him thither. Jesus answered,

Verse 38

38. Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake?—In this repetition of Peter's words there is deep though affectionate irony, and this Peter himself would feel for many a day after his recovery, as he retraced the painful particulars.

Verily . . . The cock, &c.—See on :-.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on John 13". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.