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Bible Commentaries
John 13

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary

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Verses 1-11

John 13. The Revelation to the Disciples.

John 13:1-11 . The Agape and the Foot Washing.— According to Jn. the events of the Passion are the voluntary sacrifice of Love. He “ loved” His own to the end. At the meal which took place before the Passover, an intentional (?) correction of the earlier accounts, He gave them proof of the completeness of His love. Where the others record facts about the Eucharist, our author dwells on the origin of the “ Agape.” Christ’ s love is contrasted with the treachery to which Satan had already persuaded Judas. To wash the feet was regarded as the typical work of slaves ( cf. 1 Samuel 25:41). Peter’ s first remonstrance is met by the promise that the future will make all plain, his second by words which convince him that the act is symbolical. The sudden change is true to his character as depicted in all the NT. The Lord answers in the words of a homely proverb, “ He that has bathed need not wash” ( mg.) . He is clean as a whole, even if the stains of travel need removing, for the slighter shortcomings of even a good man’ s life must be dealt with. But the Lord’ s mind is full of the coming tragedy. He cannot say of all what He says of Peter.

Verses 12-20

John 13:12-20 . The Meaning of the Act: the One Exception.— The disciples recognise in Him their teacher and master. They should, therefore, follow His example by helping each other even in the lowliest services. The Master had set an example which the slave need not be ashamed to copy. If they realise that by doing such things He has made it their duty to do the same, then they will be happy in the doing of them. He returns to the theme of the traitor. He knows, as they do not, the character of each disciple whom He has chosen. But it had to be. The Scripture must be fulfilled ( Psalms 41:9). He has warned them, that when the event happens, instead of being discouraged, they may recognise in the fulfilment of prophecy a proof of what He is. In John 13:20 the author adds that acts of humility will not degrade them, but prove them to be His messengers, to whom all honour is due.

Verses 21-32

John 13:21-32 . The unmasking of the Traitor.— The truth must now be told plainly. Jesus is “ troubled” ( John 12:27), and makes the solemn declaration, “ One of you shall betray.” With the disciples’ looks of amazement contrast the Synoptic account, where their doubts are expressed. Jesus’ special friend, reclining on His right, the left being the place of honour, is asked by a nod from the leader of the disciples, always ready to act on the spur of the moment, to find out secretly who is intended. The Lord’ s answer is apparently ambiguous. “ He to whom I give the sop” would refer to all alike. No one ( John 13:28), the Beloved Disciple included, knew why the Lord sent Judas off on an. immediate errand. In the light of later events the Beloved Disciple saw the significance of the fact that the Lord gave the sop to Judas first, which at the time seemed to be simply because He required his services elsewhere. Perhaps the author means that the Beloved Disciple did understand who the traitor was, but like the rest did not grasp the “ business” on which the Lord despatched him. So it came about that he got safely out of the room, into the night, fit symbol of his “ business.” John 13:29 shows that the Feast had not yet begun, or things could not have been bought. Jesus now knows that the first step is taken in the chain of events which is leading through Calvary to Messianic glory. And God is glorified in what the Son accomplishes and suffers, and in return will glorify Him by permitting His return to union with Himself.

Verses 33-38

John 13:33 to John 17:26 . The Last Discourses and Prayer.— Perhaps this is the best place to consider the general arrangement and character of the final discourses. They present the same problems of style and language, of content and of arrangement, that are raised elsewhere in this gospel. The language and the theology of the author are conspicuous. And yet we cannot escape the conviction that a greater than “ John” is here, or fail to ask whether something of his style and theology was not learned in the upper room. These chapters are not merely the reflections of a later generation. The question of order is also difficult. The last words of ch. 14 mark the end of the discourse, the preceding verses are clearly the last words of a speech. The command, “ Arise, let us go hence,” does not find its counterpart till John 18:1. How are we to regard the intervening discourse and prayer; ( a) Wellhausen and others find in them a later stage in the growth of the gospel, perhaps an insertion by the final redactor, the author of 1 Jn., with which they have much in common, who also added ch. 21. ( b) Others suggest that there has been transposition, the content of these discourses having been originally fixed in writing or taught orally in a different order. Some of the matter of 15 and 16 certainly seems to come naturally before parts of 14. The pruning of the vine fits on admirably to the teaching which followed the expulsion of the traitor. On the other hand the mention of the Paraclete in 14 seems to be prior to what is taught of Him in 15 and 16. ( c) Probably there has been both addition and rearrangement. The interpretation of what Christ taught in the upper chamber grew and took shape in divers parts and at different times. John perhaps taught it at first much as we have it in 13 and 14. But in the light of further meditation he expanded and enlarged, a fact which has left its trace on the present arrangement. In explaining their meaning we shall do well not to regard the whole content of 15 and 16 as subsequent to that of 14.

With John 13:33 the Lord begins to prepare the disciples for losing Him. He uses the term of endearment, teknia, “ little children,” which is frequent in 1 Jn., though not found elsewhere in the gospel. They will miss Him, and cannot follow yet. But their case is not hopeless as that of the Jews ( John 7:34). They must make up for their loss by mutual love, according to the standard which He has set ( cf. 1 John 2:7-11 *). Peter’ s remonstrance is met by the prediction of his failure, placed earlier here than in the other gospels ( Mark 14:29).

Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on John 13". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/john-13.html. 1919.
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