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The Lord washeth his Disciples' Feet. He intimates to the Twelve, that One of them is a Traitor. The Sorrow of the Eleven at the Account. Peter is admonished of his Denial.
(John 13:1 ) 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.
Of the Passover much hath been already noticed in this Commentary on Matthew 26:1-2 and Mark 14:1-2 to which I refer. I beg the Reader to remark with me, what is here said of the unalterable love of Jesus to his own. And I beg the Reader to attend to the sense of the words, his own. The words differ very widely from the same words, his own. John 1:11 . For though they appear to an English Reader as one and the same, yet they are not so in the original. By his own, as it is rendered, John 1:11 is meant his own nation, the Jews. But here in this place, by his own is meant, his own Church, his own people, his own children, whom his Father gave to him before the foundation of the world. Ephesians 1:4 . And the original words in the two passages make all this difference. The former means such as we are used to say of a person in relation to his own place of birth, it is his own country, his own town or people there dwelling. But the latter carries with it an idea of relationship and property, such as we should say of a man's wife or children, yea, his own flesh. So that the one implies no more, than that Christ and the nation to which he came, were countrymen. The other bespeaks his own house and family, his spouse the Church. Reader! do not fail to mark the vast difference, wherever you meet it. And never forget also, that Christ's love to his own is an everlasting love, or as the words themselves express, to the end; which end is eternity, unchangeable like Christ himself, the same yesterday, and today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8 ; Isaiah 54:10 .
And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's s on, to betray him; (3) Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God: (4) He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. (5) After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. (6) Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter said unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? (7) Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. (8) Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. (9) Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. (10) 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. (11) For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean. (12) 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? (13) Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. (14) If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet: ye also ought to wash one another's feet. (15) For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. (16) 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. (17) If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.
The supper here spoken of could not be what we call the Lord's Supper, which Jesus instituted in the place of the Passover; for this supper is said to have been before the feast of the Passover (John 13:1 ). See Luke 22:14-22 . And moreover this was an ordinary supper: most probably the same as we read of Matthew 26:6; Matthew 26:6 , which Simon the Leper made for Jesus. Whereas the Lord's Supper was after the Passover. Matthew 26:20-26 . See Luke 22:7-13 .
But I would more particularly beg the Reader's notice to what is related in this Chapter, of our Lord's washing his disciples' feet. And I desire his attention the rather, because John is the only one of the four Evangelists, whom the Holy Ghost was pleased to appoint, to make this record. The circumstances indeed in it are so very singular, and the humbleness of our Lord in the act so striking: a service which was never performed by any but the very lowest of the servants in a family; that I confess I am inclined to think, there was somewhat of no small importance veiled under it. I am far from supposing, that I can throw any new light upon the subject: nevertheless, in a work of this kind, it would be wrong to pass it by unnoticed. May God the Holy Ghost be our Teacher!
And here let us first observe how the subject is introduced. Jesus, knowing that all things were given into his hands. So that in the very moment when he knew himself, as God-Man-Mediator, to be the Lord, Proprietor, and Governor of heaven and earth; Jesus did that which the lowest of the sons of men, and such as are slaves, only perform. Let the impression which such a view of Christ's unbounded condescension ought to have upon the mind, be first considered by us; and then let us go on to another observation, which ariseth out of what the Evangelist hath said.
Secondly. It is added, that Jesus knew he was come from God, and went to God. With these thoughts before him, the Lord performs an act of service upon each of his disciples present; as if under the conviction, that now only could such an outward demonstration of his regard for them be given, because he was about to return to his Father, and for a while, they would see him no more. John 16:10 .
Thirdly. The act itself of washing his disciples' feet, hath somewhat very striking in it. The manner in which the Lord set about it. The deliberate and personal way in which he did it to all: and the confinement of the thing itself to their feet only: these are certainly special, and particular characters, in which there is much signification. Some have supposed, that in this act of humiliation, of the Lord Jesus laying aside his garments, and putting on the towel of the menial servant; may be viewed, a beautiful representation of the Son of God laying aside his glory which he had with the Father before all worlds, and taking upon him the form of a servant, when he came to wash his people from their sins in his blood. And some have thought, that the washing of his disciples' feet, and not their hands, was in reference to the Apostles as preachers of the Gospel; and that in this sense, the ceremony had an allusion to that scripture of the Prophet, when he saith: how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings. Isaiah 52:7 . But I confess, that in my apprehension, whatever the act itself of washing the feet implied, (for I do not presume to decide,) it was not intended by our Lord to be limited to his Apostles, as preachers of the word; but the whole Church, of which they were then the representatives, were included in it. For the Lord's answer to Peter, who modestly declined this service of Christ's, plainly proved, that it was of general importance to the whole Church: If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.
Fourthly. Another remarkable circumstance in this transaction, and which is highly in proof of its importance, is, that the Lord insisted upon it, as hath been just observed in answer to Peter's objection; while we are expressly told by the same Evangelist, that in respect to baptism, Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples. John 4:2 . So that the Lord laid no stress upon his own baptizing of his disciples, yea, that he baptized none, and yet here the Lord layeth the greatest importance upon the washing himself his disciples feet, declaring that if he washed them not, they had no part with him. And which words of Christ, and probably spoken in a firm and decided manner, carried such conviction with them to the heart of Peter, that he cried out in great earnestness of desire for the Lord to do it; Lord! (saith he) not my feet only, but also my hands, and my head.
And, lastly, to mention no more. What can be more marvellous and astonishing, than to observe in this transaction, that Judas, as is most evidently the case, partook in this washing by Christ, in common with the other Apostles. This is as striking a particularity as either of the former. I have said that this was most evidently the case, for had Judas being passed over, and not washed, no sooner had Jesus finished the service, and had sat down again, when we are told, that he immediately declared that one of them should betray him. Now had Judas not been washed with the rest, it would have been known by this omission which it was that would do this deed. Whereas we find the declaration of Jesus threw the whole into a consternation, and called forth the anxious question, one by one, Lord! is it I?
Let no child of God, however, be hurt, that Judas partook in this common act of washing the feet. For whatever grand points were intended from it by our Lord, the thing itself, like ordinances of all kinds, had no saving efficacy in it. The ministration of it most probably had some very blessed design in view, in reference to the Lord's own people. But to others it had none, but like the rain or dew of heaven, which falls upon the rocks and sands, and produceth nothing. There could be no more efficacy in the Lord's washing Judas's feet, than in his administering to him the Lord's Supper; and all the other ordinances he had in common with the Apostles. These are all outward things; and however sweet and refreshing they are made to the Lord's people, from the Lord's blessing upon them, it is that blessing which becomes the sole cause of usefulness, in their being accompanied with an inward grace. What the Apostle saith of the ministration of the Gospel, may be said in relation to everything connected with the Gospel. We are (saith he) unto God a sweet savor of Christ , in them that are saved, and in them that perish. To the one, we are the savor of death unto death; and to the other, the savor of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things? 2 Corinthians 2:15-16 .
And I take occasion from hence (and with such an awful character in view as Judas, who partook of those means of grace, but to his greater condemnation,) to remark, that it should seem our dear Lord intended from it to teach his people how to draw improvements to their comfort, rather than at any time to be discouraged at the unavoidable minglings with the ungodly, whether in ordinances, or elsewhere in the present world. Jests knew that Judas was a devil, when he chose him to be an Apostle. John 6:70 . Notwithstanding this, the Lord permitted him to exercise all the outward acts of the Apostleship, until the measure of his iniquity was full, in betraying his master. But to shew his Church that this man, and every other man in like circumstances with him, had no part nor lot in the matter of salvation; Jesus declared, as soon as he had finished the washing, that though they (meaning his faithful ones) were clean, yet not all said Jesus, For, added the Evangelist, he knew who should betray him, therefore said he, ye are not all clean. And, surely, from hence the Church is taught, never to feel concern when at any time the christless and despisers of the pure truths of God, mingle with the Lord's people at his house, or his table. For as the presence of Judas had no effect to injure the Apostles in those hallowed seasons with their Lord, so neither can devils, or bad men, hinder the blessed manifestations which the Lord makes to his own, when handing to them their portions in secret, and causing them to eat of the hidden manna. Revelation 2:1 . And it is blessed, yea, very blessed, both in ordinances and providences, to call to mind that the Lord Jesus himself purposely chose one among twelve men only, which attended his person, that was a devil, to be of the number, when the Lord's tried ones are compelled to sojourn in Mesech, and to dwell in the tents of Kedar. Psalms 120:5 ; Job 1:6 .
I have largely trespassed in entering into those several particulars as they struck my mind, respecting this wonderful act of Christ's washing his disciples feet. I again repeat that I do not speak decidedly upon what might or might not be the Lord's design in an act so very gracious. But there are two very sweet improvements, which, according to my apprehension of the subject, arise from it; and before we close our review of it, I would beg the Reader's indulgence to bring before him.
The first is, What a most endearing portrait hath God the Holy Ghost given to the Church, by the pencil of the Evangelist, of the person of our Lord Jesus Christ? Can the imagination conceive anything equally lovely, as in thus beholding the Son of God in our nature, washing the feet of poor fishermen? And what tends to give yet more the highest coloring of grace and mercy to the picture, it is drawn at that moment of all others, when Jesus knew that the Father had given all things into his hands! Reader! ponder it well. What a lesson is here taught to mortify the pride of human nature! While the great ones of the earth carry themselves so proudly, and will hardly condescend to behold the poor of the people, the King of heaven stoops to the lowest humiliation, and washeth his disciples' feet. Now I pray the Reader never to lose sight of this unequalled condescension of Christ. Shall you, or shall I, or shall any poor sinner, in the view of such clemency, evermore draw conclusions, as if it was beneath the dignity of the Son of God to regard his people, when we behold such a palpable proof of that regard, in an act so humbling? Did Jesus wash their feet, and will he not wash my soul? Did Jesus unasked, yea, when Peter refused him, persist to do such an act of grace, and will he turn a deaf ear to your or my earnest petitions? Can any child of God, in the contemplation of such love in the Lord, say, I am too low, too abject, too unworthy for Jesus to notice? Speak, ye humble souls! ye, who like those faithful Apostles, have tasted that the Lord is gracious, do you say, for you can tell, whether Christ's exaltation and glory do not become the very grounds of your hope, that because he is exalted he will condescend, and because he is all glorious, he will be all merciful? Yea, say, doth not the Lord appear in your view the more blessed, when he appears the more condescending, and the more he stoops to look on you, doth he not appear the higher to your eyes. Precious Lord, in humbleness, as well as greatness, thou must have the pre-eminence! Colossians 1:18 .
The other improvement suggested to us from this blessed Scripture, is, in my view, equally endearing with the former, namely, how Jesus, by this act of washing his disciples' feet before his departure, intended to convince them, that the tendencies of his love to them would be the same after that he was gone. He knew (the Evangelist saith,) that he was come from God, and went to God; and under these impressions, he taketh the towel, and the water, and immediately begins to wash his disciples' feet. So that with his mind full of the glory to which he was then going, returning to his Father, and to all his redeemed gone before, yet he doth this to leave a palpable testimony behind him, that neither time nor place could alter his regard for them. But his last act upon earth, when in familiarity he was sitting down with them, should not be more expressive of affection than he would carry with him in all his remembrance of them in heaven. And as he could not do such an act then, when returned to glory, he did it now, as his last upon earth, that they might always have it in remembrance concerning him when he was gone, until he came again to take them home to himself, that where he was they should be also. John 14:3 . Dearest Lord Jesus! may my soul have these things always in remembrance! And it will not be long before that He who washed his disciples feet will bring home his whole Church washed from all her sins in his blood, and become a glorious Church, sanctified and cleansed, and made holy, and without blemish before him, in love! Ephesians 5:25-26
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. (19) Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he. (20) Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send, receiveth me; and he that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me. (21) 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. (22) Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake. (23) Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. (24) Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake. (25) He then lying on Jesus' breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it? (26) 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. (27) And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly. (28) Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him. (29) 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. (30) He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.
I would wish in this place to call the Reader's attention to the scriptural account of the character of Judas, the traitor; having passed over the history of this man in the preceding Evangelists, purposely to gather into one point of view the several particulars relating to him.
And, first, it will be proper to look at what is said of him in respect to the many great advantages he possessed, in being brought by the Lord himself to attend his person. He had the privilege of being always in the society of Jesus, and this not transiently, but for nearly three years and half. He had seen Christ's miracles, heard his divine discourses, and was in the daily habit of conversing with Him, who spake as never man spake. Add to these, he was sent forth to the service of the ministry, and beheld (at least the outward tokens of it,) what mighty events followed Christ's power. Matthew 10:1-8 .
Let us next consider some of the many aggravated circumstances which attended the perfidy of his conduct. Without going over the ground in the numberless opportunities he had found of Christ's kindness to him in common with the other Apostles, we need have reference no further than to what is related in this Chapter. The Lord Jesus washed his feet. And when he had re-assumed his seat at the table, the gentle intimation Jesus made, that there was one present which would betray him, was enough in any breast less obdurate than Judas, to have stung him to the quick. Could any arrow of conviction have reached his heart, surely the one drawn and levelled by Christ would have penetrated. But there he sat, unmoved and hardened, up to all the possibilities of determined guilt. And while all the other Apostles were tremblingly alive at the bare suspicion only, that one of them could do such a thing as betray their Master; Judas sat, like another Etna, with all the fire of hellish malice burning within, until the Lord had given to him the fatal sop, intended to identify the traitor, and then, and not before, he withdrew.
Nay, after all this, as if it was not enough to shew the desperately wicked state of his hardened heart, when he left the table, he must have gone away immediately to Jerusalem, which was two miles from Bethany, though it was now night, in order to concert schemes with the chief priests, the better to deliver Christ into their hands. For here we find him, as Matthew hath related, soon after, Matthew 26:14-16 . And during the whole of this solitary walk by night, from Bethany to the city, we read of no one compunction that he felt; neither during the two days which intervened between this evening and the Passover, is there the smallest intimation of any softenings or relentings in his mind. Yea, so much to the contrary, that we next hear of him as taking his place with the other Apostles at the Passover, and actually receiving at the Lord's hands the sacramental Supper, as if a faithful disciple.
And as all tenderness was lost upon the wretch, so the alarms of judgment had no effect also. For when he daringly headed the band of men and officers which went to apprehend Christ, and they all fell to the ground, when the Lord Jesus, to the question whom seek ye? answered, I am he; Judas must have fell with them. See John 18:2-6 . But neither this miracle, nor every former; neither judgments nor mercies could affect Judas. Satan had taken the complete possession of him, and the last state of that man was worse than the first. Luke 11:26 .
Reader! here let us pause, as we behold the awful history of one of whom the Lord Jesus said, good were it for that man if he had never been born, Mark 14:21 Let us look into the cause, and, under divine teaching, we shall soon be led to discover it. The scriptures of God, in tracing effects to their source, have drawn the line of everlasting distinction between the precious and the vile, between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God, and him that serveth him not, Malachi 3:18 . One of the Apostles in a single chapter hath done this business to our hand. He contemplates the Adam-apostacy of our whole nature, the Church, as well as the Christless, all alike involved in the ruin of a fallen state, and then marks the different features of character which distinguish the Church in her grace-union with Christ, from the seed of the serpent, which are forever precluded from any possibility of salvation. Of the former, he describes them as sanctified by God the Father, preserved in Jesus Christ, and called. Of the latter, he declares, that they were of old ordained to this condemnation. And hence, as the lineal descendants of Cain, they have ran, and do run greedily after the error of Balaam, and must perish in the gainsaying of Core. Jude 1:4-11 . And what further testimony doth God the Holy Ghost give of all such, but such as the Lord Jesus himself gave of Judas. Ye are of your father the devil, (said Christ to some of this race,) and the lusts of your father ye will do. John 8:44 . And John follows up the same doctrine as his Master. For, speaking of Cain, he expressly saith, that he was of that wicked one. Not simply under the temptations of the devil, but of him. For he is speaking at the time, how the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil. 1 John 3:8-12 . And Judas is not merely said to have been tempted of the devil, but that he was a devil, and Satan entered into him, took an entire possession of him. John 6:70 . Hence the enemy calls the heart of such his house. Luke 11:24 . Reader! ponder well the whole, for the doctrine is truly awful. But, remember the awfulness of it doth by no means lessen the truth of it. See, in confirmation, Psalms 109:6-8 . compared with Acts 1:16-20 , and hence that Psalm is called the Iscariotic Psalm. See John 18:2 .
Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. (32) If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him. (33) 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. (34) A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. (35) By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another
Doth not the Reader feel a certain somewhat like relief in his mind, from this blessed and divine discourse of Jesus, after going over the awful subject of the traitor's character? No sooner was Judas gone out, than Jesus said, Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. Yes! when the traitor was departed, there remained none with Christ but his family, his children, his mystical body. In these the Lord was glorified, and they made everlastingly happy in him. Yea, all the persons of the Godhead were glorified in the same. And I pray the Reader not to overlook in this contemplation of Christ, and his Church, that the whole Church is to be considered in this. For the eleven Apostles were at that time the representatives of Christ's whole body the Church. And as such, when Judas was gone out, who represented the devil and his whole family, Jesus and his family were left alone, and hence Christ's glory. Reader! so will it be in that great day, when sin, and Satan, and all the seed of the serpent in the Judas of every generation, shall be gone out forever! How do the faithful now enjoy themselves in the Lord, when at times, two or three are met together in his name, and Jesus in the midst of them, and for a while they are uninterrupted by the ungodly? And what a glorious day of God will that be, when the Zion of God, as one of the Psalms blessedly sings of it, shall be brought home, and the rod of the wicked shall no longer fall, much less rest upon the lot of the righteous. As for such, saith that sweet Psalm, as turn aside unto their crooked ways, the Lord shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity: but peace shall be upon Israel. Psalms 125:0 .
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. (37) Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake. (38) 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.
For the observations on the fall of Peter, and the Lord's recovery of him by his grace. See Luke 22:31 and the Commentary.
Reader! do not close your view of this most blessed Chapter, which unfolds so sweetly the heart of Christ to his people, and shews them that his whole heart towards them is love, before that you have begged also of God the Holy Ghost, who hath given the Church such a view of that love, that the Lord will cause all the gracious streams of it to flow from Christ's heart into ours. Can the imagination form to itself anything more lovely, than thus to behold Christ encircled with his family, and forgetting his own personal concerns in the tremendous exercises both of soul and body the Lord had then to go through, and now opening before him, but yet in the midst of all, washing his disciples feet? Was there ever an instance of the kind heard of among the histories of the world for a Master to act thus towards his Servants? And here it was the Lord of heaven and earth performing the service to poor sinners? Wonder, O heavens, and be astonished, O earth, for the Lord hath done it!
But, dearest Jesus! wilt thou not in some measure, (as far as our poor short-sighted capacities can have any suitable apprehension of thy gracious design,) wilt thou not shew us of thy meaning? Was it as a parting act to say, when I am gone, as no opportunity can then occur of demonstrating by any such an outward act towards you, of what my inward affections are; I hereby shew you that I think no condescension too great to serve and bless my people? If I have washed your feet upon earth, fear not but that I will wash your souls from sin when I am in heaven. And though I am now going to my Father, and for a while ye will see me no more, let this shew you, that though my state is changed, yet not my nature. There, as well as here, I am the same Jesus. And though I am going to my Father, and to my redeemed gone before, nothing will lessen or remove my affection for my redeemed below. As oft as my Church calls to remembrance this act of mine, in washing my poor disciples' feet, let such a love-token become, as among other designs which I have had in view in the doing it. I intended a palpable proof, that having loved my own which are in the world, I love them to the end! Precious Lord Jesus! may not thy redeemed venture to form such conclusions from this gracious act of thine, as if Jesus thus opened to us his heart. Think often of this, I pray the Reader, yea, the whole Church of God. May my poor soul think of nothing beside! And, oh! that God the Holy Ghost, the sweet Remembrancer of Jesus, may keep the thought warm in my heart, until the cold clay hand of death come upon me, and my soul escape from the prison of the body to enjoy the fruition of it forever.
And, oh! my honored Lord! let even the awful view of the traitor Judas, make my mercies infinitely more and more precious, from learning therefrom how distinguishing they are. Lord! it is all thy grace, it is all thy rich, free, sovereign mercy. Be it my daily delight to receive the whole, and every part of thy Church's peace and safety, and happiness, to covenant love; and to ascribe the whole to the united grace of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, forever. Amen.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on John 13". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28