Jesus washeth the disciples' feet: exhorteth them to humility and love: he foretelleth and discovereth to John by a token, that Judas should betray him: commandeth them to love one another: and forewarneth Peter of his denial.
Anno Domini 33.
John 13:1. Now before the feast of the passover,— The observation with which John ushers in this part of his history, may be considered as a kind of preface to the five subsequent chapters of his gospel. Before the feast of the passover, means before they began the passover supper. See Luke 22:14-15. Unto the end, means the end of his life, as eternity has no end. Knowing that his sufferings were at hand, the prospect of them did not make our gracious Master forget his disciples. They rather quickened his friendship; for he indulged the tenderest feelings of love on this occasion, and, after the manner of a departing friend, expressed his kindness in the most affectionate manner.
John 13:2. And supper being ended, &c.— And being at supper. See John 13:4; John 13:26. Byour version an English reader would be led to apprehend, that the paschal supper was over, before the subsequent act of condescension was performed by our Saviour; and that the clause in the parenthesis is referred to the devil's tempting Judas during its celebration. But the translation above given is perfectly agreeable to the original, and to the context; and as it was the custom with the Jews to wash themselves before they began to eat, it is on every account right to interpret the expression in that sense. And, with regard to the words in the parenthesis, the participle βεβληκοτος, rendered having put, is of the perfect tense, and denotes an action done at some past time; and the particle ηδη, rendered now, often signifies already, or before: so that what Christ says here concerning Judas, may refer to what had passed between him and the chief priests, after the reproof given him at the supper in Bethany; and therefore when John says afterwards, John 13:27 that, after the supper, Satan entered into Judas, the meaning must be, that he was then again incited by the devil to execute the treachery which he had before resolved upon, by a like instigation ofthe same evil spirit: see John 13:27.
John 13:3. Jesus, knowing, &c.— This circumstance is premised, to set the humility of Christ in the most conspicuous light: and what could have contributed more to this purpose, than to consider that Jesus, though of such transcendent dignity as to be invested with the government of all things, as having existed in heavenfrom all eternity, and as sure of being in heaven to all eternity, to reign there in his glorified humanity; yet descends to the mean office of a slave, and washes the feet of his own disciples; an action, which might justly excite our wonder, if we had not proofs of his much greater humiliation in making himself of no reputation, for the great work of human redemption. We cannot wonder at his girding himself with the towel, when we reflect that he took upon him the form of a servant. We cannot wonder at his pouring water into the bason to wash his disciples' feet, when we recollect that he shed his own most precious blood, to wash away the sins of mankind.
John 13:4. He riseth from supper,— As it is here asserted that Christ rose from supper, we must allow that, in some sense, supper was begun. Probably, the antepast had been taken, which is mentioned by the Jews as preceding the paschal lamb. They tell us that it was then usual for the master of the family to wash his hands, and, if we are rightly informed, the Jews continue this custom still. By laying aside his garments, is meant his upper garments; which the Jewish priests used to pull off, when employed in bringing the victims, frankincense, and other things requisite for sacrifice.
John 13:6. Then cometh he to Simon Peter:— The word rendered then, does not imply either that Jesus came first to Peter, or that he had washed any other person before him; but is used in the same sense as the English particle now, without any respect to time or order, and only to imply that a minute detail was going to follow. There is great emphasis in the word Thou in this verse. Lord, dost THOU wash My feet? "THOU, who art the Son of God, the Messiah, and consequently the King of the Jews, shalt thou wash my feet, who am but a poor fisherman, who am thy disciple, and, what is still more degrading, an unworthy sinner?"
John 13:7. Hereafter.— ΄ετα ταυτα ;—after these things; and accordingly our Lord, after he had finished the washing, explains the meaning of this symbolical acti
John 13:8. If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.— "If thou dost not submit to all my orders implicitly, thou art not my disciple;" or, as it may be also justly explained, "Unless I cleanse thee from the pollution of sin, emblematically represented by the washing thee with water, Thou art none of mine."
John 13:9. Simon Peter saith, &c.— St. Peter, understanding Christ's words literally, supposed thathis being washed was necessary to his partaking with him in the felicity of his reign: he desired therefore that not his feet only, but also his hands and his head, that is, his whole body might be washed. Jesus said, "He that is washed, or rather, he who has been bathed,— Ο λελουμενος, — need not, after that, wash any part of his body, except his feet, which, in coming out of the bath may have been dirtied." This he said in allusion to their custom of bathing themselves before the supper, and with a design to teach us, that converted persons have still need to watch over all their words and actions, and to wash by faith in the atoning Blood, even for everysin of infirmity: for that our Saviour spoke of a spiritual washing is evident from his adding, and ye are clean, but not all. "Ye are men of holy and virtuous dispositions; only ye are not all of you so." This was so direct an application to the conscience of Judas, that he could not but be convinced that our Lord knew the inmost recesses of his mind; and if he had not been exceedingly obdurate, was sufficient to have prevented him from putting his infamous sordid project into practice. Some have observed, that Judas didnot decline the honour of having his feet washed, as Peter did,—and have considered it as an instance of his pride: but, if the discourse between Christ and Peter happened before he came to Judas, it had been indecent for Judas to renew an objection which had just been over-ruled; and, if Christ came to Judas before Peter, he might be unwilling to be the first to dispute the point, lest Christ should confound him byinquiring, whether he declined it from a consciousness of any peculiar unworthiness. Guilt naturally suggests such suspicions and precautions.
John 13:14. If I then—have washed your feet, &c.— This was, even to a proverb, one of the lowest offices of menial attendants. See 1 Samuel 25:41. Dr. Evans well observes, (Christian Temper, vol. i, p. 81.) that our Lord chose this kind office, though not necessary in itself, more strongly to impress the minds of his disciples, and to shew that they ought to regard, not only the necessary preservation, but the mutual comfort of each other.
John 13:15. For I have given you an example,— "I have set you a pattern of humility, to recommend that indispensably necessary grace to you:" and it must be acknowledged, that nothing shews us more effectually the necessity of this grace, than its being recommended to us by so high an example—a recommendation, which in the present circumstances was peculiarly seasonable; for the disciples having heard Jesus say, that the kingdom of God was at hand, (Luke 22:18.) their minds were so fired with ambitious passions, that, before they arose from supper, they fell into a hot contention about sharing the principal posts in the kingdom. It may be proper to observe, that these words have been understood, as ordaining this to be a continued rite among Christians. But though some anciently conceived the practice to be thus enjoined, and the Moravian churches still retain it; yet, as no such rite as this has ever generally prevailed in the Christian world, and as, in many places and circumstances, it would be an inconvenience, rather than a kindness, to do it for our friends; the words of our Lord, so plainly capable of another and more important sense, are not to be interpreted with so much strictness. Our Lord designed to teach his disciples the great lesson of humble love, as well as toconfer inward purity upon them; and hereby he teaches us, first, in every possible way to assist each other in attaining that purity: secondly, to wash each other's feet, by performing all sorts of good offices to each other; even those of the lowest kind, when the necessity of any calls for them. See the publication entitled The Religious Ceremonies, &c. vol. 1: p. 417 where may be seen into what a farce this ceremony of washing the feet is turned on some occasions.
John 13:18. I know whom I have chosen:— Christ does not intend to say here, that he had chosen some of his apostles, and not all; for he owns that he had chosen Judas, by saying, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? John 6:70. The import of these words seems therefore to be this, "I know the temper, disposition, and hearts of those whom I have chosen, and what one of them particularly will do; for which cause I said, Ye are not all clean; but God, in his wisdom, has permitted this: and, as Ahithophel betrayed David, though he was his familiar friend; so Judas, my familiar at my table, will betray the Son of God; and so the words recorded, Psalms 41:9 will be fulfilled in him also, of whom king David was the type."
John 13:19. Now I tell you before it come, &c.— "The hint in the preceding verse merits yourparticular notice; for I have given it you before I am betrayed, to convince you that it was foreknown by me in my prescience; and to prevent your calling my mission in question on that account." See Psalms 41:9. One way of knowing whether the interpretation of a prophesy be true, is to learn the time when that interpretation was made. For if it particularly and expressly declared the event that was supposed to be imported in the prophesy, before the event happened, or could possibly be foreseen by human sagacity, thetruth of the interpretation is justified by the event. One and the same Spirit must be thought to inspire the prophet and the interpreter.His skill, where he applies other prophesies to present circumstances which they suit, may be trusted to;—and this is the very state of many of Christ's interpretations. He pointed out several prophesies to his disciples, and even to the Jews. He told them, "thus the prophet writes, and thus itshall be fulfilled;" and it was fulfilled accordingly; though the fulfilling of most of them depended on the free choice of others, with whom he could not combine, unless he could be the author of sin. His end in all this was, to convince them of the truth of his interpretations; for otherwise he might foretel the same events, without regard or reference to their prophesies. But now, as he said to his disciples on the occasion before us, I tell you before it come to pass, &c. Christ had just told them, Ye are clean, but not all:—I speak not of you all;—but that the scripture may be fulfilled, &c. The text he cites is in Psalms 14:7 which he applies to Judas, as a prediction of his treachery. "And this," says he, "I take notice of beforehand, as the sense of that scripture, that, when you see it happen, you may believe that I am the Messiah,againstwhomthePsalmistprophesiedsuchfalsenessshouldbecommitted." Whether this psalm was spoken of Judas in a literal or typical sense, it matters not; Christ interprets it of Judas; and the event corresponding with his interpretation, is a vindication of it. While as yet no outward token of Judas's villany did appear, even then he warned his disciples that the scripture would be fulfilled concerning the apostacy of this son of perdition.
John 13:21. He was troubled in spirit,— "He shewed a more than ordinary trouble and concern of mind, not merely at his own sufferings, but at the horrid wickedness and ingratitude of Judas, who was thereby bringing the most dreadful destruction upon himself: and, speaking with great earnestness, he said, I, who am Truth itself, assure you that one of your number, who has been all along a witness of my life and miracles, and whom I have chosen to be one of my apostles, and laid under the highest obligations, will neverthelessbasely deliver me into the hands of my enemies, who will put me to death." The original will fully as well bear to be rendered will betray as shall betray.
John 13:23. Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom— One of them, whom Jesus peculiarly loved, sat next to him, leaning backward with his head upon his Lord's breast, according to the usual posture at the passover. This disciple was John, the memoryof whose sweet disposition, and other amiable qualities, is perpetuated in the peculiar love which Jesus bare to him. The word νευει, in the next verse rendered beckoned, might be more exactly rendered nodded: he intimated his desire by a motion of his head.
John 13:26. He it is to whom I shall give a sop— See the note on Matthew 26:23. The word rendered sop, ψωμιον, implies the lower crust, or a piece broken off the lower crust of bread; it is often used for a morsel, or a few crumbs of bread. From the kind and smallness of the piece which was offered him, as well as from its being dipped in the sauce, described in the note above referred to, it is probable that Jesus put it into the traitor's mouth; for to cut a morsel, and dip it in sauce, is the action of one who is going either to put it in his own mouth, or into the mouth of another. Perhaps Judas might have some suspicion that Christ's giving him the sop was designed to mark him out as the person he spoke of; and was the more furiously enraged against him: however, Satan, seeing this to be a fit opportunity to execute the villanous design, worked more in this son of perdition now than ever before; and, leading him captive at his will, prevailed upon him to set about it without delay. See the next note.
John 13:27-30. And after the sop, &c.— See the note on John 13:2.—After the account which St. Luke gives us of Christ's delivering the eucharistical bread and wine to his disciples, it is added, But behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table, Luke 22:21. Whence some interpreters have thought that Judas was present likewise at that supper, and partook of it with the rest of the disciples; whereas St. John expressly says, that, having received the sop, he went immediately out; and this being given him at the paschal supper, he could not be present at the eucharist which followed it. In order therefore to reconcile these accounts, it seems necessary to suppose, that St. Luke has not observed the order of time as to this circumstance; but chose first to mention together what related to the two suppers, and then to subjoin that circumstance concerning Judas, which only respected the former. This will appear further, by laying together in one view the principal circumstances recorded by the several evangelists with relation to the treachery of Judas, which Christ thought fit to discover to the rest of his disciples at the paschal supper. After they were seated, Jesus saith to them, One of you shall betray me, John 13:21. Upon this they say to him, one by one, Is it I? Mark 14:19 and Peter, beckoning to John to ask Jesus of whom he spake, Jesus answered him softly, by saying, to whom I shall give this sop, &c. John 13:26. It seems also as if Judas, upon receiving the sop, asked that question with a low voice, Master is it I? and Jesus answered him in the same manner, thou hast said. Matthew 26:25. Then after the sop Satan entered into Judas; upon which Jesus, who of course knew this, said, what thou doest, do quickly: John 13:27 of this chapter. This probably was spoken with an audible voice; since it immediately follows, Now, &c. John 13:28-29. Hence it is plain, that what passed before between Jesus and Judas, was spoken softly; for, had the other disciples known thathe had been charged with treachery, they could never have imagined that Jesus would afterwards have employed himin any affair, in which they were all concerned. As what passed therefore during the supper at the house of Lazarus, seems to have induced Judas, by the instigation of the devil, to engage in his treachery; so another occurrence in this paschal supper might, by means of the same wicked agent, excite him to put it into execution.
John 13:31-32. Therefore, when he was gone out,— Our Lord's sufferings were now at hand, Judas being gone out for a band of soldiers to apprehend him. After he was departed, Jesus took occasion to meditate upon the glory which would accrue both to himself and to the Father from those sufferings, and spake of it to his disciples, John 13:31. Moreover he told them, that, having already glorified his Father by the past actions of his life, and being about to glorify him yet further by his sufferings and death, which would display his perfections, particularly his infinite love to man, in the most strikingand amiable light, he was in his turn to receive glory from the Father; meaning that, in his human nature, he was to be most gloriously exalted in dignity and power, and that his mission from the Father was immediately to be supported by irrefragable attestations. Seeing God is glorified in him, (for so ει ο Θεος εδοξασθη, should be rendered) God will also glorify him in himself, and will speedily glorify him.
John 13:34. A new commandment I give— Our Lord calls this a new commandment, not because mutual love had never been enjoined on mankind before, but because it was a precept of peculiar excellence: for the word new, in the Hebrew language, denotes excellence and truth. See Psalms 33:3. Mark 1:27. Revelation 2:17. And the reason of the idiom seems to have been, that novelty often has the same effect upon the mind with excellence, rendering an object acceptable, and raising admiration. That the term new does not always relate to time, is evident from the use of it in Xenophon, who calls the laws of Lycurgus καινοτατοι νομοι, very new laws, several hundred years after they were made; because, though they had been commended by other nations, they had not been practised by them. Our Lord calls this a new commandment also, because they were to exercise it under a new relation, according to a new measure, and from new motives. They were to love one another in the relation of his disciples, and with that measure and degree of love which he had shewn to them. See 1 John 3:16. Withal, they were to love from the great motive of his love to them, and in order to prove themselves his genuine disciples by the warmth of their mutual affection. Some have thought that this expression—a new commandment—signifies no more than merely a renewed commandment: but it certainly contains a strong and lively intimation, that the engagementstomutuallove,peculiartotheChristiandispensation,areso singular and so cogent, that all other men, when compared with its members, may seem uninstructed in the school of friendship; and Jesus may appear, as it were, the first professor of that divine science. Dr. Clarke well observes, that our Lord seems to have laid this peculiar stress upon philanthropy, as if it was the principal part and great design of religion, and, as if he had a particular view to that general corruption and destruction of true Christianity, which the want of it would cause among those who should call themselves his church. Perhaps our Lord may here insinuate a reflection, not only on the party-spirit which then prevailed so much among the Jews, but likewise on the emulations and contentions among the apostles themselves, which mutual love would easily have cured. In this sense, it is unhappily still a new commandment to too many of us, who generally act as if they had not yet time to learn, or even to read it.
John 13:35. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples,— "By loving one another sincerely and fervently, you shall prove yourselves my disciples, to the convictionofmankind,whocannotbutbe sensible that love is a distinguishing feature in my character. This will be the most acceptable, the most ornamental token of your relation to me; and I recommend it to you as the noblest badge of your profession." It is well known, that the founders of new societies always appoint some peculiar ornament, sign, or mode of living, by which their followers may be known from others. Our Lord seems to allude here to that custom, "Let love be the distinguishing badge of your profession." And so highly were the primitive Christians celebrated for this grace, that the inspired writer of the Acts informs us, ch. John 4:32. They were all of one heart, and one mind. And the ancient apologists for Christianity inform us, that thepersecutingheathensthemselvescouldnothelp crying out in rapture, on observing the prevalence of this grace among them, "See how these Christians love one another!"
John 13:36. Thou canst not follow me now:— We may gather hence, that the declaration, John 13:33. Whither I go, ye cannot come, is one of those general propositions, whereof there are many in scripture, which were spoken with a limitation not expressed. Here we are directed to add the limitation thus: Whither I go, ye cannot come now; for they were in general, equally with St. Peter, to follow Jesus afterwards, by suffering a violent death. Our Lord, in the next words, Thou shalt follow me afterwards, seems obliquely to hint what he afterwards further signified, in his command to St. Peter after his resurrection, when he ordered him to follow him, ch. John 21:18-19 namely, that Peter should die on the cross for his sake, which ancient history assures us he did. For the remainder of the chapter, the reader is referred to the parallel places.
Inferences on the betraying of Christ, John 13:21-30 compared with Matthew 26:14-25. Such an eye-sore was Christ who raised Lazarus, and Lazarus when raised, to the envious priests, scribes, and elders of the Jews, that they consult to murder both. While either of them lives, neither can the glory of that miracle die, nor the shame of its malicious cavillers. How happy had it been for that miserable council, had they but spent half those thoughts upon their own salvation, which they misemployed upon the destruction of the innocent! But mean are the motives, and the result must be base and detestable. Treachery must do that, which power would have attempted in vain.
Who so fit for their purpose among the domestics of Christ, as he who bare the bag, and loved immoderately what he bare?—The heart which has once enslaved itself to yellow and white earth, may be made any thing bad. Affianced as he was openly to Christ, still Judas is Mammon's servant. How could he but hate that Master whom he formally professed to serve, who really stooped to serve privily that master whom Christ, on all occasions, professed to hate!
Wretched Judas, whether shall we more abhor thy treachery, or wonder at thy folly! Had thy wretched chapman been able to fetch down those starry spangles of heaven, and to have put them into thy venal grasp, what had this been, to weigh with a God? The time was when he that set thee at work could say, All the kingdoms of the earth and their glory are mine, I will give them to whom I will;—and all these will I give thee: had he now made thee that offer, it might have carried some colour of a temptation: but to tender so invaluable a commodity for thirty poor silverlings, was no less mean than wicked.
How unequal is this woeful bargain! He that would value Mary's ointment, bestowed on the feet of Christ, at 300 pieces, now sells his Master, on whom those precious odours were spent, at thirty. Worldly hearts, as the old adage expresses it, are indeed penny-wise and pound-foolish. They know how to set high prices upon this world's trash; but as for heavenly things, or the God who owns them, these they shamefully undervalue.
The bargain is made, the price is paid; and Judas returns, and looks no less smoothly upon his Master and his fellows, than if he had done them no disservice: he was not now first a hypocrite: the passover is at hand, no man more busy to prepare for, more devoutly forward to receive it, than Judas!—O the foolishness, the obduracy of this son of perdition! How many proofs had he formerly seen of his Master's omniscience?—And yet so blind is sinful man,—the miscreant dares to plot a secret villany against his person, and then to face him, calmly, as if all were well. While he, however, thinks fit to conceal his treachery, our Saviour chose not to conceal his prescience of the fact. Verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.
And did not Judas, think you, blush,—and grow pale,—and cast down his guilty eyes, and turn away his troubled countenance, at so alarming an intimation? Alas! custom of sin so steels the brow, it is incapable of any relentings. Could the other disciples have discerned any change in any face there, they had not been so sorrowfully affected with the charge. How intentively their eyes are bent upon each other, as if they would pierce through those windows down into the bosom: with what mutual jealousy do they peruse each other's foreheads! At length, as rather willing to distrust their own innocence, than their Master's assertion, see how each trembles to say, Lord, is it I?—"It is possible there may lurk secret wickedness in some blind corner of the heart. It is possible that time and temptation, working upon our corruption, may draw us into such sin, as we could not beforehand conceive. Whither may we not fall, if left to our own strength?"—It is wise to fear the worst:—Lord, is it I?
Oh the mad infatuation of sin! Judas can sit by, and hear his Master say, Woe be to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed: good were it for that man, had he never been born: yet is his countenance unshaken, unappalled! O Judas, didst thou ever hear aught but truth fall from those lips?—How then durst thou persist in the purpose of so damnable a villany? Alas! resolved sinners run on so desperately in their wicked courses, and have so bent their eyes upon the profit or the pleasure of their mischievous projects, that they will not see hell and eternal misery, though they continually lie open before them in the way.
As if that shameless man meant to outbrave all accusations, and outface his own heart, he dares to ask with the rest, Master, is it I? No disciple more zealously decries that perfidy, than he who fosters it in his own breast. His fellows think him honest; and all is well, while he can be well esteemed. Reputation,--strange as the paradox may appear,—is the only care of false hearts: not truth, not consciousness of integrity:—So they may but seem fair to men, they care not how foul they are to God.
But he, whose piercing eye sees things as they are, can peremptorily convict the impudence of this hollow questionist with a direct affirmation, Thou hast said. Foolish traitor, couldst thou then think that those eyes of thine would endure the beams of the sun? Thou supposedst thy crime unknown; to men it was so. Had thy Master been no more than man it had been so to him. But this avowed knowledge shall argue him divine; nor canst thou escape its observance: for there is not any creature that is not manifest in his sight; but all things are naked, and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
As yet the charge was private; either not heard, or not observed by the other disciples: it shall be whispered to one, and afterwards known to all. Peter's zeal would not let him dwell under the danger of so doubtful an imputation. He is anxious to know the man; his signs ask what his voice dares not; the beloved disciple well understands this silent language, and ventures to clothe Peter's thought in words, Lord, who is it that will betray thee? John 13:25.
That which was timorously demanded, is graciously answered. How loth was our Saviour to name him whom he was not unwilling to point out? In the same language, wherein Peter asked the question of John, does our Lord shape the answer; what a beckoning demanded, is answered by a sop. Surely a stander-by would have thought this man well with his Master, and have construed this act, as the Jews did his tears for Lazarus, Behold how he loveth him!—But the outward gifts of God (alarming consideration!) are not always proofs of his love; yea, sometimes are bestowed in displeasure. So foolish are they, who, measuring God's affection by temporal benefits, are ready to applaud prospering wickedness, and to grudge outward blessings to those who are incapable of better. See Psalms 73.
After the sop, Satan entered into Judas. Favours ill used make the heart more guilty, and capable of further evil; that wicked spirit frequently takes occasion by God's gifts to assault us the more eagerly. Thus Satan took advantage, by the sop, of a further possession, who had twice before made a palpable entry into Judas's false heart; first in his covetousness, and next in his damnable plot of conspiracy against Christ. As in every gross sin which we entertain, we give harbour to that evil one; so at every growth in wickedness, new hold is taken by him of the heart. At first Satan entered to make the house of Judas's heart his own: now he enters it as being his. The first purpose of sin opens the gates to Satan; consent admits him into the entry; full resolution of sin gives up the keys into his hands, and puts him into absolute possession. What an awakening consideration to every serious heart! Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.
O the admirable meekness of this Lamb of God! We see not a frown, nor hear a check; but what thou doest, do quickly, is his single testimony of knowledge, correction, and reproof against the false disciple. Why do we startle, and redden at our petty wrongs, and swell with anger, and break into furious resentments upon every occasion, when the pattern of our patience, the Captain of our salvation, lets not fall one harsh word, even upon so foul an apostate?
Judeas hears him, and departs. That steely heart relents not: the confirmed traitor knows his way to the high-priest's hall, and to the garden. The watch-word is given,—Hail, Master! and a kiss: yet more hypocrisy; yet more presumption is practised, on the foundation of the Saviour's lenity. O the impudence of a hardened sinner! that tongue which has agreed to sell its Master, dares to say Hail; and those lips which have passed the vile compact of his death, dare offer to kiss Him whom they have covenanted to kill. It was the divine charge of old, Kiss the Son, lest he be angry: O Saviour, thou hadst reason to be angry with this kiss; the scourges, the thorns, the nails, the spear of thy murderers, were not so piercing, so painful, as this touch of Judas. All these were in this alone; the stabs of an enemy cannot be so grievous, as the skin-deep wounds of a disciple. See John 13:18 and Zechariah 13:6.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, In the transaction of Christ's washing his disciples' feet, we have the following particulars:
1. Christ in deepest humility condescends to wash his disciples' feet, to terrify his love towards them, and set them an example. When he knew that his hour was come, that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, by his death, resurrection, and ascension, having loved his own apostles which were in the world, he loved them unto the end: and on the evening of the paschal day, Christ knowing how short a time he had to live, and consequently that what he had to say, or do, to his apostles before his departure, would most fitly be done presently, he expressed the constancy of his love and kindness to them as follows: and, as an instance of his love, says the evangelist, supper being ended, or it being supper time, (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, all power in heaven and in earth; and that he was come from God, and went to God; notwithstanding the transcendant glory which he possessed in consequence thereof, yet, to make his humiliation more illustrious, and his love appear more astonishing, he riseth from supper, and laid aside his upper garments, and, as a servant, took a towel and girded himself, tucked it round his waist. 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. Note; (1.) The devil's wiles are fatally prevalent: even an apostle becomes his prey. Who need not then tremble for himself? (2.) While the amazing humility of Jesus raises our highest admiration, we should learn to imitate his bright example, and count nothing beneath us which will tend to God's glory, or the good of immortal souls.
2. We have the conversation which past between Christ and St. Peter on this occasion. When our Lord came to Peter, he, amazed at such condescension, could not bear to see his Master in so servile an office, and saith, Lord, dost thou, the God of glory, the divine Messiah, wash my feet, a vile sinner as I am? Jesus answered and said, What I do, thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter, be made acquainted with my purpose and design in this matter. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet: he was shocked at the idea of his Master's degrading himself so low, and thought he never would consent that he should perform so mean a service to so worthless a creature as he felt himself to be. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, if thou art not spiritually washed from thy sins by my blood, and cleansed by my Spirit, which is signified by this washing of water, thou hast no part with me, no communion with me, no interest in me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head; convinced of his error, and desiring nothing so much as Christ's favour, and communion with him; and sensible how polluted he was, he longs to be thoroughly purged from corruption, and to be washed all over. (See the Annotations.) Jesus saith to him, He that is washed, justified and sanctified, needeth not, save to wash his feet by daily application to the same fountain of my blood, to cleanse him from any corruption or guilt contracted in this polluted world; but is clean every whit, accepted of God, and freed at least from the dominion of sin; and ye are clean in this sense, but not all, not every individual of you. For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, ye are not all clean, Judeas the traitor being in their number. Note; (1.) The condescensions of Jesus cannot but be the astonishment of the enlightened soul. (2.) Though God's dispensations appear dark and intricate, it becomes us never to object: we know not now, but we shall know hereafter, the reasons of his procedure. (3.) None have a part in Christ, who are not cleansed by his heavenly washing, so as at least to possess dominion over sin. But we cannot partake of his glory, if we are not first made partakers of his grace, washed in his blood, and perfectly cleansed by his Spirit. (4.) It is good not to be peremptory in our resolves, as we may see cause to change our minds. (5.) They who have tasted the grace of God in truth, desire the perfect sanctification of their hearts and lives. (6.) We need not only once come to Jesus for pardon and grace, but every day renew the exercise of repentance and faith. (7.) Christ tries the hearts of his professing people, and knows who are hypocrites, and who are disciples indeed.
3. Christ explains to them the meaning of what he had done. 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, condescending to every office of kindness towards the meanest disciple. And, to reconcile them to duties of self-denial, he adds, 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. With such an example therefore before them, they need not think the lowest offices of charity a disparagement to them. If ye know these things, and understood my meaning, happy are ye if ye do them, and in your spirit and practice conform to my precepts and pattern. Note; (1.) Jesus our Lord and Master: his teaching we must observe, his commands obey. (2.) A faithful disciple of Jesus studies how to serve his brethren, and is ready to condescend to the lowest in every work of faith and labour of love. (3.) Christ hath set us an example, that we should follow his steps; what he enjoins upon us, he has practised first himself. (4.) Knowledge is good, but practice is the life of religion. They are doubly criminal, who know better and do worse.
2nd, Christ knew who would betray him, and begins to point out the traitor.
1. In general he lets them know there was a false disciple among them, on whom none of the things that he had spoken would have any effect. I speak not of you all, as clean and faithful: I know whom I have chosen: I expect not this obedience from you all: I know I have chosen twelve apostles; and the scripture is fulfilled of one of them, which said, He that eateth bread with me, hath lift up his heel against me: though he be so near to me, as to be entertained daily at my table with me, yet he will do me all the mischief he can. Now I tell you before it come, that when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he, and may be more confirmed in your faith of my divine omniscience and mediatorial character, when you see this prediction awfully verified. And to encourage you to be faithful, whatever falsehoods you may see in others, or whatever humbling services you may be called to, Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send, receiveth me, and testifies his respect for me, in the honour paid to my ambassador; and he that receiveth me as the Messiah sent of God, receiveth him that sent me. When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, deeply affected with the traitor's guilt, and the ruin hanging over his head, and testified and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. Note; (1.) Many eat at Christ's table, who most ungratefully lift up their heel against him, and with aggravated guilt prove faithless, and betray him. (2.) Every true minister of Jesus is his ambassador, and represents his Prince's person. For his sake therefore is he to be honoured.
2. He points out Judas in particular as the person designed. Shocked at what they heard, doubtful which of them he meant, and anxious to know, each of them looked at the other, to observe whether any one would betray any symptoms of guilt; and, as John the beloved disciple lay on the couch next below Jesus, as it were in his bosom, Simon Peter, eager to be resolved, privately gave him a hint that he should softly ask their Master whom he meant: when, taking an opportunity, John whispered, Lord, who is it? Jesus answered, so low as not to be heard by the rest, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it in the sauce. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot the son of Simon, intimating to John that he was the person. Note; (1.) It is a bitter grief to a true disciple, to hear of the scandals brought upon Jesus by false professors of religion. (2.) Those are happy, whom Jesus favours with his especial regard, and lays in the bosom of his love.
3. Judas immediately sets himself to accomplish his hellish purpose. After the sop, Satan entered into him, possessed his body and soul, and drove him to the precipice of destruction. Then said Jesus, That thou dost, do quickly, either challenging him to do his worst, or abandoning him to Satan's devices. None at the table having heard what he had said to John, they suspected Christ had given Judas orders to provide something against the feast, or to distribute some relief to the poor, he being the purse-bearer. Urged on by the power of the wicked one, he went immediately out, fixed in his base and wicked purpose; and it was night, the fittest time for such deeds of darkness; and, however unseasonable the hour, so eagerly was he bent upon his treachery, that nothing could delay him. Note; (1.) When Christ abandons the sinner to Satan's power, he rushes headlong to ruin. (2.) They who withdraw from the society of the faithful, begin to shew the apostacy of their hearts.
3rdly, When Judas was gone out, Jesus addressed himself to his faithful apostles.
1. He informs them that the hour of his glorification was nearly arrived. Jesus said, now is the Son of man glorified: he is ready by his sufferings to obtain the glorious victory over all his own and his faithful people's foes, sin, Satan, death, and hell: and God is glorified in him; all his divine perfections being most eminently displayed in the obedience to death of the Redeemer. If God be glorified in him, his justice, truth, wisdom, mercy, exalted to the highest by his cross; God shall also glorify him in himself, or with himself; bringing him to the mediatorial throne in heaven; and shall straightway glorify him, in the amazing signs and wonders which should accompany the death of Jesus, and especially by his speedy resurrection.
2. He intimates to them, that the time of his stay with them would be very short. Little children, so tenderly and affectionately doth the Lord Jesus regard his dear believing people, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: longing for my bodily presence with you: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you; you must be content for a while under the irksome separation, till the hour of your glory shall also arrive, and ye shall then come to be with me where I am.
3. He charges them to cultivate mutual love. A new commandment I give unto you; not indeed now first enjoined, since it was the old commandment which had been from the beginning; but through the degeneracy of the times it had generally ceased to be practised, but was now more clearly explained, and enforced by new motives; a command the most excellent, and the fundamental law of that kingdom which he came to establish; that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another; ready to every act of kindness, and to part with every thing, if need be, even life itself, for the good of your brethren: and this was to be the characteristic mark of their discipleship; for by this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another; they shall take knowledge of you, that you have been with me, and learned of me. Note; The distinguishing badge of true Christianity is this spirit of fervent love. Love is the image of Jesus: he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in him. This will make us meek and lowly towards our brethren; ready to pass by their provocations; to forgive their offences; to pity their infirmities; to bear their differences in opinion; to delight in their prosperity; to promote their good, spiritual and temporal; and ever to maintain towards them the kindest sentiments, and be constant in the warmest applications to the throne of grace on their behalf. A spirit of selfishness, narrowness, bitterness, dispute, animosity, is a reproach to the profession of Christianity; and proves, that those who are actuated by it, deceive their ownselves, when they call themselves the followers of Jesus.
4. We have a conference between Christ and St. Peter, on what our Lord had said, John 13:33.
[1.] Peter, dissatisfied perhaps with what Christ had spoken, is solicitous to know where he was going, and therefore earnestly inquires. Probably he thought he was about to quit Judea, and, according to their prejudiced opinions of the Messiah, to erect his kingdom in some other part of the world.
[2.] Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now: Christ had work yet for Peter to do upon earth, before he should gain the glorious crown of martyrdom: but thou shalt follow me afterwards, partaking both of my sufferings and glory.
[3.] Peter, with too much self-confidence, unwilling that his Master should doubt his courage or determined purpose to cleave to him wherever he went, replied, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? what dangers or difficulties can deter me? I will lay down my life for thy sake, and will die sooner than desert thee.
[4.] Christ warns him of the weakness of his resolution, and how unable he would find himself for the least part of what he promised. Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? how little dost thou know of thy own weakness! Verily, verily, I say unto thee, take notice of it as a most certain truth, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice; before another sun shall rise, and the time of cock-crowing is over, thou shalt not only deny me as thy Master, but disown the very knowledge of my person. Note; We know not our weakness till the temptation comes; and every boast of self-confidence is a certain prelude to a fall.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on John 13". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany