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Bible Commentaries

The Fourfold Gospel

John 13

Verses 1-20

(Thursday evening of the beginning of Friday.)
dJOHN XIII. 1-20.

d1 Now before the feast of the passover, Jesus knowing that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto his Father, having loved his own that were in the world, he loved them unto the end. [Since the second century a great dispute has been carried on as to the apparent discrepancy between John and the synoptists in their statements concerning the passover. The synoptists, as we have seen in the previous section, clearly represent Jesus as having eaten the passover at the proper time, and as having been arrested on the same night, while John [647] here and elsewhere ( John 13:29, John 18:28, John 19:14, John 19:31, John 18:1-14) seems to represent Jesus as being arrested before the passover. Our space does not permit us to enter upon a discussion of this difficulty. The reader is referred to a thorough rehearsal of the arguments found in Tholuck in loco (or, after the seventh edition, in his introduction to John’s Gospel). The simplest solution of the difficulty is to attribute the apparent discrepancy to that loose way of speaking of the feast which we mentioned in the Matthew 28:18); 2. That by nature he was divine ( John 1:1, John 1:14), and, 3. That he was about to return to the divine exaltation which for our sakes he had laid aside-- Philippians 2:5-11.] 4 riseth from supper, and layeth aside his garments; and he took a towel, and girded himself. 5 Then he poureth water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. [John narrates in detail each of these acts: to him they seem as so many successive steps leading down to the depth of humility. The whole formed a striking but wholesome contrast to the self-seeking and ambitious spirit which the disciples had just manifested.] 6 So he cometh to Simon Peter. He saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? [The others were awed into silence by the strange conduct of their Master; but it accorded with the bold impulsiveness of Peter to challenge the act.] 7 Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt understand hereafter. [It was no mere feet-washing; or Jesus would not have so spoken. It was at once an example of humility and a symbol of the purification which the Lord accomplished for us by reason of his humiliation. The full meaning of the act was afterward revealed to them by the Holy Spirit.] 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. [Since Jesus spoke of the act as in some sense a license or token of permission to have "part" with him, Peter desired that his head and hands also might be included, that he might in his entire man have part with Christ.] 10 Jesus saith to him, He that is bathed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. 11 For he knew him that should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean. [The language implies that the disciples had bathed before leaving Bethany, and that only their feet, soiled [649] by the journey to Jerusalem, needed to be rewashed. The saying is spiritually true as well, for one who has been washed thoroughly by baptism needs not to be re-baptized. After that general cleansing the particular sins are removed by confession ( 1 John 1:7-9). But there is no efficacy in any ordinance when the heart and will do not accord with the purposes for which it is administered. Hence it was that Judas, though he had done all that the others had done, was still as foul as ever.] 12 So when he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and sat down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? 13 Ye call me, Teacher, and, Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. 14 If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that ye also should do as I have done to you. 16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, a servant is not greater than his lord; neither one that is sent greater than he that sent him. 17 If ye know these things, blessed are ye if ye do them. [Since a servant is not greater than his lord, he should not be ashamed to do what his lord does. It is well known that many, by a literal construction of this passage, have esteemed it to be their duty to wash each other’s feet in their churches. But it should be noted that in the entire New Testament there is no command for this, nor is there any passage which recognizes any such church ordinance or practice. Jesus did not institute feet-washing; he found it already a familiar custom of the land, and merely used it as a most appropriate way of showing the proper spirit of humble service. Hence he does not say, "Do what I have done," but "Do as I have done," which requires us to do something similar to that which Christ had done, but necessarily the very same thing. The washing of feet as an act of courtesy or hospitality was never a custom among Western people, and to adopt it because of these words of Christ is to entirely miss his meaning. What he did was a natural daily act of hospitality. But what we would do if we followed his words literally would be to [650] introduce a strange, outlandish practice, which would put a guest to great embarrassment and inconvenience.] 18 I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled: He that eateth my bread lifted up his heel against me. [ Psalms 41:9.] 19 From henceforth I tell you before it come to pass, 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. [The meaning of the above passage may perhaps be brought out more easily if we paraphrase it as follows: "I do not speak of blessing to you all, for there is one who shall never be blessed. His conduct does not deceive or surprise me, for I know those whom I have chosen whether they be good or bad. His choosing is in accordance with the prophecy contained in the Book of Psalms. Hitherto I have held my peace about him, but henceforth I shall point out his course, that my foreknowledge of his actions may strengthen your faith in my Messiahship, and not leave you in that condition of hopelessness and despair in which the consequences had come upon me unawares. Do not let his treachery shake your confidence in me, for verily I say unto you that in being my messengers ye are indeed the messengers of the Most High."]

[FFG 647-651]

Verses 21-38

(Jerusalem. Evening before the crucifixion.)
aMATT. XXVI. 21-25, 31-35; bMARK XIV. 18-21, 27-31; cLUKE XXII. 21-23, 31-38;
dJOHN XIII. 21-38.

b18 And d21 When Jesus had thus said, bas they sat and were eating, dhe was troubled in the spirit, and bJesus dtestified, and said, Verily, verily, I say [651] unto you, that one of you shall betray me. beven he that eateth with me. c21 But behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table. [The foreknowledge of Judas’ crime did not relieve the Lord from the sting of it. By the use of the word "betray" Jesus revealed to Judas that he had perfect knowledge of the peculiar crime which he was about to commit. To induce repentance the enormity of the crime is pointed out in two ways: 1. It was the act of one, an act in which no other could be found willing to have a part. 2. It was the act of one whose hand rested on the table, who was admitted to the closest intercourse and fellowship.] d22 The disciples looked one on another [in startled amazement], doubting of whom he spake. a22 And they bbegan to be {awere} exceeding sorrowful [that the Lord should be betrayed was sorrow enough, but that one of the twelve should do the deed was an added grief], c23 And they began to question among themselves, which of them it was that should do this thing. band abegan bto say unto him one by one, aevery one, Is it I, Lord? [The form of the question in the Greek indicates that it expects "No" for an answer, so that it may be rendered, "Surely it is not I?"] 23 And he answered and said, bunto them, It is one of the twelve, aHe that dipped {bdippeth} ahis hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me. [According to Oriental custom, knives and forks were not used. One dish served to hold the sop for several people, that they might dip their bread into it. In so large a company, two or three bowls would be used for convenience’ sake. The words of Jesus, therefore, limited the circle of accused ones from twelve to four or five, and also further emphasized the tender and close intimacy between the traitor and the Master.] b21 For the Son of man goeth, cas it hath been determined: beven as it is written of him: but woe unto that man through whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had not been born. [Jesus was following with unfaltering step the path of suffering marked out by the prophets. [652] But this fact in no way exculpated the authors of his death. The prophecies referred to are many. As examples, see Psalms 22:1, Isaiah 53:1-12. The woe pronounced upon Judas was no vindictive or vengeful wish; it is the solemn announcement of the divine judgment. The words of Jesus stop the mouths of the apologists for Judas. When the judge thus speaks in condemnation, who shall presume to argue in extenuation?] d23 There was at the table reclining in Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. [John thus speaks of himself. His couch was in front of that of the Lord, so that when he laid his head back it rested upon Jesus’ bosom. See Luke 22:53). Alford says, "I feel, with Meyer, that there is something awful in this termination--’it was night.’"] 31 When therefore he was gone out, Jesus saith, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him; 32 and God shall glorify him in himself, and straightway shall he glorify him. [The departure of Judas was the first step in the progress of the Lord’s Passion, and in this moment of its beginning Jesus exults in the prospect of its end. Having just condemned the false pride and glory of men by washing his disciples’ feet, Jesus rejoices that the true glory of God is about to be immediately manifested in himself--the glory of humility, charity, service, and self-sacrifice, which was realized to the utmost in the person of Jesus.] 33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews [see John 13:1). It is found nowhere else in the Gospels. In the light of his near separation Jesus looked upon his apostles as about to be made orphan children. As to this new commandment, love had been commanded before ( Leviticus 19:18), but the Christian love here commanded is different from that which the Jew was bade to feel for the Jew, just as the affection of a loving family differs from the mere broad and kindly spirit of neighborliness. A love which had Christ’s heart as the standard would of necessity be new, and would distinguish those who possessed it from all men.] b27 And a31 Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended in me this night: for it is written [ Zechariah 13:7], I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad. 32 But b28 Howbeit, after I am raised up, I will go before you into Galilee. [The scattering would take place after the return of the apostles to Galilee, and there after his resurrection, Jesus would gather them together as their shepherd.] d36 Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered, Whither I go, thou canst not follow now; but thou shalt follow afterwards. 37 Peter saith unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee even now? I will lay down my life for thee. [Peter, grieved at the prospect of separation, can see no reason why he should not follow, since he is willing to pass even through the portal of the grave that he may do so. Though perhaps prevented by no moral inability, he was prevented by the plan of life which God had designed for him. It was not in accordance with the divine will that he should die at this time.] 38 Jesus answereth, Wilt thou lay down thy life for me? c31 Simon, Simon, behold, Satan asked to have you, that he might sift you as wheat: 32 but I made supplication for thee, that thy faith fail not [The language here suggests a repetition, in some degree, of Satan’s conduct in the case of Job. See Zechariah 13:7 Jesus, having insight into what was going on in the spirit world, made supplication that Peter [655] might be enabled to endure the trial]; and do thou, when once thou hast turned again, establish thy brethren. [The language sadly intimates that Satan’s test would leave him in need of repentance. As the one who perhaps exercised the strongest influence over the other ten apostles, Peter is exhorted to use his own bitter experience for their benefit and strengthening.] 33 And he said unto him, Lord, with thee I am ready to go both to prison and to death. a33 But Peter answered and said unto him, bAlthough, {aIf} all shall be offended in thee, byet will not I. aI will never be offended. [Thus Peter repudiates the idea that he could not stand the test.] b30 And Jesus saith {asaid} unto him, Verily I say unto thee, cI tell thee, Peter, bthat thou to-day, even this night, before the cock crow twice, cthou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me. dVerily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, cthis day, dtill {cuntil} dthou hast denied me thrice. [Mark speaks of two cock-crowings and shows that the denial of Peter occurred between them ( Mark 14:68-72). But Matthew, Luke, and John speak of but one cock-crowing and place the denial before it. The discrepancy is not an important one. Luke and John look upon the night in its entirety and speak of the cock-crowing at three in the morning, the signal of the dawning day. Mark looks at the night in its details, and shows that the denials of Peter began at midnight, the time of the first cock-crowing, and were finished before the last, or about three in the morning. Peter appears to have been thunderstruck at this prediction, which showed the nature, the details, and the nearness of his sin. He lapsed into silence, and we hear no more from him during the discourses which followed. But he did not yield without one final protest, as the sequel shows.] b31 But aPeter bspake exceedingly vehemently, asaith unto him, Even bIf I must die with thee, I will not deny thee. And in like manner {aLikewise} also said all the disciples. [According to Matthew’s account these accusations of our Lord and protestations of Peter were taken up again after [656] Jesus left the upper room and was on his way to Gethsemane. The reader may therefore conceive of them as occurring again in the opening lines of Isaiah 53:12] must be fulfilled in me, And he was reckoned with transgressors: for that which concerneth me hath fulfilment. 38 And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough. [In this passage our Lord draws a contrast between the favor with which his messengers had been received on their former mission and the trials and persecutions which awaited them in their future course. If they had prepared then to be received with joy, they were to prepare now to be opposed with bitterness; for the utter rejection of the Master would be followed by the violent persecution of the servants. The apostles took the words of Jesus literally, and showed two swords, and the Lord, for their future enlightenment, said, "It is enough," thus intimating that he did not mean a literal arming with carnal weapons, for had he done so, two swords would not have sufficed for twelve men.]

[FFG 651-655]

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. These files were made available by Mr. Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
Bibliographical Information
J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on John 13". "The Fourfold Gospel". Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.