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IV. THE FINAL MANIFESTATIONS IN WORD AND ACTION OF THE LOGOS INCARNATE, EXPRESSING ITSELF ABSOLUTELY AND TO THE UTTERMOST AS LOVE. (Jn 13-21.) In two divisions—
A. The inner glorification of the Christ in the presence of those who received and believed on him.
*** The Loges incarnate as life, light, love, and sacrifice, lavishing all his grace upon his own (Jn 13-17.).
B. The outer glorification of the Christ in his Passion and resurrection.
*** The fully manifested love laying down life that he might take it again, and lift these disciples into vital union with the risen life (Jn 18-21.).
A. THE INNER GLORIFICATION OF PERFECT LOVE.
1. Love in humiliation.
Now before the Feast of the Passover; a phrase far more applicable to the 13-14th of Nisan than to the 14-15th, even though the Lord was desiring then to eat the Passover with a great desire before he suffered; therefore "before" the Passion, which would coincide with it. This supplies a chronological note, which is not exhausted by the mysterious and pathetic act which is described, but embraces the entire communion of soul with his disciples, and with the Father in their presence, detailed in Jn 13-17. Commentators have differed greatly as to the reference of this phrase—whether to the εἰδώς, as Kling and Luthardt, or to the ἀγαπήσας, as Wieseler and Tholuck; both these interpretations limit the meaning of the passage. Christ's knowledge that his hour was come was not kept from him till that moment, nor was his love to his own disciples limited or qualified by the advent of the Passover. It is far better, with Westcott, Coder, Meyer, and Lange, to take the phrase, πρὸ δὲ τῆς ἐορτῆς, with the principal verb, ἠγάπησεν. This becomes mere obvious if εἰς τέλος be taken, as it generally is taken, in Greek, to mean "unto the uttermost," "absolutely" "perfectly." Godet and Lucke add to the idea of ἀγαπάω here the manifestation, or proof, of the intensity and tenderness of the Divine love. Meyer doubts this signification of ἀγαπάω. The whole of the intervening sentence is in apposition with the subject of the sentence. The evangelist was eye-witness of the manner and look of his Lord, and ventured to say what was passing in his mind. He was justified by what followed, and threw back into the spirit of this strange and solemn action the account which the Lord afterwards gave of himself. Throughout the whole passage we detect; the extraordinary blending of Divine and human of which John was the witness. Jesus knowing (as he did know) that the hour was £ come—an hour for which he had been long waiting, and to which frequent reference has been made. The crisis has arrived, the breach with the authorities was final, the disciples themselves were trembling in doubt, the great law had been uttered, the glorification of the Son of man must now be accomplished by departure rather than by longer ministry, by death rather than by universal acclaim—that—ἵνα here notes the Divine purpose, or what is not infrequently introduced by ἵνα, "the contemplated result" (see Canon Evans on "the use of ἵνα in the New Testament," Expositor, vol. 3., 2nd series)—he, Jesus, the Son of man, should depart out of this world (this is one theme of the following discourse, one of its key-notes, John 14:12; John 16:28; John 17:11, and many other passages) unto the Father. If so, death was not an ending of life, but a departure to the Father—a coming into closer and more intimate relations and communion with the Father than was possible, even for him, in this sinful and evil world. Frequently the demonstrative pronoun is used to designate this transitory, perilous, sad state of being. Further, Jesus having loved his own, his very own, whom the Father had given him, who were and would continue in the world, and have tribulation there (see John 15:18-43.15.20; John 16:1-43.16.4, John 16:33; John 17:11, John 17:14, John 17:18), and all the more so because of his departure and the cessation of his earthly manifestation and ministry. Here the sentence ends with the climacteric expression, He loved them utterly; i.e. he manifested, and that before the Paschal Lamb should be slain for them, his absolute, extreme, unutterable love. Archdeacon Watkins has made an interesting suggestion, that εἰς τέλος represents, in Greek, the Hebrew idiom of the repetition of the action of the verb; whereas the LXX. often presents this Hebraism in literal Greek, as Genesis 20:17, yet in Amos 9:8 a similar reduplication is Grecized by the phrase εἰς τέλος; and that what St. John, a Hebrew writing in Greek, meant by the use of it was simply," He loved them with a fullness of love." This usage is confirmed by 1 Thessalonians 2:16, by later Greek and by classical usage. It probably means in Luke 18:5 "at last," but not necessarily so even there. Margin of Revised version gives "to the uttermost."
A supper having commenced; or, being then in progress £—without doubt the meal in which our Lord terminated the Old Testament dispensation and introduced the New, and which John discriminates, therefore, from the Passover proper referred to in verse 1. The evangelist now reverts to the diabolic design which had been injected into the heart of Judas. The devil having already cast into the heart (of Judas) that he—Meyer's suggestion that the devil put this design into his own heart, does not lighten the construction, and encumbers the passage with ideas which are foreign to the Bible—(even) Judas, (the son) of Simon, the Iscariot, should betray him. £ The idea came from the devil, but the purpose of the devil was not irrevocable. The evangelist looked through his tears of love to the traitor's face as he sat at meat, and felt how the very excess and uttermost and hyperbole of love was reached and scaled by the contact between the treachery of the one and the Divine humiliation of the other. The contrast between these two mental states is one of the most striking antitheses in the Gospel. But how should John know that Judas had already plotted the betrayal of his Master? Hengstenberg makes the wise suggestion that the fourth evangelist was acquainted with the synoptic tradition of the priority of Judas's bargain with the chief priests.
£Knowing—a significant hint of the complex wonder of the Lord's Person. John felt at this moment that the consciousness of Jesus was receding into the eternal self-consciousness of the Logos when he thus ventures to speak—that the Father—in the great act of his generation—gave £ all things into his hands, and that he came forth (ἀπὸ) from God, and was going back (or, away) to God, in the glory of his incarnation and the mystery of his death and resurrection. The whole of the incarnate ministry of Jesus was a separation, to some extent, from God, just as the close of it, in the death and resurrection, was a return to the glory which he had with the Father before all worlds. We must admit the extraordinary quality of the evangelist's assertion. He here throws back into the majestic manner of the Christ the hints which the subsequent discourse of our Lord must have given him of the Divine greatness which flashed at times from his sacred Person, and conferred a boundless significance on the subsequent act of humiliation. Christ gave the highest proof of his Divine self-consciousness in this display of his condescending love, this voluntary abasement to the lowest place in the household of faith. The use of εἰδὼς twice ever (verses 1 and 3) is contrasted with the γνώσῃ of verse 7. The vast confessions here made are declared to be matters of absolute intuitive knowledge, not the results of long experience. Christ did not "come to know;" he "knew" all these facts about himself. It must not be supposed that this was a theological idea which came into the writer's mind afterwards. St. Paul, in the Epistle to the Philippians (Philippians 2:6-50.2.8), had adequately grasped the same thought long before St. John penned this Gospel (el. 2 Corinthians 8:9).
John 13:4, John 13:5
Commentators differ as to the motive which induced our Lord to perform this menial act, to adopt the gesture, girding, and duties of the δοῦλος, to divest himself of his ἱμάτια or upper garments, and to appear and veritably to act as a slave. Strauss regards it as a mythical representation of one of our Lord's discourses on humility. Lange, with much pertinence, believes it to correspond to the pain, which he manifested, at the very last Supper, with the unseemly contest for pre-eminence among the apostles (cf. Luke 22:27, "Whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? I am among you as he that serveth"). Others, like Meyer, see no such reference, and require the presence of no such motive. It is remarkable that at such a season this dispute could have arisen at all. I-laving undoubtedly broken out on more than one occasion, our Lord chose the midst of this feast, when we learn from other sources there was such an outbreak, for this emphatic revelation of the royalty of service. Wunsche says that both "before" and "alter" the Passover festival it was customary, in order to demonstrate the equality and liberty of the guests, to practice mutual interchanges of the ordinary menial service of hand-washing. In this verse every sentence is a distinct picture. He riseth from the supper, and layeth down his upper garments, and when he had taken a towel, he girded himself (Edersheim and Wunsche both give proof that the Talmud repeatedly Grecizes the word here rendered "towel," λέντιον, "linen cloth," by the word lentith or alentith) after the fashion of the humblest slave; then he poureth water into the washing-basin (νιπτῆρα), the article of furniture in the room ("Nihil ministerii omittit," says Grotius. Thus he discharges every part of the duty, while the disciples wonder at the new revelation). And he began to wash the feet of the disciples, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. Westcott refers to the rabbinic commentators on Ezekiel 16:9, "Among men, the slave washes his master, but with God it is not so." So then the inversion of all human social relations forced on John's mind the deep truth that we are here face to face with the Divine—with the Divine-human. John here strains his words to give some conception of what passed in his own mind when he saw our Lord's face, and witnessed this great revelation of his character. Though this evangelist did not record the "Transfiguration," there were moments in Christ's history which produced a still pro-founder impression upon him, and in which he veritably saw the glory of the Only Begotten of God in his Master's form. On this occasion the highest conception of his Divine Personality, origin, and destiny, was blended with the deepest descent of the Lord's entire humanity to the level of weakness, pollution, and sin. The greatest manifestation of God was in the revelation of the exceeding limits, the infinite depth, which love could compass. We may see a little farther on what were the special steps our Lord took to give this sense of love "to the uttermost" on the part of him to whom all the universe had been entrusted, who had come from, and was going back to, the Father.
It cannot be determined with whom our Lord commenced the feet-washing. Some of the older expositors have said it was with Judas. The οὖν might denote that several of the disciples, in awestruck wonder, had submitted without a word, and then (οὖν resumptive) he cometh to Simon Peter. But the great bulk of ancient and modern expositors suppose that Peter was the first to whom this great grace was offered. At all events, in his impulsive manner always rushing forwards, and ready to give his Master advice, and to be the mouthpiece of otherwise unuttered feelings, Peter was the first to exclaim, (and£) he£ saith unto him, and with strong emphasis on the Σύ and the μου, Dost thou wash my feet? The protest was natural. It corresponds with many another scene in Peter's life; as when he said, "Depart from me; for I am a sinful man," or cried, "That be far from thee," and later on in this chapter, "Why cannot I follow thee now?" or, "I have never eaten anything common or unclean." This trait in Peter's character is wonderfully accurate, and corresponds with the portraiture of the same man in the synoptic narrative. There is here an analogous blending of reverence and self-will, of outwardness and forwardness—a new illustration of one who would distinguish himself by the greatness of his humility.
John 13:7, John 13:8
Jesus answered and said to him, That which I am doing thou knowest not now—thou hast not absolute knowledge of, thou hast not seen through as yet; but after these things, afterwards when I shall have completed my present undertaking, thou (γνώσῃ) shalt come by clear proof and full discovery and intimate acquaintance to understand. This is sometimes referred to the subsequent illumination of the Holy Spirit, or even to the higher life of the future world (Luthardt), but the above interpretation is more consonant with the context. The μετὰ ταῦτα may (as Westcott suggests) point to the whole manifestation of love as it should complete itself on the cross, and become illumined by the Resurrection and by the gift of the Spirit, when the same mind should be put into Peter that was in Christ Jesus; consequently we may reasonably apply this great word to many of our earthly experiences. God's ways, Christ's government of his Church, and the mystery of our lot, are often so puzzling that we cannot be said to know them objectively or absolutely. We know (γινώσκομεν) but in part, and see (βλέπομεν) by means of a mirror (1 Corinthians 13:12); but eventually in the fulness of the Divine manifestation we shall know (ἐπιγνωσόμεθα) completely, subjectively, in the depths of our personal consciousness. Peter saith to him, with mere emphasis than before, with an intensity of double negative and εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα, Thou shalt not ever wash my feet—"not while eternity lasts." "A praiseworthy modesty," says Calvin, "were it not that with God obedience is better than worship." This vehement, Peter-like burst showed that even yet he had not learned his profound dependence upon his Lord. Exuberant utterance of a love which in its superlative enthusiasm was in danger of severing the relation between his Lord and himself, elicited from Christ a reply which went far Beneath this purely symbolic washing, and gave even to it a moral significance which it had not possessed before. Jesus answered, If I wash thee (not thy feet) not, thou hast no part with me—no μέρος, £ no portion, no share, no communion, no common inheritance with me in the honors and blessings of the kingdom. This may be understood in two ways: either, "If I do not by my grace cleanse you from your defilement, wash you in a deeper sense, in a more abundant and effectual manner than by giving you this practical lesson, there is utter misunderstanding of my relation to you—you have no part nor share with me." And this John 13:11 seems to favor. Hengstenberg strongly defends this view as a reference by Christ to his power on earth to forgive sins, and confer the pure and new nature (cf. Psalms 51:4, Psalms 51:9-19.51.11); and this doubtless lies in the solemn tone of the Lord. A refusal to accept the Divine cleansing is the only ground of exclusion from the benefits of the bloodshedding. Still another more obvious meaning arises, "If you refuse this manifestation of humble love from me, if you put your own pride between yourself and me, if you disdain this act of self-surrender, claiming to understand me and our mutual relations better than I, you have no part with me. This is a symbol of my love to you, and of what is to be your love to one another (John 13:15); if you refuse to accept it from me, you will then have no part with me in the manifestation of the spirit of self-sacrificing love which I have come to inaugurate." Peter must learn the beauty and glory of service for the sake of others; and if he were unable to understand and accept this act of love, he must separate himself from all share in the Master's work. This truth dawned upon him, but only in part, and it led to the extraordinary revulsion of feeling which followed.
Simon Peter makes another impetuous and characteristic outburst, and another of his almost glorious mistakes. Once more he will go before and give advice to his Master. The very same Peter who drew the sword in Gethsemane and then fled, who went to the high priest's palace and then denied his Lord; the very same Peter who rushed into the water anal then cried, "Lord, save me, I perish," who cried, even on the Mount of Transfiguration, "Let us build three tabernacles;" and when our Lord spoke of his cross said, "This shall not be done unto thee;"—the same Simon Peter now said to him, "If it comes to the primal experience of being washed by thee in thine unutterable love, if there be any question of part and share with thee in thy work, I will (cf. John 13:37) go with thee to prison and to death, then, blessed Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head; i.e. all my uncovered body; seeing that my power of thinking and all my capacity for service alike need cleansing." Peter not unreasonably felt the weakness and corruption of his nature, and cried out, as we all are often disposed to do, for renewal and sanctification of every faculty and energy of his being. In this he showed a lack of realization of the new world into which grace had brought him, and once more needed correction. Chrysostom says, "In his deprecation be was vehement, in his yielding more vehement, but both came from his love." But even here we see the same eagerness to go beyond the Lord, and dictate the course to be pursued.
Jesus saith to him. Christ's answer here undoubtedly shows that he is speaking of something far more important than the foot-washing. He goes back to the spiritual meaning which Peter attributed to his words. He that has been bathed (λελουμένος) is indeed washed from head to foot, hath no further need than to wash his feet, £ but is altogether clean. By personal communion with the Lord and belief in him, by the word which he had spoken to his disciples, they were (καθαροί) clean (John 15:3). They had been washed from the defilement of their old nature, they had undergone a thorough moral and spiritual change, by moral union with Christ. They were reconciled and cleansed; they therefore did not need a fundamental change to be wrought daily in head, hands, and life. Just as a man who had thoroughly bathed only requires the removal of the soil contracted in the daily walk; so a regenerated and forgiven man is clean, and, like Peter, should not need, being καθαρός, more than the foot-cleansing which Christ in Divine condescension had then granted. It was inevitable that some of the Fathers and many modern expositors (Hengstenberg, Godet, and Wordsworth) should see here a reference to baptism, and speak of Peter's having overlooked the grace of his baptism. When it is remembered, however, that nothing but John's "baptism unto repentance" had been administered to the disciples, and that this cleansing is, in John 15:3, distinctly referred to the word of Christ, it is a very unnecessary trifling with the text to find in this λελουμένος baptism or any sacramental or symbolic act. Lampe and Cocceius, in rendering λελουμένος, substitute for baptism, the regeneration of the Spirit, and treat the washing of the feet as equivalent to the daily forgiveness of sins of infirmity. Archdeacon Farrar, 'Early Days of Christianity,' vol. 1. p. 126, suggests that this intensely interesting scene may account for Simon Peter's picturesque expression (1 Peter 5:5, ἐκομβώσασθε), wherein he enjoins on Christians to "tie on humility like a dress fastened with knots;" and also for the apostle's "insight into the true meaning of baptism, as being, not the putting away the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God." And ye are clean; and therefore these words and this principle apply to you. Dr. Westcott finds in this phrase a reference to the purity of the visible Church, notwithstanding, i.e., the presence of Judas in the group; but the exception itself which follows shows that the Lord did not regard Judas as λελουμένος or καθαρός. The suggestion of the passage is precisely contrary to that so often drawn. But not all. This reference to Judas may have been one more warning to the man who was plotting against his Master's life.
For he knew who was betraying him; therefore he said, Ye are not all clean. That Christ should have been ignorant of the devices of Judas, or of his true character, is repeatedly denied by all the evangelists. John certainly calls attention to the Lord's knowledge of the secret of Judas, and justifies thus his Divine prerogative. That Strauss, Hilgenfeld, and others should see here an innuendo against Peter, and the charge against Peter of advocating a kind of Ebionitie daily ablution of the whole body, is willful and uncalled for.
The Lord gives other practical instructions based on his own humble self-obliterating discharge of a duty which it was obvious that, in their desire to be great, they had one and all abstained from doing even for their Lord. Out of it he draws the great lesson of mutual love and brotherly regard.
So when he had washed their feet—the interruption of Peter had brought forth the wonderful and weighty replies, and then, in awfulness and great amazement, the process went on. John and Judas as well as Peter submitted. Matthew and Thomas, Philip and Nathanael, and the rest yielded and received the deep, ineffaceable impression—and taken his garments he was no longer in the form of a slave, but of their Teacher and Lord—and again reclined £ at their head, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done unto you? They must consider the meaning of it all. There was no affectation of humility about it. The purpose of the Lord was distinctly practical and ethical. So when he ceased his manifestation in the likeness of sinful flesh, and was set down on the right hand of God, he sent his Spirit to teach them all things. Moulton calls attention to the trial arrangement. Three particulars precede the great utterance that follows (cf. verses 1-3; cf. also John 16:6; John 16:8, etc.; John 17:22, John 17:23), as well as the three topics of the intercessory prayer; also the three words from the cross (John 19:27-43.19.30) and three appearances to the disciples (John 21:14). This may be compared with the use of three throughout the Apocalypse.
Ye name me the Teacher and the Lord. "Rabbi and Mara," the names of reverence which disciples of the Hebrew teachers were accustomed to offer to their masters. Φωνεῖν means to name, and the two nominatives are used appellatively, not as vocatives. Tholuck regards them as vocatives. Scholars dared not address their teachers without some marks of respect. Διδάσκαλος is John's equivalent for יבר, my Master (see John 1:29; John 20:16). And ye say well; for so I am. At this supreme moment he does not repudiate this high function, nor abate any of his lofty claims. He was most obviously the highest in his condescending love. He had given no more amazing proof of the originality and supremacy of his nature than this inversion of all ordinary relations. So I AM—more, indeed, than "the Teacher," "the Savior," more than "the Master," as Peter said on a memorable occasion, "God was with him," and he was Immanuel—"God with us," and "Lord of all" (Acts 10:37, Acts 10:38).
John 13:14, John 13:15
If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, have washed your feet; ye ought also to wash one another's feet: for I have given £ you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Καθώς, "as," "like as," was used by our Lord rather than ὅ, "that which." The ὑπόδειγμα £ shows that he had set before his disciples a parallel, an example, a symbolic type of the service they were to render to one another, and was not establishing a custom or exact ordinance. The washing of the feet was an Oriental custom of great antiquity as a mark of hospitality (Genesis 18:4; Genesis 19:2; Abigail, 1 Samuel 25:41; see also Luke 7:38, Luke 7:44). In 1 Timothy 5:10 there is trace of such a custom of Christian hospitality. Considering the ease with which the Church has established a ceremonial from an isolated text, it is remarkable that no more literal use has been made of this injunction. However, Maundy Thursday, a name derived from Dies mandati, was celebrated as the day on which this great command, or that contained in verse 34, was given—Mandatum novum do vobis—and the feet of the newly baptized were washed. The endeavor to make Augustine the authority for this religious practice is doubtful; but the Council of Toledo mentions this particular day as that on which it was appropriate. In the early Gallican Church there was such a ritual, and the forms of pedilavium observed are to be read in early Gothic and Galliean missals. Bernard of Clairvaux tried to convert the ceremony into a sacrament, but without success. And it would seem that some effort was made to introduce it into Spain. "In 1530, Wolsey washed, wiped, and kissed the feet of fifty-nine poor men at Peterborough. The practice was continued by English sovereigns till the reign of James II." (Westcott). No traces of it are to be found in the Ambrosian ritual, but the preservation of the custom is found now in the Russian imperial palace, in the ceremonies of the holy week at Rome, and in the palaces of vienna, Madrid,Munich. The practice was for a time retained by the United Brethren and Mennonites, and the Tunkers of Philadelphia (see 'Dictionary of Christian Antiquities,' vol. 1. arts. "Baptism," §§ 34, 67, and "Maundy Thursday;" Herzog., 'Encyc.,' art. "Fusswaschung," by H. Merz; and Schaff's 'Herzog.,' art. "Tunkers"). The Church has for the most part looked below the mere form to the real substance of the Lord's teaching, and only thus can we appreciate it adequately. The very injunction would be an inadequate, burdensome one where the feet are covered, and would become impossible and valueless in the Northern and Western world. The service demanded is the self-forgetting ministry of love, which places the interests of self behind and below those of others. Nothing is more theoretically easy and acceptable than this principle, but nothing more difficult of accomplishment. This sentence of our Lord is a noble illustration of the method in which a great principle is made by him the basis of a small duly (cf. Paul's vindication of his own truthfulness and freedom from ἐλάφρια, 2 Corinthians 1:17-47.1.20; he based it on God's own faithfulness to promise).
The verily, verily reveals the solemnity with which our Lord touched the frequently quoted aphorism (Matthew 10:24; Luke 6:40; and again John 15:20). The servant—the slave—is not greater than his lord; you have already called me Lord, and so I am; neither is (one that is sent) an apostle greater than he that sent him on his great mission. Therefore if I, your Lord and Teacher, have set forth this principle of self-abnegating service, a fortiori should ye in love serve one another, the greatest should render even menial service to the humblest; he that would be first to him that is the last, and each to all. This is one of the essential marks, and ever will be, of the mind that was in Christ Jesus (comp. Matthew 10:23, Matthew 10:24, where an analogous phrase justifies the disciples in expecting and fleeing from persecution—a step in which they would simply be following their Lord's example; cf. a very different use of the proverb in Luke 6:40, where it is used to warn a blind man from assuming the office of a guide, and the resemblance of the character, etc., between the Teacher and disciple).
If ye know these things, blessed are ye if ye do them. Knowing and doing are often perilously divorced (cf. Matthew 7:21, etc.; Luke 6:46; Luke 12:47; and James 1:25). The sublime principle by itself may be something, but if it be never put into practice, the last great beatitude is forfeited. Mere admiration of an ethical or a Christian principle degenerating into a heartless and fruitless ceremony is hardening to the heart and deadening to the conscience. The same truths had been taught independently of parable and symbol, in Matthew 23:8-40.23.12; Matthew 20:28.
2. The exclusion of the faithless disciple. This paragraph draws the circle of his cleansed ones, of those who accept him as Master and Lord in the fullest sense, more closely (at) out him. But the proceeding is tragic in the extreme; one of the twelve chosen as apostles is a traitor in disguise. The foot-washing has been an awful insufficiency in his case. He must depart before the greatest depth of the Master's love and truth can be revealed.
I speak net concerning you all. There is one who, though he knows these things, will not do them, is now indisposed to see any Divineness in the act and spirit of love which I am laying down as a fundamental law of my kingdom. I know whom £ (or, the individuals whom) I chose for apostles—(in John 6:1-43.6.71. the same statement is made with less definiteness, "Have I not chosen you twelve, and one of you," etc.?) Judas among them—but. It is difficult to follow this construction, and to decide on the antithesis to this disjunctive.
(1) We may add, this has happened (τοῦτο γέγονεν)—i.e. this choice has been overruled, and so in its issues corresponded with the Divine purpose (ἵνα)—so that the Scripture might be fulfilled, He that eateth my bread £ or, bread with me, hath lifted his heel against me;
(2) we may take the ἵνα πληρωθῇ as a parenthesis, and link the ἀλλ' with the quotation, "He that eateth," etc.; or
(3) we may, with Meyer, suppose that ἐξελεξάμην αὐτοῦς, "I chose them," is mentally involved here: "I chose them, and Judas among them (ἵνα), in order that the Scripture," etc. This connection would suggest a destiny and purpose which Christ knowingly corresponded with, harmonizing his plan with the Divine and prophetic program. Emphasis must be laid upon the ἐκλέγεσθαι. It refers to Christ's choice of apostles, not to the eternal election to salvation. This interpretation corresponds more closely with the text, though it savors of a fatalism foreign to the Scripture. There is, however, a true sense in which the evil-disposed man is so placed that, if he will sin, he must sin along certain well-defined lines. The forty-first psalm, from which the quotation is made, is not strictly Messianic; it is descriptive of the ideal Sufferer, the holy but outraged man, whose melancholy condition is sure to be characterized by treachery among his familiar friends. Christ implies that, if he were to fulfill this portraiture, then this bitter dreg would be put into his cup; and so he humanly made this choice, i.e. he took steps which in their tenderness of love might have saved Judas from the worst, but which were really part of a Divine plan which would vindicate his own foresight and the method of Divine government. A full understanding of the formula in Matthew and John, ἵνα ἡ γραφὴ πληρωθῇ, will save us from putting into these words a hopeless fatalism. Notice that the LXX. reads this passage differently, and is not so closely allied to the Hebrew: "He that eateth my leaves hath magnified against me his surreptitious despite, his tricky antagonism." Great beauty is given to the passage by the R.T. you instead of μετ ἐμοῦ, for it suggests the idea that Christ was the real Host of the twelve, the Father and Provider of his family. Christ must be regarded as the Father and Host of the entire group of guests, and the treacherous treatment of a host throughout the East is regarded as a sign of peculiar obduracy.
I tell you from henceforth—ἀπ' ἄρτι of Matthew 26:64 corresponds with Luke 22:69, ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν; the word also implies that our Lord would again recur to the subject. This is the true meaning of ἀπάρτι in the New Testament. It is more than the words will bear to make the ἐγώ εἶμι, the equivalent of a Divine claim to equality with Jehovah; but "all that I have said of myself, and all you have admitted to be true." It is not a promise of continual prevision of events, but a startling proof that in this case our Lord had completely fathomed the mind of Judas, and was communicative of what he saw there to the rest of the disciples, so that when the tragedy should be consummated, this peculiarity, instead of shaking their faith in him, will prove that he was taken by no surprise, and throughout his great career was what he said he was.
The connection of the solemn utterance that follows is not easy to seize. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He who receiveth whomsoever I shall send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. In the earlier utterance of an analogous saying (Matthew 10:40), δεχέσθαι is used instead of λαμβάνειν. The ἐάν τίνα πέμψω suggests that those who may receive his commission need not, and will not, be confined to the twelve apostles, although including them. The words reveal a claim to issue such commissions, and to confer upon his apostolic and other representatives something of his own dignity and glory, viz. the glory of sacrifice far others, the dignity of service. He may have intended:
(1) To comfort those who are bewildered by the thought of the treachery within their enclosure, and to assure them that such conduct on the part of an apostle must not be allowed to lower their estimate of apostolic duty. Certain ecclesiastical interpreters find here that the unworthiness even of Judas did not destroy the Divine character of his testimony, and that the immoral character of the minister now does not annul the commission he has received. This dogma is essentially hostile to the teaching of the New Testament (Matthew 7:17-40.7.21).
(2) The royal power of the dying Christ; and
(3) the bold identification of his own claims with those of his Father. Few more wonderful sayings were uttered by Jesus, if we ponder the connection in which they stand; but let it be observed that we do not owe to the Fourth Gospel the matter of this saying. It must have been familiar to the readers of John from the solemn records of the Gospel of Matthew.
correspond with the scene which Matthew describes (Matthew 26:21, etc.) as occurring during the Paschal meal, and preceding the departure of Judas before the Supper was instituted—"as they did eat." The ὁ ἐσθίων μετ ἐμοῦ in Mark 14:18 corresponds and finds its explanation in the scene described by John, as also his quotation from Psalms 41:1-19.41.13. It does not follow, because the synoptics omit the "feet-washing," that they were ignorant of it; John's purpose was to record that which they had omitted. On the other hand, John does give some very significant indications of the same general current of inner life in the mind of Jesus and of the twelve. Matthew (Matthew 26:14-40.26.16) shows that at this very moment Judas had so far given way to his avarice, impatience, disappointment, and innate pride and selfishness, as to be simply seeking his opportunity to betray his Master in the absence of the multitude. He had his price; he was meditating treachery. Granting the mixture of motive which may have agitated him, we condemn the pleading of numerous modern writers, who almost extenuate his malice and represent him as victim of the violent vulgar passion of the multitude for a triumphant secular Messiah. Every touch or stroke in the evangelic narrative shows how utterly Impervious to goodness the traitor really was; and John gives us a further hint, in addition to that supplied by the synoptists, as to the very commencement of the agony, the details of which they prolong into the night. Jesus was troubled in the spirit (cf. notes on John 11:33). This is one of the strongest expressions used of the sorrows of Christ; the ταράχη even was deeper down in his nature than what is expressed by ἀδημονεῖν, λυπεῖσθαι, of Matthew. The distress penetrated from "body" to "soul," and then to inmost "spirit." The Lord was terribly perturbed, not merely with approaching agony aggravated by treachery and desertion, but by the contrast between his love and the issue, between an apostle and his doom. And he testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you. A close specification of coming events takes the place of the more vague utterances of verses 17-19. One of you shall betray me. The synoptic account introduces the vivid scene of humble and heart-.rending inquiry, "Lord, is it I?" to which the reply was made, "The one that dippeth his hand in the dish with me shall betray me," followed by a still more awful warning, and imprecation calling the self-consciously guilty man to hesitate, to pause for his own sake (Matthew 26:24). And, further, we learn that Judas received the answer, unheard by his fellow-disciples that it was he who was in this imminent danger. This scene, however, was so impressive to the majority that the synoptic tradition failed to record a briefer side-scene, of which John was the principal witness, and which he here describes. The disciples (therefore) £ were gazing on one another, being in perplexity concerning whom he spake. They were looking on in mute or whispering amazement and tribulation upon one another, being in sore bewilderment (ἀπορούμενοι), but as yet they did not suspect Judas. There was lying, says our text, reclining at the table, in the bosom (ἐν τῷ κόλπῳ)—ἐπὶ το στῆθος, "against the breast"—one of his disciples whom Jesus loved. Observe, this sacred designation occurs in John 19:26; John 20:2; John 21:7,John 21:20. In John 20:2 it is "the other disciple whom Jesus ἐφίλει, amabat, implying that the love of Jesus was not confined to John, but embraced Peter also; whereas here we have ὃν ἠγάπα, the higher love of respect and affection, diligebat. We can have no doubt, from the enumeration of the group in John 21:2, etc., that it is one of Zebedee's sons. Now one of these, James, as we learn from the narrative of Acts 12:1-44.12.25., soon passed away. The author of the Fourth Gospel does undoubtedly mean to refer to John, and to represent the disciple ἵν ἠγάπα ὁ Ἰησοῦς as no other than himself. The attitude so carefully described had been adopted by the Jews at table. It shows that John was seated, or was reclining, next to Jesus on his right, and therefore could, more easily than his next companion on the left, have sought and received an answer from the Lord. Whether this was Peter or Judas does not appear certain. Edersheim has represented Peter's place as on the opposite side of the horseshoe table. Words from that distance could have been overheard by all. At the celebration of the Passover, the guests were accustomed originally to stand; but after the Captivity the custom fell into desuetude.
Simon Peter therefore beckoned to this (disciple), and saith to him. Wherefore he must have been far enough off to beckon, and near enough to speak. Westcott imagines that Peter was on the left side, in the place of real honor (?), though not in such proximity as, unobserved, to ask the question. Edersheim also speaks of the left side as the place of honor, but assigns no adequate reason for such a violation of universal usage and metaphor. The natural impetuosity of Peter would have induced him, if he had been so near, to have asked the question himself. It is more probable that Judas himself was there, judging from the language of Matthew 26:23, and from the act which follows. Either with T.R., He spake to him, to ask who it might be; £ or, saith, Tell (us) who it is concerning whom he speaks; as though Peter had rushed to the conclusion that John knew. This is singularly like Peter, and John may tacitly have been supposed to be better acquainted than the rest with the mind of Jesus.
£He, leaning back as he was against the breast of Jesus, saith unto him, Lord, who is it? Meyer explains, "He, raising himself from the κόλπος of Jesus to his breast, nearer to his ear, draws close to him, and asks in a whisper." This turns on the special rendering given by Meyer and others to κόλπος, as meaning the fold of the garment above the girdle, as in Luke 6:38; but the fundamental meaning of κόλπος is bosom, womb, embrace, and this secondary meaning need not be pressed (cf. John 1:18; Luke 16:22, Luke 16:23).
Jesus (then) answered—"then," οὖν, is introduced by the modern editors, as well as βάψω for βάψας—He it is for whom I shall dip the sop (or, morsel), and give it him; so (καὶ ἐμβάψας is exchanged, on very strong authority, into βάψας οὖν, and ἐπιδώσω into δώσω) when he had dipped the sop, he taketh and giveth it to Judas the son of Simon, the Iscariot. The ψωμίον was the morsel of meat or bread dipped into the charoseth, a mead of wine and fruit used at the Paschal meal. The usage is illustrated by the LXX. version of Ruth 2:14 and Job 31:17. In the New Testament ψωμίζω is used for distribution of food, Rom 12:20; 1 Corinthians 13:3. The act of Jesus was almost contemporaneous with the "Thou sayest it" of the synoptists It was twofold in meaning, explaining to John what he wished to know fur Peter's sake, and giving Judas one more gracious chance to repent and believe in the Divinity of love rather than that of display, power, and pomp. Judas had been dipping his hand into the same dish with his Master, eating his bread. Instead of resenting such effrontery the blessed Lord gave him in pity the last opportunity to escape, he puts the morsel sopped in the acid wine, the bread of fellowship, into his very lips, and the miscreant received it. The name of Judas, and of his father, and of the place cursed by being his birthplace, are once more introduced at length (cf. John 6:71).
And after the sop; not with it. By no magical or demoniacal rite was the man rendered the slave of Satan; post hoc is not propter hoc. After the sop, after this last final proof of the unutterable friendship and love of the Divine Lord—τὸτε, then, "at that moment," as though goodness was turned into wrath, and the conflict with evil closed, the incarnated fiend resolved that he would wait no longer. Then Satan (the only place in the Fourth Gospel where Satan is mentioned) entered into him. How could this be known? The evangelist clearly saw what he thus described—he saw the malign and unrelenting expression on Judas's face; he suspected that some devilish plot was hatched, some hideous purpose finally formed. It is the evangelist's way of saying what he personally saw and afterwards concluded. Up to that moment of supreme forbearance, the character was not irretrievably damned, but now he had sinned against knowledge and love, and even Jesus gives him up. "It were better for him that he had never been born." There is no more awful or tragic touch in the whole narrative, nor any more symbolic of the curse which the corrupt heart can make and bring down upon itself out of the greatest blessing. There is no advantage in trying to determine the amount of figurative sense conveyed by the expression, "Satan entered." The ethical state consequent either upon the sop or the devil is clear enough. The moment when it was induced is signalized in this tragedy. The vehement effort which the traitor must have made to resist all gracious influences opened the way for the powers of hell and darkness to take possession of him. He strengthened himself to do evil. Jesus therefore said to him, That thou doest, do quickly. Questions have been raised as to the sentence—whether it was a solemn command or a permission at once to carry out the purpose that was in his heart (as Grotius, Kuinoel, and others suppose); but Meyer here is more penetrative (so Moulton): "Jesus (as a man) actually wishes to surmount as soon as possible the last crisis of his fate now determined for him." Jameson ('Profound Problems in Theology and Philosophy') urges that it was the prolongation of the struggle which was the bitterest element in Christ's sufferings. The decision at which he had arrived brooked no longer delay. As if he had said, "If you have any manhood in you, and you are not altogether incarnate daemon, make haste, let me remain no longer in suspense; carry out the purpose now and at once." Ambrose, Lucke, Tholuck, suggest that he meant to separate Judas from the eleven, and be rid of his presence. His removal from the group is undoubtedly the condition of our Lord's highest revelations of himself.
John 13:28, John 13:29
Now not one (οὐδείς, not even John) of those reclining at table knew with reference to what matter or behoof he said this to him. The τοῦτο is very emphatic, and, on the supposition of the authenticity of the narrative, John expressly disclaims the knowledge. It is arbitrary for Keim to say that John must have known. The whole of this "aside" was the work of a moment. For certain of them were supposing, because Judas held the purse—or, box (see note, John 12:6)—Jesus said to him; Buy the things we have need of for the feast; or, (he spake) in order that he should give something to the poor. If the great feast of the Jews was to be held on the following day, and this was the 13-14th of Nisan, this advice would be perfectly comprehensible, whereas, if it was the 14-15th when Jesus and also all the Jews were celebrating the Passover, the purchase of any articles would have been contrary to law; and on both grounds the conclusion is drawn that this was the evening of the 13-14tb, and that the Paschal meal had certainly been anticipated by Jesus; but this is not absolutely conclusive, because, even though this were the Passover meal, it is certain that further sacrifices, called "Passovers," were consumed on the great day of unleavened bread that followed the Paschal meal, and it is not perfectly certain what was the custom of the Jews with reference to purchase. Talmudic authorities may be quoted both ways; and a large number of distinguished commentators ( Hengstenberg, Tholuck, Lange, M'Clellan) take the latter view, harmonizing John with the synoptists; but considering all the other difficulties that arise, Meyer, Godet, and Westcott take the former view. The supposition of a gift to the poor from the little stock is very suggestive of the almsgiving spirit that had pervaded all the habits of disciples taught by Christ (cf. John 12:5; Galatians 2:10). Hengstenberg urges that the night of the Passover was that above all others on which the poor needed help to rejoice before the Lord.
He then having received the sop went out straightway: and it was night. There is no advantage to be secured by omitting the οὖν, and connecting the ἦν δὲ νύξ with the ὅτε (συν) ἐξῆλθε, nor is it preferred by the later editors. The immediate departure of Judas when he had taken the sop is compatible with all the context—a horror of the shadow of death falls on the tragic scene. He at least passes out into the outer darkness, apt symbol of his soul and of his deed. Hengstenberg imagines the Lord's Supper to have followed the previous words, and that the εὐθύς must be interpreted with some laxity, leaving time for the sacred meal to have been instituted and the solemn song to have been sung. It is difficult to say where the Eucharistic service is to be introduced, and every possible suggestion has been made. The statement of Luke 22:21, Luke 22:22 makes it probable that the traitor was present at it. And all the synoptists make the indication of the traitor follow the institution of the Eucharist, and two of them place it on the very way to the garden of Gethsemane. Bengel, in harmony with his chronological scheme, supposes that the traitor went out and returned. According to Keim, the Eucharistic meal may be supposed to be introduced at the close of John 14:1-43.14.31. and before the discourse on the vine; but that discourse follows a summons of Jesus to his disciples to leave the upper chamber. And every attempt to find a place for it in the midst of the valedictory discourse is unsatisfactory (see these amply discussed in Godet, Lucke, Meyer). Thus Paulus, etc., place it after John 14:30. Lucke and Meyer, between verses 33 and 34; but Peter's question looks back to verse 33, allowing no such break. Neander and Ebrard place after verse 32. Tholuck, after verse 34, Lange identifies it with the new commandment; and Bengel makes the discourse down to John 14:31 precede Christ's journey to Jerusalem to keep the Passover, so that no clashing takes place. I think that the simplest solution of the difficulty is to put it at the commencement of the feast, and in the folds as it were of the sentence in John 13:2, which tells us that Jesus loved his disciples to the uttermost (εἰς τὸ τέλος). The endeavor made by Strauss, to argue from the silence of the fourth evangelist that he knew nothing of the institution of the Eucharist, is a great exaggeration. The synoptic tradition must, ex hypothesi of the late authorship of the Gospel, be well known to the author, and 1 Corinthians 11:33, etc., was ample proof of its historic basis. There was, in the entire representation of this Gospel, an intense perception of the inner meaning of the Eucharist, and of the new covenant and commandment based on the assumption of the Passion and death of the incarnate God; so that instead of describing the ceremonial, he expounds its ideas.
John 16:33.— 3. THE VALEDICTORY DISCOURSES OF THE LORD.
(1) The glorification of the Son of man, and of the Father in the Son.
With John 13:31 the solemn valedictory discourse of our Lord commences—a veritable evangelium in evangelio, and by the aid of which we come more closely to the heart of Jesus. "Here," as Olshausen says, "we are entering the holy of holies in the Passion-history." We have, indeed, come through the courts of the temple, we have left the courts of the Gentiles, of the women, of the priests behind us, and have been waiting in the holy place of sacrifice and incense and ablution; now we follow our great High Priest to the veil over the holiest of all, and he prepares us to listen to the intercession that he makes before the unveiled majesty of the Father's love. The first section, extending from John 13:31-43.14.31, reports a series of questions by Peter, Thomas, Philip, Jude, which all turn more or less on the anticipated separation which he teaches them to regard as a veritable glorification of the Son of man, and also as a higher revelation to them of the nature of his own Person and of those relations between "the Son" and "the Father" which are imaged and shadowed forth in those between" the Son of man" and "God," which they could more readily understand. This prepares the way for the discourse and prayer which followed, in which the future spiritual union between the victorious Lord and his own disciples, between a sanctified humanity and the eternal Godhead, is exhibited, distinguished by wonderful blending of intuitive insight and supernatural revelation. The discourse is consistent with the stupendous conception which the evangelist had formed of the Person of Christ. Hilgenfeld and ethers regard this address as utterly incompatible with the valedictory discourses of Matthew 24:1-40.24.51., Matthew 24:25., and Mark 13:1-41.13.37. We have already seen that they are but different aspects of the same mysterious and wonderful Personage; that the synoptists are not silent concerning the spiritual presence of Christ in and with his disciples till the end of the world; and, on the other hand, that the fourth evangelist is perfectly alive to the reality of his kingdom in the world and to the true nature of his second coming.
John 13:31, John 13:32
(The οὖν is not omitted by T.R. or Westcott and Holt. It stands on great authority. The different punctuation of Stephens, νὺξ ὅτε ἐξήλθε, dispensed with the οὖν; but this arrangement is not followed by modern editors.) When therefore he (Judas) was gone out, and the Lord was left with his trembling but faithful eleven, his heart yearned over them without reserve or exception, and he speaks as though his Passion had begun, and even ended too. Jesus saith, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. The aorist ἐδοξάσθη suggests more than "is glorified." Bengel says, "Jesus passionem ut breve iter spectatet metam potius prospicit." As Son of man, he has secured the highest glory of the most tender, humiliating self sacrifice, has cast out of the covenanted fellowship the hateful, baneful virus of a carnal triumph. To his eye as Son of man the end is secured, just as in John 17:10 he says, "I have been glorified in them." £ The thought is certainly complete without the clause appended in T.R., which simply reiterates the last clause, in order to make it the basis of a further thought: God will glorify him in (himself £), if his suffering and sacrificed humanity has been the scene and material of a glory given to God, because a new manifestation of the Divine fullness in humanity; that is the reason why his very humanity will be lifted up into the Divine glory, itself becoming one with it, exalted far above these heavens, that he might fill all things. Elsewhere we read that "Christ is hidden in God" (Colossians 3:3; Acts 3:21). All his earthly sufferings will now be seen to be a forth-streaming of Divine love, the fullest revelation of the innermost essence of God (of. Isaiah 42:1). Godet says, "When God has been glorified by a being, he draws him to his bosom and envelops him in his glory." This expression scarcely sustains the sublime uniqueness of the glory of God in the Son of man, and the glory of the Son of man in God. The words, and will straightway glorify him show how imminent was the glorification which is consummated by the new meaning put into death, and into all that leads to it and into the sacrifice involved in it. That "straightway glorify him" is a note of triumph, and this while Judas is completing his bargain (cf. the παρὰ σοί with ἐν ἑαυτῷ of this verse; of. John 17:5).
This is the first and only time, in the Gospels that the tender word, little children, is used by the Lord. The adoption of the gentle love-word is appropriate as a link to the new commandment, and reveals the love of departure, the tender love that wells up in his heart, as he contemplates the orphan-like and bereft condition of his disciples. A little while am I still with you. Ye shall seek me in the way of sympathetic love and vivid realization of my spiritual and real presence; and as I said ante the Jews (a term that Christ used in this place only when speaking to his disciples, though he had made use of it to the Samaritans, and would use it to Caiaphas and Pilate), in John 7:33, John 7:34, and John 8:21; but there and then he added, "Ye will not find me," because they would only seek him in carnal ideas and angry disappointment. Observe, he does not here repeat this consequence of the search, because ultimately these disciples would not only seek, but follow and find; nevertheless, he adds: As I said to the Jews, Whither I go, you are not able to come; so at this time I say to you. There are two words used for "now"—νῦν denotes absolutely the present moment; ἄρτι (John 9:19, John 9:25, etc.) denotes here and there, a period distinct from past and future, and yet related to both. The time is not yet come for you to enter into my glory; you cannot yet come, you have to continue my earthly ministry, to prolong the testimony which I have given concerning God, and which God has given concerning me. The time will come when "I will receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also;" but now he prays, "though I am no more in this world, these are in the world holy Father, keep them" (John 17:11).
John 13:34, John 13:35
(2) The demand which this glorification would ,make on the mutual fidelity and affection of the disciples.
A new commandment I give unto you (with the purpose and scope) that ye love one another; even as (or, seeing that) I loved you, that ye (also) love one another. The interpretation of this verse largely depends on the meaning given to the καθὼς, if, as many translate it, "even as I loved you;" or, "after the manner and type of my love to you;" then an amply sufficient explanation arises of the novelty of the ἐντολή. So new a type of love is given that, as the Greek expositors generally have urged, there is a deeper intensity in the love than can be found in the Mosaic principle, Love thy neighbor as thyself." In this commandment, which embraces the whole law, self-love is assumed, and is made the standard for the love of neighbor. This ἐντολή, on the other hand, would be based on a new principle, and measured by a higher standard, and even mean more than love of self altogether. Christ's love to his disciples was self-abandoning, self-sacrificing love. This view of the passage is urged by Lucke, and really removes all necessity for the varied translations of the καινή, such as "illustrious" (Hammond); "last" (Heumann); "one that is always new" (Olshausen); "renewed commandment," a "renewing commandment"; "the institution of the Eucharist" (Lange). But it is doubtful whether the ideal image of a perfect love constitutes the novelty, and whether the double ἵνα and the transposition of the second ἵνα be found in the simple style of John. If, however, καθώς ἠγάπησα be taken as "seeing that," or "since I loved you" (see John 17:2), Christ's love becomes not so much the manner or type, as the motive, ground, and principle of love to one another. As if he had said, "I have loved each of you unto death; in loving one another you are loving me, you are loving an object of my tender love. The desire of mere imitation, however strong, is not equal to the demand I make, while the bestowment of the 'new' principle of life arising from a response to my love is." For the first interpretation speaks John's own use of the idea (1 John 3:16). There is a third interpretation, which makes καθὼς ἠγάπησα ὑμᾶς a sentence parallel with the δίδωμι. "Even as up to this moment, and up to my death, and to the uttermost, I have loved you, I give," etc., "in order that ye may love one another, and, inspired by me, may imitate my love one towards another" (Westcott). This is an endeavor to combine both interpretations. Alford suggests that the "newness" of the commandment consists in its "unicity," its being the prime injunction of the new covenant, and the first-fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22; 1 Corinthians 13:1-46.13.13.). Tholuck sees the expression of self-renouncing love—the love of the highest to the sinful, the love which is more blessed to give than to receive, the all-embracing love.
By (or, in) this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one toward another. Not by works of majesty and power, but by love to one another. All commentators refer to the well-known saying of St. John at Ephesus, as recorded by Jerome, "This is the Lord's commandment. If ye love one another it is enough" (Tholuck refers to Tertullian's 'Apol.,' 39; Minucius Felix, "They love before they know each other ;" and Lucian, "Their Master makes them believe they are brothers," 'De Mort. Pereg.'). Analogies to the great law of Christ may be found in the Law of Moses, in Talmudical writings, in the Confucian 'Analcets,' and in Stoical maxims; but this ἐντολή in its fullness, and as sustained by this motive, or inspired by this pattern, and lifted to this standard, is new to the human race: and it is the power which has revolutionized thought, society, and life. So long as this great power prevailed, the Church made astounding progress; when the so-called disciples of Christ began to hale and kill one another the progress was arrested. But, thank God, the "new commandment" has always had marvelous power over the Church of Christ.
John 14:4.—(3) The question of Simon Peter, with the terrible response and bitter grief of the entire group, followed by the consoling promise.
Here follows another characteristic question of Simon Peter, who said to him, Lord, whither goest thou? This inquiry points backs to John 13:33, where Jesus warned his disciples that they could not now follow him. Jesus answered (him) (the "him" is omitted by B, C, L, Vulgate, and Coptic, by Westcott and Hort, and R.T.), Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now (νῦν), at this crisis; but thou shalt follow me afterwards. Peter felt that the central teaching of the entire conversation turned upon the Lord's departure and his separation, not only from the Jews who misunderstood him, but from the disciples themselves, lie wanted something more than the sacred power of love to his own brethren; he yearned after more utter identification with his Master, rather than closer interdependence of love and mutual ministries among the shattered group of half-taught disciples. Whither goest thou? If to the battle-field, to the condemned cell, to the martyr's death, I will go with thee. "Not now," is the reply, but "afterwards," after thou hast strengthened thy brethren (see Luke 22:32), after thou hast shepherded my lambs and my sheep, and fed the sheep themselves with the finest pasture, then thou shalt come my way. It is very impressive that, in the beautiful legend that has been commemorated in the Church of "Domine, quo vadis?" in Rome, Peter should at the last have been supposed to put his personal feelings before his Master's will. Fleeing from persecution at Rome, he is said to have met his Lord entering the city, and, after putting this question, received the reply, "Ibam ad urbem, iterum crucifigi." The disciple, after his wont, accepted the rebuke, immediately returned to the city, and "then another bound him, and led him whither he would not" (John 21:18, John 21:19).
Peter saith unto him, Why cannot I follow thee even now? I will lay down my life for thy sake. Compare the language of Thomas (John 11:16), "Let us go, that we may die with him." Peter thought himself ready to die for his Lord, before his Lord had died for him. He who had seen; the glory of the Transfiguration, and the majesty of Christ's power, and the depth of an uttermost love, was ready, as he thought, for any sacrifice, for the most complete self abandonment; but he miscalculated his strength of will and the tenacity of his purpose. "Quid in animo ejus esset cupiditatis videbat, quid virium non videbat". St. Paul, long before St. John made this conversation known, must have gathered from the known teaching of Jesus the same sublime subtle truth, that it is possible to dare a martyr's death, and yet to be without true love (1 Corinthians 13:1, 1 Corinthians 13:2, 1 Corinthians 13:3).
With infinite pathos and pity Christ took up the words of Peter: Jesus answereth, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not have crowed, till thou hast denied me thrice. £ In Matthew 26:31-40.26.35 and Mark 11:27-41.11.31 the announcement of Peter's fate is made on the way to the garden of Gethsemane; Luke's account (Luke 22:31, etc.) may harmonize chronologically with this statement of John; but from all we know of Peter, it is probable that, after his long silence maintained during the discourse of Jn 14-17., his love may have been so quickened and deepened as to have once more induced the reiteration of his fidelity and his willingness to die for and with his Master, only to receive again a more explicit warning of his weakness. Towards the close of the sixteenth chapter of this Gospel, the Lord warns all his disciples of their inability to stand the tremendous test to which they would soon be exposed. If we reject the "harmony," and refuse to double the prediction, we should be strongly inclined, with Meyer and Lucke, to accept the higher credibility of John's chronology than that of Matthew or Mark. The extraordinary character of this prediction, recorded in all four Gospels, is one of the most vivid proofs of our Lord's supernatural power, and in its detail and definiteness places him among those who claim attention from their absolute knowledge, and not their vague guess of the future. Yet there was no fate in this prediction; for Peter is afterwards warned, entreated, prayed for even, by Immanuel.
Farewell token of Christ's love to his disciples.
We are now to trace the development of faith in the body of the disciples, responsive to the supreme manifestations of his love to them during his earthly ministry.
I. OUR LORD'S KNOWLEDGE OF HIS APPROACHING DEATH. "Jesus knowing that his hour was come."
1. This knowledge was strictly prophetic. It was no mere forecast, grounded on a calculation of the extremeness of Jewish hatred. He had often evaded arrest, because "his hour was not yet come."
2. It is a solemn thing to know the hour of our death.
(1) It is not given to man to know it. The uncertainty respecting it enables man to follow the business of life without distraction.
(2) Those who know their end is at hand see in death the most important crisis in their being, ending as it does their relations with this life, and ushering the soul into an altogether untried mode of existence. For Jesus and for his saints death is a mere transference (μεταβῆ) from one scene to another.
II. OUR LORD'S INCREASING TENDERNESS TO THE DISCIPLES IN VIEW OF THE FINAL SEPARATION. "Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them to the uttermost."
1. The disciples, in spite of their many faults, were the objects of Christ's supreme love. Doubly dear because they were "his own," as given him by the Father.
2. His love was redoubled at the thought of his approaching separation from them.
(1) They were to be left "in the world," and therefore exposed to its temptations and trials. "In the world ye shall have tribulation."
(2) They needed, therefore, a special manifestation of his affection to support them in their isolation.
(3) Jesus forgets his own near sufferings in the thought of his disciples bereavement. This fact is a measure of the intensity of his love to them.
(4) The treachery of Judas Iscariot was already in its inceptive stage. "The devil having now put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him."
(a) The devil has power to inject evil into the hearts of men. There is great mystery in the methods of his operation, but the facts of his influence over men are without dispute among those who believe in Scripture.
(b) Yet the responsibility of Judas for his wicked act was in no degree diminished by this temptation of Satan. He was perfectly free to resist or to yield to the tempter.
(c) The fact that Jesus washes the feet of Judas, his betrayer, throws a vivid light upon this last token of Christ's tenderness.
(5) The explanation of our Lord's act. "Jesus knowing that the Father had put all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and goeth to God."
(a) It was because of his Messianic greatness that he now humbled himself to fulfill the office of the lowest. The sense of absolute sovereignty is all the more impressive from the thought of his approaching death. He" was crucified in weakness." The thought of
(b) his Divine origin and
(c) his Divine destination made his act all the more impressive, with a force of example that was designed to act irresistibly upon the minds of his disciples through all time.
The washing of the disciples' feet.
This affecting incident occurred immediately after the controversy among the 'disciples as to which of them should be accounted greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Luke 22:1-42.22.71.).
I. JESUS TAKES THE FORM OF A SERVANT. He washed the feet of his disciples, though it had been more their place to wash the feet of their Master.
1. His humility led him to stoop to the most menial offices in the day of his humiliation.
2. He has thus consecrated the most menial duties and offices of life for us, that we should not in our pride decline to discharge them.
3. His example does not bind us to do his very act—for the custom was Oriental in its origin and meaning—but to carry the spirit of his act into all our relations with brethren.
II. PETER'S REFUSAL TO ACCEPT THE OFFERED SERVICE. "Lord, dost thou wash my feet?" The question originates:
1. In the apostle's humility and reverence, for he feels that it is an inversion of all proper relations for Jesus to do this service to his disciples. He felt himself unworthy of our Lord and of his love.
2. In the apostle's ignorance. He does not understand the symbolic meaning of the act. Therefore our Lord says, "What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter." These words imply
(1) that there is always in our Lord's acts much that we cannot understand;
(2) that our want of understanding does not neutralize the efficacy of our Lord's act;
(3) that the want of understanding specially manifests itself in these acts of our Lord which affect ourselves;
(4) that our want of knowledge ought not to shake our faith in him;
(5) that there will come a time of revelation. The "hereafter" may be soon or late, but it will surely come.
III. SEPARATION FROM CHRIST IS INVOLVED IN THE WANT OF SURRENDER TO RIM. "Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me."
1. There was a spirit of self-will in the apostle's words. "Thou shalt not wash my feet." Our Lord's words reprove Pear's opinionativeness.
2. The first condition of true discipleship is self-surrender. The apostle is too impulsive to await the further knowledge in store for him.
3. Yet observe his sudden apprehension of our Lord's true meaning. " Lord, not my feet only, but my hands and my head." The revulsion of feeling is very characteristic of the apostle. He will not hold back any part of himself from a share in Divine blessing, nor decline to be identified with his Lord to the fullest extent.
4. Our Lord's interpretation of his meaning. "He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit."
(1) The apostle's words implied that he was wholly unclean—head, hands, feet—and every believer must repeat the same words.
(2) Christ washes all who have an interest in him.
(3) All who have an interest in him may be regarded as "clean;" for they are "washed, sanctified, justified, in the Name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God."
(4) Yet they all need a daily washing on account of their repeated acts of sin, just as a traveler needs to wash the stains of the road off his feet.
5. Our Lord's insight into Judas. "And ye are clean, but not all. For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean."
(1) Jesus did not regard Judas as a justified man.
(2) He shows the disciples that he is not the dupe of the traitor's hypocrisy.
(3) Our Lord's words might have warned Judas of the way upon which he was bent to his own utter undoing.
The explanation of the washing of the disciples feet.
I. THE ARGUMENT BY WHICH OUR LORD ENFORCES THE LESSON OF HIS ACT. "Know ye what I have done unto you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am." The titles the disciples gave to him have a decisive force.
1. As he is a Teacher, they were bound to learn in his school with all docility and meekness of wisdom.
2. As a Master, they were bound to give him subjection in all matters touching the conduct of life.
II. THE LESSON OF HIS ACT. "If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye ought also to wash one another's feet."
1. There ought to be mutual condescension and mutual service among brethren. Our Lord utterly opposed the idea of hierarchical pretensions among them. Those who sought the highest place ought to do the meanest service.
2. Christ's example, which is always in a way of self-sacrifice, ought to be regarded as possessing an authoritative force. "For I have given you an example, that ye should do as i have done unto you."
(1) He does not say that we should do the very thing that he did, but do as he did; for we are not now bound to wash one another's feet. The example is in the principle, not in the specific act.
(2) The roman Catholic Church practically misrepresents our Lord's act by a literal obedience to our Lord's commands. The pope washes the feet of twelve poor men on the Thursday of Passion week.
(a) But why should it be done only once in a year? The act is to be constantly imitated by true disciples.
(b) Why should it be done only by the pope? It is to be done by all Christians one to another. The act is to be a token of humility, condescension, love, and patience.
3. The thought of the Lord's dignity ought to incline his servants to a ready acceptance of his example. "The servant is not greater than his Lord."
4. The blessedness of doing as welt as knowing. "If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them."
(1) Our Lord does not command a blind obedience in his disciples. They ought to understand the principles and grounds of their action.
(2) The knowledge of God's will ought never to be divorced from the sincere practice of it.
(3) Our happiness depends upon the degree in which we correlate our knowledge and our duty.
The exception to this blessedness of the disciples.
The thought of their blessedness recalls the fact that there was one in their society with whom knowledge would not have this happy issue.
I. THE TREACHERY OF JUDAS WAS AS YET ONLY MANIFEST TO CHRIST. "I speak not of you all."
1. Jesus knew the thoughts of Judas's heart. There was no surprise, therefore, to Jesus in the treachery that was preparing the way for his death.
2. Judas was not an object of Christ's saving choice. "I know those whom I have chosen." This cannot refer to discipleship—for Judas was chosen to office just like the other apostles—but to grace and salvation.
3. The prophetic confirmation of Christ's words. '"That the Scripture might be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me." Whether the reference is to David or Jeremiah, the words refer to the troubles inflicted on the righteous, by the treachery of a false friend.
4. Christ's foresight of Judas's treachery would
(1) in some degree relieve as well as anticipate the bitterness of disappointment;
(2) lead the disciples to trust in him the more implicitly. "Now I tell you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he." If he had not made this declaration, the disciples might have come to doubt whether his choice of Judas was consistent with his being the Messiah. It is here traced to the will of God.
II. THE ENCOURAGEMENTS OF THE APOSTLESHIP. "He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me."
1. The Master's greatness is reflected in the mission of his servants. They are apostles from him, as he is an Apostle from the Father.
2. The treachery of Judas, though it might shake their confidence, could not annul the dignity of their apostolic office.
The dismissal of Judas.
The departure of the traitor was necessary to the full disclosure of all that our Lord had in store for his beloved disciples.
I. MARK THE EMOTION OF OUR LORD. "He was troubled in spirit."
1. Not on account of wounded love.
2. Nor from horror at the conduct of Judas.
3. Nor from pity for his approaching doom.
4. But, as the word (πνεῦμα) signifies, from the shock that was caused by the thought of the fearful crime about to be committed at the instigation of Satan.
II. MARK OUR LORD'S OPEN IDENTIFICATION OF THE TRAITOR. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me." The statement proved the omniscience of Jesus. Judas had as yet done nothing to excite suspicion of his treachery.
1. Mark the astonishment and perplexity of the disciples. "Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake."
(1) They doubted their own hearts rather than the ominous sentence of their Master. There is a remarkable humility manifested in their attitude, as each asks, "Lord, is it I?"
(2) They never suspected the guilt of Judas. None of them said, "Lord, is it Judas?" The fact proves the skilled hypocrisy of the traitor.
2. The anxiety of Peter to discover the traitor.
(1) He takes the initiative, with his usual promptitude, suggesting that John should ask the Lord "who it was of whom he spake."
(2) Jesus does not name the traitor, but silently identifies him by giving him the sop.
(a) This act was one more appeal to the conscience of Judas.
(b) Judas received the sop, as if to mark his fellowship with Jesus; but it only gave additional point to the ancient prophecy, "Mine own familiar friend, who did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me."
(c) Judas was thus made known to John only.
3. The traitor opening his heart to Satan. "And after the sop Satan entered into him."
(1) What a mysterious power Satan exercises over the hearts of sinners! Peter says to Ananias," Why hath Satan filled thy heart that thou shouldest lie to the Holy Ghost?"
(2) It is for the sinner himself to determine whether Satan shall have entry or not. Therefore men ought to "resist the devil" at his first solicitation.
4. Our Lord dismisses Judas from his presence. "That thou doest, do quickly."
(1) The resolution had been already formed, and Judas does not deprecate the issue for himself.
(2) Jesus needed the little space that remained of his last night for the instruction of his disciples in farewell duties.
5. The perplexity of the disciples at our Lord's command to Judas.
(1) None but John, and probably Peter, knew that the traitor had been identified, therefore the words of Jesus were of doubtful meaning.
(2) The disciples imagined that Judas held his old footing as treasurer, and had received an injunction to provide either for the poor or for the observance of the Passover. It is remarkable that Judas should have so successfully concealed his real character and designs from his fellow-disciples.
6. The departure of Judas. "He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night."
(1) Judas bids an eternal farewell to Jesus on the old footing of discipleship. They never meet again till the hour of our Lord's arrest.
(2) The night into which Judas stepped forth was but a faint figure of the deeper night of a soul into which Satan had entered.
Separation and its issue.
The departure of Judas sets Jesus free to discourse familiarly with his disciples.
I. THE TRAITOR'S DEPARTURE IS THE SIGNAL FOR THE REDEEMER'S GLORIFICATION. "Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him."
1. Jesus regards his death, now so near, as involving his glorification.
(1) The glorification extended over Christ's whole past life. It lay in his voluntary self-abasement.
(2) The redemptive work is regarded as virtually completed (John 17:4).
(3) The Father is glorified by the obedience and sufferings of his Son. The sufferings and the glory were closely linked together (1 Peter 1:11).
(4) The Son will be glorified by the Father in heaven, as he himself glorified the Bather on earth.
II. THE APPROACHING SEPARATION OF JESUS FROM HIS DISCIPLES. "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."
1. The language is that of deep affection and solicitude. He sympathizes with the disciples in their coming bereavement, They are soon to be orphans.
2. The disciples would experience a longing to rejoin him after the separation which was now at hand.
3. They were not yet ready to follow him.
(1) The search of the disciples would not be finally in vain. "I will receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:3). He does not say to his disciples what he said to the Jews, "And ye shall not find me."
(2) They had a task to accomplish. "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another."
(a) The period of his absence was to be a season of spiritual growth. Love to one another, with the mutual sacrifices involved in it, would be the realization of his presence among them.
(b) The commandment of love was new in its scope and motive, though love was always the principle of the Decalogue. It was new,
(α) as it was enjoined after a new model—"even as I have loved you;"
(β) as it was love to brethren—to "the new creation;"
(γ) as it arose out of a new necessity—"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." This love was to be a badge of discipleship. The world would thus understand the true meaning of Christianity.
III. PETER'S ANXIETY TO KNOW OUR LORD'S DESTINATION, AND HIS EAGERNESS TO DIE WITH HIM. "Lord, whither goest thou?"
1. The question marks the disciple's loving regard for his Master, from whom he would not be separated in life or in death.
2. Yet it suggests that his mind was occupied with the idea of his Lord's establishment of a temporal kingdom. Where was he going? Was not Jerusalem to be the center of the coming kingdom? The answer of Jesus declares the separation to be inevitable, but only temporary. "Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards."
(1) The death of Christ was necessary to Peter's entrance into heaven.
(2) Peter, besides, had an apostolic ministry of great moment to fulfill.
4. Peter's determination to follow his Master to death. "Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake."
(1) He evidently thought that Jesus was about to die, and that his death was in some way to contribute to the establishment of his kingdom.
(2) He thinks that he can lay down his life for Christ before Christ lays down his life for him. He came afterwards to know that the two deaths must follow a different order (John 21:18, John 21:19).
(3) He does not dream that his faith might fail in the supreme crisis of his Lord's trial.
5. Our Lord's prediction of Peter's fall. "The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice."
(1) Our Lord does not doubt the sincerity of his disciple, but his spiritual strength and steadfastness. The best of men do not know their own strength till it is tested by temptation.
(2) Our Lord rebukes the over-confidence of his disciple, None are so near a fall as those who are so confident of their standing. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."
(3) Our Lord's prediction had such an overwhelming effect upon Peter that he did not utter another word during all the following discourses.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
Christ's constancy of love.
If there is any time when a man's attention is presumed to be necessarily and properly directed to himself, that time is the time when danger is present and when death approaches. But when our Savior's hour was come, when the shadow of the cross fell athwart his path, he seems to have been signally unselfish in all his actions, and disinterested in his very thoughts. Humiliation, suffering, and death were immediately before him; but it is beautiful, instructive, encouraging to see how warmly his heart beat for his friends, and how anxious he was to use the closing days of his ministry for their spiritual profit. These words reveal to us Christ's constancy of love.
I. ITS OBJECTS. Whom did he love, and love unto the end?
1. They were "his own," i.e. those who were called and chosen by him, who were loved and purchased by him. His own possession and property, his own spiritual kin, these friends of Jesus were attached and devoted to him, conformed to his character, participators in his spirit.
2. They were "in the world." This expression is significant, as implying that Christ's disciples were the objects of his affection, notwithstanding that they were encompassed by life's difficulties and temptations, notwithstanding that in their character they bore traces of this world's influences and assaults.
3. The language used is applicable to others beside the immediate disciples of our Lord. He felt towards others and prayed for others (John 17:1-43.17.26.) as he felt towards the twelve and prayed for them. All are "his own" who truly trust and love and obey him; and all his own have an interest in his purposes of pity and of grace.
II. ITS WONDER. Marvelous indeed is it that the affection of Jesus should outlast the many trials to which it was put by his disciples, to which it has been put by all of us. There was very much in his followers which was fitted to check, to kill, the love of Jesus.
"Could we bear from one another
What he daily bears from us?
Yet this glorious Friend and Brother
Loves us, though we treat him thus!
Though for good- we render ill,
He accounts us brethren still."
"His own" were:
1. Slow to understand his teaching.
2. Slow to appreciate his nature and his mission.
3. Unworthy in their character of his fellowship and his Name.
4. Inconstant, as was shown by their afterwards forsaking him in the depth of his distress and humiliation.
Amazing was the love which endured when so tried! Amazing is the love which we and all Christ's people have experienced from him, notwithstanding our unfaithfulness and coldness!
III. ITS MOTIVE AND EXPLANATION.
1. The constancy of our Savior's affection is not attributable to any qualities in his disciples, which could deserve and retain his interest and attachment. So far as we are concerned, our need, our dependence upon him, are all that have to be taken into account. If Jesus were not faithful to us, where would be our strength, our safety, our hope?
2. For the explanation of this marvelous constancy we must look to Christ's own character, to his faithful, unchanging nature, free from every caprice, from every unkindness. It is his nature to love, and to love without fickleness or weariness.
IV. ITS PROOFS.
1. In the lessons he taught. Christ's was a love that first and chiefly contemplated the highest good of its objects. His aim has ever been the spiritual welfare of those whom he befriends, tie teaches
(1) by words;
(2) by symbols,
as in the context, where, first by washing the disciples' feet, and then by instituting the Lord's Supper, he evinces his affectionate interest in his disciples' well-being by imparting to them pictorial and sacramental lessons which were intended to perpetuate to all generations the memory and the blessing of his unchanging love.
2. In the sufferings and death to which he was about to submit. Only constant, unchanging friendship could account for our Lord's willingness to lay down his life for his own. And no one who studies this record can doubt that the sacrifice was willing and cheerful; that our Lord, the good Shepherd, "laid down his life for the sheep."
V. ITS DURATION. "To the end," says John the evangelist, who had good reason to know the Master well. To the approaching end of his own earthly ministry and life, and to the end of his disciples' period of probation and of education. Christ's love is "faithful, free, and knows no end." It is not only mighty; it is immortal. T.
Christ's consciousness of his mission.
The occasion upon which our Savior is said by his friend and apostle John to have had a vivid consciousness of hi§ mission is deserving of attention. It was just before his Passion, in the upper room where he was about, by act and language, to inculcate great lessons upon his disciples, and whence he was to take his way to Gethsemane and Calvary. In such circumstances the confidence of a human leader might well have wavered, and his purposes might well have faltered. But Jesus could look forward to what he was about to endure with a touching equanimity, because he knew whence he had come, whither he was going, what was the nature and authority of his mission.
I. CHRIST'S CONSCIOUSNESS OF HIS ORIGIN. He was aware:
1. Of his Divine nature.
2. Of his Divine mission.
3. Of his Divine qualifications.
II. CHRIST'S CONSCIOUSNESS OF HIS DEPARTURE AND DESTINATION. He knew that he was not going into annihilation, into oblivion; that he was not to fail in his work, though he was to die in its execution.
1. His departure was to secure the accomplishment of God's will.
2. And the achievement of man's redemption, which was the special purpose of the Father.
3. And the manifestation of the Father's acceptance. He went to God to be received as God's beloved Son; and he was raised from the dead, and taken to heaven, that it might be evident to all the world that the Father approved his work.
III. CHRIST'S CONSCIOUSNESS OF HIS UNIVERSAL AUTHORITY.
1. In the hour of his suffering and humiliation he knew full well that his hands were all-comprehending and all-powerful, that all power was given to him in heaven and on earth, that his was a supreme and universal sway.
2. He knew, too, that his power should be exercised for the salvation of his people. They should scatter and flee, but he should rally them. He was to be their High Priest, and at the same time their King.
1. The security of those who trust in One so wise and so mighty.
2. The strength of those who work for such a Master.
3. The hope which is before those who seek and wait for his salvation.
4. The encouragement which all who need his countenance and help are at liberty to take from him.—T.
Mastership and subjection.
Equality amongst men is the dream of fanatics. It is true that men should by law have equal rights. But the Creator has not bestowed equal gifts or powers of body or of mind, and no human laws can equalize men's condition, their possessions, or their enjoyments. And in all society there must be authority and. subordination; some must rule, and some obey. So is it in the spiritual kingdom of our Lord.
I. THE CLAIM OF CHRIST.
1. Wheel it is.
(1) Jesus claims to be the authoritative Teacher, the Master of his people and of mankind, lie reveals and communicates the truth of God to men. He bids us learn of him.
(2) He claims to be the Lord who rules. His authority is not merely over men's beliefs; it is over their actions. He issues laws, and requires homage and obedience. In both these respects Christ is unrivalled and supreme. "One is your Master."
2. On what it rests.
(1) On grounds of native right. The Deity of our Lord's Person, the Divinity of his attributes, his appointment by the Father, give him a right to teach and. to govern his people.
(2) On grounds of moral fitness, His wisdom and insight are such that none is so qualified to instruct; his moral authority is such that the conscience bows before him as before none other.
(3) Christ's claim rests upon tenderer grounds—upon his love toward his people. What he has done and suffered for us is proof of his disinterested affection, and gives his claim to our devotion an efficacy quite unique.
II. HIS PEOPLE'S ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF CHRIST'S CLAIM.
1. The character of this acknowledgment. It is sincere and practical; opposed to resistance and rebellion, and equally opposed to pretence and hypocrisy. The repudiation of the rebel, the enemy, and the pretence and dissimulation of the hypocrite, are alike detestable to Christ.
2. The methods of this acknowledgment. Practical submission to Jesus means the studying and reception of his doctrines, and obedience to his commands. Yet there are certain definite ways in which we may recognize Christ's lordship, e.g. by honoring his holy Name, and by discountenancing and rebuking profanity; and again by devoutly observing his ordinance, concerning which he said, "Do this in remembrance of me."
3. The advantages of this acknowledgment. It tends
(1) to the improvement of the individual Christian character;
(2) to the unity of the Church, which needs to think less of human leaders and more of the Divine Head; and
(3) to the illumination and conversion of the world. On these accounts they "say well" who sincerely recognize Christ's just demands upon them, and. prove their sincerity by their docility and. their obedience.—T.
Humility and mutual service.
There are certain virtues which are distinctively Christian. Amongst these must certainly be reckoned humility. Christianity has done not a little to elevate this grace of character to a higher position than it occupied in the esteem of the ancients. The Old Testament, in some passages, extols lowliness of heart as acceptable to the High and Lofty One. Yet this can hardly be deemed a characteristic of even pious Hebrews. But by his example and by his precepts our Savior has done much to encourage and develop among his followers in every position of life this admirable grace. And in proportion to the prevalence of humility is the disposition to render mutual services. As men forget themselves, they remember others; as they relinquish claims upon their fellow-men, they recognize claims upon themselves for services to be rendered.
I. THE HINDRANCES TO HUMILITY. Christ would not have been at such pains to inculcate this lesson unless there was danger of its remaining unlearned. The fact, that he upon a solemn occasion, a crisis in his ministry, deigned to wash his disciples' feet, with no end in view except the inculcation of lowliness and self-forgetting helpfulness, proves that in his view there was urgent need for such instruction. No one who knows human nature can doubt that the lesson is hard to learn. There are dispositions deeply rooted in man's sinful character which are altogether opposed to that humility which our Lord enjoins upon his disciples. Especially is pride, or a high opinion of self, an obstacle to be dealt with. There is also selfishness, or the disposition to concentrate all interest and all effort upon personal enjoyment and enrichment. On the other hand, there is a tendency in human nature to disregard others in proper-lion as self is magnified. The proud and selfish man is likely to be indifferent to the welfare of his neighbors, to be indisposed to undertake any labor, or submit to any self-denial, with a view to their good. This spirit may degenerate into a positive hatred especially of any who may have been injurious. Such basenesses as malice, envy, and jealousy may thus enter into and defile the soul.
II. THE NATURE OF HUMILITY. What is the disposition and habit of mind which our Lord thought it so needful to impress upon his disciples as essential to true discipleship? What is the example which he set them for their imitation? As we examine the narrative in connection with our Lord's conversation, we find that the character and conduct here commended have two aspects.
1. With regard to self, the Christian is called upon to cherish meekness and lowliness. If our Divine Lord did not disdain to minister to his friends, if he did not deem it derogatory to act as a servant, his followers may well lay aside those sentiments of vanity and self-importance which are so ruinous to a noble character. If men would but think of their own infirmities and imperfections, of their dependence upon their fellow-men, and above all of their obligations to their Creator and Redeemer, it would not be so hard to abase self.
2. With regard to others, the Christian should cultivate the habit of consideration and sympathy. What beauty and force is there in the apostolic admonition to look upon the things of others! Some are "all eyes" for their own interest, but very blind to the concerns of their neighbors. Christianity is not unreasonable. Comte bids men "live for others," as if regard to self were sinful. But Christ bids us "love our neighbor as ourself;" and the welfare of mankind will be best secured by compliance with this twofold admonition.
III. THE PRACTICAL MANIFESTATIONS OF HUMILITY. Looking at these in the light of the context, we may say that true Christ-like lowliness will be displayed in:
1. Services of social courtesy. There may, indeed, be superficial politeness without Christian humility. But the danger with many is lest there should be a foolish and proud bluntness of manner in intercourse with others. There have been those who have deemed it a duty literally to copy the Lord's example by washing the feet of the poor; sovereigns, ministers of state, and popes have endeavored by such acts to atone for much pride and haughtiness. The form of Christian courtesy will be determined by the manners and customs of the age. Acts which are natural and beautiful in one country and one state of society may become forced and grotesque in another. It is the spirit which is all-important; this will reveal itself in forms suitable and appropriate to circumstances.
2. Services of mutual help. The washing of the feet was regarded as necessary to comfort and propriety; it was, therefore, a real service, life doubt there is a difference of magnitude in the benefits conferred by members of human society upon one another. And there is a difference of kind. But every day brings some opportunity of rendering service of some kind or other to those with whom we associate; the Christian, so far as he follows his Master, will take advantage of such opportunities. Pride, indeed, will counsel thus: "Let others serve you; it is beneath your dignity to minister to them." Humility will offer very different advice: "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the Law of Christ."
IV. THE MOTIVE TO HUMILITY. There are doubtless many motives; but one is so supreme as to leave scarcely any room for any other, i.e. in the Christian's heart. The example of the Lord Jesus is to him all-powerful, all-persuasive. This is so when we think:
1. Of Christ's native greatness, and of his voluntary humiliation in his incarnation and advent.
2. Of Christ's whole conduct during his earthly ministry, which, as recorded, affords so many instances of condescension, compassion, and loving-kindness. He took the form of a servant, and he lived the life of a servant.
3. Of Christ's obedience unto the death of the cross, in which he" tasted death for every man." If the Lord of glory deigned to die for men, it is scarcely possible for any disciple of Christ to render service to his fellow-men which shall fairly express the devotion to the Master and the consecration to his service which he has a right to expect. It is in Christ that the Christian finds the motive and the model of unselfishness, humility, and benevolent service.
V. THE REWARD OF HUMILITY.
1. Peace of conscience is one happy consequence of this disposition and habit. Pride is the cause of restlessness and of wretchedness. But the meek and lowly spirit finds true and lasting rest.
2. Honor and exaltation by God himself. He abases the proud; he exalts the lowly and meek. He that humbleth himself shall be exalted. Before honor is humility.—T.
The supreme example.
Imitation is a principle of human nature. It is natural, and therefore the means by which a great part of our knowledge and many of our habits are acquired. It is universal, prevailing in all ranks and conditions of society. It is powerful, molding character, and controlling and directing life. It is ultimate, not to be explained, but to be accepted upon its own authority. Upon this principle human life develops itself; upon this principle education for the most part proceeds. This principle is manifested in religion; Christianity makes special use of it, and Christ is the Model and Exemplar of all his people.
I. THE CHARACTERISTICS IN VIRTUE OF WHICH CHRIST IS AN EXAMPLE TO MEN.
1. He was faultlessly perfect. Although the Bible gives us many examples of virtue and piety, it has often been noticed that both in Old and New Testament Scripture human character is represented as imperfect. In Christ alone no sin was found. His friends can find no words warm enough to praise him; his enemies can find no faults with which to charge him. How fitted, then, is Jesus, our Redeemer, to be also our Model! If we are to have a model and a master, let us choose the highest and the best. Christ always towers above us, and above all his rivals and all his followers.
2. His example is singularly comprehensive. It must have occurred to the student of Scripture biography that human exemplars are usually quoted as illustrating one or a few excellences; Abraham of faith, Job of patience, Jacob of earnestness in prayer, Moses of wisdom and meekness, Joshua of courage, David of devotion, Daniel of fearlessness, Peter of fervor, Paul of zeal, John of love. In Christ, and in Christ alone, all goodness is conjoined. It is sometimes supposed that our Savior exemplified only the softer and milder virtues; but this was not so, although for wise reasons this aspect of his character is dwelt upon most fondly by the evangelists. There was in him Divine harmony and symmetry of character, such as can be found in none beside.
3. His example was divinely authoritative. We base this statement upon his own language: "Learn of me," "Follow me," etc. And upon apostolic teaching: "Walk even as Christ walked," "Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example," etc.
II. THE RESPECTS IN WHICH CHRIST IS AN EXAMPLE TO MEN. There are respects in which we cannot imitate him. For example, in his superhuman knowledge and power, and consequently in his voluntary humiliation.
1. But we may imitate the Lord Christ in his consecration to his Father's will. He came to do the will of him who sent him, and he pleased not himself. This same principle and law it is open for us to adopt; life may be to us high and holy, being devoted unto God.
2. In his personal purity. Jesus lived in a sinful world, and mixed freely with sinful men; yet he was unspotted by the contact. His goodness was not negative only, but positive; every virtue was perfected in his life. Can ordinary men, in the busy life of this workaday world, be imitators of Christ? There are abundant illustrations of the possibility; the example of Jesus is one which it is practicable to follow.
3. Especially in his humility and condescension. This is the virtue to which in this passage express allusion is made. The lesson which the Lord wished to convey was a hard one; accordingly he taught it, not simply by precept, but by example. A literal fulfillment is not expected, but the spirit of Christ s example may be truly shared.
4. In his benevolence. In the Savior was not only a kindly disposition, but a habit of active beneficence, a readiness to forgive injuries, and to deal patiently and forbearingly with the slow of heart and the unsympathizing. In these very difficult virtues there is room for Christ's disciples to imitate their Lord. The work of copying the perfect model is to be a progressive work. It will not be completed here; and this fact points on to the future. The perfect conformity is to be attained in heaven, where we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.—T.
The blessedness of intelligent obedience.
Our Lord Jesus taught, practiced, and commanded. His teaching was perfectly true and wise; his conduct was perfectly good and right; his directions were perfectly just and authoritative. His instructions were sometimes verbal, sometimes by example, and sometimes symbolical. Christ taught the lesson of humility not only by words, but in his whole demeanor and conduct; nor was this all, for he illustrated his lesson, now by setting a little child in the midst of his disciples as an example, and again by washing the feet of his apostles. Many were the means he used to impress this and other lessons of moral excellence upon his disciples. But he always insisted that true discipleship was not in an intellectual acquaintance with his teaching, but in a cheerful compliance with his will. As Lord of all, he sought to bring the whole nature under his control; and as their Master and Lord, he assured them with authority that their true welfare lay in their not only knowing, but in their doing, his commandments.
I. KNOWLEDGE. Man is made to know. It is his privilege and prerogative to exercise his understanding and reason. Truth is within man's reach—not all truth, but certainly such as is most necessary for his well-being. Of all knowledge, none is so valuable as the knowledge of God in Christ. The highest truth is presented in our Lord's life, his deeds arid words, his sufferings and glory. He is the one great Lesson for mankind to study and to learn. The twelve had abundant means of knowing Christ, of becoming acquainted with his character and his will. But through our possession of the New Testament we have sufficient opportunities of learning Christ. In order that our knowledge may be complete, as far as our position allows, we must study the Savior and his revelation of himself, his declaration of his will, with reverence and meekness, with faith and prayer.
II. PRACTICE. Our nature is not only intellectual; it is also active. Our life is not one of pure contemplation; it is eminently practical. Knowledge without corresponding conduct is vain, is even worse than ignorance. It is like steam which is generated in the boiler, but which is not brought to bear as motive power upon an engine. It is like the blossom which in itself is beautiful, but which is followed by no fruit. Those who believe that there is a revelation should receive it. Those who are convinced that Christ is the Son of God should live by faith in him. Those who are persuaded that Christ's law is the highest standard of morality should obey that law and conform to that standard. Those who believe that there is a future life, and that they are accountable to a righteous Judge, should prepare for judgment and for immortality. Knowledge without corresponding conduct is seen to be useless in every department of life; how reprehensible must it be in religion! A young man may study law through a long series of years, and under the superintendence of able practitioners; of what avail is his knowledge if, when the time comes for him to act for himself, he cannot draw a deed in chambers, or construct a defense for a client in court? The pupil of an engineer may have a good knowledge of mathematics, may be able to make accurate drawings of other men's work; but is his theoretical ability of service to him in practice? That is the important question; for no one will employ a man to build a bridge, or to bore a tunnel, unless he has shown himself capable of carrying out such works. A cadet may pass the preliminary examinations, may study the art of fortification, the laws of projectiles, the tactics adopted by famous generals in historical campaigns; but all this is preparatory to actual warfare, and he will have studied to good purpose only if, when the time comes, when some unexpected responsibility falls upon him, he is able to lead a force or to defend a city. In like manner young people are taught the Scriptures, are made familiar with the doctrines, the principles, the laws of Christianity. To what end? Surely with the intention that they may not merely call Jesus Master and Lord, but that they may do the things which he bids.
III. BLESSEDNESS. It is wrong to make happiness the one great end of life. Yet happiness is a merciful addition to life—an ornament and a recompense appointed by a benevolent Providence. It is remarkable how often the Lord Jesus pronounced those happy who shared his character and obeyed his will. The pursuit and acquirement of knowledge are attended with happiness; but the truest happiness is the fruit of obedience.
1. This appears from the consideration that those who know and do Christ's will employ all their powers in true harmony. The capacity for knowledge and the faculty for action in such a case work together towards an end, and such co-operation he who made our nature has designed to be productive of a tranquil joy. "This man," says James, speaking of the doer of the work, "shall be happy in his doing."
2. They who know and do Christ's will are happy, because they have a good conscience. If a man feels and says, "I know that I ought to follow such a line of conduct, but I confess that I do not carry out my convictions," how can he have peace? The conviction and reproof of the inward monitor will not let him rest. On the other hand, when there is no schism between knowledge and practice, the voice of conscience speaks approval, and such approbation is blessedness indeed.
3. Obedience as the fruit of knowledge is accepted and commended by the Lord Christ. His approving smile rests upon his true and loyal disciple and servant, who takes up his cross, when so summoned, and follows his Lord. Hereafter the blessedness shall be perfect, for Christ shall say to the faithful servant, "Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."—T.
A disciple and yet a traitor.
In how many passages of the gospel narrative is there a revelation of the truly human heart of our Lord Jesus! Again and again he was grieved, troubled, indignant; for he was a partaker of our nature and of our sinless feelings. It is observable that most instances of our Lord's deep feeling were occasions upon which others had, by their conduct, displeased or disappointed him. Tie was bitterly distressed by the unbelief and unfaithfulness of those whose welfare he sought. No wonder that, amidst the complication of sufferings which closed around him as his Passion approached, the treachery of Judas pained his tender and sensitive heart.
I. DISCIPLESHIP MAKES TREACHERY POSSIBLE. It was sad enough for Jesus to know that, among those to whom he ministered, there were many who were incredulous as to his teaching and claims, and hostile to his plans. "He came to his own, and his own received him not." But it was sadder that, in the circle of his chosen and trusted companions, there should be those who, whilst professing allegiance and attachment, were in heart estranged from him, and were ready, when opportunity should offer, to desert and to betray him. And it must be remembered that, although there were enemies without, traitors could only arise from within. An open foe one knows how to treat; one may evade or overcome. But a secret foe, in the court, in the camp, in the household, is far more dangerous. He has, by reason of the confidence with which he is treated, opportunities of injuring a leader, a cause, which no other can use. If all men were either avowed foes or sincere friends of Christ, there would be no danger, for there would be no possibility of treachery. Judas knew the place and the time for finding the Master unprotected; and the open enemies of Jesus made use of the knowledge of his professed friend, who led them to the garden, pointed out the object of their hostility, and betrayed the Son of man with a kiss.
II. DISCIPLESHIP MAKES TREACHERY DOUBLY BLAMABLE. For:
1. The disciple knows the Master, and accordingly knows his excellences and his just claim to reverence and fidelity. There were those among our Lord's enemies who wronged him, not knowing what they did. They had no real perception of his goodness and the Divine beauty of his character. Since they knew nothing against Jesus, they were grievously to blame for the part they took against him. Still they did not sin against clear, full daylight. But Judas was in constant association with his Lord, and knew how perfectly Jesus merited the warmest attachment and devotion. Yet he betrayed him whom he should have honored and defended; and on this account his guilt was greater. It may be said of many who have been trained in the Christian Church, who have enjoyed many opportunities of studying Christ's character, and who yet have deserted and calumniated their Lord, that their sin is without cloak. They knew how holy and how compassionate was the Savior against whom they spoke and acted, and theirs is the greater sin.
2. The disciple has been graciously treated by the Master, and this fact aggravates the guilt of him who, having been so treated, proves traitor. Judas was admitted to the Savior's intimacy, was even promoted to an office of trust, was permitted to provide for Jesus' wants, and to administer Jesus' charity; yet he betrayed the Lord who had so exalted him. How many are there who, as disciples, have listened to Christ's words, eaten at his table, companied with his friends, yet, in the hour of temptation, have fallen, and have betrayed the dear Lord, whose kindness should have been with them as a sacred amulet to preserve them from defection!
1. Let the history of Judas remind us of human infirmity and liability to sin.
2. Let the tempted remember that Christ's knowledge of his people is complete. Whilst he knows the hypocrisy of the false, he knows the danger of the sincere and true friend.
3. Let every disciple hold fast to the Savior, for in his fellowship only is safety. The peril lies in consorting with Christ's foes, in entering into any complicity with such, in even hearkening to their plans. Better to be in the garden with Christ, than in the council-house with Christ's foes.—T.
The intimate friend of Jesus.
In mentioning himself in this indirect manner, our Lord's beloved disciple displays his modesty, and at the same time gratifies his attached devotion to his Master. The friendship which existed between Jesus and John has been productive of some obvious and signal advantages to the Church and to mankind at large.
I. THIS FRIENDSHIP WAS THE MEANS BY WHICH THERE HAS BEEN PROVIDED FOR US A MEMOIR CF CHRIST DISTINGUISHED BY A REMARKABLE CONGENIALITY BETWEEN THE BIOGRAPHER AND HIS DIVINE SUBJECT. If the first three Gospels contain the popular tradition concerning Jesus, the Fourth Gospel records the impressions received during an association of the closest character, lasting throughout our Lord's public ministry. It is to this fact that we owe the record of conversations and discourses not preserved by the other evangelists, and more particularly of our Lord's wonderful revelations, promises, and prayers preceding his betrayal and crucifixion. The difference, which cannot but be noticed by every reader as distinguishing John's Gospel from the others, must be mainly attributable to John's peculiar opportunities of knowing Christ, and to that congeniality of spirit which enabled him to limn a portrait of his Friend in outlines so clear, in colors so true.
II. TO THIS FRIENDSHIP WE OWE DOCUMENTS PECULIARLY STEEPED IN THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST'S CHARACTER AND EXAMPLE. No one can study John's three Epistles and the Book of Revelation without recognizing, in the compositions of their author, the influence of the Redeemer's companionship and teaching. Not only did John (the eagle of the Christian symbolists) soar into the heavenly, the spiritual world, and discern the Deity and the eternal glory of his Master; he also, by association with him in his humanity and his humiliation, so shared his spirit, that we seem, in reading some of John's words, almost to be reading the words of Jesus himself. Especially is this apparent in the constant inculcation in the First Epistle of the incomparable virtue of Christian love.
III. THE FRIENDSHIP BETWEEN THE MASTER AND HIS DISCIPLE AFFORDS US AN INSIGHT INTO THE VERY HEART OF CHRIST. Our Lord's perfect humanity is here brought very strikingly before us. There are several intimations of Christ's capacity for human love. He loved the young ruler who appealed to him for spiritual direction; he loved the family at Bethany; and he loved the disciple who was wont to recline upon his breast at their social meals. John's was not only the place of distinction and honor; it was the place of affection. We delight to remark our Lord's perfect participation in our human nature, with its sympathies, its tenderness, its personal affections. Jesus appreciated the noble, ardent, affectionate nature of the son of Zebedee; and he appreciated still more the growth and completeness of his own Divine image in the character of John. All this makes our Savior more real and more dear to his admiring people.
IV. THE FRIENDSHIP BETWEEN OUR LORD AND HIS BELOVED DISCIPLE IS AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO SEEK A CLOSE AND AFFECTIONATE INTIMACY WITH THE REDEEMER. There is nothing on Christ's side to preclude the possibility at present of such a friendship as that recorded to have existed during his earthly ministry. The conditions of hallowed fellowship with Jesus are such as all Christians should aspire to fulfill. "Ye are my friends," said our Lord, "if ye do whatsoever things I command you." There is no caprice, no favoritism, in our Lord's intimacies. The reverent, the lowly, the obedient, are encouraged to aspire to his precious friendship. His love of compassion is towards us all; that love may become towards any disciple who does his will and seeks his Spirit—a love of complacency, sympathy, and delight.—T.
John 13:34, John 13:35
Upon our Savior's departure from the world, he made provision for the perpetuity of his work upon earth and among men. This he did by constituting a society of living persons, who were to be united together by bonds of peculiar strength. The ties which the Lord intended to knit his people together were three, and "a threefold cord is not quickly broken." Faith in Christ, love to one another, and benevolent effort for the world's salvation,—these were the three "notes" of Christian discipleship, the three elements by which the Church was to be cemented into a true unity. Of these the Savior, in this passage, lays stress upon the second.
I. MUTUAL LOVE IS THE COMMANDMENT OF CHRIST.
1. Who are they of whom this mutual love is required? The admonition here is not to general philanthropy, but to affection towards brethren in the spiritual family. Notwithstanding social differences, notwithstanding diverse tastes and habits, Christians are bound together by ties stronger than all forces which disunite.
2. What kind of love is this which the Savior here enjoins? It is a disposition contrary to that old nature which displays itself in coldness, suspicion, malice, and envy. It is a disposition which reveals itself in good will, confidence, and mutual helpfulness.
3. Is it reasonable for love to be commanded? Must not love ever be spontaneous and free? The answer to this question is that Christian love may be cultivated by the use of means appointed by Divine wisdom.
4. In what sense is this a new commandment? Not absolutely; for the Old Testament enjoins mutual kindliness and benevolence. But it is new as a law of Christ for the government of society at large, new in its range and scope, new in its spiritual sanction and its Divine prototype.
II. MUTUAL LOVE IS MOTIVED BY AND IS MODELLED UPON CHRIST'S LOVE FOR HIS PEOPLE.
1. The motive. It is observable here, as elsewhere, that our Lord refers all duty and virtue to himself. To the Christian, Jesus is the Master in all conduct, the spiritual Power that accounts for the renewed character in all its phases. He loved us with a love in which he identifies his people with himself. We may show our devotion to him by loving his people as himself.
2. The model. Christ alone is the perfect Example; he loved his people with a constant, patient, and forbearing love; with a love active, practical, and self-sacrificing. As he loved us, so he expects us to love one another.
III. MUTUAL LOVE IS A PROOF OF CHRISTIAN DISCIPLESHIP. This is the test which the Master himself has chosen.
1. It is a proof to the Christian himself. "We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren."
2. It is a proof recognized by fellow-Christians. Love is a means of recognition; it is the language which tells that we have met a fellow-countryman. It is a claim for sympathy, a summons to responsive kindness.
3. It is an argument which tends to convince the world. The exhibition of mutual love was, as is evident from the well-known passage in Tertullian, early recognized as distinguishing Christians from the unbelieving world. It was felt that Christianity was a new and beneficent power in human society. "Your Master made you all brethren!" Such was the exclamation forced from the beholder. Often as this ideal has been unrealized, still its life and force have not departed, and Christianity must now be acknowledged as the one only moral power which can change hatred into love, and warfare into amity.—T.
Promptness in following Jesus.
There was a reason why Peter could not follow Jesus them He could not lay down his life for Christ until Christ had laid down his life for him. Peter did sincerely aspire to obedience and consecration. But much was necessary before he should be able to realize his aspirations. He must needs learn his own Weakness, and prove the strength and grace of his Lord. When these lessons had been learned, he was ready enough to take up his cross and to follow the Master, even unto death.
I. THIS QUESTION REVEALS A JUST CONCEPTION OF THE RELIGIOUS LIFE.
1. It consists in personal relation, as is apparent from the use of the terms "I" and "thee." In order to a right course, it is necessary to understand and to feel that the individual soul has to be brought into conscious and immediate contact with Christ Jesus. The experience of the Apostle Paul may be quoted as exemplifying this: "Are loved me, and gave himself for me." If Jesus be the Son of God and the Savior of mankind, as a personal and living Benefactor, he must be approached in spirit and by faith by every one who would know his power and feel his love.
2. It consists in following Christ. We must confide in him, admire and love him, in order that we may follow him. By "following him"—an expression frequent in the New Testament—is to be understood imitating his example and doing his will. Such conduct is the proof of the reality of the personal relationship presumed. It is not a simple act, but a constant habit, that is intended by this phrase. To follow a guide, a man must follow him in every stage of the journey, until the end is reached. So is it with the Christian's relation to his Lord. It may be that to follow Christ will involve the taking up of his cress, sharing his persecution, perhaps even his death. This Peter learned in after-years. But the question for Christ's disciple is not—Whither will this resolve lead me? but rather—Am I in the way of obedience? in the footsteps of my Lord?
II. THIS QUESTION IMPLIES THE IMMEDIATE CLAIM OF RELIGION. "Even now"—such is the language of Peter's ardent spirit. The summons of God is to prompt, unhesitating obedience: "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found." The possibility of blessing is assured upon compliance with the requirement of immediate application: "Now is the accepted time." The promise is to those who give heed without delay "Today if ye will hear his voice." It may be urged upon the young that theirs is the period of life in which it is wise to resolve upon the path of earth's pilgrimage. It may be urged upon the old that the present is almost the only time left for them to obey the voice of Heaven. Some for the first time hear the truth with conviction of the understanding, with emotion of the heart; let such take advantage of this new enlightenment and enthusiasm, lest the unheeded voice of conscience be hushed. Others have often acknowledged the justice of the Divine claim, but have hardened themselves against it by worldliness and sin; let such remember that now may be their last opportunity, and beware lest it pass away and leave them unblessed.
III. THIS QUESTION SUGGESTS THE CONSIDERATION OF THE REASONS WHY HEARERS OF THE GOSPEL DO NOT FOLLOW JESUS EVEN NOW. Of course there are many who have no disposition to seek what is good; but even amongst such as do not deny the claims of Christ, and are not indifferent to those claims, there are to be found some who do not arise and undertake the Christian pilgrimage. This may be explained in one of two ways.
1. On the part of some there is unwillingness to give up the service of sin. The emoluments or the pleasures of sin may have a stronger attraction for them than the voice of Divine love counteracts. Not insensible to the nobility and blessedness of a religious life, they yet suffer themselves to be drawn into what they know is an inferior path, by the fascinations of carnal joys, of sinful society, of worldly interest. There may be in their minds a hope that at some future time, when these attractions have lost much of their power, another course may be taken, a better part be chosen.
2. On the part of others there is a habit of indecision and procrastination. A want of depth of nature, a disinclination for serious deliberation, a weak susceptibility to various distractions, or a habitual fickleness, prevent some from following Christ, in following whom they would be acting in conformity with their highest convictions and with the impulses, of their better nature. They are far from denying the truth, from deliberately rejecting the Savior, from willfully despising their opportunities, from ridiculing the offers of the gospel; yet they are so foolish as to put off a practical acknowledgment of the claims of Christ until "a more convenient season."
IV. THIS QUESTION SUGGESTS REASONS WHY ALL MEN SHOULD FOLLOW JESUS EVEN NOW.
1. They may. The invitations of the Word of God are many and plain and persuasive. What words were more frequent and emphatic on the Nips of Jesus than such as these: "Come unto me!" "Follow me!"
2. They can. Christ does not call men, and then withhold the grace which is needed to obey the call. The help of the Holy Spirit is necessary, and that help is graciously bestowed.
3. They ought. Obedience to the voice which speaks from heaven, to the voice which speaks within, to duty, to conscience, to God, requires us all to follow Jesus "even now."—T.
HOMILIES BY B. THOMAS
Jesus loving to the end.
I. THE SPECIAL KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST. This was the knowledge respecting his death. Its speciality lies, not in his knowing the fact that he would die, but in certain circumstances connected with it, the knowledge of which was calculated to pain and discourage him.
1. He knew the time of his death. This is wisely hid from us; but he knew the hour and the minute.
2. He knew that the time of his death had already come. "Knew that his hour was come," etc. Comparatively speaking, he was already within the deadly hour, and had only a few minutes between him and the last conflict.
3. He knew the awful circumstances of his death. He knew that it would be by crucifixion, with all its physical torture, public shame, and insult. Earth and hell competed in making his death as painful and ignominious as possible, and his physical sufferings were but a faint shadow of his mental and spiritual, which could only be known to and fully realized by himself. He acted through life in the full knowledge of these, which would naturally paralyze his actions and dry the springs of his energy.
4. But in his knowledge there were some alleviating features.
(1) He knew that his death would involve his escape from an evil and hostile world. He had lived in it now about thirty-three years. He had spent a quiet youth, and the greatest portion of his manhood seemed to have been peaceful and happy; but the last three years he had borne the heat and burden of the day, and experienced the most hostile opposition of the world which he had come to benefit. He knew that his death would involve his escape from this, which in itself would doubtless be a relief.
(2) He knew that his death would be only a charge of state, and not an extinction of existence, nor a cessation of life. He speaks of it, not as an extinction or expulsion, or even a flight, but a departure. The commotion, extinction, and hurry were only outward; in the inner regions there was only a quiet walk into other scenes.
(3) He knew that his death would involve his going home. We can well imagine this world, even to a wicked man, becoming so disagreeable as to make death comparatively sweet. A leap is delightful, even in the dark; but Jesus knew absolutely whither he was going—that he was going to a happy and to a loving Father. It is sweet to come home from everywhere, even from the brightest scenes and the most delightful society; but sweeter still to go home from a hostile country and a rough voyage. This was what Jesus was conscious of now. To him death was a felt gain and a royal exchange—a hostile world for a happy home, the most cruel treatment for the bosom of an indulgent Father, and the wild execrations of the mad throng for the sweet music of golden harps.
(4) He knew that his death would involve the greatest benefit to the world. Its cruelty could only be surpassed by the invaluable spiritual blessings which shall ever flow from it.
II. THE SPECIAL LOVE OF JESUS. "Having loved his own."
1. The special objects of his love. "His own." The world was his own—it was made by him, and now he had become its tenant. The inhabitants of the world were his own—he had created them in his image; and what sad impressions were his as he saw on every hand the Divine image marred and disregarded! The Jewish nation were his own, but they disowned and rejected him. But his disciples were specially his own.
(1) By special love. All material objects, the earth, planets, moon, stars, and sun, are the children of his power and wisdom. But his disciples were the children of his care and mercy, the produce and property of his love.
(2) By his Father's gift. They were given to him to redeem, save, and perfect.
(3) By purchase. They were bought with a price; the price was paid—he laid down his life for them.
(4) By mutual choice. He chose them, and they voluntarily chose him. They were his willing slaves. He had loved them so much as to bind them to himself and engage their faith, obedience, and service.
(5) They were his absolutely and forever. Nothing could separate them from him. He would dispense with all his property rather than this. They were specially his own and the objects of his special love.
2. Some of the special features of his love. His love to his disciples must be somewhat distinguished from his love to the world.
(1) It is the love of relationship. He was their Savior, and they the saved. He was their King, and they his loyal subjects. He was their great Benefactor, and they his grateful dependents. They were his brethren, and he their elder Brother. There was a family feeling.
(2) Love of complacency. He could faintly see in them his image and that of his Father. He could hear the music of heaven in their voices, and detect the language of Paradise in their conversation.
(3) The love of value. The esteem of property according to its value. These disciples, although few and poor, were to him infinitely valuable. An infinite price had been paid for them, and infinite benefits would result from the purchase in relation to the grand purposes of his love. They were his jewels, the seed with which to sow his laud, the handful of corn on the tops of the mountains, the foundation-stones of the Church, the twelve gates of the heavenly city, and the furniture with which Jesus commenced his life on earth.
(4) Love excited by trouble and opposition. "His own which were in the world." The world was hostile to and hated them, and the more they were hated and opposed by the world the more they were loved and befriended by Jesus.
3. The perfection of his love. "Unto the end."
(1) Perfect in nature. Pure, disinterested, and self-sacrificing.
(2) Perfect in degree. It was human in manifestation, but Divine in quality and quantity. His love, as indicated by the sacrifice, was infinite and full to overflowing—an ocean without a bottom or shore. The sacrifice of his love was infinite, its care most tender and watchful, its protection most powerful and safe, and its supplies most benevolent and free. He loved them to the uttermost.
(3) Perfect in constancy and duration. "Unto the end." Many circumstances cause human love to flag.
(a) Unworthiness in its objects. But this had no effect upon the love of Jesus. His disciples were weak and imperfect; one of them denied him, and all left him in the hour of trial; but he remained faithful to them.
(b) The trouble of the parties—of the lover and the objects of his love. But this had no disparaging effects upon the love of Jesus. The trouble of his disciples increased his love for them, and it was intensified by his own. Indeed, on account of his love for them he was crucified. He knew beforehand that his death would be most cruel; still, this knowledge, so far from causing his love to flag, made it most heroic, and to blaze with increasing brilliancy through the gloom.
(c) Separation of the parties. With human love, it is often "out of sight out of mind." But separation brought Jesus nearer to his disciples than before. The arms of his love embraced them through death, and he carried them away in his heart. He could not go home all the way without sending back two white-robed messengers to direct and comfort them. The distance between heaven and earth only made them nearer.
4. The elevation of one of the parties. The chief butler of Pharaoh forgot Joseph after being restored to royal favor. But this was far from being the case with Jesus. He was exalted to the highest position and glory, but forgot not his earthly friends. He ascended, in fact, to receive gifts for them, and, faithful to his promise and punctual to the minute, sent back to them his Holy Spirit, the greatest Gift of his love, and the Executor of his purpose in them. Amidst the music and happiness of heaven he will not cease to love his friends till their faith is complete and their character perfect.
LESSONS. Contemplation of the love of Christ should inspire his disciples:
1. With the profoundest gratitude to him.
2. With the most devoted and self-sacrificing consecration to his Person and service.
3. With the most humble but implicit confidence in their salvation through him. Such love must secure every needful grace, ultimate perfection of character, and full and eternal felicity.—B.T.
Jesus and the traitor.
I. A SEVERE TROUBLE.
1. The trouble of Jesus. He was troubled in spirit. This was no ordinary trouble, but it was unique in its circumstances, cause, and painfulness. He was troubled in the highest regions of his nature.
(1) Because he was about to be betrayed. The betrayal in itself was painful. Its personal and general results are not taken into account here, but the black deed in itself, apart from the perpetrator.
(2) Because he was about to be betrayed by one of his disciples. "One of you shall betray me." It is not a foe or a distant acquaintance, but one of his nearest and dearest friends. "One of you." This made the edge of the betrayal all the keener, and its poison peculiarly loathsome and deadly.
(3) Because he was about to be betrayed by one whom he had done all in his power to reclaim. He had given him warning after warning, but gave it in such a general way as not to cause suspicion to point to him and cause him to lose his self-respect. He was not exposed, and was not excluded from the society—he was treated with the same kindness as the rest, and perhaps with more. His indignant objection to the anointing of Jesus was not explained, but left to pass with the remark which was addressed to all the disciples, "Let her alone." The betraying disciple's feet had just been washed by the kindly hand of the Master. All that affectionate and Divine love could do to avert the calamity had been done, but to no effect.
(4) Because of the awful consequences of the deed to the betrayer himself. Keen as Jesus felt it in his own soul, as severe as it affected him, we venture to say that he felt more, after all, for the traitor himself. He who could weep for a wicked city could not contemplate the self-ruin of even this wicked and inexcusable man without experiencing groaning which could not be uttered. He could not bear to lose anything, and the loss of even the "son of perdition" gave him a most severe pang of anguish. The betrayal, as it affected himself, was not so painful to him as its terrible effects on the traitor himself.
(5) All this plunged him in the greatest trouble. The betrayal wounded his very spirit, and the betraying kiss was to him more agonizing than the piercing of the sharpest nails or that of the most pointed spears. It was the trouble of a wounded spirit, and that spirit was pure benevolence. It was the trouble of being betrayed by a professed near friend—the trouble of insulted, checkered, and wounded love; trouble arising from the terrible doom of an old disciple, a trusted official, the treasurer of the society.
2. The trouble of the disciples. (John 13:22.) They were in doubt, perplexity, and bewilderment. In fact, they were in trouble similar to that of Jesus, only theirs was as a drop compared to the ocean.
(1) Theirs was the trouble of conscious innocence.
(2) The trouble of conscious weakness.
(3) The trouble of personal sympathy.
II. AN AWFUL REVELATION. The personality of the betrayer was revealed.
1. This revelation was made in consequence of a request. (John 13:24, John 13:25.)
(1) This request was direct. "Lord, who is it?" Each had asked before, "Lord, is it I?" The charge assumed a general form, and the inquiry was made in a general and indirect way. But now the question is put directly, "Who is it?" "Who is the betrayer?"
(2) It was reasonable. The charge, as it had been several times made, was general, and it might apply to any of the twelve—to loving John, or honest Peter, or to any of the group. Now they could stand it no longer; they request a definite information at any cost, and it was quite reasonable. This is admitted by the revelation of Jesus.
(3) It was timely. The disciples were ready for it. Jesus was ready. The awful secret troubled his spirit, and struggled for publicity. He could scarcely keep it any longer. The betrayer was ready. He was ripe for revelation, and, if it was delayed much longer, he would have revealed himself by performing the terrible deed.
2. The revelation was made by a sign. "He it is to whom I shall give a sop when," etc. We can well imagine all the disciples, save one, looking at their Lord with bated breath, and watching every look and movement of his with beating hearts; but there was one there keeping his countenance better than any of the rest, and more himself than one of them, and amid the silent but stirring excitement Jesus gave the sop to Judas, the son of Simon, etc.
(1) The traitor was revealed in a most considerate and tender manner. By a sign, and privately. Judas could not know that anything referred to him unless his guilty conscience made him suspicious.
(2) He was revealed by an act of kindness. "It is he to whom I shall give the sop," etc. The sign was an act of kindness. What was a revelation of a foul traitor to the disciples was a deed of love to the traitor himself. One would think that he would be pointed out in a voice of thunder and in looks of lightning. This would be manlike; but as Jesus was God-like, Jesus was kind to Judas to the last. He was determined to the utmost to block up his course with kindness, and that no act of his could furnish him with the faintest shadow of excuse for his foul deed. This was the last kindness of Jesus to Judas, but would not be the last if he had the least chance.
(3) The participation of this kindness led to a foul entrance. "After the sop Satan entered into him." Jesus only could see this. He could see that dark form by Judas's side, waiting for admission; he had been there a long time fanning the temptation and ripening the dread resolve and preparing the place. The hypocritical participation of Jesus' kindness completed the necessary preparations, and he entered and took lull possession. What Jesus did to stop his entrance cleared the way for him to enter. Satan entered, and Jesus was left out, and the last sop of love was introductory to the final possession of the demon of hatred and avarice.
3. The revelation was wade directly and publicly to the betrayer. "What thou doest," etc., implies:
(1) The present actuality of the deed. It was inwardly done, therefore actually done to Jesus, as confirmed thoughts are deeds to him. It was too late to repent, he had gone too far to retreat; the demon of treachery was on the throne, Satan was in his soul, and his soul was in the bag.
(2) The mysterious utility of a speedy execution. "Do quickly." Once an act is a real thought and resolve, execution is an advantage. It was better for Judas, because the sooner he faced the inevitable the better. Where there is a spiritual conception, birth cannot be too soon; sin is better out than in. There is a ventilation, and any remaining good has a better chance for development. If you are going to hell, the sooner the better you arrive. Better for Jesus. Delay to him was painful once it was an actuality. Better for all concerned. To a certain point he retarded a wicked deed, but when that point was reached he hastened it.
(3) The readiness of Jesus. The traitor might think that he was taken unawares and unprepared, but he was mistaken. Jesus was ready, far readier for his fate than Judas was. So ready was he for it that he advises or commands speed. "Do quickly." He hails it with confidence, if not with satisfaction. The guilty deed of Judas fitted in with the eternal purposes of God and the mission of Jesus better than he would think. Jesus can say to every schemer of evil, every sinning designer of harm, "That thou doest, do quickly." He is ready whenever they are. There is no evil without good; the good will not come till the evil is complete, for good the sooner the better.
4. The relation of the traitor was not fully understood by the disciples.
III. A SAD DEPARTURE. (verse 30.)
1. The departure of an old disciple from the kindest of Masters and from his only Savior. He could have really no cause for this, the reason was entirely in himself. In Jesus he had every reason for continued attachment and love, but he went out immediately, and walked with feet newly washed by the hands of that Master he was now deserting, and with strength invigorated by his kindness.
2. It was the departure of an old disciple for the vilest purpose—to betray his Master, and sell him to his foes for the meanest consideration.
3. It was the departure of an old disciple, never to return again. It was his last farewell to a loving Savior. He came to him again, not as a disciple, but as a traitor. He was leaving for the last time, not to buy provisions for the feast, but to sell his Master to his enemies.
4. It was the speedy departure of an old disciple immediately. Judas was now ready for the deed; the command of Christ was timely, and it was echoed in Judas's soul. He was ripe for the dark deed. The presence of Jesus was now painful to him, and it was a relief to depart. Once Satan gets full control of the reins, he is a furious driver; once the rapids of the Niagara are reached, the velocity is increasingly swift, and the terrible falls are soon reached.
5. It was the departure of an old disciple for a terrible doom. "He went out." And whither? The answer is in the foul controlling spirit within; once that spirit had full possession of his soul, he would soon lead him to his own place. John significantly adds, "And it was night." Night seems to be in harmony with the dark deed. When it reached its climax on Calvary, the day was so out of sympathy with it that it turned into night. But it was now night. There could scarcely be any stars in the sky, as they had fled from the treacherous act, and if there were, they would have welcomed a cloud as a veil. But the darkest night was within and before the poor traitor's soul. He left the day, and the last ray of the Sun of Righteousness was extinguished before the entrance of the prince of darkness. And with regard to his dark deed, his sad condition, his precipitated departure, and his terrible doom, volumes could not say more than the incidental but significant sentence of the evangelist, "And it was night."
1. The most terrible fall is a fall from Christ, and the saddest departure is the departure of an old disciple from the Savior.
2. This is a terrible possibility as instanced by Judas. Whatever he fell from, he fell from being a disciple to be a betrayer, from being a treasurer of the Christian society to be the traitor of his Lord.
3. The higher the position the greater is the danger and the greater is the responsibility. Only an apostle could fall so terribly as Judas.
4. This case is highly calculated to teach the professed followers of Jesus humility, watchfulness, and godly fear.—B.T.
John 13:34, John 13:35
The new commandment.
I. IN ITS IMPORT.
1. That the disciples of Christ should love one another. "That ye love one another."
(1) Man must be a disciple of Christ ere he can come under this law of Christian love. He must be a Christian disciple ere he can exercise Christian love towards another, and ere he can lawfully expect it from another towards him. This command was given by Christ to his disciples, and as such they were expected to obey it. It is true that Christians are to love mankind generally, and even their enemies, but not in the same way and degree as they are to love one another as the disciples of Christ. What is commanded here is Christian love.
(2) This love is to be mutual. It is the duty of all, the duty of each disciple to love his fellow-disciple, and the equal duty of that fellow-disciple to love him. It is a universal duty of the Christian school and brotherhood, and there is no exception. If a man is a disciple of Christ, this command is binding on him.
2. That the disciples of Christ are to lore one another as Christ loved them. "As I have loved you." In order to know the full import of this command, we must know what Christ's love to his disciples was.
(1) It was great and self-sacrificing. To know the fountain, look at the stream. To know the love of Christ, look at it in its gift, sacrifices, and miracles. The gifts of his love were princely, the exploits of his love were miraculous, and the sacrifice of his love was infinite. He loved his disciples more than himself. "He made himself of no reputation." To understand and imitate the love of Christ to some extent, his disciples' love must be great and self-sacrificing. They must love one another more than themselves.
(2) His love was purely unselfish. He loved his disciples while poor and unworthy. The motives of his love were derived from himself, and not from them. He loved them in their weakness, errors, and backslidings, and his love was strongest when they least deserved it. One of them betrayed him, but he loved him still. Another denied him, and he loved him all the more. One sternly and stupidly disbelieved his identity and resurrection, and he suffered him to put his fingers into the prints of the nails. What but love the most unselfish would do this? So the disciples are to love one another. We are to help the weakest, succor the most needy, and love a brother, not on account of what he has, but what he is—a fellow-disciple.
(3) His love to them was practical; it was not a mere profession or sentiment, but reality; it was perfect love. Love is not prefect till it appears in action. It is but seed in principle, but ripe fruit in action. Christ's love was active. It walked in his feet, spoke in his tongue, worked in his hands. The hands of his love washed his disciples' feet, the feet of his love walked about doing good, the eyes of his love wept tears of compassion with the two sisters at their brother's grave, and the voice of his love summoned him back to life. The care of his love asked, "Children, have ye any meat?" Every impulse of his kindly heart was manifested in a corresponding deed or word of kindness. His disciples' love to one another should be practical. Love, like faith, without works is dead.
(4) His love to them was devoted and constant. (John 13:1.) Like the sun, he shone upon them all, but with more constancy, as his love was never under a cloud, and never set, but shone full-orbed to the last, and shines still. His disciples' love should be devoted, constant, and unchangeable.
II. IN ITS IMPORTANCE AND OBLIGATION. It is important and obligatory:
1. As it is the natural law of spiritual life in, Christ. This is love. It naturally arises from their relationship to him and to each other. This relationship is the nearest, dearest, and most sacred and lasting, and from each of these considerations love is the essential law, and the essential law is specially binding and important. Not to observe it is a contradiction of our real relationship to Jesus and to each other. It is a universally acknowledged law—the higher and nearer our relationship, the greater is our obligation to love and succor each other. If so, how great is this obligation with regard to the disciples of Christ!
2. As the specially expressed will of Jesus. Expressed in a positive form and in a most solemn command, given at a most solemn hour, on the eve of his departure from them, under the shadow of death and the stroke of enmity, he gave the command of love, and his express will is in perfect harmony with the law of spiritual life in him, which is supreme love to one another. The voice of the law within is echoed by the voice of the lawgiver without, "That ye love one another."
3. As it is renewed and revived by the life and death of Christ. On this account it is properly called a new commandment.
(1) New in its complete expression. The first and the old edition was published on Sinai through Moses, but the new was published by Christ on his way to Calvary. He had given fragments and hints of it before to his disciples during his ministry, but the full edition is given them now in solemn command.
(2) New in its perfect example. The old example was self-love: "Love thy neighbor as thyself;" but the new and perfect example is the love of Christ. He loved them more than himself. This example was wrought out towards them; it was not merely within their observation, but within their experience and consciousness. They were the immediate objects of his love. "As I loved you." Not, "As I loved the world at large, or your forefathers, but you personally and individually;" and he gave himself as a Sacrifice for them, as a matchless and perfect Example of self-sacrificing and unselfish love.
(3) New in its inspiring motives—motives arising from their ultimate relationship to Christ, from his matchless love towards them, and their indebtedness to him in consequence. Christ loved them in order that they should love one another. In order to teach and inspire them to this, and in his life and death, he threw a new life and force to the command of love, that it was the experience of his followers afterwards, "The love of Christ constraineth us." The command of love was getting old and withered amid the thunders and lightnings of Sinai and the formality of the former dispensation, but it assumed a new life and vigor in Gethsemane and on Calvary. What can inspire love so well as love itself? and what love so potent and inspiring as the pure and self-sacrificing love of Christ to us? This makes the command really new and original to him, and, as a motive power, is exhaustless and irresistible.
4. As it is the outward sign of Christian discipleship. "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."
(1) By this we can be and know ourselves that we are his disciples. Brotherly love is set forth in the New Testament as a test of discipleship—of love to God and transition from death to life. "We know that we have passed from death unto life," etc. "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother," etc. Thus you see that brotherly love is a test-point, and on it depends the momentous issues whether we love Christ, and have Fussed from death into life or not.
(2) By this can others know that we are his disciples. It is not only an inward proof to Christians themselves of their condition. but also an outward proof to others. Different classes of people are distinguished by different outward marks. The soldiers of different countries and their various regiments are known by their uniform. The public schools of antiquity had their public signs by which they were known. The Pharisees and Sadducees had their distinguishing phylacteries and ceremonies, and various kingdoms have their coats of arms. But Jesus of Nazareth chose as" the coat of arms" of his disciples "love to one another." "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." Not if ye have this or that dress, not if ye have wealth or learning, not if ye have a long face, or a groaning tone, or a pious whine; but if ye have love one to another. A man may possess many good qualities without being a disciple of Christ. A man cannot be a disciple of Christ without studiously respecting the laws of morality; but a man may be moral in the popular acceptation of the term without being a disciple of Christ. There are moral infidels, moral atheists, moral worldlings, and even the devil himself can appear very decent and proper and assume the garb of an angel of light. He can even believe, tremble, and profess; but he cannot love, because the essence of his nature is malice, envy, hatred, and revenge. Jesus chose as the sign of Christian discipleship a thing which the devil and his followers can never do, never wish to do, viz. love. They can imitate anything, but cannot love. If we wish to be known as the disciples of Christ, we must be distinguished by that which distinguished him, viz. love for others. If we wish to impress others that we are under his tuition, we must wear the badge of our Teacher and the insignia of his school. "By this shall all men know," etc. By this they have been known in every age and country. The followers of the Lamb, as set forth in the Book of Revelation, had their Father's Name written on their foreheads; and this was brotherly love, for God's Name cannot be written with anything but love, for God is love. In primitive times their affection for each other was so intense and conspicuous that the persecuting pagans exclaimed with astonishment, "See how these Christians love one another!" What a convenient sign of Christian discipleship is this in every age and under every circumstance? When Christians were most cruelly hated and persecuted, then the truth of their religion and their union with Christ were most clearly seen by others. If they could not meet to worship, to commemorate his love, and sing his praise, they could love him and love one another; they could wave this flag from the blazing faggots, and embrace and kiss each other in the flames. "By this shall all men know," etc. It is all-important, not merely that we should realize our Christian discipleship, but that others should know it, that they may be taught to respect and obey our laws; and the most efficient way to communicate this knowledge to them is by loving each other as he loved us. Thus the most charming feature of the Master will be ever seen in his disciples.—B.T.
HOMILIES BY D. YOUNG
A last act of love.
It must not be supposed that the act of Jesus here was a purely symbolic act, an act useless in itself. Probably Jesus and his disciples had been walking about most of the day, and the washing of the feet would be very grateful to tired and sandaled wayfarers. Jesus was rendering a real service, however slight a one. Before they went out of the room, Jesus had to have much very earnest talk with them, and it was just as well for them to be comfortable while they were listening.
I. AN EXPRESSION OF LOVE. John puts this first in the narrative. Those whose feet Jesus washed were not comparative strangers. Jesus loved them simply as human beings, knowing sin, suffering, and sorrow. But beyond all this was the added love coming from many days of close companionship. And now the very last day had come. To-morrow the Shepherd will be smitten, and the sheep scattered. Soon, very soon, according to the flesh, he would cease to know these disciples. They were to stop in the world and do his work. Years of toil, anxiety, and suffering were yet before them. But Jesus was going to the Father. A few more hours, and he would stiffer his last pain, know his last trial. We can easily imagine how, in years long after, and in lands far distant, when some of these apostles had finished a weary day of walking for Christ's sake, and had got their travel-stained feet washed, their thoughts would go back to that last night, recollecting how the Master went from one to another in the little company, washing their feet, and looking in their faces with his own unutterable look of affection and interest.
II. AN EXPRESSION OF STEADFASTNESS IN LOVE. Jesus was just on the point of stepping from humiliation to glory, just about to cast aside the veil of his flesh, and appear in all his heavenly splendor; but it made not the least difference in his gentle, unaffected way of treating his disciples. We reckon it one of the greatest things to be said in praise of any one who has risen in the world, that he remains just the same sort of man, not made proud by being lifted up. The washing was a kind of intimation that Jesus looked on himself as being a Minister as much as ever. They were servants to him, but he was Minister to them; they did his work, and he supplied the needs that made them fit for the work. He who in the flesh was ever at the beck and call of needy men and women, is at their beck and call still. His power to help is greater, but his willingness cannot be greater.
III. A PRACTICAL ASSERTION FROM JESUS THAT MEN CANNOT DO WITHOUT HIM. Not only does he minister, but he must minister. Peter thought Jesus was not doing a fitting act. But it is perilous work criticizing what Jesus does. How should we find out, all at once, on the first glance, the full aim of any act of his? Jesus knows what he can do for us, what he ought to do for us, and what we, in all humility and obedience, ought to accept from him. If Jesus comes not to minister, what need is there for him to come at all? Jesus must cleanse every human being as far as he needs to be cleansed.
IV. THE GREAT EXEMPLARY AIM IN THIS ACT. It is plain that Jesus recollected what disputings the disciples had among themselves as to which should be greatest; and just at this moment, when it is beginning to be settled conclusively that Jesus is far above them, he tries to show by his own example that the spirit of ministry is a part of real greatness. Distinction does not make happiness. God means all of us to be as happy as we can be. Jesus came to minister to us, in order that we might minister to others, and if we are not ministering lovingly, diligently, joyfully, then that is a proof that the ministry of Jesus himself has not yet been truly accepted by us.—Y.
The Lordship of Jesus.
I. OUR RESEMBLANCE TO THE DISCIPLES IN USING THE NAME. These men called Jesus "Lord," and were known as his helpers and agents. As long as Jesus remained in the flesh there was no difficulty in looking upon him as Master. All their doings had been sufficiently easy, consisting, as they did, for the most part, of outward actions. But in due season the visible Master became the invisible, and one by one the first servants also died away and went into the invisible. Thus generation has succeeded generation, ever getting further and further from those first days when the visible Master stood among his servants, appointing their tasks. But we have not yet lost the habit of using the Master-name. We also say, "Lord," and Jesus might well ask what we mean by using the name. Is it to be a mere title of honor, with the recollections of power and duty that first caused it to be given emptied out of it? Or is there a real mastery and a real service still? We cannot say, "Lord, Lord!" too often, if the saying helps in serving and in bringing others to serve.
II. It may be we resemble the disciples in using the Master-name without knowing from a deep experience WHAT IT IS TRULY TO HAVE JESUS FOR MASTER. Empty compliments do Jesus no good, any more than mere names of abuse do him harm. The first disciples did not become the true servants of Jesus just because of what they did for him in the days of his flesh. Only when Jesus had passed through all those experiences which put him at God's right hand did his disciples really comprehend what Jesus wants from men, and what men can do and are bound to do for Jesus. The Lordship of Jesus is a spiritual thing, and has to be spiritually discerned. This is emphatically a matter in which none of us is to be taken on his bare word. We are not the servants of Jesus because we say we are or think we are. The service truly acceptable to him does not lie in a quantity of talking or even of doing. With Jesus, quality goes before quantity, and where there is quality, quantity never fails. Character and inward life,—these constitute the richest service to Jesus. Jesus expects every one of us to do much for him, but it is by being much. Jesus does want our service, our best, fullest, heartiest service, and he will not leave us in any doubt as to whether we are doing just what he wants. No man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost, and where the Holy Ghost is there must be true service.
III. THE SERVICE IS ONE CONDITIONED BY OUR PRESENT LIFE. We are here in the flesh. Our fellow-creatures in need can see us, but they cannot see Jesus. We are to furnish bodies through which the spiritual Jesus can bless mankind. We are even to do greater works than Jesus did in the days of his flesh. Preaching the gospel of spiritual salvation and renewal to sinners, with demonstration of the Spirit and of power, is a far greater work than the resurrection of Lazarus. This makes our obligation, our privilege, and our abundant opportunity. As long as there are sinners in the world there will be no lack of opportunities for serving the Lord Jesus. We have each to find our own opportunity. Doing what lies nearest us is our wisdom. Because it lies nearest us we are more responsible for it than any one else. We serve as the lighted lamp serves, and it is not expected to give light to those a mile away.—Y.
The happiness of Christian activity.
I. ONCE MORE JESUS PROVES HIS DESIRE FOR HUMAN HAPPINESS. This is amply proved by his putting the thought of human happiness in the forefront of his teaching in the sermon on the mount. There he evidently made it his business to show men, in a way not to be misunderstood, that human happiness is not a mere subordinate result of Christianity, a something that may be present or absent. Human happiness is an essential part of Christianity. If Christ is not making his people happy, increasingly and exuberantly happy, there is something wrong in their connection with him. For this is just one of the aims of Jesus, to take away misery and dullness and ennui, and put happiness in their place.
II. THERE IS NO HAPPINESS IN MERE KNOWLEDGE. There may be a great deal of pleasure in the acquiring of it, but it is quite possible that so much time may have been spent in acquiring knowledge that other things may have been neglected. We may very easily shut ourselves up from our fellow-creatures, and lose many an opportunity of doing good that would have made us far happier than any pleasure of the mere intellect.
III. WE MUST TAKE CARE THAT WE DO REALLY UNDERSTAND WHAT JESUS WANTS us TO Do. His words are not as maps of the country through which we have to travel; they are rather finger-posts showing the direction. Each finger-post sends you on to another. The words of Jesus are meant to secure within us a certain inward spirit; if that be secured, the proper outward actions will follow as a natural consequence. We have not yet comprehended one very important warning to Christian disciples unless we have been made to feel, from reading the Gospels, how easy it is to misunderstand Jesus. His most important words, his most significant deeds, were to be meditated over, seen in their position as parts of the living whole of truth.
IV. THERE IS NO HAPPINESS IN MERE DOING. To leave the right thing undone, and to do the wrong thing, equally lead to misery. Increase of activity, unless the right principles and methods underlie it, only means increase of mischief and misery. We must not be deceived by mere external activity. There may be a great deal of real doing—doing such as Jesus counts doing, where there is little to show men. The right spirit must pervade and suffuse the doing, and it can only pervade and suffuse what is right in itself.—Y.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on John 13". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent