Bible Commentaries
John 13

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Verse 1

Before the Feast of the Passover. This clause is to be construed with hjgaphsen, loved, at the close of this verse. Notice that John, in mentioning the Passover, here drops the explanatory phrase of the Jews (xi. 55). It is not the Passover of the Jews which Jesus is about to celebrate, which had degenerated into an empty form, but the national ordinance, according to its true spirit, and with a development of its higher meaning.

Knowing [ειδως] . Or, since he knew.

His hour. See on 12 23, and compare John 2:4.

That [ινα] . In order that; marking the departure as a divine decree. Depart [μεταβη] . The compounded preposition meta, signifies passing over from one sphere into another.

His own [τους ιδιους] . See on Acts 1:7. Compare John 17:6 sqq.; Acts 4:23; Acts 24:23; 1 Timothy 5:8; John 1:11.

He loved [ηγαπησεν] . Notice that John uses the word indicating the discriminating affection : the love of choice and selection. See on 5 20. Unto the end [εις τελος] . Interpretations differ. The rendering of the A. V. and Rev. is of doubtful authority. The passages cited in support of this, Matthew 10:22; Matthew 24:13; Mark 13:13, may all be rendered to the uttermost. Morever, other formulas are used where the meaning to the end is unquestionable. In Revelation 2:26, the only other instance in John's writings where telov is used in an adverbial phrase the expression is acri telouv, unto the end. Similarly Hebrews 6:11. In Hebrews 3:6, Hebrews 3:14, mecri telouv, unto the end. The phrase may mean at last, and so is rendered by many here, as Meyer, Lange, Thayer (Lex.). "At last He loved them;" that is, showed them the last proof of His love. This is the most probable rendering in Luke 18:5, on which see note. It may also mean to the uttermost, completely. So Westcott and Godet. But I am inclined, with Meyer, to shrink from the "inappropriate gradation" which is thus implied, as though Jesus ' love now reached a higher degree than before [αγαπησας] . Hence I prefer the rendering at last, or finally He loved them, taking hjgaphsen, loved, in the sense of the manifestation of His love. This sense frequently attaches to the verb. See, for instance, 1 John 4:10 (" love viewed in its historic manifestation " Westcott), and compare John 3:16; Ephesians 2:4; Ephesians 5:2, Ephesians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 2:16; Revelation 3:9.

Verse 2

Supper being ended [δειπνου γενομενου] . The most approved reading is ginomenou, the present participle, denoting while a supper was in progress. Hence Rev., rightly, during supper. The A. V. is wrong, even if the reading of the Received Text be retained; for in ver. 12 Jesus reclined again, and in ver. 26, the supper is still in progress. It should be, supper having begun, or having been served. 42 It is important to note the absence of the definite article : a supper, as distinguished from the feast, which also is designated by a different word.

Having now put [ηδη βεβληκοτος] . Rev., better, already. Put, is literally, thrown or cast.

Into the heart of Judas. Meyer, strangely, refers the heart, not to Judas, but to the Devil himself; rendering, the Devil having already formed the design that Judas should deliver Him up. Godet does not speak too strongly when he says that "this meaning is insufferable." 43

Verse 3

Had given [δεδωκεν] . The best texts read edwken, gave, the aorist marking Jesus ' commission as given once for all.

Was come [εξηλθε] . This rendering would require the perfect tense. The aorist points to His coming as a historic fact, not as related to its result. See on 12 47. Rev., rightly, came forth.

Went [υπαγει] . Present tense : goeth; withdrawing from the scenes of earth. Note the original order : that it was from God He came forth, and unto God He is going.

Verse 4

From the supper [εκ του δειπνου] . Out of the group gathered at the table.

Laid aside [τιθησι] . Present tense : layeth aside.

Garments [ιματια] . See on Matthew 5:40. Upper garments.

Towel [λεντιον] . A Latin word, linteum. A linen cloth. Only here and ver. 5.

Girded (die zwsen). Only in this chapter and John 21:7. The compound verb means to bind or gird all round.

Verse 5

A bason [νιπτηρα] . Only here in the New Testament. From niptw, to wash.

Verse 6

Dost thou wash [συ μου νιπτεις] ? The two pronouns Thou, my, stand together at the beginning of the sentence in emphatic contrast. Dost thou of me wash the feet ?

Verse 7

Knowest - shalt know [οιδας - γνωση] . The A. V. ignores the distinction between the two words. "Thou knowest not" [ουκ οιδας] , of absolute and complete knowledge. Thou shalt learn or perceive [γνωση] , of knowledge gained by experience. See on 2 24.

Hereafter [μετα ταυτα] . Literally, after these things.

Verse 8

Never [ου μη - εις τον αιωνα] . A very strong expression. Literally, thou shalt by no means wash my feet as long as the world stands.

Verse 10

He that is washed - wash his feet [ο λελουμενος - νιψασθαι] . The A. V. obliterates the distinction between louw, to bathe, to apply water to the whole body, and niptw, to wash a part of the body. Thus, when Dorcas died (Acts 9:37) they bathed her body [λουσαντες] . The proverb in 2 Peter 2:22, is about the sow that has been bathed all over [λουσαμενη] . On the other hand, he who fasts must wash [νιψαι] his face (Matthew 6:17). Both verbs are always used of living beings in the New Testament. The word for washing things, as nets, garments, etc., is plunw. See Luke 5:2. All three verbs occur in Leviticus 14:11 (Sept.).

Verse 11

Who should betray [τον παραδιδοντα] . Literally, him that is betraying. So in Matthew 26:2, the present tense is used, is being betrayed [παραδιδοται] . See on Matthew 4:12, and compare prodothv, betrayer, Luke 6:16; Acts 7:52; 2 Timothy 3:4.

Verse 12

Was set down [αναπεσων] . Literally, having reclined. The guests reclined on couches, lying on the left side and leaning on the left hand. The table was in the hollow square or oblong formed on three sides by the couches, the fourth side being open, and the table extending beyond the ends of the couches.

Know ye [γινωσκετε] ? Perceive or understand ye?

Verse 13

Master [ο διδασκαλος] . Literally, the Teacher. Teacher and Lord were used, according to the Jewish titles Rabbi and Mar, corresponding to which the followers were disciples or servants.

Verse 14

Your. Inserted in A. V. Better, the Lord and the Master as Rev. Both have the article.

Ought [οφειλετε] . The verb means to owe. It occurs several times in John's Epistles (1 John 2:6; 1 John 3:16; 1 John 4:11; 3 John 1:8). In the Gospel only here and John 19:7. Compare Luke 17:10. In Matthew's version of the Lord 's prayer occur the two kindred words ojfeilnma, debt, and ojfeilethv, debtor. Jesus here puts the obligation to ministry as a debt under which His disciples are laid by His ministry to them. The word ought is the past tense of owe. Dei, ought or must (see John 3:7, John 3:14, John 3:30, etc.) expresses an obligation in the nature of things; ojfeilein, a special, personal obligation.

Verse 15

Example [υποδειγμα] . On the three words used in the New Testament for example, uJpodeigma, tupov, and deigma, see on 2 Peter 2:6; 1 Peter 5:3; Jude 1:7.

Verse 16

Verily, verily. See on John 1:51; John 10:1.

The servant. No article. Better a servant, as Rev., a bond - servant. He that is sent [αποστολος] . Literally, an apostle. See on Matthew 10:2.

Verse 17

Happy [μακαριοι] . Better, as Rev., blessed. See on Matthew 5:3.

Verse 18

I have chosen [εξελεξαμην] . Aorist tense, I chose. Not elected to salvation, but chose as an apostle.

That the scripture, etc. [ινα] . Elliptical. We must supply this choice was made in order that, etc.

Eateth [τρωγων] . With the exception of Matthew 24:38, the word occurs only in John. See on 6 54. Originally it means to gnaw or crunch; to chew raw vegetables or fruits, and hence often used of animals feeding, as Homer (" Odyssey, "6 90), of mules feeding. Of course it has lost its original sense in the New Testament, as it did to some extent in classical Greek, though, as applied to men, it more commonly referred to eating vegetables or fruit, as Aristophanes (" Peace," 1325) trwgein, to eat figs. The entire divorce in the New Testament from its primitive sense is shown in its application to the flesh of Christ (vi. 54). It is used by John only in connection with Christ.

Bread with me [μετ εμου τον αρτον] . Some editors read, mou ton arton, my bread.

Heel [πτερναν] . Only here in the New Testament. The metaphor is of one administering a kick. Thus Plutarch, describing the robber Sciron, who was accustomed "out of insolence and wantonness to stretch forth his feet to strangers, commanding them to wash them, and then, when they did it, with a kick to send them down the rock into the sea" (" Theseus "). Some have explained the metaphor by the tripping up of one's feet in wrestling; but, as Meyer justly says, "Jesus was not overreached." The quotation is from the Hebrew, not the Septuagint of Psalms 41:9 (Sept. 40.). The Septuagint reads, "For the man of my peace in whom I hoped, who eateth my bread, magnified his cunning (pternismon, literally, tripping up) against me."

Verse 19

Now [απ αρτι] . Rev., correctly, from henceforth. Compare John 1:52; John 14:7; Matthew 23:39.

I am he [εγω ειμι] . Or, I am. See on 8 24.

21 - 35. Compare Matthew 26:21-25; Mark 14:18-21; Luke 21:21-23.

Verse 21

Was troubled in Spirit. See on John 11:33; John 12:27. The agitation was in the highest region of the spiritual life [πνευμα] .

One of you shall betray me. So Matthew and Mark, with the addition of, who eateth with me. Luke, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table.

Verse 22

Looked [εβλεπον] . The imperfect tense, kept looking as they doubted.

Doubting [απορουμενοι] . See on Mark 6:20.

He spake [λεγει] . The present tense, speaketh, introduced with lively effect.

Verse 23

Was leaning on Jesus ' bosom [ην ανακειμενος εν τω κολπω του ιησου] . The Rev. renders, "there was at the table reclining," etc. At the table is added because the verb is the general term equivalent to sitting at table. "In Jesus ' bosom," defines John's position relatively to the other guests. As the guests reclined upon the left arm, the feet being stretched out behind, the head of each would be near the breast of his companion on the left. Supposing that Jesus, Peter, and John were together, Jesus would occupy the central place, the place of honor, and John, being in front of Him, could readily lean back and speak to Him. Peter would be behind him.

Bosom. See on Luke 6:38. The Synoptists do not give this incident.

Verse 24

Beckoneth [νευει] . Literally, noddeth.

That he should ask who it should be [πυθεσθαι τις αν ειη] . The best texts read, kai legei aujtw eijpe tiv ejstin, and saith unto him, Tell us who it is.

Verse 25

Lying [επιπεσων] . This word is, literally, to fall upon, and is so rendered in almost every instance in the New Testament. In Mark 3:10, it is applied to the multitudes pressing upon Christ. It occurs, however, nowhere else in John, and therefore some of the best authorities read ajnapeswn, leaning back, a verb which John uses several times in the Gospel, as in ver. 12. 44 So Rev. Whichever of the two is read, it points out the distinction, which the A. V. misses by the translation lying, between hn ajnakeimenov (ver. 23), which describes the reclining position of John throughout the meal, and the sudden change of posture pictured by ajnapeswn, leaning back. The distinction is enforced by the different preposition in each case : reclining in [εν] Jesus ' bosom, and leaning back [ανα] . Again, the words bosom and breast represent different words in the Greek; kolpov representing more generally the bend formed by the front part of the reclining person, the lap, and sthqov the breast proper. The verb ajnapiptw, to lean back, always in the New Testament describes a change of position. It is used of a rower bending back for a fresh stroke. Plato, in the well - known passage of the "Phaedrus," in which the soul is described under the figure of two horses and a charioteer, says that when the charioteer beholds the vision of love he is afraid, and falls backward [ανεπεσεν] , so that he brings the steeds upon their haunches.

As he was [ουτως] . Inserted by the best texts, and not found in the A. V. Reclining as he was, he leaned back. The general attitude of reclining was maintained. Compare John 4:6 : "sat thus [ουτως] on the well." According to the original institution, the Passover was to be eaten standing (Exodus 12:11). After the Captivity the custom was changed, and the guests reclined. The Rabbis insisted that at least a part of the Paschal meal should be eaten in that position, because it was the manner of slaves to eat standing, and the recumbent position showed that they had been delivered from bondage into freedom.

Breast [στηθος] . From isthmi, to cause to stand. Hence, that which stands out. In later writings John was known as oJ ejpisthqiov, the one on the breast, or the bosom friend.

Verse 26

To whom I shall give a sop when I have dipped it [ω εγω βαψας το ψωμιον επιδωσω] . The best texts read w ejgw bayw to ywmion kai dwsw aujtw, for whom I shall dip the sop and give it him.

Sop [ψωμιον] . Only in this chapter. Diminutive from ywmov, a morsel, which, in turn, is from yaw, to rub, or to crumble. Homer, of the Cyclops :

"Then from his mouth came bits [ψωμοι] of human flesh Mingled with wine." " Odyssey, " 9, 374.

And Xenophon : "And on one occasion having seen one of his companions at table tasting many dishes with one bit [ψωμω] of bread" (" Memorabilia, "3 14, 15). The kindred verb ywmizw, rendered feed, occurs Romans 12:20; 1 Corinthians 13:3. See also Septuagint, Psalms 79:5; Psalms 80:16. According to its etymology, the verb means to feed with morsels; and it was used by the Greeks of a nurse chewing the food and administering it to an infant. So Aristophanes :" And one laid the child to rest, and another bathed it, and another fed [εψωμισεν] it "(" Lysistrate," 19, 20). This sense may possibly color the word as used in Romans 12:20 : "If thine enemy hunger, feed [ψωμιζε] him;" with tender care. In 1 Corinthians 13:3, the original sense appears to be emphasized : "Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor [ψωμισω] ." This idea is that of doling away in morsels. Dean Stanley says : "Who that has witnessed the almsgiving in a Catholic monastery, or the court of a Spanish or Sicilian bishop 's or archbishop's palace, where immense revenues are syringed away in farthings to herds of beggars, but must feel the force of the Apostle 's half satirical ywmisw?" Dipped the sop. Compare Matthew 26:23; Mark 14:20. The regular sop of the Paschal supper consisted of the following things wrapped together : flesh of the Paschal lamb, a piece of unleavened bread, and bitter herbs. The sauce into which it was dipped does not belong to the original institution, but had been introduced before the days of Christ. According to one authority it consisted of only vinegar and water (compare Ruth 2:14); others describe it as a mixture of vinegar, figs, dates, almonds, and spice. The flour which was used to thicken the sauce on ordinary occasions was forbidden at the Passover by the Rabbins, lest it might occasion a slight fermentation. According to some, the sauce was beaten up to the consistence of mortar, in order to commemorate the toils of the Israelites in laying bricks in Egypt.

To Judas Iscariot the son of Simon [ιουδα σιμωνος ισκαριωτη] . The best texts read Iskariwtou. "Judas the son of Simon Iscariot." So John 6:71. The act was a mark of forbearance and goodwill toward the traitor, and a tacit appeal to his conscience against the contemplated treachery.

Verse 27

Then [τοτε] . With a peculiar emphasis, marking the decisive point at which Judas was finally committed to his dark deed. The token of goodwill which Jesus had offered, if it did not soften his heart would harden it; and Judas appears to have so interpreted it as to confirm him in his purpose.

Satan. The only occurrence of the word in this Gospel.

Into him [εις εκεινον] . The pronoun of remote reference sets Judas apart from the company of the disciples.

Quickly [ταχιον] . Literally, more quickly. The comparative implies a command to hasten his work, which was already begun.

Verse 29

The bag. See on 12 6.

Buy [αγορασον] . An incidental argument in favor of this gathering of the disciples having taken place on the evening of the Paschal feast. Had it been on the previous evening, no one would have thought of Judas going out at night to buy provisions for the feast, when there was the whole of the next day for it, nor would they have thought of his going out to seek the poor at that hour. The 15th Nisan, the time of the Passover celebration, was indeed invested with the sanctity of a Sabbath; but provision and preparation of the needful food was expressly allowed on that day. The Rabbinical rules even provided for the procuring of the Paschal lamb on the Passover eve when that happened to fall on the Sabbath.

Against the feast [εις την εορτην] . Rev., better, for the feast. The Passover feast. The meal of which they had been partaking was the preliminary meal, at the close of which the Passover was celebrated; just as, subsequently, the Eucharist was celebrated at the close of the Agape, or love - feast. Notice the different word, eJorth, feast, instead of deipnon, supper, and the article with feast.

To the poor. Perhaps to help them procure their Paschal lamb.

Verse 30

He [εκεινος] . See on ver. 27.

Verse 31

Now. Marking a crisis, at which Jesus is relieved of the presence of the traitor, and accepts the consequences of his treachery.

Is - glorified [εδοξασθη] . Literally, was glorified. The aorist points to the withdrawal of Judas. Jesus was glorified through death, and His fate was sealed (humanly speaking) by Judas ' going out. He speaks of the death and consequent glorification as already accomplished.

Verse 32

If God be glorified in Him. The most ancient authorities omit. In Himself [εν εαυτω] . His glory will be contained in and identified with the divine glory. Compare "the glory which I had with thee," para soi (xvii. 5). En in, indicates unity of being; para with, unity of position.

Verse 33

Little children [τεκνια] . Diminutive, occurring only here in the Gospel, but repeatedly in the First Epistle. Nowhere else in the New Testament.

Now [αρτι] . In ver. 31, now is nun, which marks the point of time absolutely. Arti marks the point of time as related to the past or to the future. Thus, "from the days of John the Baptist until now" (arti, Matthew 11:12). "Thinkest thou that I cannot now [αρτι] pray to my Father ?" though succor has been delayed all along till now (Matthew 26:53). Here the word implies that the sorrowful announcement of Jesus ' departure from His disciples had been withheld until the present. The time was now come.

Verse 34

New [καινην] . See on Matthew 26:29.

Commandment [εντολην] . The word for a single commandment or injunction, but used also for the whole body of the moral precepts of Christianity. See 1 Timothy 6:14; 2 Peter 2:21; 2 Peter 3:2. See also on James 2:8. This new commandment embodies the essential principle of the whole law. Compare also 1 John 3:23. Some interpreters instead of taking that ye love one another, etc., as the definition of the commandment, explain the commandment as referring to the ordinance of the Holy Communion, and render, "a new commandment (to observe this ordinance) I give unto you, in order that ye love one another." It is, however, more than improbable, and contrary to usage, that the Holy Supper should be spoken of as ejntolh a commandment.

That [ινα] . With its usual telic 45 force; indicating the scope and not merely the form or nature of the commandment.

As [καθως] . Rev., better, even as. Not a simple comparison [ωσπερ] , but a conformity; the love is to be of the same nature. There are, however, two ways of rendering the passage.

1. "I give you a new commandment, that ye love one another with the same devotion with which I loved you."

2. "I give you a new commandment, that ye love one another, even as up to this moment I loved you, in order that you may imitate my love one toward another." By the first rendering the character of the mutual love of Christians is described; by the second, its ground. The Rev. gives the latter in margin.

Verse 35

Shall - know [γνωσονται] . Perceive, or come to know.

My disciples [εμοι μαθηται] . See on Matthew 12:49. Literally, disciples unto me. Compare John 14:8.

36 - 38. Compare Matthew 26:31-35; Mark 14:27-31; Luke 22:31-38.

Verse 37

Now [αρτι] . Without waiting for a future time. See on ver. 33, and compare nun now, in ver. 36.

I will lay down my life. See on 10 11.

Verse 38

Wilt thou lay down thy life ? For a similar repetition of Peter's own words, see on 21 17.

Bibliographical Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on John 13". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.