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Bible Commentaries

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament
John 13

 

 

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Verses 1-20

FOOT-WASHING

John 13:1-20. “And before the feast of the Passover, Jesus, knowing that the hour has come that He must depart out of this world to His Father, having loved His own in the world with Divine love, He loved them perfectly. The supper going on, the devil having already entered into his heart that Judas Iscariot the son of Simon should betray Him, knowing that the Father has given all things into His hands, and that He came out from God, and goes back to Him, He rises from the supper, and lays aside His garments, and taking a towel girded Himself. Then He pours water into a basin, and began to wash the feet of His disciples, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. Then He comes to Simon Peter; he says to Him, Lord, do You wash my feet? Jesus responded and said to him What I do thou knowest not now, but shall know hereafter.” This statement of Jesus confirms the non-essentiality of the foot-washing, settling the question as to it being a Church ordinance in the negative. Peter did know that Jesus was washing their feet that very moment yet Jesus says, “What I do thou knowest not now, but shall know hereafter,” clearly involving the conclusion that the act of foot-washing which Jesus was performing had not a literal, but a spiritual signification, which Peter would understand after the fires of Pentecost had consumed all of his ambition, and endued him with the grace of perfect humility. In that warm country people generally go barefoot, except when going on a journey, when they frequently wear sandals. From time immemorial it has been customary to meet the guests at the door and wash their feet. The corresponding courtesy in these cold countries would be to black the shoes. If this had been an ordinance of the gospel Church, the apostles and primitive Christians would have perpetuated it as such. History confirms the contrary, till a few centuries ago it was revived by the Dunkards. Some of our good holiness people now observe it as a Church ordinance. It is certainly very innocent, and no one should be alarmed about it. If they want to wash my feet, they are a thousand times welcome to do it. If they want me to wash theirs, I am ready. The whole matter is perfectly clear that Jesus here teaches us all a great lesson in that fundamental grace of humility. He was humble enough to wash the apostles’ feet; so we should all be humble enough, to perform the most menial services for our brethren.

“Peter says to Him, You never can wash my feet. Jesus responded to him, If I do not wash thee, thou hast no part with Me. Simon Peter says to Him, Lord, not only my feet, but my hands and my head. Jesus says to him, He that is washed hath no need to wash, but is every whit clean. You are clean, but not all; for He knew the one betraying Him. On this account He said, You are not all clean.” Peter had an exceedingly impulsive nature, which, when sanctified, became the crowning glory of his individuality, hitherto having frequently brought him into serious trouble. So you see when Jesus told him that if he did not wash his feet he had no part with Him, he swung at once m the opposite pole of the battery, and importuned Him to wash his feet, hands, and head, Jesus observing that if He only washed his feet he was clean, still the more confirming the pure spirituality of the transaction. As He was infinitely greater and more worthy than they, and had condescended to do them the lowest servile courtesy, they should all, on every occasion, be ready to do likewise. As the purification here, we see, reached all but Judas, this is still another argument in favor of the pure spirituality of the transaction, as Jesus evidently washed the feet of Judas among the balance; yet he was not clean, because his heart was not right. There is no argument here against the Pentecostal sanctification of the apostles, as regeneration is a purification making people clean as to actual transgression; while full sanctification is an infinitely deeper and more thorough purgation.

“Therefore when He washed their feet, He took His garments and sat down again. He said to them, Do you know what I have done unto you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you speak beautifully; for I am. Therefore if I, your Lord and Teacher, washed your feet, you ought also to wash the feet of one another; for I have given unto you an example, in order that you may do as I have done.” While I understand this to signify that perfect humility which alone can prepare us for the most menial and humble duties to one another — i. e., perfect humility in a general and indiscriminate sense, both experimental and practical — if any of the Lord’s people have conscientious convictions for literal foot-washing, we should encourage them, that they may live in all good conscience. The grand signification of this lesson is, the perfect humility which is indispensable to efficient leadership in the kingdom of God.

“Truly, truly, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his Lord, nor the apostle greater than Him who sends him. If you know these things, happy are ye if ye may do them.” Jesus sent those apostles into all the world, investing them with the leadership of the Church in all nations. He knew that nothing was so important to them as perfect humility. Ministerial ambition, autocracy, and tyranny have deluged the world with martyr’s blood, and populated hell with the millions led astray by these counterfeit leaders. Hence the great importance that Jesus gives this significant lesson, teaching all the leaders of His Church, in all ages, the absolute essentiality of perfect humility, which they can never have till pride and ambition are consumed by the fires of the Holy Ghost.

“I do not speak concerning you all: I know whom I have chosen; but in order that the Scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with Me, hath lifted up his heel against Me. I tell you now, before it transpires, in order that when it may come to pass, you may believe that I am He. Truly, truly, I say unto you, He that receiveth whom I shaft send, receiveth Me; and he that receiveth Me, receiveth Him that sent Me.” N. B. — These words set forth the high and momentous dignity and responsibility of an apostle whom Jesus sends into the world — the recipient receives Him, and also God who sent Him; and in connection with His preceding prophecies in reference to the treason of Judas, whom He had chosen with the other eleven, demonstrates the lofty altitude from which he had fallen.


Verses 21-35

DESIGNATION AND WITHDRAWAL OF JUDAS

Matthew 26:21-25; Mark 14:18-21; Luke 22:21-23; John 13:21-35. “Jesus, saying these things, was troubled in spirit, and witnessed and said, Truly I say unto you, that one of you shall betray Me. Then the disciples began to look toward one another, being at a loss concerning whom He speaks. [Mark says, “They began to be in great trouble.”] And one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved, was leaning on the bosom of Jesus.” This is John himself, too modest to call his own name, and so beloved of the Lord that he always sat next to Him, frequently reclining on His bosom. “Therefore Simon Peter beckons to him, to ask Him who might be the one concerning whom He speaks.” They were all sitting round the table, Peter being off at the other end, and requested John, who was next to Him, to ask Him which one of them He means. This utter uncertainty of the eleven illustrates the duplicity of Judas, who had been so faithful and dutiful, and outwardly all right every way, that even his comrades had not suspected him. After the fiery baptism of Pentecost they became wonderful readers of human character.

“And he, reclining on the breast of Jesus, says to Him, Lord, who is he? [Speaking in an undertone.] Jesus responds, He to whom I shall give the morsel, having dipped it.” Mark 14:20 : “And responding, He said to them, One of the twelve who dippeth with Me in the dish.” The Orientals, even now, have one large dish, in the center of the table, into whose gravy they dip their bread.

Mark 14:21. “The Son of man goeth, as has been written concerning Him; but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It were good for him if that man had not been born.” Matthew 26:25 : “Judas, the one betraying Him, said, Master, whether am I the one? He says to him, Thou sayest it.” A familiar Oriental affirmation, which evidently Jesus spoke to Judas in an undertone, as the others did not understand it. How awfully Satan-manacled must Judas have been to survive all this! It furnishes a striking illustration of diabolical infatuation.

John 13:26. “Having dipped the morsel He gives it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.” Among the Orientals this selection of a choice bit of some edible on the table, dipping it in the gravy, honey, or vinegar in the dish used in common, and handing it to some one — i. e., putting it in his mouth with your own hand — is significant of especial affection, kindness, and courtesy. You see, in this way, Jesus definitely pointed out Judas before he betrayed Him — a clear confirmation of His Divinity, as no human being could have done it.

“And after the morsel, then Satan entered into him.” So he is now completely under the bidding of Satan, who knew Jesus, and that He had come into the world to take it out of his hands, and who had been doing his best all those years to stir them up to kill Him, spiritually blind to the prophecies, and believing that the death of Jesus would end the war in his favor, and give him this world as a grand addition to hell, and the desired enlargement of his contracted dominions.

“Then Jesus says to him, What you are doing, do more quickly [i. e., “You have now for some time been plotting, maneuvering, and contemplating My betrayal; so now hurry up this matter; do not be so tardy; but what you are doing, consummate speedily”]. And no one of those sitting by knew this, for what He said to him. For some thought that, since Judas had the purse, Jesus says to him, Purchase some of those things of which we have need for the feast, or something which he may give to the poor.” There is no doubt but Jesus spoke to him in an undertone, so the eleven did not understand what He said, except John, who was next to Him, and the only one of the four who has written this.

“Then, taking the morsel, he immediately went out; and it was night.” So Judas is gone off to perpetrate the bloody treachery and sell his Lord for filthy lucre. O what a tremendous following Judas has this day — preachers and members selling out Jesus for paltry pelf The dark night is a vivid symbol of the black darkness of the deed.

“But when he went out, Jesus says, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in Him.” This is spoken proleptically, as the glorification took place the next day, when He died on the cross. “If God is glorified in Him, truly God will glorify Him in Himself and He will glorify Him immediately.” When Jesus died to redeem a guilty world, God was glorified in Him, because He had perfected the stupendous work of human redemption for which God sent Him into the world. Then when He ascended up to heaven, the Father received Him with perfect and glorious approval, enthroning Him at His right hand, and assuring Him that He will make His enemies His footstool.

“Children, yet a little while I am with you. You shall seek Me, and as I said to the Jews, that whither I go you are not able to come, I now say it unto you. I give unto you a new commandment, that you must love one another with Divine love; as I loved you with Divine love, in order that you may also love one another with Divine love. In this shall all know that you are My disciples, if you may have Divine love among one another.” This new commandment is an addition to and completion of the Decalogue. The law says, “Do and live;” the gospel says, “Love and live.” “Love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Romans 13:10) So the crowning glory of the gospel dispensation is perfect love. We are all fallible and full of infirmities, so we can do no perfect work; but, praise the Lord! He is ready to give us all perfect love. So when our will is lost in God’s will, and we want to do everything just right, but fail through ignorance or mistake or physical inability, in condescending love He takes the will for the deed, giving us credit, not simply for what we do, but what we want to do for Him; as He rewarded David for building the temple, though he never struck a lick at it. Remember, this new commandment does not specify the human philia, but agape, Divine love. There is but one way to get it. “The Divine love of God is poured out in our hearts by the Holy Ghost given unto us.” (Romans 5:5) This we receive in regeneration, realizing an inward conflict between this Divine love and the malevolent affections till the latter are consumed by the sanctifying fires of the Holy Ghost. Here you see our Savior specifies this love for one another as the differentia of His people in all ages and nations, regardless of race, color, sect, or creed.


Verses 36-38

JESUS PREDICTS THE FALL OF PETER AND THE DISPERSION OF THE APOSTLES

Matthew 26:31-35; Mark 14:27-31; Luke 22:31-38;John 13:36-38. N.B. — They are all still at the supper-table except Judas, who, at nightfall, went away alone — and not alone, for Satan went with him. “Simon Peter says to Him, Lord, whither art Thou going? Jesus responded to him, Whither I go, thou art not able to follow Me now; but shall follow Me hereafter. Peter says to Him, Lord, wherefore am I not able to follow Thee now? I will lay down my life for Thee.” Peter absolutely and sincerely meant all he said, and yet in a few hours denied Him, illustrating the horrific instability of unsanctified humanity. After Peter received the fiery baptism, he was more than a match for earth and hell, living a hero and dying a martyr. What an admonition is Peter’s case to all to get sanctified!

Matthew 26:31. “Then Jesus says to them, All you will be offended in Me this night. For it has been written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered.” (Zechariah 13:7) The application of this is very plain and simple, as it was fulfilled in Gethsemane about three hours after this utterance. “And after I am risen, I will go before you into Galilee.” Jesus had repeatedly predicted to them that He would meet them in Galilee, His native land and that of most of His apostles, whither they all went soon after His resurrection, and He met them on the bank of the Galilean Sea, after a night of toil in dragging their nets through the waters; but then, to their unutterable surprise, pursuant to His mandate, casting the net on the right side of the ship, they caught one hundred and fifty-three large fish. He also met them on one of the mountains of Galilee, not named.

“Peter, responding, said to Him, If all shall be offended in Thee, I will never be offended.” Peter was no hypocrite. He meant all he said; yet before the crowing of the cock that very night, he denied that he knew Him.

Luke 22:31. “The Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan sought after you, to sift you like wheat.” Here the pronoun “you” is humas, the plural number, including not only Peter, but all of the apostles. All the depravity in human nature belongs to Satan, because he put it there in the fall. All sin is the crop of Satan’s own sowing. So long as there is anything in you which Satan can sift out, you are not ready for heaven. Satan could not sift Jesus, because when he came to Him, he found nothing in Him belonging to him. After the apostles were all sanctified at Pentecost, Satan’s sifting was fruitless toil, as the celestial flame had consumed all the chaff, straw, cheat, cockle, and trash, leaving nothing but the pure wheat, ready for the Lord’s mill. “But I prayed for you, that your faith may not fail.” “You” is in the singular number, meaning Peter alone, as the especial subject of the Savior’s prayer in this case, lest he might be gobbled up by Satan. Jesus here tells them, “You will all be offended in Me this night.” This word is from scandalon, “a stumbling-block,” showing that they all ran over a great stumbling-block, which jostled them exceedingly, and Peter, the most sanguine of all, became more seriously upset than any of his comrades. This word, however, does not convey the idea of a total apostasy, but a stumbling and temporary backsliding, the prayer of Jesus prevailing, so that the faith, though terribly tried, did not utterly let go. “And you, having turned, then strengthen your brethren.” “When thou art converted,” E. V., is too strong a rendering of epistrepsas, which simply means “having turned,” being in the active voice; i. e., “Having turned from your backsliding, strengthen your brethren.” Peter was the senior apostle, his house in Capernaum being headquarters of Jesus during the two and a half years of His ministry in Galilee. Therefore he wielded a very potent influence over his brethren, who, of course, being jostled by his backsliding, would need confirmation by his confession and testimony. “And he said to Him, Lord, I am ready to go with Thee to prison, and to death.” Mark 14:30 : “And Jesus says to him, Truly I say unto thee, that this night, before the cock crows twice, thou shall deny Me thrice. And he continued to say the more positively, If it may be necessary for me to die along with Thee, I will not deny Thee. And all the others said likewise.” You see how sanguine Peter was, feeling perfectly sure; and yet when the emergency came he failed. A significant illustration of the bold utterances of unsanctified Christians, believing indubitably that they will do just what they say; but signally failing, because they have an indwelling enemy stronger than they.

Luke 22:35-38. “And He said to them, When I sent you out without purse, valise, and sandals, did you lack anything? And they said, Nothing. Then He said to them, But now, let the one having purse take it, likewise also valise; and let every one not having a sword, sell his cloak and purchase one. For I say unto you, that it behooveth that which has been written yet to be fulfilled in Me, And He was numbered with the transgressors [Isaiah 53:12]; and those things concerning Me have an end. And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And He said to them, It is sufficient.” While our Savior was with them on the earth, He miraculously fed, clothed, and protected them when it was necessary. Consequently they could go without these provisions, incident to human life, indiscriminately. But now that He is going away to leave them, they must take heed and give the necessary attention to the temporalities essential to their physical support and protection. The Orientals wear two garments — the cheiton, interior, and the himation, exterior. The outer garment they frequently carried while traveling and laid aside when at labor, keeping it for night and storms. Jesus here tells them, if necessary, to sell the himation and buy a sword. I never could understand why He told them to take a sword till I traveled in that country and saw the necessity of carrying weapons. I did not carry any, as I did not know how to use them; but a sanctified preacher in our company carried a revolver, our dragman also being armed with a revolver and a dagger. In some places we were compelled to hire an armed escort to keep the robbers off. “Why were you compelled to do it?” Our guide refused to go without the armed escort. Going round in Jerusalem, men, as a rule, had no visible weapons; but traveling through the country, all we met were armed with guns, swords, or huge clubs, almost as large as an American rifle, and convenient to kill a man with a single stroke. The guide-books advise all travelers to go armed, but not to use their weapons, their utility being that of intimidation, as robbers abound everywhere, who do not content themselves by simply taking your money, but take everything you possess, leaving you utterly destitute of clothing, baggage, etc. In that day there were no firearms, the sword being the most common weapon of defense; also regarded as a badge of itinerancy. You see, when they pointed out these two swords, He said they were sufficient. The presumption is that the sword was a prudential, peace, and safety provision, for the intimidation of robbers and for personal security in case of emergency, as persons openly avowing the absence of all protecting weapons in their peregrinations would soon fall a prey to the robbers. Along the road from Jerusalem down to Jericho, where the traveler (Luke 10) was attacked by the robbers, the Roman Government had a garrison of armed men to protect the travelers, as the robbers were so troublesome.

 


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Bibliography Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on John 13:4". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ges/john-13.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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