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Bible Commentaries

Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament
John 13

 

 

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Verses 1-17

Christ washes the disciples' feet

John 13:1-17

John 13:1. This was the fourth Passover our Lord kept after he entered his public ministry – and the last; ‘for Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us’ (1 Corinthians 5:7; Hebrews 10:1-14). Every Passover lamb slain had been a type of Christ, the Lamb of God. No more need for pictures and patterns when ‘the Lamb of God’ has died. Christ knew that ‘his hour,’ to which he had referred so frequently, had come. He came into the world to redeem his people through his perfect life and death. He would soon accomplish that death and return to the Father to be seated as the victorious Mediator on God's right hand (Hebrews 1:1-3). Having loved his own (his sheep, his elect) with an everlasting, unchangeable love, he loved them continually, forever, even to death and forever.

John 13:2. Many believe that the incident occurred before the supper and not after the supper had ended, for it was the custom to have a servant to wash the dusty feet of the guests as they entered the house. However, whether before or during the meal, we do know that Judas had already made arrangements with the priests to betray the Son of God for thirty pieces of silver.

John 13:3. These words express the omniscience, omnipotence, and oneness of Jesus Christ with the Father. He knows all things. He knew that the Father in covenant purpose had given all blessings, all power and authority, all persons and things, and all grace and glory into his hands (John 3:35 : Hebrews 2:8; Ephesians 1:3). He knew that the Father had sent him to accomplish the redemption of a people, that he would be victorious and return triumphantly to glory (Psalms 24).

John 13:4-5. The washing of feet was the lowest servile work and was done by the least in the house. Yet the eternal King of glory rose from his seat of honor, laid aside his robe, wrapped himself in a large towel, and began to wash, tenderly and carefully, the dusty feet of each disciple. This task was never performed by superiors, but by inferiors to superiors, as by a wife to her husband or a servant to his master. This is why we find Peter objecting to such an act by his Master.

John 13:6. After having washed the feet of some of the disciples, he came to Simon Peter, who out of reverence to Christ, asked, surprised and astonished, ‘Lord, dost thou wash my feet?’ Peter knew himself to be a sinful man (Luke 5:8), and he had confessed Christ to be the Son of God. He thought it too far below the dignity and character of his Lord to wash the feet of such a worthless creature as he was.

John 13:7. Peter knew what Christ was doing. As a common servant he was washing the feet of his disciples, but Peter did not know the meaning and teaching of the act. Christ said to him, ‘You do not understand now, but someday you will’ (John 16:12). How we need to learn to wait upon the Lord's own time to make spiritual truth clear to us, meanwhile patiently submitting to his word and will!

John 13:8. Peter ought to have been satisfied with the Lord's reply and submitted to him; but while he spoke first out of modesty and humility, he now spoke rashly and said, ‘You shall never wash my feet.’ The Lord replied, ‘If I wash thee not, you have no part with me in redemption or in the kingdom of God.’ Christ is not speaking here of this simple act of washing Peter's feet, but he refers to the washing of regeneration and the cleansing in his precious blood. Unless a man is washed, cleansed, and purged from sin by the precious blood of Christ, he can have no part with Christ in glory (1 John 1:7; 1 Peter 1:18-19).

John 13:9. Peter, convinced of his error, fearful of losing the hope he held in Christ, and conscious of his sins, says, ‘Lord, don't just wash my feet, but wash my hands and my head.’ He knew that he not only had walked in sin but had done evil and thought evil.

John 13:10. The Lord replied, ‘He that is washed’ (that is, the person who is regenerated by the Spirit of God, called to faith in Christ, and washed in the blood of the Lamb) ‘does not need to be washed again.’ By one sacrifice and offering, Christ has cleansed, sanctified, and perfected all for whom he died. ‘They are clean every whit,’ all over within and without (Hebrews 10:10-14; Colossians 1:21-22). He only needs to have his feet washed. The reference is to people who have been to the bath and are clean all over and have no need to wash again except their feet, which may contact dust and dirt in coming from the bath. The believer is washed clean in Christ, and he needs not to be justified again; but he needs daily forgiveness and cleansing as he walks through this world. He needs constantly to be repenting and coming to Christ for forgiveness (1 John 1:9; 1 John 2:1-2). ‘You are clean, washed and justified by my blood, but not all of you,’ for the hypocrite Judas was among them.

John 13:11. The Lord Jesus knew that Judas did not believe and would betray him; therefore, Judas was not redeemed nor washed by the blood of Christ. His blood is effectual to the full salvation of all for whom he died and was not offered in vain for those who perish (Matthew 1:21; John l0:11; John 10:14-16; Isaiah 53:11-12).

John 13:12-15. After he had washed their feet and put his robe back on, he sat down and said, ‘Do you understand what I have done to you?’ He had taught them the truth of substitution, of cleansing from sin by his blood before God, of justification, and of the need for daily cleansing and forgiveness. Now he would teach them from the same act to behave in sincere and genuine humility and condescension to one another. ‘You call me Lord and Master and you speak the truth, for I am King of kings and Lord of lords. If I, your Lord and Master, have not shunned the lowest service and the meanest task in my love for you and my willingness to serve the greater glory of God and your good, then you should follow my example and be willing to serve one another in the lowest and simplest tasks and station.’

John 13:16-17. In Christ there is no great and small, no important and unimportant, but only sinners saved by his grace. We are all brethren! The servant is not greater than his Lord; and if our Lord is willing to humble himself, shall we not do likewise? Happy are ye if you know this glorious truth by experience and perform the doing of it (Philippians 2:5-11; Mark 9:33-35; Mark 10:42-45).


Verses 18-30

Judas, the betrayer

John 13:18-30

John 13:18. The Lord Jesus refers again to what he said in John 13:11, ‘Ye are not all clean.’ When he spoke of the washing of regeneration, the redemption and forgiveness through his blood, and the daily cleansing, humility, and devotion of true believers to their Master and to one another, he spoke not of Judas, who was a hypocrite and would soon betray him. ‘I know whom I have chosen’ to salvation, eternal life, and perseverance in the way of God. The betrayal of Judas is the fulfillment of another scripture written by David pertaining to the Messiah (Psalms 41:9; John 17:12; Psalms 109:7-8).

John 13:19. Christ told them that one of them would betray him; and he told them many other things, such as Peter's denial, all of them forsaking Him, his death and resurrection, the world's hatred and the persecution from the religious Jews, that when all these things came to pass, they would believe that he is the Messiah (John 16:1-3). He is the Lord God omniscient, who knows and declares all things before they come to pass. Also, one of the greatest proofs that Jesus is the Christ is the fact that all Old Testament scriptures are fulfilled in him (Luke 24:27; Luke 24:44-47; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

John 13:20. ‘Truly, truly (you may be comforted and assured by this) I have chosen you and have sent you forth in my name to preach the gospel. You are my ambassadors and sent of me as my Father hath sent me’ (John 20:21). Those who receive the ministers of the gospel (chosen, called, and sent by Christ), those who believe and embrace their gospel, receive Christ in whose name they come (2 Corinthians 5:19-20). And those who receive Christ as preached in the everlasting gospel, receive the Father of Christ and partake of his grace.

John 13:21. It is often said in scripture that our Lord groaned in himself, that he was troubled in spirit (John 11:33), and that he was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. All of this shows him to be really man and to have a human soul. He was made like his brethren and tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 2:16-18). He was grieved and troubled not by what would happen to Him, but at the evil nature, betrayal, and blackness of the crime Judas would commit. Also, up to this time, while he had suggested that one who had shared his fellowship would betray Him, he had not plainly said, ‘One of you shall betray me.’ This greatly troubled him and would be a stunning blow to them to realize that one of their own group would hand him over to the authorities to be killed. The fall of a supposed friend and disciple is always most difficult to bear. He was troubled as he broke this news to them.

John 13:22. All of the disciples, surprised and astonished, looked from one to another, not having the slightest notion of whom he spoke. Evidently, up to this point, Judas had behaved as well as any of them and had shown as much zeal, enthusiasm, and dedication as the rest. He had given no occasion for anyone to suspect him more than any other, for they looked not on Judas but on one another (Matthew 13:27-30). Only the Master can truly discern the wheat from the tares (Matthew 7:22-23).

John 13:23-25. To understand this ‘leaning on Jesus' bosom’ one must understand the posture the Jews used at their meals. John was not sitting in a chair leaning over on Christ, which would have been too intimate and very uncomfortable. The Jews reclined at meals; and John was nearest to Christ, reclining on his side next to the Saviour. John does not refer to himself by name but usually with the statement, ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’ (John 19:26; John 20:2; John 21:7; John 21:20). Christ, as the Son of God and the surety of his people, loves all his elect alike, not one more than another. But as man, he had a particular affection for John and admitted him near his person and more in his confidence. David is said to be ‘a man after God's own heart’ in this manner. Peter beckoned to John (who was so close to Christ in fellowship and position) that he should ask the Lord of whom he spoke. John, accordingly, presented the question, ‘Lord, who is it?’

John 13:26-28. Some say that the Lord whispered to John; for if he had spoken out, the rest of the disciples would have known for what purpose Judas left. ‘He it is to whom I give a morsel.’ So after he dipped the bread, he gave it to Judas, saying unto him, ‘What you do, do quickly.’ Not one at the table, except John to whom the clue was given, knew why the Lord said these words to Judas.

John 13:29. The disciples thought because Judas carried and cared for the money as treasurer, that the Lord was sending him to buy supplies or to give something to the poor. They had no idea that Judas was the betrayer, whom Satan had entered and possessed and who was going even now to make arrangements with the priests to sell his Lord. Another reason he whispered only to John was to prevent any reprisal against Judas on the part of the eleven. Had they known Judas' intentions, they no doubt would have prevented him. Can you imagine what Peter would have done? Consider his actions in the garden when he would have defended the Lord. Judas must be allowed to do what he did as he did it with no hindrance from the others.

John 13:30. As soon as Judas received the sop, he left, fearing discovery and fully motivated by Satan. ‘It was night,’ which was a fitting time for such a dark deed.


Verses 31-38

A commandment newly revealed

John 13:31-38

John 13:31. Judas had gone out to do what Satan led him to do, what his wicked heart designed to do, and what God determined before to be done (Psalms 41:9; Psalms 109:8; Acts 1:20; John 6:70-71). Christ, now being alone with his true disciples, talked more freely with them about his sufferings, death, and ascension and instructs them about their future conduct and behavior. ‘Now is the Son of man glorified;’ that is, the time has come that the Son shall immediately be glorified by accomplishing the work, which the Father gave him to do (John 17:1-4). By dying for his people, rising from the tomb, and ascending to heaven, he is declared to be the Son of God with all power and great glory (Psalms 24:7-10). ‘And God is glorified in him.’ The glory of God is more greatly revealed in redemption by Christ than anywhere else (Exodus 33:18-19); for hereby his wisdom and power, his truth and faithfulness, his justice and holiness, as well as his love, grace, and mercy are glorified (Romans 3:26; Psalms 85:10).

John 13:32. If God be so greatly glorified in the Lord Jesus Christ and his redemptive work (and this is an indisputable fact), as all the attributes of God are so clearly manifested and exalted in Christ, then the Father shall glorify the Son in himself and with himself. He shall raise him from the grave, set him at his own right hand (Hebrews 1:6; Hebrews 1:8; Hebrews 1:13), give him all authority in heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18), and give him a name above every name (Philippians 2:9-11). This the Father will do straightway or in a short time (John 6:61-62). Jesus Christ is NOW King of kings and Lord of lords. His glory does not await the end of the world, but he is glorified and has all preeminence.

John 13:33. The disciples did not fully understand what the Lord was teaching them, but they would later. He showed them that his sufferings and shameful death were for the glory of God and to accomplish his own eternal glory and purpose. He expresses his affection and concern for them, as well as his understanding of their weakness and failure to cope with his departure, by calling them ‘little children.’ He would be with them only a few days more; and they would seek him as those in distress and confusion, not knowing what to do nor where to go. He said to the Jews, ‘Where I go you cannot come (John 7:34); the difference being that the unbelieving Jews, who died in unbelief, could never come where he went. The disciples, though they could not come now, would later come (John 14:2-3).

John 13:34. This is certainly no new commandment in the sense that it is only recently revealed, for we find it in the law of Moses (Leviticus 19:18); and John said we had it from the beginning (2 John 1:5). It is called new in that it is always new in the excellence of it. It is more clearly explained than before, being set forth in the gospel in a new manner. It is set forth in a new argument and example – the love of our Lord Jesus Christ for us. ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’ Love as brethren in the same family, children of the same Father, forgiving and forbearing one another, preferring one another, and love freely notwithstanding weaknesses and imperfections. Christ loves all of his own whether rich or poor, old or young, weak or strong, greater or lesser, not in word only but in deed and truth.

John 13:35. Not only by God's grace and love shed abroad in your hearts shall you know that God has done a work of grace in you, but by this new heart, new nature, new attitude, and new conduct toward others shall all men (even the world) know that you are disciples of Christ. The distinguishing mark of a believer is not an outward garb, nor peculiar talk, nor ‘holier-than-thou’ claims (as the Pharisees), but brotherly love. Love for Christ and a genuine love for his people are the distinguishing characters of a disciple (Ephesians 4:32).

John 13:36. Peter did not understand the Lord's words about his death, burial, and ascension to the Father. He probably thought Christ would go to some distant place; so he asked, ‘Lord, whither goest thou?’ The Lord replied, ‘Where I go, you cannot follow now, but you shall follow me hereafter.’ When Peter's work is done, when God has accomplished his purpose through him, when Peter's life on earth is over, he would certainly go to be with his Lord (Mark 23:43; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23), as will all believers.

John 13:37. The Apostle was not satisfied to be still and accept the words of the Master. He had a high opinion of his devotion to Christ, of his courage in the face of the enemy, and of his willingness to follow Christ even if it cost him his life; so he said, ‘I will lay down my life for you’ (Romans 12:3).

John 13:38. When Christ asked, ‘Will you lay down your life for my sake?’ He was not questioning Peter's love and sincerity; for Peter did later lay down his life for Christ. He must destroy Peter's self-sufficiency and boasting, for Peter expressed this confidence in himself several times (Matthew 26:33 : Luke 22:33; John 13:37). Our strength is not in ourselves but in him. Left alone, like Peter, we would all deny him. ‘Peter, the cock shall not crow till you deny me three times’ (Matthew 26:69-75).

 


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Bibliography Information
Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on John 13:4". Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hms/john-13.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, July 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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