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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
John 13

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

§ 123.JESUS WASHES THE FEET OF HIS DISCIPLES, John 13:1-20.

1. Now—On Thursday of passion week, after sunset. The scene is now in the great upper room in which the Lord’s paschal supper takes place.

Before the feast of the passover—That is, before the great Passover festival of seven days, which was introduced by the paschal supper now to be taken. For an account of the Passover see our notes upon Matthew 26:2; Matthew 26:20.

Hour—Period or stage in his history.

Depart out of this world His entire passion and ascension are included in this departure as taking place in this one hour. Having loved his own—His own disciples.

Which were in the world—And still to remain there after his departure.

He loved them unto the end—To the end of his sojourn with them. Notwithstanding their errors and unbeliefs, his love persisted even to his ascension, and remains for evermore. And this verse must be indeed considered as introductory not merely to the supper now about to be narrated, but to the entire period of the closing history on which John now enters.


Verse 2

2. Supper being ended—It is plain from 25-28 that the supper was not ended. The present phrase, as the best scholars now agree, should be rendered the supper having arrived, or being in process. It appears from Luke’s account, that as they took their reclining couches at the table, a strife arose for precedency; and by this is explained the ablution of the apostles’ feet by Jesus now performed; namely, as an acted reproof of their emulation, and a lesson of humility and peace.

The devil… unto the heart of Judas—The Evangelist intimates by this parenthesis, that while Jesus is dispensing his lessons of love, Satan is instigating Judas’ plans of treason.


Verse 3

3. Went to God—That departure which the crime of Judas is preparing, and for which Jesus is now to prepare his disciples.


Verse 4

4. Riseth from supper—Interrupts the meal to interpose the lesson.

Laid aside his garments—His outside raiment, in order to perform his task without impediment.


Verse 5

5. Began to wash—The act of washing is a double emblem, symbolizing first, the duty of humble service to our brother, and second, the purification of the soul from sin. Both these solemn meanings are supremely combined in the great act of Jesus, by which he humbles himself unto death for our sakes, and purifies our souls by his blood. Different parts of the dialogue now ensuing refer to these two meanings.


Verse 6

6. Cometh he to Simon Peter—The language implies that he had washed several without opposition until he comes to Peter. Peter, therefore, clearly, was not the first washed; but he is the first and only one whose impulsive nature prompts a refusal.

Dost thou wash my feet?—The emphatic words here are thou and my. Dost thou, my God incarnate, wash my feet, who am unholy? Peter, therefore, means to exhibit humility before his Lord. But it is a noisy, self-sufficient humility, inferior to and less than the silent submission of the other disciples to their Lord. But Peter must display his humility, and so deteriorates it.


Verse 7

7. Thou knowest not now—The import of this act, deep as the very love and humiliation of Christ in his atoning death, Peter as yet could not know.

Thou shalt know hereafter—When the great transaction is done—when the Pentecostal Spirit is given—when the rich unction of inspiration is bestowed, then, Peter, thou shalt deeply realize the depth of meaning in this act; but its full depth it shall take eternity to reveal.


Verse 8

8. Peter saith—It were wise for Peter, at least now, to be silent and submissive. He has a chance to exercise that profound humility which trusts in God amid the mysteries of life, saying, we know not now but shall know

hereafter. Never wash my feet—Peter at last, in his presumptuous humility, is utterly disobedient. He is imperative upon his Lord and Master. He imposes a never, a prohibition to last for ever. Hence now the stern rebuke of Jesus, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. If the reality which requires this symbol be not performed, as thy disobedience will secure that it shall not, thou and I are separate forever. The same pride which in self-deception repels this washing service of thy Lord, rejects the washing of his atonement. Thou wilt not be washed with water in body, and thou canst not be washed with blood in soul; and thy impure nature can have no part with me.


Verse 9

9. Not my feet only—Peter is now brought to his senses. He sees that his wilful humility is pride and disobedience. He perceives the spiritual import of our Saviour’s language and purpose. He had early in his apostleship bid his Lord depart from him, for he was a sinful man. He sees that this washing implies the cleansing of the soul from sin, and now he prays that that sanctification may be complete. His every member is impregnated with sin, and becomes the instrument of sin. If thou wilt cleanse me at all, Lord, let the work be complete.


Verse 10

10. Needeth not save… his feet—For in this act of washing the feet, which, being the lowest part of the body, are the emblem of our entire impure nature, the cleansing away of our entire impurity is symbolized.

Clean, but not all—Clean, not merely by this act of washing, but clean by the forgiving power of my blood; clean even in spite of their just previous contention for the precedency. For, in spite of that imperfection, there was in their heart a predominant faith in and love to him their justifying Saviour. Yet not all clean; for there was one in whom that faith and love were overborne, neutralized, and destroyed by a supreme purpose of treason.


Verse 11

11. Who should betray him—Who was about to betray him.


Verse 13

13. Master and Lord—Literally, the Master and the Lord; using the titles as the disciples applied them to him.


Verse 14

14. Ought to wash one another’s feet—The pious Moravians, even at the present day, practice the ceremony of washing each other’s feet. But there is little reason to suppose that this slight language of our Lord is used to institute a perpetual sacrament of this kind. The words bear no comparison with the full and solemn precision with which the Lord’s Supper is instituted as a modified continuation of the ancient Passover. Nor is there any indication in the New Testament writings, nor in the earliest primitive documents, that such a sacrament was either established by the apostles or practised by the primitive Christians. Our Lord here performed the humblest of menial services as a lesson that they, renouncing strife for superiority, should condescend to the lowest offices for each other’s good.

In every act of humble love toward a fellow-Christian or a fellow-being, we perform the reality of which this feet washing is the symbol, and we really obey the command to wash one another’s feet.


Verse 17

17. If ye know… do—If this lesson has entered your understanding, cease all strife for predominancy, and only surpass in service to each other.


Verse 18

18. I speak not of you all—Approaching the hour of his passion, the thoughts of the Lord verge again and again toward his betrayer. Amid this discourse of consolation, counsel, and love, the one dark exception rises up before him.

Know whom I have chosen—He knew, of the entire twelve, the fidelity of most and the treason of one.


Verse 19

19. Tell you… believe—The ruin wrought by the treason of Judas might seem to the apostles a proof that the claims of Jesus were vain, and his Messiahship a fiction. But when it is the very event by Jesus foretold, it is a proof not a refutation of that Messiahship.

That I am he—That I am the Son of God, who have chosen, (John 13:18,) and sent you forth. And this, as we shall soon see, explains the connection, so much disputed, with the following verse.


Verse 20

20. Receiveth whomsoever I send, receiveth me—The fulfilment of my prediction, in the treason of Judas, proves that your commission is from the Son of God; and the truth remains sure, that he who receiveth you whom I send, receiveth the Son of God; and receiveth the Father who sent him.


Verses 21-25

§ 124.JESUS FORETELLS THAT ONE OF THE DISCIPLES WILL BETRAY HIM, John 13:21-35.

Matthew 26:21-28; Mark 14:18-21; Luke 22:21-23. According to Newcome’s Harmony, the following order shows the successive stages of Jesus’s exposure of Judas; after which the traitor departed.

Harmony.

1. Jesus indicates that it shall be one of them

Matthew 26:21

Mark 14:18

Luke 22:21

John 13:21

2. Answering their inquiries, he indicates that it is one near them, dipping into the same dish

Matthew 26:22-24

Mark 14:19-21

Luke 22:22-24

John 13:22

3. To John, in a low voice, he declares that the betrayer is the one to whom he shall give the sop, and gives it to Judas

John 13:23-27

4. Satan possesses Judas, and Jesus bids him do quickly. None but John yet knows the exact one

John 13:28-29

5. Judas at last asks, Is it I? and Jesus, before them all, declares that it is

Matthew 26:25

21. Jesus… troubled in spirit—Again does the image of the dark treason of Judas arise before the mind of the Saviour; and again the agitations which lately had so frequently shaken his human spirit now return. John 12:27; John 11:33.


Verse 23

23. Leaning on Jesus’s bosom—Reclining next to him on the couch at table, whereby he could in a low voice address Jesus by turning back his head.

Whom Jesus loved—By this expression, used by John some five times, he doubtless designates himself, (John 19:26; John 20:2; John 21:7; John 21:20.) Twice he also mentions that he reclined on Jesus’s bosom, (John 21:20.) John was the youngest of the disciples; and without claiming any proud pre-eminence, or setting up for rival to Peter for the primacy, he tenderly remembers that Jesus had for him a peculiar love. He was the youngest, tenderest, feeblest lamb of the flock.


Verse 26

26. Give a sop—The dipping in the same dish (Mark 14:20) and this giving the sop, are two things not to be confounded. By the former Jesus indicated that the betrayer was among those nearest him; the giving the sop was the signal by which he revealed to John which the traitor was.

It must be remembered that the Orientals use neither knife nor fork, but eat in primitive style, with the fingers. It is a customary token of peculiar friendship to dip a piece of bread into the liquid sauce upon the table and hand it to some one of the guests. What a marvellous delicacy was this to perform this kindly office to his future betrayer. The love it indicated was real. This token of tender kindness from that outstretched innocent hand, should have melted the traitor’s heart, and have driven the devil from his soul. Immovably his hardness withstood this melting assault of love; and no wonder that Satan, who, at John 13:2, had put treason into his heart, now, John 13:27, completely entered into him.


Verse 27

27. Do quickly—This is properly no original command to do, and no permission of the act. It only requires that the act, wicked and forbidden though it be, should be rapid and brief. This both required his instant departure, which was a desirable result, and indicated that there was but a short time for the accomplishment of a stupendous destiny.


Verse 28

28. No man at the table knew—Not even John knew until the traitor, as mentioned in the following verse, and as is mentioned by anticipation in John 13:27, received the sop.


Verse 30

30. It was night—It is a dreary image here presented. This son of night goes through the darkness of night on his message of treason. The Evangelist closes the door upon him as with a shudder; and fairly rid of his presence, yet conscious of his purpose, Jesus breaks forth in a rapture of relief.


Verse 31

31. Now is the Son of man glorified—He whose spirit was just now so troubled at the dark side of events before him, now rises into exultation at the glory that crowns the darkness. Again the entire scene of crucifixion and ascension are concentrated and brought into a now, (see note on John 12:31,) and the whole is seen to be a glory. By the very cross and passion the Son of man is glorified. And as God has given the Son of his love for this great work, so God is glorified in him.


Verse 32

32. Glorify him in himself—The Son shall glorify the Father by the excellence in himself; and the Father shall glorify the Son from the excellence in himself. Each has and is that in himself by which he glorifies the other.

Straightway—Judas was to perform his work quickly, because the glorification of the cross was to be performed straightway.


Verse 33

33. Little children—In presence of the stupendous events now transpiring they were indeed as little children, very infants. And as they were to be left by him, whose parent-like protection had thus far been over them, it is with exquisite tenderness that he applies to them this title; a title which John, as if impressed by the memory, repeats in his epistles.

A little while—For the work was to be accomplished, as said in the last verse, straightway; in the course of a few hours.

Unto the JewsJohn 7:34. This he had said to the Jews in wrath, but to these in love.


Verse 34

34. A new commandment—The commandment to love was not indeed new: but in Christ it was so freshly energized that it became new; having a new motive, depth, and force. By his death he has revealed the infinite depth of divine love. And that love of Christ constrains his true followers with and to a love not known in the old covenant.


Verse 35

35. If ye have love—”See how these Christians love one another,” was the testimony of ancient heathenism to the newness, peculiarity, and power of the Christian law of love. That new power of love now reigns in Christendom in the form of countless benevolent institutions for the good of mankind; institutions unknown to unchristian lands, and strange to the spirit of heathenism.


Verse 36

36. Peter said… whither goest thou?—Peter evidently imagined that our Lord is going through some terrible ordeal of danger, and perhaps death, to a result of glory. As his senior apostle he wishes to know the route, and to follow most closely in the track.

Now… afterwards—What our Saviour had said to the Jews in wrath, and to the disciples in love, he now says to Peter with a qualification and a promise. The Jews should die in their sins, and where Christ is they should never come. Peter can follow not now but afterwards.


Verses 36-38

§ 125.JESUS FORETELLS TO HIS APOSTLES THE FALL OF PETER, John 13:36-38.

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

Many harmonists insert at the close of the last paragraph the institution of the Lord’s Supper. This they do with no little plausibility, inasmuch as the topic of that paragraph, namely, the new commandment of love, based upon Christ’s sacrificial death, has a natural relation to that institute, Nevertheless we follow the order of Newcome in placing it subsequent to the present section.


Verse 37

37. Lay down my life—He is willing to encounter the ordeal if he can only be allowed to follow.


Verse 38

38. Verily, I say unto thee—Masterly indeed is the check which our Lord gives this forward disciple in thus prophetically opposing his fall to his high boast. But just as that boast was not insincere, so the fall was not final. Enough there was of a downfall to neutralize the pride; but his subsequent recovery evinced the earnestness of his profession.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on John 13:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/john-13.html. 1874-1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, July 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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