Joh 13:1-20. At the Last
Supper Jesus Washes the Disciples' Feet—The Discourse Arising Thereupon.
1. when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he
should depart out of this world unto the Father—On these
beautiful euphemisms, see on Lu 9:31; Lu 9:51.
having loved his own which were in the world, he
loved them unto the end—The meaning is, that on the very edge
of His last sufferings, when it might have been supposed that He would
be absorbed in His own awful prospects, He was so far from forgetting
"His own," who were to be left struggling "in the world" after He had
"departed out of it to the Father" (Joh 17:11), that in His care for them He seemed
scarce to think of Himself save in connection with them: "Herein is
love," not only "enduring to the end," but most affectingly manifested
when, judging by a human standard, least to be expected.
2. supper being ended—rather, "being
prepared," "being served," or, "going on"; for that it was not "ended"
is plain from Joh 13:26.
the devil having now—or,
put into the heart of Judas … to betray
him—referring to the agreement he had already made
with the chief priests (Lu 22:3-6).
3. Jesus knowing that the Father had given all
things into his hands, &c.—This verse is very sublime,
and as a preface to what follows, were we not familiar with it, would
fill us with inexpressible surprise. An unclouded perception of His
relation to the Father, the commission He held from Him, and His
approaching return to Him, possessed His soul.
4, 5. He riseth from supper, and laid aside his
garments—outer garments which would have impeded the
operation of washing.
and took a towel and girded
himself—assuming a servant's dress.
5. began to wash—proceeded to wash.
Beyond all doubt the feet of Judas were washed, as of all the
6-11. Peter saith … Lord, dost thou wash my
feet?—Our language cannot bring out the intensely vivid
contrast between the "Thou" and the "my," which, by
bringing them together, the original expresses, for it is not good
English to say, "Lord, Thou my feet dost wash?" But every
word of this question is emphatic. Thus far, and in the question
itself, there was nothing but the most profound and beautiful
astonishment at a condescension to him quite incomprehensible.
Accordingly, though there can be no doubt that already Peter's heart
rebelled against it as a thing not to be tolerated, Jesus ministers no
rebuke as yet, but only bids him wait a little, and he should
understand it all.
7. Jesus answered and said … What I do thou
knowest not now—that is, Such condescension does need
explanation; it is fitted to astonish.
but thou shall know
hereafter—afterwards, meaning presently; though viewed
as a general maxim, applicable to all dark sayings in God's Word, and
dark doings in God's providence, these words are full of
8. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never
wash, &c.—more emphatically, "Never shalt Thou wash my
feet": that is, "That is an incongruity to which I can never submit."
How like the man!
If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with
me—What Peter could not submit to was, that the Master should
serve His servant. But the whole saving work of Christ was one
continued series of such services, ending with and consummated by the
most self-sacrificing and transcendent of all services: The Son of Man came not to be ministered
unto, but TO MINISTER, AND TO GIVE His life
a ransom for many. (See on Mr 10:45). If
Peter then could not submit to let his Master go down so low as to wash
his feet, how should he suffer himself to be served by Him at
all? This is couched under the one pregnant word "wash," which
though applicable to the lower operation which Peter resisted,
is the familiar scriptural symbol of that higher cleansing,
which Peter little thought he was at the same time virtually putting
from him. It is not humility to refuse what the Lord deigns to do
for us, or to deny what He has done, but it is self-willed
presumption—not rare, however, in those inner circles of lofty
religious profession and traditional spirituality, which are found
wherever Christian truth has enjoyed long and undisturbed
possession. The truest humility is to receive reverentially, and
thankfully to own, the gifts of grace.
9. Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and
my head—that is, "To be severed from Thee, Lord, is death to
me: If that be the meaning of my speech, I tread upon it; and if to be
washed of Thee have such significance, then not my feet only, but
hands, head, and all, be washed!" This artless expression of clinging,
life-and-death attachment to Jesus, and felt dependence upon Him for
his whole spiritual well-being, compared with the similar saying in
6:68, 69 (see on Joh 6:68,69), furnishes such evidence of historic
verity such as no thoroughly honest mind can resist.
10. He that is washed—in this
thorough sense, to express which the word is carefully changed
to one meaning to wash as in a bath.
needeth not—to be so washed any
save to wash his feet—needeth to do no
more than wash his feet (and here the former word is resumed, meaning
to wash the hands or feet).
but is clean every whit—as a whole.
This sentence is singularly instructive. Of the two cleansings,
the one points to that which takes place at the commencement of
the Christian life, embracing complete absolution from sin as a
guilty state, and entire deliverance from it as a polluted
life (Re 1:5; 1Co 6:11)—or, in the language of theology,
Justification and Regeneration. This cleansing is
effected once for all, and is never repeated. The other
cleansing, described as that of "the feet," is such as one walking
from a bath quite cleansed still needs, in consequence of his contact
with the earth. (Compare Ex 30:18, 19). It is the daily cleansing which
we are taught to seek, when in the spirit of adoption we say, "Our
Father which art in heaven … forgive us our debts" (Mt 6:9, 12); and, when burdened with the
sense of manifold shortcomings—as what tender spirit of a
Christian is not?—is it not a relief to be permitted thus to wash
our feet after a day's contact with the earth? This is not to call in
question the completeness of our past justification. Our Lord, while
graciously insisting on washing Peter's feet, refuses to extend the
cleansing farther, that the symbolical instruction intended to be
conveyed might not be marred.
and ye are clean—in the first and
but not all—important, as showing that
Judas, instead of being as true-hearted a disciple as the rest at
first, and merely falling away afterwards—as many
represent it—never experienced that cleansing at all which
made the others what they were.
12-15. Know ye what I have done?—that
is, its intent. The question, however, was put merely to summon their
attention to His own answer.
13. Ye call me Master—Teacher.
and Lord—learning of Him in the
one capacity, obeying Him in the other.
and ye say well, for so I am—The
conscious dignity with which this claim is made is remarkable,
following immediately on His laying aside the towel of service. Yet
what is this whole history but a succession of such astonishing
contrast from first to last?
14. If I then—the Lord.
have washed your feet—the
ye—but fellow servants.
ought to wash one another's feet—not
in the narrow sense of a literal washing, profanely caricatured by
popes and emperors, but by the very humblest real services one
16, 17. The servant is not greater than his
lord, &c.—an oft-repeated saying (Mt 10:24, &c.).
If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do
them—a hint that even among real Christians the doing
of such things would come lamentably short of the knowing.
18, 19. I speak not of you all—the
"happy are ye," of Joh 13:17,
being on no supposition applicable to Judas.
I know whom I have chosen—in the
But that the scripture may be
fulfilled—that is, one has been added to your number, by no
accident or mistake, who is none of Mine, but just that he might fulfil
his predicted destiny.
He that eateth bread with me—"did eat
of my bread" (Ps 41:9), as
one of My family; admitted to the nearest familiarity of discipleship
and of social life.
hath lifted up his heel against
me—turned upon Me, adding insult to injury. (Compare
10:29). In the Psalm the
immediate reference is to Ahithophel's treachery against David (2Sa
17:1-23), one of those scenes
in which the parallel of his story with that of His great Antitype is
exceedingly striking. "The eating bread derives a fearful meaning from
the participation in the sacramental supper, a meaning which must be
applied for ever to all unworthy communicants, as well as to all
betrayers of Christ who eat the bread of His Church" (Stier, with whom, and others, we agree in thinking
that Judas partook of the Lord's Supper).
19. I tell you before … that when it comes
to pass, ye may believe—and it came to pass when they deeply
needed such confirmation.
20. He that receiveth whomsoever I send, receiveth
me, &c.—(See on Mt 10:40). The
connection here seems to be that despite the dishonor done to Him by
Judas, and similar treatment awaiting themselves, they were to be
cheered by the assurance that their office, even as His own, was
Joh 13:21-30. The Traitor
Indicated—He Leaves the Supper
21. When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in
spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, One of
you shall betray me—The announcement of Joh 13:18 seems not to have been plain enough to
be quite apprehended, save by the traitor himself. He will therefore
speak it out in terms not to be misunderstood. But how much it cost Him
to do this, appears from the "trouble" that came over His
"spirit"—visible emotion, no doubt—before He got it
uttered. What wounded susceptibility does this disclose, and what
exquisite delicacy in His social intercourse with the Twelve, to whom
He cannot, without an effort, break the subject!
22. the disciples looked one on another, doubting
of whom he spake—Further intensely interesting particulars
are given in the other Gospels: (1) "They were exceeding sorrowful"
26:22). (2) "They began to
inquire among themselves which of them it was that should do this
22:23). (3) "They began to
say unto Him one by one, Is it I, and another, Is it I?" (Mr 14:19). Generous, simple hearts! They abhorred
the thought, but, instead of putting it on others, each was only
anxious to purge himself and know if he could be the
wretch. Their putting it at once to Jesus Himself, as knowing doubtless
who was to do it, was the best, as it certainly was the most
spontaneous and artless evidence of their innocence. (4) Jesus,
apparently while this questioning was going on, added, "The Son of man
goeth as it is written of Him, but woe unto that man by whom the Son of
man is betrayed! It had been good for that man if he had not been born"
26:24). (5) "Judas," last
of all, "answered and said, Lord, is it I?" evidently
feeling that when all were saying this, if he held his peace, that of
itself would draw suspicion upon him. To prevent this the question is
wrung out of him, but perhaps, amidst the stir and excitement at the
table, in a half-suppressed tone as we are inclined to think the answer
also was—"Thou hast said" (Mt 26:25), or possibly by little more than a
sign; for from Joh 13:28 it
is evident that till the moment when he went out, he was not openly
23-26. there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of
his disciples, whom Jesus loved—Thus modestly does our
Evangelist denote himself, as reclining next to Jesus at the table.
Peter … beckoned to him to ask who it
should be of whom he spake—reclining probably at the
corresponding place on the other side of Jesus.
25. He then lying—rather leaning over on
saith—in a whisper, "Lord, who
26. Jesus answered—also
inaudibly, the answer being communicated to Peter perhaps from
He … to whom I shall give a sop when I
have dipped it—a piece of the bread soaked in the wine or the
sauce of the dish; one of the ancient ways of testifying peculiar
regard; compare Joh 13:18,
"he that eateth bread with Me."
And when he had dipped … he gave it to
Judas, &c.—Thus the sign of Judas' treachery was an
affecting expression, and the last, of the Saviour's wounded love!
27-30. after the sop Satan entered into
him—Very solemn are these brief hints of the successive steps
by which Judas reached the climax of his guilt. "The devil had already
put it into his heart to betray his Lord." Yet who can tell what
struggles he went through ere he brought himself to carry that
suggestion into effect? Even after this, however, his compunctions were
not at an end. With the thirty pieces of silver already in his
possession, he seems still to have quailed—and can we wonder?
When Jesus stooped to wash his feet, it may be the last struggle was
reaching its crisis. But that word of the Psalm, about "one that ate of
his bread who would lift up his heel against Him" (Ps 41:9) probably all but turned the dread
scale, and the still more explicit announcement, that one of those
sitting with Him at the table should betray Him, would beget the
thought, "I am detected; it is now too late to draw back." At that
moment the sop is given; offer of friendship is once more
made—and how affectingly! But already "Satan has entered into
him," and though the Saviour's act might seem enough to recall him
even yet, hell is now in his bosom, and he says within himself, "The
die is cast; now let me go through with it"; fear, begone!" (See on Mt 12:43).
Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do
quickly—that is, Why linger here? Thy presence is a
restraint, and thy work stands still; thou hast the wages of iniquity,
go work for it!
28, 29. no man … knew for what intent he
spake this unto him … some thought … Jesus … said
… But what we need … or, … give … to the
poor—a very important statement, as showing how carefully.
Jesus had kept the secret, and Judas his hypocrisy, to the last.
30. He then, having received the sop, went
immediately out—severing himself for ever from that
holy society with which he never had any spiritual sympathy.
and it was night—but far blacker night
in the soul of Judas than in the sky over his head.
Joh 13:31-38. Discourse after
the Traitor's Departure—Peter's
Self-Confidence—His Fall Predicted.
31. when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the
Son of man glorified—These remarkable words plainly imply
that up to this moment our Lord had spoken under a painful
restraint, the presence of a traitor within the little circle of
His holiest fellowship on earth preventing the free and full outpouring
of His heart; as is evident, indeed, from those oft-recurring clauses,
"Ye are not all clean," "I speak not of you all," &c. "Now" the
restraint is removed, and the embankment which kept in the mighty
volume of living waters having broken down, they burst forth in a
torrent which only ceases on His leaving the supper room and entering
on the next stage of His great work—the scene in the Garden. But
with what words is the silence first broken on the departure of Judas?
By no reflections on the traitor, and, what is still more wonderful, by
no reference to the dread character of His own approaching sufferings.
He does not even name them, save by announcing, as with a burst of
triumph, that the hour of His glory has arrived! And what is
very remarkable, in five brief clauses He repeats this word "glorify"
five times, as if to His view a coruscation of glories played at
that moment about the Cross. (See on Joh
God is glorified in him—the glory of
Each reaching its zenith in the Death of the Cross!
32. If God be glorified in him, God shall
also—in return and reward of this highest of all services
ever rendered to Him, or capable of being rendered.
glorify him in himself, and … straightway
glorify him—referring now to the Resurrection and Exaltation
of Christ after this service was over, including all the honor
and glory then put upon Him, and that will for ever encircle Him as
Head of the new creation.
33-35. Little children—From the height
of His own glory He now descends, with sweet pity, to His "little
children," all now His own. This term of endearment, nowhere
else used in the Gospels, and once only employed by Paul (Ga 4:19), is appropriated by the beloved
disciple himself, who no fewer than seven times employs it in his first
Ye shall seek me—feel the want of
as I said to the Jews—(Joh 7:34;
8:21). But oh in what a
34. a new commandment I give unto you, That ye
love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one
another—This was the new feature of it. Christ's love
to His people in giving His life a ransom for them was altogether new,
and consequently as a Model and Standard for theirs to one another. It
is not, however, something transcending the great moral law, which is
"the old commandment" (1Jo 2:7, and see on Mr
12:28-33), but that law in a new and peculiar form. Hence it
is said to be both new and old (1Jo 2:7, 8).
35. By this shall all men know that ye are my
disciples—the disciples of Him who laid down His life for
those He loved.
if ye have love one to another—for My
sake, and as one in Me; for to such love men outside the circle
of believers know right well they are entire strangers. Alas, how
little of it there is even within this circle!
36-38. Peter said—seeing plainly in
these directions how to behave themselves, that He was indeed going
Lord, whither guest thou?—having
hardly a glimmer of the real truth.
Jesus answered, … thou canst not follow me
now, but thou shalt follow me afterwards—How different from
what He said to the Jews: "Whither I go ye cannot come" (Joh 8:21).
37. why not … now? I will lay down my life
for thy sake—He seems now to see that it was death
Christ referred to as what would sever Him from them, but is not
staggered at following Him thither. Jesus answered,
38. Wilt thou lay down thy life for my
sake?—In this repetition of Peter's words there is deep
though affectionate irony, and this Peter himself would feel for many a
day after his recovery, as he retraced the painful particulars.
Verily … The cock, &c.—See
on Lu 22:31-34.