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The Paschal Meal. Jesus Washes the Disciples' Feet.
(Thursday Evening of the Beginning of Friday.)
D John XIII. 1–20.
d 1 Now before the feast of the passover, Jesus knowing that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto his Father, having loved his own that were in the world, he loved them unto the end. [Since the second century a great dispute has been carried on as to the apparent discrepancy between John and the synoptists in their statements concerning the passover. The synoptists, as we have seen in the previous section, clearly represent Jesus as having eaten the passover at the proper time, and as having been arrested on the same night, while John 648 here and elsewhere (ch. xiii. 29; xviii. 28; xix. 14, 31, compared with xviii. 1–14) seems to represent Jesus as being arrested before the passover. Our space does not permit us to enter upon a discussion of this difficulty. The reader is referred to a thorough rehearsal of the arguments found in Tholuck in loco (or, after the seventh edition, in his introduction to John's Gospel). The simplest solution of the difficulty is to attribute the apparent discrepancy to that loose way of speaking of the feast which we mentioned in the last section. When the synoptists speak of the passover they refer to the actual paschal supper; when John speaks of the feast of the passover, or the passover, he refers to the seven days' feast of unleavened bread which followed the actual paschal supper. Jesus was put to death on the first day of this latter feast, and therefore John here uses the festival to designate the time of the Lord's suffering and death. The meaning, then, is that Jesus, having loved his disciples prior to this great trial or crisis of his life, was not deterred from loving them by its approach, but continued to give the most precious and unmistakable evidences of his love down to the very hour of its arrival, being neither driven from such a course by the terrors of his coming hour nor wooed from it by the glorious prospects of returning to his Father. These words form a preface to the remainder of John's Gospel in which John enumerates the tokens and evidences of that love which manifested itself throughout the entire passion, and continued until the hour of ascension; and which, by so doing, gave sweet assurance that it continues still.] 2 And during supper [This was the paschal supper proper. It accords with the supplementary nature of John's Gospel to thus mention it as a meal thoroughly familiar to his readers.] the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him [see p. 642], 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all the things into his hands, and that he came forth from God, and goeth unto God [Being about to narrate an act of loving humility, John prefaces it by stating that it was done in full knowledge of his threefold glory; viz.: 1. That all 649 authority was committed to him (Matt. xxviii. 18); 2. That by nature he was divine ( John i. 1, 14), and, 3. That he was about to return to the divine exaltation which for our sakes he had laid aside—Phil. ii. 5–11.] 4 riseth from supper, and layeth aside his garments; and he took a towel, and girded himself. 5 Then he poureth water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. [John narrates in detail each of these acts: to him they seem as so many successive steps leading down to the depth of humility. The whole formed a striking but wholesome contrast to the self-seeking and ambitious spirit which the disciples had just manifested.] 6 So he cometh to Simon Peter. He saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? [The others were awed into silence by the strange conduct of their Master; but it accorded with the bold impulsiveness of Peter to challenge the act.] 7 Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt understand hereafter. [It was no mere feet-washing; or Jesus would not have so spoken. It was at once an example of humility and a symbol of the purification which the Lord accomplished for us by reason of his humiliation. The full meaning of the act was afterward revealed to them by the Holy Spirit.] 8 Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. 9 Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. [Since Jesus spoke of the act as in some sense a license or token of permission to have “part” with him, Peter desired that his head and hands also might be included, that he might in his entire man have part with Christ.] 10 Jesus saith to him, He that is bathed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. 11 For he knew him that should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean. [The language implies that the disciples had bathed before leaving Bethany, and that only their feet, soiled 650by the journey to Jerusalem, needed to be rewashed. The saying is spiritually true as well, for one who has been washed thoroughly by baptism needs not to be re-baptized. After that general cleansing the particular sins are removed by confession (I. John i. 7–9). But there is no efficacy in any ordinance when the heart and will do not accord with the purposes for which it is administered. Hence it was that Judas, though he had done all that the others had done, was still as foul as ever.] 12 So when he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and sat down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? 13 Ye call me, Teacher, and, Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. 14 If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another's feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that ye also should do as I have done to you. 16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, a servant is not greater than his lord; neither one that is sent greater than he that sent him. 17 If ye know these things, blessed are ye if ye do them. [Since a servant is not greater than his lord, he should not be ashamed to do what his lord does. It is well known that many, by a literal construction of this passage, have esteemed it to be their duty to wash each other's feet in their churches. But it should be noted that in the entire New Testament there is no command for this, nor is there any passage which recognizes any such church ordinance or practice. Jesus did not institute feet-washing; he found it already a familiar custom of the land, and merely used it as a most appropriate way of showing the proper spirit of humble service. Hence he does not say, “Do what I have done,” but “Do as I have done,” which requires us to do something similar to that which Christ had done, but necessarily the very same thing. The washing of feet as an act of courtesy or hospitality was never a custom among Western people, and to adopt it because of these words of Christ is to entirely miss his meaning. What he did was a natural daily act of hospitality. But what we would do if we followed his words literally would be to 651introduce a strange, outlandish practice, which would put a guest to great embarrassment and inconvenience.] 18 I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled: He that eateth my bread lifted up his heel against me. [ Ps. xli. 9.] 19 From henceforth I tell you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he. 20 Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. [The meaning of the above passage may perhaps be brought out more easily if we paraphrase it as follows: “I do not speak of blessing to you all, for there is one who shall never be blessed. His conduct does not deceive or surprise me, for I know those whom I have chosen whether they be good or bad. His choosing is in accordance with the prophecy contained in the Book of Psalms. Hitherto I have held my peace about him, but henceforth I shall point out his course, that my foreknowledge of his actions may strengthen your faith in my Messiahship, and not leave you in that condition of hopelessness and despair in which the consequences had come upon me unawares. Do not let his treachery shake your confidence in me, for verily I say unto you that in being my messengers ye are indeed the messengers of the Most High.”]
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