Chapter 13


The Divine Example


The events recording in chapters 13 - 18 all took place in the upper room where Jesus had taken His disciples to celebrate the Feast of the Passover.


13:1 Just before the Passover feast, Jesus knew that his time had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now loved them to the very end.


This particular portion of our study would seem to have taken place before the Passover was partaken of and again Jesus refers to "his hour" that had now arrived and John ties this "hour" in with the Passover. John the Baptist called Jesus "the Lamb of God" (John 1:29) and Paul as ""our Passover" (1 Cor. 5:7). R.V.G. Tasker says that "this acted parable of Jesus' was not just an example for us to follow but was a portrayal of His final submission to the death of the cross". Jesus speaks of this hour in this verse as His departure from this world back to His Father, via the cross. John tells us that Jesus loved His own, that is,  those who the Father had given Him and that He loved them with a complete love (He loved them to the end). The proof of this love was about to be shown to them (1 John 3:16).  


13:2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, that he should betray Jesus.


Correct rendering of this verse should be "supper now being ready" as the following verses show. The devil had already planted in the willing heart of Judas Iscariot to betray Jesus before they had entered the upper room. He had already met and agreed with the Jewish rulers his price for betraying the Lord (Luke 22:1-5).


13:3 Because Jesus knew that the Father had handed all things over to him, and that he had come from God and was going back to God


This verse prepares us for the actions of Jesus in the follwoing verses. Jesus was fully aware of  who He was, the Son of God, God manifest in an human body, where He had come from, heaven, the purpose of His coming, to give His life as a ransom for sinners and where He was returning to, heaven. That all power and authority had been given into His hands by the father (Matt. 28:18 and Eph. 1:22).


13:4 He got up from the meal, removed his outer clothes, took a towel and tied it around himself.


With the full consciousness of His supreme power and divine origin Jesus  humbles Himself by taking the role of a servant. John is very careful in giving us all the details of this. The garments he laid aside would be the outer garment. This speaks to us of Jesus laying aside His glory which He had with the Father (John 17:5) and that He took upon Himself to became a man (Phil. 2:8). Taking the towel and fastening it to His waist was the mark of a servant's position.


13:5 He poured water into the washbasin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to dry them with the towel he had wrapped around himself.


Filling a basin with water He began to wash the disciples feet and dry them with the towel.


13:6 Then he came to Simon Peter. Peter said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?


Up to this point Peter had sat there, perhaps dumbfounded by what he was witnessing. The one whom He had seen healing the sick, raising the dead, performing miracles was stooping down and of all things washing the feet of those who had called Him their Lord and they were allowing Him to do it without saying a word! When Jesus reached Peter his verbal reaction may have also been accompanied by the withdrawing of his feet. A paraphrase of Peter's words could be "are you the Son of God, the Christ, the Messiah going to wash my feet, the feet of a sinner?"


13:7 Jesus replied, "You do not understand what I am doing now, but you will understand after these things.


Jesus tells him to have a little patience until He had completed His task and then He would know the purpose for it.  


13:8 Peter said to him, "You will never wash my feet!" Jesus replied, "If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.


Instead of leaving things alone and trusting Jesus Peter becomes more adamant in not allowing the Lord to do this to him "you will never wash my feet". Jesus soon silences him by saying that if he will not submit to having his feet washed then He cannot share in companionship/fellowship or have any part with Him. What Jesus was in fact saying to Peter in this part of the acted parable was that if He would not be cleansed from his sin by the blood that He was going to shed upon the cross he could not be saved and become a child of God's (1 John 1:7, Matt. 26:28 and Heb. 9:14).


13:9 Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head!


True to form Peter now goes overboard and wants Jesus to give him a bath for he has become conscious that he is absolutely unworthy, unclean, a sinner, and needs to be fully cleansed and to be a part of the Lord Jesus Christ.  


13:10-11 Jesus replied, "The one who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not every one of you." (For Jesus knew the one who was going to betray him. For this reason he said, "Not every one of you is clean.


But Jesus tells him that whoever has been cleansed from their sins by Him is completely clean.  Because we are living in a sinful world we can be corrupted in our everyday life and need to come and be cleansed from the pollution of it. "The lesson is that all of us need the daily renewing of the grace of God" (C.J. Ellicott).  But there was one among them who had not be cleansed who had let evil enter his heart - Judas.


13:12 So when Jesus had washed their feet and put his outer clothing back on, he took his place at the table again and said to them, "Do you understand what I have done for you?


After Jesus had washed their feet and sat back down He asks His disciples if they had understood the meaning of what He had done to them.


13:3 You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and do so correctly, for that is what I am.


The disciples owned Him as their Master, that is teacher and their Lord. "Learning of Him in the one capacity, obeying Him in the other" (JFB). John here gives the full significance of this title which they did not realise fully until after His resurrection (John 20:28 and Acts 2:36). It is not enough to own Him just as our Teacher but He has to be Lord of our lives, as the chorus says "reign in me, sovereign Lord". Jesus commends His disciples for their correct  interpretation of who He is.


13:14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you too ought to wash one another's feet.


He goes on to say that if He is indeed their Lord (notice in this verse Lord comes before teacher) and Master and has humbled Himself to became their servant then that is how they should be with one another. In fact the word "ought to" means "you are under an obligation to", it is a debt that you are bound to pay". Who are we obligated to, who are we indebted to? To the Lord Jesus Christ who humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross (Phil. 2:8) in order to save our souls.


13:15 For I have given you an example — you should do just as I have done for you.


Some have interpreted this action of Jesus of Him instituting it as a sacrament of literally washing one anothers feet, like baptism and the communion. This is evidently not so for He makes it quite clear that He has done it as an example


13:16 I tell you the solemn truth, the slave is not greater than his master, nor is the one who is sent as a messenger greater than the one who sent him.


It is a fact that a servant cannot be above his master because he is completely owned by him and must do whatever he is commanded to. The disciples would have been very familiar with this relationship between lord and servant and the consequences if the servant did not obey.


In the second part of this verse we can see Jesus as the servant being sent by the Father into the world to do His will not being greater than the one who sent Him but being coequal with Him (Phil. 2:6). All who are sent by the Lord Jesus Christ are co-workers with Him (1 Cor. 3:9 and Mark 16:20). This teaching of servanthood must have come as a big shock to the disciples as they had often quarreled among themselves and had great ambitions as to who would be the greatest, who would serve who, who would be first, and although Jesus had told them on these occasion that the least among them would be the greatest, the first would be the servant of all they had not taken any notice of Him (Mark 9:33-37). Perhaps now that He who is Lord of all had shown them in this act of washing their feet and becoming a servant to them they would indeed become doers of the word and not just hearers.  


13:17 If you understand these things, you will be blessed if you do them.


The secret to happiness in the Lord is by being obedient to all that he commands us to to do and this is by being a faithful servant to Him and through Him to others.


The Choice made by Judas Iscariot


13:18 What I am saying does not refer to all of you. I know the ones I have chosen. But this is to fulfill the scripture, 'The one who eats my bread has turned against me.'


Among the group of disciples at the Last Supper was one whose heart had never been cleansed from sin (John 13:10-11). His inward motives were dishonest and he had been stealing from the money bag. Not only that, but his heart, once open and challenged by the word of God had become hardened (Prov. 29:1). He could hide his true nature from the group, but not from Christ. Since Judas' heart craved for what this world had to offer, he became quickly disillusioned with a faith which offered spiritual blessings rather than earthly pleasures. With his heart hardened by sin and lust for the things of this world, Judas was ready to listen to the voice of Satan, who led him to betray the Lord Jesus Christ to his enemies (John 13:2). In any group of believers there will be those who are true of heart, who in spite of their weakness will continue with the Lord Jesus Christ. But sadly there will be others who will not. As time goes on they will be found out for what they are (1 John 2:19). Jesus said that in the church there would be tares among the wheat, he meant these people. The scripture warns us all not to copy Judas by falling away from the Living God (Heb. 3:12-15). In the case of Judas, Christ's words are full of meaning "he who eats my bread has lifted up his heel against me". This does not mean the bread at the last supper. Judas had lived with the Lord Jesus Christ for 3 ½ years; he had received his teaching, shared his ministry and lived on his financial support. After all that Christ had done for Judas, you would have thought he would have remained faithful to Christ. But that was not so, for often human nature does not work that way. The ungrateful Judas was prepared to betray the Lord for 30 pieces of silver. One of the greatest problems with the Christian church today is a lack of gratitude and appreciation for what other people do and give for us. Do we sometimes take for granted what given to us and done for us in church fellowship every week? We receive in the prayer meeting - but somebody had to take that prayer meeting so that we could receive. We receive from Christ directly into our souls the engrafted word of God but someone spent many hours in study and preparation just so that we could receive for that ½ hour. Judas took the Lord Jesus Christ for granted and he took everything he gave him and did for him for granted to such an extent that he came to despise him and later to betray him.


13:19 I am telling you this now, before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe that I am he.


Jesus told his disciples of his arrest and betrayal in advance so that they would later would believe that he had been absolutely in control throughout all these events.


13:20 I tell you the solemn truth, whoever accepts the one I send accepts me, and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me."


Since the apostles after his deathand resurrection would be sent out by Christ to serve Him, Jesus affirms that whoever welcomes his messengers, and so their message, welcomes Him and God the Father.


13:21 When he had said these things, Jesus was greatly distressed in spirit, and testified, "I tell you the solemn truth, one of you will betray me.


After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit. To think that one of his dearest and closest friends had already decided to turn against him (Psa. 55:12-14). That relationship meant a lot to Jesus but it didn't mean a thing to Judas. He gave the outward impression of being committed to the Lord but inwardly he never was. For he was prepared to end their relationship and he just didn't care about it. Christian friends, do we give the Lord Jesus Christ any reason to be troubled in spirit? It was not the result of the betrayal that troubled Christ, it was not the crucifixion, but the fact that one of his own was prepared to turn away from him.


13:22 The disciples began to look at one another, worried and perplexed to know which of them he was talking about.


The disciples were astonished. None could believe this was true about any of them. They began to examine their own hearts. Let us examine our own hearts too. Not one of us can claim to be more than a sinner saved by grace. Is it possible for any of us to turn from the Lord Jesus Christ in the way that Judas did? Yes. But being capable of it and actually doing it are two different things.


13:23-25 One of his disciples, the one Jesus loved, was at the table to the right of Jesus in a place of honor. So Simon Peter gestured to this disciple to ask Jesus who it was he was referring to. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved leaned back against Jesus' chest and asked him, "Lord, who is it?"


John was especially close to Jesus, sitting next to him as he always did. All the disciples knew that was John's place and none of them were jealous about it. At Peter's instigation John leans back against Jesus to ask which of them he meant.


13:26 Jesus replied, "It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread after I have dipped it in the dish." Then he dipped the piece of bread in the dish and gave it to Judas Iscariot, Simon's son.


So it was only to John that Christ made known the identity of the betrayer by the symbolic action of giving him a piece of bread after it had been dipped in the dish. By offering the bread to Judas, whom it is assumed was also sat next to Jesus and heard his words, Christ was giving him one final chance to retrace his steps and change his mind.


13:27-29 And after Judas took the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, "What you are about to do, do quickly." (Now none of those present at the table understood why Jesus said this to Judas. Some thought that, because Judas had the money box, Jesus was telling him to buy whatever they needed for the feast, or to give something to the poor.)


Tragically, when the chance was given to Judas, his decision was made to go through with what he had decided to do. Having hardened himself for the last time there was no way back. Satan entered into his soul and took complete possession of him. So we see that Satan took on himself the deed of handing Christ over to be crucified. It is a terrible fact that anyone- even a Christian- can harden their heart, as Judas did, to the point of no return. Whether we are young or whether we are old. Even those who, like Judas, have sat under the ministry of God's word for many years. That is why the scripture warns us: "do not harden your hearts" (Heb. 3:8) and "beware lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God" (Heb 6:4-8). When Christ instructed Judas to get it over with quickly he was showing that he was still in charge of events. No one, not even John, understood the significance of what Christ said. Some thought Christ was sending Judas to buy something for the feast or give alms to the poor. Jesus only cast Judas off when Judas cut himself off from Christ.


13:30 Judas took the piece of bread and went out immediately. (Now it was night.)


When Judas left the presence of Jesus it was forever. The night had fallen on his experience. Never again would he enter Christ's presence. For all eternity he would face the blackness and darkness of hell. This is in fact the experience of all who reject Jesus Christ as Saviour, or who go back from Him.


A New Commandment


13:31-32 When Judas had gone out, Jesus said, "Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and he will glorify him right away.


Once Judas had gone, Jesus affirmed that there was no way back for Him either. The time had come for Christ and his father to be glorified through his death and resurrection to eternal life.


13:33 Children, I am still with you for a little while. You will look for me, and just as I said to the Jewish religious leaders, 'Where I am going you cannot come,' now I tell you the same.


The time for this was near. In fact, by the following evening Christ's body would be in the tomb. Once Christ had told the Jews that because of their unbelief they would not be able to follow him to heaven. Now for a different reason, Christ tells his disciples that, for the time being, they will not be able to enter heaven either. It was only when his death on the cross for their sins and his rising again from the dead was accomplished that they could be saved and enter into heaven as new creations in Christ.


13:34 "I give you a new commandment — to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.


Christ begins to tell them of a new commandment. God always told men "to love your neighbour as yourself". But the reason this is a now new commandment is because of a new relationship between men and women who trust in Christ. We are all born of the same Spirit, having God as the same Father and so we are to love each other as Christ loves us


13:35 Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples — if you have love for one another."


It is this that demonstrates to the world around us that we are born of God and belong to Christ. Not our preaching, or miracles, but our love for each other in Christ. That is a spiritual love. Only those who are born again can experience the kind of love I am talking about.


Simon Peter's Denial Predicted


13:36-38 Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, where are you going?" Jesus replied, "Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, but you will follow later." Peter said to him, "Lord, why can't I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you!" Jesus answered, "Will you lay down your life for me? I tell you the solemn truth, the rooster will not crow until you have denied me three times!


Simon, like the other disciples, still did not understand what Jesus meant. In his mind he could not picture or accept the coming crucifixion. He wants to know where Christ is going so that he can follow him. No matter how hard it would be, Peter swears he will stay close to Jesus even if it meant death.


But Peter didn't know his own heart. It was an empty boast. For Christ knew that he would deny Him three times before sundown. Yet the result of this failure was very different in Peter's life to that in Judas' life. So what was the difference between Peter and Judas? The difference was this, the one was a deliberate act of rejection, the other a sin committed in weakness. Christ restored Peter, his weak and fallen disciple. But there could be no restoration for one who had deliberately turned against his Lord.


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