Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
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
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
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
the devil having now--or, "already."
put into the heart of Judas . . . to betray him--referring
to the agreement he had already made with the chief
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 rest.
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
7. Jesus answered and said . . . What I do thou knowest not now--that
is, Such condescension does need explanation; it is fitted to
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
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
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 more.
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
--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 whole sense.
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 servants'.
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 to another.
16, 17. The servant is not greater than his lord, &c.--an
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
being on no supposition applicable to Judas.
I know whom I have chosen--in the higher sense.
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"
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
In the Psalm the immediate reference is to Ahithophel's treachery
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,
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
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
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
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"
(2) "They began to inquire among themselves which of them it was that
should do this thing"
(3) "They began to say unto Him one by one, Is it I, and another, Is it
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"
(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"
or possibly by little more than a sign; for from
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 Jesus' bosom.
saith--in a whisper, "Lord, who is it?"
26. Jesus answered--also inaudibly, the answer being communicated
to Peter perhaps from behind.
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
"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"
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
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
30. He then, having received the sop, went immediately out--severing
himself for ever from that holy society with which he never had any
and it was night--but far blacker night in the soul of Judas than in
the sky over his head.
DISCOURSE AFTER THE
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
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
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
is appropriated by the beloved disciple himself, who no fewer than
seven times employs it in his first Epistle.
Ye shall seek me--feel the want of Me.
as I said to the Jews--
(Joh 7:34; 8:21).
But oh in what a different sense!
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"
and see on
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
36-38. Peter said--seeing plainly in these directions how to behave
themselves, that He was indeed going from them.
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"
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
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
Verily . . . The cock, &c.--See on