Matthew Henry Complete CommentaryJohn 13
on the Whole Bible
Our Saviour having finished his public discourses, in which he "endured
the contradiction of sinners," now applies himself to a private
conversation with his friends, in which he designed the consolation of
saints. Henceforward we have an account of what passed between him and
his disciples, who were to be entrusted with the affairs of his
household, when he was gone into a far country; the necessary
instructions and comforts he furnished them with. His hour being at
hand, he applies himself to set his house in order. In this chapter
I. He washes his disciples' feet,
II. He foretels who should betray him,
III. He instructs them in the great doctrine of his own death, and the
great duty of brotherly love,
IV. He foretels Peter's denying him,
|Christ Washing the Disciples' Feet; Necessity of Obedience.
1 Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that
his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto
the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he
loved them unto the end.
2 And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the
heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him;
3 Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his
hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God;
4 He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took
a towel, and girded himself.
5 After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash
the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith
he was girded.
6 Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him,
Lord, dost thou wash my feet?
7 Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not
now; but thou shalt know hereafter.
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.
10 Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to
wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but
11 For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are
not all clean.
12 So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his
garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what
I have done to you?
13 Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.
14 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye
also ought to wash one another's feet.
15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have
done to you.
16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater
than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent
17 If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.
It has generally been taken for granted by commentators that Christ's
washing his disciples' feet, and the discourse that followed it, were
the same night in which he was betrayed, and at the same sitting
wherein he ate the passover and instituted the Lord's supper; but
whether before the solemnity began, or after it was all over, or
between the eating of the passover and the institution of the Lord's
supper, they are not agreed. This evangelist, making it his business to
gather up those passages which the others had omitted, industriously
omits those which the others had recorded, which occasions some
difficulty in putting them together. If it was then, we suppose that
Judas went out
to get his men ready that were to apprehend the Lord Jesus in the
garden. But Dr. Lightfoot is clearly of opinion that this was done and
said, even all that is recorded to the end of
not at the passover supper, for it is here said
to be before the feast of the passover, but at the supper in
Bethany, two days before the passover (of which we read
at which Mary the second time anointed Christ's head with the remainder
of her box of ointment. Or, it might be at some other supper the night
before the passover, not as that was in the house of Simon the leper,
but in his own lodgings, where he had none but his disciples about him,
and could be more free with them.
we have the story of Christ's washing his disciples' feet; it was an
action of a singular nature; no miracle, unless we call it a miracle of
humility. Mary had just anointed his head; now, lest his acceptance of
this should look like taking state, he presently balances it with this
act of abasement. But why would Christ do this? If the disciples' feet
needed washing, they could wash them themselves; a wise man will not do
a thing that looks odd and unusual, but for very good causes and
considerations. We are sure that it was not in a humour or a frolic
that this was done; no, the transaction was very solemn, and carried on
with a great deal of seriousness; and four reasons are here intimated
why Christ did this:--
1. That he might testify his love to his disciples,
2. That he might give an instance of his own voluntary humility and
3. That he might signify to them spiritual washing, which is referred
to in his discourse with Peter,
4. That he might set them an example,
And the opening of these four reasons will take in the exposition of
the whole story.
I. Christ washed his disciples' feet that he might give a proof of that
great love wherewith he loved them; loved them to the end,
1. It is here laid down as an undoubted truth that our Lord Jesus,
having loved his own that were in the world, loved them to the
(1.) This is true of the disciples that were his immediate followers,
in particular the twelve. These were his own in the world, his family,
his school, his bosom-friends. Children he had none to call his own,
but he adopted them, and took them as his own. He had those that were
his own in the other world, but he left them for a time, to look after
his own in this world. These he loved, he called them into fellowship
with himself, conversed familiarly with them, was always tender of
them, and of their comfort and reputation. He allowed them to be very
free with him, and bore with their infirmities. He loved them to the
end, continued his love to them as long as he lived, and after his
resurrection; he never took away his loving kindness. Though there were
some persons of quality that espoused his cause, he did not lay aside
his old friends, to make room for new ones, but still stuck to his poor
fishermen. They were weak and defective in knowledge and grace, dull
and forgetful; and yet, though he reproved them often, he never ceased
to love them and take care of them.
(2.) It is true of all believers, for these twelve patriarchs were the
representatives of all the tribes of God's spiritual Israel. Note,
[1.] Our Lord Jesus has a people in the world that are his own,--his
own, for they were given him by the Father, he has purchased them, and
paid dearly for them, and he has set them apart for himself,--his own,
for they have devoted themselves to him as a peculiar people. His
own; where his own were spoken of that received him
not, it is tous idious--his own persons, as a
man's wife and children are his own, to whom he stands in a constant
[2.] Christ has a cordial love for his own that are in the world. He
did love them with a love of goodwill when he gave himself for
their redemption. He does love them with a love of complacency
when he admits them into communion with himself. Though they are in
this world, a world of darkness and distance, of sin and
corruption, yet he loves them. He was now going to his own in heaven,
the spirits of just men made perfect there; but he seems most concerned
for his own on earth, because they most needed his care: the sickly
child is most indulged.
[3.] Those whom Christ loves he loves to the end; he is constant
in his love to his people; he rests in his love. He loves with
an everlasting love
from everlasting in the counsels of it to everlasting in the
consequences of it. Nothing can separate a believer from the love of
Christ; he loves his own, eis telos--unto
perfection, for he will perfect what concerns them, will bring them
to that world where love is perfect.
2. Christ manifested his love to them by washing their feet, as that
showed her love to Christ by washing his feet and wiping them. Thus he
would show that as his love to them was constant so it was
condescending,-- that in prosecution of the designs of it he was
willing to humble himself,--and that the glories of his exalted state,
which he was now entering upon, should be no obstruction at all to the
favour he bore to his chosen; and thus he would confirm the promise he
had made to all the saints that he would make them sit down to meat,
and would come forth and serve them
would put honour upon them as great and surprising as for a lord to
serve his servants. The disciples had just now betrayed the weakness
of their love to him, in grudging the ointment that was poured upon his
yet he presently gives this proof of his love to them. Our infirmities
are foils to Christ's kindnesses, and set them off.
3. He chose this time to do it, a little before his last passover, for
(1.) Because now he knew that his hour was come, which he had
long expected, when he should depart out of this world to the
Father. Observe here,
[1.] The change that was to pass over our Lord Jesus; he must
depart. This began at his death, but was completed at his
ascension. As Christ himself, so all believers, by virtue of their
union with him, when they depart out of the world, are absent from the
body, go to the Father, are present with the Lord. It is a
departure out of the world, this unkind, injurious world, this
faithless, treacherous world--this world of labour, toil, and
temptation--this vale of tears; and it is a going to the Father,
to the vision of the Father of spirits, and the fruition of him as
[2.] The time of this change: His hour was come. It is sometimes
called his enemies' hour
the hour of their triumph; sometimes his hour, the hour of his triumph,
the hour he had had in his eye all along. The time of his sufferings
was fixed to an hour, and the continuance of them but for an hour.
[3.] His foresight of it: He knew that his hour was come; he
knew from the beginning that it would come, and when, but now he knew
that it was come. We know not when our hour will come, and
therefore what we have to do in habitual preparation for it ought never
to be undone; but, when we know by the harbingers that our hour is
come, we must vigorously apply ourselves to an actual preparation, as
our Master did,
2 Peter 3:14.
Now it was in the immediate foresight of his departure that he
washed his disciples' feet; that, as his own head was anointed
just now against the day of his burial, so their feet might be
washed against the day of their consecration by the descent of the Holy
Ghost fifty days after, as the priests were washed,
When we see our day approaching, we should do what good we can to those
we leave behind.
(2.) Because the devil had now put it into the heart of Judas to
These words in a parenthesis may be considered,
[1.] As tracing Judas's treason to its origin; it was a sin of such a
nature that it evidently bore the devil's image and superscription.
What way of access the devil has to men's hearts, and by what methods
he darts in his suggestions, and mingles them undiscerned with those
thoughts which are the natives of the heart, we cannot tell. But there
are some sins in their own nature so exceedingly sinful, and to which
there is so little temptation from the world and the flesh, that it is
plain Satan lays the egg of them in a heart disposed to be the nest to
hatch them in. For Judas to betray such a master, to betray him so
cheaply and upon no provocation, was such downright enmity to God as
could not be forged but by Satan himself, who thereby thought to ruin
the Redeemer's kingdom, but did in fact ruin his own.
[2.] As intimating a reason why Christ now washed his disciples' feet.
First, Judas being now resolved to betray him, the time of his
departure could not be far off; if this matter be determined, it is
easy to infer with St. Paul, I am now ready to be offered. Note,
The more malicious we perceive our enemies to be against us, the more
industrious we should be to prepare for the worst that may come.
Secondly, Judas being now got into the snare, and the devil
aiming at Peter and the rest of them
Christ would fortify his own against him. If the wolf has seized one of
the flock, it is time for the shepherd to look well to the rest.
Antidotes must be stirring, when the infection is begun. Dr. Lightfoot
observes that the disciples had learned of Judas to murmur at the
anointing of Christ; compare
Now, lest those that had learned that of him should learn worse, he
fortifies them by a lesson of humility against his most dangerous
assaults. Thirdly, Judas, who was now plotting to betray him,
was one of the twelve. Now Christ would hereby show that he did
not design to cast them all off for the faults of one. Though one of
their college had a devil, and was a traitor, yet they should fare
never the worse for that. Christ loves his church though there are
hypocrites in it, and had still a kindness for his disciples though
there was a Judas among them and he knew it.
II. Christ washed his disciples' feet that he might give an instance of
his own wonderful humility, and show how lowly and condescending he
was, and let all the world know how low he could stoop in love to his
own. This is intimated,
Jesus knowing, and now actually considering, and perhaps
discoursing of, his honours as Mediator, and telling his friends that
the Father had given all things into his hand, rises from
supper, and, to the great surprise of the company, who wondered
what he was going to do, washed his disciples' feet.
1. Here is the rightful advancement of the Lord Jesus. Glorious things
are here said of Christ as Mediator.
(1.) The Father had given all things into his hands; had given
him a propriety in all, and a power over all, as possessor of heaven
and earth, in pursuance of the great designs of his undertaking; see
The accommodation and arbitration of all matters in variance between
God and man were committed into his hands as the great umpire and
referee; and the administration of the kingdom of God among men, in all
the branches of it, was committed to him; so that all acts, both of
government and judgment, were to pass through his hands; he is heir
of all things.
(2.) He came from God. This implies that he was in the beginning
with God, and had a being and glory, not only before he was born into
this world, but before the world itself was born; and that when he came
into the world he came as God's ambassador, with a commission from him.
He came from God as the son of God, and the sent of God. The
Old-Testament prophets were raised up and employed for God, but Christ
came directly from him.
(3.) He went to God, to be glorified with him with the same
glory which he had with God from eternity. That which comes from God
shall go to God; those that are born from heaven are bound for heaven.
As Christ came from God to be an agent for him on earth, so he went to
God to be an agent for us in heaven; and it is a comfort to us to think
how welcome he was there: he was brought near to the Ancient of
And it was said to him, Sit thou at my right hand,
(4.) He knew all this; was not like a prince in the cradle, that
knows nothing of the honour he is born to, or like Moses, who wist
not that his face shone; no, he had a full view of all the honours
of his exalted state, and yet stooped thus low. But how does this come
[1.] As an inducement to him now quickly to leave what lessons and
legacies he had to leave to his disciples, because his hour was now
come when he must take his leave of them, and be exalted above that
familiar converse which he now had with them,
[2.] It may come in as that which supported him under his sufferings,
and carried him cheerfully through this sharp encounter. Judas was now
betraying him, and he knew it, and knew what would be the consequence
of it; yet, knowing also that he came from God and went to God,
he did not draw back, but went on cheerfully.
[3.] It seems to come in as a foil to his condescension, to make it the
more admirable. The reasons of divine grace are sometimes represented
in scripture as strange and surprising (as
Hos. ii. 13, 14);
so here, that is given as an inducement to Christ to stoop which should
rather have been a reason for his taking state; for God's thoughts are
not as ours. Compare with this those passages which preface the most
signal instances of condescending grace with the displays of divine
Isa. lvii. 15; lxvi. 1, 2.
2. Here is the voluntary abasement of our Lord Jesus notwithstanding
this. Jesus knowing his own glory as God, and his own authority
and power as Mediator, one would think it should follow, He rises
from supper, lays aside his ordinary garments, calls for robes,
bids them keep their distance, and do him homage; but no, quite the
contrary, when he considered this he gave the greatest instance of
humility. Note, A well-grounded assurance of heaven and happiness,
instead of puffing a man up with pride, will make and keep him very
humble. Those that would be found conformable to Christ, and partakers
of his Spirit, must study to keep their minds low in the midst of the
greatest advancements. Now that which Christ humbled himself to was to
wash his disciples' feet.
(1.) The action itself was mean and servile, and that which servants of
the lowest rank were employed in. Let thine handmaid (saith
Abigail) be a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my
lord; let me be in the meanest employment,
1 Samuel 25:41.
If he had washed their hands or faces, it had been great condescension
(Elisha poured water on the hands of Elijah,
2 Kings 3:11);
but for Christ to stoop to such a piece of drudgery as this may well
excite our admiration. Thus he would teach us to think nothing below us
wherein we may be serviceable to God's glory and the good of our
(2.) The condescension was so much the greater that he did this for his
own disciples, who in themselves were of a low and despicable
condition, not curious about their bodies; their feet, it is likely,
were seldom washed, and therefore very dirty. In relation to him, they
were his scholars, his servants, and such as should have washed his
feet, whose dependence was upon him, and their expectations from him.
Many of great spirits otherwise will do a mean thing to curry favour
with their superiors; they rise by stooping, and climb by cringing; but
for Christ to do this to his disciples could be no act of policy
nor complaisance, but pure humility.
(3.) He rose from supper to do it. Though we translate it
supper being ended, it might be better read, there being a
supper made, or he being at supper, for he sat down again
and we find him dipping a sop
so that he did it in the midst of his meal, and thereby taught us,
[1.] Not to reckon it a disturbance, nor any just cause of uneasiness,
to be called from our meal to do God or our brother any real service,
esteeming the discharge of our duty more than our necessary
Christ would not leave his preaching to oblige his nearest relations
but would leave his supper to show his love to his disciples.
[2.] Not to be over nice about our meat. It would have turned many a
squeamish stomach to wash dirty feet at supper-time; but Christ did it,
not that we might learn to be rude and slovenly (cleanliness and
godliness will do well together), but to teach us not to be curious,
not to indulge, but mortify, the delicacy of the appetite, giving good
manners their due place, and no more.
(4.) He put himself into the garb of a servant, to do it: he laid
aside his loose and upper garments, that he might apply
himself to this service the more expeditely. We must address ourselves
to duty as those that are resolved not to take state, but to take
pains; we must divest ourselves of every thing that would either feed
our pride or hang in our way and hinder us in what we have to do, must
gird up the loins of our mind, as those that in earnest buckle
(5.) He did it with all the humble ceremony that could be, went through
all the parts of the service distinctly, and passed by none of them; he
did it as if he had been used thus to serve; did it himself alone, and
had none to minister to him in it. He girded himself with the
towel, as servants throw a napkin on their arm, or put an apron
before them; he poured water into the basin out of the
water-pots that stood by
and then washed their feet; and, to complete the service,
wiped them. Some think that he did not wash the feet of them
all, but only four or five of them, that being thought sufficient to
answer the end; but I see nothing to countenance this conjecture, for
in other places where he did make a difference it is taken notice of;
and his washing the feet of them all, without exception, teaches
us a catholic and extensive charity to all Christ's disciples, even the
(6.) Nothing appears to the contrary but that he washed the feet of
Judas among the rest, for he was present,
It is the character of a widow indeed that she had washed the
(1 Timothy 5:10),
and there is some comfort in this; but the blessed Jesus here washed
the feet of a sinner, the worst of sinners, the worst to him, who was
at this time contriving to betray him.
Many interpreters consider Christ's washing his disciples' feet as a
representation of his whole undertaking. He knew that he was
equal with God, and all things were his; and yet he rose from his table
in glory, laid aside his robes of light, girded himself with our
nature, took upon him the form of a servant, came not to be
ministered to, but to minister, poured out his blood, poured out
his soul unto death, and thereby prepared a laver to wash us from our
III. Christ washed his disciples' feet that he might signify to them
spiritual washing, and the cleansing of the soul from the pollutions of
sin. This is plainly intimated in his discourse with Peter upon it,
in which we may observe,
1. The surprise Peter was in when he saw his Master go about this mean
Then cometh he to Simon Peter, with his towel and basin, and
bids him put out his feet to be washed. Chrysostom conjectures that he
first washed the feet of Judas, who readily admitted the honour, and
was pleased to see his Master so disparage himself. It is most probable
that when he went about this service (which is all that is meant
by his beginning to wash,
he took Peter first, and that the rest would not have suffered it, if
they had not first heard it explained in what passed between Christ and
Peter. Whether Christ came first to Peter or no, when he did come to
him, Peter was startled at the proposal: Lord (saith he) dost
thou wash my feet? Here is an emphasis to be laid upon the persons,
thou and me; and the placing of the words is observable,
sy mou--what, thou mine? Tu mihi lavas pedes? Quid est
tu? Quid est mihi? Cogitanda sunt potius quam dicenda--Dost thou wash
my feet? What is it thou? What to me? These things are rather to be
contemplated than uttered.--Aug. in loc. What thou, our
Lord and Master, whom we know and believe to be the Son of God, and
Saviour and ruler of the world, do this for me, a worthless worm
of the earth, a sinful man, O Lord? Shall those hands wash my
feet which with a touch have cleansed lepers, given sight to the blind,
and raised the dead? So Theophylact, and from him Dr. Taylor. Very
willingly would Peter have taken the basin and towel, and washed his
Master's feet, and been proud of the honour,
"This had been natural and regular; for my Master to wash my
feet is such a solecism as never was; such a paradox as I cannot
understand. Is this the manner of men?" Note, Christ's
condescensions, especially his condescensions to us, wherein we
find ourselves taken notice of by his grace, are justly the matter of
Who am I, Lord God? And what is my father's house?
2. The immediate satisfaction Christ gave to this question of surprise.
This was at least sufficient to silence his objections
What I do, thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter.
Here are two reasons why Peter must submit to what Christ was
(1.) Because he was at present in the dark concerning it, and ought not
to oppose what he did not understand, but acquiesce in the will and
wisdom of one who could give a good reason for all he said and did.
Christ would teach Peter an implicit obedience: "What I do thou
knowest not now, and therefore art no competent judge of it, but
must believe it is well done because I do it." Note, Consciousness to
ourselves of the darkness we labour under, and our inability to judge
of what God does, should make us sparing and modest in our censures of
his proceedings; see
(2.) Because there was something considerable in it, of which he should
hereafter know the meaning: "Thou shalt know hereafter what need
thou hast of being washed, when thou shalt be guilty of the heinous sin
of denying me;" so some. "Thou shalt know, when, in the discharge of
the office of an apostle, thou wilt be employed in washing off from
those under thy charge the sins and defilements of their earthly
affections;" so Dr. Hammond. Note,
[1.] Our Lord Jesus does many things the meaning of which even his own
disciples do not for the present know, but they shall know
afterwards. What he did when he became man for us and what he did
when he became a worm and no man for us, what he did when he lived our
life and what he did when he laid it down, could not be understood till
afterwards, and then it appeared that it behoved him,
Subsequent providences explain preceding ones; and we see afterwards
what was the kind tendency of events that seemed most cross; and the
way which we thought was about proved the right way.
[2.] Christ's washing his disciples' feet had a significancy in it,
which they themselves did not understand till afterwards, when Christ
explained it to be a specimen of the laver of regeneration, and till
the Spirit was poured out upon them from on high. We must let Christ
take his own way, both in ordinances and providences, and we shall find
in the issue it was the best way.
3. Peter's peremptory refusal, notwithstanding this, to let Christ wash
Thou shalt by no means wash my feet; no, never. So it is in the
original. It is the language of a fixed resolution. Now,
(1.) Here was a show of humility and modesty. Peter herein seemed to
have, and no doubt he really had, a great respect for his Master, as he
Thus many are beguiled of their reward in a voluntary humility
such a self-denial as Christ neither appoints nor accepts; for,
(2.) Under this show of humility there was a real contradiction to the
will of the Lord Jesus: "I will wash thy feet," saith Christ;
"But thou never shalt," saith Peter, "it is not a fitting thing;" so
making himself wiser than Christ. It is not humility, but infidelity,
to put away the offers of the gospel, as if too rich to be made to us
or too good news to be true.
4. Christ's insisting upon his offer, and a good reason given to Peter
why he should accept it: If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with
me. This may be taken,
(1.) As a severe caution against disobedience: "If I wash thee
not, if thou continue refractory, and wilt not comply with thy
Master's will in so small a matter, thou shalt not be owned as one of
my disciples, but be justly discarded and cashiered for not observing
orders." Thus several of the ancients understand it; if Peter will make
himself wiser than his Master, and dispute the commands he ought to
obey, he does in effect renounce his allegiance, and say, as they did,
What portion have we in David, in the Son of David? And so shall
his doom be, he shall have no part in him. Let him use no more manners
than will do him good, for to obey is better than sacrifice,
1 Samuel 15:22.
(2.) As a declaration of the necessity of spiritual washing; and so I
think it is to be understood: "If I wash not thy soul from the
pollution of sin, thou hast no part with me, no interest in me,
no communion with me, no benefit by me." Note, All those, and those
only, that are spiritually washed by Christ, have a part in Christ.
[1.] To have a part in Christ, or with Christ, has all the happiness of
a Christian bound up in it, to be partakers of Christ
to share in those inestimable privileges which result from a union with
him and relation to him. It is that good part the having of
which is the one thing needful.
[2.] It is necessary to our having a part in Christ that he wash us.
All those whom Christ owns and saves he justifies and sanctifies, and
both are included in his washing them. We cannot partake of his glory
if we partake not of his merit and righteousness, and of his Spirit and
5. Peter's more than submission, his earnest request, to be washed by
If this be the meaning of it, Lord, wash not my feet only, but also
my hands and my head. How soon is Peter's mind changed! When the
mistake of his understanding was rectified, the corrupt resolution of
his will was soon altered. Let us therefore not be peremptory in any
resolve (except in our resolve to follow Christ), because we may soon
see cause to retract it, but cautious in taking up a purpose we will be
tenacious of. Observe,
(1.) How ready Peter is to recede from what he had said: "Lord, what a
fool was I to speak such a hasty word!" Now that the washing of him
appeared to be an act of Christ's authority and grace he admits it; but
disliked when it seemed only an act of humiliation. Note,
[1.] Good men, when they see their error, will not be loth to recant
[2.] Sooner or later, Christ will bring all to be of his mind.
(2.) How importunate he is for the purifying grace of the Lord Jesus,
and the universal influence of it, even upon his hands and head. Note,
A divorce from Christ, and an exclusion from having a part in him, is
the most formidable evil in the eyes of all that are enlightened, for
the fear of which they will be persuaded to any thing. And for fear of
this we should be earnest with God in prayer, that he will wash us,
will justify and sanctify us. "Lord, that I may not be cut off from
thee, make me fit for thee, by the washing of regeneration. Lord,
wash not my feet only from the gross pollutions that cleave to
them, but also my hands and my head from the spots which they
have contracted, and the undiscerned filth which proceeds by
perspiration from the body itself." Note, Those who truly desire to be
sanctified desire to be sanctified throughout, and to have the whole
man, with all its parts and powers, purified,
1 Thessalonians 5:23.
6. Christ's further explication of this sign, as it represented
(1.) With reference to his disciples that were faithful to him
He that is washed all over in the bath (as was frequently
practised in those countries), when he returns to his house, needeth
not save to wash his feet, his hands and head having been washed,
and he having only dirtied his feet in walking home. Peter had gone
from one extreme to the other. At first he would not let Christ wash
his feet; and now he overlooks what Christ had done for him in his
baptism, and what was signified thereby, and cries out to have his
hands and head washed. Now Christ directs him into the meaning; he must
have his feet washed, but not his hands and head.
[1.] See here what is the comfort and privilege of such as are in a
justified state; they are washed by Christ, and are clean every
whit, that is, they are graciously accepted of God, as if they were
so; and, though they offend, yet they need not, upon their repentance,
be again put into a justified state, for then should they often be
baptized. The evidence of a justified state may be clouded, and the
comfort of it suspended, when yet the charter of it is not vacated or
taken away. Though we have occasion to repent daily, God's gifts and
callings are without repentance. The heart may be swept and garnished,
and yet still remain the devil's palace; but, if it be washed, it
belongs to Christ, and he will not lose it.
[2.] See what ought to be the daily care of those who through grace are
in a justified state, and that is to wash their feet; to cleanse
themselves from the guilt they contract daily through infirmity and
inadvertence, by the renewed exercise of repentance, with a believing
application of the virtue of Christ's blood. We must also wash our feet
by constant watchfulness against every thing that is defiling, for we
must cleanse our way, and cleanse our feet by taking heed
The priests, when they were consecrated, were washed with water; and,
though they did not need afterwards to be so washed all over, yet,
whenever they went in to minister, they must wash their feet and hands
at the laver, on pain of death,
The provision made for our cleansing should not make us presumptuous,
but the more cautious. I have washed my feet, how shall I defile
them? From yesterday's pardon, we should fetch an argument against
this day's temptation.
(2.) With reflection upon Judas: And you are clean, but not all,
He pronounces his disciples clean, clean through the word he had
spoken to them,
He washed them himself, and then said, You are clean; but he
excepts Judas: not all; they were all baptized, even Judas, yet
not all clean; many have the sign that have not the thing signified.
[1.] Even among those who are called disciples of Christ, and profess
relation to him, there are some who are not clean,
[2.] The Lord knows those that are his, and those that are not,
2 Timothy 2:19.
The eye of Christ can separate between the precious and the vile, the
clean and the unclean.
[3.] When those that have called themselves disciples afterwards prove
traitors, their apostasy at last is a certain evidence of their
hypocrisy all along.
[4.] Christ sees it necessary to let his disciples know that they are
not all clean; that we may all be jealous over ourselves (Is it I?
Lord, is it I that am among the clean, yet not clean?) and that,
when hypocrites are discovered, it may be no surprise nor stumbling to
IV. Christ washed his disciples' feet to set before us an example. This
explication he gave of what he had done, when he had done it,
1. With what solemnity he gave an account of the meaning of what he had
After he had washed their feet, he said, Know you what I have
(1.) He adjourned the explication till he had finished the transaction,
[1.] To try their submission and implicit obedience. What he did they
should not know till afterwards, that they might learn to acquiesce in
his will when they could not give a reason for it.
[2.] Because it was proper to finish the riddle before he unriddled it.
Thus, as to his whole undertaking, when his sufferings were finished,
when he had resumed the garments of his exalted state and was ready to
sit down again, then he opened the understandings of his
disciples, and poured out his Spirit,
(2.) Before he explained it, he asked them if they could construe it:
Know you what I have done to you? He put this question to them,
not only to make them sensible of their ignorance, and the need they
had to be instructed (as
Knowest thou not what these be? and I said, No, my Lord), but to
raise their desires and expectations of instruction: "I would have
you know, and, if you will give attention, I will tell you." Note,
It is the will of Christ that sacramental signs should be explained,
and that his people should be acquainted with the meaning of them;
otherwise, though ever so significant, to those who know not the thing
signified they are insignificant. Hence they are directed to ask,
What mean you by this service?
2. Upon what he grounds that which he had to say
"You call me Master and Lord, you give me those titles, in
speaking of me, in speaking to me, and you say well, for so I
am; you are in the relation of scholars to me, and I do the part of
a master to you." Note,
(1.) Jesus Christ is our Master and Lord; he that is our Redeemer and
Saviour is, in order to that, our Lord and Master. He is our Master,
didaskalos--our teacher and instructor in all necessary
truths and rules, as a prophet revealing to us the will of God. He is
our Lord, kyrios--our ruler and owner, that has authority
over us and propriety in us.
(2.) It becomes the disciples of Christ to call him Master and Lord,
not in compliment, but in reality; not by constraint, but with delight.
Devout Mr. Herbert, when he mentioned the name of Christ, used to add,
my Master; and thus expresses himself concerning it in one of his
| How sweetly doth my Master sound, my Master!
As ambergris leaves a rich scent unto the taster,
So do these words a sweet content, an oriental fragrancy, my Master.
(3.) Our calling Christ Master and Lord is an obligation upon us to
receive and observe the instruction he gives us. Christ would thus
pre-engage their obedience to a command that was displeasing to flesh
and blood. If Christ be our Master and Lord, be so by our own consent,
and we have often called him so, we are bound in honour and honesty to
be observant of him.
3. The lesson which he hereby taught: You also ought to wash one
(1.) Some have understood this literally, and have thought these words
amount to the institution of a standing ordinance in the church; that
Christians should, in a solemn religious manner, wash one another's
feet, in token of their condescending love to one another. St.
Ambrose took it so, and practised it in the church of Milan. St. Austin
saith that those Christians who did not do it with their hands, yet (he
hoped) did it with their hearts in humility; but he saith, It is much
better to do it with the hands also, when there is occasion, as
1 Timothy 5:10.
What Christ has done Christians should not disdain to do. Calvin saith
that the pope, in the annual observance of this ceremony on Thursday in
the passion week, is rather Christ's ape than his follower, for the
duty enjoined, in conformity to Christ, was mutual: Wash one
another's feet. And Jansenius saith, It is done, Frigidè
et dissimiliter--Frigidly, and unlike the primitive model.
(2.) But doubtless it is to be understood figuratively; it is an
instructive sign, but not sacramental, as the eucharist. This was a
parable to the eye; and three things our Master hereby designed to
[1.] A humble condescension. We must learn of our Master to be lowly
and walk with all lowliness; we must think meanly of ourselves and
respectfully of our brethren, and deem nothing below us but sin; we
must say of that which seems mean, but has a tendency to the glory of
God and our brethren's good, as David
(2 Samuel 6:22),
If this be to be vile, I will be yet more vile. Christ had often
taught his disciples humility, and they had forgotten the lesson; but
now he teaches them in such a way as surely they could never forget.
[2.] A condescension to be serviceable. To wash one another's feet is
to stoop to the meanest offices of love, for the real good and benefit
one of another, as blessed Paul, who, though free from all, made
himself servant of all; and the blessed Jesus, who came not
to be ministered unto, but to minister. We must not grudge to take
care and pains, and to spend time, and to diminish ourselves for the
good of those to whom we are not under any particular obligations, even
of our inferiors, and such as are not in a capacity of making us any
requital. Washing the feet after travelling contributes both to the
decency of the person and to his ease, so that to wash one another's
feet is to consult both the credit and the comfort one of another, to
do what we can both to advance our brethren's reputation and to make
their minds easy. See
1 Corinthians 10:24,Heb+6:10.
The duty is mutual; we must both accept help from our brethren
and afford help to our brethren.
[3.] A serviceableness to the sanctification one of another: You
ought to wash one another's feet, from the pollutions of sin.
Austin takes it in this sense, and many others. We cannot satisfy for
one another's sins, this is peculiar to Christ, but we may help to
purify one another from sin. We must in the first place wash ourselves;
this charity must begin at home
but it must not end there; we must sorrow for the failings and follies
of our brethren, much more for their gross pollutions
(1 Corinthians 5:2),
must wash our brethren's polluted feet in tears. We must faithfully
reprove them, and do what we can to bring them to repentance
and we must admonish them, to prevent their falling into the mire; this
is washing their feet.
4. Here is the ratifying and enforcing of this command from the example
of what Christ had now done: If I your Lord and Master have done
it to you, you ought to do it to one another. He shows the
cogency of this argument in two things:--
(1.) I am your Master, and you are my disciples, and therefore
you ought to learn of me
for in this, as in other things, I have given you an example,
that you should do to others as I have done to you.
[1.] What a good teacher Christ is. He teaches by example as well as
doctrine, and for this end came into this world, and dwelt among us,
that he might set us a copy of all those graces and duties which his
holy religion teaches; and it is a copy without one false stroke.
Hereby he made his own laws more intelligible and honourable. Christ is
a commander like Gideon, who said to his soldiers, Look on me, and
like Abimelech, who said, What you have seen me do, make haste and
do as I have done
and like Cæsar, who called his soldiers, not
milites--soldiers, but, commilitones--fellow-soldiers,
and whose usual word was, not Ite illue, but Venite huc;
not Go, but Come.
[2.] What good scholars we must be. We must do as he hath done;
for therefore he gave us a copy, that we should write after it, that we
might be as he was in this world
(1 John 4:17),
and walk as he walked,
1 John 2:6.
Christ's example here in is to be followed by ministers in particular,
in whom the graces of humility and holy love should especially appear,
and by the exercise thereof they effectually serve the interests of
their Master and the ends of their ministry. When Christ sent his
apostles abroad as his agents, it was with this charge, that they
should not take state upon them, nor carry things with a high hand, but
become all things to all men,
1 Corinthians 9:22.
What I have done to your dirty feet that do you to the polluted souls
of sinners; wash them. Some who suppose this to have been done
at the passover supper think it intimates a rule in admitting
communicants to the Lord's-supper, to see that they be first washed and
cleansed by reformation and a blameless conversation, and then take
them in to compass God's altar. But all Christians likewise are
here taught to condescend to each other in love, and to do it as Christ
did it, unasked, unpaid; we must not be mercenary in the services of
love, nor do them with reluctancy.
(2.) I am your Master, and you are my disciples, and therefore
you cannot think it below you to do that, how mean soever it may seem,
which you have seen me do, for
the servant is not greater than his Lord, neither he that is
sent, though sent with all the pomp and power of an ambassador,
greater than he that sent him. Christ had urged this
as a reason why they should not think it strange if they suffered as he
did; here he urges it as a reason why they should not think it much to
humble themselves as he did. What he did not think a disparagement to
him, they must not think a disparagement to them. Perhaps the
disciples were inwardly disgusted at this precept of washing one
another's feet, as inconsistent with the dignity they expected shortly
to be preferred to. To obviate such thoughts, Christ reminds them of
their place as his servants; they were not better men than their
Master, and what was consistent with his dignity was much more
consistent with theirs. If he was humble and condescending, it ill
became them to be proud and assuming. Note,
[1.] We must take good heed to ourselves, lest Christ's gracious
condescensions to us, and advancements of us, through the corruption of
nature occasion us to entertain high thoughts of ourselves or low
thoughts of him. We need to be put in mind of this, that we are not
greater than our Lord.
[2.] Whatever our Master was pleased to condescend to in favour to us,
we should much more condescend to in conformity to him. Christ, by
humbling himself, has dignified humility, and put an honour upon it,
and obliged his followers to think nothing below them but sin. We
commonly say to those who disdain to do such or such a thing, As good
as you have done it, and been never the worse thought of; and true
indeed it is, if our Master has done it. When we see our Master
serving, we cannot but see how ill it becomes us to be domineering.
|The Treachery of Judas Foretold; The Anxiety of the Disciples.
18 I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that
the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath
lifted up his heel against me.
19 Now I tell you before it come, 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
21 When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and
testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of
you shall betray me.
22 Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom
23 Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples,
whom Jesus loved.
24 Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask
who it should be of whom he spake.
25 He then lying on Jesus' breast saith unto him, Lord, who is
26 Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I
have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to
Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.
27 And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus
unto him, That thou doest, do quickly.
28 Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this
29 For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that
Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of
against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor.
30 He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it
We have here the discovery of Judas's plot to betray his Master. Christ
knew it from the beginning; but now first he discovered it to his
disciples, who did not expect Christ should be betrayed, though he had
often told them so, much less did they suspect that one of them should
do it. Now here,
I. Christ gives them a general intimation of it
I speak not of you all, I cannot expect you will all do these
things, for I know whom I have chosen, and whom I have passed
by; but the scripture will be fulfilled
He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me.
He does not yet speak out, either of the crime or the criminal, but
raises their expectations of a further discovery.
1. He intimates to them that they were not all right. He had said
You are clean, but not all. So here, I speak not of you
all. Note, What is said of the excellencies of Christ's disciples
cannot be said of all that are called so. The word of Christ is a
distinguishing word, which separates between cattle and cattle,
and will distinguish thousands into hell who flattered themselves with
hopes that they were going to heaven. I speak not of you all;
you my disciples and followers. Note, There is a mixture of bad with
good in the best societies, a Judas among the apostles; it will be so
till we come to the blessed society into which shall enter nothing
unclean or disguised.
2. That he himself knew who were right, and who were not: I know
whom I have chosen, who the few are that are chosen among the many
that are called with the common call. Note,
(1.) Those that are chosen, Christ himself had the choosing of them; he
nominated the persons he undertook for.
(2.) Those that are chosen are known to Christ, for he never forgets
any whom he has once had in his thoughts of love,
2 Timothy 2:19.
3. That in the treachery of him that proved false to him the scripture
was fulfilled, which takes off very much both the surprise and offence
of the thing. Christ took one into his family whom he foresaw to be a
traitor, and did not by effectual grace prevent his being so, that
the scripture might be fulfilled. Let it not therefore be a
stumbling-block to any; for, though it do not at all lessen Judas's
offence, it may lessen our offence at it. The scripture referred to is
David's complaint of the treachery of some of his enemies; the Jewish
expositors, and ours from them generally understand it of Ahithophel:
Grotius thinks it intimates that the death of Judas would be like that
of Ahithophel. But because that psalm speaks of David's sickness, of
which we read nothing at the time of Ahithophel's deserting him, it may
better be understood of some other friend of his, that proved false to
him. This our Saviour applies to Judas.
(1.) Judas, as an apostle, was admitted to the highest privilege: he
did eat bread with Christ. He was familiar with him, and
favoured by him, was one of his family, one of those with whom he was
intimately conversant. David saith of his treacherous friend, He did
eat of my bread; but Christ, being poor, had no bread he could
properly call his own. He saith, He did eat bread with me; such
as he had by the kindness of his friends, that ministered to him, his
disciples had their share of, Judas among the rest. Wherever he went,
Judas was welcome with him, did not dine among servants, but sat at
table with his Master, ate of the same dish, drank of the same cup, and
in all respects fared as he fared. He ate miraculous bread with him,
when the loaves were multiplied, ate the passover with him. Note, All
that eat bread with Christ are not his disciples indeed. See
1 Corinthians 10:3-5.
(2.) Judas, as an apostate, was guilty of the basest treachery: he
lifted up the heel against Christ.
[1.] He forsook him, turned his back upon him, went out from the
society of his disciples,
[2.] He despised him, shook off the dust of his feet against him, in
contempt of him and his gospel. Nay,
[3.] He became an enemy to him; spurned at him, as wrestlers do at
their adversaries, whom they would overthrow. Note, It is no new thing
for those that were Christ's seeming friends to prove his real enemies.
Those who pretended to magnify him magnify themselves against him, and
thereby prove themselves guilty, not only of the basest ingratitude,
but the basest treachery and perfidiousness.
II. He gives them a reason why he told them beforehand of the treachery
"Now I tell you before it come, before Judas has begun to put
his wicked plot in execution, that when it is come to pass you
may, instead of stumbling at it, be confirmed in your belief
that I am he, he that should come."
1. By his clear and certain foresight of things to come, of which in
this, as in other instances, he gave incontestable proof, he proved
himself to be the true God, before whom all things are naked and open.
Christ foretold that Judas would betray him when there was no ground to
suspect such a thing, and so proved himself the eternal Word, which is
a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. The
prophecies of the New Testament concerning the apostasy of the latter
times (which we have,
2 Thessalonians 2:1-17,1Ti+4:1-16,
and in the Apocalypse) being evidently accomplished is a proof that
those writings were divinely inspired, and confirms our faith in the
whole canon of scripture.
2. By this application of the types and prophecies of the Old Testament
to himself, he proved himself to be the true Messiah, to whom all
the prophets bore witness. Thus it was written, and thus it
behoved Christ to suffer, and he suffered just as it was written,
ch. viii. 28.
III. He gives a word of encouragement to his apostles, and all his
ministers whom he employs in his service
He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me. The purport of
these words is the same with what we have in other scriptures, but it
is not easy to make out their coherence here. Christ had told his
disciples that they must humble and abase themselves. "Now," saith he,
"though there may be those that will despise you for your
condescension, yet there will be those that will do you honour, and
shall be honoured for so doing." Those who know themselves dignified by
Christ's commission may be content to be vilified in the world's
opinion. Or, he intended to silence the scruples of those who, because
there was a traitor among the apostles, would be shy of receiving any
of them; for, if one of them was false to his Master, to whom would any
of them be true? Ex uno disce omnes--They are all alike. No, as
Christ will think never the worse of them for Judas's crime, so he will
stand by them, and own them, and will raise up such as shall receive
them. Those that had received Judas when he was a preacher, and perhaps
were converted and edified by his preaching, were never the worse, nor
should reflect upon it with any regret, though he afterwards proved a
traitor; for he was one whom Christ sent. We cannot know what men are,
much less what they will be, but those who appear to be sent of Christ
we must receive, till the contrary appear. Though some, by entertaining
strangers, have entertained robbers unawares, yet we must still be
hospitable, for thereby some have entertained angels. The abuses put
upon our charity, though ordered with ever so much discretion, will
neither justify our uncharitableness, nor lose us the reward of our
1. We are here encouraged to receive ministers as sent of Christ:
"He that receiveth whomsoever I send, though weak and poor, and
subject to like passions as others (for as the law, so the gospel,
makes men priests that have infirmity), yet if he deliver my
message, and be regularly called and appointed to do so, and as an
officer give himself to the word and prayer, he that entertains him
shall be owned as a friend of mine." Christ was now leaving the world,
but he would leave an order of men to be his agents, to deliver his
word, and those who receive this, in the light and love of it,
receive him. To believe the doctrine of Christ, and obey his
law, and accept the salvation offered upon the terms proposed; this is
receiving those whom Christ sends, and it is receiving Christ Jesus
the Lord himself.
2. We are here encouraged to receive Christ as sent of God: He
that thus receiveth me, that receiveth Christ in his
ministers, receiveth the Father also, for they come upon his errand
likewise, baptizing in the name of the Father, as well as of the Son.
Or, in general, He that receiveth me as his prince and Saviour
receiveth him that sent me as his portion and felicity. Christ
was sent of God, and in embracing his religion we embrace the only
IV. Christ more particularly notifies to them the plot which one of
their number was now hatching against him
When Jesus had thus said in general, to prepare them for a more
particular discovery, he was troubled in spirit, and showed it
by some gesture or sign, and he testified, he solemnly declared
it (cum animo testandi--with the solemnity of a witness on oath),
"One of you shall betray me; one of you my apostles and constant
followers." None indeed could be said to betray him but those in
whom he reposed a confidence, and who were the witnesses of his
retirements. This did not determine Judas to the sin by any fatal
necessity; for, though the event did follow according to the
prediction, yet not from the prediction. Christ is not the author of
sin; yet as to this heinous sin of Judas,
1. Christ foresaw it; for even that which is secret and future, and
hidden from the eyes of all living, naked and open before the eyes of
Christ. He knows what is in men better than they do themselves
(2 Kings 8:12),
and therefore sees what will be done by them. I knew that thou
wouldest deal very treacherously,
2. He foretold it, not only for the sake of the rest of the disciples,
but for the sake of Judas himself, that he might take warning, and
recover himself out of the snare of the devil. Traitors proceed not in
their plots when they find they are discovered; surely Judas, when he
finds that his Master knows his design, will retreat in time; if not,
it will aggravate his condemnation.
3. He spoke of it with a manifest concern; he was troubled in
spirit when he mentioned it. He had often spoken of his own
sufferings and death, without any such trouble of spirit as he here
manifested when he spoke of the ingratitude and treachery of Judas.
This touched him in a tender part. Note, The falls and miscarriages of
the disciples of Christ are a great trouble of spirit to their Master;
the sins of Christians are the grief of Christ. "What! One of you
betray me? You that have received from me such distinguishing
favours; you that I had reason to think would be firm to me, that have
professed such a respect for me; what iniquity have you found in me
that one of you should betray me?" This went to his heart, as the
undutifulness of children grieves those who have nourished and
brought them up,
Ps. xcv. 10; Isa. liii. 10.
V. The disciples quickly take the alarm. They knew their Master would
neither deceive them nor jest with them; and therefore looked one
upon another, with a manifest concern, doubting of whom he
1. By looking one upon another they evinced the trouble they were in
upon this notice given them; it struck such a horror upon them that
they knew not well which way to look, nor what to say. They saw their
Master troubled, and therefore they were troubled. This was at a feast
where they were cheerfully entertained; but hence we must be taught to
rejoice with trembling, and as though we rejoiced not. When David wept
for his son's rebellion, all his followers wept with him
(2 Samuel 15:30);
so Christ's disciples here. Note, That which grieves Christ is, and
should be, a grief to all that are his, particularly the scandalous
miscarriages of those that are called by his name: Who is offended,
and I burn not?
2. Hereby they endeavoured to discover the traitor. They looked
wistfully in one another's face, to see who blushed, or, by some
disorder in the countenance, manifested guilt in the heart, upon this
notice; but, while those who were faithful had their consciences so
clear that they could lift up their faces without spot, he that
was false had his conscience so seared that he was not ashamed, neither
could he blush, and so no discovery could be made in this way. Christ
thus perplexed his disciples for a time, and put them into confusion,
that he might humble them, and prove them, might excite in them
a jealousy of themselves, and an indignation at the baseness of Judas.
It is good for us sometimes to be put to a gaze, to be put to a
VI. The disciples were solicitous to get their Master to explain
himself, and to tell them particularly whom he meant; for nothing but
this can put them out of their present pain, for each of them thought
he had as much reason to suspect himself as any of his brethren;
1. Of all the disciples John was most fit to ask, because he was the
favourite, and sat next his Master
There was leaning on Jesus's bosom one of the disciples whom Jesus
loved. It appears that this was John, by comparing
(1.) The particular kindness which Jesus had for him; he was known by
this periphrasis, that he was the disciple whom Jesus loved. He
loved them all
but John was particularly dear to him. His name signifies
gracious. Daniel, who was honoured with the revelations of the
Old Testament, as John of the New, was a man greatly beloved,
Note, Among the disciples of Christ some are dearer to him than others.
(2.) His place and posture at this time: He was leaning on Jesus's
bosom. Some say that it was the fashion in those countries to sit
at meat in a leaning posture, so that the second lay in the bosom of
the first, and so on, which does not seem probable to me, for in such a
posture as this they could neither eat nor drink conveniently; but,
whether this was the case or not, John now leaned on Christ's
bosom, and it seems to be an extraordinary expression of endearment
used at this time. Note, There are some of Christ's disciples whom he
lays in his bosom, who have more free and intimate communion with him
than others. The Father loved the Son, and laid him in his bosom
and believers are in like manner one with Christ,
This honour all the saints shall have shortly in the bosom of Abraham.
Those who lay themselves at Christ's feet, he will lay in his bosom.
(3.) Yet he conceals his name, because he himself was the penman of the
story. He put this instead of his name, to show that he was pleased
with it; it is his title of honour, that he was the disciple whom
Jesus loved, as in David's and Solomon's court there was one that
was the king's friend; yet he does not put his name down, to
show that he was not proud of it, nor would seem to boast of it. Paul
in a like case saith, I knew a man in Christ.
2. Of all the disciples Peter was most forward to know,
Peter, sitting at some distance, beckoned to John, by some sign or
other, to ask. Peter was generally the leading man, most apt to put
himself forth; and, where men's natural tempers lead them to be thus
bold in answering and asking, if kept under the laws of humility and
wisdom, they make men very serviceable. God gives his gifts variously;
but that the forward men in the church may not think too well of
themselves, nor the modest be discouraged, it must be noted that it was
not Peter, but John, that was the beloved disciple. Peter was desirous
to know, not only that he might be sure it was not he, but that,
knowing who it was, they might withdraw from him, and guard against
him, and, if possible, prevent his design. It were a desirable thing,
we should think, to know who in the church will deceive us; yet let
this suffice--Christ knows, though we do not. The reason why Peter did
not himself ask was because John had a much fairer opportunity, by the
advantage of his seat at table, to whisper the question into the ear of
Christ, and to receive a like private answer. It is good to improve our
interest in those that are near to Christ, and to engage their prayers
for us. Do we know any that we have reason to think lie in Christ's
bosom? Let us beg of them to speak a good word for us.
3. The question was asked accordingly
He then, lying at the breast of Jesus, and so having the
convenience of whispering with him, saith unto him, Lord, who is
it? Now here John shows,
(1.) A regard to his fellow-disciple, and to the motion he made. Though
Peter had not the honour he had at this time, yet he did not therefore
disdain to take the hint and intimation he gave him. Note, Those who
lie in Christ's bosom may often learn from those who lie at his feet
something that will be profitable for them, and be reminded of that
which they did not of themselves think of. John was willing to gratify
Peter herein, having so fair an opportunity for it. As every one hath
received the gift, so let him minister the same for a common good,
(2.) A reverence of his Master. Though he whispered this in Christ's
ear, yet he called him Lord; the familiarity he was admitted to did not
at all lessen his respect for his Master. It becomes us to use a
reverence in expression, and to observe a decorum even in our secret
devotions, which no eye is a witness to, as well as in public
assemblies. The more intimate communion gracious souls have with
Christ, the more sensible they are of his worthiness and their own
4. Christ gave a speedy answer to this question, but whispered it in
John's ear; for it appears
that the rest were still ignorant of the matter. He it is to whom I
shall give a sop, psomion--a morsel, a crust, when
I have dipped it in the sauce. And when he had dipped the
sop, John strictly observing his motion, he gave it to
Judas; and Judas took it readily enough, not suspecting the design
of it, but glad of a savoury bit, to make up his mouth with.
(1.) Christ notified the traitor by a sign. He could have told John by
name who he was (The adversary and enemy is that wicked Judas, he is
the traitor, and none but he); but thus he would exercise the
observation of John, and intimate what need his ministers have of a
spirit of discerning; for the false brethren we are to stand upon our
guard against are not made known to us by words, but by signs; they are
to be known to us by their fruits, by their spirits; it
requires great diligence and care to form a right judgment upon them.
(2.) That sign was a sop which Christ gave him, a very proper sign,
because it was the fulfilling of the scripture
that the traitor should be one that ate bread with him, that was
at this time a fellow-commoner with him. It had likewise a significancy
in it, and teaches us,
[1.] That Christ sometimes gives sops to traitors; worldly riches,
honours, and pleasures are sops (if I may so speak), which Providence
sometimes gives into the hands of wicked men. Judas perhaps thought
himself a favourite because he had the sop, like Benjamin at Joseph's
table, a mess by himself; thus the prosperity of fools, like a
stupifying sop, helps to destroy them.
[2.] That we must not be outrageous against those whom we know to be
very malicious against us. Christ carved to Judas as kindly as to any
at the table, though he knew he was then plotting his death. If
thine enemy hunger, feed him; this is to do as Christ does.
VII. Judas himself, instead of being convinced hereby of his
wickedness, was the more confirmed in it, and the warning given him was
to him a savour of death unto death; for it follows,
1. The devil hereupon took possession of him
After the sop, Satan entered into him: not to make him
melancholy, nor drive him distracted, which was the effect of his
possessing some; not to hurry him into the fire, nor into the water;
happy had it been for him if that had been the worst of it, or if with
the swine he had been choked in the sea; but Satan entered into him to
possess him with a prevailing prejudice against Christ and his
doctrine, and a contempt of him, as one whose life was of small value,
to excite in him a covetous desire of the wages of unrighteousness and
a resolution to stick at nothing for the obtaining of them. But,
(1.) Was not Satan in him before? How then is it said that now Satan
entered into him? Judas was all along a devil
a son of perdition, but now Satan gained a more full possession of him,
had a more abundant entrance into him. His purpose to betray his
Master was now ripened into a fixed resolution; now he returned with
seven other spirits more wicked than himself,
[1.] Though the devil is in every wicked man that does his works
yet sometimes he enters more manifestly and more powerfully than at
other times, when he puts them upon some enormous wickedness, which
humanity and natural conscience startle at.
[2.] Betrayers of Christ have much of the devil in them. Christ speaks
of the sin of Judas as greater than that of any of his persecutors.
(2.) How came Satan to enter into him after the sop? Perhaps he
was presently aware that it was the discovery of him, and it made him
desperate in his resolutions. Many are made worse by the gifts of
Christ's bounty, and are confirmed in their impenitency by that which
should have led them to repentance. The coals of fire heaped upon
their heads, instead of melting them, harden them.
2. Christ hereupon dismissed him, and delivered him up to his own
heart's lusts: Then said Jesus unto him, What thou doest, do
quickly. This is not to be understood as either advising him to his
wickedness or warranting him in it; but either,
(1.) As abandoning him to the conduct and power of Satan. Christ knew
that Satan had entered into him, and had peaceable possession; and now
he gives him up as hopeless. The various methods Christ had used for
his conviction were ineffectual; and therefore, "What thou doest thou
wilt do quickly; if thou art resolved to ruin thyself, go on, and take
what comes." Note, When the evil spirit is willingly admitted, the good
Spirit justly withdraws. Or,
(2.) As challenging him to do his worst: "Thou art plotting against me,
put thy plot in execution and welcome, the sooner the better, I do not
fear thee, I am ready for thee." Note, our Lord Jesus was very forward
to suffer and die for us, and was impatient of delay in the perfecting
of his undertaking. Christ speaks of Judas's betraying him as a thing
he was now doing, though he was only purposing it. Those who are
contriving and designing mischief are, in God's account, doing
3. Those that were at table understood not what he meant, because they
did not hear what he whispered to John
No man at table, neither the disciples nor any other of the
guests, except John, knew for what intent he spoke this to him.
(1.) They did not suspect that Christ said it to Judas as a traitor,
because it did not enter into their heads that Judas was such a one, or
would prove so. Note, It is an excusable dulness in the disciples of
Christ not to be quick-sighted in their censures. Most are ready enough
to say, when they hear harsh things spoken in general, Now such a one
is meant, and now such a one; but Christ's disciples were so well
taught to love one another that they could not easily learn to suspect
one another; charity thinks no evil.
(2.) They therefore took it for granted that he said it to him as a
trustee, or treasurer of the household, giving him order for the laying
out of some money. Their surmises in this case discover to us for what
uses and purposes our Lord Jesus commonly directed payments out of that
little stock he had, and so teach us how to honour the Lord with our
substance. They concluded something was to be laid out, either,
[1.] In works of piety: Buy those things that we have need of
against the feast. Though he borrowed a room to eat the passover
in, yet he bought in provision for it. That is to be reckoned well
bestowed which is laid out upon those things we have need of for
the maintenance of God's ordinances among us; and we have the less
reason to grudge that expense now because our gospel-worship is far
from being so chargeable as the legal worship was.
[2.] Or in works of charity: That he should give something to the
poor. By this it appears, First, That our Lord Jesus, though
he lived upon alms himself
yet gave alms to the poor, a little out of a little. Though he might
very well be excused, not only because he was poor himself, but because
he did so much good in other ways, curing so many gratis; yet,
to set us an example, he gave, for the relief of the poor, out of that
which he had for the subsistence of his family; see
Secondly, That the time of a religious feast was thought a
proper time for works of charity. When he celebrated the passover he
ordered something for the poor. When we experience God's bounty to us,
this should make us bountiful to the poor.
4. Judas hereupon sets himself vigorously to pursue his design against
him: He went away. Notice is taken,
(1.) Of his speedy departure: He went out presently, and quitted
[1.] For fear of being more plainly discovered to the company, for, if
he were, he expected they would all fall upon him, and be the death of
him, or at least of his project.
[2.] He went out as one weary of Christ's company and the society of
his apostles. Christ needed not to expel him, he expelled himself.
Note, Withdrawing from the communion of the faithful is commonly the
first overt-act of a backslider, and the beginning of an apostasy.
[3.] He went out to prosecute his design, to look for those with
whom he was to make his bargain, and to settle the agreement with them.
Now that Satan had got into him he hurried him on with precipitation,
lest he should see his error and repent of it.
(2.) Of the time of his departure: It was night.
[1.] Though it was night, an unseasonable time for business, yet, Satan
having entered into him, he made no difficulty of the coldness and
darkness of the night. This should shame us out of our slothfulness and
cowardice in the service of Christ, that the devil's servants are so
earnest and venturous in his service.
[2.] Because it was night, and this gave him advantage of privacy and
concealment. He was not willing to be seen treating with the
chief priests, and therefore chose the dark night as the fittest time
for such works of darkness. Those whose deeds are evil love darkness
rather than light. See
|Christ's Departure Predicted.
31 Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son
of man glorified, and God is glorified in him.
32 If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in
himself, and shall straightway glorify him.
33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall
seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot
come; so now I say to you.
34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another;
as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye
have love one to another.
This and what follows, to the end of
was Christ's table-talk with his disciples. When supper was done, Judas
went out; but what did the Master and his disciples do, whom he left
sitting at table? They applied themselves to profitable discourse, to
teach us as much as we can to make conversation with our friends at
table serviceable to religion. Christ begins this discourse. The more
forward we are humbly to promote that communication which is good, and
to the use of edifying, the more like we are to Jesus Christ. Those
especially that by their place, reputation, and gifts, command the
company, to whom men give ear, ought to use the interest
they have in other respects as an opportunity of doing them good. Now
our Lord Jesus discourses with them (and probably discourses much more
largely than is here recorded),
I. Concerning the great mystery of his own death and sufferings, about
which they were as yet so much in the dark that they could not persuade
themselves to expect the thing itself, much less did they understand
the meaning of it; and therefore Christ gives them such instructions
concerning it as made the offence of the cross to cease. Christ did not
begin this discourse till Judas was gone out, for he was a false
brother. The presence of wicked people is often a hindrance to good
discourse. When Judas was gone out, Christ said, now is the
Son of man glorified; now that Judas is discovered and discarded,
who was a spot in their love-feast and a scandal to their family,
now is the Son of man glorified. Note, Christ is glorified by
the purifying of Christian societies: corruptions in his church are a
reproach to him; the purging out of those corruptions rolls away the
reproach. Or, rather, now Judas was gone to set the wheels a-going, in
order to his being put to death, and the thing was likely to be
effected shortly: Now is the Son of man glorified, meaning,
Now he is crucified.
1. Here is something which Christ instructs them in, concerning his
sufferings, that was very comforting.
(1.) That he should himself be glorified in them. Now the Son of man is
to be exposed to the greatest ignominy and disgrace, to be despitefully
used to the last degree, and dishonoured both by the cowardice of his
friends and the insolence of his enemies; yet now he is
[1.] Now he is to obtain a glorious victory over Satan and all the
powers of darkness, to spoil them, and triumph over them. He is now
girding on the harness, to take the field against these
adversaries of God and man, with as great an assurance as if he had
put it off.
[2.] Now he is to work out a glorious deliverance for his people, by
his death to reconcile them to God, and bring in an everlasting
righteousness and happiness for them; to shed that blood which is to be
an inexhaustible fountain of joys and blessings to all believers.
[3.] Now he is to give a glorious example of self-denial and patience
under the cross, courage and contempt of the world, zeal for the glory
of God, and love to the souls of men, such as will make him to be for
ever admired and had in honour. Christ had been glorified in many
miracles he had wrought, and yet he speaks of his being glorified
now in his sufferings, as if that were more than all his other
glories in his humble state.
(2.) That God the Father should be glorified in them. The sufferings of
[1.] The satisfaction of God's justice, and so God was glorified in
them. Reparation was thereby made with great advantage for the wrong
done him in his honour by the sin of man. The ends of the law were
abundantly answered, and the glory of his government effectually
asserted and maintained.
[2.] They were the manifestation of his holiness and mercy. The
attributes of God shine brightly in creation and providence, but much
more in the work of redemption; see
1 Corinthians 1:24,2Co+4:6.
God is love, and herein he hath commended his love.
(3.) That he should himself be greatly glorified after them, in
consideration of God's being greatly glorified by them,
Observe how he enlarges upon it.
[1.] He is sure that God will glorify him; and those whom God glorifies
are glorious indeed. Hell and earth set themselves to vilify Christ,
but God resolved to glorify him, and he did it. He glorified him in his
sufferings by the amazing signs and wonders, both in heaven and earth,
which attended them, and extorted even from his crucifiers an
acknowledgment that he was the Son of God. But especially after his
sufferings he glorified him, when he set him at his own right
hand, gave him a name above every name.
[2.] That he will glorify him in himself--en
heauto. Either, First, In Christ himself. He will
glorify him in his own person, and not only in his kingdom among men.
This supposes his speedy resurrection. A common person may be honoured
after his death, in his memory or posterity, but Christ was honoured in
himself. Or, secondly, in God himself. God will glorify
him with himself, as it is explained,
He shall sit down with the Father upon his throne,
This is true glory.
[3.] That he will glorify him straightway. He looked upon the joy and
glory set before him, not only as great, but as near; and his sorrows
and sufferings short and soon over. Good services done to earthly
princes often remain long unrewarded; but Christ had his preferments
presently. It was but forty hours (or not so much) from his death to
his resurrection, and forty days thence to his ascension, so that it
might well be said that he was straightway glorified,
[4.] All this in consideration of God's being glorified in and by his
sufferings: Seeing God is glorified in him, and receives honour
from his sufferings, God shall in like manner glorify him in himself,
and give honour to him. Note, first, In the exaltation of Christ
there was a regard had to his humiliation, and a reward given for it.
Because he humbled himself, therefore God highly exalted him. If
the Father be so great a gainer in his glory by the death of Christ, we
may be sure that the Son shall be no loser in his. See the covenant
Secondly, Those who mind the business of glorifying God no doubt
shall have the happiness of being glorified with him.
2. Here is something that Christ instructs them in, concerning his
sufferings, which was awakening, for as yet they were slow of
heart to understand it
Little children, yet a little while I am with you, &c. Two
things Christ here suggests, to quicken his disciples to improve their
present opportunities; two serious words:--
(1.) That his stay in this world, to be with them here, they would find
to be very short. Little children. This compellation does not
bespeak so much their weakness as his tenderness and compassion; he
speaks to them with the affection of a father, now that he is about to
leaven them, and to leave blessings with them. Know this, then, that
yet a little while I am with you. Whether we understand this as
referring to his death or his ascension it comes much to one; he had
but a little time to spend with them, and therefore,
[1.] Let them improve the advantage they now had. If they had any good
question to ask, if they would have any advice, instruction, or
comfort, let them speak quickly; for yet a little while I am with
you. We must make the best of the helps we have for our souls while
we have them, because we shall not have them long; they will be taken
from us, or we from them.
[2.] Let them not doat upon his bodily presence, as if their happiness
and comfort were bound up in that; no, they must think of living
without it; not be always little children, but go alone, without their
nurses. Ways and means are appointed but for a little while, and
are not to be rested in, but pressed through to our rest, to which they
have a reference.
(2.) That their following him to the other world, to be with him there,
they would find to be very difficult. What he had said to the Jews
he saith to his disciples; for they have need to be quickened by the
same considerations that are propounded for the convincing and
awakening of sinners. Christ tells them here,
[1.] That when he was gone they would feel the want of him; You
shall seek me, that is "you shall wish you had me again with you."
We are often taught the worth of mercies by the want of them. Though
the presence of the Comforter yielded them real and effectual relief in
straits and difficulties, yet it was not such a sensible
satisfaction as his bodily presence would have been to those who had
been used to it. But observe, Christ said to the Jews, You shall seek
me and not find me; but to the disciples he only saith, You
shall seek me, intimating that though they should not find his
bodily presence any more than the Jews, yet they should find that which
was tantamount, and should not seek in vain. When they sought his body
in the sepulchre, though they did not find it, yet they sought to good
[2.] That whither he went they could not come, which suggests to
them high thoughts of him, who was going to an invisible inaccessible
world, to dwell in that light which none can approach unto; and
also low thoughts of themselves, and serious thoughts of their future
state. Christ tells them that they could not follow him (as Joshua
told the people that they could not serve the Lord) only to quicken
them to so much the more diligence and care. They could not follow him
to his cross, for they had not courage and resolution; it appeared that
they could not when they all forsook him and fled. Nor could they
follow him to his crown, for they had not a sufficiency of their own,
nor were their work and warfare yet finished.
II. He discourses with them concerning the great duty of brotherly love
You shall love one another. Judas was now gone out, and had
proved himself a false brother; but they must not therefore harbour
such jealousies and suspicions one of another as would be the bane of
love: though there was one Judas among them, yet they were not all
Judases. Now that the enmity of the Jews against Christ and his
followers was swelling to the height, and they must expect such
treatment as their Master had, it concerned them by brotherly love to
strengthen one another's hands. Three arguments for mutual love are
1. The command of their Master
A new commandment I give unto you. He not only commends it as
amiable and pleasant, not only counsels it as excellent and profitable,
but commands it, and makes it one of the fundamental laws of his
kingdom; it goes a-breast with the command of believing in Christ,
1 John 3:23,1Pe+1:22.
It is the command of our ruler, who has a right to give law to us; it
is the command of our Redeemer, who gives us this law in order to the
curing of our spiritual diseases and the preparing of us for our
eternal bliss. It is a new commandment; that is,
(1.) It is a renewed commandment; it was a commandment from the
(1 John 2:7),
as old as the law of nature, it was the second great commandment of the
law of Moses; yet, because it is also one of the great commandments of
the New Testament, of Christ the new Lawgiver, it is called a new
commandment; it is like an old book in a new edition corrected and
enlarged. This commandment has been so corrupted by the traditions of
the Jewish church that when Christ revived it, and set it in a true
light, it might well be called a new commandment. Laws of
revenge and retaliation were so much in vogue, and self-love had so
much the ascendant, that the law of brotherly love was forgotten as
obsolete and out of date; so that as it came from Christ new, it was
new to the people.
(2.) It is an excellent command, as a new song is an excellent
song, that has an uncommon gratefulness in it.
(3.) It is an everlasting command; so strangely new as to be always so;
as the new covenant, which shall never decay
it shall be new to eternity, when faith and hope are antiquated.
(4.) As Christ gives it, it is new. Before it was, Thou shalt
love thy neighbour; now it is, You shall love one another;
it is pressed in a more winning way when it is thus pressed as mutual
duty owing to one another.
2. The example of their Saviour is another argument for brotherly love:
As I have loved you. It is this that makes it a new
commandment--that this rule and reason of love (as I have loved
you) is perfectly new, and such as had been hidden from ages and
generations. Understand this,
(1.) Of all the instances of Christ's love to his disciples, which they
had already experienced during the time he went in and out among them.
He spoke kindly to them, concerned himself heartily for them, and for
their welfare, instructed, counselled, and comforted them, prayed with
them and for them, vindicated them when they were accused, took their
part when they were run down, and publicly owned them to be dearer to
him that his mother, or sister, or brother. He reproved them for
what was amiss, and yet compassionately bore with their failings,
excused them, made the best of them, and passed by many an oversight.
Thus he had loved them, and just now washed their feet; and thus
they must love one another, and love to the end. Or,
(2.) It may be understood of the special instance of love to all his
disciples which he was now about to give, in laying down his life for
them. Greater love hath no man than this,
Has he thus loved us all? Justly may he expect that we should be loving
to one another. Not that we are capable of doing any thing of the
same nature for each other
but we must love one another in some respects after the same
manner; we must set this before us as our copy, and take directions
from it. Our love to one another must be free and ready, laborious and
expensive, constant and persevering; it must be love to the
souls one of another. We must also love one another from this
motive, and upon this consideration--because Christ has loved us.
Eph. v. 2, 25; Phil. ii. 1-5.
3. The reputation of their profession
By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have
love one to another. Observe, We must have love, not only show
love, but have it in the root and habit of it, and have it when there
is not any present occasion to show it; have it ready. "Hereby
it will appear that you are indeed my followers by following me in
this." Note, Brotherly love is the badge of Christ's disciples. By this
he knows them, by this they may know themselves
(1 John 2:14),
and by this others may know them. This is the livery of his family,
the distinguishing character of his disciples; this he would have them
noted for, as that wherein they excelled all others--their
loving one another. This was what their Master was famous for; all that
ever heard of him have heard of his love, his great love; and
therefore, if you see any people more affectionate one to another than
what is common, say, "Certainly these are the followers of Christ, they
have been with Jesus." Now by this it appears,
(1.) That the heart of Christ was very much upon it, that his disciples
should love one another. In this they must be singular;
whereas the way of the world is to be every one for himself,
they should be hearty for one another. He does not say, By this
shall men know that you are my disciples--if you work
miracles, for a worker of miracles is but a cypher without charity
(1 Corinthians 13:1,2);
but if you love one another from a principle of self-denial and
gratitude to Christ. This Christ would have to be the proprium
of his religion, the principal note of the true church.
(2.) That it is the true honour of Christ's disciples to excel in
brotherly love. Nothing will be more effectual than this to recommend
them to the esteem and respect of others. See what a powerful
attractive it was,
Tertullian speaks of it as the glory of the primitive church that the
Christians were known by their affection to one another. Their
adversaries took notice of it, and said, See how these Christians
love one another, Apol. cap. 39.
(3.) That, if the followers of Christ do not love one another, they not
only cast an unjust reproach upon their profession, but give just cause
to suspect their own sincerity. O Jesus! are these thy
Christians, these passionate, malicious, spiteful, ill-natured
people? Is this thy son's coat? When our brethren stand in need
of help from us, and we have an opportunity of being service able to
them, when they differ in opinion and practice from us, or are any ways
rivals with or provoking to us, and so we have an occasion to
condescend and forgive, in such cases as this it will be known whether
we have this badge of Christ's disciples.
36 Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus
answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but
thou shalt follow me afterwards.
37 Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I
will lay down my life for thy sake.
38 Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake?
Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till
thou hast denied me thrice.
In these verses we have,
I. Peter's curiosity, and the check given to that.
1. Peter's question was bold and blunt
Lord, whither goest thou? referring to what Christ had said
Whither I go, you cannot come. The practical instructions Christ
had given them concerning brotherly love he overlooks, and asks no
questions upon them, but fastens upon that concerning which Christ
purposely kept them in the dark. Note, It is a common fault among us to
be more inquisitive concerning things secret, which belong to God only,
than concerning things revealed, which belong to us and our
children, more desirous to have our curiosity gratified than our
consciences directed, to know what is done in heaven than what we may
do to get thither. It is easy to observe it in the converse of
Christians, how soon a discourse of that which is plain and edifying is
dropped, and no more said to it, the subject is exhausted; which in a
matter of doubtful disputation runs into an endless strife of
2. Christ's answer was instructive. He did not gratify him with any
particular account of the world he was going to, nor ever foretold his
glories and joys so distinctly as he did his sufferings, but said what
he had said before
Let this suffice, thou canst not follow me now, but shalt follow me
(1.) We may understand it of his following him to the cross: "Thou hast
not yet strength enough of faith and resolution to drink of my cup;"
and it appeared so by his cowardice when Christ was suffering. For this
reason, when Christ was seized, he provided for the safety of his
disciples. Let these go their way, because they could not
follow him now. Christ considers the frame of his disciples, and
will not cut out for them that work and hardship which they are not as
yet fit for; the day shall be as the strength is. Peter, though
designed for martyrdom, cannot follow Christ now, not being come to his
full growth, but he shall follow him hereafter; he shall
be crucified at last, like his Master. Let him not think that because
he escapes suffering now he shall never suffer. From our missing the
cross once, we must not infer that we shall never meet it; we may be
reserved for greater trials than we have yet known.
(2.) We may understand it of his following him to the crown. Christ
was now going to his glory, and Peter was very desirous to go with him:
"No," saith Christ, "thou canst not follow me now, thou art not
yet ripe for heaven, nor hast thou finished thy work on earth. The
forerunner must first enter to prepare a place for thee, but
thou shalt follow me afterwards, after thou hast fought the good
fight, and at the time appointed." Note, Believers must not expect to
be glorified as soon as they are effectually called, for there is a
wilderness between the Red Sea and Canaan.
II. Peter's confidence, and the check given to that.
1. Peter makes a daring protestation of his constancy. He is not
content to be left behind, but asks, "Lord why cannot I follow thee
now? Dost thou question my sincerity and resolution? I promise
thee, if there be occasion, I will lay down my life for thy
sake." Some think Peter had a conceit, as the Jews had in a like
that Christ was designing a journey or voyage into some remote country,
and that he declared his resolution to go along with him wherever he
went; but, having heard his Master so often speak of his own
sufferings, surely he could not understand him any otherwise than of
his going away by death; and he resolves as Thomas did that he will
go and die with him; and better die with him than live without
him. See here,
(1.) What an affectionate love Peter had to our Lord Jesus: "I will
lay down my life for thy sake, and I can do no more." I believe
Peter spoke as he thought, and though he was inconsiderate he was not
insincere, in his resolution. Note, Christ should be dearer to us than
our own lives, which therefore, when we are called to it, we should be
willing to lay down for his sake,
(2.) How ill he took it to have it questioned, intimated in that
expostulation, "Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? Dost thou
suspect my fidelity to thee?"
1 Samuel 29:8.
Note, It is with regret that true love hears its own sincerity
Christ had indeed said that one of them was a devil, but he was
discovered, and gone out, and therefore Peter thinks he may speak with
the more assurance of his own sincerity; "Lord, I am resolved I will
never leave thee, and therefore why cannot I follow thee?" We
are apt to think that we can do any thing, and take it amiss to be told
that this and the other we cannot do, whereas without Christ we can do
2. Christ gives him a surprising prediction of his inconstancy,
Jesus Christ knows us better than we know ourselves, and has many ways
of discovering those to themselves whom he loves, and will hide pride
(1.) He upbraids Peter with his confidence: Wilt thou lay down thy
life for my sake? Me thinks, he seems to have said this with a
smile: "Peter, thy promises are too large, too lavish to be relied on;
thou dost not consider with what reluctancy and struggle a life is laid
down, and what a hard task it is to die; not so soon done as said."
Christ hereby puts Peter upon second thoughts, not that he might
retract his resolution, or recede from it, but that he might insert
into it that necessary proviso, "Lord, thy grace enabling me, I
will lay down my life for thy sake." "Wilt thou undertake to die for
me? What! thou that trembledst to walk upon the water to me? What! thou
that, when sufferings were spoken of, criedst out, Be it far from
thee, Lord? It was an easy thing to leave thy boats and nets to
follow me, but not so easy to lay down thy life." His Master himself
struggled when it came to his, and the disciple is not greater than
his Lord. Note, It is good for us to shame ourselves out of our
presumptuous confidence in ourselves. Shall a bruised reed set up for a
pillar, or a sickly child undertake to be a champion? What a fool am I
to talk so big.
(2.) He plainly foretels his cowardice in the critical hour. To stop
the mouth of his boasting, lest Peter should say it again, Yea Master,
that I will, Christ solemnly asserts it with, Verily, verily, I say
unto thee, the cock shall not crow till thou hast denied me thrice.
He does not say as afterwards, This night, for it seems to have
been two nights before the passover; but, "Shortly thou wilt have
denied me thrice within the space of one night; nay, within so short a
space as between the first and last crowing of the cock: The cock
shall not crow, shall not have crowed his crowing out, till thou
has again and again denied me, and that for fear of suffering." The
crowing of the cock is mentioned,
[1.] To intimate that the trial in which he would miscarry thus should
be in the night, which was an improbable circumstance, but Christ's
foretelling it was an instance of his infallible foresight.
[2.] Because the crowing of the cock was to be the occasion of his
repentance, which of itself would not have been if Christ had not put
this into the prediction. Christ not only foresaw that Judas would
betray him though he only in heart designed it, but he foresaw that
Peter would deny him though he did not design it, but the contrary. He
knows not only the wickedness of sinners, but the weakness of saints.
Christ told Peter, First, That he would deny him, would renounce
and abjure him: "Thou wilt not only not follow me still, but wilt be
ashamed to own that ever thou didst follow me." Secondly, That
he would do this not once only by a hasty slip of the tongue, but after
he had paused would repeat it a second and third time; and it proved
too true. We commonly give it as a reason why the prophecies of
scripture are expressed darkly and figuratively, because, if they did
plainly describe the event, the accomplishment would thereby
either be defeated or necessitated by a fatality inconsistent with
human liberty; and yet this plain and express prophecy of Peter's
denying Christ did neither, nor did in the least make Christ accessary
to Peter's sin. But we may well imagine what a mortification it was to
Peter's confidence of his own courage to be told this, and to be told
it in such a manner that he durst not contradict it, else he would have
said as Hazael, What! is thy servant a dog? This could not but
fill him with confusion. Note, The most secure are commonly the least
safe; and those most shamefully betray their own weakness that most
confidently presume upon their own strength,
1 Corinthians 10:12.