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The Fourfold Gospel

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13:1  Now before the feast of the passover1, Jesus knowing that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto his Father, having loved his own that were in the world, he loved them unto the end2.

    THE PASCHAL MEAL. JESUS WASHES THE DISCIPLES' FEET. (Thursday evening of the beginning of Friday.) John 13:1-20

  1. Now before the feast of the passover. Since the second century a great dispute has been carried on as to the apparent discrepancy between John and the Synoptists in their statements concerning the passover. The Synoptists, as we have seen in the previous section, clearly represent Jesus as having eaten the passover at the proper time, and as having been arrested on the same night, while John here and elsewhere (John 13:29; John 18:28; John 19:14,31), compared with John 18:1-14 seems to represent Jesus as being arrested "before" the passover. Our space does not permit us to enter upon a discussion of this difficulty. The reader is referred to a thorough rehearsal of the arguments found in Tholuck "in loco" (or, after the seventh edition, in his introduction to John's Gospel). The simplest solution of the difficulty is to attribute the apparent discrepancy to that loose way of speaking of the feast which we mentioned in the last section. When the Synoptists speak of the passover they refer to the "actual Paschal supper; when John speaks of the feast of the passover, or the passover, he refers to "the seven days' feast of unleavened bread" which followed the actual paschal supper. Jesus was put to death on the first day of this latter feast, and therefore John here uses the festival to designate the time of the Lord's suffering and death.

  2. Having loved his own that were in the world, he loved them unto the end. The meaning, then, is that Jesus, having loved his disciples prior to this great trial or crisis of his life, was not deterred from loving them by its approach, but continued to give the most precious and unmistakable evidences of his love down to the very hour of its arrival, being neither driven from such a course by the terrors of his coming hour nor wooed from it by the glorious prospects of returning to his Father. These words form a preface to the remainder of John's Gospel in which John enumerates the tokens and evidences of that love which manifested itself throughout the entire passion, and continued until the hour of ascension; and which, by so doing, gave sweet assurance that it continues still.

13:2  And during supper1, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's [son], to betray him2,

  1. And during supper. This was the paschal supper proper. It accords with the supplementary nature of John's Gospel to this mention it as a meal thoroughly familiar to his readers.

  2. Judas Iscariot, Simon's [son], to betray him. See Mark 14:10.

13:3  [Jesus], knowing that the Father had given all the things into his hands, and that he came forth from God, and goeth unto God1,

  1. [Jesus], knowing that the Father had given all the things into his hands, and that he came forth from God, and goeth unto God. Being about to narrate an act of loving humility, John prefaces it by stating that it was done in full knowledge of his threefold glory; viz.: (1) That all authority was committed to him (Matthew 28:18); (2) That by nature he was divine (John 1:1,14); (3) That he was about to return to the divine exaltation which for our sakes he had laid aside (Philippians 2:5-11).

13:4  riseth from supper, and layeth aside his garments; and he took a towel, and girded himself1.

    John 13:4,5

  1. Riseth from supper, and layeth aside his garments; and he took a towel, and girded himself. John narrates in detail each of these acts. To him they seem as so many successive steps leading down to the depth of humility. The whole formed a striking but wholesome contrast to the self-seeking and ambitious spirit which the disciples had just manifested (Luke 22:24).

13:6  So he cometh to Simon Peter. He saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet1?

  1. So he cometh to Simon Peter. He saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? The others were awed into silence by the strange conduct of their Master; but it accorded with the bold impulsiveness of Peter to challenge the act.

13:7  Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt understand hereafter1.

  1. What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt understand hereafter. It was no mere feet-washing; or Jesus would not have so spoken. It was at once an example of humility and a symbol of the purification which the Lord accomplished for us by reason of his humiliation. The full meaning of the act was afterward revealed to them by the Holy Spirit.

13:9  Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head1.

  1. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Since Jesus spoke of the act as in some part a license or token of permission to have "part" with him (John 13:8), Peter desired that his head and hands also might be included, that he might in his entire man have part with Christ.

13:10  Jesus saith to him, He that is bathed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all1.

  1. He that is bathed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. The language implies that the disciples had bathed before leaving Bethany, and that only their feet, soiled by the journey to Jerusalem, needed to be rewashed. The saying is spiritually true as well, for one who has been washed thoroughly by baptism needs not to be re-baptized. After that general cleansing the particular sins are removed by confession (1 John 1:7-9).

13:11  For he knew him that should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean1.

  1. For he knew him that should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean. But there is no efficacy in any ordinance when the heart and will do not accord with the purposes for which it is administered. Hence it was that Judas, though he had done all that the others had done, was still as foul as ever.

13:15  For I have given you an example, that ye also should do as I have done to you1.

  1. For I have given you an example, that ye also should do as I have done to you. It is well known that many, by a literal construction of this passage, have esteemed it to be their duty to wash each other's feet in their churches. But it should be noted that in the entire New Testament there is no command for this, nor is there any passage which recognizes any such church ordinance or practice. Jesus did not "institute" feet-washing; he found it already a "familiar" custom of the land, and merely used it as a most appropriate way of showing the proper spirit of humble service. Hence he does not say, "Do WHAT I have done", but "Do AS I have done", which requires us to do something "similar" to that which Christ had done, but necessarily the very "same" thing. The washing of feet as an act of courtesy or hospitality was never a custom among Western people, and to adopt it because of these words of Christ is to entirely miss his meaning. What he did was a natural daily act of hospitality. But what we would do if we followed his words literally would be to introduce a strange, outlandish practice, which would put a guest to great embarrassment and inconvenience.

13:16  Verily, verily1, I say unto you, a servant is not greater than his lord2; neither one that is sent greater than he that sent him.

  1. Verily, verily. See John 1:51.

  2. A servant is not greater than his lord. Since a servant is not greater than his lord, he should not be ashamed to do what his lord does.

13:18  I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled1: He that eateth my bread lifted up his heel against me.

    John 13:18-20

  1. I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, etc. The meaning of this passage may perhaps be brought out more easily if we paraphrase it as follows: "I do not speak of blessing to you all, for there is one who shall never be blessed. His conduct does not deceive or surprise me, for I know those whom I have chosen whether they be good or bad. His choosing is in accordance with the prophecy contained in the Book of Psalms (Psalms 41:9). Hitherto I have held my peace about him, but henceforth I shall point out his course, that my foreknowledge of his actions may strengthen your faith in my Messiahship, and not leave you in that condition of hopelessness and despair in which the consequences had come upon me unawares. Do not let his treachery shake your confidence in me, for verily I say unto you that in being my messengers ye are indeed the messengers of the Most High".

13:20  Verily, verily1, I say unto you, he that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.

  1. Verily, verily. See John 1:51.

13:21  When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in the spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily1, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.

    JUDAS' BETRAYAL AND PETER'S DENIAL FORETOLD. (Jerusalem. Evening before the crucifixion.) Matthew 26:21-25,31-35; Mark 14:18-21,27-31; Luke 22:21-23,31-38 John 13:21-38

  1. Verily, verily. See John 1:51.

  2. I say to you, that one of you shall betray me. See Mark 14:18.

13:22  The disciples looked one on another1, doubting of whom he spake.

  1. The disciples looked one on another. In startled amazement.

13:23  There was at the table reclining in Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved1.

  1. There was at the table reclining in Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. John thus speaks of himself. His couch was in front of that of the Lord, so that when he laid his head back, it rested upon Jesus' bosom.

13:25  He leaning back, as he was, on Jesus' breast1 saith unto him, Lord, who is it?

  1. He leaning back, as he was, on Jesus' breast. John. See

13:26  Jesus therefore answereth, He it is, for whom I shall dip the sop, and give it him1. So when he had dipped the sop, he taketh and giveth it to Judas2, [the son] of Simon Iscariot.

  1. He it is, for whom I shall dip the sop, and give it him. It was a mark of special respect and courtesy to thus dip a sop and hand it to a guest.

  2. So when he had dipped the sop, he taketh and giveth it to Judas,
  3. [the son] of Simon Iscariot. Thus Jesus advanced in his disclosure from twelve to three or four, and from three or four to one, and that one a friend most highly honored. But Judas was neither to be warned nor wooed from his purpose.

13:27  And after the sop, then entered Satan into him1. Jesus therefore saith unto him, What thou doest, do quickly2.

  1. And after the sop, then entered Satan into him. Exposure only hardened Judas and made him resign himself more fully to the influence of the devil.

  2. Jesus therefore saith unto him, What thou doest, do quickly. Jesus does not command the deed, but since it has already been determined upon, he dismisses Judas from his presence with words which fix the manner in which the deed should be done. Judas was still under divine command in a limited sense, for Satan himself is not beyond divine authority.

13:28  Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him.

  1. Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spoke this unto him. Jesus had not fully and openly revealed Judas as the traitor. To have done so in the presence of the fiery Galileans might have resulted in violence to the person of the betrayer.

13:29  For some thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus said unto him, Buy what things we have need of for the feast1; or, that he should give something to the poor2.

  1. Buy what things we have need of for the feast. The feast on the evening of the first day of the festival of unleavened bread appears to have been both joyful and very bountiful.

  2. Or, that he should give something to the poor. Probably to aid them in preparing for this feast.

13:30  He then having received the sop went out straightway: and it was night1.

  1. And it was night. Though this expression is merely one which marks the time of day, nearly all commentators feel the weird force of it (Luke 22:53). Alford says,

    "I feel, with Meyer, that there is something awful in this termination--"it was night"."

13:31  When therefore he was gone out, Jesus saith, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him1;

    John 13:31,32

  1. Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. The departure of Judas was the first step in the progress of the Lord's Passion, and in this moment of its beginning Jesus exults in the prospect of its end. Having just condemned the false pride and glory of men by washing his disciples' feet, Jesus rejoices that the true glory of God is about to be manifested in himself--the glory of humility, charity, service, and self-sacrifice, which was realized to the utmost in the person of Jesus.

13:33  Little children1, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me2: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say unto you.

    John 13:33-35

  1. Little children. In the term of tenderness with which Jesus opens this paragraph, we see one of the marks of love referred to by John (John 13:1). It is found nowhere else in the Gospels. In the light of his near separation Jesus looked upon his apostles as about to be made orphan children.

  2. Ye shall seek me, etc. See John 7:34.

13:34  A new commandment I give unto you1, that ye love one another; even as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

    John 13:34,35

  1. A new commandment I give unto you. As to this new commandment, love had been commanded before (Leviticus 19:18), but the Christian love here commanded is different from that which the Jew was bade to fell for the Jew, just as the affection of a loving family differs from the mere broad and kindly spirit of neighborliness. A love which had Christ's heart as the standard would of necessity be new, and would distinguish those who possessed it from all men.

13:37  Peter saith unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee even now? I will lay down my life for thee.

  1. Lord, why cannot I follow thee even now? I will lay down my life for thee. Peter, grieved at the prospect of separation, can see no reason why he should not follow, since he is willing to pass even through the portal of the grave that he may do so. Though perhaps prevented by no moral inability, he was prevented by the plan of life which God had designed for him. It was not in accordance with the divine will that he should die at this time.

13:38  Jesus answereth, Wilt thou lay down thy life for me? Verily, verily1, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice.

  1. Verily, verily. See John 1:51.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. These files were made available by Mr. Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.

Bibliography Information
J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on John 13". "The Fourfold Gospel". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/tfg/view.cgi?book=joh&chapter=013>. Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.  

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