Noted as one of the best starting places in the Bible, the Gospel of John is a first-hand account of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ from one of his most trusted friends and disciples. This book is necessary reading for the believer as its detail and insight is beyond anything one might cross as they seek out knowledge of this good Word. For this reason, I have decided to embark on a multi-part study on the Gospel of John to give not only in-depth analysis of the entire book; but, also background on it's creation and the man that wrote it. Today we are moving forward as we start on part twelve of this series as we discuss John Chapter Thirteen!
In his gospel, John doesn’t stray from the point that Jesus is the God/Man. So, throughout the readings we see Him describe again and again the cycle of Jesus declaring His divinity and then His hearers either believing or disbelieving His claims. There were several objectives that the repetition of this cycle seemed to aim for.
Main objectives in John’s Gospel:
Clarify Jesus’ Claims and Actions
You may or may not believe it , but there is no doubt that through His teachings and actions, Jesus demonstrated that He was the Son of God.
Provide Proof for Claims
John records several miracles performed in order to support the claims of Jesus. Some may not believe but John writes as a true believer.
Record Reactions of the People
Recorded that the disbelief of the Jews was widespread and not just a fluke or a narrow opinion.
John records the familiar scene of Jesus demonstrating great power and then the Jewish leaders and eventually the crowds that celebrated him, turned against Him in disbelief and anger. Repeated over and over to show that some believed but MOST disbelieved. The line of demarcation will always be at belief and disbelief.
In this next section, John will begin to describe Jesus’ final hours on this earth and His final hours with His disciples. Also, how people reacted to Jesus once again in Jerusalem. During the Passover Feast, which is where we pick up the story of Jesus in John’s Gospel, east element of the feast had a significant meaning. The lamb represented the sacrifice of the first Passover (The Israelites were commanded to sacrifice a lamb and put it’s blood over their door and then cook and eat it while they were inside the home). The bitter herbs were similar to a salad representing the harsh experience they had as slaves. The unleavened bread signified the haste with which they left Egypt (the idea that they had no time to make bread and let the yeast work so the bread could rise. They had to eat unleavened bread because they were in a hurry). The wine was added much later but it came to symbolize the abundant land that God brought them to. According to the law, the Passover lasted 7 days and the meal was prepared and eaten on the evening prior to the Passover day (Thursday evening). During the Passover, the Jews would make sure no yeast or fermenting agent would be present in their homes or food. For them, yeast was a symbol of decay and was eliminated from their presence completely during this time. The bread was without yeast or leaven and the wine was mixed with water, as was customary. During the meal, the father (or if the father wasn’t there, there would be one that was presiding over the meal) would direct the preceding. It wasn’t just a “dig in” meal, there was a process. The father or presider would first eat and the others would follow. He would offer a blessing as they shared a cup of the wine. Once everything was finished, they would stand and they would sing the Hallel (pronounced Hell-el). These consists of six Psalms (113–118), which are recited as a unit, on joyous occasions including the three pilgrim festivals mentioned in the Torah: Pesach (Passover), Shavuot, and Sukkot (the "bigger" Jewish holy days), as well as at Hanukkah and Rosh Chodesh (beginning of the new month). Another part of this meal, a young person would ask the father or presider what this meal was about and this would give the opportunity for teaching about the exodus and their religion and history. It was this meal that Jesus gathered with His apostles to share that John describes in chapter 13. John describes the goings on of the evening in a way that the other gospels do not. This description will go from chapter 13 to chapter 17.
John 13:1-5 : "Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him."
Of course Jesus was fully aware of who He was, why He was sent, that His time was near, and what kind of men His apostles were. Knowing and accepting all of this, He still loved them and accepted what He was sent to do on their behalf. Due to their lack of faith and hard-heartedness at times, it would be hard to see a regular human being sacrificing their life for them but Jesus was willing to. Even knowing that one of His apostles would betray Him, even with that knowledge, He loved them nevertheless and He humbled Himself to do the thing He was about to do. Now, in those days the host would set a jar of water, a bowl and a towel, near the doorway for the purpose of washing the guests’ feet (their version of a doormat in a sense). Usually the task was given to the YOUNGEST slave or youngest boy in the family. Since they had borrowed the upper room, however, there was no one to do this. Imagine now, human nature, as each apostle arrived, no one offering to do the courteous thing for the other because it would be way too demeaning. Imagine their embarrassment when the Lord Himself gets up from the table and quietly begins to do the honors. The work of a slave! The least honorable task to bear. Now the other writers of the gospels detail an argument among the disciples concerning who was the greatest, because they probably didn’t like the seating arrangement and Jesus silences them with this action. Without a word. Imagine how you would feel if you were in their place.
John 13:6-11 : "When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”“No,” Peter protested, “you will never ever wash my feet!”Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.”Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!” Jesus replied, “A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet, to be entirely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not all of you.” For Jesus knew who would betray him. That is what he meant when he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
Peter breaks the awkward silence with a protest. He doesn’t understand all the implications of this action and what Jesus will say about it later and what it will mean. Of course what they will realize after is that the Son of God actually washed their feet. The highest took the absolute lowest position. Jesus presses Peter by saying without this, Peter could not remain a part of Jesus. So Peter reverses himself and goes to the other extreme (which is in his character, he’s a bit of an extremist and emotional at times). He says well then wash me all over if this ties me to you but Jesus reassures him that this is not necessary, only the feet washing is for now and those who have a clean heart (meaning they sincerely believe and act from faith) are completely clean and absolved. There's no need for further purification. Then Jesus references the fact that there is a traitor among them. One that has received the foot washing but their heart remains unclean. Could you imagine the emotions of these men at this moment? Ashamed for not doing the right thing and then Jesus calls out one of them as a traitor.
John 13:12-17 : "After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.”
Of course later on they will feel the impact of this gesture, God humbling Himself in front of them. But for now, Jesus uses the foot washing as an example upon which they should base their attitude toward one another. If the master can wash your feet, certainly you can do it for one another. Even today, though we do not need to wash our guests feet, we still need to remember to humble ourselves to one another. There is so much strife and division caused by pride. Humbling ourselves helps us to unify ourselves with Christ.
John 13:18-20 : "I am not saying these things to all of you; I know the ones I have chosen. But this fulfills the Scripture that says, ‘The one who eats my food has turned against me.’ I tell you this beforehand, so that when it happens you will believe that I am the Messiah. I tell you the truth, anyone who welcomes my messenger is welcoming me, and anyone who welcomes me is welcoming the Father who sent me.”
Here Jesus is revealing to them that He will not only be betrayed but that the betrayed was prophesied long ago (Psalm 41:9). So He is saying He knows it all. He knows of the betrayal and who commits it and that it was foretold by David in approximately 1015 BC. This is known as it was said to be written after the events of 1 Chronicles 28:21. So, Jesus is showing them this. In addition to this, Jesus is showing them that this is another indicator of His divine nature, the ability to predict the future accurately. In this He is doing the Second important thing for His disciples. The first important thing was washing their feet and then the next important thing He does is He reveals the traitor among them.
He washes the feet of the Apostles
He Reveals the Traitor
Until now the Apostles haven’t really grasped what Jesus had been saying to them. In the following verses, He not only makes it plain to the Apostles but He also reveals to Judas that He knows what Judas is planning to do. Wow. Imagine this. How bold can you get. He tells them what will happen, that He knows it will happen and who will do it, and then He points out the person who will do it!
John 13:21-30 : " Now Jesus was deeply troubled, and he exclaimed, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me!” The disciples looked at each other, wondering whom he could mean. The disciple Jesus loved was sitting next to Jesus at the table. Simon Peter motioned to him to ask, “Who’s he talking about?” So that disciple leaned over to Jesus and asked, “Lord, who is it?”Jesus responded, “It is the one to whom I give the bread I dip in the bowl.” And when he had dipped it, he gave it to Judas, son of Simon Iscariot. When Judas had eaten the bread, Satan entered into him. Then Jesus told him, “Hurry and do what you’re going to do.” None of the others at the table knew what Jesus meant. Since Judas was their treasurer, some thought Jesus was telling him to go and pay for the food or to give some money to the poor. So Judas left at once, going out into the night.”
So you need to imagine the scene here. Thirteen men, reclining on cushions around the table like a squared off "U". The way it worked was that the host or organizer sat at the head of the table and the head of the table was at one extreme end.
This was so He could serve or protect the honored guest or presider. The honored guest would then sit next to him and then the guest would assign seats around the table according to status. Remember, there was complaining among the disciples about who was important when they sat down. It seems that John and Peter organized the dinner (we know that Luke 21. Jesus told them to prepare the upper room) and it seemed like they hoped to take the coveted spots next to Jesus. So John being the host, was in the very first seat with Jesus to his left as the guest of honor, Peter in the next seat and the other disciples around the table (perhaps Judas in the last seat because he was a thief). Things started off as planned with John taking the first spot (we know this from him leaning His head on Jesus), Jesus in the honored position which was not contested. But John tells us some important information here. First he said, while washing their feet, Jesus came to Peter LAST. Then, when speaking to John, Peter had to gesture to get his attention. Then Jesus spoke and handed the morsel directly to Judas, meaning Judas had to be within range of Jesus. This means Judas was next to the Lord and Peter sat at the end of the table. Perhaps when assigning seats, Jesus placed Judas next to Him because He knew what was to come. Knowing Peter’s character, he must have been pouting, and went to sit as far away as he could. This explains Peter’s behavior when Jesus came to wash his feet. Much evidence pointed to this however, regardless of this, Jesus forces Judas’ hand without any of the others knowing what was going on. The idea that Satan entered him was not to suggest that Judas was demon possessed as some may suggest; what it is suggesting is that Judas finally gave in fully to the temptation of Satan. Judas was no longer under the influence of Christ, he had completely given himself over to the sin that he was about to commit; therefore, Satan was now controlling him and as a way of saying this, John says Satan entered into Judas.
Though this account does not describe the Lord’s supper as many of the other’s do, it does highlight many important lessons from the Lord’s (Last) Supper
Lessons from the Last Supper:
A servant is not above his master.
A servant should examine himself/herself (examine your heart).
If Judas would have done this, he could have resisted the temptation of Satan.
He could have asked Jesus for help right there.
If we read this section for what it is, Jesus getting His apostles ready for that is going to happen to Him (a violent and painful death) in just a matter of hours, we are witnessing Jesus’ final teachings and encouragement recorded in the gospel of John. There are other teachings and encouragements from the Lord after His resurrection and even after His ascension into Heaven (He speaks to Paul in Acts 18:9-10) but this section in John’s Gospel is the last full and lengthy teaching He provides. Also,this teaching will go on for several chapters and is only interrupted occasionally by questions by His Apostles, based on what Jesus is saying. This section here will cover the teaching of Jesus and the questions of FOUR Apostles and the response of the Lord to their questions.
Jesus’ Final Teaching and Encouragement:
Dialogue #1: Jesus and Peter (John 13:31-38)
Dialogue #2: Jesus and Thomas (John 14:1-6)
Dialogue #3: Jesus and Philip (John 14:7-15)
Dialogue #4: Jesus and Judas (Thaddeus) (John 14:16-
John 13:31-33 : " As soon as Judas left the room, Jesus said, “The time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory, and God will be glorified because of him. And since God receives glory because of the Son, he will give his own glory to the Son, and he will do so at once. Dear children, I will be with you only a little longer. And as I told the Jewish leaders, you will search for me, but you can’t come where I am going.”
With the departure of Judas, Jesus knew that the cycle of events that would eventually bring Him to the cross was now going to begin. He places His suffering and death in the same category as His miracles, His prophecies, His teachings, His resurrection, and His ascension. Isn’t that amazing? He says all of these things will work to glorify Him (meaning: will point to Him as the Son of God). Therefore, Jesus declares that even the cross is a source of glory to Him. We now know this is true because the cross provides redemption and salvation to all men, but at the time it would be hard for the disciples to understand what this meant. Dying on the cross was the same as being executed as a criminal now, so they couldn’t understand how this would glorify Him. Its important that He has stated this though because there is going to be a temptation to view His cross as an object of shame and defeat; Jesus is telling them ahead of time to not think in those terms. The cross was of course always God’s plan and as the Son is now ready to go, this is now positioned to honor the Father and His sacrifice for all men as well. We are looking at the cross from God’s perspective, not from man’s. We cannot look at it from the Jewish perspective of dishonor “cursed is the one hung on a tree” (Deuteronomy 21:22-23); Jesus is saying “the Jews are going to see this as a defeat and something that is dishonorable, but don’t think in those terms about what is going to happen to me.” So He prepares them for what will soon take place and He also reminds them of the one place where even they will not be able to follow Him “where I am going, you can’t come”. He is referring to the cross. This is His to bear alone at this time.
John 13:34-35 : " So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
The commandment to love is nothing new, but the reason or manner is new. They are to love each other because of their faith in Jesus. If we try to base our love for others on our own ability, there’s many people we are not going to love, but do to our faith in Christ, we make the effort. He also says they are to love each other in the WAY He loved them. We have an example of how we should love one another and Christ gives us that example. The cross is that example, the laying down one’s life for another. They are to use their love for one another as a witness to their faith in Christ. This proves we are a Christian; through our actions. For the Jews, their religious practices and rituals, that is what separated them from other people. For Christians, we are separated from others through our love for one another. Not their worship style or religious systems. And Jesus laying down His life for His disciples, that will be the standard for that love.
John 13:36: " Simon Peter asked, “Lord, where are you going?” And Jesus replied, “You can’t go with me now, but you will follow me later.”
Peter is curious about Jesus’ destination. He is thinking that perhaps it is to be a place, perhaps out of the country to teach elsewhere, Jews in other countries. Jesus repeats what He had said before in reference to the cross and He states that they will later follow Him in suffering , but not now. Referring to their own martyrdom for the gospel.
John 13:37-38: " But why can’t I come now, Lord?” he asked. “I’m ready to die for you.”
Jesus answered, “Die for me? I tell you the truth, Peter—before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.”
Peter suspects that some kind of danger might lay ahead in the future ministry of the Lord (they have already been threatened with death). He makes a rash statement, he wants to continue the momentum of Jesus (His triumphal entry, the excitement of the people) and Peter says “I will die for you, let’s go out in a blaze of glory!” Peter is thinking this will happen one day but Jesus knows it will happen only in a few hours and knowing that Peter is not ready to die as a martyr (one day he will die as a martyr in Rome), Jesus states how Peter will react when faced with the reality of torture and death. We sometimes do the same thing when we think we are spiritually strong but then we cave in at just a little temptation or we find excuses when called upon to give help or to even declare our own Christianity.