Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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JOHN - Chapter 13

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John 13

Supplemental Commentary:


1.  The Last Supper  13, 1 -- 17, 26

13, 1-20:  The Washing of the Feet.  Comparison of this whole section with the Synoptics (Matt. 26, 17-35; Mark 14, 12-25; Luke 22, 7-38) shows John's additions to their narrative, which he assumes as known.

V.1. is a general introduction to the scene of the whole chapter.  Pass out of this world: an expression for death; to the Father has in view the divine nature of the victim.  His own: primarily the Apostles, but also others who had come to Him in faith.  Loved them: demonstrated His love.  To the end: to the limit of love's perfection.  The proximity of His death and the ardor of His love color all the events of the evening.

2.  When the supper was in progress: it is difficult to choose between two readings in the Greek, one in the present, the other in the past.  Vv.4 and 12 seem to imply that the act interrupted the supper.  1 Cor. 11, 25 indicates that the institution of the Eucharist followed the regular supper; if so, the present action might have been between the two.  The devil, etc.: contrasting our Lord's affection with the betrayal which was to lead to His death.  Here John supposes Matt. 26, 14; Mark 14, 10; Luke 22, 3; again in 12, 4-6 he insinuates that the evil design has already been formed.    3.  Cf. Matt. 28, 18; John 1, 14; 3, 31; 8, 42; etc.  Conscious of His dignity and office, He yet gives this humble sign of His love.    4.  Rose from the supper: probably after the eating of the lamb.  Garments: a plural of generalization, referring to the usual outer garment or tunic.    5 f.  Washing of feet was the task of non-Jews, of slaves for their masters, of wife for husband, of children for father.  It seems probable that our Lord began with Peter, though this is disputed.  Peter's surprised question expresses his reverence as touched by the self-abasement of the act.    7.  Thou shalt know hereafter is generally understood of the instruction in 13 ff, though some prefer the fullness of knowledge to be infused at Pentecost.    8.  Peter's resistance is characteristic, but still impelled by reverence.  If I do not wash thee: the warning corrects Peter's attitude, but it may mean more.  Probably a cleansing is implied, but this supposition should not be carried too far.  It definitely implies the acceptance of Christ's love, and this leads to the participation indicated in 10 and 13.    9.  Again the impetuous Peter, "disturbed by love and fear" (St. Thomas).    10.  A partial washing, either of hands or feet, satisfied the demands of both etiquette and ritual.  The meaning is, it is enough that you submit to my wishes.  You are clean: free of any defilement that might separate them from Him.  But not all: the first mysterious allusion to the betrayer.    11.  Cf. 6, 70.

12-17:  Our Lord explains His action.    12.  Reclined again would indicate that the supper was not yet ended.  The question prepares for the instruction to follow; it reflects the surprise of the Apostles, and assumes its answer to be "no."    13-15.  A rabbi expected honor and respect from his students; Christ was even more entitled to them.  It was not the action itself on which He insisted, but the lesson it taught.    16.  Cf. Matt. 10, 24; Luke 6, 40.  The proverb explains the mandate.  Cf. 15, 20.    17.  Some would place here the contention of the Apostles before the supper; cf. Luke 22, 24.    18-21.  Cf. Matt. 26, 21-25; Mark 14, 18-21; Luke 22, 21-23.  This episode took place between the ritual supper and the institution of the Eucharist.  Omitting the details recorded by the Synoptics, John specifies his own part in the scene.    18 f.  I do not speak of you all: the betrayer is excepted from the blessing in 17, though he still has time to repent of his plan.  The indication of him has two purposes: it warns the Apostles of the scandal, and recalls to them another Messianic prophecy fulfilled in Christ (cf. Isa. 43, 10; John 8, 24).  This quotation is from Ps. 40, 10.  To "lift the heel" is a figure of injury, such as tripping in a race; the thought is, a familiar friend has injured me.    20.  Cf. Matt. 10, 40.  The place of this verse in the present context is difficult; probably the sense is that in spite of this betrayal, our Lord's mission will be accomplished; in spite of His removal by death, His missionaries will represent Him.  In their mission the Apostles will enjoy His protection.

13, 21-30:  The Betrayer.    21.  Troubled in spirit: cf. 12, 27; the cause is the betrayal.  Said solemnly: a clearer indication of the betrayal than in 18.    22.  The surprise of the Apostles at this incredible thing was tinged with fear.  Here should be placed Matt. 26, 25; Mark 14, 19; Luke 22, 23.    23.  He was on Jesus' right.  See Commentary on Matt. 26, 20.  In his position John could easily lay his head back on the bosom of Jesus.  This he may have done several times during the meal, but obviously on this occasion of Peter's request.  Peter may have been next to John.    24.  The Greek texts reads, "say, who is it . . ."  Peter first got John's attention by beckoning.    25.  The Greek reads "leaning back thus upon . . ."  Cf. 21, 7.20.  This memory became attached to John's name.  He repeated the question so as to be heard by our Lord alone.    26.  The Greek reads, "it is he for whom I dip the morsel, and to whom I give."  It was dipped in the charoseth (a mixture of nuts and fruits), or in salt water or vinegar.    27.  After the morsel: some hold that Judas now realized that his crime was detected, and resolved to hand Jesus over to the officials at once.  Satan entered into him to take more complete possession.  Do: St. Augustine understands this as a permission, since only Christ could have given Himself up.  Quickly: at once, there being no further need of delay.  Cf. Matt. 26, 5.    28.  The company were still in the dark; we may doubt, from their attitude, that even Peter or John understood these final words.    29.  For the feast: if this supper was the paschal meal, the "feast" is the solemn repast on the 15th Nisan.  From 18, 28 it is fairly certain that John did not consider the next day the 15th.  Give something to the poor: alms were customary on the Feast of the Passover.    30.  Judas' departure dissolved the intimacy involved in his eating the paschal supper with the group.  Probably he left before the institution of the Eucharist.  It was night: the meal could begin only after sunset.  Symbolically, too, Judas was going forth into spiritual darkness.

13, 31-35:  The New Commandment.  A prelude to the farewell address (14-17).    31.  Judas' departure was the beginning of the Passion (St. Thomas), and thus of our Lord's glorification and that of His Father.  But this was His mission.  Cf. 3, 14; 8, 28; 10, 17; etc.; Rom. 3, 26; 5, 8 f.    32.  In himself is generally understood of the Father.  Others, stressing himself, understand, through himself not through another (cf. Heb. 1, 3).    33.  Children: the usual address of a master to his pupils, but now with a special tenderness.  For the rest see 7, 34; 8, 21; He would withdraw His bodily presence from the Apostles, as from the Jews, but for a different reason and with other results.    34.  A new commandment: fraternal charity was already a precept of the natural law and also of positive divine law; cf. Lev. 19, 18; 1 John 2, 7-11.  Its new element is that its norm and example is Christ: as I have loved you.  Cf. Matt. 5, 43-47; 22, 34-40; Mark 12, 28-34; Luke 10, 27.  He now removes from it all the limitations which custom and national prejudice had imposed.  Christian charity is the charity of Christ, the bond of Christian unity.    35.  There is special reason why disciples of Christ should love one another.  This is the theme of John's Epistles.  It does not exclude the love of others.  Here it becomes the badge of Christ, to be worn by any who claim to be His disciples.

13, 36-38:  Peter's Denials Predicted.  Cf. Matt. 26, 31-35; Mark 14, 27-31; Luke 22, 31-34.  John and Luke seem to record this announcement in its actual setting, though Matthew and Mark connect it with the walk to Gethsemani.    36.  Thou canst not follow me now, either because of imperfect faith, or because Christ has further work for him to do; cf. 21, 18 f.    37.  Peter is too self-confident.    38.  The cowardice that will lead to his denial is solemnly revealed.

Confraternity Bible:

The Washing of the Feet  1 Before the feast of the Passover, Jesus, knowing that the hour had come for him to pass out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, loved them to the end.

2 And during the supper, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come forth from God and was going to God, 4 rose from the supper and laid aside his garments, and taking a towel girded himself.  5 The he poured water into the basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples, and to dry them with the towel with which he was girded.

6 He came, then, to Simon Peter.  And Peter said to him, "Lord, dost thou wash my feet?"  7 Jesus answered and said to him, "What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter."  8 Peter said to him, "Thou shalt never wash my feet!"  Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash thee, thou shalt have no part with me."  9 Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!"  10* Jesus said to him, "He who has bathed needs only to wash, and his is clean all over.  And you are clean, but not all."  11 For he knew who it was that would betray him.  This is why he said, "You are not all clean."

12 Now after he had washed their feet and put on his garments, when he had reclined again, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you?  13 You call me Master and Lord, and you say well, for so I am.  14 If, therefore, I the Lord and Master have washed your feet, you also ought to wash the feet of one another.  15 For I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so you also should do.  16 Amen, amen, I say to you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than he who sent him.  17 If you know these things, blessed shall you be if you do them.  18* I do not speak of you all.  I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled,
'He who eats bread with me has lifted up his heel against me.' 
19 I tell you now before it comes to pass, that when it has come to pass you may believe that I am he.  20 Amen, amen, I say to you, he who receives anyone I send, receives me; and he who receives me, receives him who sent me."

The Betrayer  21 When Jesus had said these things he was troubled in spirit, and said solemnly, "Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me."  22 The disciples therefore looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking.

23 Now one of his disciples, he whom Jesus loved, was reclining at Jesus' bosom.  24 Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, and said to him, "Who is it of whom he speaks?"  25 He therefore, leaning back upon the bosom of Jesus, said to him, "Lord, who is it?"  26 Jesus answered, "It is he for whom I shall dip the bread, and give it to him."  And when he had dipped the bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.  27* And after the morsel, Satan entered into him.  And Jesus said to him, "What thou dost, do quickly."  28 But none of those at the table understood why he said this to him.  29 For some thought that because Judas held the purse, Jesus had said to him, "Buy the things we need for the feast"; or that he should give something to the poor.  30 When, therefore, he had received the morsel, he went out quickly.  Now it was night.

The New Commandment  31 When, therefore, he had gone out, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.  32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and will glorify him at once.

33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you.  You will seek me, and, as I said to the Jews, 'Where I go you cannot come,' so to you also I say it now.  34 A new commandment I give you, that you love one another: that as I have loved you, you also love one another.  35 By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

Peter's Denials Predicted  36 Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, where art thou going?"  Jesus answered, "Where I am going thou canst not follow me now, but thou shalt follow later."  37 Peter said to him, "Why can I not follow thee now?  I will lay down my life for thee."  38 Jesus answered him, "Wilt thou lay down thy life for me?  Amen, amen, I say to thee, the cock will not crow before thou dost deny me thrice."


10: The sense is: He who has bathed, on returning home needs only to wash the dust from his feet.  Or it might also mean that the liturgical and social requirements are satisfied with this partial bathing.

18: Ps. 40, 10.

27: Judas now gave himself entirely into the power of Satan (St. Thomas).  It probably marks a definite decision on the part of Judas to carry out the betrayal of his Master at once.