Scripture Study: John 13

John 13  •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 7
The time for the Lord’s departure is now at hand.
Verse 1. “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.” That unchanging love now begins to unfold the provision necessary for His own, His loved ones, who would for the present be left behind. This must necessarily be in accordance with the new position He will have as glorified; no longer as the Messiah on earth with His disciples, but as rejected, crucified, raised, and glorified at the Father’s right hand, and they sharing His rejection on earth, but also the blessing of communion with Him, and the Father, by the Holy Spirit, and the hope of glory with Him at His coming for them.
Verses 2-4. The instrument of His betrayal is there with the rest of His disciples at the Passover supper, and the devil has put it into his heart already to betray Him. “Knowing that all things were given into His hand by the Father, and that He was come from God and went to God, He rises from supper, and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself.” In this we see the place of a servant still taken by Him on high. As the servant in Exodus 21, “He would not go out free.” This picture shows us how His love stoops to wash our feet from the defilement of this present evil world as we pass through it.
Verse 5. The water in the basin figures the Word of God, that is to be applied to our walk and ways (Psa. 17:4; 119:94Concerning the works of men, by the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer. (Psalm 17:4)
9BETH. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. (Psalm 119:9)
; John 15:33Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. (John 15:3); Eph. 5:2626That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, (Ephesians 5:26)). He began to wash their feet and to wipe them with the towel wherewith He was girded. What lowly grace it is, that occupies Him with what is needed for our happiness, and for God’s glory in us! Grace that teaches us, and helps us to judge our ways, and to own our failures, as well as being our Advocate on high with the Father (1 John 2:11My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: (1 John 2:1)), charging all to Himself as Jesus Christ, the righteous.
Verses 6-10. Peter could not understand the Lord taking such a humble place, and is not going to allow His Master to wash his feet. Jesus answers, “What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter.” This should plainly show that it signified something else than literal washing of feet. It was only to be, understood in the period when the Lord was on high. Peter answers, “Thou shalt never wash my feet.” We need not blame Peter, for have we not sometimes refused the Lord’s gracious service for a far worse reason than Peter’s? Oftentimes, in pride of heart, we would not say, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23, 2423Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: 24And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23‑24). And perhaps we kept Him knocking at our door a while, before we would break down (Rev. 3:2020Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)).
The Lord’s gentle challenge to Peter’s affections soon won him. “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me.” This touched him, for He loved the Lord, and with his usual force of speech, he says, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.” Yes, he wanted part with Him—all he could have of it. And surely so do we. Part in Him every believer, through grace, has, and that can never be forfeited, thank God for it! That is secured for us by the Lord living for us on high (Heb. 10:1414For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. (Hebrews 10:14); 1 John 4:1717Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. (1 John 4:17)), but we need to learn that “without Him we can do nothing,” and we need our consciences exercised day by day, to walk in the truth, for His name is “holy” and “true,” and we cannot walk with Him if we do not seek holiness and truth.
This speech of Peter’s gives the Lord the occasion to unfold more of the truth, so He answers him: “He that is washed (bathed all over) needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit.” This is an allusion to the priestly consecration when the priests were washed all over. Afterward they washed their hands and feet before going into the tabernacle for the service of Jehovah. So we now have been cleansed (1 Cor. 6:1111And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11)) by the water and the blood. We know redemption through His blood, and by it we have been brought nigh to God. Our standing before God could not be more perfect, for it is Christ Himself (1 Cor. 1:3030But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: (1 Corinthians 1:30)), but we need our feet washed, every day, all the time, and let us remember that our blessed Lord Jesus says, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me.” Though not now in ignorance of what it means, should we not all the more in the glad sense of His love, express our desire to be fully in His hands, and let Him by the word mold and fashion us according to His own will?
Verse 11. The Lord knew who should betray Him and that they were not all clean, but He treated them all alike, for Judas was not yet manifested as the betrayer.
Verses 12-17. Another lesson for us now is, that we are to have a part in this gracious and loving service toward each other. “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, the servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” But how shall we ever be able for such a service? How can we let this mind be in us which was also in Him? Only by humbly seeking His face, by laying aside our garments and humbling ourselves into our true place before Him, and by letting His love to all His own fill our hearts; then we will be much in prayer for ourselves and all His own, bearing them up in His presence, and there learning His will about them. Then it will be no difficulty if a brother be taken in a fault to restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, and to consider how easily we ourselves can be tempted. Or like the husband and wife who expounded unto Apollos the way of God more perfectly (Acts 18:2626And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly. (Acts 18:26)). For it is no small part of this service to supply what is lacking in ones knowledge of our holy and heavenly calling. What a joy it is to lead one another to walk with the Lord.
Verses 18-25. Again, the Lord refers to Judas Iscariot, who was now about to manifest himself. Judas’ apostleship is recognized in the words, “He that receiveth whomsoever I send, receiveth Me; and he that receiveth Me, receiveth Him that sent Me.” But it was deep sorrow to the Lord that made Him testify, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray Me.” The disciples looked at on another doubting of whom He spake. In another gospel they say, “Is it I?” and were very sorrowful, but John, who knew Jesus’ love so much, was in his place in His bosom. Peter beckoned to him to ask who it should be of whom He spake. John lay back on Jesus’ breast, and said, “Lord, who is it?” He is in the right place to receive the Lord’s communications, though he was not there for that purpose; it was love that took him there, appreciation of Christ’s love for him.
Verse 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.” All this should have appealed to Judas, but he was evidently hardened, and likely thought he would get the money and the Lord could free Himself. So He could, but that was not the Father’s way for Him.
Verses 27-30. Now Satan takes possession of this poor hardened one who had allowed the devil to deceive him, and he goes out immediately. He parted company with the Lord and His disciples, to hurry out into an eternal night of despair in his own place (Acts 1:2525That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. (Acts 1:25)). The Lord knew what he was going to do. The disciples thought he was sent out to carry out some commission for the Lord.
Verses 31-35. When he was gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him. If God be glorified in Him, God shall also glorify Him in Himself, and shall straightway glorify Him. 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. A new commandment I give unto you. That ye love one another; as I have loved you that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
He spake of His death in which He would glorify God as the sin bearer in making atonement for sin. It was His glory to accomplish that work which would glorify God. There on the cross where all the power of Satan, and all that sin was and had done, and God’s judgment upon it were manifested, and where the question was settled; where Satan’s power in man was seen in its awful reality against God. There God was glorified, and all His blessed character upheld in righteousness. His perfect, righteous judgment against sin as the Holy One, but in it His perfect love to sinners in giving His Only begotten Son to die for them.
Hereby know we love, as another has said, “At the cross we find: man in absolute evil—the hatred of what was good; Satan’s full power over the world—the prince of this world. Man (Christ) in perfect goodness, obedience, and love to the Father at all cost to Himself; God, in absolute, infinite righteousness against sin, and infinite, divine love to the sinner. Good and evil were fully settled forever, and salvation wrought, the foundation of the new heavens and the new earth laid. Well may we say, “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in Him!” God now blesses in grace reigning in righteousness through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
“God could not pass the sinner by,
His sin demands that he must die;
But in the cross of Christ we see
How God can save, yet righteous be.”
God is just and justifies in grace. He is love, and in that love bestows His righteousness on man, all through the death of the Son of Man. If God be glorified in Him, God shall also glorify Him in Himself, and shall straightway glorify Him. This is what God has done—raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at God’s right hand in heavenly glory and crowned Him with glory and honor. This is the present expression of God’s delight in Him, and declares our full acceptance in Him, shall share the glory with Him, but now we see Him victorious, the One who has gained the victory by His work of obedience.
He announces to His disciples that He was going where they could not go. He alone could be there, and it was for them. And here His new commandment, that new divine nature of love, would enable them to love one another, and this was a sure mark that they were His disciples, if they had love one to another, and this would help to support them in His absence.
Verses 36-38. Simon Peter tries to solve the mystery, and penetrate into what mortal man could not do. The Lord Jesus only could enter God’s presence by the path of death, and the judgment of God. Peter’s question draws out his inability to follow Him at this time, and he says further, “I will lay down my life for Thy sake.” Self-confident, he is warned and rebuked, and told that when tried he would be an utter failure, for fleshly confidence cannot stand. Strength from God alone can hold us up. But Peter afterward was given the privilege to lay down his life for Christ’s sake (John 21:18,1918Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. 19This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me. (John 21:18‑19)).