12.When then he had washed their feet. Christ at length explains what was his intention in washing the feet of his disciples; for what he had said about the spiritual washing was a sort of digression from his main design. Had it not been for the opposition made by Peter, Christ would not have spoken on that subject. Now, therefore, he discloses the reason of what he had done; namely, that he who is the Master and Lord of all gave an example to be followed by all the godly, that none might grudge to descend to do a service to his brethren and equals, however mean and low that service might be. For the reason why the love of the brethren is despised is, that every man thinks more highly of himself than he ought, and despises almost every other person. Nor did he intend merely to inculcate modesty, but likewise to lay down this rule of brotherly love, that they should serve one another; for there is no brotherly love where there is not a voluntary subjection in assisting a neighbor.
Know you what I have done? We see that Christ, for a short time, concealed his intention from his disciples, but that, after having tried their obedience, he seasonably revealed to them that which it was not expedient for them previously to know. Nor does he now wait till they ask, but of his own accord anticipates them. The same thing will be experienced by us also, provided that we suffer ourselves to be guided by his hand, even through unknown ways.
So when he had washed their feet—the interruption of Peter had brought forth the wonderful and weighty replies, and then, in awfulness and great amazement, the process went on. John and Judas as well as Peter submitted. Matthew and Thomas, Philip and Nathanael, and the rest yielded and received the deep, ineffaceable impression—and taken his garments he was no longer in the form of a slave, but of their Teacher and Lord—and again reclined at their head, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done unto you? They must consider the meaning of it all. There was no affectation of humility about it. The purpose of the Lord was distinctly practical and ethical. So when he ceased his manifestation in the likeness of sinful flesh, and was set down on the right hand of God, he sent his Spirit to teach them all things. Moulton calls attention to the trial arrangement. Three particulars precede the great utterance that follows (cf. verses 1-3; cf. also Joh_16:6; Joh_16:8, etc.; Joh_17:22, Joh_17:23), as well as the three topics of the intercessory prayer; also the three words from the cross (Joh_19:27-30) and three appearances to the disciples (Joh_21:14). This may be compared with the use of three throughout the Apocalypse.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
13. Master and Lord] Or, The Master (Teacher) and the Lord. These are the ordinary titles of respect paid to a Rabbi: ‘Lord’ is the correlative of ‘servant,’ so that ‘Master’ might be a synonym for that also; but the disciples would no doubt use the word with deeper meaning as their knowledge of their Master increased. In the next verse the order of the titles is reversed, to give emphasis to the one with this deeper meaning.
Ye name me the Teacher and the Lord. “Rabbi and Mara,” the names of reverence which disciples of the Hebrew teachers were accustomed to offer to their masters. Φωνεῖν means to name, and the two nominatives are used appellatively, not as vocatives. Tholuck regards them as vocatives. Scholars dared not address their teachers without some marks of respect. Διδάσκαλος is John’s equivalent for יבר, my Master (see Joh_1:29; Joh_20:16). And ye say well; for so I am. At this supreme moment he does not repudiate this high function, nor abate any of his lofty claims. He was most obviously the highest in his condescending love. He had given no more amazing proof of the originality and supremacy of his nature than this inversion of all ordinary relations. So I AM—more, indeed, than “the Teacher,” “the Savior,” more than “the Master,” as Peter said on a memorable occasion, “God was with him,” and he was Immanuel—”God with us,” and “Lord of all” (Act_10:37, Act_10:38).
14.If then I, who am your Lord and Master. This is an argument from the greater to the less. Pride hinders us from maintaining that equality which ought to exist amongst us. But Christ, who is far exalted above all others, stoops down, that he may make the proud men ashamed, who, forgetting their station and rank, look upon themselves as not bound to hold intercourse with the brethren. For what does a mortal man imagine himself to be, when he refuses to bear the burdens of brethren, to accommodate himself to their customs, and, in short, to perform those offices by which the unity of the Church is maintained? In short, he means that the man who does not think of associating with weak brethren, on the condition of submitting mildly and gently even to offices which appear to be mean, claims more than he has a right to claim, and has too high an opinion of himself.
14. your Lord and Master, have washed] Rather, the Lord and the Master, washed. For the construction comp. Joh_15:20 and Joh_18:23.
ye also ought to wash one another’s feet] The custom of ‘the feet washing’ on Maundy Thursday in literal fulfilment of this typical commandment is not older than the fourth century. The Lord High Almoner washed the feet of the recipients of the royal ‘maundy’ as late as 1731. James 2 was the last English sovereign who went through the ceremony. In 1Ti_5:10 ‘washing the saints’ feet’ is perhaps given rather as a type of devoted charity than as a definite act to be required.
Inserted in A.V. Better, the Lord and the Master as Rev. Both have the article.
The verb means to owe. It occurs several times in John’s Epistles (1Jo_2:6; 1Jo_3:16; 1Jo_4:11; 3Jo_1:8). In the Gospel only here and Joh_19:7. Compare Luk_17:10. In Matthew’s version of the Lord’s prayer occur the two kindred words ὀφείλνμα, debt, and ὀφειλέτης, debtor. Jesus here puts the obligation to ministry as a debt under which His disciples are laid by His ministry to them. The word ought is the past tense of owe. Δεῖ, ought or must (see Joh_3:7, Joh_3:14, Joh_3:30, etc.) expresses an obligation in the nature of things; ὀφείλειν, a special, personal obligation.
15.For I have given you an example. It deserves our attention that Christ says that he gave an example; for we are not at liberty to take all his actions, without reserve, as subjects of imitation. The Papists boast that, by Christ’s example, they observe the forty days’ fast, or Lent. But we ought first to see whether or not he intended to lay down his fast as an example that the disciples might conform to it as a rule. We read: nothing of this sort, and, therefore, the imitation of it is not less wicked than if they attempted to fly to heaven. Besides, when they ought to have followed Christ, they were not imitators, but apes. Every year they have a fashion of washing some people’s feet, as if it were a farce which they were playing on the stage; and so, when they have performed this idle and unmeaning ceremony, they think that they have fully discharged their duty, and reckon themselves at liberty to despise their brethren during the rest of the year. But — what is far worse — after having washed the feet of twelve men, they subject every member of Christ to cruel torture, and thus spit in Christ’s face. This display of buffoonery, therefore, is nothing else than a shameful mockery of Christ. At all events, Christ does not here enjoin an annual ceremony, but bids us be ready, throughout our whole life, to wash the feet of our brethren and neighbors.
If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, have washed your feet; ye ought also to wash one another’s feet: for I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Καθώς, “as,” “like as,” was used by our Lord rather than ὅ, “that which.” The ὑπόδειγμα shows that he had set before his disciples a parallel, an example, a symbolic type of the service they were to render to one another, and was not establishing a custom or exact ordinance. The washing of the feet was an Oriental custom of great antiquity as a mark of hospitality (Gen_18:4; Gen_19:2; Abigail, 1Sa_25:41; see also Luk_7:38, Luk_7:44). In 1Ti_5:10 there is trace of such a custom of Christian hospitality. Considering the ease with which the Church has established a ceremonial from an isolated text, it is remarkable that no more literal use has been made of this injunction. However, Maundy Thursday, a name derived from Dies mandati, was celebrated as the day on which this great command, or that contained in verse 34, was given—Mandatum novum do vobis—and the feet of the newly baptized were washed. The endeavor to make Augustine the authority for this religious practice is doubtful; but the Council of Toledo mentions this particular day as that on which it was appropriate. In the early Gallican Church there was such a ritual, and the forms of pedilavium observed are to be read in early Gothic and Galliean missals. Bernard of Clairvaux tried to convert the ceremony into a sacrament, but without success. And it would seem that some effort was made to introduce it into Spain. “In 1530, Wolsey washed, wiped, and kissed the feet of fifty-nine poor men at Peterborough. The practice was continued by English sovereigns till the reign of James II.” (Westcott). No traces of it are to be found in the Ambrosian ritual, but the preservation of the custom is found now in the Russian imperial palace, in the ceremonies of the holy week at Rome, and in the palaces of vienna, Madrid,Munich. The practice was for a time retained by the United Brethren and Mennonites, and the Tunkers of Philadelphia (see ‘Dictionary of Christian Antiquities,’ vol. 1. arts. “Baptism,” §§ 34, 67, and “Maundy Thursday;” Herzog., ‘Encyc.,’ art. “Fusswaschung,” by H. Merz; and Schaff’s ‘Herzog.,’ art. “Tunkers”). The Church has for the most part looked below the mere form to the real substance of the Lord’s teaching, and only thus can we appreciate it adequately. The very injunction would be an inadequate, burdensome one where the feet are covered, and would become impossible and valueless in the Northern and Western world. The service demanded is the self-forgetting ministry of love, which places the interests of self behind and below those of others. Nothing is more theoretically easy and acceptable than this principle, but nothing more difficult of accomplishment. This sentence of our Lord is a noble illustration of the method in which a great principle is made by him the basis of a small duly (cf. Paul’s vindication of his own truthfulness and freedom from ἐλάφρια, 2Co_1:17-20; he based it on God’s own faithfulness to promise).
Ye also ought to wash … – Some have understood this literally as instituting a religious rite which we ought to observe; but this was evidently not the design; because:
1. There is no evidence that Jesus intended it as a religious observance, like the Lord’s Supper or the ordinance of baptism.
2. It was not observed by the apostles or the primitive Christians as a religious rite.
3. It was a rite of hospitality among the Jews, a common, well-known thing, and performed by servants.
4. It is the manifest design of Jesus here to inculcate a lesson of humility; to teach them by his example that they ought to condescend to the most humble offices for the benefit of others. They ought not to be proud, and vain, and unwilling to occupy a low place, but to regard themselves as the servants of each other, and as willing to befriend each other in every way. And especially as they were to be founders of the church, and to be greatly honored, he took this occasion of warning them against the dangers of ambition, and of teaching them, by an example that they could not forget, the duty of humility.
16.Verily, verily, I tell you. These are indeed proverbial sayings, which admit of a far more extensive application, but which ought to be accommodated to the case in hand. In my opinion, therefore, they are mistaken who suppose them to have a general acceptation, as if Christ were now exhorting his disciples to bear the cross; for it is more correct to say that he employed them to serve his purpose.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
16. The servant is not greater than his lord] This saying occurs four times in the Gospels, each time in a different connexion: (1) to shew that the disciples must expect no better treatment than their Master (Mat_10:24); (2) to impress the Apostles with their responsibilities as teachers, for their disciples will be as they are (Luk_6:40); (3) here; (4) with the same purpose as in Mat_10:24, but on another occasion (Joh_15:20). We infer that it was one of Christ’s frequent sayings: it is introduced here with the double ‘verily’ as of special importance (Joh_1:51).
he that is sent] An Apostle (apostolos).
The verily, verily reveals the solemnity with which our Lord touched the frequently quoted aphorism (Mat_10:24; Luk_6:40; and again Joh_15:20). The servant—the slave—is not greater than his lord; you have already called me Lord, and so I am; neither is (one that is sent) an apostle greater than he that sent him on his great mission. Therefore if I, your Lord and Teacher, have set forth this principle of self-abnegating service, a fortiori should ye in love serve one another, the greatest should render even menial service to the humblest; he that would be first to him that is the last, and each to all. This is one of the essential marks, and ever will be, of the mind that was in Christ Jesus (comp. Mat_10:23, Mat_10:24, where an analogous phrase justifies the disciples in expecting and fleeing from persecution—a step in which they would simply be following their Lord’s example; cf. a very different use of the proverb in Luk_6:40, where it is used to warn a blind man from assuming the office of a guide, and the resemblance of the character, etc., between the Teacher and disciple).
17.If you know these things. He declares that they are happy, if they know and do these things; for knowledge is not entitled to be called true, unless it produce such an effect on believers as to lead them to conform themselves to their Head. On the contrary, it is a vain imagination, when we look upon Christ, and the things which belong to Christ, as separate from ourselves. We may infer from this that, until a man has learned to yield to his brethren, he does not know if Christ be the Master. Since there is no man who performs his duty to his brethren hi all respects, and since there are many who are careless and sluggish in brotherly offices, this shows us that we are still at a great distance from the full light of faith.
If ye know these things, blessed are ye if ye do them. Knowing and doing are often perilously divorced (cf. Mat_7:21, etc.; Luk_6:46; Luk_12:47; and Jas_1:25). The sublime principle by itself may be something, but if it be never put into practice, the last great beatitude is forfeited. Mere admiration of an ethical or a Christian principle degenerating into a heartless and fruitless ceremony is hardening to the heart and deadening to the conscience. The same truths had been taught independently of parable and symbol, in Mat_23:8-12; Mat_20:28.
18.I speak not of you all. He again declares that there is one among the disciples who, in reality, is the very reverse of a disciple; and he does so, partly for the sake of Judas, in order to render him the more inexcusable, and partly for the sake of the others, ‘That they may not be overpowered by the ruin of Judas. Not only does he encourage them still to persevere in their calling when Judas falls away; but as the happiness which he speaks of is not common to all, he exhorts them to desire it with so much the greater eagerness, and to adhere to it the more firmly.
I know whom I have chosen. This very circumstance — that they will persevere — he ascribes to their election; for the virtue of men, being frail, would tremble at every breeze, and would be laid down by the feeblest stroke, if the Lord did not uphold it by his hand. But as he governs those whom he has elected, all the engines which Satan can employ will not prevent them from persevering to the end with unshaken firmness. And not only does he ascribe to election their perseverance, but likewise the commencement of their piety. Whence does it arise that one man, rather than another, devotes himself to the word of God? It is, because he was elected. Again, whence does it arise that this man makes progress, and continues to lead a good and holy life, but because the purpose of God is unchangeable, to complete the work which was begun by his hand? In short, this is the source of the distinction between the children of God and unbelievers, that the former are drown to salvation by the Spirit of adoption, while the latter are hurried to destruction by their flesh, which is under no restraint. Otherwise Christ might have said, “know what kind of person each of you will be;” but that they may not claim anything for themselves, but, on the contrary, may acknowledge that, by the grace of God alone, and not by their own virtue, they differ from Judas, he places before them that election by free grace on which they are founded. Let us, therefore, learn that every part of our salvation depends on election.
In another passage he includes Judas in the number of the elect.
Have not I chosen (or, elected) you twelve, and one of you is a devil? (Joh_6:70.)
But in that passage the mode of expression, though different, is not opposite’, for there the word denotes a temporal election, by which God appoints us to any particular work; in the same manner as Saul, who was elected to be a king, and yet was a reprobate. But here Christ speaks of the eternal election, by which we become the children of God, and by which God predestinated us to life before the creation of the world. And, indeed, the reprobate are sometime, endued by God with the gifts of the Spirit, to execute the office with which he invests them. Thus, in Saul, we perceive, for a time, the splendor of royal virtues, and thus Judas also was distinguished by eminent gifts, and such as were adapted to an apostle of Christ. But this is widely different from the sanctification of the Holy Spirit, which the Lord bestows on none but his own children; for he renews them in understanding and heart, that they may be holy and unblameable in his sight. Besides, that sanctification has a deep root in them, which cannot be removed; because the adoption of God is without repentance. Meanwhile, let us regard it as a settled point, that it results from the election of God, when, having embraced by faith the doctrine of Christ, we also follow it during our life; and that this is the only cause of our happiness, by which we are distinguished from the reprobate; for they, being destitute of the grace of the Spirit, miserably perish, while we have Christ for our guardian, who guides us by his hand, and upholds us by his power.
Besides, Christ gives here a clear proof of his Divinity; first, when he declares that he does not judge after the manner of men; and, secondly, when he pronounces himself to be the Author of election. For when he says, I know, the knowledge, of which he speaks, belongs peculiarly to God; but the second proof — contained in the words, whom I have chosen — is far more powerful, for he testifies that they who were elected before the creation of the world were elected by himself. So remarkable a demonstration of his Divine power ought to affect us more deeply, than if the Scripture had called him God a hundred times.
That the Scripture may be fulfilled. It might have been thought improper that one should have been elected to so honorable a rank, who yet did not possess true piety; for it might readily have been objected, Why did not Christ elect one whom he intended to admit into the number of the Apostles? or rather Why did he appoint a man to be an Apostle, who, he well knew, would become so wicked? He explains that this must have happened, because it was foretold; of at least, that it was no new occurrence, for David had experienced the same thing. For some think that it is a prediction quoted, which properly applies to Christ; while others think that it is merely a comparison, that, as David was basely betrayed by a private enemy, so a similar condition awaits the children of God. According to the latter, the meaning would be: That one of my disciples wickedly betrays his Master, is not the first instance of treachery that has taken place in the world; but, on the contrary, we now experience what Scripture declares to have happened in ancient times.” But, as in David there was shadowed out what was afterwards to be seen more fully in Christ, I readily agree with the former expositors, who think that this was strictly the fulfillment of that which David, by the Spirit of prophecy, had foretold, (Psa_41:9.) Besides, some are of opinion that the clause under consideration does not contain a complete sense, and needs to have the principal verb supplied. But if we read it continuously, That the Scripture may be fulfilled, he who eateth bread with me lifteth up his heel against me, there will be nothing wanting.
To lift up the heel is a metaphorical expression, and means, to attack a person in an unperceived manner, under the pretense of friendship, so as to gain an advantage over him, when he is not on his guard. Now what Christ suffered, who is our Head and our Pattern, we, who are his members, ought to endure patiently. And, indeed, it has usually happened in the Church in almost every age, that it has had no enemies more inveterate than the members of the Church; and, therefore, that believers may not have their minds disturbed by such atrocious wickedness, let them accustom themselves early to endure the attacks of traitors.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
18. I speak not of you all] There is one who knows these things, and does not do them, and is the very reverse of blessed.
I know whom I have chosen] The first ‘I’ is emphatic: ‘I know the character of the Twelve whom I chose; the treachery of one has been foretold; it is no surprise to Me.’ Comp. Joh_6:70.
but that] This elliptical use of ‘but that’ (= ‘but this was done in order that’) is frequent in S. John: Joh_1:8; Joh_9:3; Joh_14:31; Joh_15:25; 1Jn_2:19. Here another way of filling up the ellipsis is possible; ‘But I chose them in order that.’
may be fulfilled] See on Joh_12:38. The quotation is taken, but with freedom, from the Hebrew of Psa_41:9; for ‘lifted up his heel’ both the Hebrew and the LXX. have ‘magnified his heel.’ (See on Joh_6:45.) The metaphor here is of one raising his foot before kicking, but the blow is not yet given. This was the attitude of Judas at this moment. It has been remarked that Christ omits the words ‘Mine own familiar friend whom I trusted:’ He had not trusted Judas, and had not been deceived, as the Psalmist had been: ‘He knew what was in man’ (Joh_2:25).
He that eateth bread with me] Or, He that eateth the bread with Me. The more probable reading gives, My bread for ‘the bread with Me.’ The variations from the LXX. are remarkable. (1) The word for ‘eat’ is changed from the common verb (ἐσθίω) used in Psa_41:10 to the much less common verb (τρώγω) used of eating Christ’s Flesh and the Bread from Heaven (Joh_6:54; Joh_6:56-58, where see notes), and nowhere else in the N.T., excepting Mat_24:38. (2) ‘Bread’ or ‘loaves’ (ἄρτους) has been altered to ‘the bread’ (τὸν ἄρτον). (3) ‘My’ has possibly been strengthened to ‘with Me:’ to eat bread with a man is more than to eat his bread, which a servant might do. These changes can scarcely be accidental, and seem to point to the fact that the treachery of Judas in violating the bond of hospitality, so universally held sacred in the East, was aggravated by his having partaken of the Eucharist. That Judas did partake of the Eucharist seems to follow from Luk_22:19-21, but the point is one about which there is much controversy.
S. John omits the institution of the Eucharist for the same reason that he omits so much,—because it was so well known to every instructed Christian; and for such he writes.
I speak net concerning you all. There is one who, though he knows these things, will not do them, is now indisposed to see any Divineness in the act and spirit of love which I am laying down as a fundamental law of my kingdom. I know whom (or, the individuals whom) I chose for apostles—(in Joh_6:1-71. the same statement is made with less definiteness, “Have I not chosen you twelve, and one of you,” etc.?) Judas among them—but. It is difficult to follow this construction, and to decide on the antithesis to this disjunctive.
(1) We may add, this has happened (τοῦτο γέγονεν)—i.e. this choice has been overruled, and so in its issues corresponded with the Divine purpose (ἵνα)—so that the Scripture might be fulfilled, He that eateth my bread £ or, bread with me, hath lifted his heel against me;
(2) we may take the ἵνα πληρωθῇ as a parenthesis, and link the ἀλλ’ with the quotation, “He that eateth,” etc.; or
(3) we may, with Meyer, suppose that ἐξελεξα ́μην αὐτοῦς, “I chose them,” is mentally involved here: “I chose them, and Judas among them (ἵνα), in order that the Scripture,” etc. This connection would suggest a destiny and purpose which Christ knowingly corresponded with, harmonizing his plan with the Divine and prophetic program. Emphasis must be laid upon the ἐκλε ́γεσθαι. It refers to Christ’s choice of apostles, not to the eternal election to salvation. This interpretation corresponds more closely with the text, though it savors of a fatalism foreign to the Scripture. There is, however, a true sense in which the evil-disposed man is so placed that, if he will sin, he must sin along certain well-defined lines. The forty-first psalm, from which the quotation is made, is not strictly Messianic; it is descriptive of the ideal Sufferer, the holy but outraged man, whose melancholy condition is sure to be characterized by treachery among his familiar friends. Christ implies that, if he were to fulfill this portraiture, then this bitter dreg would be put into his cup; and so he humanly made this choice, i.e. he took steps which in their tenderness of love might have saved Judas from the worst, but which were really part of a Divine plan which would vindicate his own foresight and the method of Divine government. A full understanding of the formula in Matthew and John, ἵνα ἡ γραφη ̀ πληρωθῇ, will save us from putting into these words a hopeless fatalism. Notice that the LXX. reads this passage differently, and is not so closely allied to the Hebrew: “He that eateth my leaves hath magnified against me his surreptitious despite, his tricky antagonism.” Great beauty is given to the passage by the R.T. you instead of μετ ἐμου ͂, for it suggests the idea that Christ was the real Host of the twelve, the Father and Provider of his family. Christ must be regarded as the Father and Host of the entire group of guests, and the treacherous treatment of a host throughout the East is regarded as a sign of peculiar obduracy.
Pop Comm Bible Schaff
Joh_13:18.I speak not of you ail. At this point Jesus again turns to the thought of Judas, yet not with the view of simply repeating what He had said at Joh_13:10. It is contemplation of the blessedness first spoken of that fills His mind, and pity for that disciple who was not only to separate himself from the others, but, in doing so, to lose their blessedness.
I know whom Ichose. The choosing refers to election to the apostleship, not to eternal life (comp. Joh_6:70; Joh_6:16; Joh_6:19). The precise object of the statement is more difficult to determine. The most probable explanation seems to be that our Lord would anticipate what could not fail to be afterwards a source of perplexity to the disciples. It will seem strange to them that a traitor should have been chosen to be one of their number; and they may even be tempted to think that, had Jesus known what He was doing, no such choice would have been made. Therefore, with much emphasis on the ‘I,’ he says, ‘I know whom I chose. You may imagine that I have been deceived, but it is not so; I knew well what was to happen, and that it was a part of the purposes of God,’—but, that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth my bread lifted up his heel against me. The words are from Psa_41:9. As originally used they refer to the suffering righteous man, but the Psalmist is led to employ words which have their full meaning only as applied to the ideal righteous one, that is, to Jesus; and Jesus now speaks them directly in His own person. As found here they are not a reproduction of the Septuagint, but are an original translation of the Hebrew. The figure may be taken from the tripping up of a runner in a race, or from the thought of kicking. The latter allusion is the more probable. The peculiar offensiveness of the conduct spoken of lies in the fact that the person guilty of it has ‘eaten the bread’ of him whom he injures, and has thus violated those laws of hospitality and friendship than which the East knew none more sacred.
TEXT: “The one who ate my bread has lifted his heel” EVIDENCE: B C L 892 cop(south) TRANSLATIONS: ASV RSV NASV NIV TEV RANK: D
NOTES: “The one who ate bread with me has lifted his heel” EVIDENCE: p66 S A D K W Delta Theta Pi Psi f1 f13 28 33 700 1010 1241 Byz lat (one reads “my bread with me”) vg syr cop(north) (some read “my bread with me”) TRANSLATIONS: KJV ASVn NEB
COMMENTS: It is possible that a few copyists changed the quotation to read like Psa_41:9 in the Greek Old Testament (“my bread”). On the other hand, it is also possible that other copyists changed this passage to read like Mar_14:18 (“who is eating with me”).
19.I tell you this now, before it happen. By this statement he reminds his disciples that, when one of their number becomes a reprobate, this is so far from being a good reason for their being discouraged, that it ought to be a more full confirmation of their faith. For if we did not see before our eyes, in the Church, what has been foretold about her distresses and struggles, a doubt might justly arise in our minds, Where are the prophecies? But when the truth of Scripture agrees with our daily experience,17 then do we perceive more clearly, that God takes care of us, and that we are governed by his providence.
That you may believe that I am. By the phrase,that I am, he means that he is that Messiah who had been promised; not that the conduct of Judas, as a traitor, was the first event that led the disciples to the exercise of faith, but because their faith made greater progress, when they arrived at the experience of those things which they had formerly heard from the mouth of Christ. Now this may be explained in two ways; either that Christ says that they will believe after the event has happened, because there was nothing which was hidden from him, or that nothing will be wanting in him of all that the Scripture testifies concerning Christ. As the two interpretations agree well enough together, I leave my readers at liberty to choose which of them they will prefer.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
19. Now] Better, as the margin, From henceforth (comp. Joh_1:51, Joh_14:7; Rev_14:13). Hitherto Christ had been reserved about the presence of a traitor; to point him out would have been to make him desperate and deprive him of a chance of recovery. But every good influence has failed, even the Eucharist and the washing of his feet; and from this time onward Christ tells the other Apostles.
before it come] Add to pass, as in the next clause. Comp. Joh_14:29. The success of such treachery might have shaken their faith had it taken them unawares: by foretelling it He turns it into an aid to faith.
may believe that I am he] See on Joh_8:24; Joh_8:28; Joh_8:58.
20.Verily, verily, I tell you. In these words either the Evangelist relates a discourse on a different subject, and in a broken and imperfect state, or, Christ intended to meet the offense which was likely to arise from the crime of Judas; for the Evangelists do not always exhibit the discourses of Christ in unbroken succession, but sometimes throw together, in heaps, a variety of statements. It is more probable, however, that Christ intended to provide against this scandal. There is too good evidence that we are very ready to be wounded by bad examples; for, in consequence of this, the revolt of one man inflicts a deadly wound on two hundred others, while the steadiness of ten or twenty pious men hardly edifies a single individual. On this account, while Christ was placing such a monster before the eyes of his disciples, it was also necessary that he should stretch out his hand to them, lest, struck by the novelty, they should fall back. Nor was it only on their account that he said this, but he also consulted the advantage of those who should come after; for, otherwise, the remembrance of Judas might, even at the present day:, do us grievous injury. When the devil cannot estrange us from Christ by hatred of his doctrine, he excites either dislike or contempt of the ministers themselves.
Now this admonition of Christ shows that it is unreasonable that the impiety of any whose conduct is wicked or unbecoming their office, should at all diminish the apostolical authority. The reason is, we ought to contemplate God, the Author of the ministry, in whom, certainly, we find nothing which we have a right to despise; and next, we ought to contemplate Christ, who, having been appointed by the Father to be the only Teacher, speaks by his apostles. Whoever, then, does not deign to receive the ministers of the Gospel, rejects Christ in them, and rejects God in Christ.
The Papists act a foolish and ridiculous part, when they endeavor to obtain this applause for themselves, in order exhibit their tyranny. For, in the first place, they adorn themselves with begged and borrowed feathers, having no resemblance to the apostles of Christ; and, secondly, granting that they are apostles, nothing was farther from Christ’s intention, in this passage, than to transfer his own right to men; for what else is it to receive those whom Christ sends, but to give place to them, that they may fulfill the office which has been committed to them?
The connection of the solemn utterance that follows is not easy to seize. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He who receiveth whomsoever I shall send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. In the earlier utterance of an analogous saying (Mat_10:40), δεχέσθαι is used instead of λαμβάνειν. The ἐάν τίνα πέμψω suggests that those who may receive his commission need not, and will not, be confined to the twelve apostles, although including them. The words reveal a claim to issue such commissions, and to confer upon his apostolic and other representatives something of his own dignity and glory, viz. the glory of sacrifice far others, the dignity of service. He may have intended:
(1) To comfort those who are bewildered by the thought of the treachery within their enclosure, and to assure them that such conduct on the part of an apostle must not be allowed to lower their estimate of apostolic duty. Certain ecclesiastical interpreters find here that the unworthiness even of Judas did not destroy the Divine character of his testimony, and that the immoral character of the minister now does not annul the commission he has received. This dogma is essentially hostile to the teaching of the New Testament (Mat_7:17-21).
(2) The royal power of the dying Christ; and
(3) the bold identification of his own claims with those of his Father. Few more wonderful sayings were uttered by Jesus, if we ponder the connection in which they stand; but let it be observed that we do not owe to the Fourth Gospel the matter of this saying. It must have been familiar to the readers of John from the solemn records of the Gospel of Matthew.
33.Little children, yet a little while am I with you. As it was impossible that the disciples should not be deeply grieved at their Master’s departure, so he gives them early warning that he will no longer be with them, and, at the same time, exhorts them to patience. Lastly, to remove unseasonable eagerness of desire, he declares that they cannot immediately follow him. In calling them little children, he shows, by that gentle appellation, that his reason for departing from them is not that he cares little about their welfare, for he loves them very tenderly. True, the object which he had in view in clothing himself with our flesh was, that he might be our brother, but by that other name he expresses more strongly the ardor of his love.
As I said to the Jews. When he says, that he repeats to them what he had formerly said to the Jews, this is true as to the words, but there is a wide difference in the meaning; for he declares that they cannot follow him, in order that they may endure patiently his temporary absence, and — so to speak — bridles them in, that; they may remain in their office, till they have finished their warfare on earth; so that he does not perpetually exclude them, as Jews, from the kingdom of God, but only bids them wait patiently, till he bring them, along with himself, into the heavenly kingdom.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
33. Little children] Nowhere else in the Gospels does Christ use this expression of tender affection (teknia), which springs from the thought of His orphaned disciples. S. John appears never to have forgotten it. It occurs frequently in his First Epistle (1Jn_2:1; 1Jn_2:12; 1Jn_2:28, Joh_3:7; Joh_3:18, Joh_4:4, Joh_5:21), and perhaps nowhere else in the N.T. In Gal_4:19 the reading is doubtful. ‘Children’ in Joh_21:5 is a different word (paidia).
a little while] See on Joh_7:33-34, Joh_8:21.
Ye shall seek me] Christ does not add, as He did to the Jews, ‘and shall not find Me,’ still less: ‘ye shall die in your sin.’ Rather, ‘ye shall seek Me: and though ye cannot come whither I go, yet ye shall find Me by continuing to be My disciples and loving one another.’ The expression ‘the Jews’ is rare in Christ’s discourses; comp. Joh_4:22, Joh_18:20; Joh_18:36.
This is the first and only time, in the Gospels that the tender word, little children, is used by the Lord. The adoption of the gentle love-word is appropriate as a link to the new commandment, and reveals the love of departure, the tender love that wells up in his heart, as he contemplates the orphan-like and bereft condition of his disciples. A little while am I still with you. Ye shall seek me in the way of sympathetic love and vivid realization of my spiritual and real presence; and as I said ante the Jews (a term that Christ used in this place only when speaking to his disciples, though he had made use of it to the Samaritans, and would use it to Caiaphas and Pilate), in Joh_7:33, Joh_7:34, and Joh_8:21; but there and then he added, “Ye will not find me,” because they would only seek him in carnal ideas and angry disappointment. Observe, he does not here repeat this consequence of the search, because ultimately these disciples would not only seek, but follow and find; nevertheless, he adds: As I said to the Jews, Whither I go, you are not able to come; so at this time I say to you. There are two words used for “now”—νῦν denotes absolutely the present moment; ἄρτι (Joh_9:19, Joh_9:25, etc.) denotes here and there, a period distinct from past and future, and yet related to both. The time is not yet come for you to enter into my glory; you cannot yet come, you have to continue my earthly ministry, to prolong the testimony which I have given concerning God, and which God has given concerning me. The time will come when “I will receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also;” but now he prays, “though I am no more in this world, these are in the world holy Father, keep them” (Joh_17:11).
34.A new commandment I give you. To the consolation he adds an exhortation,that they should love one another; as if he had said, “Yet while I am absent from you in body, testify, by mutual love, that I have not taught you in vain; let this be your constant study, your chief meditation.” Why does he call it a new commandment ? All are not agreed on this point. There are some who suppose the reason to be, that, while the injunction formerly contained in the Law about brotherly love was literal and external, Christ wrote it anew by his Spirit on the hearts of believers. Thus, according to them, the Law is new, because he publishes it in a new manner, that it may have full vigor. But that is, in my opinion, far-fetched, and at variance with Christ’s meaning. The exposition given by others is, that, though the Law directs us to the exercise of love, still, because in it the doctrine of brotherly love is encumbered by many ceremonies and appendages, it is not so clearly exhibited; but, on the other hand, that perfection in love is laid down in the Gospel without any shadows. For my own part, though I do not absolutely reject this interpretation, I consider what Christ said to be more simple; for we know that laws are more carefully observed at the commencement, but they gradually slip out of the remembrance of men, till at length they become obsolete. In order to impress more deeply, therefore, on the minds of his disciples the doctrine of brotherly love, Christ recommends it on the ground of novelty; as if he had said, “I wish you continually to remember this commandment, as if it had been a law but lately made.”
In short, we see that it was the design of Christ, in this passage, to exhort his disciples to brotherly love, that they might never permit themselves to be withdrawn from the pursuit of it, or the doctrine of it to slip out of their minds. And how necessary this admonition was, we learn by daily experience; for, since it is difficult to maintain brotherly love, men lay it aside, and contrive, for themselves, new methods of worshipping God, and Satan suggests many things for the purpose of occupying their attention. Thus, by idle employments, they in vain attempt to mock God, but they deceive themselves. Let this title of novelty, therefore, excite us to the continual exercise of brotherly love. Meanwhile, let us know that it is called new, not because it now began, for the first time, to please God, since it is elsewhere called the fulfilling of the law, (Rom_13:10.)
That you love one another. Brotherly love is, indeed, extended to strangers, for we are all of the same flesh, and are all created after the image of God; but because the image of God shines more brightly in those who have been regenerated, it is proper that the bond of love, among the disciples of Christ, should be far more close. In God brotherly love seeks its cause, from him it has its root, and to him it is directed. Thus, in proportion as it perceives any man to be a child of God, it embraces him with the greater warmth and affection. Besides, the mutual exercise of love cannot exist but in those who are guided by the same Spirit. It is the highest degree of brotherly love, therefore, that is here described by Christ; but we ought to believe, on the other hand, that, as the goodness of God extends to the whole world, so we ought to love all, even those who hate us.
As I have loved you. He holds out his own example, not because we can reach it, for we are at a vast distance behind him, but that we may, at least, aim at the same end.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
34. A new commandment] The commandment to love was not new, for ‘thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself’ (Lev_19:18) was part of the Mosaic Law. But the motive is new; to love our neighbour because Christ has loved us. We have only to read the ‘most excellent way’ of love set forth in 1 Corinthians 13, and compare it with the measured benevolence of the Pentateuch, to see how new the commandment had become by having this motive added. There are two words for ‘new’ in Greek; one looks forward, ‘young,’ as opposed to ‘aged;’ the other looks back, ‘fresh,’ as opposed to ‘worn out.’ It is the latter that is used here and in Joh_19:41. Both are used in Mat_9:17, but our version ignores the difference—‘They put new wine into fresh wineskins.’ The phrase ‘to give a commandment’ is peculiar to S. John; comp. Joh_12:49; 1Jn_3:23.
as I have loved you] These words are rightly placed in the second half of the verse. They do not mean ‘love one another in the same way as I have loved you;’ but they give the reason for the fresh commandment—‘even as I have loved you.’ S. John states the same principle in the First Epistle (Joh_4:11) ‘If God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.’ Comp. Joh_15:13.
A new commandment I give unto you (with the purpose and scope) that ye love one another; even as (or, seeing that) I loved you, that ye (also) love one another. The interpretation of this verse largely depends on the meaning given to the καθὼς, if, as many translate it, “even as I loved you;” or, “after the manner and type of my love to you;” then an amply sufficient explanation arises of the novelty of the ἐντολή. So new a type of love is given that, as the Greek expositors generally have urged, there is a deeper intensity in the love than can be found in the Mosaic principle, Love thy neighbor as thyself.” In this commandment, which embraces the whole law, self-love is assumed, and is made the standard for the love of neighbor. This ἐντολή, on the other hand, would be based on a new principle, and measured by a higher standard, and even mean more than love of self altogether. Christ’s love to his disciples was self-abandoning, self-sacrificing love. This view of the passage is urged by Lucke, and really removes all necessity for the varied translations of the καινή, such as “illustrious” (Hammond); “last” (Heumann); “one that is always new” (Olshausen); “renewed commandment,” a “renewing commandment”; “the institution of the Eucharist” (Lange). But it is doubtful whether the ideal image of a perfect love constitutes the novelty, and whether the double ἵνα and the transposition of the second ἵνα be found in the simple style of John. If, however, καθώς ἠγάπησα be taken as “seeing that,” or “since I loved you” (see Joh_17:2), Christ’s love becomes not so much the manner or type, as the motive, ground, and principle of love to one another. As if he had said, “I have loved each of you unto death; in loving one another you are loving me, you are loving an object of my tender love. The desire of mere imitation, however strong, is not equal to the demand I make, while the bestowment of the ‘new’ principle of life arising from a response to my love is.” For the first interpretation speaks John’s own use of the idea (1Jn_3:16). There is a third interpretation, which makes καθὼς ἠγάπησα ὑμᾶς a sentence parallel with the δίδωμι. “Even as up to this moment, and up to my death, and to the uttermost, I have loved you, I give,” etc., “in order that ye may love one another, and, inspired by me, may imitate my love one towards another” (Westcott). This is an endeavor to combine both interpretations. Alford suggests that the “newness” of the commandment consists in its “unicity,” its being the prime injunction of the new covenant, and the first-fruit of the Spirit (Gal_5:22; 1Co_13:1-13.). Tholuck sees the expression of self-renouncing love—the love of the highest to the sinful, the love which is more blessed to give than to receive, the all-embracing love.
By (or, in) this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one toward another. Not by works of majesty and power, but by love to one another. All commentators refer to the well-known saying of St. John at Ephesus, as recorded by Jerome, “This is the Lord’s commandment. If ye love one another it is enough” (Tholuck refers to Tertullian’s ‘Apol.,’ 39; Minucius Felix, “They love before they know each other ;” and Lucian, “Their Master makes them believe they are brothers,” ‘De Mort. Pereg.’). Analogies to the great law of Christ may be found in the Law of Moses, in Talmudical writings, in the Confucian ‘Analcets,’ and in Stoical maxims; but this ἐντολή in its fullness, and as sustained by this motive, or inspired by this pattern, and lifted to this standard, is new to the human race: and it is the power which has revolutionized thought, society, and life. So long as this great power prevailed, the Church made astounding progress; when the so-called disciples of Christ began to hale and kill one another the progress was arrested. But, thank God, the “new commandment” has always had marvelous power over the Church of Christ.
36.Lord, whither goest thou? This question is founded on that saying of Christ,
I said to the Jews, that whither I go you cannot come, so now I say to you,
From this it is evident how ignorant Peter was, who, after having been so frequently warned about Christ’s departure, was as greatly perplexed as if he had heard something new. Yet in this respect we are too like him; for we hear daily from the mouth of Christ all that is fitted for usefulness in life, and all that is necessary to be known, and, when we come to practice, we are as much astonished as apprentices to whom not a word had ever been spoken. Besides, Peter shows that he is under the influence of an immoderate desire of Christ’s bodily presence; for he reckons it absurd that, while he remains, Christ shall go elsewhere.
Whither I go. By these words Christ restrains Peter’s excessive desire. His language is concise, as becomes a Master, but immediately softens the hardness of his statement. He shows that it will only be for a time that he shall be separated from his disciples. We are taught by this passage to subject all our desires to God, that they may not go beyond their proper bounds; and if at any time they become extravagant and foolish, let us at least submit to be held in by this bridle. That we may not lose courage, let us avail ourselves of the consolation which is immediately added, when Christ promises that we shall one day be gathered to him.
But thou shalt follow me afterwards. He means that Peter is not yet ripe for bearing the cross, but, like corn still in the blade, must be formed and strengthened by the progress of time, that he may follow. We ought therefore to pray to God to carry forward to a higher degree of excellence what he has begun in us. In the meantime, we must creep, till we are able to run more swiftly. Now as Christ bears with us, while we are tender and delicate, so let us learn not to reject weak brethren, who are still very far from the goal. It is desirable, indeed, that all should run with the greatest eagerness, and we ought to encourage all to quicken their pace; but if there are any who walk more slowly, we ought to hope well concerning them, provided that they keep the road.
Here follows another characteristic question of Simon Peter, who said to him, Lord, whither goest thou? This inquiry points backs to Joh_13:33, where Jesus warned his disciples that they could not now follow him. Jesus answered (him) (the “him” is omitted by B, C, L, Vulgate, and Coptic, by Westcott and Hort, and R.T.), Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now (νῦν), at this crisis; but thou shalt follow me afterwards. Peter felt that the central teaching of the entire conversation turned upon the Lord’s departure and his separation, not only from the Jews who misunderstood him, but from the disciples themselves, lie wanted something more than the sacred power of love to his own brethren; he yearned after more utter identification with his Master, rather than closer interdependence of love and mutual ministries among the shattered group of half-taught disciples. Whither goest thou? If to the battle-field, to the condemned cell, to the martyr’s death, I will go with thee. “Not now,” is the reply, but “afterwards,” after thou hast strengthened thy brethren (see Luk_22:32), after thou hast shepherded my lambs and my sheep, and fed the sheep themselves with the finest pasture, then thou shalt come my way. It is very impressive that, in the beautiful legend that has been commemorated in the Church of “Domine, quo vadis?” in Rome, Peter should at the last have been supposed to put his personal feelings before his Master’s will. Fleeing from persecution at Rome, he is said to have met his Lord entering the city, and, after putting this question, received the reply, “Ibam ad urbem, iterum crucifigi.” The disciple, after his wont, accepted the rebuke, immediately returned to the city, and “then another bound him, and led him whither he would not” (Joh_21:18, Joh_21:19).
37. I will lay down my life] St Peter seems to see that Christ’s going away means death. With his usual impulsiveness (see on Joh_13:9) he declares that he is ready to follow at once even thither. He mistakes strong feeling for moral strength. On the phrase ‘lay down my life’ see last note on Joh_10:11.
Peter saith unto him, Why cannot I follow thee even now? I will lay down my life for thy sake. Compare the language of Thomas (Joh_11:16), “Let us go, that we may die with him.” Peter thought himself ready to die for his Lord, before his Lord had died for him. He who had seen; the glory of the Transfiguration, and the majesty of Christ’s power, and the depth of an uttermost love, was ready, as he thought, for any sacrifice, for the most complete self abandonment; but he miscalculated his strength of will and the tenacity of his purpose. “Quid in animo ejus esset cupiditatis videbat, quid virium non videbat”. St. Paul, long before St. John made this conversation known, must have gathered from the known teaching of Jesus the same sublime subtle truth, that it is possible to dare a martyr’s death, and yet to be without true love (1Co_13:1, 1Co_13:2, 1Co_13:3).
38.Wilt thou lay down thy life for me? Christ did not choose to debate with Peter, but wished that he should grow wise by his own experience, like fools, who never grow wise till they have received a stroke. Peter promises unshaken firmness, and indeed expresses the sincere conviction of his mind; but his confidence is full of rashness, for he does not consider what strength has been given to him. Now since this example belongs to us, let each of us examine his own defects, that he may not be swelled with vain confidence. We cannot indeed make too large promises about the grace of God; but what is here reproved is the arrogant presumption of the flesh, for faith rather produces fear and anxiety.
The cock will not crow. As presumption and rashness proceed from ignorance of ourselves, Peter is blamed for pretending to be a valiant soldier while he is beyond arrow-shot; for he has not yet made trial of his strength, and imagines that he could do any thing. He was afterwards punished, as he deserved, for his arrogance. Let us learn to distrust our own strength, and to betake ourselves early to the Lord, that he may support us by his power.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
38. I say unto thee] In the parallel passage in S. Luke (Luk_22:34) Christ for the first and only time addresses the Apostle by the name which He had given him,—‘I tell thee, Peter;’ as if He would remind him that the rock-like strength of character was not his own to boast of, but must be found in humble reliance on the Giver.
S. Luke agrees with S. John in placing the prediction of the triple denial in the supper-room: St Matt. (Mat_26:30-35) and S. Mark (Mar_14:26-30) place it on the way from the room to Gethsemane. It is possible but not probable that the prediction was repeated; though some would even make three predictions recorded by (1) S. Luke, (2) S. John, (3) S. Matt. and S. Mark. See introductory note to Chapter 12 and Appendix B.
thrice] All four accounts agree in this. S. Mark adds two details: (1) that the cock should crow twice, (2) that the prediction so far from checking S. Peter made him speak only the more vehemently, a particular which S. Peter’s Gospel more naturally contains than the other three. S. Matthew and S. Mark both add that all the disciples joined in S. Peter’s protestations.
It has been objected that fowls were not allowed in the Holy City. The statement is wanting in authority, and of course the Romans would pay no attention to any such rule, even if it existed among the Jews.