Biblical Studies/New Testament Commentaries/The Gospel of John/Chapter 13
John Chapter 13 Verses 1-17
In the beginning of this Chapter Jesus is having dinner with his disciples; however, it is the foot-washing that marks the special significance of the occasion. The supper had already begun when Jesus rose from the table and began washing the disciples' feet. Then Peter objects, saying that he is unworthy to have his feet washed by Jesus. He says this because of the typical station of one who washes feet; typically a slave or servant. Traditionally, the task of washing the feet was reserved for Gentile slaves, for wives, and for children and Jewish men were not required to do so. The only exception was when disciples washed the feet of their rabbis. The disciples' obvious bewilderment is then coupled with a powerful teaching from Jesus; saying that this is what he is going to do for the world, and that his disciples should follow his example. Is it another "coincidence" that first, Jesus must be a slave of all and serve before he can present his life as a ransom for many? Another example that was set forth was so that the disciples may learn to perform similar service for one another.
The reader should pay close attention to the opening statement in which they are given three important facts: 1.what time it is by the Jewish calendar; 2. what time it is in Jesus' ministry; 3. and Jesus' own disposition and intention. 13:1 states, "Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and to go to the Father." The fact that the Last Supper occurs before Passover and not during has caused some questions since Jesus called it the Passover meal.
The Maccabees had changed the calendar and the Essenes were keeping the correct day which began after sunset at the beginning of Tuesday. The new day began in Israel right after sunset. The only group celebrating the passover on Tuesday was the Essenes. They were vegetarians and did not believe that Yah had required animals sacrifices. By celebrating the Essene date Jesus is clearly distancing himself from the Passover lamb. He never called himself a lamb, but called himself a shepherd. He is also joining the Essenes in repudiating the sacrificial system.
Yah did not sacrifice his son as pagan gods did. Nor did Jesus offer himself as a sacrifice the way pagan kings offered human sacrifices to their pagan Gods.
Jesus taught us that the angry gods who needed blood to satiate their wrath had nothing in common with the God of the Bible.
The Beloved Disciple in John 13
Very curious language is used to describe the Beloved Disciple in John Chapter 13. The disciple is said to be "reclining next to Him" when asked to prompt Jesus about the identity of his betrayer, at which point the disciple is "leaning back against Jesus" to ask Him (Verses 23-5). This is indicative of a very close relationship with Christ, as physical contact with Him is not by any means a casual matter in the Gospels. Moreover, this disciple has enough gall to ask Jesus who he is talking about, and Jesus actually answered. It is very likely that Jesus did not speak to the entire group of disciples when he explained which would be the betrayer; instead, he was probably speaking quietly to the beloved disciple--almost like they were sharing secrets. This is another indicator of the close relationship the two had. This disciple was also revered by the others, as it is Simon Peter who desires to go through him / her to ask Christ the question. So who was this disciple, and exactly how was he / she loved by Christ? Scholars such as Ann Graham Bock and Carl McCloud suggest that Mary Magdalene was the Beloved Disciple, a notion that would put the cozy language in John 13 in interesting light. There is also speculation that Lazarus is the beloved disciple, as Mary and Martha refer to him as "the one Jesus loves." Others would say that it is John himself who was Jesus' "beloved disciple" as he only appears in John's gospel and none of the others.
The Washing of Feet John 13:4-12
Jesus does the unthinkable in these passages; He washes His disciple’s feet. Of course His disciples immediately begin to reject this act, but Jesus answers them with "What I do you do not realize now, but you shall understand hereafter." (NIV v.7)What is the main principle the disciples needed to learn? Some believe that the disciples were being taught to humble themselves and to believe that no one is better than another. A similar belief is that Jesus was simply acting out and foretelling His new commandment which He would reveal later on: V.34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another." (NIV) One view is that Jesus was trying to teach the "value of spiritual washing, and the cleansing of the soul from the pollutions of sin" (Bible Gateway) Jorge Perez and his church believe that Jesus was simply teaching His disciples to not only humble themselves and to serve, but to also learn how to receive. To truly love someone like Christ loved them, His Disciples must be able to receive love from others as well.
In these verses Jesus talks about the one who will betray him. In response to the beloved's question of who will betray him, Jesus answers that the one who he gives the dipped morsel of bread to is the one that will betray him. The odd thing is though that after he does this and hands the dipped bread to Judas, the disciples do not realize that Judas is the guilty one. They think that somehow Jesus handing the bread to him coincides with him sending him on an errand for the festival. However, their minds may be clouded and they cannot realize the truth in order to fulfill the prophecy that the disciples will not understand all that Jesus says till later. That is one suggestion. The other, more plausible explanation is that the question was part of a private conversation heard only by a few of the disciples, namely Judas, John, Peter, and then Jesus, leaving these people to really know the significance of the gesture (Speer 416). That is why so many disciples still questioned and did not know who was the betrayer.
In these verses, Jesus begins his farewell speech. The first part of the farewell speech is characterized by a sequence of questions by his disciples and Jesus’ answers. Initially, Jesus gets the sequence started by speaking of his glorification (vv.31-32), his departure (v.33), and his divine love (vv. 34-35). These three themes are developed throughout his speech. While there are other major themes in John as well, these five verses contain the major themes of the entire farewell speech. Maybe the purpose of his farewell speech is to tell his disciples of the new ways in which they will love in the future especially in verses 34-35. Jesus gives a new command to his disciples, which is to love one another as I have loved you. This divine love that the disciples are to share is for the whole world that is part of God’s plan. God’s love has now mediated in a new way, through the incarnation. The disciples enter into a relation of love that exists between the Father and the Son (Barrett, 1978). Our community is to continue to manifest God as Jesus has done, thereby shining as a light that continues to bring salvation. Without this divine love their message of what God has done in Christ would be hollow (Gospel Communications, 2007).
Jesus challenges the disciples in Chapter 13. He tells them that one of them will betray him that night and hand him over to the Romans and Jews to be killed. The disciples are shocked by this and ask who it is that will betray Jesus. Jesus also challenges Peter at the end of the chapter. Peter says he will die with Jesus, but Jesus tells Peter that he will deny Jesus three times before the sunrise the next day. Jesus challenges the disciples in this way to see if they are ready for the events that will be taking place soon after the Last Supper.