John 13


Christ washes the feet of his disciples, and gives them

instructions concerting humility and charity, 1-17.

He tells them that one of themselves will betray him, 18-20.

The disciples doubting of whom he spoke, Peter desires John to

ask him, 21-25.

Jesus shows that it is Judas Iscariot, 26.

Satan enters into Judas, and he rises up and leaves the company,


Christ shows his approaching death, and commands his disciples

to love one another, 31-35.

Peter, professing strong attachment to Christ, is informed of

his denial. 36-38.


Verse 1. Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew,

&c.] Or, as some translate, Now Jesus having known, before the

feast of the passover, that his hour was come, &c. The supper

mentioned in Joh 13:2 is supposed to have been that on the

Thursday evening, when the feast of the passover began; and

though, in our common translation, this passage seems to place the

supper before that feast, yet, according to the amended

translation, what is here said is consistent with what we read in

the other evangelists. See Mt 26:2; Joh 12:1.

Having loved his own] His disciples.

Which were in the world] Who were to continue longer in its

troubles and difficulties.

He loved them unto the end.] Continued his fervent affection

towards them to his latest breath, and gave them that convincing

proof of it which is mentioned Joh 13:5. That the disciples alone

are meant here every man must see.

Verse 2. And supper being ended] Rather, δειπνουγενομενου,

while supper was preparing. To support this new translation of

the words, it may be remarked that, from Joh 13:26, 30, it

appears that the supper was not then ended: nay, it is probable

that it was not then begun; because the washing of feet

(Joh 13:5) was usually practised by the Jews

before they entered upon their meals, as may be gathered from

Lu 7:44, and from the reason of the custom. I think that John

wrote, not γενομενου, but γινομενου, as in BL. Cant. and

Origen, which latter reading is approved by several eminent

critics, and should be translated as above. By the supper I

suppose to be meant, not only the eating of it, but the preparing

and dressing of it, and doing all things necessary previously to

the eating of it. The devil had, before this time of the supper,

put it into Judas's heart to betray his Master. See Mt 26:14,

&c.; Mr 14:10, 11; and Lu 22:3, &c. See also Bishop

Pearce, from whose judicious commentary the preceding notes are

principally taken.

Calmet observes that John, designing only to supply what was

omitted by the other evangelists, passes over all the transactions

of the Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, before the passion, and

at once goes from Monday evening to Thursday evening. It is

remarkable that St. John says nothing about the institution of the

holy sacrament, which Matthew, Mt 26:26, &c., Mark, Mr 14:22,

&c., and Luke, Lu 22:19, &c., describe so particularly. No other

reason can be assigned for this than that he found it completely

done by the others, and that he only designed to supply their


The devil having now put it into the heart] Judas formed his

plot six days before this, on occasion of what happened at the

house of Simon the leper: see Mt 26:14.


Verse 3. Knowing that the Father had given, &c.] Our Lord,

seeing himself almost at the end of his race, and being about to

leave his apostles, thought it necessary to leave them a lesson of

humility exemplified by himself, to deliver them from the bad

influence of those false ideas which they formed concerning the

nature of his kingdom. On all occasions previously to this, the

disciples had shown too much attachment to worldly honours and

dignities: if this ambition had not been removed, the consequences

of it would have been dreadful in the establishment of the

religion of Christ; as after his death, it would have divided and

infallibly dispersed them. It was necessary therefore to restrain

this dangerous passion, and to confirm by a remarkable example

what he had so often told them,-that true greatness consisted in

the depth of humility, and that those who were the willing

servants of all should be the highest in the account of God.

Verse 4. He riseth from supper] Not from eating, as Bishop

Pearce has well observed, but from his place at table; probably

the dishes were not as yet laid down, though the guests were

seated. According to the custom of the Jews and other Asiatics,

this washing must have taken place before the supper.

See Clarke on Joh 13:2.

Laid aside his garments] That is, his gown or upper coat, with

the girdle wherewith it was girded close to his tunic or under

coat; and, instead of this girdle, he tied a towel about him: 1.

that he might appear in the character of a servant; and 2. that he

might have it in readiness to dry their feet after he had washed


Verse 5. Poureth water into a bason, &c.] This was the office of

the meanest slaves. When David sent to Abigail, to inform her that

he had chosen her for wife, she arose and said: Behold, let thy

handmaid be a SERVANT, to WASH the FEET of the SERVANTS of my

lord, 1Sa 25:41. Some of the ancients have supposed that our

Lord began with washing the feet of Judas, to inspire him with

sentiments of compunction and remorse, to melt him down with

kindness, and to show all his disciples how they should act

towards their enemies. Dr. Lightfoot supposes he washed the feet

of Peter, James, and John only; but this is not likely: the verb

αρχεσθαι in the sacred writings, signifies, not only to

commence, but to finish an act, Ac 1:1; and in the Septuagint,

Ge 2:3. There is every reason to believe that he washed the

feet of all the twelve. See Clarke on Joh 13:9.

Verse 6. Lord, dost THOU wash MY feet?] Every word here is

exceedingly emphatic. Peter had often seen the great humility of

his Lord, but never saw his condescension so particularly marked

as in this instance.

Verse 7. What I do thou knowest not now, &c.] As if our Lord had

said, Permit me to do it now, and I will shortly explain to you

the nature of this action, and my motives for doing it.

Thou shalt know hereafter.] μεταταυτα, after this business is

finished. And so we find he explained the whole to them, as soon

as he had finished the washing: see Joh 13:12-17. I cannot think

that this refers to any particular instruction received on this

head after the day of pentecost, as some have conjectured.

Verse 8. If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.] Thou

canst not be my disciple unless I wash thee. It is certain Christ

did not mean to exclude him from the apostolic office, if he

should persist, through the deepest reverence for his Master, to

refuse to let him wash his feet: this act of his was emblematical

of something spiritual; of something that concerned the salvation

of Peter; and without which washing he could neither be an apostle

or be finally saved; therefore our Lord said, If I wash thee not,

thou hast no part with me. There is a mystical washing by the

blood of Christ, 1Jo 1:7; and by his Spirit, 1Co 6:11;

Tit 3:5, 6. It was the common custom of our Lord to pass from

sensible and temporal things to those which were spiritual and

eternal; and to take occasion from every thing that presented

itself, to instruct his disciples, and to raise their souls to

God. If the discourse was of bread, water, leaven, father, mother,

riches, &c., he immediately changed the literal sense, and under

the figure of these things, spoke of matters altogether spiritual

and Divine. I have met with many good persons who have attempted

to imitate our blessed Lord in this, but I never knew one to

succeed in it. The reason is, it requires not only very deep

piety, but sound sense, together with an accurate knowledge of

the nature and properties of the subjects which, in this way, the

person wishes to illustrate; and very few can be found who have

such deep, philosophical knowledge as such cases require. The

large folio which a good-intentioned man printed on the metaphors

is, alas! a standing proof how little mere piety can do in matters

of this kind, where the sciences, and especially practical

philosophy, are totally wanting. Jesus Christ was a consummate

philosopher: every subject appears grand and noble in his hands.

See an ample proof in the preceding chapter, Joh 12:24.

Verse 9. Lord, not my feet only, &c.] It appears that Peter

entered into our Lord's meaning, and saw that this was

emblematical of a spiritual cleansing: therefore he wishes to be

completely washed.

Verse 10. He that is washed] That is, he who has been in the

bath, as probably all the apostles had lately been, in order to

prepare themselves the better for the paschal solemnity; for on

that occasion, it was the custom of the Jews to bathe twice.

Needeth not save to wash his feet] To cleanse them from any dirt

or dust that might have adhered to them, in consequence of walking

from the bath to the place of supper. The washing, therefore, of

the feet of such persons was all that was necessary, previously to

their sitting down to table; The Hindoos walk home from bathing

barefoot, and, on entering the house wash their feet again. To

this custom our Lord evidently alludes.

If these last words of our Lord had any spiritual reference, it

is not easy to say what it was. A common opinion is the following:

He who is washed-who is justified through the blood of the Lamb,

needeth only to wash his feet-to regulate all his affections and

desires; and to get, by faith, his conscience cleansed from any

fresh guilt, which he may have contracted since his


Ye are clean, but not all] Eleven of you are upright and

sincere; the twelfth is a traitor. So it appears he had washed the

feet of all the twelve; but as no external ablutions can purify a

hypocrite or a traitor, therefore Judas still remained unclean.

Verse 12. Know ye what I have done] Our Lord had told Peter, in

the presence of the rest, Joh 13:7, that he should

afterwards know what was the intent and meaning of this washing;

and now he begins to fulfil his promise; therefore I think it more

likely that he gives a command, here, than asks a question, as he

knew himself that they did not comprehend his design. On this

account γινωσκετε might be translated in the imperative mood,

CONSIDER what I have done.

Verse 13. Ye call me Master and Lord] οδιδασκαλοςκαιο

κυριος, similar to Rabbi, and Mar, titles very

common among the Jewish doctors, as may be seen in Schoettgen.

This double title was not given except to the most accredited

teachers, Rabbi vemore, my master, my lord!

Verse 14. Ye also ought to wash one another feet.] That is, ye

should be ready, after my example, to condescend to all the

weakness of your brethren; to be willing to do the meanest offices

for them, and to prefer the least of them in honour to yourselves.

Verse 16. The servant is not greater than his lord] Christ has

ennobled the acts of humility by practising them himself. The true

glory of a Christian consists in being, in his measure, as humble

as his Lord.

Neither he that is sent] ουδεαποστολος Nor an apostle. As I

think these words were intended for the suppression of all worldly

ambition and lordly conduct in the apostles and their successors

in the ministry, therefore I think the original word αποστολος,

should be translated apostle, rather than he that is sent, because

the former rendering ascertains and determines the meaning better.

Verse 17. If ye know these things, happy, &c.] True happiness

consists in the knowledge of God, and in obedience to him. A man

is not happy because he knows much; but because he receives much

of the Divine nature, and is, in all his conduct, conformed to the

Divine will. "They who have read many books (says Menu) are more

exalted than such as have seldom studied; they who retain what

they have read, than forgetful readers; they who fully understand,

than such as only remember; and they who perform their known

duty, than such as barely know it. Sacred knowledge and

devotedness to God are the means by which a man can arrive at

beatitude." See Institutes of MENU, c. xii. Inst. 103, 104. For a

heathen this saying is very remarkable.

Verse 18. I speak not of you all] This is a continuation of that

discourse which was left off at the tenth verse. The preceding

verses may be read in a parenthesis.

I know whom I have chosen] I am not deceived in my choice; I

perfectly foresaw every thing that has happened, or can happen. I

have chosen Judas, not as a wicked man, nor that he should become

such; but I plainly foresaw that he would abuse my bounty, give

way to iniquity, deliver me into the hands of my enemies, and

bring ruin upon himself.

That the scripture may be fulfilled] Or, thus the scripture is

fulfilled. Christ applies to Judas what David had said of his

rebellious son Absalom, Ps 41:9, who was one of the most express

emblems of this traitor. See on Joh 12:38, 39.

He that eateth bread with me] That is, he who was in habits of

the utmost intimacy with me.

Hath lifted up his heel] An allusion to a restive, ill-natured

horse, that sometimes kicks even the person who feeds and takes

care of him.

Verse 19. That-ye may believe] These frequent predictions of his

death, so circumstantial in themselves, had the most direct

tendency to confirm the disciples, not only in the belief of his

being the Messiah, but also in that of his omniscience.

Verse 20. He that received whomsoever I send] See similar words,

Mt 10:40, &c. Our Lord spoke this to comfort his disciples: he

showed them that, although they should be rejected by many, they

would be received by several; and that whoever received them

should reap the utmost benefit by it.

Verse 21. Was troubled in spirit.]

See Clarke on Joh 11:33.

And testified] Spoke with great earnestness.

Shall betray me.] παραδωσειμε, Will deliver me up. Judas had

already betrayed our blessed Lord, and he was now on the point of

delivering him up into the hands of the chief priests. By all

these warnings, did not our Lord intend that Judas should be

benefited?-that he should repent of his iniquity, and turn and

find mercy?

Verse 22. Looked one on another doubting of whom he spake.] See

the notes on Mt 26:20-25. Every one but Judas, conscious of his

own innocence, looked about upon all the rest, wondering who in

that company could be such a traitor! Even Judas himself is not

suspected. Is not this a proof that his general conduct had been

such as to subject him to no suspicion?

Verse 23. Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom] The Jews of

those days, at their suppers, reclined, supported by their left

arm, on couches placed round the table, as the Greeks and Romans

did. On each couch there were two or three persons; and the head

of one of them came near to the bosom of him who reclined above

him on the same couch. The person here mentioned was John, the

writer of this history, who, being more tenderly loved by Christ

than the rest, had always that place at table which was nearest to

his Lord.

Verse 25. He then lying on Jesus' breast] επιπεσων, laying his

head against the breast of Christ, in a loving, respectful manner.

As the expressions in the text are different here from those in

the preceding verse, it shows that John altered his position at

table, in order to ask the question which Peter suggested, which

he probably did by whispering to our Lord; for, from Joh 13:28,

we may learn that the other disciples had not heard what John

said; and it is likely that the following words-It is he to whom I

shall give the morsel when I have dipped it, were whispered back

by Christ to John.

Verse 26. And when he had dipped the sop] Dr. Lightfoot observes

that it was no unusual thing to dip a sop and give it to any

person; and it is probable that the rest of the disciples

considered it as given to Judas that he might hurry to do some

work on which he wished to employ him, and not wait to finish his

supper in a regular manner. They did not hear the question that

John asked, nor our Lord's answer; but they no doubt heard the

words, That thou doest do quickly-and might understand them as


Verse 27. Satan entered into him.] He had entered into him

before, and now he enters again, to strengthen him in his

purpose of delivering up his Master. But the morsel was not the

cause of this entering in; the giving of it only marks the time

in which the devil confirmed Judas in his traitorous purpose. Some

have thought that this morsel was the sacrament of the Lord's

Supper: but this is an utter mistake.

That thou doest, do quickly.] As if he had said: "Thou art past

all counsel; thou hast filled up the measure of thy iniquity, and

hast wholly abandoned thyself to Satan; I will not force thee to

turn from thy purpose, and without this thou wilt not. Thy designs

are all known to me; what thou art determined to do, and I to

permit, do directly; delay not, I am ready."

Verse 29. Buy those things that we have need of against the

feast] Calmet's observation here has weight so it. "The disciples

who thought that our Lord had said this to Judas, knew well that

on the day of the passover there was neither buying nor selling in

Jerusalem. This, therefore, did not happen on the paschal evening;

for the feast, according to the common opinion, must have begun

the preceding evening, and Jesus have eaten the passover with his

disciples the night before his death; but it appears to me, by the

whole text of St. John, that the passover did not begin till the

time in which our Lord expired upon the cross. It was then that

they were sacrificing the paschal lambs in the temple. It is

therefore probable that the apostles believed that Judas went to

purchase a lamb, and the other necessary things for the evening,

and for the day of the Passover." On this subject the reader is

requested to consult the observations at the end of Mt. 26, where

the subject is considered at large. See Clarke on Mt 26:75

Give something to the poor.] It is well known that our Lord and

his disciples lived on public charity; and yet they gave alms out

of what they had thus received. From this we learn that even those

who live on charity themselves are expected to divide a little

with those who are in deeper distress and want.

Verse 30. He-went immediately out: and it was night.] He set off

to Jerusalem from Bethany, which was about two miles distant; and,

under the conduct of the prince of darkness, and in the time of

darkness, he did this work of darkness.

Verse 31. Now is the Son of man glorified] νυνεδοξασθη, Hath

been glorified. Now it fully appears that I am the person

appointed to redeem a lost world by my blood. I have already been

glorified by this appointment, and am about to be farther

glorified by my death, resurrection, and ascension.

Verse 32. And shall straightway glorify him.] Or, glorify him,

ευθυς, immediately; "he did, not only in the miracles wrought at

his death, but also in that remarkable case mentioned, Joh 18:6,

when the whole crowd that came to seize him were driven back with

a word of his mouth, and fell to the ground.

Verse 33. Little children] Or, rather, beloved children. τεκνια,

a word frequently used by this apostle in his epistles. It is an

expression which implies great tenderness and affection, and such

as a fond mother uses to her most beloved babes. Now that Judas

was gone out, he could use this epithet without any restriction of


Yet a little while] The end of my life is at hand; Judas is gone

to consummate his treason; I have but a few hours to be with you,

and you shall be by and by scattered.

Ye shall seek me] For a few days ye shall feel great distress

because of my absence.

Whither I go, ye cannot come] Your time is not up. The Jews

shall die in their sins, martyrs to their infidelity; but ye shall

die in the truth, martyrs for your Lord.

Verse 34. A new commandment I give unto you] In what sense are

we to understand that this was a new commandment? Thou shalt love

thy neighbour as thyself, was a positive precept of the law,

Le 19:18, and it is the very same that Christ repeats here; how

then was it new? Our Lord answers this question, Even AS I have

loved you. Now Christ more than fulfilled the Mosaic precept; he

not only loved his neighbour AS himself, but he loved him MORE

than himself, for he laid down his life for men. In this he calls

upon the disciples to imitate him; to be ready on all occasions to

lay down their lives for each other. This was, strictly, a new

commandment: no system of morality ever prescribed any thing so

pure and disinterested as this. Our blessed Lord has outdone all

the moral systems in the universe in two words: 1. Love your

enemies; 2. Lay down your lives for each other.

Verse 35. By this shall all men know, &c.] From this time

forward, this mutual and disinterested love shall become the

essential and distinctive mark of all my disciples. When they love

one another with pure hearts, fervently, even unto death, then

shall it fully appear that they are disciples of that person who

laid down his life for his sheep, and who became, by dying, a

ransom for all.

The disciples of different teachers were known by their habits,

or some particular creed or rite, or point of austerity, which

they had adopted; but the disciples of Christ were known by this

love which they bore to each other. The primitive Christians were

particularly known by this among the Gentiles. Tertullian, in his

Apology, gives us their very words: Vide, inquiunt, ut se

diligunt; et pro alterutro mori parati sunt. "See, said they, how

they love one another, and are ready to lay down their lives for

each other."

Verse 36. Thou canst not follow me now] Thou hast not faith

strong enough to die for me, nor is thy work yet done; but

hereafter thou shalt suffer for my sake, and die in defence of my

truth. See Joh 21:18.

Verse 37. Why cannot I follow thee now?] Peter probably thought

that our Lord intended to go some long journey, which would

necessarily subject him to many inconveniences and fatigue; and he

felt quite disposed to follow him in this supposed journey, at all

hazards. He saw no reason, because he did not see our Lord's

meaning, why he could not follow him now.

I will lay down my life for thy sake.] Poor Peter! thou wast

sincere, but thou didst not know thy own strength. Thou wast at

this time willing to die, but when the time cams wast not able.

Christ must first die for Peter, before Peter can die for him. Let

no man think he can do any thing good, without the immediate

assistance of God. Peter's denial should be an eternal warning to

all self-confident persons: though there be sincerity and good

will at the bottom, yet in the trial these cannot perform that

office which belongs to the power of God. We should will, and then

look to God for power to execute: without him we can do nothing.

Verse 38. The cock shall not crow, &c.] See Clarke on Mt 26:34.

Dr. Lightfoot has very properly remarked that we must not understand

these words, as if the cock should not crow at all before Peter

had thrice denied his Master; but we must understand them thus:

"The cock shall not have finished his crowing before thou wilt

thrice deny me. When the time was near, the very night in which

this was to happen, Christ said, This very night the cock shall

not crow his second time, &c. But here, two days before that time,

he says, the cock shall not crow; that is, shall not have done his

crowing. The Jews, and some other nations, divided the

cock-crowing into the first, the second, and the third times."

1. ON peters denial of our Lord much has been written: by one

class he has been incautiously excused, and by another rashly

censured. Peter was self-confident, but he was certainly sincere,

and, had he trusted more in God and less in himself, he would not

have miscarried. He did not look to his Maker for strength, and

therefore he fell. He was surprised, and found unarmed. It is a

well-known fact that circumstances have occurred in which persons

of the most bold, intrepid, and adventurous minds have proved mere

cowards, and acted to their own disgrace and ruin. Facts of this

kind occur in the naval and military history of this and every

other country. No man is master of himself at all times; therefore

prudence and caution should ever be united to courage. Peter had

courage, but he had not caution: he felt a powerful and determined

will; but the trial was above his own strength, and he did not

look to God for power from on high. He was warned by this

miscarriage, but he dearly bought his experience. Let him that

readeth understand.

2. A fact which occurs in the English Martyrology will serve to

illustrate the history of Peter's denial and fall. In the reign of

Queen Mary, when the Papists of this kingdom burned all the

Protestants they could convict of denying the doctrine of

transubstantiation, a poor man who had received the truth in

theory, but had not as yet felt its power, was convicted and

sentenced by their bloody tribunal to be burned alive. While they

were drawing him to the place of execution, he was very pensive

and melancholy; and when he came within sight of the stake, &c.,

he was overpowered with fear and terror, and exclaimed, O! I can't

burn! I can't burn! Some of the attending priests, supposing that

he wished to recant, spoke to him to that effect. The poor man

still believed the truth-felt no disposition to deny it-but did

not feel such an evidence of his Maker's approbation in his own

soul as could enable him to burn for it! He continued in great

agony, feeling all the bitterness of death, and calling on God to

reveal himself through the Son of his love. While thus engaged,

God broke in upon his soul and he was filled with peace and joy in

believing. He then clapped his hands, and exclaimed with a

powerful voice, I can burn! I can burn! He was bound to the stake,

and burned gloriously, triumphing in God through whom he had

received the atonement. This was a case in point. The man was

convinced of the truth, and was willing to burn for the truth; but

had not as yet power, because he had not yet received an evidence

of his acceptance with God. He pleaded for this with strong crying

and tears, and God answered him to the joy of his soul; and then

he was as able as he was willing to go to prison and to death.

Without the power and consolation of the Spirit of God, who could

be a martyr, even for Divine truth? We see now plainly how the

case lies: no man is expected to do a supernatural work by his own

strength; if left to that, in a case of this kind, his failure

must be inevitable. But, in all spiritual matters, assistance is

to be sought from God; he that seeks shall find, and he that finds

Divine strength shall be equal to the task he is called to fulfil.

Peter was incautious and off his guard: the trial came-he looked

not for power from on high, and he fell: not merely because he was

weak-not because God withheld the necessary assistance-but because

he did not depend on and seek it. In no part of this business can

Peter be excused-he is every where blamable, and yet, through the

whole, an object of pity.

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