Jesus washes his disciples’ feet. He predicts Judas’s betrayal. Jesus gives them a new commandment: to love one another. He also predicts Peter’s three denials. Verse 31 begins the Farewell Discourse(s) all the way to 17:26. The chronology between John and the Synoptics and Passover and the crucifixion is also discussed here. They can be harmonized.
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Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet (John 13:1-20)
1 Before the Feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to go from this world towards the Father. And having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 While supper was taking place, and after the devil tossed it into the heart of Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, that he would hand him over, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father gave him all things into his hands and that he came from God and was going to the Father, 4 got up from the supper and took off his outer garment and took a towel and tied it around himself. 5 Then he put water in the basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel which was tied around.
6 Then he came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you washing my feet?” 7 In reply, Jesus said to him, “What I do you do not know, but you will understand, after these things.” 8 Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet!” Jesus replied to him, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash except his feet, but he is entirely clean. You also are clean, but not everyone.” 11 For he knew the one who was handing him over. This is why he said that not everyone is clean.
12 So when he washed their feet, he put on his outer garment and reclined again and said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you rightly say it, for I am. 14 If then I, the Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example so that just as I have done for you, you also do. 16 I tell you the firm truth: A servant is not greater than his master, nor is the one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
18 I am not speaking about all of you. I know whom I have selected. But this was done so that the Scripture be fulfilled, ‘The one eating my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ [Ps. 41:9] 19 From now on I say to you before it happens, so that you may believe, when it happens, that I am. 20 I tell you the firm truth: the one receiving anyone whom I send receives me, and the one receiving me receives the one who sent me.”
Since the verb believe and the noun faith are so important in John’s Gospel, I would like to plant word studies at the beginning of each chapter. Then you can scroll back up here to read what the terms mean. I repost this word study in nearly each chapter because there is no cost per printed page in online writing.
The verb believe (verb is pisteuō, pronounced pih-stew-oh) and the noun faith have to penetrate one’s whole being. Now let’s study them more formally. The noun faith is pistis (pronounced peace-teace or pis-tiss), and it is used 243 times. Its basic meaning is the “belief, trust, confidence,” and it can also mean “faithfulness” and “trustworthy” (Mounce p. 232). It is directional, and the best direction is faith in God (Mark 11:22; 1 Thess. 1:8; 1 Pet. 1:21; Heb. 6:1) and faith in Jesus (Acts 3:16; 20:21; 24:24; Gal. 3:26; Eph. 1:15; Col. 1:4; 1 Tim. 3:13). Believing (verb) and faith (noun) is very important to God. It is the language of heaven. We live on earth and by faith see the invisible world where God is. We must believe he exists; then we must exercise our faith to believe he loves us and intends to save us.
A true acronym:
Forsaking All, I Trust Him
One has to surrender to the Lordship of Jesus. The bottom line is that for John’s Gospel believing and faith must not get stuck in an intellectual assent. “I believe that God exists and Jesus lived.” This may be a good start, but everyone who believes or has faith must put their complete trust in God’s Son.
Now let’s move on.
Let’s allow Carson to help us through the tricky business of the differences between the Passover accounts in the Synoptic Gospels and John’s Gospel. He summarizes his solution in his commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Rev. Ed. by Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland, vol. 9, [Zondervan, 2010], pp. 593-96). His solution in the Gospel of John is spread around at various verses, so the one in Matthew, located in those pages, is more convenient.
Let’s see what Carson has to say on the matter (and I insert some of my own chronology).
The Synoptics (Matthew, Mark and Luke) indicate that Jesus and the disciples ate the Passover meal the evening before the crucifixion (e.g. Mark 14:12-16; 15:1-25), on 15 Nisan. Yet John suggests the Passover lambs were slaughtered at the moment of Jesus death. This means Jesus did not eat the Passover at the Last Supper, but the Thursday before, on 14 Nisan.
So how is this chronological difference to be reconciled?
The answer boils down to how one defines the terms of the feasts (plural).
First, after reviewing various solutions (e.g. lunar or solar calendars), Carson says it is best to harmonize the differences as the four Gospels stand. John’s Gospel will be subjected to redefining the terms.
Here are the verses in John’s Gospel.
John 13:1 (“Before the Passover Feast….”)
This sets the stage, not for the supper, but for the foot-washing, exemplary lesson (John 13:1-20). The meal was going on (NIV and my translation), not ended (KJV). It is not the Passover meal.
John 13:27 (Jesus tells Judas that what he is about to do, do quickly)
The disciples who overheard the remark did not understand what this meant but thought Jesus was telling him to buy things for the feast to come. No, this does not mean that Judas was actually going to buy food for the feast to come, but for the continuation of the long feast. By Jewish reckoning, the high feast day (15 Nisan) had begun on Thursday evening. In unusual circumstances it was permitted to buy food on the Sabbath in preparation of the Passover, if the Passover was the day after the Sabbath. Bottom line: if the feast were twenty-four hours away, as the Synoptics would have it, there would be no rush to buy things at that moment in 13:27. Judas, instead, was buying items for the continuation of the feast. Alternatively, the poor congregated near the temple at this time, and people gave money to them. So the disciples thought Jesus was telling Judas, who kept the moneybag, to go out and give to the poor (v. 37).
John 18:28 (Jesus stands before Pilate in the early morning, and the Jews did not enter the palace for fear of uncleanness)
Their refusal and the nature of the uncleanness is highly disputed. Yet if uncleanness had occurred, it could be dealt with at the end of one day with one wash (Lev. 15:5-11, 16-18; 22:5-7), and then the Passover could be eaten. So, this fact makes it difficult to believe Jesus ate a meal before Passover night. Thus 18:28 can best be interpreted as not the Passover meal but to the continuing of the Passover meal, or the ḥagigah, the feast offering on the morning of the full paschal day (Num. 28:18-19). Deut. 16:3 says to eat the Passover food of unleavened bread for seven days. The main point is that everything refers to the entire Passover festival, which includes the Feast of unleavened bread, which lasted seven days. Let’s not get tied down to one dinner.
John 19:14 (This verse refers to Jesus’s crucifixion and the “preparation of the Passover”)
Strong evidence says that the preparation refers to Friday, since Friday before sunset was the day people prepared for the Sabbath. There is no evidence that at the time of the Fourth Gospel, it does not refer to any other day than the evening before the Sabbath, so the preparation of the Passover means “Passover Week” or the “Passover festival.” Carson then cites ancient sources to show that “Passover” refers to the entire Feast of Unleavened Bread. So 19:14 most likely means “Friday in Passover Week.” Therefore, Jesus’s crucifixion accords with the Synoptics, which have him crucified on Friday morning (9:00), (or it could be 12:00 noon?), and he dies in the afternoon (3:00 p.m. or 15:00h). That is, Passover lasted from Thursday evening to Friday evening. Jesus was therefore crucified on Passover,
My translation: “Then the Jews, since it was the preparation day, and in order that bodies not remain on the cross, for it was the great day of the Sabbath.”
NIV: “Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath.”
In v. 30, Jesus committed his spirit to God and died. Here in v. 31 John identifies the day, which was the Preparation Day, that is, Friday, so Jesus died on Friday in the Fourth Gospel and in the Synoptics. “The next day” refers not to the Passover meal but to Saturday, which would be a “high” or “special” or “great” because it fell during the Passover Feast and because it fell on the second paschal day, that is, on the Sabbath (Saturday). The sheaf offering was on the day (Lev. 23:19).
John 19:36 (Jesus has just died on the cross, and this verse refers to Exod. 12:46, to explain that the Passover lamb did not have his bones broken, and neither did Jesus on the cross)
Does this mean that Jesus died while the lambs were being slaughtered (14 Nisan)? Not necessarily, for John does not make a temporal or sequential connection, but a theological one (John 1:29, 36) and from Jesus’s words at the Last Supper, reported by the Synoptics and Paul (1 Cor. 11:23-26).
To review, the meal kept going from Thursday evening to early Friday morning (1:00? 2:00?). And then they headed towards the Garden of Gethsemane. And a short time later he got arrested and was tried in the early hours in a hurry-up, improvised meeting before the Sanhedrin (along with other examinations with Pilate and Herod in the Synoptics) and was nailed to the cross on Friday about 9:00 to 12:00 noon, and died about 3:00 in the afternoon or 15:00h.
To conclude, this interpretation seems plausible to me. It stretches out the Passover meal on our Thursday evening (which changed over to Friday by Jewish calculations at nightfall). So Jesus was crucified at the same time the Synoptics say—Friday.
So the Synoptics and the Fourth Gospel agree.
R.T. France’s conclusion is from his commentary on Matthew’s Gospel. This excerpt, quoted in full, is still much shorter than Carson’s analysis of the verses in John:
… I believe that it [the debate] is based on a Western cultural misunderstanding: in the Jewish day, which begins at sunset, the evening is the beginning of the day, not its ending, as it is for us. So the Synoptic statement that the meal (which was eaten at night ….) was prepared on Nisan 14 and may be understood to mean that it was prepared and eaten during the evening and night which began Nisan 14, rather than that it was prepared late on Nisan 14 (before sunset) and eaten the next (Jewish) day, at the official time for the Passover meal on Nisan 15. This would be an equally natural way a Jewish reader to understand their words; it is our unfamiliarity with the Jewish method or reckoning days which prevents Western readers from recognizing that the evening preceding the killing of the lambs is already the same day, Nisan 14. In that case they are describing the same day as the Fourth Gospel. The last supper and subsequent trial and death of Jesus all took place on the same (Jewish) day as the killing of the lambs in the afternoon which concludes Nisan 14 and thus on the (Jewish) day before the date for the official Passover meal. The last supper is, then, an anticipated Passover meal, in the Synoptics no less than in John. …
In a nutshell, it seems to me that all the relevant external evidence speaks consistently in favor of the “Johannine” dating, and that if due allowance is made for the fact that Nisan 14 began with the sunset which preceded the killing of the lambs, the Synoptic writers do not disagree with it. (The Gospel of Matthew: New International Commentary on the New Testament. [Eerdmans 2007], pp. 982-83, emphasis original)
France also stretches out the main meal from (our) Thursday to early, early Friday morning.
France produces a table (which I slightly modify):
After sunset: disciples ask about and make preparations
During the night: Passover meal held; walk out to Gethsemane; arrest and preliminary hearing of Jesus
At daybreak: transfer to Pilate; formal trial and conviction
Afternoon: official date for sacrifice of lambs
R.. T. France, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Eerdmans, 2002).
Once again, you can decide or work up your own chronology.
In his commentary on Mark, Strauss lays out three options if one intends to harmonize the four Gospel accounts.
(1).. The Last Supper was not on the Passover, but was a “New Passover” which Jesus inaugurated and celebrated early with the disciples. The Jewish Passover (Nisan 15) began on Friday evening as John’s Gospel indicates and continued through Saturday afternoon. Jesus inaugurated the New Passover on Nisan 14, which began on Thursday evening, running through Friday.
(2).. The Last Supper was the Jewish Passover. Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples on Thursday evening (Nisan 15) as the Synoptics suggest and was crucified the next morning (still Nisan 15, which ran Thursday evening through Friday afternoon). John’s reference to “the Preparation of the Passover (John 19:14; cf. 19:31, 42) does not means preparation for the day of Passover week, the day the lambs were slaughtered but preparation for the Sabbath of Passover week (i.e. Friday before sundown). This meaning of “preparation” is common and appears in Mark 15:42. To eat the Passover (John 18:28) means the general sense to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
(3).. The Jewish Passover was celebrated at two different times. Nisan falls on two days for two groups or the Passover was spread out over two days, perhaps because of the large number of lambs to be slaughtered. Celebrated on two days for the (a) Sadducees and Pharisees; (b) Galileans and Judeans; (c) visiting pilgrims and local residents. Or Jesus was following the solar calendar used at Qumran and in the Book of Jubilees, where Nisan 15 began on Tuesday. The religious leaders were following the traditional lunar calendar, where Nisan 15 fell on Friday evening.
It seems the second option works best.
Mark L. Strauss, Mark: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Zondervan, 2014), pp. 617-18.
France produces a table (which I slightly modify):
After sunset: disciples ask about and make preparations
During the night: Passover meal held; walk out to Gethsemane; arrest and preliminary hearing of Jesus
At daybreak: transfer to Pilate; formal trial and conviction
Afternoon: official date for sacrifice of lambs
Also see this offsite commentary: Barry D. Smith, “The Chronology of the Last Supper,” Westminster Theological Journal 53:1 (1991): 29-45. He too stretches out the meal and says that the labels “Passover” and “Unleavened Bread” were used interchangeably, in the NT and various Jewish sources.
Here is a shorter version of Smith’s study:
Thomas Brewer. “Does John’s last supper chronology differ from the other Gospels?” Christian Post. 13 May 2022.
If either of those offsite links go dead, just copy and paste the bibliographical references in a search engine.
Further, see this table about the entire Passion Week.
|Friday||Arrival in Bethany (Jn 12:1)|
|Saturday||Mary’s anointing of Jesus (Jn 12:2-8; Mt 26:6-13 // Mk 14:3-9)|
|Sunday||Triumphal Entry (Mt 21:1-11 // Mk 11:1-10 // Lk 19:28-38); surveying temple (Mk 11:11), return to Bethany (Mt 21:17 // Mk 11:11)|
|Monday||Clearing temple (Mt 21:12-17 // Mk 11:15-19 // Lk 19:45-48); cursing fig tree (Mt 21:18-22; // Mk 11:12-14); miracles and challenge temple (Mt 21:14-16); return to Bethany (Mk 11:19)|
|Tuesday||Disciples’ question about fig tree (Mk 11:20-21); debates with leaders of temple (Mt 21:23-22:46 // Mk 11:27-12:40 // Lk 20:1-44); Olivet Discourse (Mt 24-25; Mk 13; Lk 21:1-36); return to Bethany, but Lk 21:37 says he lodged on Mount of Olives|
|Wednesday||Little recorded in Gospel—Jesus and disciples apparently remain in Bethany; Judas arranges for Jesus’ betrayal (Mt. 26:14-16 // Mk 14:10-11 // Lk 22:3-6); I say he could be teaching in the temple or praying privately.|
|Thursday||Preparation for Passover (Mt 26:17-19 // Mk 14:12-16 // Lk 22:7-13); after sundown, Passover meal and Last Supper (Mt 26:20-35 // Mk 14:17-25 // Lk 22:14, 21-23, 15-20); Farewell Discourse (Jn 13-17); Gethsemane (Mt 26:30-46 // Mk 13:32-42 // Lk 22:40-46)|
|Friday||After midnight, betrayal and arrest (Mt 26:47-56 // Mk 14:43-52 // Lk 22:47-53);
Jewish trials—Annas (Jn 18:13-14); Caiaphas and partial Sanhedrin (Mt 26:52-75 // Mk 14:53-72 // Lk 22:54-71); full Sanhedrin (Mt 27:1-2);
Roman trials—Pilate (Mt 27:2-14 // Mk 15:2-5 // Lk 23:2-5); Herod Antipas (Lk 23:6-12); Pilate (Mt 27:15-26 // Mk 15:6-15 // Lk 23:17-27);
Mocked by soldiers (Mt 27:27-31 // Mk 15:16-20);
Road to Golgotha (Mt 27:32 // Mk 15:21 // Lk 23:26-32);
Crucifixion 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. / 15:00h (Mt 27:27-56 // Mk 15:22-41 // Lk 23:33-49);
Burial (Mt 27:57-61 // Mk 15:42-47 // Lk 23:5-56)
|Grant R. Osborne, Matthew: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Zondervan, 2010), who got it from Michael J. Wilkens, Matthew: NIV Application Commentary (Zondervan, 2004). I modified it.|
I hope this helps.
Now let’s move on to the commentary.
Feast of Passover: see John 12:12:
Jesus ended his public ministry in Jerusalem and elsewhere, and now he is teaching his disciples in a more intimate setting. The Synoptic Gospels say that he is in an upper room. He says in John 15:13 that no man has greater love than to lay down his life for his friends, and John proclaims that Jesus loves those who were his own to the end or uttermost. God loves the whole world (John 3:16), and the disciples were transitioning from the whole world to being consecrated to Jesus.
The presence of the Word will be taken from them and return to the Father. But the way back to the Father is through the cross. He is to set his seal upon the disciples who remain in the world.
“What a remarkable way to complete what we call life! Death has been robbed f its terror and made the passage to our eternal home. Waiting for us is the One whose love bridged the gulf created by our sin. We are prodigals returning home, and he is the Father who rushes out to meet us. This world has been a place of hostility and heartache. Death is the entrance into joy eternal and inexpressible” (Mounce, comment on v. 1).
“One of the most remarkable things about Jesus from a human point of view is that there is no disparity between his words and his life. What he taught he lived” (Mounce, comment on v. 1).
The supper was going on. Luke 22:3 says that Satan entered Judas, and John uses the active verb to indicate this satanic influence. I wrote “tossed,” because of the verb ballō (pronounced bahl-loh), but “put” works because the verb expanded its meaning by NT times from “throw” (which it still retained) to “put” or “place.” Satan put into Judas’s heart to betray Jesus. We saw in 12:6 that Judas used to help himself to the money, so maybe his human vice opened the door to satanic influence. Never underestimate how vice can open the door to Satan in your life as well.
Another way to translate the Greek is that “Satan resolved that Judas should betray him” or “Satan made up his [Judas’s] mind to betray him.” Judas had already entered a devilish bargain with Satan.
Jesus’s knowledge of God giving him everything reminds me of this verse: “Jesus came up to them and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me’” (Matt. 28:18).
The supper, as noted, was still progressing when Jesus surprisingly got up from the table and took off his outer garment and wrapped a towel around himself. The towel was big enough to wrap around him and have enough left to dry their feet. The beautiful statement that Jesus realized that the Father had given him everything in his hands just before he prepared to wash the disciples’ feet is stunning. He was fully aware of his origins, which necessarily implies that he was aware of his destiny, back to his Father. Jesus’s authority, received from the Father, corresponded to his humility.
I like what 1 Peter 5:5-6 says:
All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.” [Prov. 3:34]
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. (1 Pet. 5:5, NIV)
Peter’s memory may have been jarred to remember Jesus’s act of humility with the towel and taking off the outer garment.
Luke 22:24-27, which also is placed in the upper room at the Last Supper, echoes the action parable here in John’s Gospel and the upper room during the Last Supper:
24 But a dispute took place between them, which was about who of them thinks he is greater. 25 But he said to them, “The kings of the nations lord it over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called benefactors. 26 You are not like that, but the greater one among you becomes as the younger and the leader as the servant. 27 For who is greater? The one who reclines at table or the one who serves? Isn’t it the one who reclines? But I am among you as one who serves. (Luke 22:24-27)
The last line is the more relevant: Jesus is among them as one who serves.
I also believe this passage is also relevant:
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name … (Phil 2:7-9, NIV)
I exegete those verses at the above link.
Jesus took on the form of a servant. The form of God was exchanged for the form of a servant (Bruce, comment on vv. 3-5). It would not surprise me one little bit if the “form of a servant” entered the memory of the early church from verses like Luke 24:27 and this action parable here in John’s Gospel and also a statement in Mark 10:45, which says that the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve (see also Matt. 20:28). Dear ambitious disciples who are eager for public attention: the way up is down.
“Since no two human beings have ever known the joys of a perfect father-son relationship, none of us can grasp fully the infinite beauty of that intimate association. Jesus had come from God; yet in one sense he had never left him. Now he returns to God and at the same time never really leave us. Such a mystery of the divine presence, the continuing fulfillment of his name ‘Immanuel—which means “God with us”!’ (Mt. 1:23)” (Mounce comment on v. 3).
Jesus tells the disciples that they would not understand the full importance of what he is doing until afterwards, that is, after his death and resurrection and ascension. They must not be attention seekers, but follow his example and wash each other’s feet, if not literally, then morally and spiritually.
To have a part is regularly used of inheritance (see Luke 15:12), and in Jewish thought it can refer to participation of an eschatological blessing (see Matt. 24:51; Rev. 20:6) (Carson, comments on vv. 8-9). I add: if a disciple wants eternal life in the kingdom, he must be washed from his sins.
Here we have four verses that are really wonderful, for Peter has spoken up and insists on directing Jesus on how to wash feet. In Matt. 16:22 Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, after Jesus had predicted his death (and resurrection) in Jerusalem. Not so, Lord! Jesus wheeled on him and rebuked him right back. Here in these four verses, Peter is not as strident, but instead shows humility. It’s as if he says, “It’s too much for me to bear that you would wash my feet!”
This humility reminds me of his humility early on their encounter, right after the miraculous catch of fish.
8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus, saying, “Depart from me, because I am a sinful man, Lord!” 9 For fear overcame him and everyone with him at the catch of fish which they caught. (Luke 5:8-9)
Peter is more mature in the upper room, so he is not fearful, but he considers himself unworthy to have Jesus kneel before him and wash his feet.
But Jesus corrects him gently. If he does not wash his feet, he would have no part or share of him. So something consequential is going on, which we will look at in the next verses.
Then Peter, enthusiastically, says that Jesus should wash not only his feet but also his hands and head. Once again, he directs Jesus on how he should do this foot washing.
There is a manuscript dispute, but we don’t need to discuss it. Specialist scholars have settled on the Greek verse as I have translated it.
If a man has already had a bath, he does not need to clean his body again, but if he walks around, his feet will need to be washed again, though his body will not need to be washed. John 15:3 says that the word or message cleanses the disciple. In this context, what does it mean to have the body cleansed or bathed and the feet rebathed or rewashed?
(1).. One interpretation says it is sacramental: the once and for all cleansing is the initial baptism, including the inward grace as well as the outward sign. This initial baptism is unrepeatable. The washing of the feet is equal to penance (doing acts of righteousness to absolve sins and discipline the repentant sinner).
(2).. Another interpretation says that it is not sacramental. The bathing corresponds to the cleaning of guilt and sin by regeneration (Titus 3:5), while the other continual cleansing of the feet corresponds to removal of sins done each day (or so) by confessing and consecration. It is the sanctification process.
I like Bruce’s interpretation:
When once a man has received the cleansing benefits of Christ’s passion [suffering, particularly on the cross] he cannot receive them all over again. The salvation effected by his death is complete, and no supplementation is either necessary or possible. This salvation, these cleansing benefits, the disciples have received—prospectively?—by faith, with the exception of that one of their number whose treachery was to reveal his lack of faith. The foot-washing is thus seen as a parabolic action pointing to the sacrifice of the cross. Whereas in common belief crucifixion and Messiahship were utterly incompatible, Jesus’s words to Peter show his crucifixion, symbolized by the servile ministry of foot-washing, to not only his uniquely saving act but by the same token to be conclusive proof of his Messiahship. (comments on vv. 10-11)
Mounce says it is sanctification, or the act or process of making you holy. “Believers, through continued contact with the uncleanness of a world separated from God and prone to act out of their old nature, need to be continually cleansed from their daily contact with sin” (comment on v. 10).
Jesus seemingly casually put his outer garment back on and reclined at table again and asked them a question, of which he did not expect an answer. He answers it himself. Basically, his foot-washing says that he knew he had come from the Father and was going back to the Father and the Father had given him everything. He took the form of a servant and humbled himself even by becoming a man. Now he humbled himself by washing their feet. This humility expressed itself most clearly by his death on the cross. Then, secondly, his action parable of foot-washing was exemplary or practical. He expected his disciples to follow this example. Recall Luke 22:24-27, quoted under vv. 3-5. The connection of the two themes—theological and natural—fits perfectly in John’s purposes in his Gospel.
The “teacher” and “Lord” titles were retained by the early Jewish Christian community. Bruce teaches me that mar in Aramaic means Lord, and it is found in 1 Cor. 16:22: maran tha (“Our Lord, come!”). So it was raised from a token of esteem to the name which is above every name (Phil. 2:9-11; Acts 2:36).
I am reminded of this verse in Luke’s Gospel: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). “His washing their feet involved no diminution of his dignity, however much it embarrassed them to let him do it … his unselfconscious act of service was an involuntary enhancing of his dignity—a further manifestation of the divine glory which resided in the Word made flesh (cf. John 1:14)” (Bruce, comment on vv. 13-15).
An example: does this mean a repeated sacramental act? For me, this conclusion goes too far. His example simply means to follow the humility of serving others. 1 Tim. 5:10 says that a widow who is worthy to receive support from the church has washed the feet of others, but the context show hospitality and relieving the afflicted. A disciple should be willing to wash anyone’s feet who needs it. There is no need to turn it into a repeated ritual sacrament. Mounce points out that Jesus did not say that we should do what he did, but as he had done (comment on v. 14). So we should imitate the humility, not necessarily the foot-washing. But who am I to say that regular, ritualistic foot-washing is wrong in small groups or other forums? How can I read the hearts of the ones who do it?
See v. 20 for more comments.
“If their Master and their Sender does lowly actions, then they, the slaves and the sent ones, should not consider menial tasks beneath their dignity” (Morris, comments on v. 16).
This verse reminds me of this one:
24 A disciple is not above the teacher, nor is the servant above his master. 25 It is sufficient for the disciple to be like his teacher and the servant like his master. (Matt. 10:24-25)
A disciple is not above his teacher. But everyone who is completely trained will be like his teacher. (Luke 6:40)
I like how Jesus says it is possible for a servant to be thoroughly trained and then to like his teacher. If he learns to show humility, even by washing someone else’s feet when needed, he will be like Jesus and the example he gave them.
“servant”: The word servant here is doulos (pronounced doo-loss) and could be translated as slaves, but I chose servant because in Jewish culture a Hebrew man who sold himself into servitude to his fellow Jew was like an indentured servant whose term of service had a limit; he was freed in the seventh year. But then the indentured servant could stay with his family, if he liked his owner (Exod. 21:2-6; Lev. 25:38-46; Deut. 15:12-18). So there was a lot of liberty even in servitude, in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). See my post about Slavery in the Bible:
It is a sure thing, however, that John’s Greek-speaking audience, knowledgeable about Greek culture, would have heard “slave” in the word doulos. So if you wish to interpret it like that, then that’s your decision. But culturally at that time slavery had nothing to do with colonial or modern slavery.
“I tell you the firm truth”: it literally read, “amen, amen, I tell you.” Truth” comes from the word amēn (pronounced ah-main and comes into English as amen). In the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) Jesus says amen only once (“amen, I tell you”), but in John he very often says the word twice, so I translate the double word as “firm truth.” It expresses the authority of the one who utters it. The Hebrew root ’mn means faithfulness, reliability and certainty. It could be translated as “Truly, truly I tell you” or “I tell you with utmost certainty.” (Bruce has “indeed and truly I tell you”). Jesus’s faith in his own words is remarkable and points to his unique calling. It means we must pay attention to it, for it is authoritative. He is about to declare an important and solemn message or statement. The clause appears only on the lips of Jesus in the NT.
This is a beatitude for those who obey. “You” is plural, so it includes the disciples. A beatitude comes from Latin beatitudo, “happiness, blessedness.” But John wrote in Greek, not Latin. The more common adjective, which appears here, is makarios (pronounced mah-kah-ree-oss) and is used 50 times. It has an extensive meaning: “happy” or “fortunate” or “privileged” (Mounce, pp. 67-71).
Let’s look more deeply at it.
The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, and the main word for blessing is the verb barak, used 327 times throughout the Hebrew Bible: Genesis 76 times, Deuteronomy 40 times, and Psalms 76 times. Each time it is people-related. The noun is beraka, used 71 times, and “denotes the pronouncement of good things on the recipient or the collection of good things” (Mounce, p. 70).
Any synonyms of makarios? The New Testament was written in Greek, and the verb is eulogeō (pronounced yew-loh-geh-oh, and the “g” is hard as in “get”), which is used 41 times and means to “bless, thank, or praise.” The adjective eulogētos (pronounced yew-loh-gay-toss, and the “g” is hard), which is used 8 times, means “blessed, praised.” The noun is eulogia (pronounced yew-lo-gee-ah, the “g” is hard, and we get our word eulogy from it), and is used 16 times. It means to “speak well.” It is mostly translated as “praise.” The log– stem is rich in Greek, and it can include speaking a word. So speak blessing to yourself and to others. Jesus is now speaking it over you.
Jesus spoke the next words in Luke in a completely different context. A woman shouted out that the woman who nursed him was blessed. He replied: “On the contrary! Blessed are the ones who listen to the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:28). This shows that Jesus can speak the same sayings over and over, in different contexts. But the meaning is the same. Obedience brings blessing.
Finally, v. 17 brings to mind these verses in the Sermon on the Mount:
24 Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and does them shall be like a prudent man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down and the flood came and the winds blew and beat upon that house. And it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. (Matt. 7:24-25)
Doing and putting the word into practice brings stability and security in the kingdom. Showing enough humility to wash the feet of a visitor to a disciple’s house or to the Christian community is to follow the example of Jesus.
For v. 18, Mounce says that lifting the heel comes from the idea of a horse lifting the hoof, about to kick.
John 6:70 says that Jesus chose the twelve, yet one of them was a devil. Even a bad person has a role to play in fulfilling God’s plan, in this case betrayal and crucifixion.
Jesus says in v. 19 that when he predicts something and it happens, then they will know that he is or “I am.” This again refers to Exod. 3:14 and the “I am” statement there, which in Greek reads: “the LORD says, ‘I AM THE BEING ONE.’ Or “I AM HE WHO EXISTS.” Or he may be referring to the verses in Is. 40-55 where God says, “I am he!” All translations are from the NIV, and emphasis added.
Who has done this and carried it through,
calling forth the generations from the beginning?
I, the Lord—with the first of them
and with the last—I am he.” (Is. 41:4)
10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord,
“and my servant whom I have chosen,
so that you may know and believe me
and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
nor will there be one after me.
11 I, even I, am the Lord,
and apart from me there is no savior.
12 I have revealed and saved and proclaimed—
I, and not some foreign god among you.
You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “that I am God.
13 Yes, and from ancient days I am he.
No one can deliver out of my hand.
When I act, who can reverse it?” (Is. 43:10-13; see v. 25)
Even to your old age and gray hairs
I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you. (Is. 46:4)
“Listen to me, Jacob,
Israel, whom I have called:
I am he;
I am the first and I am the last.
13 My own hand laid the foundations of the earth,
and my right hand spread out the heavens;
when I summon them,
they all stand up together. (Is. 48:12-13)
12 “I, even I, am he who comforts you.
Who are you that you fear mere mortals,
human beings who are but grass,
13 that you forget the Lord your Maker,
who stretches out the heavens
and who lays the foundations of the earth,
that you live in constant terror every day
because of the wrath of the oppressor,
who is bent on destruction? (Is. 51:12-13)
This is high Christology.
It refers to his deity. This is high Christology in John’s Gospel.
What was he about to predict. In the immediate context, it is Judas’s portrayal (vv. 21-30). John has already prepared his readers for Judas’ treachery: 6:71; 12:4; 13:3.
A little theology: It is not as if God pushed Judas to fulfill the Scripture. Judas was inspired by Satan; and in following the path of treachery, he fulfilled Scripture. I like Bruce here: “This does not mean that Judas in particular was driven to his act of treachery by a decree of fate against which it would have been fruitless to struggle. Even if Jesus’ betrayal by one of his intimate companions was foreseen, it was by Judas’ personal choice that he, rather than anyone else, eventually filled that role” (comment on vv. 18-19). As a matter of fact, those Scripture did not have to be fulfilled through Judas or anyone else. If Judas had minded himself, Jesus could have been arrested by some other means, like a nighttime arrest in or near the Garden of Gethsemane. If people live righteously, judgment does not have to come. Please read Jer. 18:7-10.
7 If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, 8 and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. 9 And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, 10 and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it. (Jer. 18:7-10)
Those verses say that promises of blessing or threats of doom are conditional—if. If people walk or live in disobedience, doom. If they repent and walk righteously, then the predicted doom is withdrawn and the good promises are implemented. But in any case, Judas continued to walk in disobedience, so this particular set of Scriptures was fulfilled; we don’t need to speculate beyond that.
As for John quoting Ps. 41:9, as usual, the Gospel writers often approximated the exact words. But that verse does fit the context. An intimate at table fellowship, particularly at the time of Passover, made the betrayal especially grievous.
This verse is repeated in the Synoptic Gospels.
The first passage promises reward for people who welcome kingdom missionaries:
40 Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Anyone who welcomes a prophet because he is a prophet shall receive the reward of a prophet. And he who welcomes a righteous person because he is a righteous person shall receive the reward of a righteous person. 42 And whoever gives just a cold drink to one of these little ones because they are disciples—I tell you the truth: he shall in no way lose his reward. (Matt. 10:40-42; see Mark 9:37 and Luke 10:16)
The context here in 13:20 is also the commissioning of the disciples in John 20:21. The Father is the one who sent Jesus. Recall that in v. 16 that the one who is sent is not greater than the one who sends. Jesus is equal to the Father in essence, but in his role, he is subordinate to the Father. The Father is the sender; Jesus is the one who is sent. The disciple is the one who is sent, and Jesus is his sender. But the source comes from the Father.
GrowApp for John 13:1-20
A.. Back in the Jesus Movement we sometimes washed each other’s feet in a Bible study. Have you ever participated in a foot-washing ceremony? What was that like?
B.. You are blessed if you obey. Can you tell your story of a blessing for obedience?
Jesus Foretells His Betrayal (John 13:21-30)
21 After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, saying, “I tell you the firm truth: one of you will hand me over.” 22 The disciples were looking around at each other, perplexed over who he was talking about. 23 One of his disciples was reclining close to Jesus, whom Jesus loved. 24 Simon Peter nodded to this one, to learn who it may be that he was talking about. 25 Then he leaned in closer in this way toward Jesus and said to him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus replied: “He is the one for whom I will dip a piece of bread and give it to him. So after he dipped the bread, he took and gave it to Judas, son of Simon Iscariot. 27 And after the piece of bread, then Satan entered him. So Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” 28 No one reclining at table understood for what purpose he said this to him. 29 For some were thinking that since Judas handled the moneybag, Jesus told him, “Buy what we need for the feast” or that he should give something to the poor. 30 Then after he took the bread, he left immediately. Now it was night.
Jesus is again troubled in spirit (see 12:27). This time the occasion of his inner anguish is Judas’ betrayal.
Jesus had said that when he predicts something and it happens, they may believe that “I am” (v. 19). Here he is predicting that Judas would betray him. It takes discernment to see that Judas was going astray. When the signal came (vv. 26-27), the disciples were perplexed. They did not have the right discernment.
“I tell you the firm truth”: see v. 16 for more comments.
The disciple whom Jesus loved. He is typically called the Beloved Disciple, as an abbreviation of the “whom Jesus loved” This is the first introduction of him to the reader. He will appear on four occasions in the final chapters of the Gospel: (1) Here in the upper room; (2) At the cross of Jesus (19:26); (3) At the empty tomb (20:2); (4) At the Lake of Tiberias, where the risen Lord appeared to seven disciples (21:20).
So who was the beloved disciple? If only the twelve disciples were present at the Last Supper, and Matt. 26:20 says twelve, then the evidence points to John, son of Zebedee. Further, if we combine Matt. 15:40 and Matt. 27:56, then in Mark 15:40 Salome was watching the crucifixion from a distance, and Matt. 27:56 says an unnamed woman watching the crucifixion was the mother of James and John, and John 19:25 says that an unnamed woman was the sister of Mary (Jesus’s mother). So adding up these three verses, some scholars says that Salome was the sister of Mary (Jesus’s mother). If true, the James and John and Jesus were cousins. So of course, out of the other disciples, apart from James, John would be the Beloved Disciple. However, some scholars say that it is tricky business to assume that an unnamed woman watching at the cross had to be Salome; any number of women from Galilee were reported to have been watching the crucifixion (Matt. 27:55; Mark 15:40; Luke 23:49). So the unnamed woman could be one of them and not Salome.
You can take or leave the claim that Salome was the sister of Mary (Jesus’s mother). I like the idea, but I am skeptical.
Let’s pull back at little. This is a verse of intimacy. Remember: in the first century the dinner guests reclined at table, with their feet sticking out. They were not sitting at a table as depicted in Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. “In ancient times, the guests at special feasts would recline so that each would be resting on his left elbow supported by a cushion, with his feet pointing away from the table. In the upper room there were probably three tables arranged in a horseshoe fashion. Jesus and two of his disciples would be reclining at the center table. The place on Jesus’s right would be reserved for a close friend, while the place on his left would go to the special guest” (Mounce, comments on vv. 23-24). Mounce goes on to say that John was reclining on Jesus’s right, and Judas on his left, so he could easily hand the bread to him.
The Greek literally reads: “One of his disciples was reclining on the chest of Jesus” or more expansively: “one of the guests was reclining near the chest of Jesus.” Grammarian Novakovic teaches us, referring to Louw and Nida, that the expression means taking a place of honor at a meal. The Beloved Disciple (the one whom Jesus loved) was reclining at the right of Jesus, “since guests would be reclining on their left elbow to have the right hand free for dining” (pp. 100-01).
In v. 25, the Greek literally reads: “Lie down on the chest.” But once again Novakovic teaches us that it is a synonym for the phrasing in v. 23: taking a seat of honor at a meal. Or it could be understood more intimately for moving closer to the side of Jesus. Or BDAG (70.2) suggests, via Novakovic: “He leaned back from where he lay” (pp. 101-02).
In v. 26 John refers to Jesus as Lord. See the discussion at vv. 12-15.
Jesus dipped a piece of bread in the sauce and handed it to Judas, who took it and ate it. So why did the host, Jesus, offer Judas the most appetizing morsel? It was a mark of favor (Bruce, comments on vv.. 23-26). Maybe this explains why the disciples could not discern what Jesus meant. Judas may have been on Jesus’s left, another place of honor.
I like Bruce here: If Judas wavered for a second, it was only to steel himself to carry out his fatal resolution, to become the willing instrument of Satan whereas he might have been a free follower and messenger of his master. Satan could not have entered into him had he not been granted him admission. Had he been willing to say ‘No’ to the adversary, all of his Master’s intercessory power was available to him there and then to strengthen him. But when a disciple’s will turns traitor, when the spiritual aid of Christ is refused, that person’s condition is desperate indeed (comments on vv. 27-30).
John notes that it was night when Judas went out. This is literal of course, but it may refer to spiritual darkness. Judas is about to lead the arresting crew to Jesus (18:2), as spiritual darkness enveloped him (Bruce, ibid.).
“Feast”: it was the Feast of Unleavened Bread which began at Passover and lasted seven days.
GrowApp for John 13:21-20
A.. Betrayal is tough. How have you handled it? Read Eph. 4:32, looking for forgiveness. Are you willing to call on God’s grace to forgive someone?
The New Commandment (John 13:31-35)
31 Then, when Judas left, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify him in himself and will immediately glorify him. 33 Children, I am with you a brief time. You will seek me and just as I told the Jews, ‘Where I go you cannot not come,’ I also tell you now.
34 “I give you a new commandment: that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you should also love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for each other.”
“Judas left”: the Greek reads: “When he left,” but the previous verse (v. 30) tells us that Judas left.
Recall this verse: “Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice from heaven came: “I have glorified it and I will glorify it again” (John 12:28). As I wrote under 12:28, so how did the Father already glorify it and then will glorify it again? In the first instance, his name was glorified in the ministry and signs of the Incarnate Word, if people could see below the surface and the Father’s backing of his Son. Glorifying it again means the completion of the mission of his Son when he died on the cross and was buried, resurrected, and ascended. The ascension is the vindication of the Son and completion of the mission of both the Father and the Son. Mission accomplished, at the ascension.
Bruce: “The words ‘God will glorify him in himself’ appear to have much the same meaning as Jesus’s petition, ‘And now, Father, glorify me with thyself ….’ in John 17:5. This presupposes that ‘in himself’ here means ‘in God the Father himself’; as the Father is glorified in the Son, so the Son is to be glorified in the Father” (comments on vv. 31-32). The Father would get glory by glorifying Jesus’s humanity and welcoming him to fellowship with himself. “immediately” means things are set in motion; even today, he will die.
“It is one of the greatest theological insights of John’s gospel that the glory of God is seen most clearly in the cross. God is love, and his glory is what most vividly displays this love. Thus the cross, the ultimate expression of God’s love, is the focus of God’s glory” (Mounce, comments on v. 31).
In John 8:21 Jesus told the Jews (the religious establishment of Jerusalem) that they will seek him but will die in their sins, and where he is going they cannot come. They blundered and thought he was going to commit suicide. He replied that he is from above, while they are from below (8:23). The disciples in the Upper Room are not going to die in their sins, but they cannot go to him because he is from above, and the way there—to his Father—is to die. Where they cannot come for now is the cross. They are not called to die with him during his arrest or anytime soon. They will be scattered after the shepherd is struck (Zech. 13:7). Then years later they will die and go to him, like James the son of Zebedee did (Acts 12:2). Jesus had predicted that the brothers would suffer and possibly die (Mark 10:35, 39). John did much later and suffered persecution, like being exiled on the Island of Patmos.
Verse 33 is similar to these:
31 Jesus took the twelve aside and said to them, “Consider! We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything written in the prophets about the Son of man shall be fulfilled. 32 He shall be handed over to the Gentiles and be mocked and arrogantly mistreated and spit on. 33 And after they flog him, they shall kill him, and on the third day he shall rise again.” 34 But they understood none of this, and this spoken message was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend what was spoken. (Luke 18:31-34)
Here in John’s Gospel, particularly v. 36, the disciples were mystified.
“children”: this is the only verse in the Gospel where this sweet term is used. Jesus is the head of this household, though it is used five times in his first epistle (1 John 3:1, 2, 10 [twice] 5:2) and three times in his second epistle (2 John 1, 4, 13) and once in his third epistle (3 John 4). Paul uses it in Gal 4:19 in a tender appeal to the Galatian converts. Likewise, Jesus is appealing to his spiritual children and bringing them into close fellowship with himself and his Father.
Jesus is about to depart from them, but he is leaving them gifts: his joy (15:11) and his peace (14:17). His new command enjoys the foundational example of the foot-washing (Klink, comment on v. 34). Carson thinks that it s possible that this is an indirect allusion to the New Covenant, spelled out in the Synoptics (e.g. Luke 22:20 and see 1 Cor. 11:25).
He commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves: Here is a passage from Mark’s Gospel:
“And ‘You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart, with all your soul, and all your mind, and with all your strength.’ [Deut. 6:4-5] 31 The second most important is this one: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ [Lev. 19:18] There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)
Love fulfils the law, Paul wrote, quoting some of the Ten Commandments:
8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” [Exodus 20:13-15,17; Deut. 5:17-19,21] and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” [Lev. 19:18] 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Rom. 13:8-10, NIV)
Bruce points out an excerpt from Tertullian (160/70 to 215/20), writing about a century after this Gospel, that the pagans of his day said of the Christians, “See how they love one another! How ready they are to die for one another!”
No one has greater love than this: that someone would lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. (1 John 3:16, NIV)
Since this is a new commandment to love—not an optional suggestion—let’s look more closely at this verb love. It is the verb agapaō (pronounced ah-gah-pah-oh). BDAG says that the verb means, depending on the context: (1) “to have a warm regard for and interest in another, cherish, have affection for, love”; (2) “to have high esteem for or satisfaction with something, take pleasure in; (3) “to practice / express love, prove one’s love.” In most instances this kind love in Scripture is not gooey feelings, though it can be a heart-felt virtue and emotion, as we see in the first definition. Rather, mostly love is expressed by action. If you have no gooey feelings for your enemy, do something practical for him.
Both the noun agapē (pronounced ah-gah-pay) and the verb mean a total commitment. For example, God is totally committed to his church and to the salvation of humankind. Surprisingly, however, total commitment can be seen in an unusual verse. Men loved darkness rather than light (John 3:19), which just means they are totally committed to the dark path of life. Are we willing to be totally committed to God and to live in his light? Can we match an unbeliever’s commitment to bad things with our commitment to good things?
Agapē and agapaō are demonstrative. This love is not static or still. It moves and acts. We receive it, and then we show it with kind acts and good deeds. It is not an abstraction or a concept. It is real.
It is transferrable. God can pour and lavish it on us. And now we can transfer it to our fellow believers and people caught in the world.
I really like Carson’s comments here: “Orthodoxy without principal obedience to this characteristic command of the new covenant is merely so much humbug (comment on vv. 34-35).
So why is this a new commandment, when it has OT precedence?
At the risk of confounding logic, it is not so much that Christians are to love the world less, as that they are to love one another more. Better put, their love for each other ought to be a reflection of their new status and experience as the children of God, reflecting the mutual love of the Father and the Son and imitating the love that has been shown them; their love for the world is the love of compassion, forbearance, evangelism, empathy—since all true Christians recognize they can never be more than mere beggars telling others where there is bread. The New Testament as a whole concentrates sometimes on the this focus of love, sometimes on that; it refuses to measure one against the other (comments on vv. 34-35).
GrowApp for John 13:31-35
A.. How is your love for your church family? How can you demonstrate God’s love in practical ways?
Peter’s Denial Foretold (John 13:36-38)
36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied to him, “Where I go you cannot follow me now, but you will follow later.” 37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why do you say that I am cannot follow you now? I will lay down my life for you!” 38 Jesus replied, “Will you lay down your life for me? I tell you the firm truth: A rooster will not crow until you have denied me three times.”
Peter carries on the conversation from the previous pericope (pronounced puh-RIH-koh-pea) or section or unit of Scripture.
In v. 33, I quote Luke 18, which indicates that the disciples were confused about his crucifixion.
His super-self-confidence does not match his soul, his inner makeup, his mind’s constitution. He will strike off the high priest’s servant Malchus’s ear (John 18:10), so his mind was almost there. He almost was willing to lay down his life for him, or maybe he was willing, so his intentions and words are not completely false, but Jesus had other plans for him—to be the leader of the church.
Then Jesus makes the sad prediction about Peter’s denial (John 18:15-18; 25-27). I can tell you right now that we will make an attempt to reconcile the four Gospel accounts about Peter’s three denials in relation to the timing of rooster crowing, but the attempt will be brief and simple. Why? It just does not matter in the bigger picture, whether the threes denial happened before, during, or after a rooster’s one or two crows. We understand the essence of the story and lesson to be learned. Essence: Peter denied the Lord during Jesus’s arrest and trials (of sorts). Lesson: would we deny the Lord in difficult circumstances?
“Sadly, good intentions in a secure room after good food are far less attractive in a darkened garden with a hostile mob. At this point in his pilgrimage Peter’s intentions and self-assessment vastly outstrip his strength” (Carson, comment on vv. 36-38).
“I tell you the firm truth”: see v. 16 for more comments.
The firm truth was that Peter was not ready to die for him at that moment. He was over-confident.
The rooster crowed about 13:20 a.m., 1:30 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. The Romans have the term cockcrow to the watching between midnight and about 3:00 a.m. (Bruce and Carson, comments on v. 38).
GrowApp for John 13:36-38
A.. Study James 4:10. How has God had to humble you in your super-confidence and bold boasting? How did God lift up Peter, later on?
Beasley-Murray George R. John. Word Biblical Commentary. Rev. ed. Zondervan, 1999.
Borchert, Gerald L. John 12-11. New American Commentary. Vol. 25b. Broadman and Holman, 1996.
Bruce, F. F. The Gospel of John: Introduction, Exposition, and Notes. Eerdmans, 1983.
Carson, D. A. The Gospel according to John. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Eerdmans, 1991.
The Greek New Testament. Fifth Revised Edition by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger (United Bible Society, 2014).
Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of John: A Commentary. Vol. 1. Baker Academic, 2003.
Novakovic, Lidija. John 11-21: A Handbook on the Greek Text. A Handbook on the Greek Text. Baylor UP, 2020.
Klink, Edward W. John. Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Zondervan, 2016.
Morris, Leon. The Gospel according to John. Rev. ed. Eerdmans, 1995.
Mounce, Robert H. John. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Rev. ed. Zondervan, 2007.