Session 7: John 13 & 14
Jesus Knew: Jesus washes feet, then prepares his disciples for his departure and promises the Holy Spirit.
- Play: Session 7 Video
Jesus and his disciples are about to eat the seder, the evening meal on the first day of Passover. Jesus knows his time has now come, and events are rushing to their conclusion. The devil has already “put it in the heart” that Judas should betray Jesus.
The Synoptics record that they are in the Upper Room and that the disciples have been arguing about who among them is the greatest. In that atmosphere Jesus humbles himself as a servant and begins to wash feet. He teaches Peter a lesson in submissive obedience (v. 8). He knows that he is washing the feet of even the one who will betray him (v. 11). He does all this to set an example for his followers. (It is fine to reenact this as a ritual, even though few people today actually need their feet washed. It is better to reenact the principle: complete humility in meeting peoples' needs, even when they are disgusting.)
Then Jesus, troubled in spirit, returns to the awful truth that one of his own disciples will betray him (v. 18-20). Peter signals to John to ask Jesus which one. Jesus tells John—though no one else—that it is the one to whom he hands a piece of bread to dip in the dish (likely the one of bitter herbs). When Judas takes the bread, Satan takes complete control of his heart, and Jesus says, “Go do it quickly.”
(Scholars propose that there were three low tables in a U configuration. There were pallets where the disciples reclined on one elbow in banquet position at the tables. At the center table John reclined in front of Jesus, on his “chest” side, v. 23-25. Judas reclined on the other side of Jesus, where Jesus could easily hand him the piece of bread, v. 26. At each side table five disciples reclined, with Peter far enough away he had to signal his message to John, v. 24. Had Peter competed for a chief seat, only to end up down at the end of a side table?)
When Judas leaves, the other disciples suppose that perhaps he has been sent to buy more supplies or to go give money to the poor. (On the first night of Passover, the temple stayed open from midnight on, for beggars to come to receive alms.) Now that Judas has gone, now that the final chapter is in motion, Jesus knows that it is the time for him to be glorified (v. 31). It is in this context that Jesus gives a great command: to love one another. This, more than anything else, will identify his disciples.
At the close of the chapter, Peter claims he will go anywhere, risk anything, for Jesus. But in fact, before the rooster crows (3 to 4 a.m.) that very night, Peter will deny Jesus three times.
Following the Passover meal in the Upper Room, Jesus prepares his disciples for his departure. As they try to see beyond death into the life to come, they need to trust Jesus just as they trust the Father. He promises many “rooms” (same word as “home” in v. 23) in the place that he is preparing for them. Best of all, he himself will be there with them.
But the disciples are not satisfied. Thomas wants to know the way (and Jesus is the way, truth, and life; he provides the only way to get to God). Philip wants to see the Father (and Jesus is the very same as the Father; if they have seen him, they have seen the Father, as also 1:18).
Many promises are made in this chapter, and it is not always easy to decide which are for the disciples only, and which are for all believers. Verse 13 (“I will do whatever you ask”), verse 18 (“I will come to you”) and verse 26 (“he will teach you all things and remind you of everything”) seem to apply only to the disciples. Other verses, promising heaven (v. 3), empowerment (v. 12), the Advocate (v. 16, 23), and the Father's love (v. 21, 23) seem to be for all believers.
The most striking promise is that the Advocate will come to them. This title for the Holy Spirit (paracletos in the original Greek) is also translated Comforter, Counselor, or Helper. It was originally someone who was “called to one's side” to assist with a legal matter in court. The Advocate is “the Spirit of truth” who will live inside believers. The Holy Spirit inside the believer is also described by Jesus as, “I will come to you” (v. 18) and “we (Father and Son) will come . . . make our home” in those who obey Jesus' teaching (v. 23).
Important additional truths about the Holy Spirit will be made as Jesus continues in chapters 15 and 16. Some of our best understanding of the relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit comes from these chapters. To see Jesus is to see the Father (v. 9). The Father is in Jesus and Jesus is in the Father, saying his words and doing his work (v. 10-11). Jesus is returning to the Father (v. 12, 28) and seeks to glorify the Father (v. 13). At Jesus' request the Father will send the Advocate (v. 16, 26), who is Jesus returning to the disciples (v. 18). The Advocate is explained as Father and Son living in the believer (v. 23). Jesus repeatedly says he must do his Father's will, but also says that the Father will do whatever Jesus asks him!
One final note: the primary basis for the inspiration of the New Testament is found in verse 26 (and 16:13). The apostles (and by laying on their hands, their immediate associates) will have complete knowledge and flawless memory. This enables them to write the inerrant text.
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