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Bible: What Does John 13 Teach Us About True Humility, False Discipleship, and Brotherly Love?

Updated on September 9, 2016

The Apostle John

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Jesus' Hour Has Come

The Apostle John records that the following episode transpired before the Passover arrived (to which he alluded earlier) [v. 1a; cf. 12:1], but after Jesus realized that “His hour had come” (v. 1b; cf. 12:23).

[One may consider the glorification of the Son of Man (His death) and Jesus’ departure from this world to the Father (the Ascension) as two events occurring within this “hour.”]

Knowing that He would soon leave His beloved disciples and return to His heavenly home-- Satan having successfully set in motion the events leading up to Judas’ betrayal--, Christ seeks to teach His apostles a lesson in humility by performing upon them the mundane task of a household servant; specifically, a foot washing (vv. 2-5).

Initially not understanding why Jesus designed to serve them in this manner, Peter vehemently objects to the procedure when the Lord delays giving him His reason (vv. 6-8a).

However, the apostle’s attitude changes radically after Christ admonishes him that He would completely withdraw His fellowship from him if he did not submit to this service (vv. 8b-9).

Christ’s response indicates that two related, but separate “washings” exist:

(1) Everyone who has been “bathed” is “clean”;

(2) The “clean” (those eternally forgiven from sin because they have believed His word) need only daily “foot washing” (cleansing from sins) to maintain fellowship (v. 10a; cf. John 15:3; 1 John 1:9; Ex. 30:19).

Practicing True Humility

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The Significance of Foot-Washing

Having perfect knowledge of the hearts of all of His men, Jesus tells Peter privately that not everyone among them is clean (namely, Judas) [vv. 10b-11].

After finishing this task, Christ resumes His place as the Host and probes His men to discern their understanding (v. 12).

He acknowledges their proper acceptance of Him as their Teacher and Lord, and then instructs them to follow His example of washing one another’s feet (vv. 14-15).

[The Lord undoubtedly did not intend that the Church make this procedure an ordinance, but only practice the principle behind the activity; that is, humbly forgive one another (Eph. 4:32).]

As His servants, they should certainly not neglect to practice the humility He has modeled; Jesus promises blessing to those who obey this command (vv. 16-17).

Judas Departs

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The Type of Judas


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Judas: The False Disciple

The Lord, citing what David wrote to finger the traitor Ahithophel, reveals the existence of a similar person in His life—one whom He had not chosen to salvation—who would fulfill this Messianic prophecy (v. 18; cf. Psalm 41:9).

[In Psalm 41, David recalled his prayer for mercy and healing (v. 4) when faced with illness, the malicious deceit of his enemies, and a trusted counselor’s betrayal (vv. 5-9).

II Samuel 15-17 records the episodes of Absalom’s rebellion and Ahithophel’s betrayal referenced here.

Judas Iscariot represents the antitype (fulfillment) of the latter (v. 9; cf. John 13:18).]

Jesus foretells the future so that His disciples may believe that He is the Messiah (v. 19).

People who accept this apostolic testimony ultimately receive the Father as their God (v. 20).

Now, deeply anguished, Christ announces the presence of a traitor in their midst, eliciting perplexed looks from His men (vv. 21-22).

The apostle John, as “one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved” and at Peter’s urging, initiates a private conversation with the Lord (vv. 23-25).

After whispering to John the telltale clue of the dipped bread, Christ gives the morsel of friendship to Judas (v. 26).

[Would Jesus have revealed the traitor’s identity had Peter not been concerned and had not led in this way?

It is also fascinating to note that, even though Judas was betraying Him to the Jewish leadership, Jesus still loved him.]

Having put the thought of betrayal into Judas’s mind, Satan now finishes the transaction by entering the traitor (v. 27; cf. v. 2).

[Judas had so given himself over to the purpose of the devil that the latter easily took control of the traitor’s life.]

None of the apostles (even John and Peter [?]) knows why Jesus tells Judas to do a certain activity quickly (v. 27b), but they speculate that He instructed the one with the moneybag to buy Passover supplies or to give alms (vv. 28-29).

Judas, his purpose clear, leaves the upper room, and walks out into “the night” (metaphorical for the realm of unbelief) [v. 30].

Jesus' Glorification


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Glorification of Jesus

Having allowed the traitor to continue his mission, Jesus now declares the certainty of His glorification (through sacrificial death); the Son of Man’s sacrifice will also honor God (v. 31).

[When Jesus talks about God here, He refers to the Father; sometimes He directly calls Him Father, and other times He does not.

Why does the Lord refer to Himself in the third person?]

The Father will, in turn, honor (“glorify”) the Son of Man “in Himself,” and honor Him immediately (v. 32).

[Ryrie suggests that the Father will glorify the Son in His resurrection and exaltation (New Testament Study Bible, 190).

Jesus, in His so-called High Priestly prayer, continues to ask that the Father glorify Him (see 17:1, 5); this glorification can only happen when Christ returns trimphantly to heaven.]

The Apostle Peter

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"Love One Another As I Have Loved You"

Even though He is not much older (in human years) than most of His disciples, Jesus addresses them as “little children,” and tells them (as He had informed the Jewish leadership earlier) that He is leaving and that they cannot come where He is going (v. 33).

In the light of His absence, Christ commands them to love the brethren (“one another”) with the same quality of love with which He has loved them.

If they obey this “new” commandment, the world will acknowledge that they learned how to love from Him (vv. 34-35).

[Believers can only love with Christ’s love by submitting to God and allowing the Holy Spirit to love others through them.]

Peter correctly surmises the gist of Jesus’ indirect response to his inquiry when the apostle asserts his willingness to die with Him (vv. 36-37).

[“Where I am going” seems to mean heaven; Peter realizes that He would have to die before He could arrive at His destination.

Many years later, the apostle would have the privilege of experiencing the same kind of death as his Master (cf. 2 Pet. 1:14).]

Gently, but firmly, Jesus deflates Peter’s fleshly enthusiasm by predicting the apostle’s triple denial before the next sunrise (v. 38).

© 2014 glynch1

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