For an introduction to this series, click here.
May 12, 2007
This chapter tells the story of the Last Supper. Remember that John does not finish telling us about Jesus' death until the end of Chapter 19. So we have about 7 chapters based on one approximate 24-hour period. John's record of the Last Supper is very different. He does not mention the institution of the Lord's Supper. I guess because that was already a well-established tradition based on the records of the other three gospels and Paul's instructions in I Corinthians 10-11.
John does not mention it, but the other three gospels mention the disciples were arguing about who was going to be the greatest in the kingdom. When we remember that, what John does record Jesus doing next is all the more poignant: "Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him." (13:5) Jesus began to wash the feet of the very people who were arguing about who was going to be second-best in the kingdom, behind Jesus. Of course Peter objected. Peter was the conscience of the group. He would no doubt have been embarrassed by the sight of Jesus doing this lowly task.
Jesus' words are rebuke enough after He is finished washing their feet: "Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them." (13:12-17)
Then we have the betrayal by Judas. I said this before, but I think it bears repeating. This is just a theory, but in Judas' mind, I don't think he thought he was doing something so awful that his name would be synonymous with "traitor" 2,000 years later. I think he was trying to hurry up the kingdom, even if it meant he would be left out. It was disappointing seeing Jesus preach harsh messages that sent people away and seeing Him act like He did in the Upper Room. He was the Messiah. He was supposed to redeem Israel and usher in a glorious, everlasting kingdom. So Judas thought he would force Jesus' hand. He thought that if he could get Jesus arrested in Jerusalem during the Passover that Jesus would be forced to do something miraculous to get out of the situation. Jesus could then rally the people to His cause and lead them to victory. At least my theory explains why Judas was so remorseful immediately after Jesus was arrested and he realized Jesus was not going to resist. Of course God had everything planned out, but I think that may be what Judas was thinking. At least it makes Judas seem a little more human.
After Judas leaves, Jesus gives a new commandment: "Love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (13:34-35, ESV) This is a very instructive passage. Loving one another is the ultimate testimony. Often times that is the hardest thing to do. I'm thinking primarily in a church setting. Churches are often a breeding ground for jealousy, bitterness and rivalry, but this is not the way the Lord planned. I am not saying that every time someone leaves a church or starts a new one they are in sin. I hardly think you would call Luther or Calvin sinners for leaving the Catholic church. (I know, extreme example.) But on the other hand, too often churches do break up or people leave over the most piddly things. The church is supposed to be a place where people love each other unconditionally. It sure gives the lost world something funny to talk about when churches squabble. I have heard it, and I know you have too. Love overlooks a lot of minor personality defects and says "you are my brother in the Lord, and I may not like you all the time, but let's never let that get in the way of our friendship."