John 13 – The Upper Room
With John 13, the Gospel writer turns a major corner in the Savior’s life. Since introduction by John the Baptist, Jesus has been introducing His Mission of Redemption to mankind. At first, privately to His family and disciples, then Nicodemus, then the woman at the well. But then Jesus began to “cry out” to the world the good news of the Gospel, the Messiah Savior was in the world to offer salvation. First announced by John the Baptist, now Jesus was publicly declaring His offer of the Kingdom as the promised Messiah. Most of Israel rejected Him but there were many who believed through almost three years of preaching and teaching. However, now Jesus has entered Jerusalem, celebrated triumphantly as the King by the crowds, but soon He would wear a crown of thorns.
As John transitions to chapter thirteen, recall that we have watched three years go by in John 1-12. Now, chapters 13-17 will cover just one day. And then the next day, Jesus will be crucified. Jesus has seen His disciples stretched emotionally as well as physically, He has brought them together to share the Passover meal in this upstairs room so that He can minister to them personally. When you compare these chapters in John to related passages in the Synoptic gospels, you realize John has provided us much more detail to this very special personal time with the Savior. These are Jesus’ “last days” of servanthood, having taken on the form of a man in order die for our sins. Interesting to compare that with our own sense of “last days” as we watch the implosion of mankind into sin and we anticipate the Second Coming of our Savior.
In an important sense, Jesus has been preparing for these last days for three years. Now in these last few days, He will move from Public to Private ministry, focusing on the needs of His disciples. Bear in mind that in just a short time, He will be resurrected and then ascend back to heaven, and He will leave a sobering challenge to His disciples to go into the world and preach the Gospel. They need to be ready, and that is His focus in the Upper Room Discourse of John 13-17.
John 13:1-12 – The Servant Washes Feet
- Prepare for us a place
- Matt. 26:17, the disciples ask Jesus where He wanted to have the Passover since it was in two days. Jesus advised them to go find a man carrying a pitcher of water (normally done by a woman), maybe a servant of the owner of the house to be used. Macarthur suggests Jesus had planned for this house but not revealed it because Judas could have divulged the location prematurely. The sovereign God & Savior prevailed on these events just as He had done in providing the donkey.
- More Backstory (James, John, Judas)
- In Matt. 20:20, James & John’s mother Salome asks a favor of Jesus, seeking a favorable position for her sons when they are with Him in glory. From v22, they were right behind her listening, and supporting her request. The other Disciples heard this and were not pleased. From Mk. 9:33-41, Jesus asks the men about this discussion and uses it to teach about being a servant. Then in Lu. 22:24-30, we see they were still struggling with this after Judas was revealed as the betrayer.
- Lets’ start at the Beginning
- As Jn. 13 begins, Jesus takes the opportunity to teach the Disciples. They were jostling for position, but Jesus looked for the towel & basin to wash their feet.
- Note Jesus’ state of mind in Jn. 13:1 – John provides more commentary (an aside, as if whispering in our ear the explanation). Imagine the guys having this “discussion” as they enter the upper room, but Jesus “…having loved His own to the end”, His hour is now “at hand” – His focus was now on the Disciples and the Cross.
- Imagine if the Disciples had continued their argumentative, selfish state of mind at the Ascension when Jesus tells them “you are my only plan”, or at Pentecost when they baptized by the Spirit to preach the Gospel.
- The Disciples’ competitive conversation may have continued as they attempted to establish “position” around the table.
- Amazing Love seems to be the central theme of John 13-17. Washing guests’ feet would have been a common norm in Jewish households, but it would have been considered a demeaning task done by a slave. The Disciples would never have thought of washing each others’ feet. Contrast this to how Jesus referred to it in Lu. 22:27. Watching Jesus get up and obviously take the servant role to wash feet would have been remarkably awkward, but the amazing love of the Servant prevailed.
- Note the Doctrinal Truth in Jesus’ humble ministry –
- Spiritual cleansing – initial repentance results in our initial washing, forgiveness for our sin – ongoing repentance and cleansing (1 Jn. 1:9-10) is related to our “soiling our feet” from walking in the world.
- Jesus is likely teaching servanthood, not instituting a practice of foot washing to be perpetuated by His followers. We see a principle of loving ministry to others; we wash others’ feet by many acts of service, as expressed in Phil. 2:5-10 and our having the “mind of Christ”. Christlikeness is a model for living, not a mandate – let the one who wants to be first.. take up his cross...
- 13:6-11 – Oh Peter!
- Peter becomes part of Jesus’ object lesson.
- Peter seems arrogant, even thinking he could correct Jesus, the sovereign God, full of grace & truth! As if he knew better, he infers that it would inappropriate for Jesus to do this. Then after Jesus’ kind response, Peter responds by being more brazen – “you shall never”. Failure to obey can often lead to obstinance . Calvin contrasts this attitude to genuine faith which “agrees and embraces with reverence”.
- We have important doctrinal truth in this object lesson from the Lord: once saved, always saved. There is no need to be re-washed (born again again). The two different Greek words here make it clear – he that is washed (louo), needs only to wash (nipto) his feet.
In Between the Lines: Bread & Wine, Body & Blood – The New Covenant
- 13:13-17 – Jesus gives the Disciples a lesson in servant leadership
- When you’re clean “once for all”, humility and leadership should follow. Care for one another.
- James: Verse 17, not just mental agreement with Bible truth, you have to live it. Compare James’ epistle for more on that.
- Compare Heb. 4:11; 8:5 9:25; James 5:10; 2 Pet. 2:6
- With the Passover as context, and the object lesson completed, Jesus does a “deep dive” into redemption truth.
- We need to read the synoptic Gospels accounts along with John to bring together all the details of the Upper Room dinner.
- There is a monumental declaration of the New Covenant
- The special plans revealed by Jesus to find the right place
- The Passover meal is raised up to be a history-dividing event based on the Cross and pointing to the New Covenant of Grace
- Passover, the Seder Dinner
- Wednesday, preparation day for the Feast of Unleavened Bread. While the Disciples were getting things ready, where was Jesus? Perhaps alone with His Father?
- Passover on Thursday after sunset – remembering the deliverance of Israel from Egypt.
- But now the dinner will remember something new – the dinner becomes a memorial of Christ dying on the Cross.
- Paul, in 1 Cor. 11:23-26 gave us guidance about the Lord’s Support, to be done in remembrance as Christ stated in Jn. 13.
- Is foot washing a church ordinance (like baptism and Communion)?
- It is not stated in this passage to do so.
- No other Bible passage refers to it as an ordinance.
- In 1 Tim 5:10, the reference to washing feet isn’t in the context of a church assembly.
- There is no suggestion in the Bible of this as an ordinance or any type of regularity of practice.
- Note that the Lord’s Supper is in this same passage of John 13, and is clearly taught elsewhere in the NT to be regularly observed.
Bible Study Journal
Here are some verses about the Passover being instituted for Israel in the Old Testament. What links can you see between Israel’s feast and our Lord’s Supper?
- Exodus 11:4-12:28; 12:43-51; 13:3-10; Leviticus 23:4-8; Numbers 9:1-14; Deuteronomy 16:1-8; Exodus 34:25; Numbers 28:16-25; 33:1-4; Joshua 5:10,11; 2 Kings 23:21-23;
John 13:19-30 – The Betrayer
Some brief notes about this tragedy:
- 13:18-19 – Judas is revealed by Jesus as the betrayer – compare Psa. 41:9.
- 13:21-22 – This is a stunning announcement and gets the other disciples upset.
- Jesus is troubled in spirit, He knew He was in the presence of Satan’s evil – Jn 11:33; 12:27.
- 13:23 – The disciple whom Jesus loved (13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20), still close to the narrative, and close to the heart of the Savior.
- This the first specific reference to the Apostle John by name in his own Gospel
- 13:26 – A morsel of bread – this can be seen as Jesus’ final extension of Grace to Judas.
- 13:30 – Judas left the Light and went out into darkness.
Section Four: 13:31-38 – Departure & Denial
- Peter’s response in 13:36 expresses the fear being felt by all the men. They sensed a catastrophic event happening and they were right. Traumatic isolation was now to occur for both Jesus & the Disciples.
- John quoted Jesus using “glorify” or “glorified” 16 times in his Gospel, starting with the raising of Lazarus, nine of the times are in the Upper Room discourse. This is a major focus from John, and now in 13:31-32, Jesus uses the term five times to declare that He is looking beyond the Cross to the glory He will have with His Father. Note Phil. 2:9-11; Heb. 12:2.
- Then in this context of His glorification, Jesus declares a new commandment to the Disciples, to love one another. This is to become a major distinction of the New Covenant and the New Testament believer.
- Macarthur explains that it is new in 2 ways:
- This love is modeled after His sacrificial love
- It is enabled by the Holy Spirit In the New Covenant.
- See these important verses: Jer. 31:29-34; Eze. 36:24-26 – also read Heb. 8 to discover more about the New Covenant.
- Macarthur explains that it is new in 2 ways:
- 31-32 – “Glory” is used five times in these verses, an important emphasis by the Lord as He looks forward to His glorification.
- 34-35 – Jesus had loved with the sacrificial love of God – now the challenge is to the disciples that they follow His example.
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