Gospel of John #16 – John 13

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.


Section 1:  13:1-18 – 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.
  • At the beginning of Jn. 13, Jesus takes the opportunity to teach the Disciples – they were jostling for position, but Jesus looks 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.
      • Just think if the Disciples had continued this 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 make attempted 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.
  • Note the Doctrinal Truth in Jesus’ humble action –
    • 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, but 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 oft he object lesson
    • really arrogant, correcting Jesus, the sovereign God, full of grace & truth – as if he knew better, infers doing this is inappropriate – then Jesus’ kind response, he follows by being more brazen  – failure to obey is followed by obstinance – faith agrees and embraces with reverence (Calvin)
    • doctrinal truth: once saved, always saved – no need to be re-washed (born again again)
      • gk words make it clear – he that is washed (louo), needs only to wash (nipto) his feet
  • 13:12-17 – lesson in servant leadership – when you’re clean “once for all” – leadership with humility
    • James: more than mental agreement with Bible truth, you have to live it
    • 13:15, Christian humility- an example, model, pattern
    • Heb 4:11; 8:5 9:25; James 5:10; 2 Pet. 2:6


In Between:  Bread & Wine, Body & Blood – New Covenant

  • with the Passover as context, an object lesson, Jesus does “deep dive” of redemption truth
    • need to read the synoptics accounts to have this brought together
      • a monumental declaration of the New Covenant
      • the special plans revealed to find the right place – not at Lazarus’ house
      • 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, Seder Dinner
      • Wednesday, preparation day for Feast of Unleavened Bread – the guys were getting thgs ready, where Jesus? seclusion?
      • on Thursday after sunset
      • Remembrance – this dinner is instantly a memorial
      • Paul – this do in remembrance…
      • Passover Instituted: 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;
  • Is this a church ordinance (like baptism and Communion)?
    • 1) not stated in this passage
    • 2)no other Bible passage states it
    • 3)1 Tim 5:10, not in church assembly context
    • 4)no suggestion in Bible or any type of regularity of practice
    • 5)note that Lord’s Supper is in same passage, and is clearly taught in NT to be regularly observed



Section Three:  13:19-30 – The Betrayer 

  • 3:18-19 – Judas revealed – Psa. 41:9
  • 13:21 – a stunning announcement
    • Jesus troubled in spirit, in presence of Satan’s evil
    • Jesus troubled in spirit – Jn 11:33; 12:27
  • 13:23 – disciple whom Jesus loved (13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20)
    • First specific ref. to John in his own book
  • 13:25 – morsel of bread – Jesus’ final extension of Grace to Judas
    • 28 – leaving the Light and going out into darkness

Section Four:  13:31-38 – Departure & Denial 

  • Traumatic isolation for both Jesus & Disciples
    • Already looking past the Cross, Heb 12:2
  • The 11th commandment
    • A New Commandment – love one another
    • Macarthur explains it’s new in 2 ways: 1)modeled after His sacrificial love 2) enabled by Holy Spirit In the New Covenant – Jer. 31:29-34; Eze. 36:24-26
  • 31-32 – “glory” used 5x here
  • 34-35 – Jesus had love with sacrificial love of God – now the challenge is to the disciples…

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