John's Gospel Commentary by Robert Brow (www.brow.on.ca) 2000
John has already hinted that the betrayal of Judas was very much on Jesus' mind as the last supper began (13:10). Now he goes on to indicate how upsetting Jesus was finding this (13:18-19, 21-30). Judas' betrayal begins with a temptation, and it ends when he hands himself over to the power of evil (13:27). In contrast to Judas' story, John puts Peter's temptation and failure, but the final outcome is going to be very different (13:36).
But right alongside Judas' betrayal, and Peter's denial, Jesus is already looking forward to the glory (13:31) of the church (Matthew 16:18) which will result from his death and resurrection. And that church will be recognized by the astonishing love its members for each other (13:34-35).
13:18 The twelve were all specially chosen to be the apostolic leaders of the Messiah's church (Matthew 10:1-4, 16:18). But from the beginning Jesus knew that one of them was going to reject his calling (see 6:70-71). The betrayer's identity has now become clear. So Jesus keeps coming back to the disciple who rejected the way of love in favor of the methods of deceit and violence (as in 13:10, 26-27). And this reminds him of a verse in the Psalms: "Even my bosom friend in whom I trusted, who ate of my bread, has lifted his heel against me" (Psalm 41:9).
13:19 Jesus warns the disciples about Judas before the actual arrest so that their faith will not be stumbled when it happens. He wants them to know that he as the Messiah is certainly not taken by surprise. And in fact the Synoptic Gospels all record the threefold warnings that Jesus had given of his arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection (Matthew 16:21, 17:22-23, 20:18-19, Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:32-34, Luke 9:22, 44, 18:31-33) but Peter and the other disciples could not come to terms with this at the time (Mark 8:32, 9:32).
The three English words "I am he" are just the two words "I am" in Greek, and it is possible that this is again a claim to his divinity (see notes on 8:24, 28, 58, 18:5).
13:20 As he thinks about the faith of the disciples, and the cost of what service in the Kingdom will mean, Jesus uses the words "Verily, verily" perhaps to remind them that he had given them this important principle when they were first sent out to preach. "Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me" (Matthew 10:40).
13:21-22 As he writes John remembers how Jesus was "troubled in spirit" by the betrayal of Judas (see 13:10-11, 18). But so far he has not named his betrayer, and evidently the other disciples have not guessed who he could be.
13:23-26 The disciples were reclining on cushions(as was the custom) around the table. One of them, who is obviously John the writer of the Gospels, leaves his signature. "The one whom Jesus loved" (19:26, 21:20 which is why he is often called "the beloved disciple") was reclining next to their Teacher at the table.
John was one of the inner circle of three disciples that Jesus took with him up the mount of transfiguration (Matthew 17:1, Mark 9:2, Luke 9:28). Jesus also trusted these three to accompany him to pray for the little girl who had died (Mark 5:37). And he asked them to pray with him in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:33). In what sense was John loved more than the others?
The three Persons of the Trinity created us in their image (Genesis 1:26-27), and since God is love we were made to enjoy the love of God (1 John 4:19). "God so loved the world" (3:16) must therefore includes every single person in the world. As Jesus explained in the Sermon on the Mount, we are to love our neighbors and even our enemies because that is what God is like. "He makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous" (Matthew 5:43-45). Perfection is to learn (by the Holy Spirit) the perfect love of heaven (Matthew 5:46-48). But of course loving does not mean we are going to like our enemies, and we may need to defend ourselves from their attacks. Nor are we required to like every neighbor next door, or the person that we find bleeding by the roadside (Luke 10:30).
In addition to universal love, there is also covenant love and enjoyment love. God welcomes those who are willing to enter into covenant with him. And each of the three Persons of the Trinity takes a special delight in those who respond to them. That is why John made the comment earlier in this chapter: "Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end" (13:1, 15:9).
In that sense Jesus the Messiah had a particular love for the disciples. Which is why we also are to have a special love for other disciples of Jesus (13:34, 15:12, 17, 17:26, as in 1 John 4:7, 11-12).
Our love for others in general, and for members of our Christian community in particular, does not mean we should reject the particular affection we have for members of our family (see Jesus' concern for his mother in 19:25-27), our partner, and our close friends. Jesus certainly had a very close friendship relationship with the apostle John (see 13:13).
13:27-30 Judas had already yielded to Satan's temptation (13:2, Matthew 26:14), but now he allows himself to be possessed. Temptation is one thing, and it is common to all of us, including Jesus (Hebrews 4:15). It is only when we yield to temptation that sin occurs (18:25-27, see James 1:14-15). But a deliberate handing over of one's personality to do Satan's business is a quite different order of evil. This seems to have happened when Satan received the special morsel from Jesus' hand (13:27).
But John makes clear that none of the other disciples grasped what was going on in that critical moment.
13:31-32 We have already noted Jesus' words about glory and glorification (12:23-26). Now Judas' going out into the darkness (13:30) is the sign that the glorification of both the Son and the Father is about to occur.
13:33 This is the only time Jesus calls his disciples "little children" which suggests that he has strong feelings of compassion for them when for a time they will feel orphaned by the crucifixion (he calls then "children" in 21:5). Having heard Jesus call his disciples "little children," John himself uses the same words seven times when he writes his Epistle (1 John 2:1, 12, 28, 3:7, 18, 4:4, 5:21). The words are tender and very appropriate because we all need to become like children to enter the Kingdom of God (Matthew 18:1-4, Mark 10:14-15, Luke 18:1-17).
13:34-35 The supreme requirement for learning the love of God is a warm love for our brothers and sisters in Jesus' family (15:12, 17, 17:26, 1 John 4:7, 11-12, see the note on the different kinds of love in 13:23-26). And this is the way Christians will be recognized in every country of the world.
13:36-37 Peter is still puzzling over Jesus' words "Where I am going, you cannot come" (13:33). Jesus' answer is that Peter will not follow Jesus into death and resurrection the next day. But he will be martyred in due course (21:18-19), and be resurrected like his Teacher. Peter does not understand what Jesus is saying, though he knows that his master is going into a very dangerous situation, and he declares his willingness to risk death with him.
13:38 John records Jesus' warning that Peter would deny him before the cock crows early the next morning, and he will tell the story of that denial in due course (18:15-18, 25-27).
14:1-31 The Spirit