(See also Matt 26:20-25, 33-35; Mark 14:17-21, 29-31; Luke 22:31-34)
This chapter marks a transition in the John’s Gospel from the ‘Book of Signs’ (chapters 1-11), to the Book of Glory. The ‘hour’, deferred in John 2, has now come for Jesus. He chooses to spend this time with his disciples: a conversation continuing through Chapters 13-17 until his arrest, which leads to the ‘hour’ being fulfilled – via his crucifixion, resurrection and ascension.
The synoptic Gospels give us the language of covenant-making in the breaking of bread and sharing of the cup. John’s Gospel focuses on the atmosphere and scene, which he remembers with sharpness and clarity. The detail in the story is extraordinary, given that it’s written many years after the event. It obviously made an impact on John, one that he never forgot. This is one of those unforgettable moments. I’m sure we can all think of our own such times when there’s an indelible searing in our memory of key experiences.
Three little cameos:
Jesus washes his disciples’ feet. The mark of leadership is servanthood. The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve. His example becomes our model. There’s a practical reason for the washing of feet: it’s an accepted form of welcome and provision of hospitality. Symbolically, Jesus hosts the meal and welcomes them into His presence, His home, His Kingdom. Feet, after a day’s walking, are dusty, dirty, and smelly: they need practical care. Jesus follows his example up with a command to all those who follow Him to ‘love one another as I have loved you’ (v.34). It’s a practical call – requiring gifts of mercy, hospitality, helps.
The battle over Judas’ heart is made clear here. The freedom of Judas to choose, yet the role of the enemy in motivating his action. We’ll not be fully able to understand how Judas could betray his friend, but we can see in Judas’ life a progression towards darkness and choices made one step at a time.
Then, of course, there’s Peter. The man who is a friend for life, yet who turns deserter when most needed. The heart can be fickle indeed. But Jesus knows, Jesus forgives and Jesus restores.
So, let’s turn this into a response.
Which cameo do you most identify with? The call to love others in practical ways? A battle over your heart – are you in danger of taking steps that lead you away from your faith and friendship with Jesus? Do you need to know His forgiveness and restoration today? Or do you know someone who does? Do whatever He says to you.