John 13:4 MEANING

John 13:4
(4) He riseth from supper, and laid aside' his garments.--Comp. Notes on Luke 22 et seq. We there read of "a strife among them which of them should be accounted the greatest." It is placed by St. Luke after the Supper; but our Lord's words, "I am among you as he that serveth," point almost certainly to a connection with this parabolic act. There had been, we may well think, some self-assertion in acts or omissions, which He by His act rebukes. They may have claimed, each above his brother, the place of honour at the table, or it may be that no one had offered the customary refreshment of water for the feet, before sitting down to meat (Luke 7:44). "We cannot say what was the immediate cause which suggested His act, but if we attempt to realise the whole scene, we must believe that there was in the disciples themselves some such cause. The garment laid aside would be the outer garment, which would impede His action, leaving the tunic, which was the ordinary dress of a servant.

And took a towel, and girded himself.--This was itself a mark of the servant's position, and was meant to signify His assumption of the servant's work. The successive minute details of this picture carry with them their own authenticity.

Verses 4, 5 - Commentators differ as to the motive which induced our Lord to perform this menial act, to adopt the gesture, girding, and duties of the δοῦλος, to divest himself of his ἱμάτια or upper garments, and to appear and veritably to act as a slave. Strauss regards it as a mythical representation of one of our Lord's discourses on humility. Lange, with much pertinence, believes it to correspond to the pain, which he manifested, at the very last Supper, with the unseemly contest for pre-eminence among the apostles (cf. Luke 22:27, "Whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? I am among you as he that serveth"). Others, like Meyer, see no such reference, and require the presence of no such motive. It is remarkable that at such a season this dispute could have arisen at all. I-laving undoubtedly broken out on more than one occasion, our Lord chose the midst of this feast, when we learn from other sources there was such an outbreak, for this emphatic revelation of the royalty of service. Wunsche ('Erl.,' p. 550) says that both "before" and "alter" the Passover festival it was customary, in order to demonstrate the equality and liberty of the guests, to practice mutual interchanges of the ordinary menial service of hand-washing ('Pesachin,' fol. 108). In this verse every sentence is a distinct picture. He riseth from the supper, and layeth down his upper garments, and when he had taken a towel, he girded himself (Edersheim and Wunsche both give proof that the Talmud repeatedly Grecizes the word here rendered "towel," λέντιον, "linen cloth," by the word lentith or alen-tith) after the fashion of the humblest slave; then he poureth water into the washing-basin (νιπτῆρα), the article of furniture in the room ("Nihil ministerii omittit," says Grotius. Thus he discharges every part of the duty, while the disciples wonder at the new revelation). And he began to wash the feet of the disciples, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. Westcott refers to the rabbinic commentators on Ezekiel 16:9, "Among men, the slave washes his master, but with God it is not so." So then the inversion of all human social relations forced on John's mind the deep truth that we are here face to face with the Divine - with the Divine-human. John here strains his words to give some conception of what passed in his own mind when he saw our Lord's face, and witnessed this great revelation of his character. Though this evangelist did not record the "Transfiguration," there were moments in Christ's history which produced a still pro-founder impression upon him, and in which he veritably saw the glory of the Only Begotten of God in his Master's form. On this occasion the highest conception of his Divine Personality, origin, and destiny, was blended with the deepest descent of the Lord's entire humanity to the level of weakness, pollution, and sin. The greatest manifestation of God was in the revelation of the exceeding limits, the infinite depth, which love could compass. We may see a little farther on what were the special steps our Lord took to give this sense of love "to the uttermost" on the part of him to whom all the universe had been entrusted, who had come from, and was going back to, the Father.

13:1-17 Our Lord Jesus has a people in the world that are his own; he has purchased them, and paid dear for them, and he has set them apart for himself; they devote themselves to him as a peculiar people. Those whom Christ loves, he loves to the end. Nothing can separate a true believer from the love of Christ. We know not when our hour will come, therefore what we have to do in constant preparation for it, ought never to be undone. What way of access the devil has to men's hearts we cannot tell. But some sins are so exceedingly sinful, and there is so little temptation to them from the world and the flesh, that it is plain they are directly from Satan. Jesus washed his disciples' feet, that he might teach us to think nothing below us, wherein we may promote God's glory, and the good of our brethren. We must address ourselves to duty, and must lay aside every thing that would hinder us in what we have to do. Christ washed his disciples' feet, that he might signify to them the value of spiritual washing, and the cleansing of the soul from the pollutions of sin. Our Lord Jesus does many things of which even his own disciples do not for the present know the meaning, but they shall know afterward. We see in the end what was the kindness from events which seemed most cross. And it is not humility, but unbelief, to put away the offers of the gospel, as if too rich to be made to us, or too good news to be true. All those, and those only, who are spiritually washed by Christ, have a part in Christ. All whom Christ owns and saves, he justifies and sanctifies. Peter more than submits; he begs to be washed by Christ. How earnest he is for the purifying grace of the Lord Jesus, and the full effect of it, even upon his hands and head! Those who truly desire to be sanctified, desire to be sanctified throughout, to have the whole man, with all its parts and powers, made pure. The true believer is thus washed when he receives Christ for his salvation. See then what ought to be the daily care of those who through grace are in a justified state, and that is, to wash their feet; to cleanse themselves from daily guilt, and to watch against everything defiling. This should make us the more cautious. From yesterday's pardon, we should be strengthened against this day's temptation. And when hypocrites are discovered, it should be no surprise or cause of stumbling to us. Observe the lesson Christ here taught. Duties are mutual; we must both accept help from our brethren, and afford help to our brethren. When we see our Master serving, we cannot but see how ill it becomes us to domineer. And the same love which led Christ to ransom and reconcile his disciples when enemies, still influences him.He riseth from supper,.... In the midst of the entertainment, and which no doubt was considerable, his mind being intent on something else; and it being his meat and drink to do his Father's will, he rises and leaves his disciples sitting to finish their meal; and whilst they were murmuring at the waste of the ointment poured on his head, and were filled with indignation at it, as they all of them were, see Matthew 26:8; he rises up to wash their feet; amazing patience and humility!

And laid aside his garments; not all his garments, only his upper ones, that he might better dispatch the business he was going about; and which was an emblem of his laying aside, as it were for a while, his glory and dignity as the Son of God, and of his appearing in the form of a servant.

And took a towel; or "linen cloth", the same with in the Jerusalem Talmud (r):

and girded himself; with the towel, or linen cloth, which served both for a girdle, and after he had washed his disciples' feet, to wipe them with. This was a servile habit; so servants used to stand at the feet of their masters, girt about with a linen cloth (s); and shows, that the son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.

(r) Sabbat, fol. 3. 1. & 12. 1.((s) Suetonius in Caligula, c. 26.

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