Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 35: John, Part II, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
1. Before the feast of the passover, Jesus, knowing that his hour was come, that he should remove out of this world to the Father, having loved his own, who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2. And after supper, 37 the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray him, 3. Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God, and was going to God, 4. Riseth from supper, and layeth aside his garments, and, taking a towel, he girdeth himself. 5. Then he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the feet of his disciples, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded. 6. He cometh, therefore, to Simon Peter, who saith to him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? 7. Jesus answered and said to him, What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter.
1. Before the feast of the passover. John intentionally passes by many things which, he knew, had been related by Matthew and others. He undertakes to explain those circumstances which they had left out, one of which was the narrative of the washing of feet. And though he will afterwards explain more clearly for what purpose Christ washed the feet of his disciples, yet, before doing so, he states, in a single word, that the Lord testified, by this visible sign, that the love with which he embraced them was firm and lasting; that, though they were deprived of his presence, they might still be convinced that death itself would not quench this love. This conviction ought now to be fixed also in our hearts.
The words are, that Christ loved even to the end his own, who were in the world. Why does he employ this circumlocution in describing the Apostles, but in order to inform us that, in consequence of their being engaged, as we are, in a hazardous and difficult warfare, Christ regarded them with so much the greater solicitude? And, therefore, though we think that we are at a distance from Christ, yet we ought to know that he is looking at us; for he loveth his own, who are in the world; for we, have no reason to doubt that he still bears the same affection which he retained at the very moment of his death.
To remove from this world to the Father. This phrase is worthy of notice; for it refers to the knowledge of Christ, that he knew that his death was a passage to the heavenly kingdom of God. And if, while he was hastening thither, he did not cease to regard his own with his wonted love, there is no reason why we should now think that his affection is changed. Now, since he is the first-born from the dead, this definition of death applies to the whole body of the Church, that it is an opening or passage to go to God, from whom believers are now absent. 38
2. After supper. 39 We shall afterwards take into consideration, at the proper place, the whole of Christ’s design in washing the feet of his disciples, and the advantage to be derived from this narrative. Let us now attend to the connection of the words. The Evangelist says that this was done, while Judas already resolved to betray Christ, not only to show the wonderful patience of Christ, who could endure to wash the feet of such a wicked and detestable traitor; but also that he purposely selected the time when he was near death, for performing what may be regarded as the last act of his life.
The devil having already put it into the heart of Judas. When the Evangelist says that Judas had been impelled by the devil to form the design of betraying Christ, this tends to show the enormity of the crime; for it was dreadful and most atrocious wickedness, in which the efficacy of Satan was openly displayed. There is no wickedness, indeed, that is perpetrated by men, to which Satan does not excite them, but the more hideous and execrable any crime is, the more ought we to view in it the rage of the devil, who drives about, in all possible directions, 40 men who have been forsaken by God. But though the lust of men is kindled into a fiercer flame by Satan’s fan, still it does not cease to be a furnace; it contains the flame kindled within itself, it receives with avidity the agitation of the fan, so that no excuse is left for wicked men.
3. Jesus, knoweth that the Father had given all things into his hands. I am of opinion that this was added for the purpose of informing us whence Christ obtained such a well-regulated composure of mind. It was because, having already obtained a victory over death, he raised his mind to the glorious triumph which was speedily to follow. It usually happens, that men seized with fear are greatly agitated. The Evangelist means, that no agitation of this sort was to be found in Christ, because, though he was to be immediately betrayed by Judas, still he knew that the Father had given all things into his hand. It may be asked, How then was he reduced to such a degree of sadness that he sweat blood? I reply, both were necessary. It was necessary that he should have a dread of death, and it was necessary that, notwithstanding of this, he should fearlessly discharge every thing that belonged to the office of the Mediator.
4. And layeth aside his garments. The meaning is, that he laid aside his upper garment, not his coat; for we know that the inhabitants of Eastern countries wore long garments
5. And began to wash the feet of his disciples. These words express the design of Christ, rather than the outward act; for the Evangelist adds, that he began with Peter.
6. Lord, dost thou wash my feet? This speech expresses strong dislike of the action as foolish and unsuitable; for by asking what Christ is doing, he puts out his hand, as it were, to push him back. The modesty would be worthy of commendation, were it not that obedience is of greater value in the sight of God than any kind of honor or service, or rather, if this were not the true and only rule of humility, to yield ourselves in obedience to God, and to have all our senses regulated by his good pleasure, so that every thing which he declares to be agreeable to Him shall also be approved by us, without any scruple. We ought, therefore, above all, to observe this rule of serving God, that we shall be always ready to acquiesce, without delay, as soon as he issues any command.
7. What I do. We are taught by these words, that we ought simply to obey Christ, even though we should not perceive the reason why he wishes this or that thing to be done. In a well-regulated house, one person, the head of the family, has the sole fight to say what ought to be done; and the servants are bound to employ their hands and feet in his service. That man, therefore, is too haughty, who refuses to obey the command of God, because he does not know the reason of it. But this admonition has a still more extensive meaning, and that is, that we should not take it ill to be ignorant of those things which God wishes to be hidden from us for a time; for this kind of ignorance is more learned than any other kind of knowledge, when we permit God to be wise above us.
8. Peter saith to him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou shalt have no part with me. 9. Simon Peter saith to him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. 10. Jesus saith to, him, lie who is washed needeth not to wash more than his feet, but is altogether clean; and you are clean, but not all. 11. For he knew who it was that should betray him; 41 therefore he said, You are not all clean.
8. Thou shalt never wash my feet. Hitherto Peter’s modesty was excusable, though it was not free from blame; but now he errs more grievously, when he has been corrected, and yet does not yield. 42 And, indeed, it is a common fault, that ignorance is closely followed by obstinacy. It is a plausible excuse, no doubt, that the refusal springs from reverence for Christ; but since he does not absolutely obey the injunction, the very desire of showing his respect for Christ loses all its gracefulness. The true wisdom of faith, therefore, is to approve and embrace with reverence whatever proceeds from God, as done with propriety and in good order; nor is there any other way, indeed, in which his name can be sanctified by us; for if we do not believe that whatever he does is done for a very good reason: our flesh, being naturally stubborn, will continually murmur, and will not render to God the honor due to him, unless by constraint. In short, until a man renounce the liberty of judging as to the works of God, whatever exertions he may make to honor God, still pride will always lurk under the garb of humility.
If I wash thee not. This reply of Christ does not yet explain the reason why he resolved to wash the feet of his disciples; only by a comparison drawn from the soul to the body, he shows that, in washing the feet of his disciples, he does nothing that is unusual or inconsistent with his rank. Meanwhile, the reply points out the folly of Peter’s wisdom. The same thing will always happen to us, whenever the Lord begins to contend with us. So long as he remains silent, men imagine that they have a good right to differ from him: but nothing is easier far him than to refute, by a single word, all the plausible arguments which they employ. As Christ is Lord and Master, Peter thinks it inconsistent that Christ should wash his feet. But the evil is, 43 that, in refusing such a service, he rejects the principal part of his own salvation. There is also a general doctrine contained in this statement, that we are all filthy and abominable in the sight of God, until Christ wash away our stains. Now, since he claims for himself the exclusive right of washing, let every man present himself, o be cleansed from his pollution, that he may obtain a place among the children of God.
But before proceeding farther, we must understand what is the meaning of the word wash. Some refer it to the free pardon of sins; others, to newness of life; while a third class extends it to. both, and this last view I cheerfully admit. For Christ washes us when he removes the guilt of our sins by his atoning sacrifice, that they may not come into judgment before God; and, on the other hand, he washes us when he takes away, by his Spirit, the wicked and sinful desires of the flesh. But as it will shortly afterwards be evident from what follows, that he speaks of the grace of regeneration, I do not absolutely maintain the opinion that he included here the washing of pardon.
9. Lord, not my feet only. When Peter heard that he was ruined, if he did not accept the cleansing which was offered to him by Christ, this necessity proved, at length, to be a sufficient instructor to tame him. He therefore lays aside opposition and yields, but wishes to be entirely washed, and, indeed, acknowledges that, for his own part, he is altogether covered with pollution, and, therefore, that it is doing nothing, if he be only washed in one part. But here too he goes wrong through thoughtlessness, in treating, as a thing of no value, the benefit which he had already received; for he speaks as if he had not yet obtained any pardon of sins, or any sanctification by the Holy Spirit. On this account, Christ justly reproves him, for he recalls to his recollection what he had formerly bestowed on him; at the same time, reminding all his disciples in the person of one man, that, while they remembered the grace which they had received, they should consider what they still needed for the future.
10. He who is washed needeth not to wash more than his feet, but is altogether clean. First, he says that believers are altogether clean; not that they are in every respect pure, so that there no longer remains in them any stain, but because they are cleansed in their chief part; that is, when sin is deprived of its kingly power, so that the righteousness of God holds the superiority; just as if we were to say, that a body was altogether healthy, Because it was not infected with any universal disease. It is by newness of life, therefore, that we must testify ourselves to be the disciples of Christ, for he declares that he is the Author of purity in all his followers.
Again, the other comparison was also applied to the case in hand, that Peter might not set aside the washing of the feet as foolish; for, as Christ washes from the head to the feet, those whom he receives as his disciples, so, in those whom he has cleansed, the lower part remains to be daily cleansed. The children of God are not altogether regenerated on the first day, so as to aim at nothing but the heavenly life; but, on the contrary, the remains of the flesh continue to dwell in them, with which they maintain a continued struggle throughout their whole life. The term feet, therefore, is metaphorically applied to all the passions and cares by which we are brought into contact with the world; for, if the Holy Spirit occupied every part of us, we would no longer have anything to do with the pollutions of the world; but now, by that part in which we are carnal, we creep on the ground, or at least fix our feet ill the clay, and, therefor are to some extent unclean. Thus Christ always finds in us something to cleanse. What is here spoken of is not the forgiveness of sins, but the renewal, by which Christ, by gradual and uninterrupted succession, delivers his followers entirely from the sinful desires of the flesh.
And you are clean. This proposition may be said to be the minor in the syllogism, and hence it follows that the washing of the feet applies to them with strict propriety.
But not all. This exception is added, that every one may examine himself, if Judas may perhaps be moved by a feeling of repentance; though he intended by it to take an early opportunity of fortifying the rest of the disciples, that they might not be perplexed by the atrocity of the crime, which was soon afterwards to be made known. Yet he purposely abstains from naming him, that he may not shut against him the gate of repentance. As that hardened hypocrite 44 was utterly desperate, the warning served only to aggravate his guilt; but it was of great advantage to the other disciples, for by means of it the Divinity of Christ was more fully made known to them, and they likewise perceived that purity is no ordinary gift of the Holy Spirit.
12. After then he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, sitting down again at table, 45 he saith to them, Know ye what I have done to you? 13. You call me Master and Lord; and you say well, for so I am. 14. If I then, who am the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you ought also to wash one another’s feet. 15. For I have given you an example, that, as I have done to you, you should do also. 16. Verily, verily, I tell you, the servant is not greater than his lord, nor the ambassador 46 greater than he who sent him. 17. If you know these things, happy are you if you do them.
12. When then he had washed their feet. Christ at length explains what was his intention in washing the feet of his disciples; for what he had said about the spiritual washing was a sort of digression from his main design. Had it not been for the opposition made by Peter, Christ would not have spoken on that subject. Now, therefore, he discloses the reason of what he had done; namely, that he who is the Master and Lord of all gave an example to be followed by all the godly, that none might grudge to descend to do a service to his brethren and equals, however mean and low that service might be. For the reason why the love of the brethren is despised is, that every man thinks more highly of himself than he ought, and despises almost every other person. Nor did he intend merely to inculcate modesty, but likewise to lay down this rule of brotherly love, that they should serve one another; for there is no brotherly love where there is not a voluntary subjection in assisting a neighbor.
Know you what I have done? We see that Christ, for a short time, concealed his intention from his disciples, but that, after having tried their obedience, he seasonably revealed to them that which it was not expedient for them previously to know. Nor does he now wait till they ask, but of his own accord anticipates them. The same thing will be experienced by us also, provided that we suffer ourselves to be guided by his hand, even through unknown ways.
14. If then I, who am your Lord and Master. This is an argument from the greater to the less. Pride hinders us from maintaining that equality which ought to exist amongst us. But Christ, who is far exalted above all others, stoops down, that he may make the proud men ashamed, who, forgetting their station and rank, look upon themselves as not bound to hold intercourse with the brethren. For what does a mortal man imagine himself to be, when he refuses to bear the burdens of brethren, to accommodate himself to their customs, and, in short, to perform those offices by which the unity of the Church is maintained? In short, he means that the man who does not think of associating with weak brethren, on the condition of submitting mildly and gently even to offices which appear to be mean, claims more than he has a right to claim, and has too high an opinion of himself. 47
15. For I have given you an example. It deserves our attention that Christ says that he gave an example; for we are not at liberty to take all his actions, without reserve, as subjects of imitation. The Papists boast that, by Christ’s example, they observe the forty days’ fast, or Lent. But we ought first to see whether or not he intended to lay down his fast as an example that the disciples might conform to it as a rule. We read: nothing of this sort, and, therefore, the imitation of it is not less wicked than if they attempted to fly to heaven. Besides, when they ought to have followed Christ, they were not imitators, but apes. Every year they have a fashion of washing some people’s feet, as if it were a farce which they were playing on the stage; 48 and so, when they have performed this idle and unmeaning ceremony, they think that they have fully discharged their duty, and reckon themselves at liberty to despise their brethren during the rest of the year. 49 But — what is far worse 50 — after having washed the feet of twelve men, they subject every member of Christ to cruel torture, and thus spit in Christ’s face. This display of buffoonery, therefore, is nothing else than a shameful mockery of Christ. At all events, Christ does not here enjoin an annual ceremony, but bids us be ready, throughout our whole life, to wash the feet of our brethren and neighbors. 51
16. Verily, verily, I tell you. These are indeed proverbial sayings, which admit of a far more extensive application, but which ought to be accommodated to the case in hand. In my opinion, therefore, they are mistaken who suppose them to have a general acceptation, as if Christ were now exhorting his disciples to bear the cross; for it is more correct to say that he employed them to serve his purpose.
17. If you know these things. He declares that they are happy, if they know and do these things; for knowledge is not entitled to be called true, unless it produce such an effect on believers as to lead them to conform themselves to their Head. On the contrary, it is a vain imagination, when we look upon Christ, and the things which belong to Christ, as separate from ourselves. We may infer from this that, until a man has learned to yield to his brethren, he does not know if Christ be the Master. Since there is no man who performs his duty to his brethren hi all respects, and since there are many who are careless and sluggish in brotherly offices, this shows us that we are still at a great distance from the full light of faith.
18. I speak not of you all; I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, He who eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me. 19. I tell you this now, before it happen, that when it shall have happened, you may believe that I am. 52 20. Verily, verily, I tell you, if I send any one. he who receiveth him receiveth me; and he who receiveth me receiveth him who sent me.
18. I speak not of you all. He again declares that there is one among the disciples who, in reality, is the very reverse of a disciple; and he does so, partly for the sake of Judas, in order to render him the more inexcusable, and partly for the sake of the others, ‘That they may not be overpowered by the ruin of Judas. Not only does he encourage them still to persevere in their calling when Judas falls away; but as the happiness which he speaks of is not common to all, he exhorts them to desire it with so much the greater eagerness, and to adhere to it the more firmly.
I know whom I have chosen. This very circumstance — that they will persevere — he ascribes to their election; for the virtue of men, being frail, would tremble at every breeze, and would be laid down by the feeblest stroke, if the Lord did not uphold it by his hand. But as he governs those whom he has elected, all the engines which Satan can employ will not prevent them from persevering to the end with unshaken firmness. And not only does he ascribe to election their perseverance, but likewise the commencement of their piety. Whence does it arise that one man, rather than another, devotes himself to the word of God? It is, because he was elected. Again, whence does it arise that this man makes progress, and continues to lead a good and holy life, but because the purpose of God is unchangeable, to complete the work which was begun by his hand? In short, this is the source of the distinction between the children of God and unbelievers, that the former are drown to salvation by the Spirit of adoption, while the latter are hurried to destruction by their flesh, which is under no restraint. Otherwise Christ might have said, “know what kind of person each of you will be;” but that they may not claim anything for themselves, but, on the contrary, may acknowledge that, by the grace of God alone, and not by their own virtue, they differ from Judas, he places before them that election by free grace on which they are founded. Let us, therefore, learn that every part of our salvation depends on election.
In another passage he includes Judas in the number of the elect.
Have not I chosen (or, elected) you twelve,
and one of you is a devil? (Joh 6:70.) 53
But in that passage the mode of expression, though different, is not opposite’, for there the word denotes a temporal election, by which God appoints us to any particular work; in the same manner as Saul, who was elected to be a king, and yet was a reprobate. But here Christ speaks of the eternal election, by which we become the children of God, and by which God predestinated us to life before the creation of the world. And, indeed, the reprobate are sometime, endued by God with the gifts of the Spirit, to execute the office with which he invests them. Thus, in Saul, we perceive, for a time, the splendor of royal virtues, and thus Judas also was distinguished by eminent gifts, and such as were adapted to an apostle of Christ. But this is widely different from the sanctification of the Holy Spirit, which the Lord bestows on none but his own children; for he renews them in understanding and heart, that they may be holy and unblameable in his sight. Besides, that sanctification has a deep root in them, which cannot be removed; because the adoption of God is without repentance. Meanwhile, let us regard it as a settled point, that it results from the election of God, when, having embraced by faith the doctrine of Christ, we also follow it during our life; and that this is the only cause of our happiness, by which we are distinguished from the reprobate; for they, being destitute of the grace of the Spirit, miserably perish, while we have Christ for our guardian, who guides us by his hand, and upholds us by his power.
Besides, Christ gives here a clear proof of his Divinity; first, when he declares that he does not judge after the manner of men; and, secondly, when he pronounces himself to be the Author of election. For when he says, I know, the knowledge, of which he speaks, belongs peculiarly to God; but the second proof — contained in the words, whom I have chosen — is far more powerful, for he testifies that they who were elected before the creation of the world were elected by himself. So remarkable a demonstration of his Divine power ought to affect us more deeply, than if the Scripture had called him God a hundred times.
That the Scripture may be fulfilled. It might have been thought improper that one should have been elected to so honorable a rank, who yet did not possess true piety; for it might readily have been objected, Why did not Christ elect one whom he intended to admit into the number of the Apostles? or rather Why did he appoint a man to be an Apostle, who, he well knew, would become so wicked? He explains that this must have happened, because it was foretold; of at least, that it was no new occurrence, for David had experienced the same thing. For some think that it is a prediction quoted, which properly applies to Christ; while others think that it is merely a comparison, that, as David was basely betrayed by a private enemy, so a similar condition awaits the children of God. According to the latter, the meaning would be: That one of my disciples wickedly betrays his Master, is not the first instance of treachery that has taken place in the world; but, on the contrary, we now experience what Scripture declares to have happened in ancient times.” But, as in David there was shadowed out what was afterwards to be seen more fully in Christ, I readily agree with the former expositors, who think that this was strictly the fulfillment of that which David, by the Spirit of prophecy, had foretold, (Ps 41:9.) Besides, some are of opinion that the clause under consideration does not contain a complete sense, and needs to have the principal verb supplied. But if we read it continuously, That the Scripture may be fulfilled, he who eateth bread with me lifteth up his heel against me, there will be nothing wanting.
To lift up the heel is a metaphorical expression, and means, to attack a person in an unperceived manner, under the pretense of friendship, so as to gain an advantage over him, when he is not on his guard. Now what Christ suffered, who is our Head and our Pattern, we, who are his members, ought to endure patiently. And, indeed, it has usually happened in the Church in almost every age, that it has had no enemies more inveterate than the members of the Church; and, therefore, that believers may not have their minds disturbed by such atrocious wickedness, let them accustom themselves early to endure the attacks of traitors.
19. I tell you this now, before it happen. By this statement he reminds his disciples that, when one of their number becomes a reprobate, this is so far from being a good reason for their being discouraged, that it ought to be a more full confirmation of their faith. For if we did not see before our eyes, in the Church, what has been foretold about her distresses and struggles, a doubt might justly arise in our minds, Where are the prophecies? But when the truth of Scripture agrees with our daily experience,17 then do we perceive more clearly, that God takes care of us, and that we are governed by his providence.
That you may believe that I am. 54 By the phrase, that I am, he means that he is that Messiah who had been promised; not that the conduct of Judas, as a traitor, was the first event that led the disciples to the exercise of faith, but because their faith made greater progress, when they arrived at the experience of those things which they had formerly heard from the mouth of Christ. Now this may be explained in two ways; either that Christ says that they will believe after the event has happened, because there was nothing which was hidden from him, or that nothing will be wanting in him of all that the Scripture testifies concerning Christ. As the two interpretations agree well enough together, I leave my readers at liberty to choose which of them they will prefer.
20. Verily, verily, I tell you. In these words either the Evangelist relates a discourse on a different subject, and in a broken and imperfect state, or, Christ intended to meet the offense which was likely to arise from the crime of Judas; for the Evangelists do not always exhibit the discourses of Christ in unbroken succession, but sometimes throw together, in heaps, a variety of statements. It is more probable, however, that Christ intended to provide against this scandal. There is too good evidence that we are very ready to be wounded by bad examples; for, in consequence of this, the revolt of one man inflicts a deadly wound on two hundred others, while the steadiness of ten or twenty pious men hardly edifies a single individual. On this account, while Christ was placing such a monster before the eyes of his disciples, it was also necessary that he should stretch out his hand to them, lest, struck by the novelty, they should fall back. Nor was it only on their account that he said this, but he also consulted the advantage of those who should come after; for, otherwise, the remembrance of Judas might, even at the present day:, do us grievous injury. When the devil cannot estrange us from Christ by hatred of his doctrine, he excites either dislike or contempt of the ministers themselves.
Now this admonition of Christ shows that it is unreasonable that the impiety of any whose conduct is wicked or unbecoming their office, should at all diminish the apostolical authority. The reason is, we ought to contemplate God, the Author of the ministry, in whom, certainly, we find nothing which we have a right to despise; and next, we ought to contemplate Christ, who, having been appointed by the Father to be the only Teacher, speaks by his apostles. Whoever, then, does not deign to receive the ministers of the Gospel, rejects Christ in them, and rejects God in Christ.
The Papists act a foolish and ridiculous part, when they endeavor to obtain this applause for themselves, in order exhibit their tyranny. For, in the first place, they adorn themselves with begged and borrowed feathers, having no resemblance to the apostles of Christ; and, secondly, granting that they are apostles, nothing was farther from Christ’s intention, in this passage, than to transfer his own right to men; for what else is it to receive those whom Christ sends, but to give place to them, that they may fulfill the office which has been committed to them?
21. When Jesus had said these words, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I tell you, that one of you will betray me. 22. The disciples, therefore, looked on one another, doubting of whom he spoke. 23. And one of the disciples, whom Jesus loved, was lying at table in Jesus’ bosom. 24. Therefore Simon Peter made a sign to him, to ask who it was of whom he spoke. 25. Lying on the breast of Jesus.,., therefore, he saith to him, Lord, who is he? 26. Jesus answered, It is he to whom I shall give the dipped sop; and when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. 27. And after the sop, Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus to him, What thou doest, do quickly. 28. And no one of those who were at table knew why he said this to him. 29. For some thought, because Judas had the purse, that Jesus said to him, Buy the things which we need for the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor.
21. When Jesus had said these words. The more sacred the apostolic office is, and the higher its dignity, the more base and detestable was the treachery of Judas. A crime so monstrous and detestable struck Christ himself with horror, when he saw how the incredible wickedness of one man had polluted that sacred order in which the majesty of God ought to have shone with brightness. To the same purpose is what the Evangelist adds, that he testified. His meaning is, the action was so monstrous that the bare mention of it could not be immediately believed.
He was troubled in spirit. The Evangelist says that Christ was troubled in spirit, in order to inform us that he did not merely, in countenance and language, assume the appearance of a man who was troubled, but that he was deeply moved in his mind. Spirit here denotes the understanding, or, the soul; for I do not assent to the opinion of some who explain it, as if Christ had been driven by a violent impulse of the Holy Spirit to break out into these words. I readily acknowledge. that all the affections of Christ were guided by the Holy Spirit; but the meaning of the Evangelist is different, namely, that this suffering of Christ was inward, and was not feigned; and it is of great importance for us to know this, because his zeal is held out for our imitation, that we may be moved with deep horror by those monsters which overturn the sacred order of God and of his Church.
22. The disciples, therefore, looked on one another. They who are not conscious of any crime are rendered uneasy by what Christ has said: Judas alone is so stupid amidst his malice, that he remains unmoved. The authority of Christ was held in so great estimation by the disciples, that they were fully convinced that he said nothing without a good reason; but Satan had expelled from the heart of Judas all reverence, so that it was harder than a rock to reject every admonition. And though Christ appears to be somewhat unkind in inflicting this torture, for a time, on those who were innocent, yet as anxiety of this kind was profitable to them, Christ did them no injury. It is proper that, when the children of God have heard the sentence of the ungodly, they should themselves feel uneasiness, that they may sift themselves, and guard against hypocrisy; for this gives them an opportunity of examining themselves and their life.
This passage shows that we ought sometimes to reprove the ungodly in such a manner as not instantly to point the finger to them, until God, by his own hand, drag them forth to the light. For it frequently happens that there are secret diseases in the Church, which we are not at liberty to disguise; and yet the wickedness of men is not so ripe as to be capable of being laid open. In such cases we ought to take this middle path.
23. Whom Jesus loved. The peculiar love with which Christ loved John plainly testifies that, if we love some more than others, this is not always inconsistent with brotherly love; but all lies in this, that our love shall be directed towards God, and that every man, in proportion as he excels in the gifts of God, shall share in it the more largely. From this end Christ never turned aside in the smallest degree; but with us the case is widely different, for such is the vanity of our mind, that there are few who, in loving men, approach more nearly to God. And yet the love of men towards each other will never be properly regulated, unless it be directed to God.
Lay at table in Jesus’ bosom. What is here related by John might be regarded in the present day as indecorous; but such was, at that time, the manner of being placed at table; for they did not sit, as we do, at table, but, after having put off their shoes, lay half-stretched out, reclining on small cushions.
26. To whom I shall give the dipped sop. It may be asked, what purpose did it serve to give a dipped sop, for discovering the traitor, when Christ might have openly pointed him out by name, if he wished to make him known? I answer, the sign was of such a nature, that it discovered Judas to one person only, and did not immediately bring him forward to the view of all. But it was advantageous that John should be witness of this fact, in order that he might afterwards reveal it to others at the proper time; and Christ intentionally delayed to make Judas publicly known, that, when hypocrites are concealed, we may more patiently bear, till they are dragged forth to the light. We see Judas sitting amongst the others, and yet condemned by the mouth of the Judge. In no respect better is the condition of those who hold a place among the children of God.
27. Satan entered into him. As it is certain that it was only at the instigation of Satan that Judas formed the design of committing so heinous a crime, why is it now said, for the first time, that Satan entered into him, who had already held the throne in his heart? But as they who are more fully confirmed in The faith which they formerly possessed are often said to believe, and thus an increase of their faith is called faith, so now that Judas is utterly given up to Satan, so as to be hurried on, by vehement impetuosity, to every extremity of evil, Satan is said to have entered into him. For as the saints make gradual progress, and in proportion to the new gifts by which they are continually enlarged, they are said to be filled with the Holy Spirit; so, in proportion as wicked men provoke the anger of God against themselves by their ingratitude, The Lord deprives them of his Spirit, of all light of reason, and, indeed, of all human feeling, and delivers them unreservedly to Satan. This is a dreadful vengeance of God, when men are given up to a reprobate mind, (Ro 1:28,) so that they scarcely differ at all from the brutes, and — what is worse — fall into horrid crimes from which the brutes themselves would shrink. We ought, therefore, to walk diligently in the fear of the Lord, lest, if we overpower his goodness by our wickedness, he at length give us up to the rage of, Satan.
By giving the sop, Christ did not give an opportunity to Satan, but rather Judas, having received the sop, gave himself up entirely to Satan. It was, indeed, the occasion, but not the cause. His heart, which was harder than iron, ought to have been softened by so great kindness showed to him by Christ; and now his desperate and incurable obstinacy deserves that God, by his just judgment, should harden his heart still more by Satan. Thus, when, by acts of kindness to enemies, we heap coals of fire on their heads, (Ro 12:20,) if they are utterly incurable, they are the more enraged and inflamed 55 to their destruction. And yet no blame is due, on this account, to our kindness, by which their hearts ought to have been inflamed to love us.
Augustine was wrong in thinking that this sop was an emblem of the body of Christ, since it was not during the Lord’s Supper that it was given to Judas. It is also a very foolish dream to imagine that the devil entered essentially — as the phrase is — into Judas; for the Evangelist speaks only of the power and efficacy of Satan. This example reminds us what a dreadful punishment awaits all those who profane the gifts of the Lord by abusing them.
What thou doest, do quickly. The exhortation addressed by Christ to Judas is not of such a nature that he can be regarded as exciting him to do the action: it is rather the language of one who views the crime with horror and detestation. 56 Hitherto he had endeavored, by various methods, to bring him back, but to no purpose. Now he addresses him as a desperate man, “Go to destruction, since you have resolved to go to destruction;” and, in doing so, he performs the office of a, judge, who condemns to death not those whom he, of his own accord, desires to ruin, but those who have already ruined themselves by their own fault. In short, Christ does not lay Judas under the necessity of perishing, but declares him to be what he had formerly been.
28. Not one of those who were at table. Either John had not yet related to others what Christ had told him, or they were so much struck by it, that they lost their presence of mind; and, indeed, ill is probable, that John himself was almost out of his senses. But what then happened to the disciples, we frequently see: taking place in the Church, that few of the believers discern the hypocrites whom the Lord loudly condemns.
29. Or that he should give something to the poor. It is plain enough from other passages how great was Christ’s poverty, and yet, out of the little that he had, he gave something to the poor, in order to lay down a rule for us; for the Apostles would not have conjectured that he had spoken about the poor, if it had not been their usual custom to relieve the poor
30. When, therefore, he had received the sop, he went immediately out; and it was night. 31. When, therefore, he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and will immediately glorify him. 33. Little children, but a little while am I yet with you. You shall seek me, and as I said to the Jews, that whither I go, you cannot come, so now I say to you. 34. A new commandment I give you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35. By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another.
31. Now is the Son of man glorified. The last hour was at hand; Christ knew that the minds of his disciples were very weak, and, therefore, he endeavored, by every possible method, to support them, that they might not give way. Even at the present day, the remembrance of the cross of Christ is sufficient to make us tremble, were we not instantly met by the consolation, that he triumphed in the cross, having obtained a victory over Satan, sin, and death. What, then, might have happened to the Apostles, when they saw the Lord soon dragged to the cross, loaded with every kind of reproaches? Might not an exhibition so melancholy and revolting have overwhelmed them a hundred times? Christ, therefore, provides against this danger, and withdraws them from the outward aspect of death to its spiritual fruit. Whatever ignominy, then, may be seen in the cross, fitted to confound believers, yet Christ testifies that the same cross brings glory and honor to him. 57
And God is glorified in him. This clause, which immediately follows the other, is added for confirmation; for it was a paradoxical statement, that the glory of the Son of man arose from a death which was reckoned ignominious among men, and was even accursed before God. He shows, therefore, in what manner he would obtain glory to himself from such a death. It is, because by it 58 he glorifies God the Father; for in the cross of Christ:, as in a magnificent theater, the inestimable goodness of God is displayed before the whole world. In all the creatures, indeed, both high and low, the glory of God shines, but nowhere has it shone more brightly than in the cross, in which there has been an astonishing change of things, the condemnation of all men has been manifested, sin has been blotted out, salvation has been restored to men; and, in short, the whole world has been renewed, and every thing restored to good order.
In him. Though the preposition (ἐν) in is often used instead of the Hebrew ב, and, in such eases, is equivalent to by, yet I have preferred translating it simply, that God is glorified in the Son of man; because I considered that phrase to be more emphatic. When he says, and God is glorified, the meaning, I apprehend, is, for God is glorified
32. If God be glorified. Christ concludes that he will obtain a glorious triumph by his death; because his sole design in it is, to glorify his Father; for the Father did not seek his glory from the death of his Son in such a manner as not to make the Son a partaker of that glory. He promises, therefore, that when the ignominy which he shall endure for a short time has been effaced, illustrious honor will be displayed in his death. And this too was accomplished; for the death of the cross, which Christ suffered, is so far from obscuring his high rank, that in that death his high rank is chiefly displayed, since there his amazing love to mankind, his infinite righteousness in atoning for sin and appeasing the wrath of God, his wonderful power in conquering death, subduing Satan, and, at length, opening heaven, blazed with full brightness. This doctrine is now extended also to all of us; for though the whole world should conspire to cover us with infamy, yet if we sincerely and honestly endeavor to promote the glory of God, we ought not to doubt that God will also glorify us.
And will immediately glorify him. Christ heightens the consolation by arguments drawn from the shortness of the time, when he promises that it will take place immediately. And though this glory began at the day of his resurrection, yet what is chiefly described here is the extension of it, which followed immediately afterwards, when, raising the dead by the power of the Gospel and of his Spirit, he created a new people for himself; for the honor which peculiarly belongs to the death of Christ, is the fruit which sprung from it for the salvation of men.
33. Little children, yet a little while am I with you. As it was impossible that the disciples should not be deeply grieved at their Master’s departure, so he gives them early warning that he will no longer be with them, and, at the same time, exhorts them to patience. Lastly, to remove unseasonable eagerness of desire, he declares that they cannot immediately follow him. In calling them little children, he shows, by that gentle appellation, that his reason for departing from them is not that he cares little about their welfare, for he loves them very tenderly. True, the object which he had in view in clothing himself with our flesh was, that he might be our brother, but by that other name he expresses more strongly the ardor of his love.
As I said to the Jews. When he says, that he repeats to them what he had formerly said to the Jews, this is true as to the words, but there is a wide difference in the meaning; for he declares that they cannot follow him, in order that they may endure patiently his temporary absence, and — so to speak — bridles them in, that; they may remain in their office, till they have finished their warfare on earth; so that he does not perpetually exclude them, as Jews, from the kingdom of God, but only bids them wait patiently, till he bring them, along with himself, into the heavenly kingdom.
34. A new commandment I give you. To the consolation he adds an exhortation, that they should love one another; as if he had said, “Yet while I am absent from you in body, testify, by mutual love, that I have not taught you in vain; let this be your constant study, your chief meditation.” Why does he call it a new commandment? All are not agreed on this point. There are some who suppose the reason to be, that, while the injunction formerly contained in the Law about brotherly love was literal and external, Christ wrote it anew by his Spirit on the hearts of believers. Thus, according to them, the Law is new, because he publishes it in a new manner, that it may have full vigor. But that is, in my opinion, far-fetched, and at variance with Christ’s meaning. The exposition given by others is, that, though the Law directs us to the exercise of love, still, because in it the doctrine of brotherly love is encumbered by many ceremonies and appendages, it is not so clearly exhibited; but, on the other hand, that perfection in love is laid down in the Gospel without any shadows. For my own part, though I do not absolutely reject this interpretation, I consider what Christ said to be more simple; for we know that laws are more carefully observed at the commencement, but they gradually slip out of the remembrance of men, till at length they become obsolete. In order to impress more deeply, therefore, on the minds of his disciples the doctrine of brotherly love, Christ recommends it on the ground of novelty; as if he had said, “I wish you continually to remember this commandment, as if it had been a law but lately made.”
In short, we see that it was the design of Christ, in this passage, to exhort his disciples to brotherly love, that they might never permit themselves to be withdrawn from the pursuit of it, or the doctrine of it to slip out of their minds. And how necessary this admonition was, we learn by daily experience; for, since it is difficult to maintain brotherly love, men lay it aside, and contrive, for themselves, new methods of worshipping God, and Satan suggests many things for the purpose of occupying their attention. Thus, by idle employments, they in vain attempt to mock God, but they deceive themselves. Let this title of novelty, therefore, excite us to the continual exercise of brotherly love. Meanwhile, let us know that it is called new, not because it now began, for the first time, to please God, since it is elsewhere called the fulfilling of the law, (Ro 13:10.)
That you love one another. Brotherly love is, indeed, extended to strangers, for we are all of the same flesh, and are all created after the image of God; but because the image of God shines more brightly in those who have been regenerated, it is proper that the bond of love, among the disciples of Christ, should be far more close. In God brotherly love seeks its cause, from him it has its root, and to him it is directed. Thus, in proportion as it perceives any man to be a child of God, it embraces him with the greater warmth and affection. Besides, the mutual exercise of love cannot exist but in those who are guided by the same Spirit. It is the highest degree of brotherly love, therefore, that is here described by Christ; but we ought to believe, on the other hand, that, as the goodness of God extends to the whole world, so we ought to love all, even those who hate us.
As I have loved you. He holds out his own example, not because we can reach it, for we are at a vast distance behind him, but that we may, at least, aim at the same end.
35. By this all men will know. Christ again confirms what he had formerly said, that they who mutually love one another have not been in vain taught in his school; as if he had said, Not only will you know that you are my disciples, but your profession will also be acknowledged by others to be sincere.” Since Christ lays down this mark for distinguishing between his disciples and strangers, they who lay aside brotherly love, and adopt new and invented modes of worship, labor in vain; and folly of this kind prevails at this day in Popery. Nor is it superfluous that Christ dwells so largely on this subject. There is no greater agreement between the love of ourselves, and the love of our neighbor, than there is between fire and water. Self love keeps all our senses bound in such a manner that brotherly love is altogether banished; and yet we think that we fully discharge our duty, because Satan has many enticements to deceive us, that we may not perceive our faults. 59 Whoever, then, desires to be truly a disciple of Christ, and to be acknowledged by God, let him form and direct his whole life to love the brethren, and let him pursue this object with diligence.
36. Simon Peter saith to him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards. 37. Peter saith to him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I, will lay down my life for thee. 38. Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for me? Verily, verily, I tell thee, The cock will not crow until thou hast denied me thrice.
36. Lord, whither goest thou? This question is founded on that saying of Christ,
I said to the Jews, that whither I go you cannot come, so now I say to you,
From this it is evident how ignorant Peter was, who, after having been so frequently warned about Christ’s departure, was as greatly perplexed as if he had heard something new. Yet in this respect we are too like him; for we hear daily from the mouth of Christ all that is fitted for usefulness in life, and all that is necessary to be known, and, when we come to practice, we are as much astonished as apprentices to whom not a word had ever been spoken. Besides, Peter shows that he is under the influence of an immoderate desire of Christ’s bodily presence; for he reckons it absurd that, while he remains, Christ shall go elsewhere.
Whither I go. By these words Christ restrains Peter’s excessive desire. His language is concise, as becomes a Master, but immediately softens the hardness of his statement. He shows that it will only be for a time that he shall be separated from his disciples. We are taught by this passage to subject all our desires to God, that they may not go beyond their proper bounds; and if at any time they become extravagant and foolish, let us at least submit to be held in by this bridle. That we may not lose courage, let us avail ourselves of the consolation which is immediately added, when Christ promises that we shall one day be gathered to him.
But thou shalt follow me afterwards. He means that Peter is not yet ripe for bearing the cross, but, like corn still in the blade, must be formed and strengthened by the progress of time, that he may follow. We ought therefore to pray to God to carry forward to a higher degree of excellence what he has begun in us. In the meantime, we must creep, till we are able to run more swiftly. Now as Christ bears with us, while we are tender and delicate, so let us learn not to reject weak brethren, who are still very far from the goal. It is desirable, indeed, that all should run with the greatest eagerness, and we ought to encourage all to quicken their pace; but if there are any who walk more slowly, we ought to hope well concerning them, provided that they keep the road.
37. Why cannot I follow thee now? By these words Peter declares that he was dissatisfied with Christ’s answer. He is aware that he has been warned of his own weakness, from which he concludes that it is his own fault that hinders him from following Christ immediately; but he is not at all convinced of it, for mankind are naturally puffed up with confidence in their own value. This expression of Peter shows the opinion which we entertain from our very birth, which is, that we attribute more to our own strength than we ought to do. The consequence is, that they who can do nothing venture to attempt every thing, without imploring the assistance of God.
38. Wilt thou lay down thy life for me? Christ did not choose to debate with Peter, but wished that he should grow wise by his own experience, like fools, who never grow wise till they have received a stroke. Peter promises unshaken firmness, and indeed expresses the sincere conviction of his mind; but his confidence is full of rashness, for he does not consider what strength has been given to him. Now since this example belongs to us, let each of us examine his own defects, that he may not be swelled with vain confidence. We cannot indeed make too large promises about the grace of God; but what is here reproved is the arrogant presumption of the flesh, for faith rather produces fear and anxiety.
The cock will not crow. As presumption and rashness proceed from ignorance of ourselves, Peter is blamed for pretending to be a valiant soldier while he is beyond arrow-shot; for he has not yet made trial of his strength, and imagines that he could do any thing. He was afterwards punished, as he deserved, for his arrogance. Let us learn to distrust our own strength, and to betake ourselves early to the Lord, that he may support us by his power.
“Et apres avoir souppe;” — “and after having supped.”
“Que c’est une ouverture ou passage pour aller a Dieu.”
“Et apres avoir souppe.” — “And after having supped.”
“Sursum ac deorsum.” — “Up and down.”
“Lequel c’estoit qui le trahiroit.”
“Neantmoins il ne se deporte pas de contredire;” — “yet, notwithstanding, he does not cease to contradict him.”
“Mais voyci le mal.”
“Cest hypocrite effronte.”
“Et (apres) qu’il se fut rassis a table;” — “and (after) that he had sat down again at table.”
“Apostolus;” — “l’ambassadeur.”
“Cestuy-la s’attribue plus qu’il ne faut, et fait trop grand conte de soy.”
“Comme s’ils jouyoient une farce sur des eschaffauts.”
“Tout le reste de l’an.”
“Il y a bien pis.”
“De nos fi,eres et prochains.”
“Que ce suis-je;” — “that I am he.”
“Avec l’experience qui se presente aujourdhui derant nos yeux;” — “with the experience which is exhibited before our eyes at the present day.”
“A fin que vous croyez que ce suis-je;” — “that you may believe that I am he.”
“Ils se despitent et enflamment davantage.”
“C’est plustost la parole d’un homme qui a en horreur et detestation quelque forfait.”
“Luy est glorieuse et honorable.”
“A ce que nous n’appercevions nos fautes.”