Summary: Metaphorically speaking, the clock is ticking away in the background. The countdown has begun. Gethsemane lies ahead: as does our Lord’s betrayal, trial and death.


John 13:21-32

As the Lord’s ‘hour’ drew near that He should depart out of this world, He turned His attention more and more to ‘His own’ (John 13:1). After the foot-washing and the teaching which immediately followed it, Jesus “was troubled in spirit” (John 13:21). Earlier Jesus had said that His ‘soul has been troubled’ at the contemplation of ‘this hour’ (John 12:27) - but now He must confront the betrayer (cf. John 13:2; John 13:18) and send him on his way (John 13:27).

The solemnity of Jesus’ “testimony” is underlined by His characteristic and emphatic, “Amen Amen” (John 13:21). He goes on to say, “one out of you will deliver Me up.” No wonder the disciples initially looked at one another in perplexed silence, wondering who it could be (John 13:22).

Now the disciples, as was the custom, were reclining around a low table. John’s autograph appears here, as ‘the one whom Jesus loved’ (John 13:23; cf. John 19:26; John 20:2; John 21:7; John 21:20). John was in the privileged position of being the one who was reclining closest to Jesus’ breast, so Peter indicated to John (a sign language which we came across before when the fishermen had their first miraculous catch, Luke 5:7) to ask Jesus who it was of whom Jesus spoke (John 13:24). So, John shuffled closer to the Lord, and no doubt whispered, “who is it?” (John 13:25).

It is clear from the context that none of the other disciples heard the Lord’s answer of John 13:26. Jesus, despite all His foreknowledge of what would transpire, was still reaching out to Judas when he dipped the bread and handed it to him. This was a gesture of friendship, at the very least.

Our God is a merciful God, who reaches out in compassion again and again: but ultimately, we must yield. How tragic the hardening, which begins with a thought (John 13:2) but ends with Satan gaining full possession of those who set themselves against God’s grace (John 13:27). [Even at the last opportunity, in the very moment of his betrayal, Jesus was still reaching out to Judas and addressing Him as ‘Friend’ (Matthew 26:50).]

Jesus now said out loud, “What you are doing, do quickly” (John 13:27). This seems an odd thing to say, maybe containing reproach, but also permission: but that is the mystery of the incarnation. Humanly speaking, Jesus may be “troubled” (John 13:21) - but as God, He is directing the paths even of His enemies.

The companions at the table had no idea what had just happened: and neither Jesus nor John were inclined to tell them (John 13:28). So, some thought this, and some thought that, each concluding (it seems) that Jesus had entrusted their Treasurer with some seasonal task (John 13:29). Hastened no doubt by his own conscience, and Jesus’ implied rebuke, Judas took the sop, and dashed out into - “the night” (John 13:30).

The inevitable process which would culminate in the self-sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf was reaching its climax. Jesus spoke of the reciprocal “glorification” of both “God” and “the Son of man” (John 13:31-32). In this we have the “glory” of the Cross (Galatians 6:14)!

The Cross is being viewed as a done deal. Using what we might call the ‘prophetic future’ tense, Jesus later tells His Father, ‘I have’ glorified You on the earth: ‘I have’ finished the work which You have given Me to do. He goes on, ‘And now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was’ (John 17:4-5).

In the Cross, the Father is glorified in that He is seen to be ‘both just, and the justifier of all who put their faith in Jesus’ (Romans 3:26). The Son is glorified in allowing Himself to be counted as ‘sin’ for us (2 Corinthians 5:21), being made a curse for us (Galatians 3:13) and shedding His blood for our redemption (Ephesians 1:7). Further, the Father glorifies the Son in raising Him from the dead (Acts 2:24) and receiving Him into heaven (Daniel 7:13).

Yet when Jesus spoke of His glorification (John 13:31-32), He no doubt foresaw not only His death, but also His resurrection and ascension. He saw you and I, believers, ‘seated in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus’ (Ephesians 2:6). He also anticipated His coming again, not only for the remaining disciples, but for His whole church (John 14:3; Revelation 22:20). Amen.

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