Summary: Jesus prepares His disciples for His upcoming death by showing that He knows who will betray Him and that He is in control and goes willingly.
We’ll resume our verse-by-verse study of John at 13:18. Jesus knows His time is at an end so He’s brought His disciples into this private room where He can prepare them for it. Don’t forget that John’s main point is to show that Jesus is the Messiah so we can believe on Him and have eternal life. Everything we’re about to read works towards that end and we’ll want to interpret it first from that perspective. What we’re about to read are some doctrines of grace proof-texts, and they do help prove that doctrine, but remember that election and predestination aren’t the main points. What John wants us to see here is that the Messiah didn’t fail in His mission; rather, everything played out just the way Scripture predicted and just the way Jesus commanded. He really is God and worth worshiping despite the fact that He died. Of course, we know now that His death was necessary because one man died for the whole nation.
When we left of last time Jesus washed His disciples’ feet. “You’re servants,” He says. “You’ll be happy to wash feet now that I’ve given you this example. It’s certainly not below you if it isn’t below Me.” Now this next line is most interesting:
I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen:
Back in verses ten and eleven He said, “You’re all clean, but not all of you” because He knew Judas would betray Him. Now He says, “You’re all servants, but not all of you.” He knows the people that He’s chosen because He made them. Remember that He could see Nathanael before He met Him and He knew that Nathanael was a true Israelite (Jn. 1:50). Remember also that He didn’t entrust Himself to the crowd who professed to believe in Him because He knew what was in them (Jn. 2:25). Each of these disciples have been hand-picked for this ministry, and even Judas has been chosen:
but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me.
This is a quote from Psalm 41 written by David after he’d been betrayed by his most trusted advisor (II Sam. 15:12). But the verse isn’t just an historical account; Christ says that it’s a prophecy in need of fulfillment and He’s already chosen someone to do it. Knowing this is helpful in keeping John’s main goal because we see again that Christ knew about His upcoming death and was prepared for it. He’s in control and it proves that He’s the Messiah:
19Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he.
There’s going to be a time when the disciples look back on all that’s happened and they’ll remember that Jesus saw it all coming and went willingly. When they realize that He died in their place, and that He came as a servant and not a king then they’ll understand the gospel and they’ll preach it by faith. Jesus was no failure; He was our blood sacrifice!
Now this next verse seems largely out of place, and we’ll need to recapture the context to understand it:
20Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.
Let’s outline and paraphrase everything since verse ten and see how this verse fits:
You’re clean, but you’re not all clean.
You’re servants, but you’re not all servants.
I know the ones I’ve chosen.
v. 18-19I’ve chosen one to lift up his heel against me (vague—no reaction).
I’ve chosen the rest to represent me.
One of you will betray me (more specific—elicits shock).
So you see how He’s going back and forth between Judas and the rest of the disciples, but He’s only really talking to the eleven. His goals are to (1) prepare them for what Judas will do, and (2) prepare them to love and serve after He leaves. “You’re clean and I’ve chosen you to go out in my name, so do it in love and serve each other like I’ve done in my example. And don’t be shocked when I’m betrayed by one of you. It’s necessary, and I’ve chosen him for that purpose. It doesn’t affect your ministry or anything I’ve done for you.”
21When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.
In verse eighteen He merely quoted the Scripture, and I imagine the disciples trying to understand why He quoted it. It hasn’t quite sunk in yet what He means. But now in this verse He comes right out and makes it plain. One of the men in this room will betray the Master!