John 13

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John 13
Opening of John XIII with 2-line initial. John 13-18 are written with verses alternating red and blue (NYPL b12455533-426810).tif
Opening of John XIII with 2-line initial, written with verses alternating red and blue. Bibliotheca Swaniana, 13th century.
BookGospel of John
Christian Bible partNew Testament
Order in the Christian part4

John 13 is the thirteenth chapter of the Gospel of John in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. It begins John's record of the events on the last night before the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, emphasising Jesus' love for His disciples, demonstrated in the service of washing their feet, and His commandment that they love one another in the same way.[1] The book containing this chapter is anonymous, but early Christian tradition uniformly affirmed that John composed this Gospel.[2]


The original text was written in Koine Greek. This chapter is divided into 38 verses.

Textual witnesses[edit]

Some early manuscripts containing this chapter in Greek are:[3]

An ancient manuscript containing this chapter in the Coptic language is:

  • Papyrus 6 (~AD 350; extant verses 1-2, 11-12).


All the events recorded in this chapter and the succeeding chapters up to John 17 took place in Jerusalem. The precise location is not specified, but John 18:1 states that afterwards, "Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley".

Old Testament references[edit]

The appointed hour[edit]

John 13:1-10: Jesus, with the twelve, partaketh of the passover feast in an upper chamber, washing the disciples' feet, by William Hole (1846-1917). G. Eric and Edith Matson Photograph Collection.

Verse 1[edit]

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.[5]

The "latter half" [6] or "closing part" [7] of John’s Gospel" commences with this chapter. The nineteenth-century biblical commentator Alexander Maclaren calls it "the Holy of Holies of the New Testament" and "most sacred part of the New Testament".[8] From the Greek syntax and theme perspective, Carson regards the verse 1 to be an introduction of the whole 'Farewell Discourse', whereas verses 2–3 show the first demonstration of the full extent of Christ's love.[9]

The narrative begins [just] [10] before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour (Greek: η ωρα) had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, [when] having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.[5] The appointed hour, anticipated earlier in the gospel (John 7:30) had now arrived. Jesus had announced publicly in John 12:23 that "the hour when the Son of Man should be glorified" had now arrived, and He had declined in John 12:23 to ask His Father to "save [Him] from this hour" (Greek: εκ της ωρας ταυτης).

Heinrich Meyer notes, "How long before the feast, our passage does not state",[11] but Bengel's Gnomon [12] and Wesley's Notes,[13] which drew widely on Bengel, both associate this passage with the Wednesday of the week leading to the Passover.

During or after supper, (Greek: δειπνου γενομενου, deipnou ginomenou) the narrative explains that "Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God" (John 13:3). The King James Version speaks of "supper being ended" (John 13:2), whereas the American Standard Version says "during supper" and the New International Version has "the evening meal was in progress".[14] There was still food to be shared at John 13:26, so the reading "after supper" sits less harmoniously with the passage as a whole. By this time, the devil had "already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son (Greek: ιουδα σιμωνος ισκαριωτου, Ioudas Simōnos Iskariōtou), to betray Him". The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges argues that "the true reading of τοῦ διαβόλου ἤδη βεβληκότος εἰς τὴν καρδίαν (tou diabolou ēdē beblēkotos eis tēn kardian) gives us, "The devil having now put it into the heart, that Judas, Simon’s son, Iscariot should betray Him", and asks "whose heart?" Grammatically, the meaning can be read as either "the heart of the devil" or "the heart of Judas", but the received reading (i.e. "the heart of Judas") is preferred [15] and most English translations follow this reading. The Jerusalem Bible has "the mind of Judas".[16]

Jesus washes the disciples’ feet (13:2–17)[edit]

A woodcut of John 13:14-17, from Passionary of the Christ and Antichrist, by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553).

Jesus washes and dries the feet of each of His disciples. The evangelist provides a detailed account of the actions Jesus took, removing His outer garment and wrapping a towel around His waist. Scottish commentator William Robertson Nicoll says, "Each step in the whole astounding scene is imprinted on the mind of John".[17] John 13:5 says that Jesus began to wash their feet: the washing was interrupted by Peter's initial refusal to allow Jesus to wash his feet, but John 13:12 suggests that the task was later completed and the feet of all the Disciples were washed, including those of Judas,[18] as Jesus there took back His garments and reclined [at table] again.

The interruption consists of a question from Peter, "Lord (Greek: κυριε, Kyrie), are You washing my feet?", Jesus' reply that at present they would not understand what He was doing, Peter's refusal to have Jesus wash his feet, Jesus' reply that "If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me", Peter's willingness to have his whole body washed by Jesus, and Jesus' closing statement that "He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you". The evangelist adds a note, "He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, “You are not all clean" (John 13:6-10). Peter calls Jesus 'Lord' in two of his three statements,[18] and Jesus later (John 13:13) acknowledges the title as correctly used.

Carson sees the footwashing episode pointing to two directions: one as a symbolic spiritual cleansing (verses 8–10) and the other as a “standard of humble service” followed by a calling to the disciples to “wash one another's feet” (verses 12–17).[19]

Jesus identifies his betrayer (13:18–30)[edit]

Verse 18[edit]

[Jesus says:] "I do not speak concerning all of you. I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, 'He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me.'"[20]

Jesus quotes the words of Psalm 41:9:

Even my close friend in whom I trusted, Who ate my bread, Has lifted up his heel against me.[21]

in shorter statement: 'He who eats My bread has lifted up his heel against Me' (John 13:18 NASB).

According to the Pulpit Commentary, in the Psalm, "Ahithophel (who had been a counsellor to King David) is almost certainly intended",[22] and the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges notes that "the words of the Psalm are not a direct prediction, but the treachery and the fate of Ahithophel foreshadowed the treachery and the fate of Judas".[15] The Jerusalem Bible translates John 13:18 as "Someone who shares my table rebels against me". Francis Moloney identifies this verse not only with Judas' betrayal of Jesus, but also with Peter's denial of Him (John 18:15-27).[23]

The evangelist reports Jesus saying in John 13:19, "I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am". Indeed, the whole of John's Gospel is written so that [his readers] "may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing [they] may have life in his name" (John 20:30 NIV). Jesus anticipates being betrayed by one of His friends (John 13:21), a consideration which He finds deeply troubling. The disciples cannot imagine who Jesus might be referring to, and ask "Lord, who is it?" (John 13:25). Jesus does not identify His betrayer by name, but provides an answer by sign:[24]

Verse 26[edit]

"It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it." And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.[25]

The word in Greek: βάψας (bapsas, "dipped"), appears only once in the New Testament, here. The text refers to "the piece" or "morsel" [26] or "sop" [27] of bread (Greek: τὸ ψωμίον, to psómion), and William Robertson Nicoll states that "some argue from the insertion of the article τὸ that this was the sop made up of a morsel of lamb, a small piece of unleavened bread, and dipped in the bitter sauce, which was given by the head of the house to each guest as a regular part of the Passover; and that therefore John as well as the Synoptists considered this to be the Paschal Supper. But not only is the article doubtful, but it is an ordinary Oriental custom for the host to offer such a tid-bit to any favoured guest; and we are rather entitled to see in the act the last appeal to Judas’ better feeling. The very mark Jesus chooses to single him out is one which on ordinary occasions was a mark of distinctive favour".[28]

Verse 29[edit]

For some thought, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus had said to him, “Buy those things we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor.

John's Gospel is the only one which observes that Judas was responsible for the disciples' "common fund" or "money box", both here in John 12:6 and again here. The word γλωσσοκομον (glōssokomon) "means literally "a case for mouthpieces" of musical instruments, and hence any portable chest. It occurs in the Septuagint texts of 2 Chronicles 24:8 and 11.[29]

Judas left immediately, and of his own free will.[15] After his departure, Jesus provides no further explanation to address the Disciples' question. Instead, the evangelist moves the narrative forward. It is now night-time (Tzet Hakochavim) (John 13:30) and therefore the day of the Passover has begun.[30]

The New Commandment (13:31–35)[edit]

The discourse which Jesus commences after Judas' departure - "the solemn valedictory discourse of our Lord" [31] - begins with three topics:

Verses 31–32[edit]

"Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him. If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately"[32]

Verses 33[edit]

Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you."[33]

Jesus has said to the Jews, Where I am going, you cannot come,[34] so now he says [the same] to his disciples.

Verses 34–35[edit]

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another"[35]

Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial (13:36–38)[edit]

"Judas is already beginning that series of events which will end in sending Jesus away from them to the Father".[15] Just as Judas had left "immediately", (Greek: ευθεως, eutheōs) [36] so the glorification of God begins "immediately" (Greek: ευθυς, euthys). Maclaren identifies three forms of glorification presented here:

  • the Son of Man is glorified in His Cross
  • God is glorified in the Son of Man
  • the Son of Man is glorified in the Father.[37]

The evangelist then has Jesus address His disciples as Greek: Τεκνία (teknia, "little children") - a word frequently used by John in his first epistle [38] but not used elsewhere in this gospel.[39] Many commentators note the tenderness of this word.[40] Theologian Harold Buls suggests "it denotes endearment. It likely also indicates the disciples' immaturity and weakness".[41] Jesus tells His disciples that shortly He will be leaving them; where He is going they cannot come (John 13:33), or at any rate they "cannot follow now, but ... will follow later" (John 13:36). The apostles Peter (in verse 37), Thomas and Philip (in the next chapter) raise questions about where Jesus is going. Peter seems to have recognised the connection between following Jesus and dying:[15] "Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you" [42] or "on your behalf".[43] Jesus questions whether Peter will lay down his life for Him and tells him that in fact he will have denied Jesus three times "before the rooster crows" (John 13:38, cf. John 18:27).

In Luke's Gospel (Luke 22:34) the prediction of Peter's denial also takes place within the room where they had been eating, whereas in Matthew 26:31-35 and Mark 11:27-31, "the announcement of Peter's fate is made on the way to the Garden of Gethsemane".[44]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Halley, Henry H. Halley's Bible Handbook: an Abbreviated Bible Commentary. 23rd edition. Zondervan Publishing House. 1962.
  2. ^ Holman Illustrated Bible Handbook. Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee. 2012.
  3. ^ Carson 1990, p. 24.
  4. ^ Kirkpatrick, A. F. (1901). The Book of Psalms: with Introduction and Notes. The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. Book IV and V: Psalms XC-CL. Cambridge: At the University Press. p. 838. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  5. ^ a b John 13:1 NKJV
  6. ^ MacLaren's Expositions on John 13, accessed 15 June 2016
  7. ^ Expositor's Greek Testament on John 13, accessed 20 June 2016
  8. ^ MacLaren's Expositions on John 13, accessed 15 June 2016
  9. ^ Carson, p. 460.
  10. ^ See New International Version translation
  11. ^ Meyer's NT Commentary on John 13, accessed 16 June 2016
  12. ^ Bengel's Gnomon on John 13, accessed 16 June 2016
  13. ^ Wesley's Notes on the Bible on John 13, accessed 16 June 2016
  14. ^ Translations taken from Bible Hub
  15. ^ a b c d e Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges on John 13, accessed 18 June 2016
  16. ^ Jerusalem Bible, John 13:2
  17. ^ Expositor's Greek Testament on John 13. accessed 20 June 2016
  18. ^ a b Bengel's Gnomon on John 13, accessed 16 June 2016
  19. ^ Carson 1990, p. 458.
  20. ^ John 13:18 NKJV
  21. ^ Psalm 41:9 NASB
  22. ^ Pulpit Commentary on John 13, accessed 23 June 2016
  23. ^ Moloney, F., A Sacramental Reading of John 13:1-38, The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 53, No. 2 (April, 1991), pp. 237-256, accessed 23 June 2016
  24. ^ The Expositor's Greek Testament on John 13, accessed 20 June 2016
  25. ^ John 13:26 NKJV
  26. ^ See New American Standard Bible
  27. ^ See Jubilee Bible 2000
  28. ^ Expositor's Greek Testament on John 13, accessed 20 June 2016
  29. ^ Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges on John 12, accessed 2 June 2016
  30. ^ Bengel's Gnomon on John 13, accessed 16 June 2016
  31. ^ Pulpit Commentary on John 13, accessed 23 June 2016
  32. ^ John 13:31–32 NKJV
  33. ^ John 13:33 NKJV
  34. ^ John 7:34
  35. ^ John 13:34–35 NKJV
  36. ^ ευθεως in Textus Receptus; ευθυς in Westcott and Hort and Novum Testamentum Graece
  37. ^ MacLaren's Expositions on John 13, accessed 15 June 2016
  38. ^ 1 John 2:1 and elsewhere
  39. ^ Englishman's Concorance - Τεκνία
  40. ^ Ellicott, Meyer and Nicoll all use the word 'tender'
  41. ^ Buls' Notes on John 13:31-35, accessed 28 June 2016
  42. ^ John 13:37
  43. ^ Weymouth New Testament translation
  44. ^ Pulpit Commentary on John 13, accessed 23 June 2016


External links[edit]

Preceded by
John 12
Chapters of the Bible
Gospel of John
Succeeded by
John 14