Showing favour to one person does not detract from one’s love for another. Only when we allow the sin affected world to influence our thoughts are we driven to become jealous of the favour bestowed on others. As true followers of Yeshua we should rejoice when we see brothers and sisters honoured, regardless of whether honour is bestowed on us.
It’s not uncommon for English translations of the Biblical text to place headers at the beginning of sections of the Bible that have what the translators or compilers consider to be a consistent or common theme. The title used by the NASB to introduce verses 21 through 38 of chapter 13 of John’s Gospel is “JESUS PREDICTS HIS DEATH”.
One can see why this title might have been chosen, and from our position within time and space we can understand the chronological value of it, however, it misrepresents both Yeshua and Hebrew prophecy. Hebrew prophecy is that which is spoken into time and space from outside of time and space where it is already perfected. Therefore, the Hebrew prophet remembers the future. Yeshua, God with us, does not predict His death, rather He memorializes it. He has already seen it completed outside of time and space. Nor do the disciples benefit from this so called “prediction” at the time, because they do not understand what He is referring to.
With these things in mind, let’s allow God’s Spirit to open our hearts and minds afresh and impart a fuller understanding of the nature and purpose of what follows.
As we examine the following verses keep in mind the connection between the washing of the disciples’ feet and the priesthood, and the admonition to walk in the all existing Light, as well as the reference to betrayal by a close friend.
“It’s certain, it’s certain, I say to you, the one who receives whomever I send receives Me; and the one who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.” -John 13:20
21 When Yeshua[H A] (YHVH Saves, Joshua) had said this, He became troubled, agitated (tarasso[G]) in the (ho[G]) Spirit (pneuma[G], b’ruacho[H]), and testified and said, “Amen[H] [G]Amen[H] [G] (B’emet[H], B’emet[H]), In truth, In truth, It’s certain, it’s certain, I (Aniy[H]) say to you, indeed, that one who comes out from (ex[G]) you will betray Me, give Me into the hands of another (paradidomi[G]).” 22 The disciples (talmidim[H]) began to discern, look (blepo[G]) between one another, at a loss, embarrassed, in doubt (aporeo[G]) to know which one He was speaking of.
We note that the Greek text says “He became troubled in the Spirit” rather than in “His spirit” as many English translations render it (the Hebrew text also mistranslates it as b’ruacho in His spirit). The reality is that the Spirit of God is the Spirit of the Father and the Son, and “his spirit” is effectively synonymous with “the Spirit”. Therefore, it’s important to note that the humanity of Yeshua is convergent with the Spirit of God and that the troubling of the Spirit is shared by the Father and the Son. This is why the author chose to say ho Pneuma “the Spirit”.
The double “Amein” is once again establishing the certain outworking of God’s redemptive purpose even as it applies to allowing Satan to direct the betrayer Yehudah (Judas). We note that the betrayer “comes out from” meaning that he has determined to be separated from the disciples and their devotion to Yeshua.
As one would expect the disciples are horrified at the thought that one of their own number might betray Yeshua. Thus, they were looking around the room trying to discern or perceive which of them might do such a thing. What is clear is that in spite of the questioning of Yochanan (the disciple whom Yeshua loved) and the dipping of the matzah which follows, none of the disciples seem to have any idea who is betraying Yeshua. In part this is because the meal is formal, and probably a Seder meal of some kind and therefore, has numerous dipping rituals that are shared among everybody making it difficult to determine which of the disciples Yeshua is referring to.
23 There was reclining on Yeshua’s[H A] (YHVH Saves, Joshua) breast one of His disciples (talmidim[H]), whom Yeshua[H A] (YHVH Saves, Joshua) loved. 24 So Shimon Kefa[H] (Simon: hears; Peter: Rock) gestured to him (the disciple), and said to him, “Find out from Him and tell us who He’s speaking of.”
“Reclining” Is an indication that this was a Pesach Seder meal. One of the four questions of the Pesach Seder, asked during the Magid (telling) and called Mah Nishtanah in Hebrew, asks “On all other nights we eat either sitting or reclining, why on this night do we eat only reclining?”
We know from rabbinic literature that the reclining was done toward the left:
"lying down on the back, is not called הסיבה, ‘lying down’; and lying on the right side, is not called lying down.'' -Mishnah Beracot, c. 6. sect. 6.
"they used to eat lying along, leaning on the left side, their feet to the ground, and every man on a single couch.'' -Gloss in Talmud Bavliy Beracot, fol. 46. 2. & Bartenora in Mishnah Beracot, c. 6. sect. 6.
"when there were but two couches, the principal person lay first, and the second to him above him; and when there were three, the principal person lay in the middle, the second to him above him, and the third below him; and if he would talk with him, he raised himself upright, and sitting upright he talked with him; that is, as the gloss explains it, if the principal person was desirous to talk with him that was second to him, he must raise himself up from his lying down, and sit upright; for all the white he is leaning, he cannot talk with him, because he that is second to him, is behind the head of the principal person, and the face of the principal person is turned to the other side; and it is better for the second to sit below him, that he may hear his words, whilst he is leaning.'' -Talmud Bavliy Beracot, fol. 46. 2.
The “disciple whom Yeshua loved” is obviously Yochanan (John) the author of the Gospel, who is writing in the third person and thus does not refer to himself by name (Ref. John 19:26-27; 21:20). This does not negate Yeshua’s love for all, nor His love for His immediate retinue. Rather, it shows that while God loves all equally, Yeshua, Who is also fully human has some friends who are closer than others and favours them in certain ways. Showing favour to one person does not detract from one’s love for another. Only when we allow the sin affected world to influence our thoughts are we driven to become jealous of the favour bestowed on others. As true followers of Yeshua we should rejoice when we see brothers and sisters honoured, regardless of whether honour is bestowed on us.
Notice that Kefa (Peter) must gesture to Yochanan (John) in order to get his attention, and uses further non-verbal signals to indicate what he would like Yochanan to ask Yeshua. This denotes a close friendship between Yochanan and Kefa, given that there is obviously a certain innate understanding between them concerning certain gestures and facial expressions. Nor is Kefa upset that Yochanan gets to sit closer to Yeshua, he simply wants to know what’s going on because he loves Yeshua and all the other disciples present with him.
25 Therefore, as he (the disciple whom Yeshua loved) was leaning back on Yeshua’s[H A] (YHVH Saves, Joshua) breast, said to Him, “Lord (Kurios[G], Adonay[H]), who is it?” 26 Yeshua[H A] (YHVH Saves, Joshua) then answered, “It is he to whom I will give the dipped matzah (psomion[G]: small piece of bread).” So when He had dipped the matzah (psomion[G]: small piece of bread), He gave it to Yehudah[H] (Judah: praise) ben Shimon[H] (son of he hears) Ish Kariot[H] (a man of Keriot[H], A town in the south of Judah: Joshua 15:25).
The Greek psomion means “small bit of bread”. From the Gospel accounts of Matthew 26:17, 23; Mark 14:1, 12, 20; and Luke 22:1, 7 we learn that the “small bit of bread” was unleavened bread, that is matzah: which is used in preparation for Pesach and eaten over the seven days of unleavened bread. This is yet another reason why it is highly likely that the meal in question is some form of pre-Passover Seder observance. It cannot be simply an ordinary meal as many Christian theologians insist because as we have previously discussed, the Greek deipnon denotes a formal meal (13:2). While Chapter 13 begins prior to Pesach proper, there is no way to determine a precise chronology following this except to say that these events took place before or on the eve of Passover at some point. This does not negate the possibility of a Seder, rather it informs us of the possibility that Passover practice in the first century during the Temple period may well have included multiple Seders and other varied traditions as pretext to the Temple Chagigah (a Pesach sacrificial practice of the first century Temple period).
“He gave it to Yehudah” But not only to Yehudah. This practice of dipping and passing matzot included everyone at the table. The text does not say that Yeshua gave it only to Yehudah, nor does it say that He gave it first to Yehudah, just that He gave it to Yehudah after dipping it. The fact that all received this ritual food qualifies the confusion of the disciples as to what was happening even after the food was received by Yehudah and he left to betray Yeshua. It is obvious from the following verses that the disciples still had no idea that Yehudah would betray Yeshua.
27 After he had received the matzah (psomion[G]: small piece of bread) then entered (eiserchomai[G]) toward (eis[G]) him [Judas] the (ho[G]) Satan[H] (accuser, opposition). Therefore Yeshua[H A] (YHVH Saves, Joshua) said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” 28 Now no one of those reclining to dine (anakeimai[G]) knew (ginosko[G]) for what purpose He (Yeshua) had said this to him (Judas).
We note that Satan did not enter into and possess Yehudah but that he “entered toward him”. God Who is just does not remove or allow the removal of a person’s freewill. Therefore, while Yehudah was influenced by and chose to be directed by Satan, he did so of his own freewill and not based on some kind of absolute possession of his will, mind, body, emotion, and being. If possession were the meaning, the text would both contradict the wealth of Scripture to the contrary and impugn the character of God.
“13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” -Yaakov (James) 1:13-15 NIV
As discussed previously, “no one of those reclining to dine knew” because the food was shared equally and from the same dipping bowl, in the same way hummus is shared on pita scooped from the same bowl. Yeshua offered dipped matzah to all present as part of the dining ritual. Therefore, every one of them was “one to whom” He gave dipped matzah.
29 For some were supposing, because Yehudah[H] (Judah: praise) had the money box (glossokomon[G]), that Yeshua[H A] (YHVH Saves, Joshua) was saying to him, “Buy the things we have need of for the festival (ha chag[H])”; or else, that he should give something to the poor.
There are a number of arguments put forward against the idea that this meal is a Passover Seder or ritual meal of some kind. Some say that Halakhah prohibits financial transactions on the Sabbath or festivals and therefore, the disciples would not have thought Yehudah to be going to buy at Yeshua’s command because Yeshua would not command this on the Holy day. However, this is wrong for two reasons: first, oral law denying purchase of necessities at certain times was not yet codified, second, the text does not say that Yeshua instructed Yehudah to buy but that the disciples “supposed” that Yeshua had done so.
Another argument against the idea that this is a Seder meal is that If Yehudah was thought to be purchasing supplies for the Passover, it was already too late to do so. However, Passover was the convergent point for the beginning of the days of unleavened bread which continued seven days and there were chol hamoed (intermediary days of the festival) on which Yehudah could have purchased goods for the remainder of the festival, had he been sent to do so. Therefore, again, this does not negate the possibility that this was a Passover Seder meal.
On weighing the evidence for this being a Seder meal against the arguments against, and keeping in mind that the chronology of John’s Gospel is by no means systematic. It is my opinion that this was a Seder meal (either one of two or a single Seder prior to the day of the Chagigah offering). This fits best with the collected accounts of the Gospels and the time line of events leading up to Yeshua’s death and resurrection.
30 So after receiving the small piece of matzah Yehudah[H] (he) went out immediately; and it was night (v’laylah hayah[H]). 31 Therefore when he had gone out, Yeshua[H A] (YHVH Saves, Joshua) said, “Now is the Son of Man (Ben-ha’Adam[H]) glorified, magnified, clothed with splendour (doxazo[G]), and the God (v’haElohiym[H]) is glorified, magnified, clothed with splendour (doxazo[G]) in Him;
“And it was night” is the counterpoint to the all existing Light alluded to in the previous chapter. Yehudah had chosen to walk in darkness rather than to walk in the all existing light of Yeshua.
“Now is the Son of Man glorified” Yeshua used the Messianic title prophesied by Daniel to indicate that by allowing Yehudah to leave Yeshua had set in place the final stages of His journey to glory. Also, in a very real sense the transcendent resurrected Messiah Yeshua had already died and raised to glory, and thus “Now” (outside of time and space) both He and the Father were glorified. This qualifies the concept of the eternal present.
32 if the God is (Ho Theos[G], Ha Elohiym[H]) glorified, magnified, clothed with splendour (doxazo[G]) in Him, God (Ho Theos[G], Ha Elohiym[H]) will also glorify, magnify, clothe with splendour (doxazo[G]) Him in Himself, and will glorify, magnify, clothe with splendour (doxazo[G]) Him immediately. 33 Little children (Teknion[G], mikron[G], Banay hay’kariym[H]), I am with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jewish religious leaders, Judeans (Ioudaios[G], Yehudiym[H]), now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’
“Banay hay’kariym” is a term of endearment, as if speaking to one’s own precious progeny. Yeshua speaks as a Father to His disciples, because He speaks of the Father and the Father is echad with Yeshua. Elsewhere Yeshua says, “If you have seen Me you have seen the Father”(John 14:9).
34 A new (kainos[G]) injunction, command, mitzvah[H] (entole[G]) I give to you, that you entirely love (agapao[G], t’eihavu[H]) one another, even as I have entirely loved (agapao[G], ahavtiy[H]) you, that you also entirely love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples (talmidim[H]), if you have love (agapao[G], te’ehavun[H]) for one another.”
Some have said that this is not a new command. After all HaShem has said “Love your neighbour as yourself” Vayikra (Leviticus) 19:18. However, the context, source and application of Yeshua’s mitzvah (command) is unique and truly “new” in every sense of the word. Note that Yeshua is speaking to His disciples, who are now ritually washed as priests. While this command can be said to apply to all believers by extension, it does not in its original context apply to anyone other than the Jewish disciples of Yeshua present at the meal. This mitzvah, unlike the command to love one’s neighbour (which means that one should love all human beings), refers specifically to the love between disciples of Yeshua. Therefore, if it is to be applied by extension to the body of believers it must be applied as the love of one believer for another believer. Additionally it is qualified by the phrase “as I have entirely loved you”. No human being can love as Yeshua does unless that person is filled with the Spirit of Yeshua.
Therefore, in order for the disciples to obey Yeshua’s mitzvah they will need to be filled with the Spirit of the Father and the Son. Of course that is exactly what happens at the subsequent Shavuot (Pentecost). Only when the disciples of Yeshua are filled with His Spirit will “all human beings know” that they are His disciples, and the same is true of us.
Far too many believing communities neglect love for one another in favour of loving and helping those outside the community. The great irony is that Yeshua teaches that only by loving one another will the Gospel spread. In contradiction to Yeshua’s teaching we seek to love and do good for unbelievers at the expense of the love and good of our believing brothers and sisters and in doing so we fail to see the spread of the Gospel. Rather than allow our love for one another to overflow into the community we instead go into the wider unbelieving community while our believing communities dwindle, diminish and cease to exist. Therefore, in contradiction to Yeshua’s teaching we snuff out the Light of the Gospel in our communities, leaving them in darkness.
If we desire to be effective in loving the unsaved we must first be effective in loving one another and that is only possible by the power of the Living Messiah in us, the Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit). For He has said “Entirely love one another, even as I have entirely loved you”!
36 Shimon Kefa[H] (Simon: hears; Peter: Rock) said to Him, “Lord “(Kurios[G], Adonay[H]), where are You going?” Yeshua[H A] (YHVH Saves, Joshua) answered, “Where I go, you cannot follow Me now; but you will follow later.”
Yeshua is going to His death, resurrection, ascension, a place that Kefa (Peter) cannot follow Him to yet. But Kefa will follow Yeshua later. Church tradition says that Kefa was crucified upside down for his faith in Yeshua, refusing to be crucified upright because his Messiah Who was greater than he was crucified that way.
37 Kefa[H] (Peter: Rock) said to Him, “Lord “(Kurios[G], Adonay[H]), why can’t I follow You right now? I will lay down my life for You.”
Kefa often gets a bad rap. He is a man of excitable passion and true faith, at times presumptuous and rash but none the less devout and genuine. When Kefa said this he meant it with all his heart. We should be so bold.
38 Yeshua[H A] (YHVH Saves, Joshua) answered, “Will you lay down your life for Me? Amen[H] [G]Amen[H] [G] (B’emet[H], B’emet[H]), In truth, In truth, It’s certain, it’s certain, I (Aniy[H]) say to you, a rooster will not crow until you deny Me three times.
Yeshua, knowing the end from the beginning and in the emotion and turmoil of His humanity is perhaps hurt by Kefa’s rash proclamation. I hear Yeshua’s words in response said with a sad resolve and without malice, “Will you really lay down your life for Me? Oh Kefa, it is an immutable fact that you will deny me three times while I’m on trial, all before the cock crows at the dawn of the new day. I’ve already seen it happen.” (Author’s paraphrase)
© Yaakov Brown 2020
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.