Robert E. Surgenor
John Leaning - His Communion
The thirteenth chapter of John proves very interesting to the careful reader, for it is here that the private ministry of our Lord begins. From chapter one to chapter twelve we observe the SOULWINNER and His public ministry, dealing with various types of sinners in manifold ways. From chapter thirteen to chapter sixteen we see the TEACHER engaged in private ministry for the benefit of His own. In 12:36 we read, "These things spake Jesus, and did hide Himself from them." Never again would He eat with publicans and sinners, never again would they hear the gracious words that so often fell upon ungodly ears. The last recorded word of Christ to a perishing world contain an exhortation and a promise. "Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light" (Jn.12:35,36). What follows in the remaining part of the chapter is a record of the persistent unbelief of the Jews followed with a consummation of our Lordís public ministry to them.
As we enter the upper room in chapter thirteen we observe a multitude of things, far too numerous to expose in the space allotted to us for this article. However, allow me to prime your spiritual pump with a few thoughts, so that later as you meditate on this precious portion you will draw much more than I have exposed to you.
We all know that the three main divisions of Johnís Gospel are (1) Ch. 1-7, LIFE. Mentioned at least fifty times, indicating the energy of God. (2) Ch. 8-12, LIGHT. Mentioned thirty times, implying the intelligence of God. (3) Ch. 13-21, LOVE. Mentioned over thirty times, revealing the character of God. Now this is very interesting for instantly love comes to our attention in the first chapter of this division. Notice verse 1, Love climaxed. "Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end." Verse 5, 14, Love cleansing and comforting. "He poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciplesí feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded." Verse 23, Love channeled. "Now there was leaning on Jesusí bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. "Verse 26, Love communicated. "Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it.
And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon." Verse 30, Love contrasted. "He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night." Verse 35, Love confessing. "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."
Seven characteristics of our Lord are presented to us in this beautiful chapter. First, we see Him as the all-knowing One in verses 1, 11, 18, 38. He knew that His hour was come. He knew who should betray Him. He knew those He had chosen. Finally, He knew Peter would deny Him. Second, we observe Him as the Lover of His own (vs.2). Third, we consider Him as the lowly Servant (vs.4,5). Fourth, we behold Him as the Great Sanctifier of His people (vs.8). Fifth, we notice Him as Lord, then Sixth as Master (vs. 14). Seventh, we gaze upon a compassionate Saviour (vs. 26).
John also presents to us three representative men. (1) Judas, the natural man. (2) Peter, the carnal man (to be restored later). (3) John, the spiritual man. We find all these three types of men in the Book of the Acts, and surprisingly all bearing the same name. In Acts 23 we find Ananias the natural man. In Acts 5, we discover Ananias the carnal man. Finally, in Acts 9 we notice Ananias the spiritual man. Paul brings before the Corinthians the same thought. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God...He that is spiritual judgeth all things...ye are yet carnal" (1 Cor. 3:14,15; 4:3). The natural man is unsaved. The carnal man is a fleshly-minded Christian, inconsistent in his testimony. The spiritual man is one subject to Christ in every phase of his life.
Mr. Newberry in his Bible tells us that the Passover was just commencing in vs. 2 of our chapter. John speaks of Christís hour. In 2:4, the hour of the beginning of His miracles is mentioned. In 7:30, the hour of His atoning death is brought to our attention. Then in 13:1 we find He refers to the hour of His departure to the Father. Prior to the events we are considering, the devil had put into the heart of Judas to betray the Lord, the word "having" being in the perfect tense. The Lord was about to institute a supper, that His own might be held in constant memory of Himself. Even though the details of the supper are not revealed in Johnís Gospel, yet some vital truths are exposed to our view in connection with the Lordís supper. In chapter 12 the Lordís feet were anointed by Mary, in her love and devotion to her Lord. She seemingly was advanced in the knowledge of divine things over the devout women who came to the tomb to anoint the Lordís body. They were too late, but Mary wasnít late. The Lord testified of her, "Against the day of My burying hath she kept this" (vs.7). The cleansing of the body by washing always proceeded anointing the body, but not so with our Lord. He never needed cleansing, for He never was defiled. One may say, "Doesnít it state in Luke 7, that the woman in verse 38 washed His feet?" No, not really, for that particular word "wash" is really the word "to rain" and is used that way exclusively in the N.T. except in that passage. Compare Mark 5:45, Luke 17:29, James 5:17 and Revelation 11:6. The Luke 7 passage has no thought of cleansing. How different with the disciples. Their feet needed to be cleansed. Thus in 12:3 we observe wiped feet. In 12:32 wounded feet are implied. In 13:25 we see washed feet. In 13:18 we discover wicked feet. Finally in 13:38, Peterís wayward feet come into view.
How vital cleansing is if we are to enjoy fellowship with Himself! This lesson is plainly taught in chapter 13. The Eastern inn consisted of three levels. The ground floor was used to accommodate the beasts of burden. There was no room, even at this level for Joseph and Mary as she was about to bring the Saviour into the world. The second level was employed for the accommodating of guests, where they were given food and rest for the night. The third level was called "the guestchamber," and used for special occasions. Upon entering the guests were met by a servant that would wash their feet. Even though there was no room at the lowest level at the beginning of our Lordís sojourn here, God made provision for His Son to occupy the highest room at the conclusion of His ministry, before going to the cross. However, on this sacred occasion , there was no servant present to wash the guests feet. How lovely to read, "He riseth from supper, and laid aside His garments; and took a towel, and girded Himself After that He poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciplesí feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith He was girded" (13:4,5).
Our blessed Lord displays humility and lowliness as He graciously takes the place of a slave. He does not beckon them to come to Him, but rather goes to where they are and ministers unto them. How true His words, "For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). At the Supper, He ministered. At the Skull, He gave Himself a ransom for many.
"He poureth water." The first person recorded as pouring was Jacob at Luz, pouring oil on the pillar he had erected, calling the name of that place, Beth-el, meaning, "The house of God" (Gen. 28:18,19). It is worthy to notice that "Luz," means "almond tree." Connecting this with Numbers 17:8, the almonds would speak to us of priesthood. Thus in the words Beth-el and Luz, we have conveyed to us the thought of priesthood in the house of God. The disciples in the upper room were soon going to be employed in priestly ministry in the house of God and the Lord is now setting before them an example regarding that ministry - the washing of feet. You will notice that what He did on that occasion is not conveying to us the literal washing of feet today, as some of the sects practice.
The lesson the Lord is setting forth for us is a spiritual washing of one anotherís feet through the ministering of the Word of God. The Lordís statement and question, "What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter" (vs.7), and, "Know ye what I have done unto you?" (vs. 12), indicates His washing had a profound spiritual meaning. Furthermore, the Lord told Peter, "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me." Millions have never had their feet literally washed in this sense, yet they have part with Him. Notice, the Lord did not say, "No part IN Me," but, "No part WITH Me." "IN Me", indicates union with Him. That takes place at the new birth. "WITH Me," expresses communion, which can be a daily experience in our Christian life. Thus the spiritual washing of our feet is essential to our communion and fellowship with Christ today. Let me ask you, are your feet clean? How defiling the world is and as we sojourn in it, how easily we contract its defilement, yet thank God, there is a washing for us today and if the Lord spares us another month we shall return to the upper room and to the sacred occasion which we have been considering. Until then, may the Lord keep thee and richly bless thee.