In the evening, Jesus and the apostles arrived at the house in Jerusalem where they would be partaking of the Passover meal. The reference in Mark 14:17 to the “twelve” may indicate that, after having completed the preparations, Peter and John returned and that thereafter Jesus and all twelve apostles departed. Another possibility is that “twelve” functions as a collective designation for the apostles, meaning that Jesus arrived with the company of apostles numbering ten at the time. This included Judas Iscariot (the son of Simon) who had already, in his “heart” or deep inner self, yielded to the devil in the determination to betray him. (John 13:2)
Ancient Jewish sources provide background for understanding developments in connection with the Passover meal. The eating did not begin until after dark and all had reclined at the table. Four cups of wine were to be available. (Mishnah Pesahim, 10:1) The meal itself was to end by midnight. (Tosefta, Pesahim, 5:13) The head of the household or the one officiating pronounced a blessing over the first cup of wine. (Mishnah, Pesahim, 10:2; Tosefta, Pesahim, 10:2, 3) In conjunction with the second cup of wine (if the celebrants were part of a household), the son would ask his father about the significance of the event. If the boy was too young to ask questions, the father would teach him as much as he could comprehend. The head of the household would then begin a recitation of the Hallel, either all of Psalm 113 or both Psalm 113 and 114. The mixing of the third cup of wine was followed by a blessing for the food. When it came time for the fourth cup, the Hallel was completed. (Mishnah, Pesahim, 10:4, 6, 7) After the meal, the entire night would be spent in consideration of the laws of the Passover. (Tosefta, Pesahim, 10:11, 12)
After all were reclining at the table, Jesus, in view of the suffering that would soon befall him, mentioned that he had very much desired to share the Passover meal with the apostles. (Matthew 26:20; Luke 22:14, 15) He indicated that this would be his last Passover meal with them, for he would not be eating it until it would be “fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 22:16) He thus appears to have alluded to his role as the “Lamb of God,” or the fulfillment of the Passover sacrifice, and the joy he would be sharing with his disciples when he returned in glory, revealing himself to be the king by his Father’s appointment. For his devoted disciples, this joy would be comparable to sharing in a royal banquet when united with him either upon being resurrected in an incorruptible state or upon experiencing a change from mortality to immortality. (John 1:29; 1 Corinthians 5:7; 15:51-54; 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17)
Probably early during the course of the meal and likely before the introduction of the third cup of wine, Jesus, fully aware that his Father had given all things into his hands and that he had come from him and would be returning to him, undertook the task of a lowly servant. (John 13:3) Not one of the apostles had thought to serve his fellow apostles by washing their feet, which would have become dusty during the course of their walk.
Jesus, however, stood up, laid his outer garment down, girded himself with a towel, poured water into a basin, and commenced washing the feet of the disciples. To Peter it seemed inconceivable that his Lord, the Son of God, would wash the feet of a disciple, prompting him to say by way of objection, “Lord, are you washing my feet?” Jesus told Peter that, though he did not then comprehend this action, he would later come to understand it. Still, Peter protested, “You will never wash my feet.” He simply could not understand that Jesus, whose greatness he recognized, would perform the task of a lowly servant; it did not seem right to him. “If I do not wash [your feet],” said Jesus to Peter, “you have no share with me.” Immediately Peter stopped objecting. Highly valuing his relationship with Jesus and not wanting to jeopardize it in any way, he declared himself ready to submit to more extensive washing. “Lord, not my feet only,” Peter said, “but also my hands and head.” (John 13:4-9)
Jesus pointed out that one who had bathed only needed to have his feet washed. Whereas the hands and the head were not in contact with the ground as one walked about, the sandals did not keep the feet clean. Therefore, as Jesus said, the bathed person who had his feet washed would be completely clean. Making an application to more than physical cleanness, he continued, “And you [apostles] are clean, but not all.” Jesus said this because he knew the one who would betray him and, therefore, the one who was not morally clean. (John 13:10, 11) He had treated Judas just like the other apostles, washing his feet and in no way acting in an unloving or resentful manner toward him. Nothing in Jesus’ words and actions gave a hint to the other apostles as to who the betrayer could possibly be.
Viewed from a moral standpoint, Jesus’ washing the feet of his disciples seemingly revealed the necessity of completely relying on him for cleansing from sin. Whereas believers have been forgiven of their sins on the basis of their faith in Christ and his sacrificial death for them, they still commit sins. Accordingly, they continue to need Jesus’ washing or cleansing from the transgressions committed in their daily walk. (1 John 1:8-2:2)
Jesus’ washing the feet of the apostles served as a vital object lesson for them about the way in which they should conduct themselves as unassuming servants. After having finished washing the feet of all twelve men, Jesus put on his robe and then reclined at the table. His question (“Do you know what I have done for you?”) served to draw to their attention the important lesson they should learn from his example. They rightly called him “Teacher” and “Lord,” for he indeed was such. Since he as their Teacher and Lord had washed their feet, they should have been willing to perform lowly tasks for others in imitation of his example. With a repetition of a solemn “amen” (truly), Jesus continued, “I say to you, a slave is not greater than his lord [master] nor is the one being sent greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, happy are you if you do them.” (John 13:12-17)
It would have been contrary to the sense of propriety for underlings to refuse to render the kind of service a master or one with authority to commission was willing to perform and to consider the service as beneath their dignity. With a proper understanding of their position as fellow servants, the disciples would be happy to act in that capacity. They would find joy in serving others in ways that could be considered as lowly.
Jesus’ words about experiencing happiness from doing what he had taught were not directed to everyone. He fully knew the ones whom he had chosen, not being blinded by any outward appearances. Among them was one whose actions were portrayed in the treachery described in Psalm 41:9(10), “The one who ate my bread has lifted up his heel against me.” (John 13:18) The expression “lifting up of the heel” evidently signifies base treachery, the figure apparently being of a raised foot that is ready to kick. (See the Notes section for additional comments regarding John 13:18.)
Jesus explained why he had revealed that he would become the object of base treachery, saying, “When it happens, you may believe that I am [the one].” Amen, amen, [Truly, truly] I say to you, Whoever receives anyone I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” (John 13:19, 20) The fulfillment of Jesus’ prophetic words would provide additional confirmation that he was indeed the Son of God. This would serve to strengthen the faith of the loyal apostles, for this development would be part of the cumulative evidence for their belief in him. All who would accept those whom Jesus had sent would recognize them as trustworthy witnesses about him. Therefore, the acceptance of those sent would constitute acceptance of Jesus as the sender, the one to whom the testimony of the messengers would have led all who embraced it. Acceptance of Jesus also signified acceptance of his Father, as he was his Father’s representative.
After Jesus referred to the words of the psalmist, he became greatly disturbed in spirit, or inwardly, and solemnly declared, “Amen, amen [Truly, truly], I say to you, One of you will betray me.” (John 13:21) In great perplexity, the apostles looked at one another, with none of Jesus’ loyal apostles having any idea about who the future betrayer could possibly be. Among themselves they discussed regarding whom Jesus might have been speaking. His words distressed them. Not being able to imagine that they would make themselves guilty of betrayal, they asked, “Not I, [is it]?” (Matthew 26:21, 22; Mark 14:18, 19; Luke 22:21-23; John 13:22)
Leaving no doubt that the future betrayer was then in their midst, Jesus said, “One who, with me, dips his hand in the bowl will betray me. As it is written about him, the Son of Man is going away [according to what had been determined (Luke 22:22)], but woe to the man through whom the Son of Man is betrayed. Better would it have been for him had he not been born.” Seemingly, to divert attention away from himself, Judas asked, “Not I [is it], Rabbi?” Jesus responded, “You said [so],” which implied that Judas’ words did not conceal the truth concerning what he was about to do. (Matthew 26:23-25; Mark 14:19-21; Luke 22:21-23; see the Notes section for additional comments.)
Based on what his Father had determined respecting him, Jesus knew that he would be going away, finishing his earthly course in death and returning to his Father after being resurrected. Whereas the Son of God had to lay down his life to serve as his Father’s means for liberating from sin those who put faith in him, this did not mean that the treachery of Judas was excusable. Judas chose to follow a course in opposition to Jesus. Like the other apostles, he could have remained loyal but, instead, allowed satanic influence to corrupt him. That is why Jesus pronounced woe on the future betrayer. The nature of the treachery was such that it would have been better for Judas not to have be born.
Peter must have wanted to ask Jesus personally who the betrayer would be, but he appears not to have been close enough to do so without being overheard. He then got the attention of the disciple whom Jesus particularly loved (John), requesting him to raise the question. John seems to have been reclining on Jesus’ right side, with his head being in close proximity to Jesus’ breast. This would have made it possible for him to lean back to speak to Jesus (doubtless in a subdued manner or whisper) without any of the other apostles being aware of it. (John 13:23-25)
In response to the question about who the betrayer would be, Jesus said, “It is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and [to whom] I shall give it.” He then took the morsel, dipped it, and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. It would appear that Judas was within easy reach of Jesus, probably reclining on his immediate left. Thus, to the very end, Jesus treated him with kindness and even favored him with being in his close proximity. The account says that, as soon as Judas took the morsel, “Satan entered into him.” This suggests that, despite the love Jesus has shown him, Judas completely yielded to the satanic inclination that made him a traitor. Jesus then told him, “Quickly do what you are doing.” (John 13:26, 27)
As Judas handled the common fund, some among the apostles thought that he was being instructed to buy something needed for the festival or to give something to the poor. Immediately after he accepted the morsel, Judas left. The account adds, “And it was night.” (John 13:28-30) This reference to “night” seems to have had more than a literal significance. It proved to be a night of darkness, for Jesus was betrayed and arrested. If judged from outward appearances, the powers of darkness had seemingly triumphed. (Luke 22:53)
It would not have been unusual for someone to leave during the Passover meal or for several private conversations to be carried on among those eating. The meal itself was not a hurried affair. According to the Mishnah (Pesahim, 10:8), some might even fall asleep. If not all of the group fell asleep, they could resume eating upon waking up. One rabbinical view was that if all merely drowsed and did not fall into deep sleep, they could eat again. The Tosefta (Pesahim, 10:8) refers to those who had no one to recite the Hallel for them. They would then go to the synagogue for the reading of the first part, return home to eat and drink, and then return to the synagogue to complete the Hallel. If the distance was too great for them to return to the synagogue, the entire Hallel was completed the first time. This interruption of the meal with the Hallel may provide a basis for concluding that Judas left before the introduction of the third cup of wine.
The quotation in John 13:18 from verse 9(10) of Psalm 41(40) conveys the basic thought of the Septuagint rendering (“the one eating my bread has magnified [his] treachery against me”), but the words are not identical. In the Septuagint, the Greek word for “treachery” is pternismós, a term incorporating the word ptérna, meaning “heel.” The related verb pternízo basically denotes “to bite someone’s heel,” to go behind someone’s back, to deceive, or to outwit. The quotation in John 13:18, however, says “heel,” contains a different Greek word for “eat,” and uses a term for “lifted up,” not “magnified.”
Earlier, Jesus had expressed the teaching found in John 13:20. When sending out the twelve apostles, he had also told them that those who would receive or accept them would be accepting him and the one who had sent him. (Matthew 10:40)
In Matthew 26 and Mark 14, Jesus’ words about the one who would betray him precede the institution of what is commonly known as the “Lord’s Supper.” Luke 22:21-23, however, narrates the discussion about betrayal after this event. It appears that Luke’s account is not chronological but presents the progression of the Passover meal in a condensed manner from the start through to the institution of the “Lord’s Supper.” In view of the other accounts, the reference to the betrayal in Luke 22 can be understood as having taken place during the course of the Passover meal. Lending weight to this conclusion are Jesus’ words that the hand of his betrayer was with him at the table, indicating that he was then eating the meal with him. (Luke 22:21)
While the Passover meal was in progress, Jesus took a cup of wine, gave thanks, and then said to the apostles, “Take this and share it among yourselves; for I say to you, From now on I will not drink from the produce of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Based on the events (narrated in the biblical accounts) that intervened between the beginning of the Passover meal and the reference to the cup, this particular cup of wine may have been the third one used during the course of the meal. (Luke 22:17, 18; see, however, the Notes section for additional comments.)
According to the Mishnah, a blessing was said for the food after the third cup of wine. This would appear to fit what Jesus did after the apostles passed the cup of wine among themselves. He took bread from the table, pronounced a blessing or gave thanks, broke the bread, and handed it out, saying, “Take, eat; this is my body.” (Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; see the Notes section regarding Luke 22:19.)
Next Jesus took the cup (probably the fourth cup of wine), said a blessing, and told his disciples, “Drink from it, all [of you]; for this is my blood of the covenant poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:27, 28; Mark 14:23, 24; Luke 22:20)
Many have taken the “is” in the Greek text to mean that the bread is to be identified with the actual body of Christ and the wine with his actual blood. In ancient Hebrew and Aramaic versions of these words, however, no “is” appears in the text. In keeping with the idiom of the language in which Jesus would have addressed the apostles, he would not have used any form of a “to be” verb. With Jesus personally being present, the apostles could not have imagined that he was literally identifying the bread with his actual fleshly body and the wine with his actual blood. Moreover, the manner in which he expressed himself in their native tongue would not have suggested such identity.
Even with the “is” included in the Greek text, identity is not inherent in the language. In the expression “this is my body,” all of the accounts are in agreement in using the word “this” (toutó). Although the Greek term for bread or loaf (ártos) is masculine, toutó is neuter, raising a question about whether the “bread” or “loaf” is being identified with Christ’s body of flesh. One explanation for the neuter is that “this” reflects the neuter gender of the word for “body” (somá). From a strict grammatical standpoint, however, the Greek word for “this” should be masculine to establish the kind of relationship of the bread to the fleshly body of God’s Son that many believe it to have.
The Greek word for “cup” (potérion) is neuter and so there is grammatical agreement with the word for “this” (toutó). It should be noted, though, that the direct reference is to the cup and not to the wine. Clearly, the cup itself cannot be understood as being identified with the blood of Christ. The link to the blood can only be made with the wine inside the cup.
In connection with the loaf, the neuter “this” (toutó) could refer to everything Jesus did as it related to his body. This would include his body consisting of all believers. Regarding the cup of wine, the “this” (toutó) could apply to everything Jesus did with the cup and could refer to what his shed blood would effect—forgiveness of sins and the validation of a new covenant.
While the accounts in Matthew and Mark and numerous manuscripts of Luke (22:19) do not include the words “given for you” after “my body,” the oldest extant manuscript (P75 from the late second century or early third century) and many other manuscripts of Luke include them, and 1 Corinthians 11:24 contains the shorter phrase, “for you.” Jesus surrendered his own body and thereby made it possible for a body of believers to come into existence and to be united to him. Individually, all believers benefit from what Jesus did in delivering up his body for them and also for making it possible for them to become part of the body of which he is the head. Thus, both from the standpoint of his own body and that of the composite body of believers, Jesus could be spoken of as having given his body for the individual believers. The resulting fellowship with Jesus and the community of believers that constitutes his body promotes the spiritual growth and the strengthening of the individual members in faith and love. (Compare Ephesians 4:11-16.)
The apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians indicates how believers in the first century regarded partaking of the bread and the wine. They did so in remembrance of Christ, focusing on what he did by sacrificing his body and pouring out his blood. Whenever they ate of the loaf and drank from the cup, they proclaimed the death of the Lord until he would return in glory, which would result in their being united with him. In the presence of all partakers, they thus tangibly announced their faith in what Jesus’ death had done for them. (1 Corinthians 11:25, 26)
Believers also recognized that, through Christ’s sacrificial death, they had become members of his body. Their partaking of the one loaf proved to be concrete evidence of this reality. The apostle Paul wrote, “Because one loaf [there is], we, the many, one body are, for all [of us] partake from the one loaf.” (1 Corinthians 10:17) When partaking of the wine, they were sharers in the “blood of the Christ,” which indicates that they were beneficiaries of the new covenant that had been put into effect through Christ’s blood and which made forgiveness of sins possible. (1 Corinthians 10:15)
The linkage to the corporate body of the community of believers is also reflected in the prayer contained in the Didache (thought to date from the late first or early second century), “We thank you, our Father, for the life and knowledge which you have made known to us through Jesus your servant. To you [be] the glory for eternity. As this broken bread was dispersed on the mountains and gathered to become one, thus may your congregation be gathered from the ends of the earth into your kingdom.” (9:3, 4) The scattering or dispersing “on the mountains” appears to refer to the sowing of seed in hilly or mountainous regions, with the harvested grain from many ears being ground into flour and coming to be just one loaf of bread.
According to Matthew 26:29 and Mark 14:25, Jesus, after passing the cup to the apostles, told them that he would not again drink of the fruit of the vine with them until his doing so in his Father’s kingdom. He thereby indicated that the intimacy they then enjoyed would not occur again until his return in glory as the king of the kingdom of God. That event would be the beginning of a time when he as king by his Father’s appointment would exercise full authority without the existence of any competing sovereignties. The apostles would then be united with him, sharing in the kind of honor associated with eating and drinking at the royal table. (Regarding Luke 22:18, see the Notes section.)
The possibility that Luke 22:17 refers to the third cup would not agree with manuscripts that omit the words of verse 20 (with its reference to the cup linked to the new covenant). In the case of texts that do not include verse 20, the cup mentioned in Luke 22:17 could be understood to designate the one used for the institution of the “Lord’s Supper.” This would mean that, in Luke’s account, the narration follows a reverse order (cup of wine and then bread, not bread and then cup).
One reason for favoring the abbreviated text of Luke is that, after Jesus had referred to “my blood of the covenant,” Matthew 26:29 and Mark 14:25 set forth his words about not drinking of the produce of the vine. The expanded text of Luke (found in most extant Greek manuscripts), on the other hand, introduces these words before mentioning the cup used at the institution of the “Lord’s Supper.” (Luke 22:18)
In Luke 22:19, many manuscripts read, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” There are manuscripts, however, that do not contain this expanded text but end with “my body” (as do Matthew 26:26 and Mark 14:22). In the Westcott and Hort Greek text, words after “my body” and all of verse 20 are printed within double brackets, indicating that B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort doubted that the words were included in the original.
The longer text in the most ancient extant Greek manuscripts, however, requires that they be retained in modern translations, especially since they can be regarded as complementing the other accounts. According to Luke 22:20, Jesus introduced the cup after the meal and linked its contents with the “new covenant in [his] blood,” which would be poured out for the disciples. In connection with the new covenant, the words “in my blood” (based on other biblical passages) indicate that the new covenant would be put into effect by means of Jesus’ shed blood. (Hebrews 10:29; 13:12, 21, 22)
After Judas had left, Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man when speaking of his glorification and that of his Father “in him.” In the Greek text, the verb for “glorified” is in the aorist tense, which is commonly used to denote something that happened in the past. By willingly submitting to his Father’s purpose for him and what this would ultimately accomplish, Jesus was glorified as the unique and beloved Son of God. “In him,” or by means of everything Jesus had done and would do as one fully submissive to his Father’s will for him, the Father was glorified or honored. Jesus’ willing surrender of his life would climax an earthly ministry devoted to glorifying his Father. At the same time, his Father had glorified him through the works he had empowered him to perform. Seemingly, because his ultimate glorification (his resurrection and ascension to heaven) was an imminent reality that would complete the glorification process, Jesus introduced his reference to the past glorification with the word “now” (nyn), “Now the Son of Man has been [or, was] glorified, and God has been [or, was] glorified in him.” (John 13:31)
Numerous Greek manuscripts represent Jesus as saying, “If God has been glorified in him [the Son of Man], also God will glorify him in himself, and he will immediately glorify him.” (John 13:32) The omission in many other manuscripts of the introductory phrase (“If God has been glorified in him”) does not materially affect the meaning of the words that follow. The action of God’s Son in glorifying his Father, especially in the surrender of his life in full submission to his will, would lead to his Father’s glorifying him and doing so immediately. On the third day after Jesus’ death, his Father did glorify him, raising him from the dead and granting him unparalleled authority in heaven and on earth. (Matthew 28:18) When Jesus returned to his Father, he did so as the exalted Son who had the right to be universally acknowledged as Lord. (Philippians 2:9-11)
As the night passed, Jesus did not do all the talking. There appear to have been interchanges among the apostles. During the course of conversations in which Jesus was not personally involved, they got into an argument about who among them seemed to be the greatest. In response to their dispute, Jesus admonished them that they should not be like rulers of the nations who are called benefactors but dominate over their subjects. The greatest among the disciples should be as the youngest, not one who sought to exercise control over others but assumed the role of the least among them. As for a disciple who took the lead, he should be the one serving among them. Focusing on the example he had set for them, Jesus raised the questions, “Who is greater, the one reclining [at the table] or the one serving? [Is it] not the one reclining?” These questions were designed to cause the disciples to reflect on their role in relation to him, and he then told them, “In your midst, however, I am as one who is serving.” (Luke 22:24-27)
That very night Jesus had washed the feet of the apostles, acting as one who served in their midst. They, however, had not yet learned to conduct themselves in harmony with this object lesson and Jesus’ earlier teaching and personal example that true greatness requires a willingness to serve others. (Matthew 20:25-28; 23:11; Mark 9:33-37; 10:41-45; John 13:3-10)
Although the apostles needed to be corrected about their attitude, Jesus commended them for their faithfulness. They had stayed by him in his trials, not fearfully abandoning him when he faced intense hostility and murderous intent. As the one to whom his Father had entrusted kingly authority, Jesus conferred a kingdom on his loyal disciples. Portraying their future close association with him as persons honored to be eating at the king’s table, he told them that they would eat and drink at his table and “sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Luke 22:28-30)
Jesus chose expressions that were adapted to their understanding of the kingdom, enabling them to discern how intimate their association would be with him as king. Because they viewed the kingdom as one that would be restored to Israel, Jesus spoke of their role as including the judging of the twelve tribes of Israel. His accommodating his words to their understanding made it possible for him to convey the message he wanted them to grasp about their future role. (Acts 1:6) After Jesus’ death and resurrection, they would come to recognize that the realm where he rules by his Father’s appointment is universal and not limited to Israel. Accordingly, the judging of Israel would be representative of a far greater role toward all nations.
Jesus made known to the apostles that, in their relationship to him, they would all be “stumbled” in that very night. This indicated that they would fearfully abandon him, fulfilling the prophetic word (Zechariah 13:7), “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.” This scattering would be temporary, for Jesus added, “After I am raised up, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” (Matthew 26:31, 32; Mark 14:26-28 [In Zechariah 13:7, the striking of the shepherd is portrayed as taking place by God’s permission, and the words, “I will strike,” are evidently to be understood in this sense. The extant text of the Septuagint reads “shepherds.”]) It seems that Jesus’ meeting with the disciples in Galilee after his resurrection occurred when he appeared to upward of 500 believers. (1 Corinthians 15:6)
Affectionately referring to his disciples as “children,” Jesus told them that he would be with them only a little while longer. “You will seek me,” he continued. As he had said on an earlier occasion to the unbelieving Jews (John 7:33, 34), he now told his disciples, “Where I am going you cannot come.” (John 13:33) In the case of the disciples, their “seeking” would be indicative of a strong inner desire to be with Jesus. (Compare 2 Corinthians 5:1-6; Philippians 1:23.) He, however, would be absent from them, and they, in their earthly state of existence, would not be able to join him.
While Jesus had been with his disciples, he had shown them the kind of love that surpassed everything they had formerly experienced. Now when he was about to make the superlative expression of his love by surrendering his life for them, he gave them a new commandment, one that required their loving one another as he had loved them. All observers would be able to recognize them as his disciples by the love they had for one another. (John 13:34, 35) What made this commandment new is that it went beyond the law’s requirement of loving one’s neighbor as oneself. In imitation of God’s Son, the new commandment called for a love that put the interests and well-being of others ahead of one’s own. This love was a self-sacrificing love that found its fulfillment in selfless giving and serving.
It may have been after Peter insisted that he would not be stumbled even though all the others might be that Jesus said to him, “Simon, Simon, see! Satan has demanded to sift you [plural, meaning all of the apostles] as wheat. I, however, have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.” Then, once he had “returned” or recovered from his temporary “stumbling,” Peter was to strengthen his “brothers” or his fellow disciples. (Matthew 26:33; Mark 14:29; Luke 22:31, 32)
Possibly on account of the weakness (instead of rocklike strength) Peter would shortly manifest, Jesus may have chosen not to call him by the name he had personally given him (Peter, meaning “rock”) but addressed him as “Simon, Simon.” With reference to Satan, the verb meaning “demand” (exaitéo) seems to express his aim or desire. He wanted to submit the disciples to a severe test. The intensity of that test would be comparable to the sifting process that separates wheat from chaff, the implication being that Satan would have wanted to expose the disciples as worthless chaff, persons with a wrecked faith. Jesus’ prayer for Peter and the assurance that he would be in a position afterward to strengthen his fellow disciples, infusing them with courage, indicated that the satanic assault would not succeed.
In response to Jesus’ words that the disciples would not be able to come to the place where he would be heading, Peter asked, “Lord, where are you going?” “Where I am going,” Jesus replied, “you cannot follow me now, but you will follow later.” (John 13:36) Jesus would surrender his life, be resurrected, and return to his Father. Later, Peter would also die and, upon being raised from the dead, would again be with Jesus.
As one who deeply loved God’s Son, Peter felt that he was prepared to go anywhere with him regardless of what the circumstances might be. Even if it were to mean imprisonment or death for him, he would not hesitate to go. (Luke 22:33) Though all the other disciples might stumble, he would not. Firmly convinced about his loyalty to Jesus, Peter said, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will give up my soul [life] for you.” (Matthew 26:33; Mark 14:29; John 13:37)
“Will you give up your soul for me?” Jesus replied. Then, with a solemn introductory “amen, amen” (truly, truly), he declared that Peter would disown him three times that night before a cock crowed, probably just before dawn. (Matthew 26:34; Luke 22:34; John 13:38) According to Mark 14:30, Jesus said “before a cock crows twice,” indicating that Peter’s denial of association with him would take place before a cock crowed the second time.
Peter could not imagine that he would deny his Lord and protested, “Even if I must die with you, I will never disown you.” The other disciples also expressed their loyalty to Jesus in the same manner. (Matthew 26:35; Mark 13:31) He, though, knew what effect his arrest would have on them, but they overestimated their strength to remain resolute.
Alerting them to the changed circumstances in which they would find themselves, Jesus drew a sharp contrast. He had earlier sent them out without their having to take a pouch containing money for making purchases, a bag with supplies, or an extra pair of sandals. When Jesus asked them whether they had lacked anything at that time, the apostles acknowledged that they had not. Now, however, he told them to equip themselves differently. If they had a pouch for money and a bag for supplies, they should take such with them. He even advised them that the one without a sword should sell his cloak and buy one. His words indicated that they would find themselves in a perilous situation and would have to rely on their own resources. This was because what would happen to him in fulfillment of the prophetic word (Isaiah 53:12) about his being “counted with lawless ones.” (Luke 22:35-37) He would be treated and condemned as a vile criminal.
In response to Jesus’ words about obtaining a sword, the disciples told him that they had two swords. (Luke 22:38) These weapons may primarily have been used for utilitarian purposes. Additionally, the disciples may have had these swords for defense, particularly in view of the life-threatening dangers travelers could face from encounters with wild animals or robbers along the way.
From Jesus’ standpoint, the availability of two swords was enough. He said to the disciples, “It is sufficient.” (Luke 22:38)
Concerning his leaving them (if not also his words about their abandoning him and Peter’s denial), Jesus said to the apostles, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Within themselves, they were not to give way to feelings of alarm and uneasiness. Instead, Jesus admonished them to believe in God and also in him. Their faith would then enable them to come through the difficult time that lay ahead. (John 14:1)
Jesus’ leaving them would not be an event they were to dread. There was ample room for them in his Father’s house, with its “many dwelling places.” If that had not been the case, Jesus would have told the disciples. His departure and return to the Father meant that he would be preparing a place for them. This assured them that he would come again and take them to be with him. Where he had his home, they also would be. Jesus then added, “You know the way [to the place] where I am going.” (John 14:2-4) His earlier comments should have helped them to discern that “the way” involved faith in God and in him.
Thomas may not have been alone in failing to make this connection. Thinking that Jesus had spoken about a literal way or path, he raised the question, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” (John 14:5)
In his response, Jesus made it clear that he was not referring to a literal road or path. “I am the way,” said Jesus, “and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known [know, P66 (second century) and other manuscripts] me, you would have known [will know, P66 and other manuscripts] my Father also. From now [on] you know him and have seen [him].” (John 14:6, 7)
Jesus is “the way,” for through him alone can one come to the Father. The Son’s example and teaching provide the dependable guidance. As the unique Son of God, the one who has fully revealed the Father in a manner that he alone could, Jesus is “the truth” or the embodiment of the truth. He is “the life,” for through him and faith in him one comes into possession of the real life, the life that is distinguished by an enduring relationship with his Father.
If P66, the earliest extant manuscript, preserves the original reading, then Jesus said that, by knowing him, the disciples would come to know his Father. This would suggest that, in the future, they would come to know the Father fully. The meaning conveyed in many other manuscripts appears to be that the disciples had not yet come to know Jesus from the standpoint of coming to know the Father fully through him. In that case, Jesus’ words would have constituted a reproof. The phrase, “from now [on] you know,” then appears to suggest that, based on what he had revealed to them, the disciples did know the Father. They also had seen him. Jesus could say this, for he, the unique Son, was the express image of his Father. On the other hand, if P66 contains the original text, Jesus’ words could be understood to mean that their knowing the Father would not come about at some future time but was possible from then on. Based on what Jesus had revealed in his own person, the disciples did know the Father and had seen him.
Seemingly, Philip understood Jesus’ reference to seeing in a literal sense. This prompted him to say, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.” (John 14:8) Philip felt that, if Jesus would let the disciples actually see the Father just once, they would be completely satisfied.
Jesus appears to have directed his reply to Philip in a way that included all of the apostles. This is suggested by the plural “you,” seemingly indicating that Philip may not have been the only one wanting to be shown the Father in a perceivable manner. “Have I been with you [plural],” Jesus said, “[for] so much time, and [still], Philip, you do not know me? He who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak to you [plural] I am not speaking [as originating] from myself, but the Father who remains in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and [that] the Father [is] in me. But if not, believe for the reason of the works themselves.” (John 14:9-11)
Philip was among Jesus’ first disciples and so, along with the other early disciples, had been with him from the start of his ministry. Therefore, Jesus could refer to Philip and the other apostles as having been with him for considerable time. Nevertheless, Philip still had not fully recognized in Jesus the complete reflection of his Father. Philip’s request to be shown the Father revealed that he had not as yet understood that, in the face of the Son, he had seen the Father. (Compare 2 Corinthians 4:6.) Jesus perfectly reflected everything about him. As Hebrews 1:3 indicates, the Son is the exact imprint of his Father’s very being. Therefore, when seeing Jesus, being closely associated with him, and witnessing the works his Father had empowered him to perform, the disciples were being given an all-encompassing and clear vision of the Father. Accordingly, they had seen the Father in the Son. On account of what Philip had experienced during a course of many months, Jesus rightly asked him, “How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”
In every way, the Son enjoyed a oneness with his Father. Because of being completely at one with him, Jesus could say that he was “in” the Father, and the Father was “in” him. Jesus did not speak of his own but expressed what his Father had committed to him to speak. So, through Jesus, the disciples heard the words of his Father. Although his Father was in heaven, this had no bearing on the intimate relationship he enjoyed with him. In all that Jesus said and did, the Father remained “in” him, was with him, or resided in him. Therefore, the marvelous deeds that Jesus performed (healing the sick, restoring sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, soundness of body to the lame and the crippled, and raising the dead) were his Father’s works.
When Jesus told his disciples, “I am in the Father and the Father [is] in me,” he could rightly say to them, “Believe me.” They had ample evidence for believing him. Yet, if they did not believe him, not accepting his word, they could not deny the fact that they had witnessed marvelous deeds. As Jesus said, “Believe for the reason of the works themselves.” (John 14:11)
For the disciples, their belief, faith, or trust in Jesus would result in their doing works they could not then have imagined. After his solemn introductory words (“Amen, amen” [Truly, truly], I say to you”), Jesus continued, “He who believes in me will do the works I am doing, and greater [works] than these he will do, for I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12) Upon returning to his Father, Jesus would no longer be physically present and bringing relief to the afflicted as he had while with the disciples. They would then be doing the very deeds that he had done. Collectively, their activity would be more extensive, reach far beyond the areas where Jesus had ministered to the people, and continue for much more time. Therefore, he could say that he who believes in him would do greater works.
His being away from the disciples did not mean that his care and concern for them would diminish. Moreover, they could look to him for aid and guidance. “Whatever you ask in my name,” Jesus said, “I will do this, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you [plural] ask [me, found in numerous manuscripts] anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:13, 14)
After Jesus’ ascension to heaven, the disciples commonly directed their prayers to the Father, doing so in Jesus’ name or as persons who recognized him as their Lord. Colossians 3:17 specifically refers to “thanking God the Father through him [the Lord Jesus].”
At certain times, the disciples directly appealed to Jesus. The apostle Paul mentioned having three times pleaded with the Lord to remove his “thorn in the flesh.” Paul did not say how he received the Lord’s answer, “Sufficient is my grace [unmerited favor] for you, because my power is made complete in weakness.” He humbly accepted it as Christ’s answer, telling the Corinthians that he would prefer to take pride “in [his] weaknesses, that the power of the Christ might dwell with [him].” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)
This illustrates that Jesus’ words about doing what his disciples requested does depend upon its being in harmony with the divine will or prerogative. In Paul’s case, the power of Christ proved to be more fully manifest through his continuing to bear his “thorn,” with the grace or favor extended to him being sufficient for him to endure it. From a personal standpoint, Paul would benefit from seeing Christ’s interests advanced despite his “thorn” and those who responded in faith would be able to see that the advancement of Christ’s cause did not depend on human strength.
Jesus’ unique oneness with his Father is of such a nature that his will and that of his Father are identical. Accordingly, appeals that are made in Jesus’ name, or in recognition of him as Lord, will be answered. His words to the disciples indicate that he would act in keeping with their petitions and that his doing so would serve to glorify the Father. The Father would be honored “in the Son,” for the Son’s response would perfectly reflect the Father’s will.
The disciples would manifest their love for Jesus by observing his commandments, following his example and adhering to his teaching. (John 14:15) The implication is that they should do so even after his departure.
While with them, Jesus had proved to be their “paraclete” (parákletos), helper, comforter, advocate, supporter, or intercessor. Although he would be going away, he would not leave them without needed aid. He assured them that he would request his Father to give them another paraclete to be with them permanently (literally, “into the age”; forever). (John 14:16)
Jesus referred to the paraclete as the “spirit of the truth.” (John 14:17) When functioning in the capacity of teaching or guiding the disciples or of recalling to their minds Jesus’ teaching, the spirit’s aid would be solidly based on truth and could always be trusted. Regardless of the circumstances, the disciples could rely on the spirit for spiritual strength and for help in their loyally upholding and advancing the interests of God’s Son. Based on the context, the paraclete may primarily be regarded as a helper.
In a state of alienation from and at enmity with the Father, the world of mankind cannot receive the spirit. Not wanting a relationship with the Father and his Son, those of the world in their state of alienation can neither know nor see the spirit’s function in a personal way. With their minds focused solely on what pleases the senses, they are unresponsive and unreceptive to the spirit.
Regarding the spirit, Jesus said to his disciples, “You know it, for it remains with you and is [will be, according to other manuscripts] in you.” (John 14:17; see the Notes section.) In the life and activity of Jesus, the disciples had repeatedly seen the operation of God’s spirit. Empowered by the spirit, they, too, had performed miraculous works. From personal experience, they knew or had acquaintance with the spirit. As they followed through on the commission Jesus had given them to proclaim the glad tidings and to cure the sick and infirm, the spirit had not left them and was at work “in” and through them.
At the same time, however, their acquaintance with the spirit was never independent of Jesus’ personal presence with them. The future reception of the spirit would result in a continuing possession thereof while the Son of God would not be personally among them.
He promised not to leave them as orphans or in a helpless and needy state, adding, “I am coming to you.”` (John 14:18) After his resurrection, Jesus did reveal himself alive to his disciples. The context, though, suggests that this particular coming to his disciples relates more to his turning his attention to them through the provision of another paraclete and, by means of this helper, making his home with them.
His death, resurrection, and return to his Father being imminent, Jesus could say that the world would shortly no longer see him. The disciples, though, would see him, for, as he told them, “I live and you will live.” (John 14:19) As one raised from the dead, Jesus did live, and the disciples were infused with new life upon seeing him and his giving them many proofs that he was indeed alive. (Acts 1:3) Moreover, with the pouring out of God’s spirit upon them on the day of Pentecost, the disciples truly could be spoken of as living. With boldness they began to witness concerning the Son of God. Jesus’ words spoken just before his last post-resurrection appearance were fulfilled, “You will receive power when the holy spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and all of Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
Jesus’ request to his Father for the disciples to be given another paraclete was answered on the day of Pentecost. Particularly in connection with that day Jesus’ words to them applied, “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you [are] in me, and I in you.” (John 14:20) Jesus received the holy spirit from the Father and then, through Jesus, the disciples received the spirit. (Acts 2:33) This provided undeniable evidence that he was indeed “in” or at one with his Father. As for the disciples, the reception of the spirit from Jesus established that they were “in” or at one with him and that he was “in” or at one with them.
For one to “have” Christ’s commandments would mean to have received or accepted them. Acceptance and observance of these commandments would demonstrate love for him. The one who thus loved Jesus would be loved by his Father, and Jesus would love the individual and would reveal himself to him. In view of Jesus’ return to his Father, this revealing of himself would be through the spirit. (John 14:21)
Judas (not Iscariot, but the son of James), also called Thaddaeus, asked how it would be that Jesus would be revealing himself to the disciples but not to the world. (John 14:22) His answer indicated that this disclosure depended on a relationship that the world did not have. “If anyone loves me,” said Jesus, “he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling place with him. He who does not love me does not keep my words, and the word that you [plural] are hearing is not mine, but [is that] of the Father who sent me.” (John 14:23, 24)
Only those who love Jesus, loyally adhering to his word or teaching, would have the clear vision of him that would follow the reception of the spirit. The Father would love the person who loved his Son. By means of the spirit, both the Father and the Son would make their home with the individual who faithfully followed the Son’s teaching. That word or teaching did not originate with Jesus but had been received by him from his Father. Therefore, the individual who did not observe Jesus’ words also disregarded his Father who had sent him, and demonstrated himself to be a person having no love for Jesus. Being unreceptive to the spirit by reason of a state of alienation and enmity, such a person could not come to have a clear vision of the Son nor of the Father. Therefore, just as Jesus had said, the world would not see him.
Regarding the teaching he had then imparted to them, Jesus said, “These things I have told you while remaining with you.” (John 14:25) This kind of personal teaching would end after his going away to his Father. From then onward, the paraclete, the holy spirit, to be sent by his Father in his name (or on the basis of his request as God’s unique Son), would teach them everything they would need and recall to their minds everything he had said to them. (John 14:26; see the Notes section for additional comments.)
Jesus’ mention about his departure troubled the disciples. Reassuringly, he told them, “Peace I leave you.” His going away from them was not to occasion disquietude or alarm. Spiritually, the disciples would not experience any lack, and they would have the dependable help and guidance of the paraclete. Continuing, Jesus said, “My peace I give you.” (John 14:27)
This peace was his gift. As recipients thereof, the disciples would enjoy an inner sense of well-being and calm from knowing that he deeply loved them. Jesus’ giving was not like that of the world. (John 14:27; see the Notes section for additional comments.) His giving was an expression of genuine concern and love. Those who are part of the world alienated from the Father often do their giving with impure motives, endeavoring to secure future gain or favors for themselves.
In view of his gift of peace, Jesus admonished the disciples not to allow their hearts to be troubled nor to become fearful. (John 14:27) He thereby implied that his leaving them should not occasion inner alarm, apprehension, uncertainty, or confusion.
Jesus reminded the disciples of what he had said to them, “I am going away, and I am coming to you.” Although the disciples did see Jesus on numerous occasions after his resurrection, his appearances primarily served to show them that he was alive. Often he appeared for just a short time and then vanished. Therefore, the coming to which Jesus referred appears to be the coming by means of the paraclete. This appears to be indicated by the words that follow, which words focus on his again being with his Father and not personally with them. “If you loved me,” Jesus said, “you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I [am].” (John 14:28)
The love of the disciples for Jesus should rightly have moved them to rejoice with him, for he would again be with his Father. As the Son sent by and given the words of the Father to speak, Jesus could say about him, “The Father is greater than I [am].” Upon returning to his Father, Jesus would be the exalted Son to whom his Father had given all authority in heaven and on earth. He would then enjoy the closest relationship possible with his Father, the possessor of unsurpassed greatness. For Jesus’ disciples, his friends, this should have occasioned rejoicing.
By telling them about what would soon be taking place, Jesus provided the disciples with an additional evidence for faith. (John 14:29) Whereas they believed in him as the promised Messiah, the Son of God, his death and resurrection would so overwhelmingly confirm his identity that it would be as if the disciples believed anew, with the strongest conviction possible.
Only a short time remained for Jesus to be with his disciples. Therefore, he told them that he would not be speaking much more to them. The ruler of the world, Satan, was coming, suggesting that Jesus knew that he would shortly face intense assault from the powers of darkness. Confidently, Jesus expressed himself regarding this impending threat, saying that the ruler of the world had “nothing” in him. (John 14:30) Satan had no power over Jesus, for there would be nothing he could get hold of in an effort to sway him from carrying out his Father’s will.
With apparent reference to the surrender of his life in loyal submission to his Father, Jesus spoke of this as the way in which he would show the world that he loved him. For Jesus, his Father’s will constituted his Father’s command. As the loving and obedient Son, he would act on the commandment, which included sacrificing his life. (John 14:31)
The words, “Rise, let us go from here,” do not necessarily indicate an immediate departure from the location where the Passover meal had been eaten. Thereafter Jesus is represented as continuing to speak. Not until a while later did he actually leave with the disciples and head for the Mount of Olives. (John 18:1) Therefore, Jesus’ words about going may have been his way of saying that the time had come for him to surrender his life and of expressing his determination to set out on the course his Father had willed for him.
The holy writings or sacred scriptures with which Jesus’ disciples were familiar included numerous references to the spirit (Hebrew, rúach; Greek, pneúma), God’s spirit, or holy spirit. Like the corresponding Greek word pneúma, the Hebrew term rúach can also mean “wind.” Whereas pneúma is neuter gender, rúach is feminine gender. In the holy writings, the spirit is often mentioned in contexts identifying it as a divine agent or the power emanating from God. (Judges 3:10; 14:6, 19; 15:14; 1 Samuel 11:6; Ezekiel 3:14; 8:3; 11:1; 37:14) For the disciples to have come to a changed understanding about the spirit would have required explicit teaching from God’s Son. In expressing his promise about the paraclete or the spirit of the truth, Jesus’ use of some masculine pronouns would have been far too subtle for the disciples to have come to understand the nature of the spirit differently.
The Hebrew, Syriac, and Aramaic forms of the word “paraclete” came into use through Greek influence and, like the Greek, are masculine gender. According to the idiom of the language in which Jesus spoke to his disciples, he would have used feminine pronouns when referring to the spirit and masculine pronouns when speaking of the paraclete.
Therefore, what has been regarded as a fluctuation of masculine and neuter pronouns in the Greek text of John 14 is best understood as being of a grammatical nature. Where the apparent or intended antecedent is pneúma, the corresponding pronouns are neuter. If, on the other hand, the apparent or intended antecedent is parákletos, the corresponding pronouns are masculine.
In John 14:26, the paraclete (parákletos) is identified as “the holy spirit.” The phrase that follows, in keeping with the neuter gender of “spirit” (pneúma), starts with the neuter pronoun hó (“which [hó] the Father will send in my name”). Then, in agreement with the masculine parákletos, the masculine pronoun ekeínos (“that one” or “he”) begins the concluding part of the sentence (“that one will teach you everything and recall to you everything I said to you”).
The reference to the giving that is not like that of the world does not have a designated object in the Greek text of John 14:27. A number of translations have added “it,” making “peace” the antecedent, and other translations have added the word “peace” as the object of the giving. “I am leaving you with a gift — peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn’t like the peace the world gives.” (NLT) “I give you peace, the kind of peace that only I can give. It isn’t like the peace that this world can give.” (CEV) “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give peace to you as the world gives.” (NLB) According to this meaning, the peace the world gives could be understood to be the kind of seeming well-being and security that is based on attaining positions or possessions and would be temporary.
The world, however, cannot give real peace, the enduring well-being, security, and tranquility that comes from having a relationship with the Son of God and his Father. Some translations render the verse in a way that conveys the inability of the world to give peace. “Peace is my parting gift to you, my own peace, such as the world cannot give.” (REB) “Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you, a peace which the world cannot give, this is my gift to you.” (NJB)
Without an object for “give,” this verb could be understood in a generic sense, indicating that Christ’s giving differs from that of the world. This may be the preferable meaning, considering that it requires no additions to the actual reading of the Greek text.
Illustrating the need for his disciples to be inseparably united to him, Jesus referred to himself as the true vine, his Father as the vine grower, and his disciples as the branches in the vine. (John 15:1, 5) His Father would lop off all unproductive branches and prune (literally, “clean”) fruit-bearing branches so that they might yield more fruit. (John 15:2; see the Notes section for additional comments.)
The word, message, or teaching Jesus imparted to his disciples had already “pruned” or “cleaned” them. They had accepted his word, acting on it by imitating his example and testifying to their faith in him. By their conduct, which reflected favorably on him, and their witness about him, the disciples proved themselves to be productive branches that had been made fruitful through the cleansing power of his word. (John 15:3)
As Jesus remained “in” his disciples, being attached to them, he admonished them to remain “in” him, continuing to be at one with him. Only by remaining part of the vine do branches bear fruit. Likewise, the disciples would only be able to bear good fruit as persons attached to Jesus or at one with him. (John 15:4)
After identifying himself as the vine and his disciples as the branches, Jesus again stressed that the one who remained “in” him (attached like a branch to the vine) and he “in” the individual (attached like the vine to a branch) would bear much fruit. Therefore, apart from him, the disciples could not produce anything, that is, anything which his Father, the vine grower, would consider acceptable fruit. (John 15:5)
The person who failed to remain “in” Jesus or to be attached to him would prove to be like an unproductive branch that is thrown away and the leaves of which wither. Useless branches would be gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. (John 15:6) This indicates that a severe judgment awaits those who forsake Jesus and, in disposition, word, and deed, cease to bear fruit, no longer conducting themselves as persons who recognize him as their Lord.
If the disciples remained “in” or attached to him, and his word or teaching remained in them (being like a deposit in their inmost selves and motivating their thoughts, words, and deeds), whatever they might wish to request would be granted. (John 15:7) In view of their being at one with Jesus and their having made his teaching their own, their asking would have been in harmony with God’s will, and this would have assured their receiving a favorable response to their petitions.
Ultimately, when Jesus’ disciples bore much fruit in word and deed, and proved themselves to be his faithful disciples by advancing his interests, his Father would be glorified or honored. (John 15:8)
Just as the Father loved him, the Son loved the disciples. His appeal to them was, “Remain in my love.” For them to continue in his love would require that they keep his commandments, adhering to his teaching in their life as his disciples. Jesus had set the example for them. He had kept his Father’s commandments and thus had remained in his love. (John 15:9, 10)
The reason Jesus spoke about their remaining in his love by keeping his commandments was so that he might find joy in them. On seeing their faithfulness in bearing much fruit and proving themselves to be his disciples, he would rejoice. Their responsiveness to his word would occasion joy. At the same time, their joy would be made complete. (John 15:11) They would experience the inner contentment from knowing that they were pleasing to him as their Lord and, therefore, also to his Father. Upon attaining their reward, the disciples would attain the ultimate fullness of joy.
Jesus’ principal command for them was, “Love one another as I have loved you.” This called for a self-sacrificing and selfless love, a love that expressed itself in finding delight in serving others. Jesus’ love for them surpassed anything they had ever experienced. As he told them, “No one has greater love than this, that someone give up his soul [life] for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you [to do].” By acting on his command to love one another, they would prove themselves to be his friends, loving as he loved. (John 15:12-14)
Although Jesus was their Lord, he did not treat them in a manner that resembled a master-slave relationship. As he said, “I am not still calling you slaves, for a slave does not know what his master is doing. But I have called you friends, for I have made known to you everything I have heard from my Father.” (John 15:15) In a master-slave relationship, the master primarily issued commands to the slave. He did not treat him as a confidential friend to whom he would have entrusted precious intimate thoughts. The slave primarily obeyed his master out of a sense of duty and fear. Jesus, however, disclosed the teaching of his Father, teaching that he had received as his Father’s dearly beloved and unique Son. Being acknowledged friends of Jesus, the disciples would be motivated to heed his commands because they loved him.
The disciples had not chosen Jesus, granting him the authority to be their Lord and Teacher. He had chosen them to be his disciples and his apostles. His purpose for choosing them was that they might go and bear fruit and that this fruit would remain. They would be going out among the people, and their fruit in the form of words and deeds would move others to accept their testimony about Jesus and put their faith in him. Accordingly, these believers would prove to be the enduring or remaining produce of the apostles’ faithful service. The labors of the apostles yielded fruit that has remained to the present time, for throughout the centuries many have put faith in their testimony and have acted on it. When fulfilling the purpose for their being chosen, the disciples would also have an approved relationship with his Father. So, as Jesus indicated, their fruit bearing would assure that the requests they directed to the Father in Jesus’ name (in recognition of who the Son truly is) would be granted. (John 15:16) In carrying out their commission, the disciples would need the courage to speak with boldness, the strength to endure hostility, and the wisdom to express themselves appropriately and effectively. They could be confident that their petitions respecting the accomplishment of their assigned service would be answered.
Indicative of the prime importance of love, Jesus is quoted as again saying, “These things I am commanding you, that you love one another.” (John 15:17)
In the world of mankind alienated from the Father, they would not find the love they were to enjoy among themselves. They would be hated. If or when this happened, they should be able to understand it, for they knew that the world hated Jesus before expressing its hatred against them. If they were part of the world, living as persons without faith in the Son and, therefore, also without faith in the Father, the unbelievers of the world would love them as their own. Although living in the world of mankind, the disciples were not from that world. Their thoughts, words, and deeds were focused on proving themselves to be Jesus’ disciples. He had chosen them out of the world, no longer to be a part of it in its unbelief and its ways that did not honor his Father. As persons who had ceased to be part of the world, the disciples were objects of its hatred. (John 15:18, 19)
In relation to their encountering the world’s hatred, Jesus wanted them to remember what he had told them previously, “A slave is not greater than his master.” (Compare Matthew 10:24, Luke 6:40, and John 13:16.) Therefore, they should expect the same kind of response and treatment as Jesus had experienced. As he said, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word [accepting his teaching and observing it], they will also keep yours.” (John 15:20)
Whatever hostility or mistreatment the disciples were to experience would be on account of Jesus’ name or because of their being identified as belonging to him as his disciples. The hateful reaction and treatment would result because those who persisted in unbelief did not “know” the Father who had sent his Son. They did not recognize the Father in the Son, revealing that they had no relationship with him. (John 15:21)
If Jesus had not come and labored among them and spoken to them, “they,” according to his words, “would have no sin.” But he did labor and teach among them, leaving them without any excuse for their sin—their persistence in unbelief and hatred of him. His example in love, compassionately bringing relief to the sick and afflicted, and his teaching gave them no basis for their hateful response. The clear evidence of God’s spirit working through the Son in the accomplishment of good served to condemn their unbelief and hostility. Without this overwhelming evidence, they would have been acting out of ignorance and so would not have had the sin of deliberate unbelief charged against them. (John 15:22, 24)
When hating Jesus, the unbelievers also hated the Father who deeply loved his Son. No one else had done the works that Jesus did among them. If he had not done these marvelous works that resulted in relief for many suffering fellow Jews, the unbelievers would not have had sin. They could not have taken a hostile stand despite evidence of good deeds, for they would not have witnessed these works. Having, however, seen Jesus and the works he did, they nevertheless hated him and his Father (the very one whose works Jesus was performing and whose teaching he was conveying). This fulfilled the “word” of the “law” (in this case seemingly meaning words in the holy writings that had the authority or validity of law), “They hated me without cause.” (John 15:23-25) These words of Psalm 69:4 (68:5, LXX) found their full meaning in the hatred Jesus experienced.
With the aid of the paraclete, the spirit of the truth, the apostles would be able to discharge their commission to testify concerning Jesus. He would send the paraclete from the Father, the one from whom this helper or “the spirit of the truth” proceeded. Upon arriving, the paraclete or helper would testify about Jesus. This testimony would have included opening up to the minds of the apostles how the words of the holy writings and everything Jesus had said to them beforehand had been fulfilled in him. With the spirit operating within them, the apostles would then be in a position to testify concerning Jesus, for they had been with him from the time he began his ministry among the people. The spirit would recall to their minds the things he had said, and they would be able to convey his teaching to others. (John 15:26, 27; see the Notes section for additional comments on verse 26.)
In John 15:2, the Greek term used for the removal of an unproductive branch is aíro, literally meaning “to raise” or “to lift up” but here signifying “to remove” or “to take away.” The Greek word for “clean” or “prune” is kathaíro. The use of the two Greek words suggests a play on words (aíro — kathaíro).
The designation “paraclete” (parákletos) at the start of John 15:26, as in John chapter 14, is best understood to mean “helper.” In agreement with its masculine gender, the apparent or intended antecedent parákletos is followed by pronouns in the masculine gender. This is so even though the parenthetical expression that includes the neuter noun pneúma with its corresponding neuter pronoun hó (“the spirit (pneúma) of the truth, which [hó] proceeds from the Father”) separates parákletos and the accompanying phrase (“whom [hón, the masculine pronoun] I will send you from the Father”) from the conclusion of the sentence. Without the parenthetical words about the spirit, the sentence would read, “When the helper arrives, whom I will send you from the Father, that one [or he; the masculine pronoun ekeínos] will testify about me.”
Initially, Jesus did not tell his disciples about the hatred that would be directed against them because of being his disciples. He did not want to stumble them, frightening them to the point that their fragile faith could have given out. (John 16:1)
With the passage of time, their faith had grown and become stronger. Moreover, in view of his imminent departure, Jesus recognized that it was essential for them to know what they would be experiencing. They would be expelled from the synagogues. The hour or time would come when unbelievers would imagine that they were serving God by killing the disciples. (John 16:2) Unbelieving fellow Jews would come to view them as apostates, as persons who were followers of a false Messiah and who posed a threat to the traditional Jewish ways. As the book of Acts reveals, murderous hatred flared up because of regarding the disciples as speaking against Moses, the temple, and the law. (Acts 6:13, 14; 21:27-31) Based on the penalty the law set forth for apostasy, they would have regarded themselves as doing God’s will by killing the disciples. (Deuteronomy 13:6-10)
The hateful action of unbelievers would stem from their knowing neither the Father nor Jesus. Their traditional views blinded them so that they could not perceive the things of God. Unable to see in Jesus the perfect reflection of his Father, they could not recognize him as the Son of God and so could not possibly know the Father whom they had never seen. (John 16:3)
The “hour” or time was bound to come when the disciples would face persecution and even death. Having been prepared in advance for this, they would then recall what Jesus had told them. While he was with them, the hatred was primarily directed at him, and he came to their defense when others raised an issue about them. (Compare Matthew 12:1-8; 15:1-9.) Therefore, it was not vital for them to know at the start just what might happen to them because of being his disciples. As Jesus said, “I did not tell you these things from the beginning, for I was with you.” (John 16:4)
The situation would soon be different. Jesus would be going back to the one who had sent him, his Father. Earlier, Peter had asked, “Lord, where are you going?” (John 13:36) Thomas, in response to Jesus’ telling the apostles that they knew the way to the place where he was going, said, “Lord, we do not know where you are going.” (John 14:5) In neither case, however, were the words focused on what this would mean for Jesus. Peter’s question related to why he would not be able to follow, and the words of Thomas indicated that the disciples did not know the way to the place where Jesus was going. With apparent reference in relation to himself, Jesus said, “Not one of you asks me, Where are you going? But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.” (John 16:5, 6) Within themselves, they were pained upon hearing that Jesus would no longer be with them. Overwhelmed by their sadness, they did not reflect on what it would mean for him to return to his Father. Therefore, they did not make any inquiry about where Jesus would be going or concerning anything else that specifically related to him in connection with this departure.
In view of their sadness, Jesus reassured them, “I am telling you the truth, It is better for you that I am going away; for if I do not go away, the paraclete will not come to you.” Upon going away, Jesus would send them the paraclete. As a man on earth, he dealt with the limitations human existence imposed. His activity was confined to a comparatively small geographic area, and he could only be with them in one specific location at a time. The paraclete, however, would be with them at all times and in every location where they would be spreading the message about the Son of God. Accordingly, from the standpoint of what would be accomplished, it was really in the best interests of the apostles for him to depart and for them to benefit from the paraclete or from another helper. (John 16:7)
As to what would be accomplished through the powerful working of the paraclete, Jesus said, “That one [ekeínos, masculine gender to agree with the masculine gender of paraclete (parákletos)] will reprove the world about sin and about righteousness and about judgment.” (John 16:8) Jesus then explained the way in which the paraclete would reprove the world, exposing the wrong of those who persisted in unbelief.
They were guilty of sin, rejecting the clear evidence that Jesus was indeed the Son of God. This evidence included his miraculous works (healing the sick, restoring sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and soundness of body to the crippled and the lame, and raising the dead). With God’s spirit operating through them, the apostles would perform like miraculous works, further confirming the sin of the world’s refusal to believe in Jesus to be inexcusable. (John 16:9)
Unbelievers misrepresented the Son of God, slandering him as being a man in league with the demons, a lawbreaker, and a deceiver. (Compare Matthew 12:24; 27:63; Luke 23:2.) His return to his Father and, therefore, his disciples’ no longer seeing him proved that he was righteous in every way. At the same time, this revealed that a right standing with his Father could only be obtained through faith in him and the forgiveness made possible through his sacrificial death. The imparting of the spirit to the disciples established that he had returned to his Father and received the spirit from him. Empowered by the spirit, the disciples boldly testified that Jesus had been raised from the dead and exalted to the right hand of God and that, through him alone, forgiveness of sins was possible. (Acts 2:33, 36, 38; 3:14-21; 5:29-32; 13:27-39) Thus their testimony, backed by miracles, proved to be the spirit’s witness about righteousness. (John 16:10)
Through his death in faithfulness to his Father, Jesus defeated the powers of darkness. This, too, would be a feature of the spirit’s testimony. It would be a witness about judgment, for the ruler of the world had been condemned and exposed as unable to turn Jesus away from doing his Father’s will. (John 16:11) No longer could Satan hold people in slavery by means of the fear of death. (Hebrews 2:14, 15) The visible manifestation of the spirit’s operation through the disciples bore witness to the reality of Jesus’ resurrection, exaltation, and triumph over the power of the enemy, proving that Satan had been judged. This also confirmed that Jesus would be the judge of all, both the upright and the unjust. (Acts 17:31) All who defiantly persisted in unbelief would, like Satan, be condemned. (Compare Matthew 25:41.)
Jesus wanted to tell the apostles much more, but he knew that they were then not prepared to “bear” it. (John 16:12) This suggests that they would have been troubled or overwhelmed, unable to comprehend his words.
With the arrival of the paraclete, the spirit of the truth, they would come to understand, being guided into all the truth. Everything that would be conveyed to them would be completely trustworthy and would meet their needs. The paraclete would not be functioning independently (speaking “of his own”) but would be reliably making known what had been heard from Jesus and ultimately from the Father and would declare or reveal things to come. In the context of Jesus’ words, the “things coming” appear to relate to what lay ahead for him, and the spirit would enable the apostles to see how the Scriptures and his words were fulfilled. (Compare John 2:22.) Through the spirit, the Son would be glorified or honored, for the spirit would be announcing or revealing what had been received from him. (John 16:13, 14)
As the unique Son, Jesus shared everything with his Father. “Everything the Father has,” Jesus said, “is mine.” Therefore, although the Father is the ultimate source of the spirit, Jesus could say that the paraclete received from what is his and then would make announcement to the apostles. (John 16:15)
Again indicating why the apostles would need another paraclete or helper, Jesus reminded them about a change to come. In a little while, they would no longer see him, and then in a little while they would see him. (John 16:16)
This puzzled the disciples, and some of them talked among themselves as to what he meant about not being seen and then being seen, and regarding the words “because I am going to the Father.” They found it impossible to comprehend what he meant respecting “a little while” and concluded that they did not know what he was talking about. (John 16:17, 18)
Discerning that the disciples wanted to ask him about what he had said, Jesus illustrated the developments that lay ahead. After expressing his solemn introductory words, “Amen, amen [Truly, truly], I say to you,” Jesus told the apostles that they would weep and mourn, but the world of unbelievers would rejoice. Whereas they were pained, their pain or sadness would be changed to joy. When the hour or time has come, a woman, during the birthing process, experiences pain. After the birth of the baby, however, she does not remember the distress but is happy that a boy has been brought into the world. (John 16:19-21)
Applying the illustration about the woman, Jesus said that while the disciples were then experiencing pain or sadness (with apparent reference to his departure), they would see him again. Their “heart” or they, in their inmost selves, would rejoice upon seeing him, and no one would be able to take their joy away. After his resurrection, the disciples did see Jesus again, and this filled them with boundless joy. Having been given the evidence that he was alive, their joy continued, with no one able to rob them of it by wrecking their faith in him and his word. Moreover, as their resurrected Lord, with all power in heaven and on earth having been granted to him, he would be able to respond to their appeals even after his return to his Father. (John 16:22)
“In that day,” seemingly referring to the time when he would again be with his Father, Jesus said that the disciples would not ask him anything. This may mean that all things would become clear to them, as they would have another helper, the spirit. Moreover, Jesus would continue to be concerned about them. Up to this particular point, they had not made any appeals in his name or in recognition of his being their Lord. Jesus now, with a solemn assurance (“Amen, amen [Truly, truly], I say to you”) told the disciples to ask in his name or on the basis of his authority, and they would receive the things for which they made their requests. This would result in their joy being made complete. All such requests would of necessity harmonize with the divine will and be directed to the Father in recognition of the Son. (John 16:23, 24; for another possible meaning of John 16:23 about not asking anything, see the Notes section.)
Jesus had used figures of speech when talking to the disciples, but he told them that the “hour” or time would be coming when he would no longer do so. He would use clear or plain speech when telling them about the Father. (John 16:25)
“In that day” or at that future time, the disciples would make their appeals in Jesus’ name or in full recognition of his authority. This, however, did not mean that Jesus would have to ask his Father to respond to the prayers of his disciples. As Jesus said, “I am not saying that I shall ask the Father about you.” (John 16:26) This would not be required, for the Father himself loved the disciples because they loved his Son and believed that he had come from him. (John 16:27)
When coming into the world of mankind, Jesus came from the Father. His departure meant that he would be leaving the world and returning to him. (John 16:28) In view of Jesus’ clear statement that he would be going back to his Father, the disciples appear to have understood his words. This prompted them to acknowledge that he had spoken to them plainly and not in figures of speech. (John 16:29)
Jesus had known that the disciples wanted to ask him about what he had meant when telling them that, in a little while, they would not see him and then, in a little while, they would see him again. He answered the question they had wanted to ask. His having done so appears to be the reason they said, “Now we know that you know everything, and you do not need to have anyone question you. On this account, we believe that you came from God.” The disciples realized that, even without a question being asked directly, Jesus would be able to anticipate it and provide the answer. They saw in what he had done for them clear evidence that he had come from God. (John 16:30)
Jesus, though, also knew the great test that lay ahead for the disciples and so raised the question, “Do you now believe?” While they had expressed their belief or faith in him, the “hour” or time would be coming and had, in fact, come when each of them would be scattered to his own place (not remaining together for mutual strengthening) and would leave him alone. Jesus, however, would not be alone, for his Father would still be with him. (John 16:31, 32)
The Son of God had prepared his disciples in advance for what would take place. “In” him or by being united to him, they would have peace, an inner calm and sense of well-being from knowing that they were loved by him and his Father and were objects of their concern and care. In the world of unbelievers, they would experience distress, persecution and intense hostility. Still, they could be courageous, for Jesus, their Lord, proved himself greater than the world. The world of mankind that was in a state of alienation from his Father had no power over him. Despite all the assaults directed against him, Jesus had not yielded. In loyal submission to his Father’s will, he would be surrendering his life. Thus, ultimately through his death, he would defeat the world and be triumphant as the unconquered one. With complete confidence, therefore, Jesus could say, “I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33)
As in John chapters 14 and 15, so also in chapter 16, masculine pronouns are used when the apparent or intended antecedent is “paraclete” (parákletos). The Greek word for “spirit” (pneúma) is neuter gender, and this explains why both masculine and neuter pronouns appear in the narration that includes Jesus’ words about the paraclete, the “spirit of the truth.”
In John 16:23, the “asking” could either refer to asking questions or to making requests. If requests, petitions, or appeals are meant, this would indicate that it would not be necessary to direct these to Jesus in order to receive a favorable hearing, for the Father would respond to all requests made in the name of his Son. This significance is explicit in the New Century Version, “In that day you will not ask me for anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you anything you ask for in my name.”
After having finished speaking to the apostles, Jesus raised his eyes heavenward and began to pray. Only a shift in his visual focus ended his speaking to the apostles and started his praying, indicative of how natural it was for Jesus to address his Father and of the intimate relationship existing between them. His mentioning the hour that had come referred to the imminent completion of his ministry on earth and the sacrificial surrender of his life in submission to his Father’s will. (John 17:1)
Jesus’ petition, “Glorify your Son, that the Son [your Son, according to numerous manuscripts] may glorify you,” constituted a request to be honored subsequent to the humiliation of a shameful execution. This glorification would have included everything that revealed him to be the Son of God. Awesome signs accompanied his death. After his resurrection from the dead on the third day, he returned to his Father. Thus honored in keeping with his petition, Jesus glorified his Father through what he had accomplished in carrying out the commission entrusted to him. (John 17:1)
The Father had granted his Son authority over all flesh or the entire human family. This authority was bound up with his sacrificial death, which provided the basis for liberating humans from sin and the consequences from sin, namely, death. Through his death, Jesus would purchase or redeem the human race. By his Father’s giving him those whom he redeemed, Jesus would be able to give them eternal life. (John 17:2)
He referred to eternal life as being a life distinguished by an enduring relationship with him and his Father. It is a knowing of the Father as the only true God and Jesus Christ as the one whom he had sent. This “knowing” is an intimate relationship of oneness with the Father and his Son. A life that harmonizes with Jesus’ example and teaching and so also with his Father’s will confirms the existence of this relationship. Recognizing that Jesus had been sent by the Father would require acknowledging the reason for his being sent, putting faith in him, and accepting the atoning benefits of his sacrificial death. Being a relationship that does not end, the life that is distinguished by a relationship with the Father and his Son is eternal and will be enjoyed in the complete sense in the sinless state. In that state, the most intimate knowing of the Father and the Son will be possible. (John 17:3)
Jesus could speak of his having glorified or honored his Father, for he had completed the work he had been given to do. The surrender of his life being at hand, he could rightly refer to the full accomplishment of the work. Upon faithfully carrying out everything that his coming to the earth required, Jesus made it possible for humans to become reconciled to his Father. Moreover, through his words and deeds, Jesus flawlessly revealed him. (John 17:4)
He prayed that his Father would glorify him, granting him the “glory,” splendor, honor, or dignity he had before coming to the earth and which he had alongside him before the world existed. (John 17:5) The glory he previously had was one of being in the very form of his Father, a magnificence that transcended that of all the angels or the other sons of God. (Philippians 2:6)
When acknowledging his Father as the one who had given him the apostles out of the world of mankind, Jesus spoke of having made known his Father’s name (the person of the Father, the one whom the name represented). As his Father’s unique Son, he revealed him in a manner that no one else could have done. Jesus spoke his Father’s words and did his Father’s works. In his activity and interactions, he flawlessly reflected his Father’s zeal for what is right, fair, or just, and manifested his Father’s mighty and beneficent power, concern and care, compassion, and love. Again referring to the apostles as belonging to and having been given to him by his Father, Jesus added, “They have kept your word.” (John 17:6; see the Notes section for additional comments.) He imparted the “word” or teaching that he had received from his Father to the apostles, and they responded to it in faith. They recognized Jesus as their Lord and heeded his word, which in the ultimate sense was his Father’s word.
The apostles came to know that everything that had been given to Jesus had been received from his Father. This was so because of what Jesus had taught them and his identifying his Father as the source of his teaching. (Compare John 7:16-18.) They accepted Jesus’ words, observing them as having come from his Father. Through the words or teaching Jesus imparted to them, the apostles recognized that he had come from his Father and came to believe that his Father had sent him. (John 17:7, 8)
At this time, Jesus did not pray regarding the world that persisted in unbelief but for the apostles, whom the Father had given him and to whom they belonged. Indicating that his Father had the same care and concern he did, Jesus acknowledged, “Everything of mine is yours, and yours [is] mine; and I have been glorified in them.” (John 17:9, 10) Although the apostles belonged to Jesus, they also belonged to his Father, and so would be objects of his Father’s love and concern. By believing in Jesus, they had glorified or honored him as God’s beloved Son. In view of his imminent departure, he deeply cared about them and prayed for them.
Though Jesus would no longer be in the world and would be returning to his Father, the disciples would continue to live in the world, facing the pressures and trials associated with a world in a state of alienation from and at enmity with the Father. Therefore, Jesus made his appeal, “Holy Father, look after them in your name which you have given me, that they be one as we are [one].” (John 17:11)
Being pure in the absolute sense, the Father is holy, and his name identifies him as the God of love, one who deeply cares for his own. The name represents or stands for him. Therefore, if the reference to giving his name to his Son preserves the original reading of the Greek text, this could relate to the Father’s intimate relationship with him, a relationship of oneness stemming from the Father’s having given himself to his Son. (See the Notes section regarding John 17:11.) It would then be the inseparable oneness Jesus enjoyed with his Father that he desired the apostles to share.
While he had been with the apostles, Jesus looked out for them. He did so in his Father’s name. This could mean that he did so on the basis of the authority that his Father had granted him. Jesus’ watchful care meant that all except the “son of destruction” had been safeguarded. To fulfill the scripture that a close associate would betray Jesus (Psalm 41:9; John 13:18), Judas Iscariot alone was lost. By choosing a course that led to his ruin, Judas proved himself to be a “son of destruction.” (John 17:12; see the Notes section for additional comments.)
Although he would be returning to his Father, Jesus wanted the apostles to share in his joy. So, while he was still in the world, he expressed himself in prayer as he did. The things he had said centered on his having revealed the Father to them and their relationship to him and to his Father. Jesus’ prayerful words would also have assured the apostles of his Father’s watching over them. Their knowing that they belonged to the Father and were recipients of his loving care would have contributed to their ceasing to be troubled about Jesus’ no longer being with them. This would have enabled them to share in his joy to the full. They could then rejoice in the victory he attained through his death, a triumph that brought liberation from sin to those who put faith in him and spelled defeat for the powers of darkness. Moreover, his again being with his Father as the one to whom all authority in heaven and on earth had been granted would fill them with joy. (John 17:13)
Jesus had given the word of his Father to the apostles, imparting to them the Father’s teaching. That teaching revealed Jesus to be the unique Son of God. In his own person, Jesus revealed the Father to the fullest extent possible. The apostles had embraced the “word” or teaching in faith, ceasing to be part of the world of unbelievers who were alienated from and at enmity with the Father. Therefore, the world hated the apostles, for, like Jesus their Lord, they were no part of it. (John 17:14)
As objects of the world’s hatred, the apostles needed divine aid. Jesus did not pray for them to be taken out of the world and thereby to escape the trials and pressures from a world in opposition to him. Instead, he appealed to his Father to watch over them on account of the evil one. Though no part of the world, just as Jesus was no a part thereof, they would be advancing his interests in the world of mankind. As a result, they would be subject to the attacks of the evil one or the devil. (John 17:15, 16)
In view of their commission, Jesus prayed that his Father would sanctify the apostles “in the truth.” For them to be sanctified meant that they would be set apart for a holy or sacred service. The expression “in the truth” could be understood to mean in the sphere of the truth, suggestive of a life set apart for the advancement of this truth and a life that harmonized therewith. Jesus referred to his Father’s word as being truth and earlier that night spoke of himself as the truth. (John 14:6) So the truth is the teaching which Jesus had received from his Father and which he then imparted to his disciples by his words and deeds. As the perfect reflection of his Father, the Son was the embodiment of the truth about him. For the furtherance of this truth, the revelation of the Father in the Son, the apostles would be set apart to serve. (John 17:17)
The Father had sent Jesus to minister in the world of mankind. Jesus likewise sent his disciples to labor in the world. (John 17:18) He had sanctified himself or set himself apart for them. In submission to his Father’s will, he faithfully imparted his Father’s teaching and was about to surrender his life. Accordingly, as one set apart to do his Father’s will, Jesus acted for the benefit of the disciples. They received his teaching and, on the basis of his sacrificial death and their faith in him, came to be the Father’s sons and Christ’s brothers. So, by what Jesus did in sanctifying himself for them, they were sanctified “in [the] truth” or set apart to serve in advancing the truth (the truth from the Father and revealed through the Son). (John 17:19)
Jesus did not limit his prayerful request to the apostles, but included all who would come to believe in him on the basis of the “word” or message they would proclaim. (John 17:20) The objective for all those putting their faith in him would be that they would form a united whole, enjoying the same oneness that Jesus had with his Father. With all believers being at one with Jesus and his Father, testimony would be given to the world that the Father had sent the Son. Thus the basis would be provided for the world of mankind or for the people to believe in Jesus as the one whom God had sent. (John 17:21)
The glory the Father had given him, Jesus gave to the apostles. This glory, splendor, or dignity appears to relate specifically to Jesus’ being the Son of God. In John 1:14, this glory is described as that of a father’s only or unique son, and Jesus granted those who believed in him the authority or right to be God’s children. (John 1:12) This bestowal of sonship is an honor or dignity of unparalleled greatness. In coming to be part of the family of the Father’s beloved children, a marvelous unity comes into being. Jesus expressed this objective regarding the apostles to his Father, “that they be one as we are one; I in [at one with them] them and you in [at one with] me, that they may be fully one.” (John 17:22) This perfect oneness or unity would provide the basis for the world of mankind to know that the Father had sent the Son and loved the disciples (those who had been granted the honor of being his children on the basis of their faith in his Son) just as he loved him. (John 17:23)
It appears that particularly regarding “what” the Father had given him as the unique Son (provided the oldest extant manuscripts preserve the original reading of the text), Jesus wanted the apostles to be where he was. This would make it possible for them to see the glory or the greatness of the dignity that his Father had given him as the exalted Son with all authority in heaven and on earth. The glory that he would have upon his return to his Father would be an evidence of his Father’s love. This love existed “before the founding of the world” or from the very start and continued throughout the ages. (John 17:24; see the Notes section for additional comments.)
The world had not come to know the Father, the one who is righteous, just, or impartial in all his dealings. Humans who were part of the unbelieving world were in a state of alienation from and at enmity with him. They had no relationship with the Father and so could not possibly know him. Jesus, however, knew his Father as his beloved Son, and the apostles came to know that the Father had sent him. (John 17:25)
During the time he was with the apostles, Jesus made known his Father’s name (that is, the person of the Father, the bearer of the name) to them. As the perfect reflection of his Father, Jesus revealed him through his words and actions. His prayer expressed the resolve to continue making his Father’s name known or revealing him to the apostles. After his resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples and opened up their minds to a fuller understanding respecting himself and so also regarding his Father. (Compare Luke 24:26, 27, 32.) Upon returning to him, Jesus continued to reveal his Father by means of the paraclete, “the spirit of the truth.” His making him known was for the purpose that the apostles might have within them the love with which his Father loved him. Through Jesus’ love for them, they would come to experience his Father’s love and, therefore, the love with which he loved his Son. This would also serve to have Jesus “in them” or inseparably attached to them in love. With the Father’s love dwelling in them, the apostles would respond in love for him and for his Son. (John 17:26)
The name of God expresses everything he is. Therefore, in making known the name, Jesus revealed his Father’s personality and attributes—his matchless and beneficent power (as, for example, when Jesus raised the dead), compassion and love (exemplified in Jesus’ response to the afflicted and to repentant sinners), and justice (through Jesus’ exposure of harshness, oppressiveness, and mistreatment). To his apostles and other disciples, Jesus disclosed how they could become his Father’s children and thus revealed him as the loving Father with whom they could have an intimate family relationship as persons forgiven of their sins. In what the Father had made possible through him, Jesus revealed the Father in a way that far transcended what had been set forth in the existing holy writings with which the apostles were familiar. After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to heaven, the paraclete or the holy spirit aided the apostles to understand everything he had said and done. In this way, he (as expressed in his prayer) continued to make known his Father’s name, and the apostles came to have a fuller understanding of the Father, their relationship to him, and his boundless love in sending his Son to the earth. (John 17:6, 26)
For John 17:11, manuscript readings vary. There are ancient Latin, Syriac and Coptic manuscripts that do not include the words, “which you have given me, that they be one as we are [one].” Certain other manuscripts read, “whom [referring to the apostles] you have given me.” This would mean that Jesus prayed that his Father safeguard the apostles in his own name or in keeping with everything his name represented, the God who he is.
Ancient manuscript readings of John 17:12 introduce the phrase “you have given me” with either “which” (applying to God’s name) or “whom” (referring to the apostles).
In John 17:24, the oldest extant manuscripts read, “which you have given me.” Many later manuscripts, however, indicate the reference to be to the apostles (“whom you have given me”).
According to ancient Jewish sources, the Passover meal could only be eaten until midnight. (Tosefta, Pesahim 5:13) So it may have been around midnight that Jesus and the apostles sang the concluding portion of the Hallel (possibly Psalms 115 through 118) and then headed for the Mount of Olives. Leaving Jerusalem, they descended to the Kidron valley, crossed it, and then ascended the western slope of the Mount of Olives. (Matthew 26:30, 36; Mark 14:26; John 18:1) Although knowing that he would be betrayed, Jesus did not alter his customary routine. (Luke 22:39)
Arriving at a place called Gethsemane, he and the apostles entered a garden. After telling the others to seat themselves, probably near the area where they entered, Jesus had Peter, James, and John accompany him to a more distant location in the garden where he intended to pray. It may have been before leaving the other apostles behind that he told them to pray in order not succumb to temptation. In view of his earlier comments that all of them would be stumbled on his account, they may have understood that the temptation pertained to circumstances that might induce them to disown him. (Matthew 26:36, 37; Mark 14:32, 33; Luke 22:40; see the Notes section for other comments.)
It may have been close to one o’clock in the morning when Jesus left for a place to pray, and the apostles would have been very tired. Upon becoming distressed and experiencing an inner upheaval, Jesus said to Peter, James, and John, “My soul is [I myself am] greatly distressed, [even] to death. Stay here and remain awake with me.” He then walked on a little farther (“a stone’s throw” or the distance one might customarily toss a stone), dropped to his knees, and prostrated himself, with his face touching the ground. He then began to pray. (Matthew 26:38, 39; Mark 14:34, 35; Luke 22:41)
Earlier that night, Jesus had told the apostles that the ruler of the world would be coming. (John 14:30) The great distress that Jesus experienced in the garden and the intensity of his repeated prayer suggest that he was then subjected to a severe mental assault from the powers of darkness. This was the culminating hour for the devil to try to sway him from carrying out his Father’s will respecting the “cup” or the portion meant for him. For Jesus to partake from that “cup” would mean that he would be viciously abused, humiliated, tortured, and die an excruciating death that would portray him as a vile criminal.
He knew that this was his Father’s arrangement for reconciling humans to himself. It would reveal the depth of his Father’s love for humankind. The Father thereby demonstrated that he so much wanted them to be his children that he did not even spare his own Son to reach their deepest emotions, appealing to them to respond in faith or unqualified trust to his way for having their sins forgiven. For those who would put faith in Jesus’ sacrificial death for them, the recognition of the greatness of the Father’s love would be beyond compare. They would deeply feel that the Father and his Son did this for them personally in expression of their love.
At the same time, the suffering that Jesus experienced would serve to reveal the seriousness of sin. Flawed humans tend to have a dulled sense for what is wrong or hurtful and are prone to justify attitudes, words, or actions that are morally corrupt.
Nothing less than the greatest sacrifice could accomplish what was essential to bring sinful humans into a proper family relationship with the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. Upon coming to recognize sin in all its hideousness and the greatness of divine love, sinful humans would be able to respond with the kind of faith or trust that our heavenly Father desires his approved children to have.
The reconciliation of humans with the Father was diametrically opposed to the devil’s aim. If there had been another way in which Jesus would have been able to accomplish his Father’s purpose, he would have preferred that. If it had been possible, he would have wanted the horrific “hour” or time to pass from him. His prayer, though, indicated that he did not yield to any assault from the powers of darkness. “Abba, Father,” he prayed, “all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me, but not what I want but what you [want].” (Mark 14:35, 36; see the Notes section regarding Matthew 26:39 and Luke 22:42.) Jesus’ words reflected complete submission to his Father’s will for him.
He then rose and went to the place where the disciples were. Finding them asleep, he directed his words to Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping? Were you not able to stay awake one hour [probably meaning a short time]?” Addressing all three apostles, Jesus continued, “Stay awake and pray, that you do not come into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:37, 38) In “spirit,” or in their desired inclination under the circumstances, the apostles would have wanted to remain awake, but the limitations their human frailty imposed on them made this impossible. (Matthew 26:40, 41)
After going away from them, Jesus prayed a second time, “My Father, if this cannot pass [from me] unless I drink it [partake of the portion that had been determined for him], your will take place.” (Matthew 26:42; Mark 14:39) When returning to the three apostles, he again found them asleep. They could not keep their eyes open (literally, “their eyes were weighed down” or “heavy”). (Matthew 26:43) In their sleepy state, they were in no position to answer or to respond to Jesus. (Mark 14:40) After going away from them, he prayed a third time that his Father’s will to be done. (Matthew 26:44)
According to numerous manuscripts, Luke 22:43 relates that an angel or messenger from heaven (not a human messenger) came to strengthen Jesus. Regarding his praying, Luke 22:44 says, “And having come to be in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like drops of blood falling upon the ground.” If preserving an original account (despite being missing in the oldest extant manuscripts [late second-century or early third-century P75, probably also third-century P69, fourth-century Codex Vaticanus, and a corrector’s reading of fourth-century Codex Sinaiticus]), the incident about the angel is probably to be associated with Jesus’ third prayer. The reference to the sweat may mean that the perspiration flowed from his forehead like drops of blood from a cut. Another possibility is that the extreme emotional stress to which Jesus had been subjected caused blood to seep through his skin and come to be mingled with his sweat. This, however, seems less likely, as it happens rarely and, in the dark, discolored sweat could not have been distinguished from the usual perspiration.
When Jesus approached the apostles for the third time, they were still asleep. His words to them about sleeping and resting indicated that, at this critical juncture, they needed to be awake. The “hour” or time had arrived for the Son of Man to be delivered into the hands of sinners. (Matthew 26:45; Mark 14:41) According to Luke 22:45, sorrow or distress contributed to the sleepy state of the apostles. (See the Notes section regarding Luke 22:46.) This sadness appears to have been because Jesus told them earlier about his leaving them. (John 16:6, 7)
As the betrayer, Judas Iscariot, was about to arrive with an armed crowd who had come to seize him, Jesus said to Peter, James, and John, “Rise, let us go. See! The one betraying me is approaching.” (Matthew 26:46; Mark 14:42) Based on the narrative in John chapter 18, this did not mean that Jesus planned to escape, leaving and, as on earlier occasions when his life was in danger, concealing himself. His prayer had been answered. Through loyal submission to his Father’s will, he had defeated the powers of darkness. So he would “go,” willingly and courageously facing those who had come to arrest him.
Luke chapter 22 does not mention that Jesus took only Peter, James, and John with him when setting out for a place to pray. Therefore, it is not certain whether the words of Luke 22:40 about praying so as to not enter into temptation were directed to the apostles whom he told to seat themselves or to Peter, James, and John. In Luke 22:46, the thought regarding praying to avoid succumbing to temptation is repeated, “Rise, pray, that you do not enter into temptation.” This appears to relate to the third time Jesus found Peter, James, and John asleep. The condensed nature of Luke’s account, however, does not make it possible to be certain about which time it was and to whom the words were directed (either to Peter, James, and John, to all the apostles, or to the apostles who were situated closer to the garden entrance).
Matthew 26:39, Mark 14:36, and Luke 22:42 express the thoughts of Jesus’ prayer, but the wording is not identical. This is understandable, for the actual words would not have been spoken in Greek. For Matthew 26:39, manuscripts either start the prayer with “My Father” or “Father” and then continue, “Take this cup from me; yet not as I want but as you want.” Luke 22:42 reads, “Father, if you wish, remove this cup from me; yet not my will but yours come to pass.”
The betrayer Judas knew the place where Jesus would be, for he had often been there with the disciples. (John 18:2) Initially, though, Judas and those planning to seize Jesus may have stopped at the house where he had been with the other apostles. Included in the group were Roman soldiers, Levite temple guards, and slaves. (Luke 22:50, 52; John 18:3, 26) They were equipped with torches, lamps, swords, and clubs. (Matthew 26:47; John 18:3) According to John 18:3, besides a contingent of Roman soldiers (probably drawn from among those stationed at the Tower of Antonia and who were responsible for watching for any disturbance or uprising in the temple area and bringing it under control), there were subordinates or deputies of the chief priests and Pharisees.
Matthew 26:47 refers to a large crowd from the chief priests and elders of the people, and Mark 14:43 additionally mentions men from the scribes. In view of the inclusion of Pharisees in John 18:3, they may have been the scribes who were involved in sending their subordinates. Only Luke 22:52 speaks of Jesus as directing words to the chief priests, temple captains, and elders. This may be understood to mean that what he said to those who acted for the chief priests and elders of the nation is being represented as addressed to those who had sent them.
While Jesus was speaking to the apostles, Judas and the armed men arrived. As it would have been hard for anyone without being personally acquainted with Jesus to recognize him in the dark, Judas had given the armed men an advance signal. “The one whom I kiss is he; seize him [and lead him away safely (Mark 14:44)].” (Matthew 26:47, 48; Mark 14:43, 44; Luke 22:47)
Approaching Jesus, Judas greeted him, addressing him as “rabbi,” and then kissed him. The preserved record does not indicate whether Judas responded to Jesus’ asking him why he had come and whether he was betraying the Son of Man with a kiss. (Matthew 26:49, 50; Mark 14:45; Luke 22:48; see the Notes section regarding Matthew 26:50.) At this point, Judas appears to have withdrawn, taking a position with the crowd. (John 18:5)
Jesus was fully aware of what would happen to him. His response to the crowd demonstrated that he, voluntarily and in submission to his Father’s will, chose to enter upon a course of suffering that would terminate in a painful death. Courageously, he walked toward the crowd, asking, “Whom do you seek?” When they said, “Jesus the Nazarene,” he identified himself, “I am,” that is, I am he. (John 18:4, 5) Their reference to him as “the Nazarene” may well have been a slur, for they considered him as no more than a man from Nazareth in Galilee, a city without any distinction.
Jesus’ fearlessness appears to have caught the armed men by surprise. Startled, those in front may suddenly have backed up, causing those behind them to lose their footing and fall. No man among them came toward Jesus. So he again asked them, “Whom are you seeking?” They again responded, “Jesus the Nazarene.” (John 18:6, 7)
“I told you,” he said to them, “I am.” Having left no doubt about his identity as the one whom they wanted to seize, Jesus, like a caring shepherd who looks out for the sheep, spoke up to protect his disciples. “If, then, you are seeking me, let these go.” (John 18:8) Earlier, in prayer, he had said that he had watched over those whom his Father had given him and that none except the “son of destruction” (Judas) had been “destroyed” or lost. (John 17:12) Jesus continued to conduct himself in keeping with his prayer, thereby fulfilling his words, “I have not lost one of those whom you have given me.” (John 18:9)
Becoming aware of what was about to happen to Jesus, the apostles closest to him asked, “Shall we strike with the sword?” With zeal for his Lord, Peter did not wait for an answer, reached for his sword, and struck one of the men. This one, the high priest’s slave Malchus, appears to have succeeded in quickly averting a fatal blow but still lost his right ear. Jesus stopped Peter from continuing to use the sword, telling him, “Put your sword into the sheath. Should I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” (Matthew 26:51, 52; Mark 14:47; Luke 22:49, 50; John 18:10, 11)
Jesus also told Peter that all who take the sword would perish by the sword. There was no need for fighting, for he could make his appeal for heavenly assistance, asking his Father to supply him immediately with twelve legions (72,000, based on the usual size of 6,000 in a Roman legion) of angels. But this would not have been in harmony with what the scriptures indicated to be his divinely appointed role as the one who would surrender his life. (Isaiah 53:1-8) Jesus added, “How, then, would the scriptures be fulfilled that it must happen in this way?” (Matthew 26:52-54) After indicating that matters had gone far enough with Peter’s use of the sword, Jesus healed the injured Malchus. (Luke 22:51)
The Son of God reproved the armed men, revealing that their action under the cover of darkness and as an armed mob had no valid basis. He asked them, “Have you come with swords and clubs as against a bandit to arrest me?” Jesus reminded them that there had been many opportunities for them to seize him. He had publicly taught at the temple and yet they had not arrested him. Now, however, their hour had come and the “power of darkness.” What the Hebrew prophets had foretold respecting him had to be fulfilled. So it was then the time to carry out the evil deed, one that stemmed from unbelief and a willing submission to satanic authority. (Matthew 26:55, 56; Mark 14:48, 49; Luke 22:52, 53)
It may be that the Roman chiliarch (a commander with 1,000 soldiers under him) gave the order to seize Jesus. Roman soldiers and members of the temple guard then took hold of him and bound him. (John 18:12) Fearfully, the apostles abandoned Jesus and fled. (Matthew 26:56; Mark 14:50)
In Matthew 26:50, the last three words of the Greek text literally read, “Upon what are you present.” These words may be rendered as a question. “Why are you here? (CEV) “Why have you come?” (NIV, footnote) Many modern translations, however, represent the Greek text as meaning that Judas should do what he had come to do instead of feigning friendship. “Do what you are here for.” (NJB) “Do what you have come for.” (NAB) “Do what you are here to do.” (REB) “Do what you came to do.” (NCV)
Because different writers were involved, one should not expect to find identical details in their narratives of the same events. Moreover, when there are differences, the highly condensed nature of the accounts does not make it possible to be definitive about how certain specifics are to be understood.