John 13: The Last Passover Meal

Yeshua Tells His Disciples Some Very Troubling Things; One Of Them Will Betray Him; Peter Will Deny Him; He Will Leave Them And They Won’t Be Able to Follow; They Are To Humbly Serve Each Other And Love Each Other

We have been walking with Yeshua through the book of John. We’re at the end of the life of the Most Important Man who ever lived. That man is also the Messiah and the Son of God and the one and only Savior of humanity, able to rescue us from the real and deadly forces of Satan and the demons, sin and the sin nature, death and Hell.

It’s Yeshua’s last day on Earth. It’s a special day – the first day of Passover. It’s the day Messiah will die a very special death as God’s Passover Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. That makes this day one of the most important days in history.

Yeshua will eat a final meal, a Passover seder with His most important followers, the men He will entrust with His on-going mission of world salvation. During the meal, Yeshua will give His disciples His final teachings. He will pray, then be arrested, tried, tortured and crucified.

John wants us to know that God the Father had made it clear to Yeshua that He was about to die and that His death would be followed by His resurrection and ascension. It was just before the Passover Holiday. Yeshua knew that the hour had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father.

Someone who knows he is about to die may do things which have been uncharacteristic of him, but thing he wanted to do all along. He may repudiate his principles, engage in illegal activities, illicit pleasures or abandon his family and friends. Not Yeshua. John wants us to know that to the very end, Yeshua was steadfast to His principles and committed to His friends. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. In His final hours, Yeshua was there for the men He loved, committed to them, loving them, helping them, teaching them, preparing them, serving them, praying for them.

God was at work, bringing the life of Yeshua to a pre-ordained goal. The Adversary was also at work, advancing his agenda to kill the Son of God. And Satan had prepared a man to help him. The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Yeshua.

John wants us to know that, not only did Yeshua know He was about to die, Yeshua knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God. Messiah understood that He was no ordinary human being. He knew He was the divine Son of God. He knew He existed with God before He arrived on Earth. He knew He would return to His Father, the High King of the universe, after His death, and as the Son of the High King, He would over all things, all forces, all powers, all creatures.

So, even though He knew He was the Lord of all things, He got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around His waist. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him. Those who are powerful often choose easy, pleasurable or honorable tasks for themselves. They delegate the difficult, unpleasant or dishonorable tasks to others. Not Yeshua. Even though He knew He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, He did what a servant would do – wash the feet of the guests. The King of Kings and Lord of Lord became a servant.  The One who is the Most High lowered Himself. That’s so unlike us. That’s amazing.

One of those present didn’t like what his esteemed Rabbi was doing. He came to Simon Peter, who said to Him, “Lord, are You going to wash my feet?” Peter knew Yeshua was his superior. He believed Yeshua was His Rabbi and Messiah and Lord and objected to Yeshua washing his feet.

Yeshua never backed down – when He was opposed by powerful leaders or criticized by one of His disciples. Yeshua replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Yeshua insisted on washing Peter’s feet. And He told him that what seemed wrong to him then would be understood in the future, when he would have a greater understanding about who Yeshua is, and have a greater understanding of the need for being a humble servant-leader.

Yeshua’s response didn’t satisfy Peter. He knew that it was wrong for the Lord Messiah to wash his feet. He knew better than Yeshua, and remained adamantly opposed to Yeshua’s desire to wash his feet. “No,” said Peter, “You shall never wash my feet.”

But Yeshua is never wrong. He is wiser and tougher than any of His disciples, even someone as tough as Peter. Yeshua answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with Me.”

Yeshua was teaching Peter two things: First, the disciple doesn’t tell his Rabbi and Lord what to do. Yeshua is in control. He calls the shots. It’s His way or the highway.

Second, Yeshua was teaching Peter that we get dirty and need to be washed; and only Yeshua can wash us; and He insists on washing us or He will not accept us; we will have no part of Him.

Peter backed down. If Yeshua insisted he must be washed, then Peter wanted to go all the way and be completely washed. “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” I like this about Peter – his passion, his boldness, his enthusiasm.

Yeshua used Peter’s  enthusiastic response to teach them another lesson. Yeshua answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. The person who bathes, then puts on his clothes and sandals and walks on dusty streets needs only need his feet to be washed – not his entire body. Yeshua is teaching us that we live in a spiritually polluted world. We come into this world with a fallen nature. We are impure. We are unclean. We can become clean, but the only way is by recognizing that Yeshua is the Messiah and making a commitment to follow Him. But, even though we make that commitment, because we are weak, and because we live in a polluted world, it’s easy to accumulate spiritual dirt. We sin. We give into temptation. We fall back into bad habits and wrong ways of thinking and acting. When that happens, we ask Yeshua to forgive us, and He will cleanse us from all our sins, all our impurities, all our moral and spiritual filth.

Christians and Messianic Jews, who become spiritually clean when they make their initial commitment to Messiah, will need, periodically, to be cleansed from their sins. We will need Yeshua to wash us. We need to remain loyal to Yeshua and close to Yeshua so we can receive ongoing forgiveness from Yeshua. That’s the way to maintain our spiritual purity.

Throughout history, many people have been betrayed by someone they trusted. The betrayal can make those who are betrayed look like a fool. They should have known better. They shouldn’t have trusted the traitor. They should have seen it coming. John wants us to know that Yeshua was not deceived. He was not a fool. “And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For He knew who was going to betray Him, and that was why He said not every one was clean. Yeshua was not surprised by the betrayal of Judas. He knew Judas would betray Him. And He knew that was part of God’s plan, which is why He didn’t expose the traitor.

After finishing washing their feet, Yeshua reinforced the lesson on being humble, servant-leaders. When He had finished washing their feet, He put on His clothes and returned to His place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” He asked them. “You call Me ‘Rabbi’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Rabbi, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Human nature is fallen. We are selfish. We are controlling. We try to control others for our benefit. We try to use others for our benefit. Yeshua wants us to be different. To be like Him. To give, not take; to bless, not use; to serve, not control. If our Rabbi and Lord, who is the highest and greatest, can humble Himself and serve us, we can change our self-serving orientation and serve others.

Yeshua insists we follow His example. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. We are not to think that this lesson in humility and servant-leaders does not apply to us. It does apply. Yeshua is the master. We are His servants. He is the one who sends us. We are the ones who are sent. If Yeshua, who is greater than us, humbled Himself to serve us, we are to do the same. And, He tells us, if we do, we will be blessed. We will be more like Him, and we will be better off, and more advantaged.

Again Yeshua told them He was about to be betrayed and knew the identity of the traitor. “I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned against me.’ Just as king David was a righteous man who was surrounded by deadly enemies and betrayed by someone close to Him, so was the son of David – king Yeshua. I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. Again, Yeshua was not taken by surprise by Judas’ betrayal. He could have prevented it, but didn’t, since He knew that was part of God’s plan which would bring Yeshua to the appointed time and place of His death.

Yeshua wants His disciples to be humble servants. And, at the same time, He wants us to know that we are in a position of authority. Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts Me; and whoever accepts Me accepts the one who sent Me. It’s very special to be a follower of Yeshua. We are His representatives. There is a divine chain of command. God the Father is supreme. The Father is equal to the Son in nature, but superior to the Son in authority. The Father sends the Son. The Son is superior to us in nature and in authority. He sends Christians and Messianic Jews to represent Him in this world. Every Christian, every Messianic Jew is in a position of spiritual authority. We represent the Son of God to the world around us. We might not be a great apostle or evangelist or rabbi or missionary, but each one of us is Yeshua’s representative in this world.

To accept, welcome, believe, treat well one of Yeshua’s representatives is to accept, welcome, believe, treat well Yeshua. To accept Yeshua is to accept God the Father. And the opposite is true. To reject one of Yeshua’s representatives is to reject Yeshua, and to reject Yeshua is to reject God.

Again, Yeshua knew that not everyone eating at that Passover table was one of His representatives. After He had said this, Yeshua was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray Me.” His awareness that Judas would betray Him, troubled Him – a lot. It was upsetting to have a traitor and deadly enemy in their midst.

Yeshua knew the identity of the traitor but none of the disciples did. His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them He meant. One of them, the disciple whom Yeshua loved, was reclining next to Him. John is referring to himself. He was too humble to mention himself by name. He identifies himself by his relationship to Yeshua, letting us know that he was close to Yeshua, and that Yeshua had a special affection for him. We can learn from John, that the core of our identity needs to be formed by our relationship to Yeshua – not our wealth or job or career or achievements, or even our family. The most important thing about us is our relationship to Yeshua. The more we understand this, the more we will be blessed.

One of them, the disciple whom Yeshua loved, was reclining next to Him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask Him which one He means.” Leaning back against Yeshua, he asked Him, “Lord, who is it?” Yeshua answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. This was a decisive moment in Judas’ life. It was the culmination of a series of bad decisions Judas had made. He had gradually been walking down the path of sin and and betrayal. Even though he had been following Yeshua, he was corrupt in his personal life. He was the group’s treasurer and had been embezzling their funds. And he had been plotting with Yeshua’s enemies to betray Yeshua to them. And, the deeper spiritual reality was that, while Judas was sinning and planing to betray Yeshua, he was siding more and more with the ultimate enemy – Satan.

Sin, corruption, betraying Yeshua in various ways drives out the light and eventually leaves darkness. It results in an abandonment of Yeshua and an alliance with the Devil.

Something happens when people eat together. It brings people closer together. It creates a bond. The disciples were eating Passover bread with each other, and with Yeshua, thereby bonding themselves closer together. It was a kind of holy communion. But, when Judas ate the bread with betrayal in his heart, it was an unholy communion, and drew him closer to the Adversary. As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.

Yeshua knew that Judas was under the influence of the evil one and the time was right for Judas to betray Him. Instead of preventing Judas from betraying Him, which He could have done, but which wasn’t what God wanted, Yeshua gave Judas these instructions: So Yeshua told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” Yeshua would allow Judas to betray Him so that God’s plan for Yeshua to die in Jerusalem as God’s Passover Lamb who takes away the sin of the world would not be thwarted.

Again, John wants us to know that Yeshua knew the identity of the traitor, and why Judas left. None of the disciples did. But no one at the meal understood why Yeshua said this to him.

Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Yeshua was telling him to buy what was needed for the holiday, or to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night. And it was night – the first night of Passover. And it was a different kind of night in the soul of Judas. The light had gone out of his life. He had corrupted himself and rejected the One who is the light. He had given himself to the darkness.

Judas was a religious man. Judas was a follower of Yeshua. Judas was trusted. He was trusted with the responsibility of treasurer. Judas was an apostle. Judas did miracles. When the apostles were sent out and proclaimed the Good News and did miracles and cast out demons, Judas proclaimed the Good News and did miracles and cast out demons.

Maybe Judas though his sin of embezzlement wasn’t so bad. He had it under control. And sin has a way of distorting our understanding of Yeshua. Judas’ thinking about Yeshua became more and more wrong. Maybe he thought that betraying Yeshua to the Jewish leaders was the right thing to do. It wasn’t. The reality was that Judas did not have his sin under control. It was controlling him, more and more, until he was under the ultimate control of the Prince of Darkness.

If there is sin in your life, be careful about thinking to yourself, “My sin is not so bad. I have it under control.” Sin has a way of deceiving us and corrupting us so that it is no longer under our control, and we are under its control, and our thoughts of Yeshua grow dimmer and dimmer. It gets easier and easier to betray Him. Stop your sinning now, while you still can. Avoid the mistakes Judas made.

When he was gone, Yeshua said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in Him. If God is glorified in Him, God will glorify the Son in Himself, and will glorify Him at once. Yeshua knew He was about to die a death that would bring honor to Himself and to His Father. To the Father, because Yeshua was obeying Him and fulfilling God’s plan to redeem humanity. To Himself, because of all the great things the Son of God has done, is doing and will do, dying on the cross has to be the greatest. And Yeshua knew that God would honor Him for doing this, and God would honor Him by raising Him from the dead and exalting Him above all others.

My children, I will be with you only a little longer. Yeshua’s relationship to His followers is complex. It’s described as Rabbi to disciple; King, Lord, Master to subject; brother to brother; friend to friend. Here is another aspect of our relationship – father to child. Just as a good father loves and cares for and protects and nurtures and teaches and corrects his children, so Messiah relates to us.

My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for Me, and just as I told the Jewish leaders, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. Yeshua knew He was about to die, and come back to life and return to His Father in Heaven. And He knew that these men, who had been with Him for years, and sacrificed so much to be with Him, and followed Him everywhere, and loved Him so much, would not be able to accompany Him. This announcement must have shocked them, upset them, troubled them greatly.

In spite of Him leaving, they were to stick together, stay committed to each other and love each other in a new way. A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another. This new command is not new in time, because the command to love one another was given earlier, but it is new in emphasis and new in extent. It’s new in emphasis: We are to reprioritize our religion so that one of our highest priorities is to love our fellow Christians and Messianic Jews by helping them in spiritual and practical ways. And it’s new in extent. We are to love members of Messiah’s community like Messiah loved us – to the maximum degree – serving them, helping them, doing what is best for them, putting their interests above our own, even being willing to sacrifice our lives for them as Messiah sacrificed His life for us.

People in this dog eat dog world don’t love this way. They are selfish. They look out for themselves. They put their interests above the interests of others. But connected to our living Lord, and filled with His Spirit, we are transformed. We get new values, new priorities. We get new power. We become capable of loving others, especially our Christian and Messianic Jewish brothers and sisters like Yeshua loved us. When we do, the world can’t help notice. People around us will notice that we are different, and it’s because of Yeshua’s influence in our lives.

Yeshua had told them that would be only be with them a little longer, and that He was going where they couldn’t follow –  referring to His death and resurrection and ascension. Peter didn’t understand. Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are You going?” Peter’s confusion is understandable. He believed Yeshua was the King Messiah who was about to claim His kingdom. Where could He possibly be going, and without them?

Yeshua replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” God is in control of our lives, and the number of days we will live. He is in control of our deaths. It was time for Messiah to die and return to the right hand of the High King of Heaven. It was not the time for the disciples to die, and Yeshua knew it. It was God’s plan for them to take over and expand His ministry of evangelism and teaching and building His very special community.

Peter was confident that he would never abandon Yeshua. He was so committed to Yeshua, so loyal, he would go wherever Yeshua would go. He would be willing to die before ceasing to follow the One he knew was his Rabbi and Lord and King. Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow You now? I will lay down my life for You.” How often how little we know ourselves. Often we have false ideas about ourselves and who we are and what we are capable of.

Yeshua knew human nature, and He knew Peter better than Peter knew himself – just as He knows us better than we know ourselves.  Then Yeshua answered, “Will you really lay down your life for Me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown Me three times! Before the end of the next morning. What a shocking announcement that must have been to Peter, and the others. How it must have upset them, troubled them.

Judas will betray the Messiah. And so will Peter. He will deny Him not once (maybe it was an accident, a mistake, unintentional) not twice, but three times, with complete intentionality. Peter will recover from his betrayal. He will feel great shame and guilt and will repent. Judas won’t.

If you ever betray the Lord, and I pray you never do, in a big way or a series of small ways, make sure you do what Peter did, not Judas – repent quickly and genuinely.