Wednesday

17 April 2019

John 13:21-32

‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him’ (v. 31)

Psalm: Psalm 70

Background

Our passage today is part of a long account in John’s Gospel of Jesus’ last meal with his disciples before his crucifixion (chapters 13-16). We have to imagine tables on three sides of a square, with Jesus in the centre of the top table. Those at the table were reclining, in Roman fashion, leaning on the left elbow, feet away from the table, leaving the right hand free to handle the food. The 'disciple Jesus loved’ is sitting on his right and is able to lean back to speak to him. We should imagine Judas on Jesus’ left, which would make conversation and the offering of food an easy matter. Peter, we must imagine, is further away and can only gesture to the loved disciple to ask the question (privately rather than in open conversation). It is still the custom in some cultures to offer a morsel from a communal dish to a neighbour at the table as a mark of regard.

Verse 23 is the first mention of the disciple whom Jesus loved. He is referred to only in this Gospel and is never named. Tradition has always identified him as John the son of Zebedee.

This is the episode that sets in train the events that lead to Jesus’ arrest, trial and death. It shows Jesus firmly in command of what happens. But we should not overlook verse 21. Jesus is not calmly manipulating events. He acts under constraint and we are given a glimpse of the pain it causes him. It is only by this route that the glory of God – his love for the world (3:16) – can be revealed (vs. 31-32).

We should not miss the force of the end of verse 30. It is more than a statement of the time of day. Darkness has begun to eclipse the light of God (compare 3:19, 8:12, 9:5).

 

To Ponder:

  • What do you think is glorious about the death of Jesus?
  • Was Judas fully responsible for his actions or just misguided?

Bible notes author

The Revd Brian Beck

Brian Beck is a Methodist minister, now retired, and a former president and secretary of the Methodist Conference. A large part of his ministry has been spent in theological education, both in Limuru, Kenya, and in Cambridge, England.

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