John 13:12-30 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. During the time of the footwashing, what did Jesus tell His disciples? See John 13:10 (printed below) Why did He say this? See John 13:11 (printed below)

Jesus said to him, He who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet and he is wholly clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you. (John 13:10)

Jesus knew who would betray him; that is why he said, Not everyone of you is clean. (John 13:11)

In the process of washing His disciples’ feet, Jesus had assured them, “You are clean” (John 13:10). The custom was for a man, being invited to dinner, to take a bath prior to coming, and then when he arrived at the host’s home he merely needed to have the dust of the streets washed from his feet. Jesus is assuring His disciples that by virtue of their faith in Him they have been washed clean—the forgiving, saving benefits of His sacrificial death are imparted to them and to us by faith. But having spoken these words of assurance to His disciples, Jesus adds these ominous words: “You are clean, but not every one of you.” (verse 10) Then there follows the explanation: “Jesus knew who would betray him; that is why he said, Not everyone of you is clean.” (verse 11)

2. How did the knowledge that one of His own disciples would betray Him affect Jesus? See John 13:21 (printed below)

After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in his spirit and testified, I tell you the truth, one of you shall betray me. (John 13:21)

The knowledge that one of His own disciples was a traitor did not fill Jesus with personal indignation and the desire for revenge; on the contrary, it caused Him to be “troubled in his spirit” (verse 21). As Jesus contemplates what Judas is doing, He has the same reaction as He had on the occasion of the death of His beloved friend, Lazarus (note John 11:33-36). Jesus is grieved that one would despise His love and His kingdom, that one would harbor sin to his own eternal destruction. He was grieved that Judas would do such a thing; He is grieved if you or I should do such a thing.

3. How does John describe the “seating arrangement” at the Passover meal when Jesus announced that one of His disciples is a traitor? See John 13:23-26 (printed below) What is significant about the positioning of the disciples as it was arranged by Jesus? Note: The position in front of the host was the position of honor, but the position behind the host was the position of greatest honor. From John’s account, what two disciples occupied these positions on this particular night?

One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining at the table in front of Jesus. (24) Simon Peter motioned to him and said, Tell us who it is of whom he is speaking. (25) He, leaning back on Jesus’ chest, asked him, Lord, who is it? (26) Jesus answered, It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread after I have dipped it in the dish. So after he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. (John 13:23-26)

John re-creates the scene for us as it was played out on that fateful night (verse 23). In those days people did not sit around the dinner table; rather, they reclined around the table: facing to their right, propped on their left elbow, with their right hand free. The position in front of the host (to his immediate right) was the position of great honor—the apostle John occupied that position on this particular night. The position behind the host (to his immediate left) was the position of greatest honor—on this particular night it appears that Judas occupied that position. Judas is being honored by Jesus—by giving him the position of supreme honor at the supper, Jesus in effect is saying to him, “Don’t listen to the devil. Don’t be a fool! Instead, repent. Trust Me, and you shall be honored in My Father’s kingdom.” (note Revelation 3:21)

4. Jesus has indicated that one of His disciples will betray Him, but He has not revealed the traitor’s identity. Why do you think Jesus concealed the traitor’s identity at this time?

Why does Jesus conceal the identity of His betrayer? He does so as one final act of mercy to Judas: affording him one final opportunity to repent before it is too late. At this point Judas is being protected by Jesus because Judas is in the midst of some very violent and volatile company. Peter wants to know the traitor’s identity (note Peter’s conduct in the garden of Gethsemane when the mob came to arrest Jesus, John 18:10). John wants to know the traitor’s identity (note the nickname John and his brother James earned for their volatile tempers, Jesus had named them “Sons of Thunder,” Mark 3:17). Christ is all-knowing; but He graciously gives men the opportunity to repent of their sins (note 2 Peter 3:9.) Such was the case with Judas on the night of the Passover meal. Jesus was showing His mercy and extending to Judas one last opportunity to repent.

5. What happens when Judas rejects Jesus’ final offer of mercy? See John 13:27 and 30 (printed below)

As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus then said to him, What you are about to do, do quickly… (30) After he had received the piece of bread, he immediately went out; and it was night. (John 13:27,30)

Note carefully that when Judas thrust away Jesus’ final offer of mercy, a terrible thing happens: Jesus released him to the devil. The devil was operating in Judas’ heart (Luke 22:1-3) and inspiring him thus far (John 13:2). But now when Jesus gives Judas the bread—seeing no repentance—Jesus also gives him over to the devil (John 13:27a). According to verse 30, Judas immediately departed, “and it was night.” The physical darkness all the more illustrates and accentuates the spiritual and eternal darkness into which Judas now departs.