King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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John 13

Christ washes the disciples’ feet. (1-17) The treachery of Judas foretold. (18-30) Christ commands the disciples to love one another. (31-38)

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Christ washes the disciples’ feet

1 Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.

2 And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him;

3 Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God;

4 He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.

5 After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.

6 Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet?

7 Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.

8 Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.

9 Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.

10 Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all.

11 For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.

12 So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?

13 Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.

14 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.

15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.

16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.

17 If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.

The treachery of Judas foretold

18 I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me.

19 Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he.

20 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.

21 When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.

22 Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake.

23 Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.

24 Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake.

25 He then lying on Jesus’ breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it?

26 Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.

27 And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly.

28 Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him.

29 For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor.

30 He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.

Christ commands the disciples to love one another

31 Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him.

32 If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him.

33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you.

34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

36 Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards.

37 Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake.

38 Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Before the festival day, or feast of the Pasch. See the note on this word Pasch, Matt. xxvi. v. 2. Here when S. John says, before the festival day, he means in the evening, or latter evening after sunset, on the 14th day of the month of Nisan, when the great feast of Azyms or unleavened bread was begun, (for the Jews began their feasts from sunset on the foregoing day) so that the hours from sunset, at least, on the 14th day of the month of Nisan (at which time the paschal lamb was to be eaten with unleavened bread belonged to the first, and great day of Azyms, which lasted till sunset on the 15th day of the month Nisan. S. John therefore says, the day before, meaning after sunset on the 14th day of the month; but yet it was part of the same great feast, which was kept on the 15th day. See also the note Matt. xxvi. v. 17. Wi.

Ver. 2. And when supper was done. By this we must not understand, that the supper was over; for we afterwards find that Jesus again sat down, and gave bread to the traitor. But these words only mean, that all had partook of refreshment, and might be therefore said to have supped. S. Aug. tract. 55. in Joan. — He knew that he went out from God, and would return to God; but at the same time, he did not leave God, when he went out from him, nor us, when he returns to him. S. Aug. as above. — And though he went out from God, and returns to him, yet here he condescends to perform the office, not of the Lord God of the universe, but of a man and a slave; (S. Aug.) and this, says S. Chrys. (hom. lxix. in Joan.) that he might tread all pride under foot: doing every thing himself on this occasion, to teach us with what eagerness we ought to perform the duties of humility.

Ver. 4. He riseth from supper; that is, after supper was done, or ended, as it is here said, (v. 2. and 1 Cor. xi. 25.) girded himself like a servant, to wash and wipe the feet of his apostles. Wi. — If we compare the text of the four evangelists, it will appear that the washing of the feet preceded the institution of the blessed Eucharist, of which S. John is silent. V.

Ver. 5. S. Ambrose and S. Bernard shew that this washing was mysterious, and significative of the very great purity expected of those that receive the blessed Eucharist.

Ver. 6. Lord, dost thou wash my feet? My master, my Lord, the true Son of the living God, wilt thou wash the feet of me, thy servant, thy disciple, a poor vile sinner? this must not be. Wi.

Ver. 8. If I wash thee not, thou shalt have no part with me. At this, Peter, as one thunderstruck, replied: Lord, not my feet only, but my head; whatever my Lord pleaseth. Wi.

Ver. 10. He that is washed, &c. The feet are always apt to contract some dust or dirt; and in the mystical sense, he that is washed by the sacraments of baptism, or penance, from greater sins, must still endeavour to cleanse, and purify his affections from lesser failings of human frailty. And you, my apostles, are clean from greater offences, but not all of you, meaning the traitor Judas. Wi. — It is impossible that the extremities of the soul (if we may be allowed the expression) should not, as long as we tread upon this earth, receive some stain or other; although in the opinion of men, the soul appear just. Many indeed after baptism, are covered with the dust of sin, even to the head, but those who are disciples indeed, need only to wash their feet. Origen, tract. 32. in Joan. — The foulness of the feet, when the rest is clean, signifies the earthly affections, and remains of former sins remitted, which are to be cleansed by devout acts of charity and humility. S. Amb. l. iii. de Sacram. c. 1. S. Ber. de cæn. Dom. ser. 1. — Though his disciples were clean, still he washed their feet, comformably to that of the Apocalypse, c. xxii. “He that is clean, let him be cleansed still.” Origen, tract. 32. in Joan.

Ver. 14. You also ought to wash one another’s feet. Not that he made this a standing precept according to the letter; but designed it as a lesson of humility. We find this custom literally observed in several churches, as it is now down every year by diverse prelates, and by Christian kings and princes. Wi. — He gives us an example of a more elevated act of virtue, that we may at least learn to practise the lower degrees of it. For he indeed was their Lord, but when we perform this office, we can but do it to our fellow-servants. S. Chrys. hom. lxx. in Joan. — This it is, blessed Peter, which you were ignorant of, but which he promises to explain afterwards. S. Aug. tract. 58. in Joan.

Ver. 18. Shall lift up his heel against me. It is the sense of those words, (Psal. xl. 10.) hath supplanted me; and they were spoken of Judas’s sin in betraying Christ. Wi. — Jesus Christ applies in this place to the perfidy of Judas, that which David appears to have said on occasion of the perfidy of Achitophel, who was thus a figure of the perfidious Judas. V.

Ver. 23. One of his disciples. S. John himself was lying at table in (or towards) the bosom of Jesus.[1] These words seem to express the manner that the Jews were placed at table. They had couches about a table, to lean or lie upon; and three for example upon each couch. The master, or head of the company, was placed in the midst; so that we may suppose, that Christ was placed on one of these couches in the midst, S. Peter on one side of him, and S. John on the other; and that S. John, in that resting and leaning posture, had his head all the time turned, and inclined towards Christ’s bosom: yet it can scarce be imagined, that his head laid continually upon our Saviour’s breast or bosom; for this posture would have been very uneasy to Jesus, or to any one. S. John then leaned all supper time towards Jesus’s bosom or breast, but not upon it. Wi. — Whilst all were fearing for themselves, and Peter, the very head of the apostles, was trembling, S. John rests; reposing on the bosom of Jesus. S. Chrys. hom. lxxi. in Joan.

Ver. 25. When Christ had said, one of you is to betray me, S. Peter whispered with S. John, by turning to him behind Jesus’s back, and desired him to ask, who this was: now when John had leaned down upon the breast of Jesus, or as the Greek hath it, falling down on the breast of Jesus, as a person may do in a great concern, or fit of grief, he said, Lord, who is it? This posture seems to have been only for that moment of whispering, and to have been different from the posture of eating at table. Wi.

Ver. 27. Satan entered into him, who presently went out with great anger and indignation. It was then night, likely about nine o’clock. Wi. — That which thou dost, do quickly. It is not a license, much less a command, to go about his treason: but a signification to him, that Christ would not hinder or resist what he was about, do it as soon as he pleased: but was both ready, and desirous to suffer for our redemption. Ch. — Christ does not by these words exhort the traitor, much less command him, to perform his wicked deed; but he means to reprobate it, and at the same time testify that he would not hinder his being betrayed. S. Chrys. hom. lxxi. in Joan. — It is the voice not of command, but of permission, not of a person in fear, but of one prepared for death. S. Leo.

Ver. 31. Jesus said: now is the Son of man glorified: the time is at hand, when he shall be glorified by miracles at his death, resurrection, &c. Wi.

Ver. 34. The commandment of mutual love had been previously given, but evidently misconstrued and abridged by the Jews to friends only, to this life only, and for earthly respects: but Jesus Christ reneweth it and enlargeth it after the form of his own love towards us, and giveth grace to observe it. B.

Ver. 36. You cannot follow me yet to the dying for justice sake, for you are not yet prepared for martyrdom; you cannot yet follow me to the glory of my body, when risen from the dead, but must wait till the general resurrection; you cannot follow me to the bosom of my Father, being not yet sufficiently perfected in charity. S. Aug. tract. 64. in Joan.

Ver. 37. This commandment was already in the old law, where it is written, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself; how then does our Saviour call it a new command? It is new, not because we simply love one another; but because we love one another, as he has loved us: not as men love one another, as being fellow creatures, but united in love, as being all the children of the Most High; that so we may be brethren to his only begotten Son, bearing to all the same love that he has borne to us. S. Aug. tract. 64. in Joan. — By this shall I moreover know that you truly love me. V.

Ver. 38. The love which S. Peter bore our Saviour was exceedingly tender, but it was not yet sufficiently strong. S. Bern. Serm. iv. in Cant. — Jesus therefore asks him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for me? Do you think yourselves sufficiently strong to perform this heroic act for love of me? so far are you from exposing your life for me, that you will shortly deny me. Menochius.

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[1] V. 23. Erat recumbens in sinu Jesu, v. 23. And cum recubuisset super pectus Jesu, v. 25. In the Greek, v. 23, anakeimenos epi to kolpo tou Iesou; and v. 25, epipeson epi to stethos tou Iesou. The word anakeimenos from anakeisthai, seems to express no more than the manner in those days of leaning, or lying at table: as in the Latin, accumbere, or discumbere; but epipeson, from epipiptein epi to stethos, signifies a bowing or falling down on Christ’s breast, as it were in a fit of trouble or grief. See the author of the Analysis, diss. xxxvi. S. Chrys. (hom. lxxii. p. 423, tom. 8, Nov. Ed. Ben.) seems to make a difference betwixt these two expressions, when he says: Joannes . . . in sinu Jesu recubat, nec recubat solùm, sed in pectus incidit: neque hoc solum quæsitu dignum est, &c. o Ioannes anakeitai eis ton kolpon tou Iesou, kai ouk anakeitai monon, alla kai to stethei epipiptei, kai ou touto monon axion zeteseos, &c.