The tension had been mounting steadily in the upper room. The lesson of the bason left a deep impression as the twelve disciples watched their Master and Lord (John 13:1-5) kneel to wash their feet and wipe them with the towel. To the disciples, this was an unforgettable picture of the Son, in His Savior role, voluntarily sacrificing inherent status for service to them. Then, as the Lord dealt with Peter’s objections, the Lord’s action became a parable of salvation in the distinction the Lord made between a total “bathing” (of the whole body) and a partial “washing” (of the feet). In the final word from the Lord, His action became a pattern for saints to be followed by His disciples in their treatment one of another (v14).
Amid the silence, the Lord resumes His seat and with troubled brow makes them face a Scripture-based fact for which He must prepare them: “One of you shall betray Me.” The tension is now palpable as each disciple surreptitiously examines his neighbor. Peter, realistic as ever, signals quietly to John, the one lying on Jesus’ breast, who, in response, whispers “Lord, who is it?” In answer the Lord gives the lesson of the bread as, quietly, He responds “He it is, to whom I shall give a sop when I have dipped it.” The disciple privileged to receive that token of love, the morsel of bread dipped in herbs, was Judas. Identified by the Lord Himself, angrily refusing to yield to the love and reconciliation expressed in the sop, Judas jumps to his feet, and marching down the hall is followed by the Lord’s command “That thou doest, do quickly” (v27). Judas is no longer moving to his own timetable. Such an exit left its message on the mind of John so that sixty years later he still remembers, “and it was night” (v30).
The tension is unbelievable as the Lord speaks again. “Now is the Son of Man glorified.” In the simple statement, the Lord is saying to His own “I am leaving you; I am going back to Glory.” No one can follow Him at this time (v33). He must travel alone and thus, in a “little while,” just a few hours, they will be alone. Peter, impetuous as ever, does not understand as he asks “Why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for Thy sake.” At this point, the Lord quietly introduces the third lesson of the chapter; the lesson of the bird. The Lord warns Peter “The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied Me thrice.” These were sobering, searching words for Peter to ponder. One can only begin to understand the tension. The Lord leaving them for glory and even yet, the truth of the cross has not dawned upon them. To their minds, they are to be left homeless, powerless, and penniless, in a hostile world. One of their own select band is to prove a traitor and another is to show himself a turncoat. What a dark moment!
The Lord’s words drop into these tense moments with an effect like oil on a troubled sea. “Let not your heart be troubled.” Note that He did not rebuke their condition, but supplied the antidote. He could speak with absolute authority; He had known such moments of agitation in the recent past. John has just recorded three such moments: (a) at the grave of Lazarus (11:33); (b) when the Greeks sought an audience with Him (12:27); and (c) just a few minutes before when the traitor was exposed (13:31). These moments reminded the Savior of the nearness of the cross. There would be agitation of soul and spirit but, beyond that, glory. For the disciples, the answer lay in seeing beyond the present grief to the “glory of God.” Has not the Lord lifted the eye to the glorified Son of Man (v31)? Glorified must mean that same Person, seen by faith in the presence of God, brings a promise into the present pain. (Study each case just mentioned as to how the Lord responded to the circumstances: in John 11:40-41 resurrection; in 12:27-28 reassurance; and in 13:31-32 reality.)
The Lord shows that, for believers, the answer to an agitated or troubled heart lies in three considerations that may be set out as follows:
1. Rest in a Person – “Ye believe in God, believe also in Me.” The AV has the right interpretation. The first verb is in the indicative mood; to believe in God is basic (Heb 11:6). The second verb is in the imperative mood to distinguish those who have also placed their trust in Christ. These disciples will certainly need that trust when they stand under the cross of Calvary. Unless that trust is retained in Him they will assuredly be agitated or troubled. They will understand nothing of what is taking place.
2. Reality of a Place – “In My Father’s House are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” They believed in Him when, as the Son, He had passed judgment on “My Father’s House” on earth (John 2:13-17). In His coming to earth, He judged the earthly house, so His going will open an abode for them in the Father’s house above. Behind the typical there lies the real – in glory.
3. Revelation of a Promise – “If I go and prepare a place for you I will come again and receive you unto Myself that where I am there ye may be also.” The logic is inescapable. “I go away” must include the stages: His death on the tree, His resurrection from the tomb, and His ascension to glory. Now, one step brings Him back; “I will come again.” No mention of angels, armies, and astronomical disturbances. The eye focuses on the person Who left (Acts 1:9-11) as the person Who comes back “in like manner as ye have seen Him go” – a single person, visible to the human eye, silent as far as the world is concerned. Thus He went, so He will come.