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The Last Supper

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JOHN 13:21-30

  1. JESUS

1.        The Hour

a.        The Passover 

John’s introduction to the foot-washing: “before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew…” [13:1].

§         πάσχα - “passover” [13:1], ‘the passover supper’; a theme developed throughout the book [2:13, 23; 6:4; 11:55; 12:1].

§         Πρὸ - “before” [13:1], ‘in front of’; ‘ahead of’;

§         If the opening words are taken as headings to chs.13-17, it follows that the meal the disciples are about to have with Jesus could not itself have been the Passover meal.

§         The clause alerts the readers to the passover them, inviting them to see in the foot-washing an anticipation of Jesus’ own climactic Passover act as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” [1:29]. 

§         δείπνου - “supper” [13:1], ‘the evening meal’;

b.        The Hour

Jesus’ knowledge: “when Jesus knew that his hour…” [13:1].

§         εἰδὼς - “knew” [13:1], perfect active participle, ‘to have seen and perceived and hence know’;

§         ὥρα - “hour” [13:1], ‘time or period’: “my time is not yet fully come” [7:8]; “the hour is come that the Son of man…” [12:23].

§         μεταβῇ - “depart” [13:1], singular aorist active, ‘to move from one place to another’; ‘to pass over, withdraw, depart’;

c.        The Knowledge

The knowledge that Jesus had is stated in terms of the sovereign will of God in judgement and salvation: “knowing that the Father had given…” [13:3].

§         εἰδὼς - “knowing” [13:3], perfect active participle, ‘to have seen and perceived and hence know’.

§         e;dwken - “given” [13:3], aorist active, ‘given by a superior into the hand of one who is a subordinate’; ‘to hand over’; ‘to empower’;

§         Jesus’ mission: “was come from God and went to God” [13:3].


Jesus knows the timetable and the plan of salvation.

2.        The Man

a.        The Experience

Jesus’ inner distress: “When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit…” [13:21].

§         ἐταράχθη - “troubled” [13:21], aorist passive, ‘to cause great distress’; ‘to disturb’;

§         τῷ πνεύματι - “in spirit” [13:21],

§         The disciples in the storm: “when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled…” [Mat.14:26].

§         The terrified disciples after the resurrection: “Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?” [Luk.24:38].

                                                                                                         i.          The Testimony

The testimony of Jesus: “and testified...” [13:21]. 

§         ἐμαρτύρησεν - “testified” [13:21], aorist active, ‘witness to first had knowledge’; ‘to provide knowledge of an event based on being an eye-witness’;

b.        The Revelation

The revelation regarding events: “verily, verily, I say unto you…” [13:21].

§         ἀμὴν ἀμὴν - “verily” [13:21], in the OT, ‘the acknowledgement of a word that is valid, and the validity which is binding for me’; ‘sure and valid’;

                                                                                                         i.          The Betrayal

The betrayal: “one of you shall betray me…” [13:21].

§         εἷς ἐξ ὑμῶν - “one of you” [13:21], ‘one of the twelve’;

§         παραδώσει - “betray” [13:21], future active, ‘to hand over’; ‘to give or deliver up’;

§         The experience of Jesus: Jews to Pilate - “If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee” [18:30]; Pilate to the Jews - “Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified…” [19:16].

§         God and Jesus: “he that spared not his Son but delivered him up for us all…” [Rom.8:32].

                                                                                                       ii.          Earlier Words of Prophecy

John has stated this repeatedly but without any mentions of personal distress of Jesus:

§         After the miracle of the bread: “I have chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil” [6:70].

§         In Bethany: “Then says one of the disciples, Judas Iscariot, who should betray him” [12:4].

                                                                                                     iii.          The Hour 

But time has moved on and Jesus “knew that his hour was come…” [13:1].

§         Jesus’ death was imminent: “that he should depart out of this world…” [13:1].

§         Satan was active: “the devil having now put in the heart of Judas Iscariot…” [13:2].


The devil and Judas are now in a conspiracy of evil to bring Jesus to the cross.

§         Even in this detail, Jesus makes it clear that no-one takes his life from him; he voluntarily lays it down [10:18].


We notice the contrasting positions and roles of the disciples.

1.        The Disciples Collectively

a.        The Action

Jesus’ blunt prediction evoked stunned silence: “the disciples looked upon one another…” [13:22].

§         ἔβλεπον - “looked” [13:22], imperfect active, ‘to look at’; ‘to look into’; ‘to watch’;

§         εἰς - “on” [13:22], ‘motion towards’; ‘into’; ‘direction of’;

§         ἀλλήλους - “one another” [13:22], reciprocal pronoun,

§         ἀπορούμενοι - “doubting” [13:22], present middle participle, ‘to be at a loss’; ‘to be puzzled, or perplexed’;

b.        The Response

The verbal response of the disciples: “they began to be sorrowful, and to say unto him one by one, Is it me?” [Mar.14:19].

§         They asked Jesus: “they began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it me?” [Mat.26:22]; “then Judas answered and said, Master, is it me?” [Mat.26:25].

§         The asked each other: “they began to inquire among themselves which of them it was that should do this thing” [Luk.22:23].


These honest-hearted men were more occupied with themselves than with other people.

§         They had no time for hunting out the marks of insincerity in their fellow-disciples; they had enough of their own.

§         The fact that they put the question at all was the best mark of their sincerity.

2.        The Disciple John

a.        John’s Position

The disciple John: “there was leaning on Jesus bosom…” [13:23].

§         ἀνακείμενος - “leaning” [13:22], present middle participle, ‘to recline to eat or for a meal’; ‘to fall back’; ‘to lean back’;

§         κόλπῳ - “bosom” [13:22], ‘the lap area or chest area’; ‘figurative to express an inward relationship’.

                                                                                                         i.          Position of Honour

John was in the position of honour at the table:

§         ‘At a meal – the place of the quest of honour’ was “leaning on the bosom” [13:23]. 

§         The disciple was reclining next to Jesus, but on his right. Therefore his back was to the Master.

§         The host, or the most important person, reclined in the centre of the chief couch, a couch for three, placed at the junction of the two arms of the u-shaped table.

§         The ‘place of honour’ to the host’s right and the guest there would have his head on the breast of the host.

                                                                                                       ii.          The Comparison

The comparison suggested by John: “no man has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son…” [1:18].

§         μονογενὴς - “only begotten” [1:18], from monoj, one, and genoj, derivation; ‘of sole descent’; ‘without brothers or sisters’; ‘unique’; ‘one and only’;

§         κόλπον - “bosom” [1:18], ‘the lap area or chest area’; ‘figurative to express an inward relationship’.

§         τοῦ πατρὸς - “Father” [1:18], the intimate relationship: “I and the Father are one…” [10:30]; “as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee…” [17:21].

§         ἐξηγήσατο - “declared” [1:18], ‘to make fully known’; ‘to provide detailed information’;

b.        John’s Special Relationship

The disciple’s place of honour and his special relationship: “whom Jesus loved” [13:23].

§         ἠγάπα - “loved” [13:22], imperfect active, ‘love as based on evaluation and choice, a matter of will and action’.

§         Love of friendship: “Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus” [11:5].

§         Love of kinship: “when Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he said unto his mother, Woman, Behold your son” [19:26].

                                                                                                         i.          Identity

If we compare the four canonical gospels, by a process of elimination we arrive at “John the son of Zebedee” as the most likely identity of this disciple.

§         The “disciple” is referred to at the cross: “When Jesus therefore saw his mother and the disciple standing by, whom he loved…” [19:26-27]; and also at the empty tomb: “Peter and the other disciple, whom Jesus loved…” [20:2-9]; by the sea of Tiberias: “Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved says unto Peter…” [21:1]. 

c.        John’s Special Privilege 

The position of honour was also the position of fellowship: “he then…said unto him” [13:25].

§         ἀναπεσὼν - “lying” [13:25], aorist active participle, ‘to fall back’;

§         τὸ στῆθος - “breast” [13:25], ‘the chest area’;

§         τίς ἐστιν - “who is it” [13:25], interrogative plus present active of ‘to be’;

§         The place of the “beloved disciple” was clearly on the principal couch where he could lean back on Jesus’ breast.

§         Ridderbos – “at the breast of Jesus” therefore means not only that this disciple was in the place of honour to the right of Jesus, the host, but also that he had the opportunity to conduct the tête-à-tête with Jesus described in v.25 without being overheard by others.


As a result – and this is surely the intention of the evangelist – the beloved disciple’s position of trust is highlighted, for he is the only one to know what Jesus’ dismissal of Judas really meant.

3.        The Disciple Peter

a.        Impulsive Peter

Peter is the impulsive member of the group:

§         On the question of the identity of Jesus: “Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” [Mat.16:16].

§         At the question of discipleship: “Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life” [6:68].

§         At the washing of feet: “Simon Peter says unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head” [13:9].

b.        Peter’s Place at the Table

                                                                                                         i.          Peter’s Reaction

It is Peter who makes the first move: “beckoned him that he should…” [13:24].

§         νεύει - “beckoned” [13:24], ‘to nod as a sign’; ‘a gesture to attract attention’;

§         πυθέσθαι - “ask” [13:24], aorist middle infinitive, ‘to inquire’; ‘to learn about by asking’;

§         τίς - “who” [13:24], interrogative,

                                                                                                       ii.          Peter’s Position

From what is taking place we can conclude:

§         Peter was not next to Jesus or close enough to Jesus at ask the question himself.

§         Peter was not next to John or close enough to John to speak to John. Peter has to ‘make a gesture to catch attention.

§         Peter is at a distance from Jesus and at a distance from John.

                                                                                                     iii.          Peter’s Denial

Not long after this Jesus was prophecy Peter’s denial: “Verily, verily, I say unto you…” [13:38].

§         ἀρνήσῃ - “deny” [13:38], aorist middle, ‘to renounce knowledge of or relationship with’;

§         Jesus’ teaching: “Whither I go you cannot follow me now…” [13:36].

§         Peter’s impulsiveness: “I will lay down my life for your sake” [13:27].


Peter’s apparent sincerity here: “I will lay down my life…” [13:27].

§         Distance: “but Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest's palace…” [Mat.26:58].

§         Identity: “Simon Peter stood and warmed himself…” [18:25].

4.        The Disciple Judas

a.        The Revelation >>>> only Jesus knew  

The identification: “he it is to whom I give a sop…” [13:26].

§         δώσω - “give” [13:26], ‘to hand over’; ‘to pass on to’;

§         ψωμίον - “sop” [13:26], ‘fragment or morsel’; ‘piece of bread’;

§         βάψω - “dipped” [13:26], future active, ‘to dip in or under’;

                                                                                                         i.          The Sop & Friendship

The host at a feast might well dip into the common bowl and pull out a particularly tasty bit and pass it to a guest as a mark of honour and friendship.

§         The evangelist may well be thinking of an early point in the paschal meal when bitter herbs were dipped into a bowl of fruit puree, the haroset sauce of dates, raisins and sour wine.

§         Boaz gives Ruth the place of privilege: “Boaz said to her, At mealtime come thou thither, and eat of the bread, and dip thy morsel in the vinegar…” [Rut.2:14].

§         A final gesture of supreme love: “having loved his own…” [13:1].

                                                                                                       ii.          Judas’ Position

Jesus and the sop: “when he had dipped…he gave it to Judas” [13:26].

§         δίδωσιν – “gave” [13:26], present active, ‘to hand over’; ‘to pass on to’;

§         That Jesus could pass it so easily suggests Judas was close by, possibly on his left.

b.        Judas & The Conflict 

                                                                                                         i.          Satan

The action of Satan: “Satan entered into him…” [13:27].

§         μετὰ - “after” [13:27],

§         σατανᾶς - “Satan” [13:27], ‘the adversary’; ‘the devil’;

§         εἰσῆλθεν -  “entered” [13:27], aorist active, ‘to move into’; ‘to begin with the focus on the initial stages of activity’;

                                                                                                       ii.          Preparation

Judas was moving towards this: “devil now having put in the heart…” [13:2].

§         βεβληκότος - “put” [13:2], perfect active participle, ‘to throw, cast, place something somewhere’;

§         καρδίαν - “heart” [13:2], ‘the inner self’; ‘the seat of mind, will, and affections’;

§         παραδοῖ - “betray” [13:2], aorist active, ‘to hand over’; ‘to deliver up’;

Everything that until now has awaited fulfilment becomes real; the bread prophecy of Psalm 41, the Satan-inspired plan to betray Jesus [13:2], Satan himself moving into action.

c.        The Words of Jesus

Jesus puts Judas in the place of decision; he must make up his mind either to respond to Jesus’ good will, and so repent of his plan to betray him, or to spurn it and carry out his intention: “that thou doest, do quickly” [13:27].

§         ποιεῖς - “do” [13:27], singular present active, ‘do a work’; ‘perform an action’;

§         τάχιον - “do quickly” [13:27], ‘promptly’; ‘without delay’;.

                                                                                                         i.          The Other Disciples

The response of the others: “no man at the table knew for what intent…” [13:28].

§         ἔγνω - “knew” [13:28], aorist active, ‘to understand’; ‘to ascertain’;

§         τί - “what intent” [13:28], interrogative pronoun;

§         A reference to the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which began that night and lasted for seven days: “buying things that we have need of for the feast” [13:29] –.

§         The intentional mention of the disciples’ not understanding what was happening in their midst is proof of how little they suspected Judas as being Jesus’ potential betrayer.

d.        Judas

                                                                                                         i.          The Decision

Judas: “he went out immediately…” [13:30].

§         ἐξῆλθεν - “went out” [13:30], aorist active, ‘to come or to go out’;

§         εὐθύς - “immediately” [13:30], ‘without delay’;

                                                                                                       ii.          The Night

Judas went out: “and it was night” [13:30].

§         νύξ - “night” [13:30], “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work” [9:4];

§         The final gesture of affection precipitates the final surrender of Judas to the power of darkness

§         Judas was on his way “to his own place” [Acts 1:25]; “cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness…” [Mat.25:30];

§         The phrase carries a tremendous impact; Jesus is “the light of the world” [8:12]; “this is your hour and the power of darkness” [Luk.22:53].


The hypocrite: “let anyone who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” [1Cor.10:12].

§         The final act of love becomes the decisive moment of judgement, which has been the central theme in John’s account of the public ministry of Jesus: “this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness…” [3:19-21].

§          ‘At this point we are witnessing the climax of that action of sifting, of separation, of judgement which has been central theme in John’s account of the public ministry of Jesus: “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved…” [3:16-19].

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