John 13:21-38, The Glorification of the Son

[November 6, 2011] The reading today continues where we left off last week: Jesus has just washed the disciples’ feet, and we are to wash each other’s feet in preparation for the revelation of—and as our actual crossing into—the Promised Land of Jesus Himself: gifted to us by the indwelling Holy Spirit. He is not only our redemption and forgiveness of sins, and our deliverance from the authority of darkness and transference into the kingdom of the Son, but He is our allotted portion in the light (Colossians 1:12-14). For in Him (hidden) all the fullness dwells, the riches of God’s glory, all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 1:19, 27; 2:3), and we are in Him and He is in us. He is the fullness of divinity and reveals the goal of the creation (its divinization), for in Him all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily. He is the Land that we enter through faith in Him as we worship and live in faith and grow into spiritual maturity.

This night, the night of the Last Supper, Jesus reveals to His disciples that He becomes this to them only by going away to the Father, which is His way of referring to the cross. He must go to the cross to undergo the process of death by which His faithful humanity will be broken open and the life that is within can be released. The result will be that His humanity itself will be glorified in resurrection, in fact divinized. His humanity will become divinized, and through the atoning death that He passed through and His coinherence with the Holy Spirit, communicable. The fulfillment of His humanity resulting in its multiplication in others will be the glorification of the Father.

The Betrayal (John 13:21-30)

The act that begins this process is the betrayal. The gospel has already spoken of it in 13:2, 10-11, and 18-19. The betrayal expresses the irony of the Lord’s death in the Gospel according to John. The betrayer violates the trust of a relationship (13:18). Judas does so because he acts in ignorance of what he is doing. He expects what he does to damage Jesus.

Irony is concealed in the word “betray.” The word that Jesus uses for “betray” means to hand over. It does not always have the connotation of violating a trust. Judas “hands over” Jesus to those who came to arrest Him (18:2); the chief priests “hand over” Jesus to Pilate (18:30, 35); Pilate “hands over” Jesus to his soldiers (19:16); and Jesus “hands over” His spirit to God (19:30)! Acts 14:26 says the church of Antioch “handed over” Paul and Barnabas to the grace of God; and in Acts 15:26 Barsabbas and Silas are said to have “handed over” their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. In Romans 6:17 believers are “handed over” to the teaching.

In Romans 8:32 it is God who “hands over” Jesus for us; and in Galatians 2:20 and Ephesians 5 (verses 2 and 25) Jesus “hands over” Himself. In 1 Corinthians 11:2 and 15:3 Paul “hands over” the tradition to the church, the tradition being the testimony of Jesus in the Gospel; in 2 Peter 2:21 the holy commandment is “handed over” to us; and in Jude 3 the faith is “handed over” to us.

Jesus is “handed over” to the cross and through the Gospel He is “handed over” to us. Judas hands Jesus over to those who crucify Him and yet when he does so, it is God who is handing over His Son, and the Son who hands over Himself. As Jesus said in 10:18, “No one takes [My soul] away from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it again.” He tells His disciples that Judas will hand Him over before it happens so that when it happens they may believe, He says, that “I Am” (13:20).

Yet, Jesus’ spirit is troubled about Judas (verse 21). For though Judas acts according to God’s will, and the will of Jesus, he does it unwittingly, under the movement of Satan (verse 27). Those who act against Jesus fulfill God’s will by doing so, yet they bring judgment on themselves for they intend it for evil. Judas brings judgment on himself for he “lift[s] up his heel against [Him]” (verse 18). All things work together towards God’s purpose and the victory of Jesus, and the grace and mercy of God therein, but the judgment of God is in their wake.

Yet again, the judgment that follows in the wake of God’s act of grace can be overcome by that grace itself. Will it be so universally? Will it be so in the case of Judas? The Scripture does not say so. However, Paul makes just this case for Israel in Romans 9—11. As the prophets stress, Israel is under God’s judgment (revealed in the days of the prophets themselves), and presently rejects the Gospel of Jesus, yet the grace of God will overcome their unbelief and in doing so will overcome the judgment of God when the Messiah comes. It can be said that the grace of God has already done that for everyone who believes (though in our earthly days we also continue outwardly under the judgment of God in solidarity with Israel).

Notice that Judas is in the midst of the disciples. Jesus does not outwardly reveal him (though He does to those closest to Him), yet He wants the other disciples to know that a betrayer is in their midst. So it is in the church. Not everyone among the believers is a believer (John 6:64). The unbeliever may not know that he or she is an unbeliever, and the believers may assume that the person believes as they do. Even Jesus outwardly treats the betrayer no differently than the others so that his identity remains concealed from them. We also ought not to judge ahead of time (1 Corinthians 4:5). The church is composed of believers; not a mixture of wheat and tares. Within the church we ought to make the “judgment of charity” as Calvin calls it. We would say, give the benefit of the doubt. Those who profess faith in Christ we take at their word (using discernment, of course). If they are really an unbeliever, it will be revealed in time. They will leave us (1 John 2:19). (Of course, true believers also may leave our particular company as well!) In other words, it is not our business to make that kind of judgment (1 Corinthians 5 is different).

The Glorification (13:31-32)

“Then when he went out, Jesus said …” What Jesus is about to reveal, He could not have revealed to an unbeliever. This is signified by Jesus waiting until Judas left. This also tells us that the significance of the Last Supper—the Lord’s Supper practiced among us—is lost on the unbeliever. We can break bread with unbelievers, as Jesus did in John 6 or as Paul did in Acts 27, but all that is communicated is bread, not the body of Christ. The Lord’s Supper is a meal to be shared among believers.

Judas means to do evil, and acting under the prompting of Satan, leaves the dinner: for “it was night.” The night represents the darkness in which the people of the world (those under the dominion of Satan) act. They cannot see what they are doing, and their blind acts are meant to thrust God away from themselves.

However, even though they think they have power over Jesus and the freedom of their acts tell them this is so, Jesus says, “Now has the Son of Man been glorified, and God has been glorified in Him. If God has been glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and He will glorify Him immediately.” I believe Jesus is speaking in anticipation of His death. The “now has” refers to His death. Judas’ leaving sets things in motion, and so Jesus says, “now.” By His death the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in Him. Jesus in His humanity is glorified, and His divinity is glorified in it. How so? By His faithfulness unto death. Jesus’ faithfulness to the Father, His obedience unto death, is His victory. His death reveals His fidelity unto the end. It exhausts it, as it were, for in laying down His soul so completely, there is nothing left to give. He does this in His humanity, and His divine Sonship (that is, the divinity of His hypostasis or person) is revealed by it. This is the significance of verse 31.

Verse 32 speaks of His resurrection. If God has been glorified in Him (by His death), God will also glorify Him in Himself, and He will glorify Him immediately. The glorification of the Son in resurrection takes place when His humanity is divinized with the glory of His divinity. It is humanity still (unchanged and unconfused with His divinity) yet it now shares the perfections of His divinity. His humanity becomes (retroactively) omnipresent and eternal, no longer limited in space and time. The human being that He was before and in His death becomes omnipresent and eternal in His resurrection. This is one aspect of the glorification.

When His humanity is taken up (unchanged) into His divinity, it is taken up into that which is shared by the Father and the Holy Spirit. Even before, the Son did not take on human flesh apart from the Father and the Spirit, for Each dwells in the Other and no Person acts independently. Yet now the human nature of Christ is sublated into the Trinity to the point that each Person “includes” it. The Holy Spirit is the incarnate Jesus, even though the Persons of the Trinity are distinct.

This brings us to its communicability. It is not enough that His human nature is divinized in itself and sublated into the Trinity so that the Holy Spirit which He breathes into His disciples is Himself, by it has to become communicable. This happens by His death. The human spirit cannot receive the Holy Spirit, nor the Son, because the human being is under the judgment of God. When the Son, however, undergoes the judgment of God in faithfulness to God, the judgment is overcome. When the Holy Spirit comes to us, She comes with this accomplishment of judgment, and our judgment is overcome by it. This overcoming of our judgment means that we can receive the Holy Spirit, and in receiving the Holy Spirit we can receive all that Jesus is. We receive Him into ourselves; He is thus multiplied in us. This is His expansion and glorification.

In our spirit comes the Holy Spirit, cleansing our spirit through the atoning death of Jesus at the same time so that She can enter our spirit. When She enters, Jesus Himself enters—all of His humanity, all of His divinity, all of His time, all of His attainments, all that He has accomplished and obtained. He is no longer limited to the historical location of the incarnate Jesus but lives in every believer (in fact He lives everywhere the Holy Spirit is, though only the believer in Jesus knows the benefit of it).

Where I Am Going, You Cannot Come” (13:33)

Verse 33 is an explanation of verses 31-32, just as verses 31-32 cap verses 18-30. They explain that the glorification will be accomplished by His going away, that is, by His going to the cross to accomplish what He alone can accomplish.

If verses 31-32 is the header of the speech that follows in chapters 14—16, verse 33 is the opening verse. The “little while” is the few hours He has before He is taken from them and “handed over” to those who will accomplish His death. When He goes to the cross and dies, they will seek Him, but where He is, they cannot come, yet. The disciples cannot accomplish His atoning death—they cannot come where He is going. Their humanity would not survive. Because of the divine life within Him, He will overcome death. Moreover, He is going to the Father, meaning, in resurrection. That is, He will be ascending to the glory of the Father in His humanity; His humanity will participate in that glory—it will be divinized and no longer “emptied” (Philippians 2:7). His Person is divine and though His Person was embodied in the flesh of His incarnation, His flesh hid His divine nature and did not share all its perfections (properties). The One Person had two natures but the sharing of their properties was hidden by His flesh. That is no longer so in resurrection.

He is the Victor who overcomes on our behalf. We too can overcome (verse 36), but only on the basis of His overcoming.

The Condition for Receiving the Revelation (13:34-35)

The revelation that follows in chapters 14—17 is holy ground and we cannot enter it without the cleansing of our feet. For believers today that washing of each other’s feet takes place through our love of one another. If we do not love one another, we are not qualified to receive the revelation. This is not a legal mandate but an existential condition. If we do not love one another we are blind.

 The condition of being a disciple is not only our allegiance to Jesus but our love for one another. If we do not have love for one another we have not yet passed from death to life. That is, we have not yet received the Holy Spirit, the reception of whom gives us the gift of eternal life. If we have the Holy Spirit we have love for one another.

The “commandment” to love one another is simply a commandment that we act out what we are. It is natural to us as believers to love one another or we do not love one another at all. This is not to say that what is natural is always easy to carry out. Sometimes we are scandalized and hurt by one another. We love one another but we are angry, bitter or resentful. Our innate love feels like a welling up of other emotions. Thus the commandment. In spite of the contradiction of such emotions, we need to lay down our soul in death (“Even as I have loved you”) and express our true nature. To lay down our soul in death does not mean to repress such emotions. It means to dis-identify with them and love out of a different place, to love out of faith. This love wells up from the Holy Spirit in our spirit, not from the turmoil in our soul. By finding this, our soul dies to itself and comes back to us slightly on a different basis.

It is the love expressed among the siblings, thus making us together a Temple for the Holy Spirit, that makes us available to receive the light of the revelation Jesus gives in chapters 14—17.

Not only so, but this love also makes us available to others. “By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Without this love, we cannot make Jesus available to others (albeit, God accomplishes this freely without our help).

Our Self-Trust Is Our Impediment  (13:36-38)

Peter boldly proclaims that he can lay down his soul for Jesus in verse 37. He thinks he can do this on his own, yet Jesus wants the disciples to learn to trust Him. “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (14:5). They must not “abide” in the flesh, the soul that attempts to insulate itself from God by artificially constructing what it thinks is its own “life.” We must abide in Jesus so He can abide in us. We abide in Him by faith; He abides in us by the Spirit. But after we believe, we continue to identify with the delusion of our artificial self in the world. We do not yet see our true self in the creation.

Jesus allows Peter to stumble so that he can discover that he cannot be faithful to Jesus, much less lay down his soul for him, on his own. He allows Peter to carry through, trusting in his own strength so that Peter can learn something about himself. His faith will grow out of his failure: faith in Jesus rather than in himself.

Many Christians can lay down their living or even their physical life (their bios) for Jesus, but they do this out of arrogance and fanaticism. They can do what Jesus does not allow Peter to do. Peter tries and fails. Peter learns to let go of his soul because he discovers that it is dangerous. After his gaining of self-knowledge, when Peter discovers that he is handling his soul again, he lets it go like a hot potato. We see this in Acts 10 and again in Acts 15 (comparing it to Galatians 2).

When Peter eventually lays down his physical life in martyrdom, it will not be with the arrogance of later martyrs of the church who were often bullies before they were arrested. Peter’s failure here did not stop the violence inherent in the cult of martyrdom that we see later in the fourth and fifth centuries (and earlier). Perhaps the Lord of the church allowed the church to tear itself apart with its violence (often using martyrdom to justify their “self-sacrifice”) and thus make room for the spread of Islam so that we could be humbled by our failure as Peter was by hIs own. It is the same lesson, but on a huge and historic scale.

The church has to lay down its arrogance and take the way of Jesus. In doing so, we may become yet have time to open ourselves to the revelation of Jesus before He manifests Himself to the world.

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