John (Part 47): Order of the Evening (ch 13)
Just as there seemed to be differences among the Gospels as to whether the Last Supper was considered the Passover meal, the Gospels also present differences regarding the incidents of that Last Supper evening. And again, I think, the differences can be resolved. Matthew and Mark (chapters 26 and 14 respectively) have only superficial differences and the order of events match: they reclined to eat; Jesus mentioned the betrayal and identified the betrayer with the sopped bread; Jesus instituted Communion; they left the upper room to go to the Mount of Olives; and there Jesus told Peter that he would deny him three times before the rooster crowed.
Luke’s version adds additional elements and also rearranges a couple of them. The story in Luke 22 begins with them reclining to eat. Jesus said he desired to eat this Passover with them and moved immediately to the institution of Communion. Then Jesus mentioned the betrayal, and the disciples argued about who would possibly betray him. The argument morphed into one about who was the greatest among them. Jesus ended their argument by insisting that the greatest would be characterized by serving the others, just as he had done. As the ending to this discussion, Jesus told Peter he would deny him before the rooster crows. Jesus followed this pronouncement with general instruction that the world would be against them. After this, they left the upper room.
Therefore, two major differences are shown in the order in Luke: (1) the betrayal discussion occurred after Communion, not before as in Matthew and Mark, and (2) Jesus told Peter about his denial while they were all still in the upper room rather than after they had left as in Matthew and Mark.
John’s record of the evening is the longest because he delves deeply into the discussion. But John also adds and omits a few of the common events from the Synoptics. John first relates the footwashing incident. No mention is made of Communion. The betrayal discussion is next, ending with Judas departing. Then Jesus discussed his new command of love, which was followed by informing Peter of his denial that evening. After this, the detailed discussion of chapters 14 through 17 took place, ending with them leaving the upper room, heading for Gethsemane.
Although Luke and John seem to change the order of a couple of events, I believe the problem can be resolved if we remember that this is actual conversation of actual people. In actual conversation that lasts for hours, some subjects brought up early can wind their way around in conversation later. Even in John 13 we have mention of betrayal popping up here and there throughout the footwashing scene and after. It is seen in verses 2, 10, 11, and 18, and in the passage from verse 21 through 30. We are told both that Jesus knew Judas would betray him before the supper started (John 6:70; 13:2-3) and that Jesus was troubled by this fact (John 13:21). Therefore, it is quite natural for Jesus to mention it more than once.
Likewise, I think we can see opportunity for the discussion of Peter’s denial to pop up more than once. In the footwashing, Peter was probably a little embarrassed for first rebuffing Jesus’s attempt at washing his feet, as can be seen by his whole-hearted wish to be identified completely with Jesus by a type of baptism as he asked Jesus to wash his hands and head too. Further, we have the talk of betrayal, and I imagine that here again, based on his initial backing away from the footwashing, Peter would try to make up for that by a speech of whole-hearted devotion. Luke tells us that they argued about who would betray and who was greatest. Peter here could also be declaring how much more devoted he was than the others. And after Jesus told them to love each other because he was leaving, Peter again declared undying devotion by even offering his own life.
In contrast to all this declaration of devotion, Jesus told him while still in the upper room that Peter would deny him. And as we consider the type of person Peter was, he would not readily forget this. As they left the upper room and arrived in Gethsemane, Peter’s mind was probably in an uproar. He probably felt that he had to assure Jesus of his loyalty. And so, no doubt, after Jesus said that all would run away (Mt 26:31), Peter brought it up again: “I will never run away!” (Mt 26:33). So, again Jesus insisted that Peter would, in fact, deny him before the rooster crowed.
There is, then, no error that must be assumed of the writers in getting the order wrong. It would be quite natural based on the normal characteristics of conversation and the shocking words of Jesus that some topics would be repeated, accounting for the differences in the Gospels.
The chapter begins telling us that even before the Passover festival began—during this last week of his earthly life—Jesus already knew that His hour had come to depart the world. And John makes note that Jesus loved his own “to the end.” This “end” does not merely mean the end of his life—that Jesus didn’t falter in loving for as long as he was here. The word speaks of purpose. This Greek telos is from the root tello, which means goal. In English we use end to sometimes mean that something is done or over (e.g., the play ended), and we also use it of a goal or intent to be achieved (e.g., it was the means to an end). So too is it used as such in the Greek. Here in John 13:1, we find that Jesus loved his own to the realization of his goal for them—redemption through his death.
Before we move on, we need to talk a little about some foundational things—again. Foundational principles and philosophy are important to understanding the movement of action and intent. Nowhere in the Bible is this more necessary than as we start wading into the waters of what is perhaps the most deeply comprehensive discussion in all the Bible of all that God intends for us (the “us” here means us and God). (Yes, that was a rather dogmatic bit of emphasis not usually found in measured evaluation especially about the Bible. But in this case, I think it is justified.) So, let’s, for what may seem like the thousandth time, start back at God’s intended purpose.
God created for everlasting love relationship. To that end, he created us in his image so that we could have a love relationship. That image of God included six elements: conceptual intelligence, conscious morality, critical aesthetic, concluding faith, continuing hope, and correlative love. (I’m not sure whether starting every modifier with a c is a good idea. Sometimes it cheapens the effort. But I’m doing it for organization purposes.) The first three of these image qualities are for apprehension. Only God is truth, goodness, and beauty; we are not. Therefore, in order to relate in truth, goodness, and beauty, we must properly reflect it. And we can’t reflect it properly in relationship unless we understand it. So we are given conceptual intelligence so that we can apprehend and understand the truth of God. We are given conscious morality so that we can apprehend and understand the goodness of God. And likewise we’re given the critical aesthetic to apprehend and understand the beauty of God.
Once apprehended and understood, we can either accept it or reject it. This is approbation. A concluding faith is the review of revealed truth, goodness, and beauty and deciding (concluding) an embrace of that revelation. Continuing hope is the ongoing embrace of that truth, goodness, and beauty toward a true, good, and beautiful future in which it is involved.
Finally, correlative love (think co-related here) is the means by which image bearers who have apprehended and understood truth, goodness, and beauty and have approbated that revelation, then articulate (or communicate or express or reflect) that revelation to others (and, in correlative fashion, receive it back).
Now, God didn’t give us these qualities merely because he thought they’d be helpful for us. He gave us those qualities because they are who God is, and therefore, so that he could have an everlasting love relationship with us. We necessarily have to have these same qualities that God has so that we can relate.
However, since truth, goodness, and beauty are part of who God is, we cannot categorize the image qualities for God as we did for his image bearers (i.e., in apprehension, approbation, and articulation). The category names must change slightly to indicate God’s hold on these items. Truth, goodness, and beauty are God’s qualities of Possession. Faith and hope for God are his Perception of those qualities possessed. And Love is God’s Proclamation of his truth, goodness, and beauty.
Now, we have rehearsed this again to major on the last point: the proclamation of God’s truth, goodness, and beauty is through love. If you remember, in our discussions of God’s glory, we found that glory is the manifestation of truth, goodness, and beauty through love. This is one of the fundamental and foundational differences between Reformed theology and Kinship theology.
Reformed theology understands that the glory of God is the manifestation of his intrinsic worth. (That worth is what I have argued is God’s truth, goodness, and beauty.) But Reformed theology does not argue that this glory is manifested necessarily and only through love. Therefore, when looking back at the fault of Adam and Eve, the Reformed see a command dictated by God, the Supreme King; Adam and Eve disobeyed that command; and subsequently they were punished by the King who had had his authority offended by the disobedience of his subjects. Contrasted with that is the Kinship theology view that sees protection and provision offered in love (the way God communicates) to his image bearers. The image bearers failed in approbating God’s truth, goodness, and beauty in faith and hope. Therefore, because God’s revealing love had been rejected, relationship crumbled. The natural consequence of failed relationship was that God’s love revealing his truth, goodness, and beauty was necessarily no longer communicated to the broken image bearers, who thus faced everything apart from the truth, goodness, and beauty of God—death and hell.
My point in this all is that to properly understand what Jesus speaks of in chapters 14 through 17, and even to understand the set up to that conversation provided in the narrative of chapter 13, we must put aside the view of a King whose sensibilities are offended by disobedience, causing him to lash out in punishment, but then shrugs his shoulders and says, “Okay, I’ll try to redeem them for my own glory.” Rather, we must start from the foundational view of Kinship theology—that God always operates by love to reveal his truth, goodness, and beauty. If we don’t start from that foundation, we risk heading off on a wrong trajectory in the subsequent discussion.