John 13:1-3. Context

13:1    It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

2    The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal…

Many movies begin with a wide panorama, perhaps floating high above a city, which then grows tighter in its focus. Losing altitude, a suburb comes into view, then a particular house and finally a family gathered around their dinning room table. The wider context gives significance to this particular meal, this particular family.

As the Passion Narrative (John 13-21) begins, John prepares us by moving from wide context to narrow focus. Jesus’ public ministry has concluded and our view narrows to his closest disciples and ultimately the cross.

The introductory sentence beginning at Jn 13:1 establishes three parts of the context before framing what will now take place: it is Passover, the hour has come to return to the Father, Jesus has loved his own—and now Jesus will love them to the end (εἰς τέλος ἠγάπησεν αὐτούς). His love will now complete its goal and fulfil God’s purpose.

Further detail is given to the context in verse 2; as though zooming in to the dinner table. It is supper. Judas (given his full name) has it in his heart to turn Jesus over to the authorities. In verse 3 further context in a subordinate clause describes Jesus’ knowledge of the situation— he is in control, he is from God and he is returning to God.

The majesty of Jesus in verse 3 sets up a contrast with what now follows. Note especially the direct follow on of verse 4, a subordinate clause to these primary assertions: understanding all this, “Jesus got up from the meal…” to act as a servant.

Lord Jesus, thank you that you willingly went through so much for me. You knew it all. You knew you were God incarnate. You knew the injustice, ignominy and shame that would follow. And you knew that the salvation of humanity depended on your obedience to the cross. And you did it all because of your gracious love. Thank you. Amen.