The Disciples in the Upper Room (13:5)

Perhaps the crowning revelation of the character of God came in the upper room the night before Jesus was crucified. If you look in Luke’s account, Jesus said to the twelve, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover supper with you. But the one who is to betray Me is sitting with Me at the table.” They began to argue with each other as to which one of them would do this terrible thing. But they also were arguing as to which one of them should be thought of as the most important (Luke 22:23-24). Can you imagine their arguing about who was the greatest at the same time they were debating which one of them was going to betray Him?

How did the Son of God treat them? Did He chide them for their childish behavior? Or scold them for their unwillingness to wash each other’s feet? Instead, the whole universe watched as their Creator, the One they worshiped, arose, got a basin and a towel, got down on His knees, and washed a dozen pairs of dirty feet (John 13:4-12). He even washed the feet of His betrayer, Judas. Think what it says about God that He would treat them in this way. Jesus could have looked up at them and said, “You don’t believe My Father would be willing to do this, do you?”

What moved the disciples was not so much that their teacher and leader washed their feet. What moved them was that God washed their feet. Imagine their experience as they looked down on His head bent over the basin and felt His strong carpenter hands on their feet. Then to have Him look up and say, “You don’t think My Father would do this, do you? But He would. If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father. If you are comfortable with Me, you will be just as comfortable with My Father” (based on John 14:7-9).

Think what fools Jesus’ disciples were to miss the opportunity to wash the feet of the Son of God before He died. What a memory one of the disciples could have had for eternity! Imagine Jesus meeting him a million years into eternity and saying, “John (or Peter or James), I’ll never forget how you washed my feet the night before I was crucified.” That disciple would never get over it. And they missed out on it because of their attitude and misbehavior in the upper room.

When Jesus told the disciples that one of them would betray Him, did He expose that person before the others? No, it says in the biblical record that when Judas left to do what he had determined to do, they thought Jesus had asked him to go buy provisions for the feast, or perhaps even to make an offering to the poor:

Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you have to do.” No one at the table understood what he meant by this. Some supposed that, as Judas was in charge of the common purse, Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to make some gift to the poor (John 13:27-29, NEB).

Think how Jesus covered for His betrayer. Why didn’t Jesus expose him before the others? Of all people, the traitor deserved it! But the traitor was a member of God’s family, just a seriously misbehaving one. God takes no pleasure in embarrassing His children.

2 thoughts on “The Disciples in the Upper Room (13:5)

  1. Dan L. Kelly

    Brother Jon:

    With the risk of sounding like an antagonist here I must tell you that I’m uncomfortable with Maxwell’s apparent “Cherry Picking” in that he suggests the magnanimity of Jesus in not “exposing” Judas as the perpetrator of the betrayal when the four gospels clearly recount the disciples asking who it was and Mathew lends us to believe that each one asked, “Is it I?” Then coming to Judas last, He answers, “Thou hast said.”

    It would appear that Jesus pulled no punches while neither did He point His finger in accusation. It should have been clear to the other eleven, whether it was or not. – I haven’t recently reviewed Mrs. Whites commentary in Desire of Ages but I seem to recall that when Jesus said “That which you do, do quickly” she suggests that in this, they had no idea what He was referring to. So, in this , he is correct in what he has said but I’m not sure it would extend over to the remainder of the passage.

    Can you clear this up a little for me?

    1. Jon Paulien Post author

      See previous comment. Jesus certainly seems to have covered for Judas in John 13. At issue is not what the gospel writers wrote for us, but the way Jesus actually handled the original situation. Don’t forget, Jesus had just washed Judas’ feet.


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