John refers to the same Passover Supper events detailed in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but John completely omits all details of the meal and the bread and wine. He focuses on Jesus the Servant King. The lowliest servant did the foot washing – for a very good reason – and the disciples were embarrassed and offended that their Rabbi was doing this to them. Jesus made it clear that there was no alternative; then he made a spiritual point about disciples who are bodily clean but just need the odd foot wash. Perhaps it indicates that we are completely judicially forgiven and cleansed, once for all, by God, but that we need regular forgiveness in a relational sense when we slip up in life.
Jesus then predicted his betrayal, which was really simply a confirmation of an Old Testament prophecy and his identification with that prophecy’s subject. To his closest disciples, he pointed out who would betray him – with the visual aid of sharing the Passover bread with him. Jesus, acutely aware of scripture, was consciously signalling the fulfilment of Psalm 41:9: “Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me”. Chillingly, John 13:30 then goes on to say: “As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him”. The comment seems to be literal rather than metaphorical. Immediately, Judas walked out into the night (symbolic?). Evidently the die was cast, and Jesus declared that “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him”.
At the end of the meal, Jesus gives his disciples a new command to love one another, just as he has loved them (and us). We should do this, because he says so, and because it is an infallible way of making new disciples from a cynical world that is yet wide open to the power of genuine love. It’s a funny thing, but whilst the world will dispute and disagree with us about doctrine, it finds our ‘agape’ love undeniable and irresistible. And later, it comes to realize that even our doctrine is not so silly after all!
Jesus then challenges Peter’s to commit himself to him – despite all the dangers – and Peter, as usual makes rash promises that Jesus knows won’t be kept. After Peter’s betrayal and Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus meets with Peter and brings him back to the verses on loving one another again. (See John 21:15-19). It’s good to know that he gives us a second chance too!
1 SAMUEL 9, 10, 11 and 12
Saul meets Samuel, Samuel anoints Saul, Saul rescues Israel, and Samuel rebukes the people. There! You have the main content of today’s reading. God’s providence ensured that Saul started off looking for his father’s lost donkeys and found the most sought-after prophet of his generation. God had already prepared Samuel’s heart and mind for Saul’s arrival, and Saul was presented as the invited guest to the feast – the place of honour. Saul was the most handsome man in Israel with a physique to match, but this was accompanied by a very low sense of self-worth.
Samuel pours olive oil on Saul’s head – in secret – in the time-honoured way of appointing the king. He then gives as specific and accurate a prophecy as you will find in the entire Bible. As part of this prophecy, the Spirit of God will come down powerfully upon Saul and “you will be changed into a different person” – quite a transformation! We see the immediately all these predicted signs were fulfilled, and Saul’s heart was changed by the Lord. Upon arriving home, Saul kept all this to himself. But later, Samuel arrived on the scene and engineered a ceremony that would reveal Saul as God’s choice of king.
An Ammonite invasion caused great fear amongst the Israelite towns, and they were even tempted to accept the horribly harsh terms for surrender – each man losing their right eye! But the Spirit of God came powerfully upon the newly anointed king, and he led the 330,000 men to a great victory over the invaders. At the ensuring celebration feast, Samuel takes the opportunity to induce all Israel to formally recognize Saul as God’s choice.
Finally, after all this, Samuel gathers all the people together and starts the handover from himself to Saul – after first getting the people to admit that he, Samuel, had done nothing wrong to any of them. In fact, Samuel is the only bible character that I can think of – apart from Jesus himself – who is not criticized by the Word of God for anything done wrong. This is not to imply that he was sinless, though. Samuel then points out that Israel has certainly sinned greatly and often against the Lord and that their repeated requests for a king is just one more example of sinful behaviour. Israel is convicted of sin and repents genuinely. After some final warnings, Samuel dismisses them.