Lazarus began Chapter 12 with the warning that it is only 6 days until the Passove, which tells us that it is the last week of Yeshua's life. After His entry into Jerusalem, Yeshua went to the Temple to teach. The Synoptic Gospels record that every day that last week, Yeshua taught in the Temple. Several days before the Passover Gentiles who desire to meet Yeshua approach Philip. When this message is conveyed to Christ He immediately announces that "His hour has come!" The hour of His death and glorification is imminent.
In the closing verses of chapter 12 Yeshua gives His last discourse to the people and after warning them that, now is judgment being passed on this world, and that the light will be with you only a little longer. He ends His public ministry in chapter 12 verse:
While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light." When Yeshua had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. John 12:36 ESV
As a dramatic illustration of His theme of "the passing of the light" in verse 35, Yeshua now departs from the presence of the people of Jerusalem and His public ministry comes to a dramatic end.
In the next passages Lazarus summarizes Yeshua's entire 3-year ministry by quoting from two texts from Isaiah. The first is Isaiah 53:1 from the Song of the Suffering Servant quoted in John 12:38. It is the passage that most graphically specifies the details of Christ's suffering. The second passage is Isaiah 6:10 quoted in John 12:40. It is taken from Isaiah's call to ministry as a prophet of Yahweh. Isaiah 6:10 is quoted several times in the New Testament as an explanation of the blindness of the Jews, and their refusal to accept Yeshua as the Messiah. Like the people of Isaiah's time most of the Jews and Israelites have chosen darkness over the "light" of Christ.
So the vast majority of the people of Israel did not respond to the miraculous ministry of the Lord Yeshua. Of course there were some who responded by the grace of God. These are the ones that the Holy Spirit, through the Father, has brought to the Son.
This ends what is known by scholars as "The Book of Signs." These first 12 chapters were primarily concerned with the seven sign-miracles, which Lazarus has selected as representative of Yeshua's ministry and demonstrative of who He is. Included with the signs were the public discourses and debates with His opponents, which followed from the sign-miracles. Most of the words and works of Yeshua in these chapters were aimed at a wider audience in both Judea and Galilee.
The last nine chapters of this Gospel are known as, "The Book of Glory": In these chapters Yeshua accomplishes His return to the Father (13:1-20:31). Unlike the Book of Signs, "The Book of Glory" is addressed only to those who have believed.
Chapters 13-17 form a division, which we call the "Upper Room Discourse." The "Upper Room Discourse" is something that is not contained in the Synoptics and represents four chapters of truly spiritual communication from the Lord to His disciples, climaxed by the great high priestly prayer in chapter 17. This section is about the subject of love, the love of Yeshua for His own.
Commenting on Lazarus' Upper Room Discourse John G. Mitchell writes,
"Of all the Scriptures between Genesis and Revelation, I know of no greater portion as far as the people of God are concerned than chapters 13 through 17 of John. I believe in these chapters we have the seed germ of all the truth concerning the Church, as well as almost all the doctrine in the New Testament. Our Lord's discourse here takes us within twenty-four hours of the crucifixion." (ohn G. Mitchell, with Dick Bohrer, An Everlasting Love: A Devotional Study of the Gospel of John [Portland: Multnomah Press, 1982], p. 247.)
This Upper Room Discourse is presented as the events and discussion of a single evening the night before the Passover. Verse 1 of chapter 13 gives us the transition from Yeshua's public ministry to His final night with the disciples. In the Book of Signs
Yeshua customarily performed a miracle and then explained its significance. In the Book of Glory He did the reverse. He explained the significance of His death, and then went to the cross, died and then rose from the dead.
Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Yeshua knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him, John 13:1-2 ESV
These two verses have generated a storm of controversy among biblical scholars. The reason is that what is taught in John's Gospel seems to contradict what is taught in the Synoptic Gospels. I don't want to go into great depth on this, but I feel that I need to cover it because of the controversy. So many commentators just skip over the issue. The issue is this: Is the supper being talked about here the Passover meal as prescribed by the Law of the Old Covenant?
Some would argue, and I would be in this camp, that the supper mentioned in verse 2 is not the Passover meal. In 13:2 he does not identify the supper as a Passover meal and instead 13:1 indicates that the meal took place before the Passover.
Some would hold to what is called the Two-Calendar theory, which says that John's Gospel and the Synoptic Gospels agree: the Passover meal Yeshua celebrated with His disciples was on the night before the Temple Passover because Yeshua used a different calendar.
In Annie Jaubert's book, The Date of the Last Supper [Sorbonne, Paris, France, 1965] she argues that two calendars were commonly used in the first century: a lunar calendar of 354 days and a solar calendar of 364 days. The Romans had introduced the solar "Julian calendar" to the Roman world in 46 B.C. Jaubert' contends that the Jews were divided over which calendar, the solar or the lunar was divinely authorized, and that the Jews of Qumran (which are assumed to be Essenes) and the purer Jews celebrated Passover by the solar calendar on a Thursday whereas the corrupt Temple authorities in Jerusalem used the wrong calendar and celebrated on a Friday. Their argument is that this difference in calendars then is what John is reflecting: that the real Passover for "pure" Jews, like Yeshua and His disciples, was on a Thursday as the Synoptic Gospels record, but the wicked Temple priests celebrated by a lunar calendar on the wrong day, therefore, the Passover was celebrated at the Temple and the Passover lambs were slain as Yeshua was crucified on Friday.
John MacArthur following this idea says: "The Galileans celebrated on Thursday night, the Judeans on Friday, so celebrations began Thursday night." What's funny to me is he just throws that out there with nothing to back it up. He goes on to say, "We know the exact date on which He was crucified, 15th of Nisan in the year A.D. 30 at the Passover at the very time when the lambs were being slaughtered to be offered by the people as sacrifices."
What's wrong with that statement? The Passover lambs were always sacrificed on the 14 of Nisan. This is important! This Two-Calendar theory really doesn't work since a Passover lamb or kid, according to the Law, could not be sacrificed anywhere except at the Temple:
And you shall offer the Passover sacrifice to the LORD your God, from the flock or the herd, at the place that the LORD will choose, to make his name dwell there. Deuteronomy 16:2 ESV
Where was it to be sacrificed? "At the place that the LORD will choose, to make his name dwell there." This "place" where Yahweh has chosen to establish His Name is Jerusalem:
Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. Luke 2:41 ESV
You cannot have a Passover meal without a Passover lamb sacrificed at the Temple in Jerusalem.
This argument about the Passover meal and John and the Synoptic Gospels differences is complex. France argues that John's chronology is right, and that the Synoptics do not contradict it. What Jesus ate was not the Passover, but a meal that anticipated Passover, since he knew that at the time of the Passover he would be hanging on the cross. Of course, this means that Jesus and His disciples could not have eaten an appropriately sacrificed lamb, since the Temple authorities were unlikely to accommodate themselves to His divinely sanctioned sense of timing.(R.T. France, Chronological Aspects of Gospel Harmony, VE 16, 1986, pp.50-54)
To strengthen his point France adds that none of the four Gospels explicitly mentions the eating of a lamb.
The Jerome Biblical Commentary summarizes current scholarship (p. 451) and assumes that John's "day before" is correct and that the Synoptic Gospels assert the meal's Passover symbolism. We must always be reminded that the Gospels are not western, cause and effect, chronological histories. History is written in many ways, not right or wrong, not true or false. History is an explanation of the past to serve current issues/needs/perspectives. The real issue is who/why wrote the history. The best discussion of the genre of historical narrative and Gospels is Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart, How To Read the Bible For All Its Worth, pp. 89-126.
Biblically, why could Yeshua not be having the Passover meal? What had to happen before the meal? The lamb had to be slain. Yeshua is the Passover Lamb so how could He be partaking of the Passover meal?
Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 1 Corinthians 5:7 ESV
Yeshua is the Lamb and the Lamb had to die before it could be eaten.
Let's look at what the Passover means in Exodus:
Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers' houses, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight. "Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD's Passover. Exodus 12:3-11 ESV
What was the main part of the Passover meal? It was the lamb. When was the lamb killed?
and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight. Exodus 12:6 ESV
The text says, "at twilight"—the literal Hebrew reads: "between the two evenings." The phrase, "between the evening," refers to the period of the day that goes from noon to 6:00 p.m., which is exactly 3:00 p.m. on the 14th of Nisan. The lamb was a type and the antitype was Yeshua, the Lamb of God who was killed on the very same day, at the very same time as the Passover lamb: the 14th of Nisan at 3:00p.m.
The exact same Hebrew phrase, "between the evenings," is used in Exodus 29:38, 39 to describe the time the second daily sacrifice was to be offered. The first of the daily continual burnt offerings was offered at 9 A.M. in the morning, and the second daily offering was at 3 P.M. Josephus, the Jewish historian, stated that the evening sacrifice was at the ninth hour (our 3 P.M.) (Antiquities, 14, 4).
We must keep in mind that the Hebrew community, taking its cues from Genesis 1 where the Bible says, "…the evening and the morning were the first day," observes their days as starting at sundown; normally at 6:00, but formally at sundown. They do not view midnight to midnight as a day, as we do; but from sundown to sundown. So the 14th of Nisan began at sundown. After the sun had set is when they celebrated the Lord's Supper. But the Passover meal was not eaten until after sundown on the 15th.
So the Passover lamb was slain toward the end of the fourteenth day of Nisan at 3 P.M. It was then prepared and roasted during the three hours yet remaining of the fourteenth day; the fifteenth day beginning at 6 P.M. It was the Passover lamb that was actually the meal that was eaten the night of the fifteenth:
They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. Exodus 12:8 ESV
This is also called the first day of the "Feast of Unleavened Bread." They were to eat the meal in haste, with staff in hand and all dressed ready to leave for a journey quickly.
So our Lord could not have eaten the Passover meal a day early because you can't eat the Passover meal without the lamb and the lamb wasn't killed until the last hours of the day of Passover. The Last supper is not Passover. The Last Supper was in the first hours of Passover:
Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Yeshua knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. John 13:1 ESV
We see here that the Lord's Supper was "…before the Feast of the Passover." It's easy to establish from the fourth Gospel that the people of Israel did not eat their Passover meal until sometime after Yeshua partook of the Last Supper:
Then they led Yeshua from the house of Caiaphas to the governor's headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor's headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. John 18:28 ESV
This is obviously after the Last Supper and the Jewish leaders had not yet eaten the Passover. During the Last Supper the Lord sent Judas out and our text says:
Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Yeshua was telling him, "Buy what we need for the feast," or that he should give something to the poor. John 13:29 ESV
Some of the disciples thought that Yeshua was telling Judas to go buy things for the Passover Feast, which was yet future for them and all Israel.
When Judas accepted the dipped bread from Yeshua at the Last Supper and left, it was symbolic of removing all the leaven from the house on preparation day during Passover week:
Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, "Behold your King!" John 19:14 ESV
From these texts we see that the Last Supper, Judas' betrayal, and Yeshua's trial and crucifixion, all occurred before Israel ate the Passover. These all occurred on the fourteenth, the day of preparation, the day when the Israelites made all the preparations to partake of the Passover. They cleansed out the leaven, bought bitter herbs, had the lamb slain at the Temple (at 3 P.M.), then dressed and roasted it, all in preparation for the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which would begin three hours after Yeshua's death; on the beginning of the fifteenth.
Alright, that sounds clear enough, but the other Gospel writers seem to say the Last Supper was the normal Passover meal. These are found in Matthew 26:17-21, Mark 14:12-18, and Luke 22:7-16. All three sets of accounts begin by referring to the time of the Last Supper as "The first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread":
Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Yeshua, saying, "Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?" He said, "Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, 'The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.'" And the disciples did as Yeshua had directed them, and they prepared the Passover. When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. And as they were eating, he said, "Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me." Matthew 26:17-21 ESV
Okay, are you throughly confused? These texts appear to contradict John's account that plainly states that the "Last Supper" occurred before the Feast of Unleavened Bread. However, Mark and Luke both add details that help to clarify the time. Mark says:
And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, "Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?" Mark 14:12 ESV
What's wrong with this? The Lamb was sacrificed on the 14th of Nisan but Unleavened Bread didn't begin until the 15th. Passover was a one-day feast followed by seven days of what's called the Feast of Unleavened Bread. So it wasn't unusual to refer to all eight days as the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is what Mark is doing here.
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Luke 22:7 ESV
Also, Matthew 27:62, Mark 15:42, and Luke 23:54 all refer to that same day as the "Day of Preparation," thus indicating they were all referring to the same day John called "the Day of Preparation," when the Passover lamb was killed. Perhaps they initially used the phrase that it was the "first day of the feast" in a general way from the standpoint that the fourteenth was the day they had to make the preparations for the feast, which began the following day.
Also notice that none of the four Gospel writers make any mention about a lamb being eaten at the Last Supper. This is because the time had not yet come to slay the Passover lamb when Christ and His disciples ate their last meal together.
The Passover lamb cannot be, and never is killed on one of the Days of Unleavened Bread. It is killed in the final hours of the 14th of Nisan, in preparation for the Feast. Because the lamb is selected, washed, groomed, and observed for 4 days prior to the Feast, that time period is commonly referred to as part of Passover as well as the Feast proper, by the Jewish people.
To the Judeans "Passover" was used of several things. The day when the lambs were killed was called "Passover." The nightly meal when those lambs were eaten, was also called "Passover." And even the day which followed after that was called "Passover." Likewise, the entire eight-day period, including the Preparation Day and the seven Days of Unleavened Bread, were called "Passover."
"Now before the Feast of the Passover"—if these words are taken as a heading to chapters 13-19, it follows that the meal the disciples are about to have with Yeshua could not itself have been the Passover meal. But to avoid that conclusion some take the clause as an introduction to the foot washing only, and not to the discourses that follow the meal. It is my opinion that the events of this discourse, including the meal itself, take place before the Passover. This phrase in verse 1 of John 13 is a kind of introduction. It really is a title verse to the whole discourse.
How long "before" the Feast of the Passover was this? I think this meal happened right before Passover started and carried into Passover.
Passover: For the first century Jew and Israelite, the Passover and Unleavened Bread feasts not only looked back in history to a time when God redeemed the children of Israel from slavery to the Egyptians, and when Israel was set aside from all peoples of the earth as Yahweh's holy Covenant people, but the covenant people also looked forward to a future redemption of Israel when the Messiah would come free His people from bondage and oppression to the Roman Empire to lead them on a "New Exodus" to freedom and nationhood.
Jewish scholar Hayyim Schauss writes of this longing for the Messiah at the Feast of Passover in his book,The Jewish Feasts: "The highest point in the evolution of Pesach came in the last century of the second Temple, when the Jews suffered from the heavy oppression of the Romans. It was during this period that the Messianic hope flamed up, and in the minds of the Jews the deliverance of the future became bound up with the first redemption in Jewish history: the deliverance from Egypt. Jews had long believed that in the deliverance to come, God would show the same sort of miracles that He had performed in redeeming the Jews from Egypt. This belief gained added strength in this period of Roman occupation and oppression. Jews began to believe that the Messiah would be a second Moses and would free the Jews the self-same eve, the eve of Pesach. So Pesach became the festival of the second as well as the first redemption; in every part of the world where Jews lived, especially in Palestine, Jewish hearts beat faster on the eve of Pesach, beat with the hope that this night the Jews would be freed from the bondage of Rome, just as their ancestors were released from Egyptian slavery (Hayyim Schauss, The Jewish Feasts, page4).
The reason this is so important is because to fulfill the type Yeshua had to die on the 14th of Nisan on Passover. Biblical typology takes the unity of both covenants and sees in the Old Covenant types and shadows something which prefigures something in the New Covenant. These types can be people, places, objects, events, animals, etc. Typological language in the Old Covenant is called a "type." The counterpart in the New Testament is called the "antitype." A type always prefigures something future. A Scriptural type and predictive prophecy are in substance the same, differing only in form.
The typical significance of the Passover is very clear in the New Testament writings. Probably no Mosaic institution is a more perfect type than this. The first Passover was celebrated on the 14th of Nisan. And almost two thousand years later Yeshua of Nazareth was crucified on the 14th of Nisan. While Israel was celebrating their Passover, Yeshua, the true Lamb of God, was being crucified. He was the Lamb of God, which the ancient Passover lamb typified. He died to save us from God's judgments just as that lamb died instead of the first-born. As those ancient first-born redeemed by the blood of that lamb therefore belonged peculiarly to Yahweh, so we who are redeemed through Christ belong to God in a special sense.
Sixteen hundred years before Christ's resurrection, Yahweh predicted in type and shadow that Yeshua would be crucified on the 14th of Nisan and would rise from the dead three days later on the first day of the week, and it happened exactly as God said it would. Prophecy proves the truthfulness of the Bible. God said certain things would happen, and they happened. No other book in the world contains the kind of specific prophecies found all throughout the pages of the Bible.
"When Yeshua knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father"—"Knew" is a perfect active participle (like John 13:3). The coming of Greeks to see Him in John 12:20-23 showed Yeshua that His hour of death and glorification had come.
The verb "depart" (metabaino) has the connotation in Lazarus' writings of the transition from fallen physical existence into the new age of the Spirit and eternal life.
The word "world" is from the Greek cosmos which is an important one in this section of the Gospel, where it appears about 40 times in chapters 13-17. "The world" in this verse represents the mass of lost humanity, out of which Yeshua had called His disciples, and from which He would depart shortly when He returned to the Father. World draws a sharp contrast between Yeshua's "own," His disciples, and the mass of lost humanity.
"Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end"— we've seen the word love a few times in the opening twelve chapters, but the prominent words up to this point have been "life and light." But now in the Upper Room Discourse, which deals with the ministry that Yeshua has with reference to the believers, love becomes one of the key words. The object of the love of God in Christ, in these chapters is the newly forming people of God, the church, the community of the elect. Yeshua had loved "His own" from eternity past.
The NASB Study Bible's footnote makes the interesting comment "the Greek noun agape ('love') and the verb agapao ('love') occur only eight times in chapters 1-12 but 31 times in chapters 13-17." There are more references to the Savior's love for His own here than anywhere in the Bible.
"He loved them to the end"—the words "to the end" could be taken adverbially to mean "to the uttermost," but if "end" (telos) is taken temporally, the clause means that Yeshua loved them to the very end of His life. It seems clear here that telos has a double meaning: the obvious "utterly, completely," but also "to the very end of life itself," that is, up to the point of death. A form of this same word was Yeshua's last word from the cross (John 19:30), "It is finished," which we learn from the Egyptian papyri had the connotation of "paid in full"!
The love of God is the root of election, God chooses because He loves. God is sovereign in the exercise of His love. What I mean is that He loves whom He chooses to, God does not love everybody. Now I know that when I say that, people get upset, but it is clearly what the Word of God teaches. He didn't love Esau, that is very clear. Now how will you argue, will you say that He loves everyone but Esau?
One of the most popular beliefs of our day is that God loves everybody. But the idea that God loves everybody is a modern belief. The writings of the church fathers, the Reformers or the Puritans will be searched in vain for any such concept. The fact is that the love of God is a truth for the saints only. With the exception of John 3:16, not once in the four Gospels do we read of the Lord Yeshua telling sinners that God loved them. In the book of Acts, which records the evangelistic labors and messages of the apostles, God's love is never referred to at all. Does that seem odd to you? But when we come to the Epistles, which are addressed to the saints, we have a full presentation of the truth:
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives." Hebrews 12:6 ESV
God's love is restricted to the members of His own family. If He loves all men, then the distinction and limitation here mentioned is quite meaningless. God only chastens whom He loves, which is a reference to believers, the elect.
Believers, Christ loved us so much that He died for us. Love sacrifices for the benefit of the one loved.