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John 13:

21 After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.”

22His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24 Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.”

25Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”

This was uncharacteristic of Peter. Often, Peter just burst out whatever was in his mind. Why did Peter ask John to ask Jesus in this case?

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2 Answers 2

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Not really uncharacteristic at all. The verses you quote are from the book of John. Let’s look at another translation of verse 23…

JOHN 13:23 Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. [NKJV]

‘Leaning’ - anakeimai - reclining next to. That is, John was directly next to Jesus, in the natural position to be able to ask Him. Peter, not being directly next to his Lord, would have had to raise his voice, not appropriate for this discrete communication.

That is, getting John to ask was the ‘sensible’ thing to do. John was always the one ‘right next to’ Jesus. The disciple whom Jesus loved - a term only found in his own book, that is, he (John) wrote this - about himself! John was the one ‘close’ to Jesus. And incidentally the only disciple present at his crucifixion. Only John could have had the ‘connection’ to ask that question.

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Lets put the Gospel accounts together and see if they make sense. John's Gospel assumed familiarity with the Synoptic; so, the Synoptics first.

When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. 21 And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” 23 He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” 25 Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.” (Matt. 26:20–25, ESV)

And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” 19 They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?” 20 He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me. 21 For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” (Mark 14:18–21, ESV)

 But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. 22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” 23 And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this. (Luke 22:21–23, ESV)

What is consistent in comparing John's Gospel with the Synoptics is John identifies people not identified in the Synoptics. John mentioned Philip, Andrew, and the boy with the fishes and loaves in feeding the 5,000. John named Peter as cutting off the ear.

21 After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. 23 One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus’ side, 24 so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25 So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” 28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29 Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. 30 So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night. (John 13:21–30, ESV)

Apparently, when the twelve each asked Jesus "Is it I," Jesus only answered Judas. From the Synoptics (Matt. 26:14-16; Mark 14:10-11; Luke 22:3-6) Judas had already arranged to betray Jesus; so, he knew he was the one. "He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me," hints that Judas was sitting beside Jesus. That gave Judas the opportunity to ask Jesus in a soft private way. Perhaps Judas asked to not appear guilty to the other disciples, since they were asking. He didn't want to stand out. Apparently, Jesus asked in a soft private way, so that the disciples didn't hear; at least Peter didn't or he wouldn't have asked.

Apparently, Peter asked John because he was sitting next to Jesus on the other side. Since Jesus didn't answer the "Is it I" questions in a public way, Peter asked John to get an answer in a private way. So, the detail is that Jesus told John, "It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it." Mark addressed this in an anonymous matter of fact way.

Basically, Peter asked John because he wanted to ask in a private way hoping for an answer. He suspected a public question wouldn't get an answer.

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