This week in our study of John we are turning a corner. For the first twelve chapters of John we’ve seen Jesus interact with many different people, but beginning in John 13 we’ll see Jesus withdraw from public ministry and focus all of His efforts on His disciples. In John 13:1-17, the Scripture we will spend time with this morning, Jesus gave His disciples an object lesson on the true nature of love as He wrapped Himself in a towel and washed their dirty feet. In John 14:1-6, Jesus reassured His disciples of the certainty of heaven. In John 14:13-14, Jesus told His disciples that He would provide everything they could possiblly need for life. In John 14:15, Jesus challenged His disciples by saying, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” In John 14:16-17, Jesus comforted His disciples by telling them that they would not be alone–He would send the Holy Spirit to empower and enable them to do whatever they were given to do. In John 16:13, Jesus again told His disciples that the Holy Spirit would lead them into all truth. In John 15:1-6, Jesus told His disciples that if they would remain in Him, like a branch remaining in the vine, then they would bear much fruit. Over and over again Jesus told them that they would be opposed, they would face persecution, but they needed to remember that the world first hated Him. In John 17, we find the longest recorded prayer of Jesus in the Bible. In that prayer He interceded for His disciples and those who would become followers of His through the ministry of His disciples. In these next few chapters of the Gospel of John we will discover Jesus’ most intimate lessons to His closest followers. Let’s take a look at our Scripture for today found in John 13:1-17.
1 It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. 2 The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, 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, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” 9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” 10 Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. 12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (John 13:1-17 NIVO)
There is a common thread that we find running throughout these chapters and it is “love.” Jesus loves His followers and wants to prepare them for the time that He will leave them and go to the cross. Jesus’ love is quite different from the kind of love that we saw celebrated last Sunday on Valentine’s Day. I read just this past week that we as Americans spent almost $20 billion on gifts, dinners, and expressions of our love on Valentine’s Day. The website Bankrate.com reported that people on average spent $512.02 for their special Valentine. You might hear that and think, “We really love our sweethearts!” I don’t think that money spent can lead us to an accurate assessment of the nature and depth of love that couples have for one another at all. I remember many years ago meeting with a couple whose marriage was an absolute mess. In the midst of the mess the husband bought his wife a brand new Lexus for Valentine’s Day. He must really love his wife, right?! Appearances are not always what they seem. The truth of the matter is that he was more than willing to open his checkbook for his wife because he had a lot of money, but he refused to open his heart exclusively to his wife and in a few months it was over.
In our Scripture for today and throughout the next several weeks you and I can learn so much about what love really looks like, what love does. If you will go back to our Scripture for today and let’s take a look at the first verse.
1 It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. (John 13:1 NIVO)
John sets the context for what’s about to happen by telling us, “It was just before the Passover Feast.” The Passover Feast was first celebrated in Egypt. The name came about because the death angel “passed over” the houses of the Hebrews who had smeared the blood of a lamb over the doorframes of their houses. All of the firstborn of the Hebrews were spared while the firstborn of the Egyptians died. The Jews celebrated the Passover every year to remember how God had delivered them from the bondage of the Egyptians. In just a short while the celebration of the Passover would be overshadowed by the blood of the Lamb that was shed on the cross to bring deliverance for those who had been held in bondage to sin.
There’s an important phrase in verse 1 that we need to stop and try to understand. John tells us, “Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.” The phrase I want us to focus on is, “his own who were in the world.” There are several Greek words that are translated “world,” but the Greek word used here for “world,” is “??????” (kosmos) and it originally meant, “order” or “arrangment.” Later it came to mean the physical world in which we live. The Greeks saw the physical world as “ordered” and “arranged.” In the Bible we find three different understandings of the word. First, it is used to describe the order of creation. Second, the word is used to describe the world and order of humanity. Last of all, it is used to describe the world and order of evil. Let me give you an example of the second use by taking a look at John 1:10 where John writes,
10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. (John 1:10 NIVO)
John tells us, “the world” meaning “the people of the world,” didn’t recognize Jesus for who He was. One of the major truths that we learn about the “world” is that the people of the world are in rebellion against God. In John 17, as Jesus was praying for His followers, He prayed,
14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. (John 17:14 NIVO)
Jesus drew a clear line of distinction between the people of the world and His followers. Jesus’ followers are not of this world. In Christ we don’t live as the world lives. In Christ we don’t use people for our own benefit as the world uses people for their benefit. In Christ we don’t use our time, our money, or our abilities as the world uses their time, money, or abilities. In Christ we pursue God and not success. In Christ we pursue holiness and not happiness. In Christ we look for ways to serve and not how we might be served. In Christ the world has lost its allure and attraction because we’ve set our hearts on seeking God and His Kingdom. We are not of this world. We are not of this world. The world has nothing to offer those who are in Christ.
Some of you may be thinking, “Where do you come up with that?” Well, we can start with our story for today. In our story for today we find that Jesus is about to show His disciples “the full extent of his love.” How would He do it? What would He give them? What would He say to them? Let’s take a look.
Verse 2 tells us the evening meal was being served. The disciples had made all of the arrangements, they had arrived at the upper room, and were getting ready to dig in. Instead of passing the food, Jesus got up from the dinner table. Turn with me to John 13:4-6 and let’s read together.
4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (John 13:4-6 NIVO)
We are far removed from the days of sandals and dirty, dusty roads so what happened in the upper room is so foreign to us. In Jesus’ day, washing someone’s feet as they entered a house was very common, but there were restrictions concerning who was to do the washing. The task was reserved for the low man on the totem pole, only the lowliest of slaves in the house took up the towel and basin of water. By wrapping Himself in a towel and getting down on His knees to wash the feet of His disciples, Jesus was setting a new standard for His followers.
As Jesus made His way around to Simon Peter, Peter stopped Him and said, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Peter wasn’t so much asking a question as he was expressing his horror at the thought that Jesus would wash His feet. I want us to take a minute and listen in on the conversation between Jesus and Peter that followed. Turn to John 13:7-10 and let’s read together.
7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” 9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” 10 Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” (John 13:7-10 NIVO)
Jesus let Peter know that He didn’t expect him to understand at that time, but there would come a time, on the other side of the cross, when Peter would understand. Peter wasn’t buying it. He said, “No, you shall never wash my feet.” Surely we can understand Peter’s hesitation in letting Jesus wash his feet. Afterall, we’re not talking about the Mayor, Governor, or President…we’re talking about Jesus, the One who flung the stars into their place, knits babies together in their mother’s womb, and gives us life, breath, and makes us each and every one unique. Jesus had no desire for a dialogue with Peter so He said, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
If you read the Gospels then you will notice that Peter is the excited disciple. He’s impetuous, he speaks before he thinks, he’s passionate, and I love him! With that said, it’s no wonder how Peter responded to Jesus’s words. Peter said, “Then, Lord, not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” (John 13:9 NIVO) John tells us what happened next,
10 Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” (John 13:10 NIVO)
There is more to this conversation than simply washing dirty feet. Jesus said, “…you are clean, though not every one of you.” We know who that “one” was because we were told that Satan had already prompted Judas to betray Jesus before the meal ever began. Jesus and Peter had been having a conversation, but they were talking and thinking on two different levels. Isn’t that more times than not true of us as well? God’s purpose for our lives is so different than what we like to think it is. We live most of life with blinders on the horizontal plane when it is only the vertical aspect of our life that really gives us definition for the horizontal. Let me explain what I mean. We live life from day-to-day, focusing on what is just before us. God wants us to focus on the vertical, our relationship with Him, in order that we might see His hand at work in every aspect of our life. Matthew 6 is a great example of what I’m talking about. Jesus said you worry about what you will wear, what will you eat and drink, etc. He said that’s the way pagans, the people of the world, live their life. Then, in Matthew 6:33, Jesus said,
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33 NIVO)
Peter was merely thinking on the horizontal plane, but Jesus was speaking about something altogether different. What point was Jesus trying to make? Jesus was talking about the salvation that is found in Him for all of those who would trust in Him when He said, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
There is another important spiritual truth for you and me when we read that Jesus told Peter, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean.” There are those throughout history that have taught that you can lose your salvation. These people believe that if you don’t act right, if you don’t do right, then you can fall out of grace with God. There may be some of you who are here this morning who have wondered if you have gone too far? The enemy has used your failures to try and convince you that you are not “worthy” of God’s love and mercy. I’ve got news for you, none of us is worthy of God’s love and mercy. On our best day we are not worthy of God’s love and mercy. Our salvation is not based on our worthiness, but on God’s determined choice to do something about our alienation from God. We are not worthy, but we are loved. We are not worthy, but we have been chosen as the objects of His saving grace. Now, that’s good news! Paul wrote,
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith– and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIVO)
We’ve been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. We’ve been saved from the sure and certain eternal separation from God, by the glorious grace of God that has reached out to us in our rebellion and brought us from the realm of darkness into His glorious light.
With all of that said, we still battle indwelling sin day after day after day don’t we? Every single one of us has our issues don’t we? We need continual cleansing from the indwelling sin that continues to plague us, distract us, and can be a tool in the hands of the enemy to try and convince us that God couldn’t possibly love someone like me. If we have been “cleansed” by the blood of the Lamb we don’t need, it’s impossible to experience his saving grace again and again. Jesus said that anyone who has had a “bath,” the equivalent of having our sins washed by the blood of the Lamb, “needs only to wash his feet.” Traveling those dirty, dusty roads of Jerusalem precipitated the washing of one’s feet on a regular basis even though the rest of their body was clean. As you and I live each day we battle our sin nature and God has given us a means to deal with the daily dirt that accumulates in our hearts and minds. The means is confession and repentance. John wrote,
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. (1 John 1:8-10 NIVO)
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Agree with God, that’s what “confession” truly means. Agree with God that what I’ve done, what I’ve thought, the state of my heart, mind, and soul is not reflective of the character of Jesus, and God will forgive me and cleanse me. My record has been wiped clean by Jesus’ shed blood on the cross and as I allow the Lord to point out those things that are not pleasing to Him and I agree with Him, He works to mold me into the image of His Son. What a mighty God we serve!
Before we have to leave here this morning let’s turn back to John 13 and take a look at the last section of our Scripture for this morning. Look at verses 12-17 and let’s read together.
12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (John 13:12-17 NIVO)
“You call me ‘??????????’ (didaskalos), ‘teacher,’ and ‘??????’ (kurios), ‘Lord.’ I’m Someone you greatly revere. I’m Someone for whom you have given up everything to follow. Peter, you said of Me, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.’ If I’m everything you say I am and I AM and I have washed your feet, then you should wash one another’s feet.” Jesus set an example for His followers. We are not kings or queens, we’re not dignitaries or debutantes, we’re foot washers, servants of the King of the tub and towel!
This moment in Jesus’ life in which He willingly performed the menial task of washing the nasty feet of His disciples was really nothing more than an expression of His very nature and character throughout His life on earth. Jesus told His disciples,
45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45 NIVO)
Jesus came to serve. He came to give up His life, to die on the cross, for you and me, but that only culminated a life of service, a life of sacrifice for others. That is so far off of our radar that we can’t even begin to relate to that mindset. We are much more like the disciples. Luke tells us that one day the disciples were sitting around talking when the conversation turned to who was the greatest among them. Aren’t the disciples conversations interesting? There was a conversation between the brothers James and John and Jesus that led to Jesus declaring that He had come to serve. It’s the same story that Mark tells, but with a slightly different twist. Let’s listen in. Turn with me to Luke 22:24-27 and let’s read together.
24 Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. 25 Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. 26 But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. 27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. (Luke 22:24-27 NIVO)
“Who’s the greatest?” That’s what the disciples wanted to know. That’s what they were willing fight about. Jesus ended the conversation by saying, “But I am among you as one who serves.” And that, my friend, is what He has called us to do as well. We are to care for those who are suffering, those who are hurting, those who have suffered loss, those who have experienced broken relationships, and the list goes on and on. Right here at Britton Christian Church we have people who are suffering in silence, experiencing the heaviness of a broken heart in isolation that you and I can’t know about unless we pull up close to them, get to know them, and hear their stories.
About two months ago I went to see Jim and Kathy Varnado as Kathy was battling a brain tumor. As I got ready to leave I asked Jim, “What can we do to help you?” Jim said, “Well, there’s really nothing we need. There’s a lady from the church who has been calling and coming by to get whatever we need. She goes to Walgreen’s to pick up Kathy’s prescriptions, she goes to Walmart to get our groceries, she’s helped clean our house…she’s amazing.” I asked who this lady was and Jim gave me her name. I had no idea she even knew Jim and Kathy. Every time I would go by their house during the past two months I’d ask what we might do to help. The answer was always the same, “Nothing, our friend is taking care of us.” I won’t give you her name because I know she wouldn’t want me to do that, but I want you to know that by serving Jim and Kathy she was following in Jesus’ steps. Jesus told His followers, “But I am among you as one who serves.” He’s still among us every time we go out of our way to serve others.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
February 21, 2016