By now you know we are in Passover week, in fact, we are at the evening before his betrayal and a scene is now set before us that they had just eaten dinner, they had celebrated the Passover, and now Jesus comes with a bowl of water to wash their feet.
And he washes all their feet including the scoundrel Judas.
Thereafter, Jesus then was disturbed by what was about to come upon Him but especially the betrayal.
Jesus reveals the betrayer to John by dipping a piece of bread and passing it to Judas, a sign of friendship, but instead Judas turned his heart and in the usual John dramatisation, we are told, it was night.
In verse 1 we are told that he loved his disciples and loved them to the end.
What an amazing statement.
Knowing that Judas would do away with him, Peter deny Him, and the others would desert Him before the night was done with, yet Jesus would love them to the very end.
And as He was about to reveal He came as a servant and His heart was that of love.
A story about Czar Nicholas I of Russia tells us something of that love.
The czar was greatly interested in a young man because he had been friends with the young man’s father.
When that young man came of age, Czar Nicholas gave him a fine position in the army.
He also stationed him in a place of responsibility at one of the great fortresses of Russia.
The young man was responsible for the monies and finances of a particular division of the army.
The young man did quite well at first, but as time went along, he became quite a gambler.
Before long he had gambled his entire fortune away.
He borrowed from the treasury and also gambled that away, a few rubles at a time.
One day he heard there was going to be an audit of the books the next day.
He went to the safe, took out his ledger, and figured out how much money he had, then subtracted the amount he had taken.
As he sat at the table, overwhelmed at the astronomical debt, he took out his pen and wrote, “A great debt, who can pay?”
Not willing to go through the shame of what would happen the next day, he took out his revolver and covenanted with himself that at the stroke of midnight he would take his life.
It was a warm and drowsy night, and as the young man sat at the table, he dozed off.
Now, Czar Nicholas had a habit of putting on a common soldier’s uniform and visiting some of his outposts.
On that very night he came to that particular great fortress, and as he inspected it, he saw a light on in one of the rooms.
He knocked on the door, but no one answered.
He tried the latch, opened the door, and went in.
There was the young man.
The czar recognized him immediately.
When he saw the note on the table and the ledgers laid out, his first impulse was to wake the young man and arrest him.
But, overtaken with a wave of generosity, he instead took the pen that had fallen out of the soldier’s hand and wrote one word on the paper, then tiptoed out of the room.
About an hour later the young man woke up and reached for his revolver, realizing that it was much after 12. Then his eyes fell upon his note: “A great debt, who can pay?”
He saw immediately that one word had been added—“Nicholas.”
The young man dropped the gun, ran to the files, thumbed through some correspondence, and found the czar’s signature.
The note was authentic!
The realization struck him—“The czar has been here and knows all my guilt.
But he has undertaken my debt, and I will not have to die.”
The young man trusted in the czar’s word, and sure enough, the needed monies came.2
The czar’s love, paying the price for his guilty young friend, was only a faint shadow of the atoning love of Christ.
Nicholas’s deed was an easy matter for him—as easy as signing his name.
But the atoning love of Jesus cost him everything!
Indeed, we are told that our love must also be like His.
Then the Lord, who knew He was going back to the Father as a result of the work finished on the cross, and going back in glory as Lord of lords, then became Lord of the Towel.
Now, Jesus arose from supper, just as He rose from His throne in Heaven to go to work.
Here he lays aside his garments just as Jesus laid aside His glory in Heaven.
Just as He girds Himself with a towel He girds Himself in the form of a human being, coming in the form of a servant.
Just as He pours water into a bowl He pours out His blood.
Just as He washes the disciple’s feet, He washes away our sin’s stains with His blood.
Is this not reminiscent of that famous passage in
And then He sat down just as He returned and sat down at the right hand of God the Father exalted forever.
Just a week earlier Jesus said:
In the midst of this story Jesus gets to Peter.
Peter is great!
I love him for his impetuousness.
I imagine myself being a bit like him speaking at times it would have been better to have shut up!
Peter asks Him if He is going to wash his feet.
And at Jesus reply that he was though you will not understand now, Peter says to Him, never!
What is interesting is the Greek, is fuller than that one word, that which I cannot understand why it is not translated, except it may be an idiom of the time.
Peter actually says to Jesus: No! you shall never wash my feet for eternity!
That one word ‘never’ is five words in the Greek (ου με εις τον αιωνα).
And here in this story only the feet need to be washed if you had been bathed, and if you have been cleansed in the blood of Jesus then you are needing cleansing in those particular parts that need cleaning again - salvation was once achieved, we need to come at least daily for a fresh cleansing of those particular sins we have committed.
This whole parable done in front to them was just after a heated exchange between the disciples about who would be greatest and yet the greatest of them there became their servant.
Just as He is Lord of the towel we must be people of the towel.
The second part of chapter 13 deals with Judas.
Despite all this love shown by Jesus Judas’ own heart had been hardened.
Nobody in that room knew what he was about to do and yet Jesus continued to reach out to him and did not reject him.
It was Judas’ who rejected Jesus.
How hard this must have been for Jesus really did love him, did incredible things for him, and even washed his feet and shared his bread.
And yet Judas rejected the light of the world to go out into the night.
Around 24 hours later he committed suicide through sheer remorse, forlorn and alone and will eternally regret what he did.
There are many betrayers and the thing with such a person is that they are always the inside man or woman.
No one suspected him.
He was probably a great charmer.
Only God can see the heart and Jesus saw through it and still loved him.
When Jesus said that not all are clean he was giving him a chance not to do what he had in mind to do.
And in Jesus quoting from
Jesus was saying I know what you are up to and it does not have to be this way.
In fact, King David, the Psalmist, is here talking about his friend and counsellor Ahithophel, who conspired with David’s son Absalom and became his counsellor instead and we read what becomes of him in:
Indeed, if his advice had been followed David would not have survived and Absalom would have become king but what Ahithophel did not know was that it was God who arranged to defeat his good advice.
Jesus is saying to Judas: The fate of this man is going to be your fate too, for God has a plan bigger than your selfish plan can see.
And so it was.
Ahithophel committed suicide by hanging and so did Judas.
How gracious God is in drawing us to Him and away from the temptations that can overcome us.
It is still our choice and we can give in or we can accept the offer of life.
Judas choose unwisely as do all who give in.
A W Tozer said: the greater the sin, the greater the folly.
We are all fools who think that sin has no consequences.
Indeed, Jesus paid the ultimate consequence for all our sin.
What are we to learn from today’s passage if not that we should serve each other?
This is especially the case here in this fellowship.
It is easy to serve strangers but not so easy to love and serve those we know despite all the foibles we have discovered in each other.
We are to overflow in love even to those who could potentially betray us.
Jesus knew Judas would betray him but loved him all the same.
We are the king’s kids and we are to emulate the King of kings who got on his knees and did the servant’s job of washing their feet.
We are not greater than Him so we should be even more ready to serve.
Jesus came to serve though He is above everything and everyone.
His humility was immediately evident the moment He came to earth as a baby.
But He also lived a life as the supreme example.
And died to save us all.
He served us.
What a thought this is!