Following Jesus the Servant
John 13:1-35 Following Jesus the Servant Introduction: In chapter 12 John was making his transition from Jesus public ministry now to Jesus final moments with his own followers. That transition has fully taken place now and we find ourselves with Jesus on the night before he was crucified. The next seven chapters (13-19) take place in a 24 hour time period. These next chapters then, are Jesus’ last will and testament. Jesus is preparing his disciples now for their world mission. In these chapters he will continually refer to the fact that he is sending out the disciples justas he had been sent by the Father. We disciples, who have been incorporated into his Church, will want to receive these chapters as especially given to us and so to be especially grateful for and conscious of our inheritance and mission. Here in this mornings chapter we have a well known scene. It’s been talked about for centuries, lectured on, written in books on the subject of leadership, it’s been illustrated, it’s been acted out in films and on the stage, it’s been painted on magnificent canvas, and put in stain glass windows. It is the picture of Jesus, God in human form, washing the feet of his loved disciples. "What makes the fourth Gospel account so extraordinary is that there is no parallel in surviving ancient literature for a person of superior status voluntarily washing the feet of someone of inferior status. Jesus’ act therefore represents an assault on the usual notions of hierarchy, a subversion of the normal categories of honor and shame… it is not just an honored teacher who is performing a shameful act but a divine figure with sovereignty over the cosmos who has taken on the role of a slave.” 1. The Setting 1. “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus 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. 2 During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” 2. Jesus knows that the time has come for him to leave this world, having completed his mission to love his people to the uttermost, to the very end…and that the Father had committed all things under his power and that he had come from God, and was going back to God…arose. This story illustrates for us how Jesus loved us to the end. He loved us by going low.. 1. Jesus at this point is at a place of absolute assurance and confidence in who he is, where he has come from, where he is going, and the power and authority he has as the Son of God. His mission has come to it’s final hour. 2. You almost expect after this sentence for Jesus to pronounce his own greatness to the Disciples, or an elaborate explanation about how he is going to destroy the works of the devil… This is what we usually find when people talk about finding their true selves or being confident in their own identity. And yet we find Jesus, again, doing the opposite of what we expect. Jesus knowing all this about himself stood up from the dinner meal, took off his outer clothing, and dressed himself with a towel, and began to wash the disciples feet and wipe them with the towel he was wearing… 3. “The rather circumstantial physical description of our new and surprising “waiter’s” disrobing and re-robing is probably intended, in John’s design, to be a theological picture of Jesus’ whole career, but especially of his coming passion: He takes off his purely divine prerogatives from heaven, he puts on his human towel of earthly service to the his world, and he prepares to wash us, his people in his cleansing crucifixion, depicted here as a foot washing… in this way the foot washing becomes a dramatic enactment of the Christology of the hymn in Philippians 2:6-11” -Bruner 1. “6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” 2. This act is only a sliver of the greater humility of God becoming man.. 2. Jesus Act is First a Gift to Receive. 1. We find that as Jesus is washing the Disciples feet, Peter in classic form, objects to his Master’s lowly act. “Lord, you think I’m gonna let you wash my feet?” -Jesus, I will not allow you to go that low, not even for me…. 1. Culturally speaking, Peter is absolutely correct in his understanding that Jesus is doing something that is beneath him (and of course this is the whole point). Foot washing, that not only included dirt and grim from the foul roads of ancient times, would also often include animal and human excrement carrying all kinds of filth and disease. Foot washing was beneath even the lowest of servants. 2. Jesus responds to Peter, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8 Peter fired back, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 1. Peter doesn’t understand that this washing is symbolic of the work that Jesus will do in washing away our sins through his lowly service of death by crucifixion. 2. But once Jesus implies that this is more important than Peter realizes, that it’s a matter of connectedness with Jesus, He is all in. He wants head, hands, and feet, he wants everything washed, if it means nearness to Jesus. Jesus further explains that what He is doing for him is more than enough- The disciples are completely clean now. 2. I said that Jesus act is first a gift to receive, because with passages like this we often jump immediately to the application -Jesus went low, so must we. Jesus washed feet, so must we…. This is true. But it is a Biblical mandate that before you act for God you must first allow him to act for you. Before you humble yourself before God (through religious acts, trying to make our way to God through piety) we must receive and know that God in Christ humbled himself for us. We must allow Jesus to go low, for our sakes, and receive it, or else we have no part, no portion, no place with him. 1. Jesus says, “If I can’t forgive your sins, If I can’t wash you, You can’t have my presence or my power.” If Jesus can’t trump our conscience, we can’t have his companionship. If we think we are too humble, or unworthy to receive Jesus free grace, we will miss out on him entirely. 2. Let Jesus be your Lord and savior by being, as he clearly wishes to be our servant. Apparently Jesus wishes to live much of his Lordship in the service of his people. This is hard to grasp, it needs to be taught again and again, it needs to be believed on again and again… 3. Jesus’ Act is a Pattern to be Followed 1. “When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” 1. Jesus says he has given us an example or a pattern to follow. No follower of Jesus then is beyond or above this, just as no servant is greater than his master. If Jesus went low, so must we, if we are going to follow him. There is not a single Christian that is exempt from this mandate. 2. So are we going to wash each other’s feet? I think to practice foot washing at our services would be to miss the point of what Jesus is doing. Jesus picked one of the most culturally degrading, humble acts to show us how we are to live our lives - feet washing. It is then not an action to follow (meaning literal foot washing) but a continual posture of God’s people. I wonder what is the equivalent of feet washing in our modern times? 3. The point is that God’s people are people that proactively go low. They themselves seek out opportunities to make themselves the servants of others. 1. Good listening in conversation, good hospitality with visitors, guests and even solicitors, good attention to customers, clients, students, and colleagues in business and work, good presence with spouse and children, good “being at your service”, as a whole way of life. These and hundreds of other daily responsibilities and privileges are wonderfully pictured by Jesus’ foot washing gift. Foot washing teaches both the Christian Gospel and the Christian ethic. 1. Paul put’s it this way… “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant..” 2. “Jesus’ foot washing is not only a perfect depiction of what God has done for us in Jesus atoning work and what God continues to do for us by applying his Son’s atoning work to us through Word, Sacraments, Church and Prayer, It also shows disciples how they can live their lives in the most blessed possible way: in mutual service, submission, forgiveness, and patience.” -Bruner 4. Conclusion: Receiving of Jesus’ Act and the Following go Hand in Hand 1. Jesus serves us out of a place of total and complete assurance of his place and identity with the Father… assured of the Fathers love and pleasure on him…. All power had been given to him, he had come from God, was going back to God. His mission was complete..he steps down. 2. In verse 34, Jesus says, “ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” 3. Fredrick Bruner says that the word “as” is not only comparative but also causative. Meaning that Jesus is saying love and serve one another, “Out of the Love, or from the resources of the love that I have for you.” 4. So we are to humble ourselves and serve one another out of a place of recognition of what Christ has done for us. Christ went low so we could be lifted high in glory with Him, he was made sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in him…... We are now also to go low, but it is only out of an assurance of who we are (because of what Christ has done) where we are going, and the power and authority we have in Christ… the promise of what is to come… This is the mindset that we are to have. Christian service, Christian love is only “Christian" when it is a response to Christ work, and out of a place of confidence of who we are and where we are headed because of Christ love for us displayed in him laying down his life….. Christian love and service is only to be done in the power of Christ, though his Spirit’s compelling work in us. 5. This isn’t only about the way that we receive Jesus’ act, it isn’t only about the way that we follow his example but it is also, on top of all that, the most sure and powerful way that we show the gospel to a watching, perishing world… a world that longs to know the affection and love of a God who will love them to the uttermost.