The Shocking Humility of Jesus Christ (John 13:1-17) 


JOHN 13:1-17

Jesus is amazing and I want to be like Him.

You can’t out deacon a deacon. My family moved a little less than four years ago to a house just down the street from this school. We live on a corner and we love our neighborhood, our neighbors, and our house. About a year after we moved in, Andrew and Tawney Lewis moved in next door. Andrew serves as a deacon here at FBC. He is responsible for many of the events of our mornings and on most Sundays, you will find him just outside the doors making sure everything is progressing according to plan.

When the Lewises first moved in, we didn’t know them very well. I decided that I would do everything I could to serve Andrew. He is such a faithful servant here at church, and so I sought to serve him at home. My first task–I would take out his trash cans on Sunday night. So that first week, I snuck around the side of his house, unlatched his metal gate, let myself into his side yard and moved his trashcans out to the street. The next afternoon after they were emptied, I moved them back to his side yard, letting that big metal gate close ever so quietly so he wouldn’t hear me.

I thought to myself, how cool is this–an elder serving a deacon. I was very proud of myself. And my plan worked great for the first couple weeks. Then one afternoon, I opened his gate and his little dog shot past me like a rocket. I didn’t know the dog’s name–I didn’t even know if it was a boy or a girl. I heard it yell out, “Fre-e-e-edom,” as it headed down the street.

Instead of chasing it, I knocked on the front door and sheepishly told Andrew, “Hey, I was taking out your trashcans and your dog got out.” Barefoot, he pushed past me and said, “She’s a runner,” as he took off down the street in hot pursuit. I awkwardly stood in front of his house, waiting for him to return. He caught up with her about a quarter of a mile down the street and returned sweaty and out of breath. He kindly brushed off my apology and went back into his house.

The next week, I was back at it. I went to take out his trash, but the gate wouldn’t open–he had installed a lock, and I learned a very valuable lesson. You can’t out deacon a deacon. I use this as an illustration because serving others isn’t easy, is it? We struggle to serve one another. We know what the Bible says—think more highly of others than yourself. We know we are supposed to set our own needs aside and meet the needs of others. And it can be easy if people are watching us serve, or if there is something in it for us–but by and large, true selfless, humble service is difficult.

We often compare ourselves to others, thinking, “Why should I serve them? I am older, smarter, richer, cooler than them. I dress better, have a better vocabulary, drive a nicer car, have a more distinguished title. I have more kids who are more well-behaved. I was going to church here first. I have been serving in this ministry longer. I have been on a short-term missions trip, I know the pastor by name—it’s Chris, by the way. I have been to Training Center, I am a leader in the church. . . . I, I, I.”

If we do a quick self-evaluation, we find that the reason that we struggle to serve is that our eyes are fixed on ourselves. We compare ourselves to others, inventing reasons why we should not serve them, but instead they should serve us. Let me ask you, are there acts of service that you believe are below you? Now that you have been saved for some time and have some level of maturity, “I don’t need to do those things anymore? That is for someone else–someone lower than me, less than me.”

Sadly, this too often is how we think. But in the passage before us this morning, Jesus flips the script. He shows us what selfless service looks like as he washes His disciples’ feet. He shows that those who truly love others will humbly serve them. Open your Bibles to John 13.

This morning, we begin a series titled, “The Shocking Christ–the  Jesus you may not know.” For the next seven weeks, we will be moving around the gospels and looking at different aspects of the life of Christ. We have chosen topics that are unexpected, and in some cases shocking. Our teaching roster includes Nigel Shailer, John Pleasnick, Pat Levis, Shannon Hurley, and Chris Mueller. Our first message is titled The Shocking Humility of Jesus Christ. In John 13, we see the Lord Jesus Christ as He humbly and selflessly loves His men and gives an example for each of us to follow.

I must warn you, the results are a bit shocking. This will challenge, convict, and ultimately encourage you to serve the way Jesus served. And if I could boil this message down into one sentence, here it is–Jesus is amazing, and I want to be like Him. We are going to examine four amazing truths about Jesus that will motivate you to be more like Christ for your personal blessing and for His glory. Let’s read the text together and then we will dive in.

Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. 2During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him, 3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, 4got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. 5Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. 6So He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, ‘Lord, do You wash my feet?’ 7Jesus answered and said to him, ‘What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.’ 8Peter said to Him, ‘Never shall You wash my feet!’ Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.’ 9Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.’ 10Jesus said to him, ‘He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.’ 11For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’ 12So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? 13You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. 14If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. 16Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. 17If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them’” (John 13:1-17).

1.  Jesus Loves Fully  Verse 1

This verse serves as an introduction to John 13 to 17, known as the Upper Room Discourse, in which Jesus privately prepares His men for His crucifixion and departure. These chapters contain some of the most beloved truths in the Bible and the passage before us is no exception.

In setting the context, we can pull from all four gospels and we find that Jesus had entered Jerusalem on Sunday–we call it Palm Sunday. The crowds threw down palm fronds and cried, “Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” On Monday, He cursed a fig tree and cleansed the Temple. On Tuesday, He locked horns with the religious leaders, stoking their hatred and desire to kill Him. Wednesday is quiet, possibly spent in Bethany with friends. On Thursday, He gathers with His men for Passover dinner, washes His disciple’s feet, initiates communion, promises to send the Holy Spirit, and prays the high priestly prayer of John 17. He agonizes in the garden, praying for the cup to pass and is ultimately betrayed. Early Friday morning, He is tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. He is crucified at 9am on Friday morning.

We pick up the narrative in John 13 on Thursday night in the middle of the Passover meal. Jesus is eating one final meal with His men. Look back at verse 1, “Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.”

Notice the phrase, “His hour had come.” Throughout John, Jesus has used this phrase saying, “My hour has not yet come.” But now, the hour had come. What exactly does this hour refer to? It was a direct reference to His suffering and death on the cross. It was the hour of pain and judgment, of wrath, and devastation. But it was also the hour of forgiveness, salvation, and life. The hour of triumph of victory.

Verse 1 adds that He will soon “depart out of this world to the Father”–but not yet. The cross looms directly before Him and He knows that the time has come. And with this in view, verse 1 ends saying, “Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.”

The Greek word for love is agape—that highest sacrificial form of love. We learn here that some belong to Christ and some do not. Notice the possessive pronoun–they are His own. John 6:37 says they were given to Him by the Father. In 10:11, they are the sheep for which He would lay down His life. In John 10:28 they are the ones He holds securely in His hand, and in 1:12, they are those who believe in His name and are called children of God.

What about you? Are you one of His? Do you belong to Him? I sure hope so. It is these that He loves. And look at the end of verse 1, “He loved them to the end.” This is an incredible statement–it is a statement that starts in John 13:1 and ends in eternity future.

Look at that word end–it means to the conclusion, to the close, to completion. It could be translated, He now showed them the full extent of His love. But what does it mean that “He loved them to the end?” The end of what–what does this refer to? There are three possibilities. Let’s walk through them one at a time.

**He loved them to the end of His life

Certainly, this is true–He loved them all the way to the cross. In an unmatched demonstration of selfless love, Jesus approaches the judgment seat of God and He says, “Father, treat me as if I had lived their life. Judge Me for their sin–I will pay it all.” On the cross, Jesus took the cup of wrath that we deserve and He drank it, draining every last drop. According to 1 Peter 2:24, Jesus bore our sins in His body on the cross. He experienced the full wrath of God for your sin.

Charles Spurgeon once said, “It seemed as if Hell were put into His cup; He seized it, and, in one tremendous labor of love, He drank damnation dry.” John 15:13,Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” And Romans 5:8, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” This is love to the end.

In John 19:30 from the cross, at the end of His life He declared, “It is finished,” from the same Greek word for end. It is a loud cry that comes from the lips of a conqueror. Sin entered in the garden and ruled from Adam until Christ, but now it is finished. Satan had raised himself as the god of this world in defiance and rebellion, but now his head has been crushed–it is finished.

Death, with a cold, icy grip that drags men and women to Hell has been dealt the death blow. It is finished. Every time we have failed, every denial of Christ, every compromise, every act of disobedience–it is finished. When God looks at you, He sees only the righteousness of Christ. Your sin has been dealt with–it is finished.

Guilt and shame, remorse and regret–you need carry them no more. They were nailed to the cross. You are free, you are forgiven–my friends, it is finished. It has been done and now there is nothing that can happen to undo what Christ has done. Jesus, having loved His own who were in this world, He loved them to the end. We could say secondly that to love them to the end meant . . .

**He loved them till the end of their lives

And certainly, this too is true. In every event, every trial, and every pain–in the good times, the bad times, on their best day, on their worst day. In the times of deep sorrow, in the moments of great joy, when He gives, when He takes away, at every point and at every time–His love remains. Jesus promised them in Matthew 28:20, “I am always with you, even to the end of the age.”

He was there when these men came to their final moments in which they would be sawn in two, boiled in oil, killed with the sword, thrown off of buildings, stoned to death, crucified. With great confidence, the apostle Paul declares in Romans 8:35, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword…But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.”

Yes, there are days that we stand at the bedside of a loved one as health is failing, and at the graveside when the end has come. And we fall to our knees in sorrow and grief–and yet we can look death in the eyes and say, “’O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ 56The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:55).

We remember the words of the psalmist who said, “Yeah though I walk through the valley of death, I fear no evil for you are with Me.” The great High Priest is there dispensing mercy and grace in a time of need. And so even in death, we find that Jesus, having loved His own, He loved them to the end. He loved them to the end of His life, He loved them to the end of their lives, and third . . .

**He loved them to the end of eternity

We look to the end of Romans 8 to see this. “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38 to 39). All three of these hold true–Jesus loves His own and He loves them to the end.

Years ago, Tracy and I both worked at Charthouse in Malibu—it was a beautiful location with windows facing the ocean. We waited on actors, athletes—wealthy people. But our favorite people were those behind the counter and in the kitchen. There were two families, one from Guatemala and the other from Mexico.

One evening, one of the dishwashers was carrying a large stack of heavy plates across the kitchen tile floor after they were washed, when she slipped and fell. She hit a wet spot and her feet went right out in front of her. She was a smaller lady, but the force of the impact was tremendous when she hit the ground. She landed on her back and wasn’t able to come back to work for weeks. The most amazing part of it was that not a single plate broke when she fell. She absorbed the impact in her body, protecting those plates and sacrificing herself so that they would be spared. What a great picture of the work Christ did for us. He took the fall for us, going to the cross–and while He was suffering, He didn’t lose one. He loved His own to the end.

As we leave this point, let me ask you one more time–are you one of His? Do you belong to Christ? How will you reject this great love? What will you do in that day when you stand before the holy Judge? Who will stand by you? Who will defend you? Jesus will say, “This is one of my own, one for whom I gave My life. I paid the debt and loved them till the end.”

2.  Jesus serves humbly  Verses 2 to 5

Before John gets into the story, he inserts two parenthetical statements in verses 2 and 3 to help us fully grasp Jesus’ act of service. We will hit these briefly. John shows us first that . . .

**Jesus served with full knowledge of His own betrayal

Look at verse 2, “The devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him.” Verse 2 tells us that Judas has opened his heart to the devil. Through careful suggestion and applying the right bait at the right time, Satan has gained an ally in Judas. Up til this point, he has worked by invisible suggestion–but before dinner is over, we are told that Satan entered into Judas—he takes full control of Judas. Why does John put this line about Judas in verse 2? Seems kind of out of place, doesn’t it? John wants his readers to appreciate that when Jesus washed Judas’s feet, He knew exactly what He was doing.

He is contrasting the faithful, self-emptying love of Jesus with the self-centered treachery of Judas. Judas is greedy, materialistic, and ambitious. He is full of hatred and cares only for himself. He can’t stand Jesus and he wants him dead. But even still, in one final act of selfless love, the Friend of sinners extends a gracious hand to Judas and washes his feet. One writer said, “It is hard to conceive of a more powerful demonstration of Jesus’ command to love one’s enemies.” (Kostenberger)

If you knew someone was about to stab you in the back, would you serve them in love and kindness? Not only does Jesus serve with full knowledge of His betrayal, but secondly . . .

**Jesus served with full knowledge of His own deity

Look at the second parenthetical statement in verse 3, “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God.” There are three phrases here and they combine to tell us about the nature of Jesus Christ.

The first speaks of His authority–all things had been given into His hands by the Father. This is a statement of sovereignty. It is a statement of power. Jesus has full control. All things are now, according to verse 3, in His hands. And what do these all-powerful hands which formed the stars and fashioned the earth do next? They take hold of the dirty, stinky feet of sinful men and perform the task of the lowliest servant.

The next phrase speaks of His origin. Look at verse 3, “He had come forth from God.” That is to say, He has a divine origin. He left the throne of Heaven, having been sent by God Himself to accomplish the task of redemption.

And the final statement in verse 3, He “was going back to God” speaks of His future glory. John is doing everything he can to clarify, explain, and help us to understand who Jesus is. This man who will stoop to wash feet is not the first among equals, He is not just a great teacher, He is God very God. He says in verse 3, Jesus knows these things. He knows Judas will betray Him. He knows His own deity. One commentator wrote, “It was not that He forgot He was God and so humbled Himself. It was because He was God and wished to act as God that He did it.” (Boice)

Now let’s get into the story. Luke 22 tells us that Jesus sent Peter and John into Jerusalem to prepare the Passover feast in a private, furnished guest room. Trying to stay out of the public eye, Jesus has stayed the night in Bethany likely in the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.

They travel the few miles from Bethany to Jerusalem, walking on roads that were little more than dirt paths. These unpaved roads would have been littered with garbage and animal excrement, which does not work out so well when you wear open-toed sandals. You can imagine the smelly, dirty, gross feet that this would produce. The men arrive at the house, say ”Hi” to Peter and John who have been preparing the feast, and notice a large table set for dinner in the center of the room, surrounded by low couches for them to recline on while they eat.

By the door, there is a jug filled with water, a basin, and an apron. It was common courtesy for the host to wash the guests’ feet upon entrance to the house. This task was typically assigned to the lowest servant in the house, usually a Gentile servant, as it was such a low and demeaning task. But since this meal was entirely private, there was no host and no servant to wait on them.

And so they stand around waiting. “Hey Andrew, you are the youngest–you should wash our feet.” “No way–that’s disgusting. James, you got us lost on the way over here with your shortcut, you should do it.” “No chance. What about you, Peter?” “Are you kidding? I have been cooking all day, I am not going to wash your feet too.” And around it goes. No one volunteers–no one wants to degrade themself in front of all the other disciples.

It is possible that this is what leads to the argument we see in Luke 22:24, that during the Last Supper, “There arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest.” I don’t know if this is how it really happened, but one thing is for sure–they sit down for dinner with dirty feet. And verses 4 and 5 tell us, “Jesus got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. 5Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.”

In an effort to slow us down, John paints the picture highlighting every action of Jesus, in an effort to help us fully grasp what is happening. First, Jesus stands up, takes off His garments–the equivalent of taking off His jacket and rolling up His sleeves. He takes the towel and ties it around His waist like an apron. He pours the water from the jug into the basin, and then one by one takes their feet, places them in the basin, washes off the filth and grime with His hands, wipes them dry with the towel, and then moves on to the next man.

One author compares this unfolding of events to the passage in Philippians 2:6 to 8, “Although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Jesus rising from supper, in verse 4, is similar to Him rising from His throne of glory to come to Earth. The laying aside of garments is His emptying of Himself. Taking a towel and girding Himself is His being made in the likeness of men and taking the posture of a servant. Washing their feet is Him humbling Himself to the point of death. Here, He pours out water to wash dirt from their feet, but soon He would pour out His blood to wash their sinful souls. And in verse 12, when He takes His garments and reclines at the table is His return to the Father.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). “For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves” (Luke 22:27).

Amazing–He is the servant king.  The holy One washes the filthy. The Creator serves His creation. The Master serves His servants. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9). Jesus loves fully, He serves humbly, and . . .

3.  Jesus cleanses continually  Verses 6 to 11

When Jesus stood up, grabbed the basin and tied the apron on, I am sure the disciples’ conversation turned into a whisper, which was quickly replaced by a growing silence. As He begins to wash their feet, each man is doing the mental calculus, trying to comprehend what exactly is happening. Each man had been too prideful to volunteer. Each man had thought himself better than the one seated next to him. No one wanted to do this menial task.

And so now, they are presumably too embarrassed to speak up. Not sure what to do, they say and do nothing. That is, until Jesus gets to Peter–he has been watching. And now as the spokesperson, he voices his displeasure in an impetuous and indignant response. Verse 6, Peter says Lord, “Do You wash my feet?” It doesn’t translate well in the English, but in the Greek this is very strong language. He is saying, “Are YOU going to wash MY feet?”

And then again in verse 8, “Never shall You wash my feet! This is a double negative in the Greek—”No never!” The literal interpretation—“You will not wash my feet as long as the world stands. This ain’t happening today, it ain’t happening ever.” It’s interesting, isn’t it? Peter is humble enough to try to stop Jesus, but is simultaneously proud enough to tell Jesus what to do. This takes us to our first subheading.

**Jesus cleanses once for all

Look at His response to this overzealous disciple in verse 8. “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” You cannot identify with Me. You do not belong to Me. You are not one of My own. This has always been true. Unless the Lamb of God has taken away your sin and you have been washed clean in His blood, you have no part with Him. The only way to be made right with a holy God is for the sinner to cry out for mercy. The sinner is stained with sin, and no matter how hard you try, you cannot wash away the guilt. You cannot wash away the regret, you cannot wash away the shame. Most people think, “I am a good person,” and if asked, they believe they can work their way to Heaven. In other words, “I can do this on my own. I can wash myself.”

In CS Lewis’s book, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Eustace discovers a dragon’s treasure. He climbs to the top of a mountain of gold, puts on a gold bracelet, and then falls asleep. He sleeps on the dragon’s treasure with the dragon’s bracelet on his arm. He dreams dragonish dreams, and to his terror, he wakes up to find that he has become a dragon and the bracelet is now stuck on his dragon arm. He tries everything he can think of to turn himself back into a boy, but to no avail. At one point, he begins peeling the layers of dragon skin off of himself in an effort to get rid of that scaly exterior. He worked so hard to shed a layer, and then another, and then another–but with all that effort, after each layer is removed, he finds that he is still a dragon.

But then, Aslan, the great lion came. And with his giant claws, he tore into Eustace who said, “The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt.” But then he was free, the bracelet was removed and he was a boy once again.

Like Eustace, it doesn’t matter how hard we try, or how much we clean ourselves up–we are still stained by sin. We cannot fix ourselves. The sinner, from their desperate plight, must look to Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. First John 1:7 says, “The blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

Titus 3:5, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” First Corinthians 6:11, “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”

At the moment of salvation, Jesus washed your heart, cleansing you once for all. Isaiah 1:18 says, “He made you white as snow.” All of your past, all of your guilt, all of your shame, all of your sin was nailed to the cross and you bear it no more. Second Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

And so Jesus tells Peter in verse 10, “You are already clean.” I have already washed you. I have removed your sin. You are completely clean. What assurance this is. Imagine if Jesus appeared this morning and said to you, you are clean–how cool. This is full confidence, full assurance. Jesus cleanses once and for all. But notice that there is another idea in this verse, our second subpoint . . .

**Jesus cleanses day by day  Verse 10

Look at verse 10–Jesus said, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet.” Peter, you don’t need to be born again, and again, and again–you are already clean. The picture of the foot washing is the picture of the Christian’s heart before the Lord. You have been forgiven once for all, but you live in the world with all its lusts and desires. And like your feet get dirty when you walk on a dusty road and need washing, so your heart needs cleansing day by day.

Our family was in Las Vegas the past five days for a volleyball tournament–a place that has the nickname, “Sin City”, and a slogan, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” as if anonymity can absolve people of the guilt of living out their sinful pleasures.

To prepare for this message, when Zoe wasn’t playing, I set up shop in a Starbucks that opened up into the casino on the ground floor of the Luxor Hotel. I was there a couple of nights as Starbucks closed and the casino was kicking into high gear. I would be back early the next morning and see some of the same people still going at it. I joined a man in the bathroom who was violently throwing up the alcohol he had just consumed. There were moments where I felt my desires rising to all the things of the world–drawn to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life. The rush of fleshly indulgence, soiled by the world, the Lord would draw me back, convict me of sin, and He would wash me. Over and over again it happened. I would sin, He would cleanse. Do you know this? Having been cleansed once for all, do you still need the daily washing of the Lord Jesus?

First John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Are you? And so we see that Jesus is constantly cleansing sin. Having done the greatest work on the cross, He comes daily, moment by moment and washes us clean. Are your feet dirty now? Are you holding onto any sin that needs to be confessed and given over to the Lord? Don’t wait. Don’t delay. Go to the Savior and confess your sin and ask Him to cleanse you.

Look at verse 11, “For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’” Judas was washed on the outside, but not the inside. So it is with some in this room–you have cleaned up the externals, you look good on a Sunday morning. But your heart is still black with sin. Jesus loves fully, serves humbly, cleanses completely, and finally . . .

4.  Jesus blesses freely  Verses 12 to 17

So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you?’” (verse 12). No one answered this semi-rhetorical question as they are still reeling from the previous events and they knew the lesson was still coming–and Jesus gives it to them in verses 13 to 14. “’You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. 14If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.’” It is an argument from the greater to the lesser. If I the greater, as both teacher and Lord served you the lesser, the follower and the student–then it would be fitting, natural, even normal for you to do the same to each other.

The word “ought” in verse 14 is stronger than the English allows. It has to do with a debt–to owe something, to be under an obligation or a moral responsibility. Jesus is placing them under obligation–He is by His service of them, impressing on their heart a debt of service to each other. Verse 15, “For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.” And what an example it is. Here it is plainly–imitate Me. This is an example of love and service that you can employ every day of your life.

Verse 16, “’Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him.’” What follower of Christ would think a task below them if Jesus Himself had performed it? No one. And so it is that we are called to serve each other. And here is where the rubber meets the road. The motivation of love has been given. The example has been set and now the call has been made. We are not to posture for position. We are not to look for ways to escape serving others. We are to live as Jesus lived. He poured Himself out in the service of others and so we are to do the same.

There are so many applications here–for spouses to serve each other, for siblings to serve each other, for friends to serve each other, for each of us who is in Christ to not think of ourselves more highly than we ought. Jesus finishes in verse 17, “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” Divine blessing comes to those who serve. Jesus pours out blessing to all who live like He lived. This is a promise of the favor of God for those who serve as He served.

From the upper room, they went to the garden one last time. They stopped to pray. Then in the darkness, a large crowd armed with swords and clubs led by Judas would take Jesus into custody. Before they knew what was happening, Jesus was tried, condemned, beaten, and then crucified. In the whirlwind of events that night, I doubt they thought back on something as seemingly trivial as a foot-washing during dinner–not until later.

Jesus said in verse 7, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” Not until Jesus had been resurrected and ascended into Heaven. And then, in light of all that had happened, it would become clear. The Holy Spirit would bring to mind all that Jesus had taught them. They would realize that God Himself had knelt down to serve them in the most humiliating and lowly way. And it would change them forever–how they lived, how they loved, how they served, and ultimately how they would die.

But this narrative is just a preview–it is an opening act in the story. The climax is not a jug of water, a basin of water and an apron. It is a crown of thorns, three nails, and a cross. The ultimate service didn’t come when Jesus humbled Himself to wash their feet, but when He humbled Himself to the point of death, even death on a cross. This is the shocking reality of the humility of Jesus Christ. “Who although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied Himself into the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9For this reason, God highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee would bow 11and every tongue would confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:6 to 11).

And our thesis this morning now comes full circle. Jesus is amazing, and I want to be like Him–to love like He loved, to forgive like He forgave, to serve like He served. Let’s pray.

About Shawn Farrell

Shawn leads the college ministry and serves as an elder at Faith Bible Church

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