John: A Walk with the Messiah: Chapter 13

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Here we are again.  It’s been almost a year since my last post.  I cannot say the pause was entirely intentional, but maybe it was needed.  Now I feel a revival is needed. So here I am.  Instead of trying a new study, I wanted to pick up where I left off and finish what I started in John. All other posts in this particular series can be found in the study index.

A Servant’s Heart

We are continuing in John chapter 13.  Chapter 12 set the stage for us, we are in Jerusalem at the time of the Passover Feast.  In the last chapter, Jesus was being hailed as a king, and yet look where we find him at the beginning of Chapter 13.

“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, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.  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” (John 3:3-5 ESV).

This scene is a very intimate glimpse into our Savior’s heart.  We’re going to pause within this moment. Take in the scene, picture ourselves in this room with the Christ at our feet. What would you feel, what would you say?  I have a feeling that I would be quite tongue-tied and embarrassed. This is the Lord! What is He doing?

Jesus knew he was about be crucified.  He knew that the things he did before his death would be important to his followers after his death.  They would be the things they would remember afterward.  Jesus had just been hailed as a king, but instead of teaching the apostles how to take advantage of power and prestige, he teaches them how to humble themselves and serve.  To be proper leaders, to be true disciples of the Master, they must learn to serve.

This wasn’t the first time that Jesus tried to teach the apostles the importance of an attitude of humble servitude.  Earlier Jesus made the statement:

“But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43-45 ESV).

This attitude seems so counterintuitive in our society.  How could anyone get anywhere by simply being humble and serving people?  If you have power, you should take advantage of it, right?  I wonder if the apostles were thinking the same thing.

Peter was definitely thinking something different than what Christ intended.  Peter was appalled.

“Peter said to him, ‘You shall never wash my feet’.” (John 13:8 ESV).

Well! Peter often seems to speak before he fully thinks things through.  He means to show Jesus honor by refusing to allow his Master to do a servant’s work, but to refuse to obey is an insult to Jesus’s authority.  Jesus explains to him that to refuse to be washed is to refuse Christ, Himself.  Of course, Peter then swings way around the other way and requests to be washed all over.  At least he does everything wholeheartedly, he’s either all in or all out.  But he doesn’t quite understand.  Jesus realizes this:

“Jesus answered him, ‘What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand’.” (John 13:7 ESV).

Can you relate?  How often when we are in the midst of the storm do we want to cry out to God, “What are you doing, Lord”?  I wonder how many times God echoes the very words of Christ, “You do not understand now, but afterward you will”.

Even though serving others may not come as naturally to some as it does others, even if we don’t understand, this instruction comes with a promise (as do many of God’s commands).

 “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (John 13:17 ESV).

When you are preparing to serve another you might be tempted to think that they are receiving all the benefits.  That simply isn’t true.  The one serving is often just as blessed by the token as the one being served.  It is so soul-satisfying to serve another and you never know when that deed may be returned to you when you most need it.  A servant is blessed indeed.

A Betrayer’s Heart

Immediately after this lesson, “Jesus was troubled in spirit” (John 13:21 ESV).  He knows that there is one among them that must betray Him.  What would you do in Jesus’s place?  Would you allow Judas to remain in your midst if you knew what he was?  Jesus knew the Scriptures had to be fulfilled. He knew He had to die.  But it must have been pretty hard to look Judas in the eye when He knelt to wash His feet.  What does it say about the all-encompassing love Jesus had for His followers that He never treated Judas any differently than the rest? He still washed his feet.  He still served.  Would we do the same?  Imagine kneeling to serve one in who’s eyes you could just see the deceit.

But Jesus points Judas out with a piece of bread, breaking bread with His betrayer.  Then something terrifying happens:

“Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him” (John 13:28 ESV).

Satan entered Judas.  That gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.  Imagine being so far removed from God that we allow Satan, himself, into our hearts to actually dwell there.  We are meant to be GOD’S dwelling place, not Satan’s.  Judas, either knowingly or unknowingly, had not given himself fully to God and in doing so gave himself over to Satan.  Whatever good might have been in Judas before, it has now been taken over.

And Jesus doesn’t even try to stop Judas, He simply tells him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”  It is so heartwrenching to lose one of your own loved ones to Satan.  Imagine the grief Jesus had to feel in this moment when He knew that He know longer had influence over His friend.  In this moment, Judas was lost, no turning back, he had become Satan’s instrument to bring an end to Christ. There are just no words for the emotions encompassed in this scene…

And I am completely amazed that this moment was only shared between Christ and Judas, the rest of the apostles were still completely clueless.  Even though Jesus specifically said “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread” and then hands the bread to Judas, the apostles somehow miss that Judas is walking out to turn Jesus in.

“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” (John 13:29 ESV).

In moments like these, we in our blessed hindsight want to shout “HOW COULD YOU MISS THAT!?” And yet we are told that some things were hidden from the apostles understanding until God’s specific timing (i.e. Luke 18:34).  If they completely understood, they may have tried to prevent Jesus from fulfilling His purpose and where would we be today if they had succeeded?

“And it was night”… (John 13:30 ESV).  Fitting words to end a scene that seems to end in darkness.

A “New” Commandment

After Judas leaves, Jesus chooses this moment to give them a “new” commandment.

“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. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35 ESV).

Is this really a “new” commandment?  Not really, but Jesus redefined the meaning of love.  The Mosaic law taught the Jews to “love your neighbor as yourself”, but it was Jesus who defined what that neighbor looked like and even encouraged His disciples to love their enemies.  Love is what defines a disciple of Christ.  Love is what defines the church.  And it is so radically different than anything that will ever be found in the world.  This love is selfless, serving, patient, humble, kind, generous, never seeking its own.

Ever give any thought to why Jesus might have brought this particular point up at this time?  The disciples might have been oblivious to the fact that Judas was about to betray his Lord, but Jesus wasn’t.  Maybe He knew that bitter feelings and feelings of revenge were about to run rampant through the hearts of the apostles because of the events that were about to happen.  Not only would the apostles be asked to forgive Judas for his actions, but also all the other things that others were about to do to their Lord.  It would be really easy to harbor hate and revenge during these events.  Jesus was reminding them to remember who they are and what their focus is.  There are many

There are many things that happen in our lives that can challenge our passion and focus as followers of Christ, but Jesus says that there is only one thing that separates us from the world regardless of our circumstances and that is our unconditional love.

When the Cock Crows

Chapter 13 ends with Jesus predicting Peter’s denial.  Know what I think is often more heartbreaking than deliberate rebellion against God?  It’s actually setting out to do what’s right and then failing.  I HATE failing God.  Poor Peter.  He’s so intent on following Christ, even to death.  Yet Christ says even he will deny knowing Him.  None of us are perfect.  But thankfully for us, God’s grace is.  And thanks to the events coming up in the following chapters, that grace covers all of us.

 

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Be Careful What You Step In

feet

Jesus said to him, ‘The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean’.” (John 13:10 ESV)

When we read the story of Jesus washing the disciples feet in John 13, we might be tempted to skim through, thinking, “Oh, I know this story, it’s about serving.”  But in doing so, we might miss another lesson nestled within this story.

So the story goes, the disciples and Jesus were getting ready to settle down to a meal.  It was the custom of the time to not only wash hands before eating, but also to wash feet.  Since this was a rather undesirable job, it was usually left to a servant to do this for all the guests.  Since there were no servants within this group getting ready to eat, they either had to wash their own feet or it fell to one of their number to take on this job for the rest.  It really was unthinkable to lower themselves to the level of slave and actually wash the feet of another, so while the disciples prepared to wash their own feet, Jesus donned the towel and knelt at their feet.  Yes, this is a story of servanthood, and yet there is something more here.  This is also the story of cleanliness.

Starting in verse 6 Jesus has a discussion with Peter about the deed of washing feet.  While the others seemed to have no qualms about their Lord washing their feet, Peter was appalled!  How could his Master, the One with the highest rank among them, the Messiah wash feet?  And yet, Jesus explains to him that it is necessary.  Why?  To teach a lesson on humility? Yes… but what does He say in verse 8?

“Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no share with me’.” John 13:8

Ah… this isn’t just about servanthood.  Jesus isn’t talking about washing feet here.  We are washed, made clean by the blood of Christ: “they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:14).  Sin stains and can only be removed by Christ Himself.

Peter misunderstands, but being Peter, he wants to go all the way and exclaims,”Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”  He wants so much to be part of Christ that he will do anything for Him. Oh, that we had his devotion and willpower, sometimes.

And Christ answers, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean.”  Once we are cleansed in Christ’s blood, we are made fully clean from sin (Heb. 10:19-22).  Even though we still make mistakes, we are still clean.  Jesus is talking about feet.

Feet determine where our bodies go.  And sometimes feet stumble, sometimes we step in something we shouldn’t.  Sometimes we get our feet so dirty that it is difficult to see the sparkling interior that we have thanks to Christ.  It is because of this that Christ dons the towel and washes our feet once again.  We need His discipline, we need to be scolded once in a while, we need to be lead back to the right track and guided so we can avoid once again stepping into something we shouldn’t.

Back to servanthood, Christ asks us to wash each other’s feet.  Let’s look out for each other.  In serving each other, we can also help keep each other on the right path, help each other when we trip, and help wash each other’s feet when we step in something we shouldn’t by leading each other back to Christ who cleanses us of all our mess.  He is good.