The last night of Jesus’ earthly ministry was very eventful. He prayed His great High Priestly prayer, taught His Disciples many valuable truths, observed the Passover meal with His Disciples, and was betrayed into the hands of His enemies. Through all of this, Jesus knows that in the morning, He will go to Calvary and die on a cross for the sin of humanity.
His is a bitter cup! However, before He begins the events of the evening before they come to the table to eat their last meal together, Jesus takes some time to teach these men a lesson in servanthood that still speaks to us today. In these verses, Jesus reveals His heart and His mission. He proves to these men that He did not come to be served, but to serve, (Mark 10:45). In showing Himself to be a servant of men, Jesus left us a vivid portrait of the kind of heart we are to have for others.
In John 13:1-20, among other things, we will find out that God’s will for our lives is that we learn to give ourselves in service to others. As we look into these verses today, I challenge you to let the Lord speak to your heart. It may be that you will be able to see yourself as you really are today and if you do, then you can come to the Lord and let Him fix whatever may be wrong in your life. Let’s take the next few minutes and consider.
1. The Humble Servant
A. The Love of The Humble Servant
In John 13:1-2 we learn that Jesus knows He is nearing the end of His earthly ministry. He knows that He is about to go to the cross and suffer for sin. He knows the end is near. Yet, through it all, His heart is still overcome with love for His Disciples. The Bible says, that He loved them “unto the end.” That is, Jesus loved them perfectly, unconditionally, and eternally. His love never wavered, even in the hour of His own crisis.
What a great encouragement this is for you and me! You see, Jesus loves us with the same kind of love with which He loved His Disciples. Jeremiah tells us that it is an everlasting love, (Jeremiah 31:3). Paul tells us that nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus – (Romans 8:38-39). Regardless of what transpires in your life and mine, we are loved perfectly, unconditionally, and eternally with the awesome, agape love of Almighty God!
B. The Life of The Humble Servant
John 13:3 speaks of the life of Jesus. When He came into this world, He came as One sent from God to live a sinless life and become sin for fallen men, (2 Corinthians 5:21). He has accomplished everything but the cross and He knows that after the cross, He will return to His Father and once again share in the glory of Heaven.
Jesus had one purpose when He came to this world and that purpose was to die for our sin – (Mark 10:45; Luke 19:10; John 18:37). Note: He accomplished His purpose on behalf of every man! He did this because of His great love for you. In fact, the cross is the absolute, indisputable proof of His love – (Romans 5:6-8) You may discount everything else God has ever done for you and write it off as luck or whatever, but you will never be able to shrug off the death of Jesus on the cross for your sins! The cross stands as a monument to the awesome love of God for you and me.
C. The Labor of The Humble Servant
In John 13:2; 13:4-5 we see the Master doing the work of a slave. In those days, it was customary for a slave to wash the feet of visitors. To not provide this kindness would be considered uncivilized and inhospitable. Apparently, there were no servants available to do this job for Jesus and His Disciples, so Jesus Himself gets up from the table, removes His outer garment, pours Himself a basin of water, and begins to wash the feet of the Disciples.
I can imagine the amazement that must have filled their minds and faces as their Lord washed their dirty feet one by one. Yet, as incredible as this scene is, Jesus was doing something here that was unknown to all but one of the Disciples. He was washing the feet of the very man who would, later that same evening, betray Him to His enemies.
Jesus knew the heart of Judas! He knew that this man had never been saved – (John 6:64; 6:70). Just because Satan “put” the thought into Judas’ heart to betray the Lord does not indicate that Judas was somehow saved and then lost his salvation. For Jesus, Himself had already indicated that Judas was not one of His true followers!
Instead of focusing on some minor doctrinal issue, we should instead see a great truth contained here. The truth is even though Jesus knew the heart of Judas, even though He knew his motives, even though He knew His plans, still, He loved Him and offered Him several opportunities to repent before it was too late. Even at this point, it was not too late for Judas to have been saved.
Notice John 13:18; 13:20-27. In these verses, Jesus repeatedly shows Judas that He knows what he is up to. Jesus is giving Judas an opportunity to turn his life over to Christ. Jesus even served Judas as a slave would his master. His love never failed! What a lesson for every person in this room today, but especially those who are outside Jesus Christ.
Please understand that His love for you will never end! You may reject every attempt of Jesus to call you unto Himself, but rest assured that no matter how many times you rebuff His efforts, you will never be able to turn off His love for you and for your soul. In fact, He has already humbled Himself on your behalf, when He went to the cross and died for you!
2. The word of the Humble Servant
A. Simon Peter’s Shock
In John 13:6-7 when Jesus makes His way around to Simon Peter, Peter is incredulous! He simply cannot believe that the Lord would want to serve Him.
I stand amazed when I consider all that the Lord has done, is doing and will do in my life. He would love me so is beyond my comprehension. After all, there is no merit in any one of us to commend us to God. If we got what we deserved, we would all be in Hell today, but thank God He doesn’t give us that which we deserve, He gives that which we do not! Salvation and all the benefits of it are the products of God’s grace. We enjoy what we do, not because we deserve it, but because God gives it even though we don’t, (Ephesians 2:8-9). Notice that nobody is too bad for grace, (Romans 5:20.)
B. Simon Peter’s Stubbornness
In John 13:8 when Peter hears that Jesus is really planning to do this, he responds with a triple-negative. He tells the Lord, in effect, “No“, Peter protested, “you will never ever wash my feet!” “Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.” (NLT) This is the equivalent of irreverence. After all, the first condition of discipleship is obedience. Peter is simply refusing to submit to the Lord and he does so through a display of false humility.
However, Jesus reminds him of a great truth. Unless a man is willing to submit to the commandments of the Lord, he can have no fellowship with the Lord – (John 14:15; 14:21). Obedience is proof of love.
We may tend to feel ashamed when the Lord blesses us because we know we do not deserve His goodness and grace. Yet, at the same time, we should gratefully accept His gifts and praise Him for them. True fellowship with Jesus is found only in humble submission to His plan. Even when that plan seems to contain the opposite of humility.
C. Simon Peter’s Submission
In John 13:9 when Peter hears this gentle rebuke, he throws himself before the Lord and says something to the effect of, “If washing my feet will bring me closer to you, then don’t stop there, but wash all of me!”
This is the attitude of surrender that God can bless! He wants us in a place where we are looking to Him and His will before considering our wishes and desires. Think about it for a moment. What is it that motivates you? Peter was motivated by the thought of being closer to the Lord. Does that move you? If you are right with God it will! If it doesn’t then that is an indication that there is definite room for improvement in your walk with the Lord.
Jesus is telling Peter that when a man has washed his entire person, (Greek: “louw”) and he gets his feet soiled by walking through the streets, all he needs at that point is to wash (Greek: “niptw”) just the feet. The image here is crystal clear for the believer. When we received Jesus as our personal Savior, He forever washed us from our sins – (1 Peter 1:18-19; Revelation 1:5). We have been eternally cleansed from head to toe already through His cleansing blood. However, as we walk through life, we tend to fall into sin and we need cleansing. Not for the entire person, since that was accomplished when we were saved and can never be repeated. But, just for that particular stain, we gathered when we sinned in our daily walk. This is where 1 John 1:7; 2:2 comes into play.
Jesus is teaching us that we do not need to get re-saved every time we sin, but we do need to come to Him for forgiveness and restoration of fellowship. You see, if you allow yourself to go on in sin, you will keep widening the breach between you and the Lord. The secret to true spiritual joy is the practice of instant confession of sins and failures before the throne of grace. You see, Jesus is still washing feet this afternoon! Consider the heart of King David.
I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.Psalm 32:5
Please note that while Jesus said that the Disciples were clean, He also knew the condition of Judas! It is impossible to hide your condition from the all-seeing eyes of the Lord Jesus Christ. He knows what we are and He knows when we are just religious. He knows when we are hypocritical, and He knows when we are insincere about faith. He knows whether you are saved or not. You might fool the rest of us, but you will never pull the wool over Jesus’ eyes!
3. The wisdom of the Humble Servant
A. Jesus Gave an Example
In John 13:12-15 Jesus set the standard by which every one of His servants is to live their lives. In this action of Jesus, we can see Him showing His followers that we are all expected to serve one another.
His Disciples had been guilty of arguing about who would be first in the Kingdom of Heaven, (Luke 22:24). They were all concerned about Who would be the greatest in Heaven, but Jesus reminded them that true greatness is a great paradox.
Men never earn the respect of others by forced obedience, but they earn the respect of others by first being a servant, (Mark 10:42-44). Jesus says that the path to greatness is through humility. This is one of the great paradoxes of the faith! There are several others. The way to life is through death. The way to get is to give. The way to greatness is by becoming a servant to others.
Let’s face it, there are not many genuine servant ministers around these days. Everyone, it seems, is looking to get all they can. However, this attitude is diametrically opposed to that of our Lord. He was willing to make Himself the servant of all, and as a result, God has exalted Him and given Him a name that is above every name, (Philippians 2:5-11)
B. Jesus Gave an Exhortation
The lesson in John 13:16 is simple. If Jesus was willing to be a servant, then all of His followers ought to be willing to serve as well.
Notice that Jesus just didn’t serve the ones He preferred. It might have been easy to wash John’s feet. After all, John was the “Beloved Disciple.” Yet, John and his brother James were always trying to get just a little bit ahead of the others. What about Simon Peter? He was the one who would deny Him three times before dawn. What about Thomas? He was the one who would doubt the word of the others and refuse to believe in the resurrection of Jesus. What about Judas? He was the one who for 30 pieces of silver would sell His Lord to the enemies.
Jesus didn’t allow any of the considerations to cloud His love or His service! He treated them all equally and, in doing so, taught us a tough lesson. We all have people that whom we seem to connect and we have no trouble serving these folks. However, the true servant soon learns that he must serve all and serve them equally. The true servant is not allowed to pick favorites but must have the heart of Christ and be willing to serve his enemies just as readily as he serves his friends, (Matthew 5:43-48). Can we honestly say this morning that we serve all men alike? Not if we hold grudges. Not if we remember slights. Not if we think ourselves above others
C. Jesus Gave an Expectation
In John 13:17 Jesus says that if we know these things, we will be “happy” if we do them! Happy means “Blessed.” When we take the example of Jesus and put it into action, we can be assured of the Lord’s blessing on our lives. In fact, there will come a time when there will be no greater joy than that of being able to serve another in the name of the Lord!
By the same token, not to serve when we know we should serve the opposite purpose. For if you know to do good, then you are sinning when you do not, (James 4:17). Why do we seem to find it so difficult to serve another human? Why does it seem to strain us so much? Jesus never had a problem with serving. It came as natural to Him as breathing does to you and me.
God helps us to develop a servant’s heart. That is, we need to get to the place where we are more concerned with the welfare of our neighbors than we are with our own, (Philippians 2:4). We need to reach the place where we are more concerned with promoting our brother than we are ourselves. I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of work to do in this area!
Jesus left us a wonderful example to follow. His was a life lived in the service of others. If you were, to sum up, your life this morning, could you honestly say that others come before you in your thinking and your serving? Can you honestly say that you are following the Lord’s example to the best of your ability? Or, maybe like the Disciples, you would have to confess that you are often guilty of promoting yourself over others.
Whatever the need this morning dear brothers and sisters, there is hope and help in the Lord Jesus Christ. It may be that some here are just like Judas. You are in the church this morning surrounded by all the trappings of Christianity, yet like Judas, you have never truly been saved by the faith in the Lord Jesus. You have a name that you are one of His, but you know deep down in your heart that you do not really know Him. There is hope for you too! Like Judas, Jesus loves you and will save you if you will come to Him right now. Will you respond as the Lord leads you this morning?
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