“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? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 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. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” (John 13:12-20 ESV)
Last week, we ended with Peter refusing Jesus act of service, Jesus’ strong rebuke and Peter’s quick reversal and “I’m all in” surrender. But, Jesus doesn’t leave the disciples wondering what this all means and, fortunately, we get to listen in on His explanation. “Do you understand what I have done to you?” You’d think the disciples would get the picture but, this is such a critical element of discipleship, Jesus doesn’t leave them to speculate. He emphatically states the purpose of this object lesson… “you call me teacher and Lord, as you should, for that’s what I am. If I am willing to wash your feet, considering my role and position, then you OUGHT to wash each other’s feet.”
Our Lord has given us an example to follow. He leaves no doubt regarding His expectations. You ought to wash each other’s feet. No hesitation, no qualification, no excuses, just humble obedience. Get up, get right, get down, and get busy. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but we are really good at making excuses or looking for loopholes to get out of doing things we don’t particularly like to do. If it requires resources, we are suddenly short on them. It it demands too much time, we have prior engagements. If it is difficult or physically demanding, we have health issues. If it is dangerous, we have debilitating fears. If it is intellectually challenging, we are in over our heads. If it is emotionally draining, we are too tired to be of much help.
Jesus intentionally addressed this head on… no excuses, no hang ups, no backing out now. If I, your teacher and Lord, can perform this act of service for you then you can and OUGHT to do the same for each other.
Why is serving each other so important? Why would Jesus put SO much emphasis on this action at this stage of his ministry? He has only a few minutes left with these men and he uses the time to give them a lesson on service and humility. Why? Because Jesus’ expectations fly directly in the face of what we personally want and what our culture tells us is important.
Now, don’t get me wrong… lots of people point out how we should volunteer our time and give resources to help those in need. But, those things are always secondary to your primary objective of getting what you want and need out of life. It is always good to help others but only after you’ve met your primary goals of getting ahead and being recognized for your personal achievements. Unfortunately, we often do this same thing to our children. Their goal in life should be, from our perspective, to get an education so they can get a good job that pays well and gives them some security and, hopefully, the ability to care for us in our old age. What more could we want or expect from them, right?
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…” (Matthew 6:19-21 ESV)
If we truly recognize God’s Word as truth then why would we teach our children the opposite as the goals they should strive to reach? That’s the very lesson Jesus is giving the disciples in the hours leading up to his death. Don’t focus on personal and financial achievements, focus on obedience and service. Don’t focus on self, focus on God’s purpose and plan.
Next, Jesus gives us one of His “verily, verily…” or “truly, truly…” statements. If you’ll remember, I mentioned a few months ago that whenever Jesus makes that statement, we should pay attention. So, “a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” While we know this is true, we don’t act as if it is true. We tend to think, that’s fine for Jesus but I can’t do that or go that far. Jesus has a heart for service, but I’m just not wired that way. WAIT, stop and listen to what he said… “a servant is NOT greater than his master.” If the very Word of God, the one who spoke and the world was formed, can put on a towel and serve then we are not above doing the same. This is the first of two reasons for serving, your master served you so serve each other.
The second reason, if you know these things you’ll be blessed if you do them. In other words, the blessing isn’t in knowledge or understanding but in obedience. God doesn’t look down from heaven and say, “Wow, look at how much Gary is learning about service. He’s earned several degrees in service. I’m truly impressed.” No, he looks down and says, “Look at how Gary obeys my commands. He must really get this because he’s doing it.” He expects obedience from his people and blessings flow from obedience.
There’s an expectation today of personal happiness. Surely, God wants me to be happy and satisfied? Even our nation’s founding documents demand it as an undeniable right of human existence, the pursuit of happiness. But, let me interject here that we have a warped, broken, skewed, or corrupted sense of what will make us happy. Human sin has corrupted our hearts and desires and has caused us to pursue sensual satisfaction over spiritual satisfaction.
We say we want our needs met when, in reality, we want our desires met. We want to feel good, not necessarily be good. In fact, we even go so far as to say we “deserve” it. Go indulge your desires, you deserve it. Go eat ice cream, it will make you feel better about your lousy day. Go drink yourself into a stupor, you’ll forget about your failed relationship. Go indulge your sexual fantasies with Internet porn, your spouse doesn’t really understand your needs.
How did we get from washing feet to pornography? God says that all of these things we desire are broken, corrupted views of reality. We would find real fulfillment and satisfaction if we believed His word and obeyed His commands. Instead we truly lose our way when we chase after our own desires and corrupted view of happiness. How do I know this? We see it in the very next verse: “I’m not speaking about all of you. I know whom I have chosen… He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.”
Judas has spent three years with Jesus, eating his bread, seeing the miracles, hearing his teachings, experiencing his love. And yet, Judas is about to turn away from all of this because Jesus isn’t meeting his expectations.
Some of you have come to God with a list of expectations, or requirements. I’ll believe in God when He does these things or meets these demands… like a consumer we step up to the counter and if God meets our expectations and demands then we’ll offer him our belief. We bargain for the best outcome, do this, grant me this, heal my child, meet my expectation and I’ll believe. Our religious faith has become very pragmatic or practical. We believe it, practice it as long as it provides practical benefits or fulfills a need in our lives. In other words, we believe and trust God as long as He does things in a way that makes us feel better, fulfilled or more satisfied.
But, to approach God this way means we think we know better than God what will make us happy and fulfilled. But, just one misstep or mistake on God’s part and we’re questioning His goodness or existence. Perhaps the mistake wasn’t with God but with us? What if God’s right and we’re wrong? Is there any evidence? Well, let me ask you a question… has anything you’ve bought ever satisfied that deep need inside you? Has comfort food ever given you true, lasting comfort? Has pornography ever met your need for love and companionship? Has money ever loved you back? I know the answer to these questions, and so do you. God is absolutely right, none of these things satisfy our heartfelt needs. Trust Him on this one…
Finally, Jesus gives one more “truly, truly” statement. “Whoever receives the one I send, receives me. Whoever receives me, receives the one who sent me.” Now, I’m not going to pretend that the church doesn’t have an image problem. There are lots of folks who would say, I love Jesus and what He says and does but I really can’t stand Christians. They are just hypocritical and condescending. I can love Jesus, but not the church. I’m only going to briefly touch on this subject this week, but we will look at this in more depth next week.
Jesus leaves no doubt that His work will be, indeed must be, carried out by those whom he sends; His disciples, the New Testament church. Whoever receives them, receives me. Whoever receives me, receives God. The Work of God is done through the work of the church. Now, I’m not equating everything the church does as the work of God. We are redeemed, but not sinless. We still act selfishly and wrongly pursue our own goals and desires. This is evident when the church cares more about its plans or programs than it does about its people.
We must always evaluate our actions and our goals in light of two things; the great commandment(s) and the great commission. Do we love God with everything in us, do we love our neighbors in the same way we love ourselves, and are we actively seeking to make disciples of them? I promise, that will remain the focus of our church and, I pray, it will remain the focus of your life.