John 13

Let’s begin this sermon with a prayer. Lord, we give thanks for this day and for Your word that instructs us and gives us guidance and counsel. I pray we would be a people who would be receptive to it and to apply what we hear.
We pray in Jesus’ name.
Amen.
Well, we approach, now, the second major portion of the Gospel of John. The first portion of John’s Gospel was the ‘book of signs’ and that was chapters one through twelve.
 
In the ‘book of signs’ we saw where there would often be a discourse followed by a miracle, or a miracle followed by a discourse. Typically, you would have this theme of the act itself, often Jesus would present Himself and then there would often be a discourse. The point is that these signs and Jesus’ interpretation of the signs go together. His claims and His credentials match up with one another. That was the idea; the claims and credentials were consistent and both point beyond themselves to His true authority. The uniqueness of Christ, then, is not merely a matter of what He claimed, but also what He was able to accomplish. So, in chapters one through twelve, what we see there is the climax of His ministry and being rejected by the religious leaders of Israel at the end of chapter 12. This was the public aspect of His ministry.
 
So, these were signs to the public. Now we have the ‘book of glory’, as we might call it. This covers chapters 13 through 21. This is really to His disciples. It is private. What has taken place, then, is the final, or official, rejection of Jesus, ‘Yeshua ha Machiach’, by His own people, takes place. He has made His final appeal to them at the end of chapter 12, when He says, beginning in verse 47, “If anyone hears My sayings, and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. He who rejects Me and does not reject My sayings, has One who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day.
 
For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.” But, we know that the people rejected Him. In fact, if you go back to verse 37, “Though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him.” This is the fulfillment of the text in Isaiah that talks about the fact that the Messiah Himself would be rejected by His own people.
 
So, He has now completed His signs and because He is rejected by His people and in view of the mounting opposition, the ‘book of glory’ will take place. When I say glory, what I mean by that is now the time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Actually, you need to understand that the crucifixion is part of that glorification. You must understand that Jesus’ death was not a tragedy. It is not a martyrdom but, rather, recall that He said earlier, in chapter ten, “No one takes My life from Me. I have laid it down on My own initiative and I will take it up again. This authority I received from My Father. Furthermore, “Was it not for this hour that I have come?”
 
So, that is why He says, “Father, glorify My name.” Clearly, His intention was to fulfill the work of the Father, and that is the reason why He came. The film Passion of the Christ does a really good job portraying this section of John. Recall, the text in John 10 is quoted. Also, at the beginning of the film it actually quotes Isaiah 53. It is contextualized there.
 
So, the idea here is that it is not a martyrdom and it is not a matter of focusing so much on who killed Him because the answer is that all of us did. Remember two of Jesus’ purpose statements, where He summarizes His mission? The Son of Man has come to do what? One of them is to seek and to save that which is lost. That is part of His purpose. His understanding of what it would take to seek and save was really one of great sacrifice. He knew the purpose for which He had come. The other purpose statement was the Son of Man has not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for the many. There is a very important verse in Galatians chapter two that relates to this matter. Paul, in dealing with the nature of the Gospel, wants to be very, very clear in the application of the Gospel. Verse 20 is very well known, and it says, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in Me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who love me and gave Himself up for Me.” However, it is the next verse I want us to focus on, “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”
 
Do you all catch the implications of that? If there was any way in which people could some how earn their way to God, by any form of works, then it would not have been necessary for God to have done such a desperate act, such a radical act. What this does, then, is condemn every works-based system. It says the reason why the works system does not work is precisely because God’s Holiness is a lot greater than we suppose. Any time you suppose you can work your way up to heaven, or to earn your salvation, is to either bring God down to our level or raise us up to His level. Either we minimize sin or we minimize the Holiness of God. Actually, a grasp of grace causes you to realize both simultaneously and, in fact, it is my own conviction that the more you come to understand the difference between God’s Holiness and our sins, the more you come to understand grace, because that is what covers the difference. To put it another way, no matter how good a carpenter you are, you can never build the steps to Heaven, only Jesus of Nazareth, The carpenter can do that. And ONLY THROUGH HIS WORKS OF THE CROSS and not of ourselves!
 
But, what happens is that as you grow, you come to understand a higher, or deeper, level and so your understanding of grace will increase. The idea here is that the more you grasp the disparity between the nature of sin and the Holiness of God, the more your grasp of grace will be, and the great Saints always became aware of these two aspects of knowledge, the problem of the human condition and the Holiness of God, and that is why whenever a person encounters God, what will be their first response? When God manifests Himself in a very vivid way? Say, for example, Daniel or Isaiah in Isaiah six, what would be the response these people would have? Well, they would say, “I am undone,” or “Woe to me.” They would be aware of their own sins. They would be undone, even John, when he sees the resurrected Christ, he is overwhelmed, and though it actually takes God to reach down and lift us up, the point is that when people really encounter God in this real way, they are overwhelmed by that knowledge.
 
So, this understanding, then, must include that He came for this purpose. So, I want to stress certain things about this. In verse one through five we see Jesus’ humility and His relationship with His Father. In the ‘book of glory’, one of the themes we will observe is the issue of the hour. If signs were obvious in the first twelve chapters, the theme of the hour, and its fulfillment, is evident here. I might mention, by the way, that on Sunday Jesus entered Jerusalem, when we put the Synoptics together with John, and on Monday, that was the cleansing of the temple. On Tuesday, it was a day of conflict for the religious leaders. On Wednesday, none of the Gospels provide any information. It is a day of silence. Thursday we have what we are dealing with here, the Upper Room. There are some commentators who argue that John can not be synced with the Synoptics and claim that this is really not a Passover meal. I will not get into that because it is a little technical. However, my own view is that this is the Passover meal and it takes place on Thursday night. One of the things that we know is clear is that Judas betrays Him in the Gospel and he betrays Him here. He did not do it twice. In that context, then, we know it was the Passover meal. There is good warrant, then, to say that these can be fit together. Some continue to challenge this in an effort to refute the Gospel of John because it is such a powerful and clear Gospel. I want to look at verses one through five and I want to speak about Jesus’ humility, (this is going to get a little meaty.) This is His relationship with His Father.
 
Now, I want to stress something. What we have here in John’s account is unique to John. I must tell you, these chapters are extremely pivotal in the understanding of the Christian faith. In chapters 13, 14, 15, 16, and then in the high priestly prayer of chapter 17, we have the essence of the Christian faith encapsulated and these chapters contain the seeds for all the key doctrines that are developed in the Epistles. We have the essence, in these chapters, of what it means to live the spiritual life. This is extremely important for us, and John supplements the other accounts by giving us this insight that the other Gospels do not provide. In understanding this, then, we must remind ourselves that Jesus knew the hour had come. Knowing that, then, within 24 hours He would be glorified through His crucifixion, understand that He took this as His last opportunity to share His thoughts, these closing words, with the ones whom He loved most. It is very important for us to grasp that. Again, you have to imagine, yourself, that you had only 24 hours to live, but you have enough strength to gather your family and friends together and say some parting words. Ask yourself this question: what would you tell them? It is an interesting mental exercise. What would you want to share with them? Chances are pretty good you would be talking about very fundamental issues. He knew this was His last opportunity.
 
So, we have the key words, a farewell speech. We saw other farewell speeches, in the Old Testament, for example, and one of them is Moses’ farewell speech in Deuteronomy, where he gives a very clear farewell to the people and gives them clear exhortations. He comforts them, but also warns them. We have Joshua’s farewell speech as well, in Joshua 23 and 24, where he knows that the time has come, he is going to die at the age of 110, and he calls all the key leaders together and give them his reflections. Recall, too, this contains that famous passage, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” He says you have to choose whom you will serve, because you serve someone. That is where Bob Dylan got that line, ‘you’re going to serve somebody, maybe the devil, maybe the Lord’.
 
But, you will serve somebody. He is absolutely right. You will serve something. Either you will serve the creator or you will serve an aspect of the creation. The latter is idolatry because it is beneath what you were called to be. So, we have Moses, we have Joshua, and also in Acts chapter 20, we have Paul’s farewell speech to the Ephesian elders. Again, in each of these cases, we have a very clear sense of urgency, and of encouragement, but also of exhortation.
 
So, let’s take a look, then, at these verses and in verses one through three we have what the Lord knew. This emphasizes what our Lord knew and I want you to listen to these verses carefully because this is a very, very important text. “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.” Let me pause right there. “He knew that His hour had come,” chapter 13, verse one. By the way, that theme of ‘My hour’, in chapter two verse four, it was, “My hour has not yet come.” In chapter seven, verse 30, it was, “His hour had not yet come.” In chapter eight, verse 20, it was, “His hour had not yet come.” Three times this theme is developed about the timing because God’s work, as you know, must be done on His time as well as in His way, and, as well, in His power.
 
So, you can do a good thing at the wrong time. In all these things, the theme of ‘His hour’ is critical because one of the key ideas in the Gospels is Jesus always doing the will of the Father, always listening to His Father’s voice, and always speaking what His Father has commanded Him to speak. This is a message of radical dependence upon Him. In the same way, you and I are called as well to be people who are radical dependent upon Him, and listening, as you make decisions, for His voice, and seeking to get God’s counsel and perspective, and seeking to serve Him in every aspect of life, because everything matters. I want to stress that again; everything matters, if I understand the Scriptures correctly. There is no area that might be secular and another one spiritual. Everything matters, and the difference is, what is our source of empowerment, of energy, that draws us to God? So, He knew that His hour and come and then in chapter 12, verse 23, for the first time it says, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” When He thinks about that hour, He is thinking about the glory, and this may seem strange to us, but it is the glory that is associated with the Cross and not just with the resurrection, because, “The Son of Man is going to be lifted up.” That was in chapter 12, verse 23, and then we see it repeated in chapter 13, verse one, “He knew that His hour had come.” Then, if you jump ahead, to chapter 17, and verse one, “Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You.” Now, from the human perspective, this hour meant suffering.
 
But, from a divine point of view, it meant glory. Look with me at some verses later in our chapter, verses 31 and 32, to get this perspective. “Therefore when He had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him; if God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and will glorify Him immediately’.” There is a very strong emphasis here.
 
So, we see the idea of Jesus being called to fulfill a purpose and if you look ahead, again, to the John 17 text, Jesus stresses this in verse four, “I glorified You on the earth having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.” I have said this before, but when the servant of God is in the will of God, He is immortal until that work is done. Nothing can take Him away from God’s purpose. When the servant of God is seeking to do the will of God, God will accomplish His purpose. Whether it takes many years or a very short time.
 
So, understand, then, that you are called on a divine mission. Every one of you has a mission. Every one of us has a purpose. It is important for you to identify, and prayerfully seek, what that purpose might be. All of you have a universal purpose of evangelism and of edification; that is to say to help people to come to know Christ, and then to make Him known. You see the idea? So, you come to know Him and then you help people develop in Him. As people come to faith in Christ, then they must grow in Him. I think all of us have some purpose in that and in regard to our own arena of influence. In our geographical influence, in our vocational influence, and, third, in our biological influence, namely our family.
 
Then, fourth, there is the social realm of influence; people you do things with and have things in common. God has sovereignly given you, then, these four realms of influence. Some are larger than others, but my point is God has given you particular gifts, and He has given you a particular realm of influence and my conviction is that as you seek to steward those gifts in that arena of influence, you are really moving in the direction of God’s purpose for your life. I am reminded of Ephesians 2:10, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Paul is saying here that God prepared us for good works and we should walk in them.
 
Now, the interesting thing is that we are His workmanship, but now having been created, we are now to create and form good works that are pleasing to the Father.
 
So, I want to stress this, and I would invite you to consider prayerfully what your personal life statement is. It would be a good thing for you to consider what that might look like. What would be your personal statement? If you had to have a purpose statement, maybe about business, you should have one for your personal life as well. I encourage you to move in that direction. It is an important issue. Jesus was very, very clear about His knowledge of the purpose of God. In verse two, it also tells us something else He knew. Not only did He know His hour had come, but He knew that Judas would betray Him. “During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him.” Go back to chapter six and look at verse 64. Let me read, again, this understanding. “’There are some of you who do not believe’. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him.” He knew from the beginning. It is really a remarkable concept when we understand that.
 
Then, if we look ahead to John six, verses 70 and 71, “Jesus answered them, ‘Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, yet one of you is a devil’? Now He meant Judas the on of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him.” One can ask, how did Jesus have fellowship with him, knowing that in His heart? I can only say there is a divine, sovereign issue here, where Judas had an accountability, which I will discuss a little bit later.
 
So, He knew that Judas would betray Him, and now let me stress that verse three is particularly key, He knew three things about his own identity. I want to stress this. First of all, He knew who He was. Secondly, He knew where He came from. You can guess where the third one is going to take us. He also knew where He was going. Knowing these three things is absolutely essential to what we are about to read.
 
So, He knew, then, His identity. He had come from God and He understood, as well, that all things were given into His hand, and that He was going back to God. That is what it tells us. “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,” and that is really a sense of His security.
 
So, He knew His dignity, He knew His identity, and He also knew His destiny, that is to say, His ultimate glorification. In other words, He grasped who He was. The same thing is true of us. We have a grasp of our identity, if we come to understand that where we came from is no longer from Adam, but from God.
What?
I’ve never heard that before!
Please let me say that again.
We need to come to understand that where we came from is no longer from Adam, but from God.
Turn to John chapter one, verse 12, and you will see, and this is one of many texts about the followers of Jesus, “As many who received Him,” speaking of Christ, “To them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” That means that when we come to know Him, we become children of God and that is where we come from. You see the idea there? We are no longer from Adam, but we now have that tremendous dignity and sense of our identity. 1st John 3:2 also develops this theme. There it says, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.”
 
So, these are very important understandings of our identity. Let me tell you about our dignity. We also know who we are. In a deep sense we have tremendous dignity, because God has given that to us as a gift. That is to say, in Ephesians chapter one, for example, you will discover in verses three to six, “The Father has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons to Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” That tells me, then, that we have tremendous clarity about our identity. We are people who have been gifted and called by God. That tells me about our dignity as well. Regarding our security, I would use Romans chapter eight to tell us where we are going.
 
But, many texts tell us that. It tells us about glorification. In fact, if you wanted, this very next chapter of John even tells us about that, because Jesus says, “It is needful for Me to go away so that I can come back to you.” And then, “Where I am, you may be also, so I am preparing a place for you.” That is where we are going. His desire is for us to be with Him for all time. That is clearly a theme in the John 17 prayer, His desire that we would have intimacy with Him. Intimacy but not absorption. I stress the difference. It is not absorption, but it is immersion. You are immersed in the Trinitarian life, but you are not absorbed in it, because there will always be the ‘Creator-created’ distinction. This is unlike the religions of the East, where you do have that. The Scriptures emphasize, in a balanced way, the transcendence of God and the imminence of God. It emphasizes both distance and nearness.
 
So, we understand that we are creatures, but nevertheless are called to be children as well. So, knowing these three things, then, is critical to our understanding to what He will do. So, verses one through three tell us what He knew and verses four and five now tell us what He did. We see now, in verse four, “He got up from supper and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. Then 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.” Now, what He knew helped to determine what He did. In fact, I want to argue that because He knew who He was, He was secure enough to serve other people. You must understand how very, very humiliating such an act would seem to be. It might be analogous to Queen Elizabeth coming to your house and sweeping the floor. It just wouldn’t seem right. Although in various services, in the Orthodox Church, often you will have priests wash the feet of the poor. It would become a symbol of sacrificial service. Here is the embarrassing bit about this. Go back to the other Gospels and you will discover there were a couple of things about these disciples that make, and underscore, the theme. If you go back to Mark, chapter ten, in verses 35 to 45, there you see the disciples were squabbling about their place in the Sun. In verse 35 of Mark 10, “James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus, saying, ‘We want You to do for us whatever we ask of You’.” That is a great prayer, isn’t it? As if He is ever going to agree to that kind of prayer. Whatever it is, You do it. Of course, His answer was, ‘“What do you want Me to do for you’? They said to Him, ‘Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory’.” They weren’t asking much, just the first and second positions forever. This is a bit ambitious. We have this interesting tension because the other disciples kind of wanted those places as well.
 
So, Jesus asks them this question, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” Their answer is humorous. They said, “We are able.” They are clueless as to what He meant by that. “And Jesus said to them, “’The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized. But to sit on my right or my left; this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.’ Hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James and John. Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, ‘You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to become first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many’.” This provides context. This was few weeks before and so we have that theme. I want us to go now to only a few days before.
 
He is saying James and John will be baptized with that kind of death. In other words, you will suffer martyrdom, as they did. The only one who escaped that was John, and even of that we are not completely sure. It is the baptism of suffering, as I see it. In a very real sense it is an immersion into an identification with God.
 
So, they are saying they are willing to do something, but have no idea what it means. The cup is something more and another aspect. Some people see the Eucharistic image there. I think it is more than that. I think He is telling them they will get more than they bargained for. The cup was a cup of suffering. Remember Jesus says to the Father, “Take this cup from Me.” There is an image there of suffering on our behalf. Let us go now to Luke 22.
 
Now, this is after the squabble in Mark 10. Here is another argument that they have. You have to admit that this is further evidence that these Gospels are truly authoritative, because people wouldn’t normally tell on themselves like this. They really don’t make themselves look good at all. If they were in collusion, they would have made themselves look a lot better than they did.
 
But, if you look here at verses 24 through 27, “There arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest.” Isn’t that great? This is what they are fighting about, and Jesus has just told them the Son of Man is going to be betrayed. Instead, they’re fighting over this. What does Jesus say to them? It is something very similar to what He said in Mark 10. “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors’. But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. 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.” By the way, in the context of Luke, the chances are excellent that statement was made just before this visual parable. This is what it is, a visual parable about service.
 
So, Jesus is among them as one who serves. In the Greco-Roman world and also in the 1st century Jewish world, many of the Jews adopted the Roman triclinium. It was a U-shaped affair.
 
So, the people would sit around the outside of the table and in doing this, they would recline on their left elbow and eat with their right hand. Their feet would be away from the table and that is why it is evident that Mary could wash His feet, as they were away from the table. They were not under the table. The idea was that Jesus was in a place of prominence and we know that John was on His right, as the disciple whom Jesus loved. That is why, when John is leaning on his left, all he had to do was lean on Jesus and ask Him, “Who is it?” It is possible that Judas was on the left, in a position of honor, because he had to be pretty close to Jesus because Jesus was able to take that flat bread that they used, dip it in a bowl that had some food in it, and present it to Judas. He didn’t have to get up to do that, so my impression is that Judas was very, very close. The point is that in this situation, what would be required before they sat down and reclined? Their feet would have to be washed. All the roads were dusty and everyone wore sandals.
 
So, part of the theme, then, would be that the feet would be washed and there would be kind of a ceremonial dimension to it as well. I will comment on that in just a minute.
 
So, who would do the washing of the feet? Usually there would be a servant there for that purpose and the servant would be on their hands and knees and the people would come in and there would be a small basin of water. The servant would be girded with a towel and after washing the feet they would wipe them with the towel. That is why Jesus said to the Pharisees, “You didn’t wash My feet.” In other words, they didn’t show Him even that minimum hospitality.
 
So, here is the problem. What have they been fighting over? Who is going to be the greatest. What is the last thing they want to do? There is no servant there to wash their feet and the last thing they want to do is wash anyone’s feet because that would indicate they aren’t the greatest. See the point here? Even though, again and again, He told them that it is not for you to lord it over people but the one who is the greatest is the one who serves. They just couldn’t get that into their heads because it was so counter-cultural, as it is even nowadays.
 
So, Jesus does something that stuns them. I have a suspicion, that when they sat down they were uncomfortable because they were violating the ornamental tradition. Their feet had not been washed and they sure weren’t about to do it.
 
So, when Jesus got up and took off His outer garment and put on the towel and took a basin and began to wash their feet, they were overwhelmed. Normally, it would be an act of great devotion and the idea was that it would be the person who was regarded as a higher authority whose feet would be washed and not the lower. Yet, Jesus says, “I among you am One who serves.” I find it to be quite stunning. I think that this issue of humility, this visual parable of humility and servanthood, is in great contrast to the disciples, and in a very real way I believe you and I are called to what we might call ‘the order of the towel’. What I mean by that is the idea that we are called to do what Jesus did in our own arenas of influence as one who serves. Humility, and the concept of servanthood, go together.
 
Certainly that is developed, as well, in 1st Peter 5:5; “Clothe yourself with humility to one another.” I think it may be a throwback to this imagery of clothing yourself with humility and take on the towel of a servant. We see this is Philippians chapter two as well, where He humbled Himself. I want to stress something about this humility. Humility was not born out of poverty. It was actually born out of riches. Jesus was the sovereign, but He chooses to take the place of the servant. Jesus was the Lord, but He chooses to die on behalf of the people. No one takes that away from Him. He had all things, yet He picks up a towel. He is our Lord and Master, yet He served His followers. You see what He is doing there? He is showing that, in the same way, you must also serve one another.
 
But, what we have here also is a theme that relates to their fellowship with Him, and that fellowship is to be manifested in their love for one another. So, it is my conviction that true humility grows out of our relationship with the Father.
 
So, if it is our desire with a truly humble attitude to do the Father’s will, then we are free to serve others. You see, it is when we know that our needs are met in Christ, when we know who we are, when we know where we came from, then we know where we are going. The better you know that, not just in your head, but in your heart, as you meditate upon those truths, the more likely you will be having the power to serve rather that to be served. If you do not know who you are; where you came from and where you are going, you will not be secure enough to serve. Instead, you will be tempted to manipulate people to get your needs met.
 
So, a follower of Jesus comes to relationships out of a sense of fullness. Their humility is not born, then, of lack. They know who they are and they have nothing to prove. They are no longer having to manipulate people, nor are they really down to people’s expectations and opinions. They are free to serve and secure enough to serve other people. You see, then, why verse three is so critical to our understanding of this. I believe we have been given that same power. Let us move on. In verses six through eleven, we have the theme of Holiness. This has to do with Jesus and Peter. As you know, Peter often spoke very impulsively, often out of ignorance, and had to be corrected by Jesus. “So He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, ‘Lord, do you wash my feet’? Jesus answered him, ‘What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter’. Peter said to Him, ‘Never shall you wash my feet’. Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me’.
 
Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and head’.” He goes from one extreme to the opposite extreme. Then Jesus has to correct him on that one, too, “’He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you’. For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, ‘Not all of you are clean’.” Significantly, He washed the feet of Judas. That is a very significant show of honor and possibility, even there, it was not too late. In any case, there is a distinction between the word ‘nipto’, which means ‘to wash’, and ‘louo’, which means to be bathed. In verse 10 Jesus says, “He who has bathed need only wash his feet.” You see the idea? Now, what is going on here is that when a person trusts in Christ, he or she is completely bathed. Their sins are washed away and they are forgiven.
 
Titus 3 would be a good example of this. It is one of my favorite texts in Scripture. God’s desire is for us to be redefined in this way, look at Titus chapter three, verses three to seven. “We also were once foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 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, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
 
So, you have this image of washing and regeneration. That is when you have bathed. The whole person is bathed in that regenerative act.
 
Now, my conviction is that, now having been bathed, and having been washed, and having been made clean, then when we do sin, it is not necessary to be bathed all over. Rather, the defilement needs to be cleansed and that is where we are called to keep our feet clean, in other words. Our union with Christ is settled, but our communion is another matter. See the difference? We have our new identity in Christ, but that doesn’t mean our fellowship is what it ought to be.
 
So, the communion aspect, the fellowship aspect, depends on our keeping ourselves unstained by the world, as James 1:27 puts it. You see, when the an Old Testament priest was consecrated, he was bathed all over, as Exodus 29:4 shows us. The whole body was bathed and then after that experience it was never repeated.
 
But, instead, in his daily ministry he had to wash his hands and feet at the brass laver in the courtyard, according to Exodus 30. So, at first, when they were consecrated, the whole person, and then after that only the hands and feet. So, we have this analogy as well.
 
So, our cleansing is by the blood of Christ and the application of His word to our lives and God’s provision for this cleansing is always there. 1st John chapter two, verses one and two is a clear a passage as we can get on this. “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation,” and that word means satisfaction, “for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”
 
So, he is saying there is a provision that when we do stop walking in the light we can return back to that. So, if we acknowledge our sins and thank Him for His forgiveness, we move back into the sphere of forgiveness. As we move on to the next section, verses 12 to 17, what we now see here. What it is saying is that God has washed you by His blood and has actually adopted you into His household before the foundation of the world. It is hard to undo that. Forgiveness is a gift that you can’t give back. Grace is a gift, which was given to you, not because you merited it, but because it was given to you.
 
But, then people, from a human perspective, always suppose, ‘Ah, but you don’t know me’, I am worse than most people. I want to tell you, you can not out-sin the grace of God.
 
Now, on the other hand, if a person, having professed to being a believer, has no evident change in their life, then James chapter two invites us to see that they may well be in a position where they need to reconsider whether they really have the faith.
 
But, what Paul also says in chapter 13 of 2nd Corinthians, ‘Test yourself to see if you are in the faith.” The idea here, as I see it, is that if it is a faith that is alive, it is a faith that will work. The works are not the condition of the faith, but they are the by-product of it. There is a difference between profession and possession. That is why I stress so many times that there a people who go to church, recite the creeds, believe the orthodox position, and still don’t know Jesus. There, you can have profession without possession. Let me pause and answer a question that I receive frequently here, what’s the difference between what Judas and Peter did? The difference is that there, I believe, He is referring to Judas because He knew the one who would betray Him. Peter denied Him, Judas betrayed Him. There is a big difference. Similarly, Peter was repentant, Judas was remorseful. There was a different response as well.
 
So, as I see it, then, He is saying that not of all them were clean because Judas was never bathed. He never really was there. What happened was you could see a progression in his hypocrisy. You reach a point of no return. One of the clearest literary examples of this is in the ‘Space Trilogy’ by C.S. Lewis. There you see a character by the name of Ransom, but there is also Weston and another character, named Devine. One of those characters is killed in Perelandra, but the other, knowing that he is about to die, realizes he is going to die without God, but he has reached to point of no return. He chooses to continue as he is.
 
It reminds me of this great line from Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, which is a glorious novel, perhaps the finest ever written, and what is fascinating about this work is that you have a composite hero, made up of the three brothers, Ivan, Dmetri, and Alyosha. Together they form the ‘Karamazov nature’, which represents the Fall and a lack of unity. All three of them, through pain and sorrow and suffering, come to an end themselves and come to faith. The point is this, that the three brothers are Dostoyevsky’s answer to the ‘Divine Inquisitor’.
 
At the end of the ‘Divine Inquisitor’, a stranger comes, who is clearly Jesus, at the height of the Spanish Inquisition. There, on the streets of Seville, he begins to raise people from the dead, heal the blind, and raise up the lame. The Cardinal gets wind of it and knows who it is. He has him arrested. He has him brought to him and asks, “Is it Thou? Even if it isn’t Thou, you will be burned tomorrow. We can not afford to have you around.” In effect,” he says, “you rejected, when you overcame the tempter, three key things that people desperately need, miracle, mystery and authority. Our job is to overcome your work.” The people needed, according to the Cardinal, miracle, mystery, and authority and he thought they were providing that. This stranger never says anything to the Cardinal. And when he asks again to respond, the stranger does something that is a visual parable, he comes to that wizened Cardinal and kisses him on the mouth.
 
The Cardinal is so overwhelmed by this action that he says, “Get out!” In other words, he chose not to kill him. The stranger goes out and then Alyosha asks Ivan, “What happened to the old man?” Now, this is the mark of no return. Ivan answers, “The warmth of the kiss is still in his heart, but the old man clung to his ideas.” You see that point? He had reached a point of no return. I think Judas progressively did that. Remember A Man for All Seasons, and Richard? At the beginning of the film he was a man, although flawed, really wanted to do the right thing. Then he takes the next step and the next step and finally he moves to the point of no return. Each action makes the next one easier until finally he betrays the one he wanted to be with.
 
So, you have this profound picture, here, of change and we have Jesus and the disciples together. In verses 12 through 17, and I call this ‘happiness’, in a way, because of the sense of Joy Jesus is actually offering, “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? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you should also do as I did to you. 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. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them’.” What He is doing here is showing that you discover real joy when your true source of joy is serving others in the name of Christ.
 
So, He is saying that, “You are blessed if you do them.” By becoming a servant, the Lord lifted each of us up. He dignifies sacrifice and service. I want you to see that. Jesus gave dignity to sacrifice and service. Therefore, we have a need for leaders who will serve and a need for servants who will lead. The blessing in 3:17 doesn’t come from knowledge or motion, but from application. James 1:25 tells us that, “Blessed is the man who applies these things.” I need to tie the chapter together because we are almost out of time.
 
In verses 18 through 35, what we now have is Jesus and Judas, and this section we can call ‘hypocrisy’, because we have a man who was not a true believer. If you look back to chapters six and twelve, and then ahead to 13:29, we have a number of texts that tell us that these things that we understand he was not a true follower of Jesus. “Some were supposing, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus was saying to him, ‘Buy the things we have need of for the feast’; or else that he should give something to the poor.” Here is the treasurer, which is usually an esteemed position, Judas would pilfer the money regularly. The amazing thing, though, is that the disciples still didn’t get it. Even when he went out they just thought he was going for provisions, or in a Passover tradition, to give alms to the poor. The disciples never caught on until after the fact, but Jesus knew what Judas would do.
 
He didn’t compel him to do it, in spite of his exposure to the truth, and this is the important point, you can have so much truth that you reject. God alone knows where that point of no return is. I believe it very possible for a person to reach the point where they reject the Gospel only so many times and the next time is it. They are incapable of receiving it. God knows that point of no return. We do not. You can reject the Light only so many times.
 
We have this theme of light and darkness. If you will look with me, again, at verse 18, “I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats my bread has lifted up his heel against me’. From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send received Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.” We have this portrait of Jesus telling him that this is something that had to come to pass. “When Jesus had said this, He became troubled in spirit,” and the word ‘tarasso’ is used again, “and testified and said, ‘Truly, truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me’.
 
The disciples began to look at one another, at a loss to know of which one He was speaking.” That is the incredible thing, this Judas was good, and none of them caught on. The amazing thing is that he had over three years in Jesus presence. He had a lot of opportunity to get the Light. You see how incredible this is? Is it possible, then, for us to hear it and hear it and hear it, and not get it? Of course, the answer is yes. “There was reclining on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.” Again, John would be at a place of honor on Jesus’ right. As he is leaning on his left elbow, then, all he had to do is lean back and ask Him who it was.
 
So, Simon Peter gestured to him, and said to him, ‘Tell us who it is of whom He is speaking’. He, leaning back thus on Jesus’ bosom, said, ‘Lord, who is it’? Jesus then answered, ‘That is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him’. So when He had dipped the morsel, He took and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.” Luke’s Gospel tells us that Satan entered into him at that time. “After the morsel, Jesus said to him, ‘What you do, do quickly’. Now no one of those reclining at the table knew for what purpose He had said this.” Now, in verse 30, “So after receiving the morsel, he went out immediately; and it was night.” We know it was night, but John is using it as a double meaning. He is stressing that Judas was of the darkness. It is the theme of the children of light and the children of darkness.
 
Now, I want to stress that this is a theme that is developed all through this Gospel. In chapter one, “The Light came into the world and the darkness did not comprehend it.” In chapter three Jesus makes this statement, “The Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness more than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” That is why many people can come to intellectual belief about Jesus but not be willing to place their trust in Him, because of the implications it might have for their lives. I have been with many people who finally grasped it, their objections were answered, and they came to say maybe it’s true.
 
Still, they chose not to accept Him. It was no longer an intellectual issue, it was a volitional issue. They realized it would mean a loss of control and a change in their life. Clinging to the darkness will allow you to eventually reject the Light. After Judas had left, the atmosphere had cleared and Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him. God will also glorify Him in Himself, and will glorify Him immediately. Little children, I am with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, now I also say to you, where I am going, you can not come. A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”
 
So, Jesus is now instructing the disciples and that is when the Eucharist takes place. He begins to instruct them and prepare them for His crucifixion and His ultimate return to heaven.
 
Now, in verses 34 and 35, Jesus’ love for His own must be reflected in their love for one another. 1st John 3:16 underscores this theme. “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” So, our love is the true evidence that we belong to Christ. That is to be the manifestation; your love, your sacrifice, your service. That becomes the evidence of the in-Christ relationship.
 
I forgot that there was a verse concerning Judas that I want to give you because it might be relevant, because some has said that God made Judas do that deed, and why would Judas be held responsible if God did indeed make him follow out this course of evil. The verse is in Matthew 26:24, “The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” Here is the point. That man had a choice. It underscores the need for human responsibility. That is why, as I see it, we have a picture of how God has a plan. We see this in Acts 2:23, “This Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to the Cross by Godless men and put Him to death.” Do you catch the balance there? On the one side, He was delivered over by a predetermined plan.
 
On the other hand, it does not eliminate their culpability for nailing Him to the Cross and putting Him to death. See how both are true? Divine sovereignty never eliminates human responsibility. We can make our choice and God is not responsible for the commitment of evil. His purposes will be accomplished, but we will be accountable for what we do. If Judas had not betrayed Him, He would have been betrayed by another, but I have to balance that with John 6, that He knew from the beginning he was the one who would do it. It is amazing because Jesus was with this man for years, sharing His truth and loving him. I don’t know that Judas knew he would betray Him. It is interesting, going back to Lewis’ Perelandra, the character Weston actually becomes possessed by Satan and it is no longer that Ransom is wrestling with a man, he is wrestling with someone who is inhabited by the enemy. By giving himself over to the darkness, he put himself in the position to be taken over by that darkness. I think he rationalized his actions. Perhaps he was trying to force Jesus’ hand. But in Judas’s mind I think he thought that he wasn’t truly betraying Him. Of course, he was selling Him for 30 pieces of silver and you can’t entirely get around that.
 
What I am saying is that when we have a relationship with God, when we are His children, we can not out-sin His grace. I think we can, though, reject His grace before we receive it. Judas chose to reject it. He did not embrace Christ for Himself because he had an agenda. As Jesus said, “It would have been better if that man had never been born.” One side of it is that he was remorseful, but the other side I can not eliminate, “woe to that man,” and also, Satan had entered him. There are two sides to it.
 
One thought that Judas might have had to ease his conscience of what he was planning on doing, it certainly was important because he was the one who used to pilfer from the money box. It may well be that he felt, in his definition of Messianic Messiah, if Jesus’ hand were forced, He would put Himself in a position to show Himself as the true Messiah and deliver His people. Keep in mind that the Jewish expectation of the Messiah was one of a reigning King, not a suffering servant, even though you have the suffering servant motif throughout the Old Testament. The idea that it could be one and the same is not something anyone conceived. There are a lot of factors involved and it is not simple. It is subtle.
 
For him to have been with Jesus that long is very profound to me. It deals with the issue of evil and the mystery of evil and the mystery of why some people respond to the Light and others reject that Light. I have to say it is the grace of God. I have no other answer for it.
Chapter 13: John 13
 
Jesus Washes His Disciple’s Feet
 
Read John 13:1-20.
 
At the Passover, lambs were sacrificed for the sins of the people. So on the day of the Passover, Jesus, the Lamb of God, was going to die for the sins of the world. But first He must teach His disciples a lesson. They had been arguing over who would be greatest in His kingdom. Jesus wanted to teach them that true greatness is to serve others.
 
It was the custom for a servant to wash the feet of the guests. Or one friend might honor another by washing his feet. But not one of the disciples was willing to do the work of a servant and wash the feet of the others. So Jesus washed their feet!
 
How ashamed they were! Jesus, the Son of God, was doing the work that they had thought they were too good to do! Their Master was taking the place of a slave to make them more comfortable! If we are going to follow Jesus, we must be willing to humble ourselves and do whatever needs to be done to help others. This is our way of “washing their feet.”
 
Jesus taught another lesson: we must let Him cleanse us daily from our faults. The disciples had bathed just before going to the place where they ate, but they had gotten their feet dirty walking along the dusty streets.
 
Getting saved is like taking a bath. When we accept Jesus as our Savior, He washes away all our sins; they are gone forever and forgotten. But day by day, as we walk through life, we sometimes “get our feet dirty.” We do things we shouldn’t do. We don’t need to get saved all over again but we must take our faults and failures to Jesus and let Him wash them away.
 
Jesus Predicts His Betrayal
 
Read John 13:21-30.
 
Jesus knew how He would be betrayed. Judas, one of His own disciples, would turn against Him. One trouble Judas had was his love of money. He was treasurer and stole from the general funds. This may seem like a little thing but one sin leads to another. Judas turned Jesus over to His enemies for thirty pieces of silver. He sold his own soul, his place in Christ’s kingdom.
 
“For the love of money is the source of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10).
 
The New Commandment
 
Read John 13:31-35.
 
Jesus again told His disciples of His death, that He would go where they could not go at that time. They had to stay on earth and live in such a way that all men would know they had something different about them. They were to love one another, even as He loved them. This is still a very important command that we must follow daily.
 
Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial
 
Read John 13:36-38.
 
You have already learned that Jesus was the Prophet that God had promised. God shows prophets things that are going to happen. Then the prophets predict these events, or tell about them before they happen. You have read several of Jesus’ predictions. He said that He would be “lifted up,” crucified; Judas would betray Him, and Peter would deny that he knew Him.
 
Peter thought he was stronger spiritually than the other disciples. Jesus knew how weak he was and was praying for him.
John 13
Let me close in a prayer. Lord, we thank You for this opportunity to reflect together on the meaning of sacrificial love and service, the meaning of our love, our dignity, and our security, the implications of that security, and dignity, and identity, for how we are to serve other people. You have given us such a security that we can now serve and do not have to manipulate.
 
I pray that we would go into relationships with that understanding; a growing grasp as we pray that You would open the eyes of our hearts and that You would give us a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of You.
We pray in Christ’s name.
Amen.
 
Take the quiz
 
Now please take this short quiz covering what you read.

1. What did Jesus do to teach His disciples that they should serve one another?

a) He took a servant’s place and washed their feet.

b) He told how He had left heaven to become a man.

c) He served food to the disciples.

2. Did Jesus expect to be betrayed?

a) No, He did not.

b) Yes, but He did not know who would betray Him.

c) Yes, He knew Judas was going to betray Him.

3. What was the new commandment that Jesus gave His disciples?

a) They were to wash one another’s feet every day.

b) They were to love one another.

c) They should not steal from the money bag.

4. Jesus predicted that Peter would

a) be head of the church.

b) always be true to Him.

c) deny Him three times.

3 Replies to “John 13”

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