John 13 Part 3

Resumed from part 2

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.

 

 

Continued on in part 4

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