Bible Text: John 13:1-17 | Preacher: Ray Galea | Series: Seeing Jesus' Glory | In John 13 we're told that being a follower of Christ first begins not with serving Jesus but asking Him to serve you by cleansing you from your sin.
Do you find it hard to ask for help? I do! I remember having to move house in Nth Wollongong The landlord wanted us out of one house and into another. The houses were one block away. It nearly killed me to ask the youth group leaders to help. And when I did they were more than willing.
Why do we find it hard to ask for help? We fear they might say ‘no’. And that hurts. So its better to pay or do it yourself. Sometimes it’s a fear of being in someones else debt; They will come calling in the future. Sometimes if you’re a caring person you’re comfortable being the own who helps, not the one who needs help. I often see many people in the caring professionals burn out because they won’t ask for help.
But behind it all, lurks pride. Why don’t more people ask for help with porn or marriage problems or anger or depression? Pride. I can do it on my own. The same pride can keep you out of heaven. Following Jesus is not about first serving Jesus but about being served by him. It’s about letting Jesus be your servant.
By John 13 we are now in the upper room, it is the night before Jesus death. From chapters 13-17 we have Jesus final instructions to the 12 disciples. Turn to verse 1.
It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. (NIV)
Already the shadow of the cross has been cast. It’s the Passover feast. The ‘hour’ had come. Jesus was leaving this world and He was showing the full extent of his love. Everything speaks of Jesus planned death at the cross. Before he goes we are told in verses 2 and 3 several things about Jesus
The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God (NIV)
Jesus is in a class of his own. We are all told at our funeral “from dust you are and dust you shall return.” But Jesus comes from God and is returning to God. Jesus home address is heaven and that is where he is about to return. He makes it clear in verse 3 that absolutely all authority is his
Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power (NIV)
He said he is “Lord” and he was not joking. Jesus is the most powerful person that has ever walked the face of this earth. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is not pretending to be great. He is great! And he will shows what true greatness looks like. At this point Jesus gets to his feet, rips of his shirt, jumps on the table, flexes his muscles and screams out at the top of his lungs “I am the greatest!” Not even close. Jesus, unlike your trash talking boxers, verse 4-5.
So he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (NIV)
The one who had everything placed at his feet places himself at the feet of 12 men whom he had created. We have seen forgiven sinners at the feet of Jesus. Now Jesus is at the feet of his 12 apostles. Jesus had already taught the 12 not to be like the rulers of the world who abuse their authority. Jesus said: “you want to be great, really great in my eyes, then become a servant” For Jesus came “not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many” Mark 10:45
Peter, one of the 12, was part of a honour–shame culture. Everyone knows their place. Like the military where lower ranks always salute first to higher ranks.Those in power were expected to do and not do certain things. And being a servant is not one of them.
Jesus keeps re-writing the job description for God's King; he keep re-writing the definition of greatness. I love how our own Grant Dibden was a Colonel in the Australian Army then decides to become Chaplain. But in the Army, chaplains can’t be ranked higher than a captain. So he went from Colonel to Captain. From manning 150 people down to manning 50 people. And with a big salary drop too. How Christ like! Why would he do this? So he could preach Christ.
Peter who is a product of his culture has a problem and won’t allow Jesus to wash him. Verse 8
“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” (NIV)
“There is no way you are going to serve me.” The complete opposite to my son James. When he was 5 yrs. He loved me tying his shoes. I knew he could do it. He knew he could do it. But he loved me showing him that I loved him; he had no problem with being served. Peter refuses to have his Lord and Teacher on his knee. He expects to serve Jesus. He is emphatic; He will not let Jesus serve him. Peter wants Jesus to be king but not a servant king. Then Jesus' stinging warning to Peter comes in verse 8 for us all to hear
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” (NIV)
Jesus is saying – “Unless you let me serve you, you cannot have friendship with me; You can’t be cleansed of your sins”
At one level it’s not to hard to wash the feet of 12 men. I've worked in a chicken abbitoir so I'll take washing 12 dirty pairs of feet any day to hanging live chickens on a conveyer belt scratching and urinating on you. The ‘washing’ is code for the death of Christ which alone washes away of sins. We know that because we are told that the hour has come (and the hour is code for his death). And we know that Jesus said that he was returning to the Father and that exit point is the cross. Jesus is about to show the full extent of his love as he will say in John 15:13
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (NIV)
Jesus is pointing out to Peter that unless you let me die for you, Peter, your sins will remain with you; they will be used as evidence against you. Faith clings to the cross and allows Jesus to come to your aid. Verse 8 is clear, there is no other way of being with Christ.
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” (NIV)
Jesus says “Unless I wash you…” No one else can do it, the church can’t do it, you can’t to it. Jesus says “You need me. You need to let me save you.”
When I was 19 I remember swimming down the south coast with a couple of friends. We found ourselves a long way out. My friends were better swimmers than I. I was struggling. I really felt I was out of my depth. I did not want to let them know it. But I was in trouble. A life guard came out to us on the board and I remember him looking at me and seeing that I was in trouble and saying “Do you need help?” Do you know what I said? “NO! NO!” What is that–if not stupid pride.
That is what Peter is saying Jesus is saying, “I have come to serve you. By dying in your place and making you clean.” Peter is saying “No. You will never serve me that way.” That is the good news we have been preaching for the last 29 years at MBM. If you want Jesus to be your King, you must first let him be your servant King.
If by chance you still havent got it, it’s not to late to get it now.Will you let Jesus serve you? Will you let Jesus wash away your sins by his blood?
People have said to me “I don’t want to come to Jesus because I need him…I want to come to Jesus because I love him.” That is pride. You need him before you love him. You don't come as an equal. You come because you need to be rescued. You can’t save yourself.
As Tim Chester once put it: “Here is the deal Jesus offers us every day. And it’s the best deal in town. Jesus says “I will take your failures, sin, guilt, bitterness, curse, wrath and death, and in return, I will give you joy life love, righteousness and peace. So, accept the deal, hand over your sin and receive Christ's love.”
Jesus was showing the full extent of his love. He knows that Satan is on the prowl, Judas is about to betray him and that Peter is going to deny him. Jesus is clearly troubled in spirit. But With all this enormous stress, what is Jesus found doing? He is found washing the feet of 12 men. He is Warning Judas to not betray him. He is Lovingly preparing Peter for his denial, thoughtfully getting the disciples ready and then humbly serving them by washing their feet.
You notice he washes the feet of them all. Including Judas the betrayer and Peter the denier. What kind of love is this?! Having loved his own who were in the world he now showed them the full extent of his love.
From here on greatness is redefined by Jesus death. The foot washing at one level was to model of what the followers of Jesus were to do. The path for Jesus is the path for Jesus followers.
Let me give a poor example of the great example. This is Russel whose feet I will briefly wash. Jesus took his outer garments, wrapped a towel around his waist, filled bowl with water and with his own bare hands Jesus washed and then dried the feet of 12 men. The difference being Jesus is the creator of the universe getting down on his knees before his creation. Verse 12
When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you (NIV)
True Greatness is redefined by going low, by laying aside, by humbling ourselves and serving each other; putting other first. There is nothing more beautiful than when you see someone with so much power come down and serving others. Can you imagine a country, a business, a church, a school, a home where leaders bless others, verse 16.
Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (NIV)
Followers of the servant king serve others. I think one of the reasons why Peter did not want Jesus to serve him was that If Jesus serves him, then Peter will need to serve others. But that is where happiness is found. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. Who would have thought? Being great and finding happiness are found in serving others like Jesus.
Why don’t we go to your death bed for a moment. Picture yourself surrounded by your family, friends, people from church, work and study. What will they be thinking about you life? What do you want them to be thinking? Will that see a wasted life of selfish ambition and self indulgent pleasures. Or life marked by sacrificial love who gave their all for others?
The Salvo's did a great work in recent fires. Their founder, William Booth, was a man who loved others. He preached Christ and loved the poor. He went to the US for a conference. All the Salvos were excited to see their leader but he was too sick to speak. So he wrote a note in his hotel to have read. The note said one Word “Others”
Jesus said “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” Let Jesus serve you and then serve others.