Wash, Love, Serve (Repeat)

Christ Covenant Church
Jon Marq Toombs
9 October 2016 / Ordinary Time
John 13:1-20

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Grace and peace with you.

Since late February / early March we have been walking with Jesus through the Gospel of John. It took us 7.5 months to make it through 12 chapters. It will take us 4 months to make it through 9 chapters.

The first 12 chapters of John’s Gospel are called the Book of Signs. Those chapters cover three years of Jesus’ ministry. The last 9 chapters are called the Book of Glory. These chapters cover the few days and weeks of Jesus’ life.

Over the next few weeks — from now til Thanksgiving — we will be hanging out with Jesus and his disciples in an upper room. Everything that happens from chapter 13 to chapter 17 takes place in one room on the night before Jesus was betrayed, arrested, and crucified.

Here, Jesus teaches his disciples the things they will need to know and believe and do in their life and ministry after he has been crucified, resurrected, and ascended into glory.

These are things we need to know, believe, and do as well, so let’s pay close attention to the teachings of our Lord and Savior.

Our sermon text is John 13:1-20. If you are willing and able, I invite you to stand and give your undivided attention to God’s Holy Word.

[1] Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. [2] During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, [3] Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, [4] rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. [5] Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. [6] He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” [7] Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” [8] Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” [9] Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” [10] Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” [11] For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.” [12] 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? [13] You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. [14] If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. [15] For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. [16] 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. [17] If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. [18] 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.’ [19] I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am. [20] Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” (ESV)

The word of the Lord.

May God add his blessings to the reading, preaching, and hearing of his word. All the church says: Amen. You may be seated.

In context of John’s Gospel, Jesus departed from the temple and went into hiding. No one knew where he went for several days — from Palm Sunday to Passover Eve (Thursday) — until he turned up at a secret hiding place, off stage, away from the crowds, in an upper room to hang out with his disciples.

As the scene opens, we feel the tension in the room immediately.

Jesus’ hour has come. This is his last night as a free man. Tomorrow morning he will lay down his life at the cross.

It was the night of the last Passover. Like the night of the first Passover, God’s people have gathered in a house, with their Lamb, around a table, to eat a holy meal. Like their forefathers, they will soon pass through water, enter a wilderness, and the first-born Son will lose his life. The flesh of the Word will be abused, beaten, crushed, destroyed for the life of the world.

Now, if ever there was a time to get away from it all and keep to himself, this was the time.

Isn’t that what you would do?

If you knew that tonight was your last night — that in just a few hours you were going to be handed over to a mob of thugs and executed in the morning? If you knew that tomorrow you were going to die — would you want to be eating and drinking at a party?

How would you act? What would you do?

Whatever it might be, it’s not what Jesus did.

When Jesus saw that his life and ministry were coming to an end, he did not selfishly withdraw from his disciples in order to shield his own heart from sorrow and pain. Rather, he selflessly drew near to them in order to shelter their hearts from pain and sorrow by showing them how much he loved them.

Jesus loved his disciples all the way to the telos — to the end-goal of his mission. He loved them all — including Peter who was going to deny him three times, and even Judas who was going to betray him that very same night. He even loved them. He loved them to the end of the old world in order to bring them into the new world.

Before we look at how Jesus loved, I want us to think about the most common way we try to show people we love them. At their birthday, we give them gifts. At Christmas, we give them gifts. At Valentine’s day, we give them gifts. We tend to show people we love them by giving them things. There is nothing wrong with that in itself, but it pales in comparison to what Jesus.

How did he show people he loved them?

He gave them the gift of himself. He gave them the gifts of hospitality and generosity. Hospitality, because he received them all at his table. Generosity, because he served them without partiality of favoritism.

He served his friends and his enemy equally.

This is true love in the flesh.

In this story, Jesus and the disciples were gathered around a table for the passover meal. Jesus knew the truth about his origin, purpose, and destiny — he understood the meaning of his life.

So what did he do?

He rose up from the supper. He took off his Teacher and Lord garments, and took up a servant’s towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a washtub and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

[12] 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?

That is what Jesus did, but why did he do it? And what does it mean?

Don’t feel bad if you do not know the why and what. Not even Peter understood at that moment; it only made sense to him later on.

I want to offer three or four reasons why Jesus washed his disciples’ feet and what it means even for us today.

The first reason Jesus washed the disciples’ feet is because he loved them and wanted to serve them by practicing hospitality. The notion of washing feet has it roots in the OT scriptures.

In the Book of Genesis, we find the story about the time

“the LORD appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth and said, “O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree, while I bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.” (Genesis 18:1-5; cp 19:2; 24:32 ESV)

We don’t have time here and now to make all of the connections between this text and our sermon text (e.g., favor = love; pass by = passover; servant = towel/servant; water/wash feet = water/wash feet; bread = bread; LORD = Lord; do = do). Suffice it to say for now that washing feet was a way to practice hospitality.

So, as Abraham once welcomed God and strangers to his tent and practiced hospitality towards him, so now Jesus, the Word made flesh who tented among us, welcomed friends and enemies to himself and practiced hospitality towards them.

The second reason Jesus washed the disciples’ feet is because he loved them and wanted to serve them by practicing holiness.

In the Book of Exodus we learn that

The LORD said to Moses, “You shall also make a basin of bronze, with its stand of bronze, for washing. You shall put it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and you shall put water in it, with which Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet. When they go into the tent of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister, to burn a food offering to the LORD, they shall wash with water, so that they may not die. They shall wash their hands and their feet, so that they may not die. It shall be a statute forever to them, even to him and to his offspring throughout their generations.” (Exodus 30:17-21 ESV)

Again, it is easy to spot the connections between this text and out sermon text. But the main thing I want you to see here is this: As the priests once washed their feet to consecrate themselves for worship and service inside the tabernacle, so Jesus now consecrates his disciples as priests for mission and service outside the tabernacle.

Jesus washed their feet to make them beautiful so that they could run around the world with the gospel of salvation. As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

The third reason Jesus washed the disciples’ feet is because he loved them wanted to set an example of practical humility.

Did he want to cleanse their stinky and dirty? Yes. Did he want to make a theological point? Yes. But there’s more to it than that.

Jesus washed their feet because he wanted to set an example for them, a holy pattern of life. As he said:

[13] You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. [14] If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. [15] For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you…[17] If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

He showed them his love to the end by humbly serving them with his sacred hands.

The same hands that made a whip and cleansed the temple, the same hands that broke the bread and distributed the fish, the same hands that touched the eyes of a blind man. Those   hands now touch the dirty and stinky feet of the apostles.

The sovereign Lord made himself a lowly slave to serve sinners like us. He laid aside his power and glory, and took up our weakness and shame. He exchanged his purity for our sins; our pride for his humility. He traded a majestic crown for a miserable cross.

In this way, he left them an example that his followers should love and serve each other as he had loved and served them.

The same goes for us as well.

Jesus urges us to put skin on our love by stripping away our pride and by serving one another in humility.

As Chrysostom says (Homily 70 on John 13:1-11), “Jesus did all these things Himself, showing by all that we must do such things, when we are engaged in well doing, not merely for form’s sake, but with all zeal.”

We must serve humbly from the heart, not merely “serve” with the hands. That’s what it means to do to others as Jesus did for you.

This is where things are practical and personal.

We are called not to love one another in word or tongue, but in work and truth.

That means we need to think in concrete terms about ways to imitate Jesus in our love and service.

So, what are some practical ways we can wash one another’s feet?

We can be deliberate and intentional about sharing life together, paying attention to each other, taking note of conversations, listening between the lines, giving each other the gift of time, being present, showing hospitality, giving generously, and on and on we can go. The applications are limitless.

But I must warn you that no matter how we love and serve one another — and others — there will always be mixed results. You know this by experience, but I feel compelled to remind you anyway.

Some people will not receive the love and service we offer them. Like Peter, they will kick and scream, and fight, and resist. What should we do? Keep on loving and serving them.

Other people will receive all the love and service we offer them. But like Judas, they will turn on us and betray us anyway. They will seek their own interest and personal gains even if it means throwing you under the bus. They will leave our church, leave our MCs, leave our lives. What should we do? Keep on loving and serving them anyway.

Many people will receive all the love and service we offer them with gratitude. In turn, they will join us in loving and serving others in imitation of Jesus. What should we do? Keep on loving and serving them, praising God and rejoicing in the Lord Jesus Christ.

As we prepare our hearts to come to the Lord’s table, let us remember that Jesus is the true and better Servant-Host

who is merciful and gracious to sinners;

who spreads a table before us in the presence of our enemies;

who washes our broken hearts and dirty feet,

and refreshes our fearful and troubled soul;

who makes our cup overflow and gladdens our hearts with wine;

who chases after us with goodness and steadfast love all the days of our life;

and prepares a place for us so that we may dwell in his house forever.

Pastoral Prayer — Based on Psalm 41

Blessed is the one who considers the poor!
In the day of trouble the LORD delivers him;
the LORD protects him and keeps him alive;
he is called blessed in the land;
you do not give him up to the will of his enemies.
The LORD sustains him on his sickbed;
in his illness you restore him to full health.
As for me, I said, “O LORD, be gracious to me;
heal me, for I have sinned against you!”
Even my close friend in whom I trusted,
who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.
But you, O LORD, be gracious to me,
and raise me up, that I may repay them!
By this I know that you delight in me:
my enemy will not shout in triumph over me.
But you have upheld me because of my integrity,
and set me in your presence forever.
Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting!
Amen and Amen. (Psalm 41 ESV)

 

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