Close Encounters with Jesus – John 13 – 11.18.18
If you had 1 day to spend however you wanted what would you do? What’s at the top of your list? Something you would for sure want to do? Turn to the person next to you and answer that question. What did you come up with? Probably time with your family, maybe going out to your favorite restaurant or a walk in the park or if the weather’s nice heading out to the beach. Maybe it’s staying in with a cup a coffee and a good book or maybe it’s going out to a game and cheering on your favorite team or going to dinner and a Broadway show. But we would all have different things we’d do if we got to spend the day however we wanted. Jacob and I have been watching the tv series Mars on National Geographic channel and it’s about humans establishing a colony there-and of course it’s a long flight to Mars-but it begs the question-what would you do on your last day on earth? How would you spend it? Because you might never come back-the red desert of Mars is your new home-so what do you do one last time on planet earth? Or what if you knew how many days you had left to live? Morbid thought-but what would you do if you had 1 day left to live before you died? How would you spend it, who would you see, where would you go-because that’s a really precious day. Would anybody consider cleaning-that you would want to get some cleaning done before you died? I doubt very many of us would want to do that-let someone else do the cleaning-this is a day to enjoy because it’s your last. So would anybody consider cleaning someone’s feet? That the day before you died you’d spend some time scrubbing someone’s dirty toes and calloused heels and chipped toenails? I’m grossed out thinking about it because feet are gross. That’s the last thing I’d do on my last day of life-and yet that’s the very thing we find Jesus doing on His last day of life-scrubbing the disciples dirty feet.
Turn to John 13 as we continue our series-and of all weeks-this is definitely a Close Encounter with Jesus. But as you’re turning to John 13 it’s important to notice a couple of things. First of all, starting in chapter 13 Jesus has now left the crowds behind and is exclusively focusing on His disciples and those who have followed Him. His ministry has switched from being public to being private as He’s zeroing in on those who are His and have a relationship with Him. But secondly, this chapter records the last day of His life before facing the Cross. Jesus knew this was it, the end of the road, that tomorrow He’d be crucified and breathe His last. So look at how John describes it-v. 1. This is their last night together-because after the meal is over they go outside and Jesus is arrested and the next day He’s crucified. So on this last day Jesus wanted to show the disciples how much He cared for them, how much they meant to Him. And as we’ve seen in this series, the disciples have been amazed by all the miraculous, glorious things Jesus has done-from turning water to wine, from multiplying the bread and fish to feed thousands, to raising Lazarus from the dead. And yet what Jesus does here on this night is certainly the most amazing and most impacting yet because they’re going to see Jesus do something they never imagined.
If you remember John’s statement we saw way back in-John 1:14. Yes, Jesus is the Lord of dazzling, glorious things-but He’s also the Lord of real, authentic relationships. And this chapter is where we see the depth of His grace emerge. I’m sure when John wrote those words of seeing Jesus’ glory He was reflecting back on what He saw that last night in the upper room. Here was the Son of God on His last free night on earth, wanting to spend it in the quiet company of His disciples. Don’t miss those two little words in v. 1-his own. That’s referring to the disciples. Jesus isn’t viewing them as just a group of fellas, some buds He hangs out with from time to time, guys to have fun with and enjoy some laughs. No-they’re His own. Jesus is saying, You guys belong to Me. You’re mine, I care for you. There’s a depth of relationship there that’s so powerful-and this is a theme that’s been building in John’s gospel. Flip back to what we saw a few weeks ago in John 10:11-14. Jesus is saying that there’s a great personal connection between He and His disciples. It’s not a loosely formed group of acquaintances-but a tightly knit group. Jesus isn’t keeping Himself at arm’s length or remaining distant, but He’s invested in them as they’re His own. Look at what He says in John 15:19 NIV. So what Jesus is clearly defining here is a whole new category of people. It began with His disciples, the 12 guys gathered in that room that night, but it spreads out and reaches to you and me today-that if you’re a follower of Jesus, if you’ve trusted in Him, then you are His own.
Go back to chapter 13 and if you’re someone who likes to mark in your Bible, I encourage you to underline those two short, but very powerful, words-His own-because you belong to Him, that’s your identity, that’s who you are. No longer part of the world-as Jesus has made clear. And this new identity, this new category of people, is distinctly contrasted right in this chapter, beginning in v. 2. Obviously he’s not one of Jesus’ own. The verse is clearly saying that he’s opened up his heart to the schemes of the devil. Now lest you think that Judas is some poor pawn in this story-that someone had to betray Jesus and the lot fell to Judas-remember that he’s been on this same journey the entire time with the other disciples. He’s seen all these same miraculous events, witnessed the same grace and patience of Jesus-and yet his heart hasn’t been transformed like the other 11. Judas hasn’t let his heart be softened or changed by Jesus’ grace; instead he’s still clinging to his old ways, still allowing the lies of the devil to influence him and direct his behavior. And we ask ourselves why? Why did Judas’ heart remain so hard and selfish-especially in the light of what Jesus was going to do in this chapter? This should have been the moment when Judas’ heart melted, when he became broken and repentant because there is no greater display of humility that could be found anywhere than here. The disciples, Judas included, are now coming face to face with the bottomless love of Jesus, the Son of God.
Look at v. 3-5. Now foot washing isn’t something that we do in our culture. Not that some of us couldn’t use some cleaner feet! But generally we go from the car or the train to our work or to our home, generally the carpets we walk on are clean. We’ve got shoes on, maybe even some socks on-so our feet tend to be well-cared for. I don’t think too many of us are going barefoot on the subway-so none of us are in dire need for a good foot washing. Unless it’s the beach when you’re trying to get the sand off your feet. That’s when you might wash your feet off. But back in the 1st century, foot washing was a common necessity. Dirt and dust and mud and filth lined the streets back then; people wore sandals a lot or just went barefoot-so feet could get extremely dirty. Plus, a lot of cows and horses and camels freely roamed about so who knows what you were stepping in! Anytime there was a meal in someone’s home, the host would provide water for foot washing, but the host was never the one who did the washing. Foot washing was a task only reserved for the most menial of servants. Peers did not wash one another’s feet. So the fact that Jesus would do this is mind-blowing-Jesus Storybook pic. This is really incredible considering that when a rabbi had disciples, they were the ones who acted as his servants. Remember a few weeks ago in John 4 when Jesus was sitting at the well resting from the journey and it was the disciples who had gone into town to buy the food. They were serving Him, their master. But here it’s totally turned upside down as Jesus, the master, is in the role of servant.
And the text vividly describes Him embracing that role by laying aside his outer garments. The clothes are symbolic here, reminding us that as Jesus takes off his robe, He is stripping off his majesty and as He ties on the towel He is putting on humility, literally taking on the role of a servant. And this great truth was highlighted in Phil 2:3-7. The disciples are literally seeing this very thing happen. Jesus didn’t say to them-Now guys, remember who I am? God in the flesh! This is my last night with you-so it’s time to serve and honor Me. I’ve done a lot for you guys, so you need to do something for me. But there’s none of that. Just humility. The greatest person who’s ever set foot on our planet the one who is fully God, equal with God, willingly became a servant. If you’ve ever seen the BBC show Downton Abby it’s about two groups of people. The Lord and Lady Grantham of the manor and their family of English nobility-and then there’s the servants-cooks, butlers, maids, footmen, chauffeurs. Now the Lord and Lady are very kind to their servants and treat them well-but as nobility they never reverse roles and tie on aprons to go serve the servants. That hierarchy is strictly maintained. But here we have the unthinkable-not just some person of British royalty but the Son of God Himself becoming a servant. I like how Matt Chandler describes it-Creature, 75. So Pt1:What Did Jesus Do? Revealed the depth of His love by serving us. And momentarily we’ll see how what Jesus did here impacts you and me. But put yourself in the disciples shoes-or better stated-put yourself in their position of sitting barefoot while Jesus is scrubbing the dirt and the caked mud from your stinky feet. How do you feel as He’s hunched over with a towel cleansing and rinsing and drying off your feet? It’s awkward, there’s a sense of unworthiness, even embarrassment about it.
Now certainly you or I or the disciples would have been very willing to wash Jesus’ feet, but to have Him wash our feet just doesn’t seem right. You can hear Peter’s shock and confusion as he senses how awkward it is-v. 6-8a. Like-You shouldn’t be doing this to me, Lord! This isn’t how it’s supposed to be. Switch seats with me-I ought to be washing your feet. And who can disagree with Peter’s logic? He makes perfect sense. We should be the ones washing Jesus’ feet-but we’re not. It has to be this way. Jesus must wash our feet-because that goes to the very heart of the gospel, it’s the very reason He’s come to earth. Listen to His reply-v. 8b. Jesus was saying that this wasn’t optional. So Pt2:What Did the Disciples See? The necessity of Jesus washing us. And it can’t be any clearer. Jesus is saying to Peter-If you are not cleansed by Me, if you are not washed, then you’re won’t be one of mine. So we’re back to that language of relationships, back to that new identity and category of belonging to Jesus, of being one of His own-and that happens only after we’ve been washed by Him. So you’ve got to love Peter’s answer-v. 9. Then scrub me down, Lord. Toss me in the tub and clean me up! Peter’s always an all-in sort of guy-ready to go head-first-but in this case that’s exactly how we need to be. Not standing tall in our pride and thinking we’re fine, but willing to be washed by Jesus because we know that the issue of dirty feet, the dust and mud and filth from the road, isn’t really the main issue. It’s not that people with clean feet are getting into heaven, and those with dirty feet don’t. The foot washing is symbolic of the spiritual washing our hearts need. All the dirt on our feet is just a glimpse of what Jesus needs to clean on the inside
No verse describes the filth on our hearts better than Titus 3:3. Now you might try to say you’re not that bad-but if we’re honest, we all know that selfish core in each of our hearts, the me-me-me streak that wants to promote ourselves and do the things we want to do, regardless of whether they honor God or not. We’ve all been really angry at someone, full of malice, just hoping they get what they deserve. We never want to call ourselves haters-but we’ve all hated people in our lives and struggled with hatred. So this verse is a good snapshot, an accurate diagnosis or our true condition-which is the sinful dirtiness that plagues us. Yet how does it go on-v. 4-6. This is saying we couldn’t wash ourselves, it wasn’t in our own power to scrub away our sin and makes us clean so the Holy Spirit comes and washes our hearts for us. They’re cleansed and made new by Him; all the sin and hatred and crud in our lives is forgiven and paid for through the work of Jesus Christ our Savior. And that work is displayed in the foot washing going on here-but it ultimately happens at the Cross where Jesus dies for us. That’s where this is all pointing. You cannot see the significance of the foot-washing without understanding the necessity of the Cross. So we’re back to Phil 2:7-8. That’s where Jesus is headed; that’s what He’s going to do. That is how much He loves us-not only humbling Himself by washing our feet, but offering Himself up to die on our behalf. Here is Jesus, the one who is fully God, descended from glory, making Himself nothing and laying down His life so that you and I can be cleansed and live. And that’s exactly what Jesus is communicating to Peter-v. 8. And that’s just as true for you and me today.
So you have to ask yourself if you’ve been washed by Jesus. Have you humbly let Him cleanse your heart and forgive you? Have you responded like Peter saying wash me fully? Or have you kept yourself at arm’s length and said-No, I’m fine just like I am. Be honest with yourself-where are you at? Maybe you don’t think you need to be washed. Maybe you think you’re clean enough already-there’s just a little dirt, nothing major. Or maybe you’re too proud for Jesus to wash you, or too stubborn to admit how much you need Him. Or maybe you’re too embarrassed. Or think that it just seems irrelevant. But should any of those reasons keep you from being washed? I love CS Lewis’s book, The Great Divorce. It’s one of my favorites-and it’s a book about a series of conversations between those who end up in heaven and those who end up in hell-basically those who’ve been washed by Jesus and those who haven’t. And for those who haven’t-they give lots of excuses in the book. Maybe you’ve heard people talk like this-Great Divorce quote. And that’s what this passage is pointing to this morning-the fact that Jesus comes to wash our dirty feet, He comes to cleanse our sinful hearts-and it happens because of His blood, because of His bleeding charity-and it can’t be bought, not at all. His bleeding grace is there for the asking and it’s what we desperately need. Doing our best, demanding our rights, trying to pay God back or convincing Him we’re decent people won’t work. All of us require His Bleeding Charity. Pt3:What Do We Learn? No one’s saved unless it’s by Jesus’ blood. It’s the only way. Being forgiven and saved cannot be obtained by simply being who you are or assuming that you’ve lived a good enough life. And a lot of people think that way. That on judgment day you’ll prove to God that you’re deserving of salvation because you didn’t do anything too bad. But that will never happen. The stain of our sins is just too great. Salvation is only found by humbly submitting to Jesus who says, “Let me wash you of your sins.” And so our response needs to be like Peter-v. 9. Cleanse my life and make me new, Lord
But here’s where the contrast comes in because look at the one who doesn’t allow Jesus to cleanse them-v. 10. Meaning that the cleansing Jesus does to save us by His blood never needs to be repeated. Once we’ve trusted in Jesus to save us we don’t need to do it over and over again, except for that daily confession and cleansing as we battle our sinful flesh. That’s the ongoing piece-but our hearts, our new identities in Christ are fully cleansed, despite our dirty feet. So Jesus is saying to Peter-v. 10b-11. Judas hadn’t let Jesus cleanse his heart. It had nothing to do with outside appearances or good deeds-it had everything to do with what was doing on in here. Judas hadn’t truly humbled Himself to be cleansed and forgiven by Jesus. Yes, Jesus did wash Judas’ feet-but that didn’t go deep enough. Judas had a stubborn, sinful heart that rejected Jesus.
In fact, I want you to notice something very important in this chapter. Look at v. 21-25. How do you picture the 12 disciples? Let’s be honest-don’t we all picture 11 smiley, happy guys and then one mean guy named Judas who’s hanging out in the corner with a perpetual scowl on his face-as if one of these is not like the other! But both Peter and John don’t assume him at all. In fact, no one assumed Judas. Wouldn’t we assume that all eyes would turn to him when Jesus says one of you is going to betray me-as if if couldn’t be any more obvious-Oh yeah, the mean, grumpy guy in our group-of course-we always knew something was up with him. But they don’t-at all. That’s why they’re looking around uncertain and whispering to Jesus. They don’t have the foggiest idea that Judas isn’t a believer. They don’t know that Judas hasn’t trusted Jesus-and that he’s just an outsider going through the motions, because from their perspective he just seems like all the other Twelve, just one of the guys-v. 26. Jesus makes it perfectly obvious. The one who will betray me is the one who I give this bread to-and He gives the bread to Judas. It can’t be any clearer-yet look at the confusion-v. 27-29. It’s incredible that they’re not grasping this. And yet they all thought Judas was a good, godly man like the rest of them. They assumed the best about him and never once doubted him or actually thought that Judas wasn’t a true follower of Jesus. He had hung around them, been a part of them, the 12 disciples included Judas-yet the truth stands that in the end Judas never was a part of them. He leaves this meal and never returns-because he was not cleansed-as Jesus says-v. 8, 11. That’s a sobering reality!
And maybe this morning, you see a lot of yourself in Judas. You’ve hung around Christians a long time, you’ve always been a church go-er, you’ve always led a good upstanding life and lots of people assume you’re a Christian-but you know, in your heart, that you’ve never truly repented of your sins and trusted Christ. That you’ve never said-Yes Lord, I need you to wash away my sins and purify my heart. Cleanse me from the inside out and make me yours. If you’ve never done that-that’s what you need to do. That’s where it begins. To realize the depth of your sin-the stain that it puts on your heart-but then to realize that the depth of Jesus’ love goes far deeper than your sin. That you have a Savior who is completely willing to humble Himself, to take the form of a servant, to wash your dirty feet, to die for you. Judas rejected that-and what did Jesus say-v. 27. Carry on then. Go live how you want. We are on different roads, different destinations. Go travel your road. And that’s what Judas did. He left to carry on with his life completely apart from Jesus-v. 30-31. With Judas gone, the final events of the Cross were set in motion. And rather than focusing on the pain and suffering of the Cross, Jesus saw the glory of the Cross where He gave His to save us because of how much He loves us. Look at what He said-v. 34a. This is what Jesus is communicating to His followers. With Judas gone, this is what He’s communicating to His own-even to you and me-v. 34b-35.
The contrast in this chapter couldn’t be any greater. Those who are apart from Christ, who have never been cleansed by His blood, go do whatever you want (which is of course the very definition of sin-going our own way and pursuing our own roads), but those who are cleansed by Jesus’ blood go and do what Jesus wants-and that is to love one another. What Do We Learn? Everyone who’s saved will humbly love others-just like Jesus. Notice how He didn’t give us a suggestion, or some options for Christian living. A good idea is to love one another. Try it out when you get the chance. No-He said-A new commandment I give you, that you love one another. This is the very essence of what following Jesus is all about. This is what He cleanses your heart to do. He doesn’t save you so that you’ll continue on in your old ways of me-centered, selfish living, where all your time and energy are wrapped up in taking care of yourself and getting your needs met. Rather, Jesus has cleansed you, He’s transformed you to go out and live a life of love and service to others. Again, as we’ve been there twice already, it goes back to Phil 2:3-4. And that’s not supposed to be a burden, that’s not drudgery or fine-if-you-say-so-Jesus. This is a wonderful privilege. It’s a joy. Sure it’s a sacrifice, but it’s a glorious sacrifice to love and serve one another. So I simply ask this morning-who has God called you to serve? Who is He commanding you to love? Who is the Lord bringing to your mind as you hear His words?
We reveal our allegiance to our favorite teams by the shirts or sweatshirts we wear. People can see if you’re a Yankees or Mets fan, a Giants or Jets fan-but we reveal our allegiance to Jesus not by the shirts we wear-but by the kind of love we display-that same selfless, humble, authentic love that Jesus shows us-v. 34b-35. And the more we understand that love, the more we’ll show it. The last day of Jesus’ life, right to the very end was spent loving and serving others. Hopefully our last days aren’t in sight anytime soon, but might we be loving and serving others right to the very end too!
Close Encounters with Jesus – John 13 – 11.18.18