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<< Discover the Book, with Dr. John Barnett

Discover the Book - Oct. 2, 2007

  • 2007 Oct 02

Servants of God Stay Pure--Love on Its Knees


The last scene in Christ's life we are going to study this weekend is when Jesus washed His disciple's feet. This may be called seeing 'Love on Its Knees". Jesus who came to serve, serves by kneeling before His troubled, proud, dirty disciples. 

Often our homes have the same problem that Jesus saw among His disciples. Jesus knew that there was a competitive spirit in the hearts of His disciples. In fact, approaching the Last Supper, the disciples were disputing over which of them was the greatest (Luke 22:24-30). So at that Last Supper, Jesus gave them an unforgettable lesson in humility, and by His actions rebuked their selfishness and pride. The more you think about this scene, the more profound it becomes. It is certainly an illustration of what Paul wrote years later in Philippians 2:1–16. Peter must have recalled the event when he wrote his first epistle and urged his readers to "be clothed with humility” (1 Peter 5:5). 

The best way to reach out to our family and lead them into humility and harmony is by serving them. This retreat is a time that we learn how to lead in humility. 

It is remarkable how often the Gospel of John reminds us of Christ's humility even while magnifying His deity: “The Son can do nothing of Himself” (John 5:19, 30). “For I came down from heaven, not to do Mine own will” (John 6:38). “My doctrine is not Mine” (John 7:16). “And I seek not Mine own glory” (John 8:50). “The word which ye hear is not Mine” (John 14:24). And of course, John ends with the account of Christ's ultimate expression of humility through His death on the cross. 

Even within sight of the Cross, the disciples were still arguing about who was greater than another. It was this very argument that produced the situation which made Jesus act as their servant.  

The roads of Palestine were unsurfaced and uncleaned. In dry weather they were inches deep in dust and in wet they were liquid mud. The shoes ordinary people wore were sandals, which were simply soles held on to the foot by a few straps. They gave little protection against the dust or the mud of the roads. For that reason there were always great waterpots at the door of a house; and a servant was there with a ewer and a towel to wash the soiled feet of the guests as they came in.  

Jesus’ little company of friends had no servants. The duties which servants would carry out in wealthier circles they must have shared among each other. It may well be that on the night of this last meal together they had got themselves into such a state of competitive pride that not one of them would accept the duty of seeing that the water and the towels were there to wash the feet of the company as they came in; and Jesus mended their omission in the most vivid and dramatic way. 

This ought to make us think. So often, even in our churches and families, trouble arises because someone does not get his place.  

In every sphere of life desire for prominence and unwillingness to take a subordinate place wreck the scheme of things. A player is one day omitted from the team and refuses to play any more. A member of a choir is not given a solo and will not sing any more. In any society it may happen that someone is given a quite unintentional slight and either explodes in anger or broods in sulkiness for days afterwards. When we are tempted to think of our rights, let us see again the picture of the Son of God, girt with a towel, kneeling at his disciples’ feet. [1] 

John 13 starts with a contrast. Judas who was prompted by Satan is shown side-by-side with Jesus who was prompted by the Spirit. Judas was driven by selfishness and Jesus was motivated by love. Judas was proud and insensitive; Jesus was humble and gentle. Judas was treacherous and ended up betraying Jesus; while Jesus was faithful and ended up sacrificing all, giving Himself in love for sinners. 

On the last night Jesus was together with the disciples, He washed their feet with His own hands, to teach them humility and service. As He began He said, “You are clean, but not all of you,” referring to Judas (John 13:10-11). After the object lesson He gave another warning that Judas could have heeded: “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’” (John 13:18).

Jesus grieved over Judas, being unwilling that even this vile man should perish (cf. 2 Pet. 3:9). As the time for the betrayal came closer, Jesus “became troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me’” (v. 21).  

He did not grieve over the loss of His own life, which He willingly laid down. He grieved over the spiritual death of Judas and, it seems, made one last appeal before it became forever too late. He knew Judas’s unbelief, greed, ingratitude, treachery, duplicity, hypocrisy. and hatred. Still He loved him.  

The death He was about to die was as much for Judas’s sin as for the sins of any person ever born, and it was for Judas that the Lord grieved as only He can grieve. He lamented over Judas in the same way He had lamented over Jerusalem: “How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling” (Matt. 23:37).[2] 

Jesus loved Judas so much and was a living portrait of how completely opposite Christ's way is to Satan’s. Satan had one simple plan from his fall onward—personal advancement at the expense of others. Beware of having the motivation in life to get ahead at others expense. That was Judas’ motivation, as it was his father the devil’s also. 

Satan from the moment of his fall into sin began to say in his heart, “I will think of myself first.” That is what Judas did that night. Jesus however came to serve, came to give His life, surrendering Himself to die for others. 

So Jesus knelt before His disciples in complete contrast to self-seeking and serving Judas; and in rebuke to that same attitude of the Devil that was bubbling over in the stinky-feet and soiled-proud-hearts of Christ's disciples. 

The words used by the Spirit of God in John 13:5-14 have a deep spiritual application to our lives. The first word is nipto (used in v. 5-6, 8, 12, and 14) and it means to cleanse or “wash a specific part of the body”. The second word is louo (used in v. 10) and it means “to bathe all over”. The distinction between these words points to the importance of this foot-washing parable or illustration that Jesus was acting out before their eyes. He was demonstrating the elements of a holy walk. 

At the instant of salvation we are “bathed all over”, our sins are removed, we receive a new heart, and we are completely forgiven (Revelation 1:5; Titus 3:3-7, and I Corinthians 6:9-11). Jesus promises us that through His death he will “remember our sins and iniquities no more” (Hebrews 10:17). But, going through life in such a sin filled world leads to regular defilements. But as one united to Christ we do not need to get “saved again”, we just need to have that specific stain, sin, or defilement cleansed away. That is the essence of I John 1:9 where we see that if we are constantly confessing our sins “washing a specific part” (that is the tense of the first verb) God is faithful and just to already once-and-for-all to have cleansed us “bathed all over” (that is the tense of the second verb). What a comfort for us who slog through this muddy world that we don’t get unsaved when we sin; but we can’t enjoy the delights of our salvation as long as we carry the mud of the world upon our redeemed hearts. Repent and confess and be washed. 

That is why it is so important that we “keep our feet clean”. When we are defiled, we lose fellowship with our Lord. That is what Jesus was saying to Peter when He said, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me” (John 13:8).  

Christ's word translated “part” was meros, which means “participation, having a share in someone or something.” Salvation was God “bathing us all over”. Then God united us to Jesus in a settled relationship that cannot change. We see this permanence in the verb wash in John 13:10; because it is in the perfect tense it means that the washing was settled once and for all.) Fellowship with Christ is tied to whether we keep ourselves “unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). If we permit un-forsaken and un-confessed sin in our hearts and minds, our walk with the Lord gets obstructed; that is why we need to have our feet washed. 

This sermon will conclude tomorrow October 3rd as we continue looking at Foot Washing as a living illustration by Jesus.

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