The Mark of a Christian
There are many marks of the Christian that I’m sure we could all name.
I would like to focus on what I believe to be “The Mark of a Christian.”
“By this all people will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
Without this mark it is likely someone hasn’t experienced true love.
We can talk about loving others,
Teach about loving others
Preach about loving others
But, if we don’t love others, we are belittling Jesus’ words.
We are not to be saying, “Don’t do as I do, do as I say.” We’re to be saying, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”
If we don’t live what we preach and teach, we don’t really believe it.
When we truly experience God’s love, we are transformed, and God’s love flows through us to others.
Illustration: Water Pipe
Look at 1 Corinthians 13 to show the importance of “love.”
“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.”
Like us, Jesus’ disciples lived in a society that had rebelled against God.
Like us, the disciples learned more quickly by demonstration and example rather than being told what was right.
So on the final night before His death, Jesus exemplified love, explained it, and then exhorted His disciples to follow His example.
I. Love Exemplified (13:1-5):
v. 1-3 (In patience with Judas)
- We can see that Judas typifies (embodies the characteristics) a society in rebellion to God, but the Lord’s treatment with Him demonstrates God’s grace and compassion with that society.
- Although the disciples never grasped Judas’ true nature until after the betrayal in the garden, Jesus knew it from the beginning.
- Jesus knew Judas’ nature from the very beginning, yet He gave Judas every opportunity to turn from his wicked ways, repent, and follow his Lord.
- Verse 3, “the Father had given all things into His hands…” reminds us that Jesus was the omnipotent (all powerful) God.
- Rather than zapping Judas immediately, He allowed the full scenario to play out as Judas made choice after choice leading to his ultimate suicide.
v. 4-5 (In service to the disciples)
- 1 Century, slave usually in the home
- Being that this was a private meeting, there was no slave in the house to wash everyone’s feet. The pride of the disciples caused them to recline at the table with dirty feet. Waiting for one of them to take the place of a servant, Jesus assumed the responsibility Himself.
- We must remember the conversation recorded in the gospel of Luke, on this night, the disciples were concerned about their position in the coming kingdom.
- While they were concerned with elevation, Jesus exemplifies condescension.
- The Lord’s willingness to wash the feet of His disciples, even Judas’s, reflects and exemplifies servant leadership at its best.
- Again, if you are at all familiar with 1st Century culture you immediately recognize how socially inappropriate this behavior was.
- Never in Jewish, Greek, or Roman society would a superior wash the feet of inferiors.
- Jesus shatters the paradigm of thinking of the normal roles of the time.
- He reverses the normal roles as a display of love (v1) and model for Christian conduct (v12-17).
- Paul speaks of the condescension of Christ in Philippians (Kenosis passage), but here we see it in action.
- “who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Phil. 2:6-7).
- Because the disciples are puzzled as to what’s going on, Jesus explains…
II. Love Explained (13:6-11):
v. 6-9 (As the washing of feet)
- Shocked by the cultural reversal, Peter looks down at His Lord and asks, “What’s going on here?”
- Jesus replies, “You have no idea, but some day you will.”
- Jesus is showing that love is not mere emotion, but rather an attitude which results with action.
- I can tell my wife I love her all day long, but if I never express my love through the way I treat her, I don’t truly love her.
- Misunderstanding what Jesus was doing, Peter resists Jesus’ attempt to wash his feet.
- Peter’s protest is displaying the pride of unredeemed men and women, who are so confident of their ability to save themselves that they instinctively resist the suggestion that they need divine cleansing.
- Peter was too humble to have his feet washed by Jesus, but not to humble to command the Lord.
- As soon as Jesus emphasized that this symbolic act united the disciple with the Lord in a significant way, Peter took the full plunge.
- Let’s not miss the practical theology of these verses.
- There is no place in the body of Christ for anyone who has not been cleansed by the Lord.
- Washing in this symbolic context cannot refer to baptism, but to the atoning cleansing of sin.
v. 10-11 (As the bathing of the whole person)
- Here we have a beautiful picture and, I think, one of the most important theological texts in the whole N.T.
- How often does a person need to be saved? Once? Every time we sin? Just before death to be sure?
- These verses tell us that a person who has been completely cleansed once will only require regular washings after that.
- The first verb, bathed (Gk. Louo), is in the perfect tense, indicating completed action.
- The second verb, rendered as wash (Gk. Nipto), means precisely the kind of washing that Jesus was demonstrating on this occasion.
- The full / complete bathing depicts initial regeneration. The repeated washings symbolize forgiveness of ongoing sinful behavior.
- B.F. Westcott, an English Theologian, scholar, and reformer of the 1800’s, says, “He who is bathed needs, so to speak, only to remove the stains contracted in the walk of life; just as the guest, after the bath, needs only to have the dust washed from his feet when he reaches the house of his host.”
III. Love Exhorted (13:12-17):
v.12-14 (By Jesus’ teaching)
- When the foot washing ended, Jesus taught an important lesson about the relationship of believers, “you also should wash one another’s feet.”
- If our Lord and Teacher did not hesitate to wash our feet, how can we fail to wash one another’s feet?
- Some interpret these passages as an ordinance by the Lord to wash each other’s feet.
- Certainly, there can be no harm done in the literal washing of one’s feet, but…
- I believe that He is calling us to “acts of humble service for other Christians.”
- When washing other’s feet, we should be careful of the temperature of the water.
- Sometimes we can good things, but with the wrong motives.
v. 15-17 (Through Jesus’ model)
- Throughout the N.T. we learn the importance of example.
- Since Jesus loved His disciples, and love us in the same way, we need to do for others what He has done for us.
- Francis Schaeffer rightly said, “Love is the ultimate mark of the Christian.”
- “By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:5b-6).
- Notice that we are to “walk.” This is an action, not a past decision.
- Illustration: Birth certificate
- “By this the children of God are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:10).
- “…let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. We will know by this that we are of truth…”
- First we ought to pray, “Lord, wash me.” Then we need to pray, “Lord, help me to wash others.”
- We will be “blessed” when we do this. We can be happy when we serve. (v.17)
IV. Love Exchanged (13:18-30):
- Verse 18 is a sharp contrast from the preceding verse. He first says, “you will be blessed if you do these things.” Then he tells them, “I am not referring to all of you.”
- One of the 12 was not “chosen.”
- Of the one, Jesus quoted Psalm 41:9, “Even my close friend who I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against Me.”
- This fulfilled prophecy shows the messianic deity of the Savior.
- Here Jesus offers up a new prophecy to show that He is God.
- Jesus wanted to make sure that His disciples understood what He quoted from Psalm 41, so He explained, “…one of you is going to betray Me.”
- We cannot identify God’s elect by outward appearance.
- Even a person, who may seem close to the Lord, may be lost.
- Some interpret this passage as Jesus’ last attempt to allow Judas to repent.
- We can say that it was the Lord’s final extension of grace to Judas.
- A host giving a morsel of bead was a sign of friendship. How ironic that Jesus’ sign of friendship to Judas signaled Judas’ betrayal of friendship.
V. Love Extended (13:31-38):
- Once Judas left the room, Jesus spoke to the remaining 11 about His glorification.
- 7:39, “…for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified…”
- 12:23, “..The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified.”
- 17:1, “…Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son, that the Son may glorify You…”
- Intricately, the hour of Jesus greatest humiliation would be the hour of His supreme glory.
- The Shepard in preparing the way for his sheep had to explore the way before it would be fit for them to travel.
- When He left them behind, it was important that they remained in unity.
- A dismantled band of disciples would be defeated easy by the enemy, so He gave them a new commandment…
- We must learn to cope with such disappointment in life.
- Those who we trust will sometimes fail us.
- Often, the failure occurs when we least expect it.
- So…how should we react when friends let us down? How did Jesus act?
- Imagine what Jesus could’ve said to Judas and Peter. Imagine what He could’ve done to them with His power.
- BUT…to both of them He showed an attitude of patience, honor, dignity, forgiveness, and love.
- That is how we are to react when friends let us down.
When a new love enters our hearts, it can drive out old and stagnant feelings, even attraction for things that would do us harm.
A friend of mine calls this “the EXPULSIVE POWER of a NEW AFFECTION.”
Imagine for a moment a young child playing with something extremely dangerous, perhaps a knife from the kitchen.
- grab the knife from the child
- command the child to place it on the table or floor.
By using the Expulsive Power of a New Affection, you might offer the child an attractive toy, a piece of candy, or even better, money to attract immediate attention and then exchange the money for the knife.
God’s love is like that in our hearts.
We only love one another because the way Jesus loved us.
But when we do what He commands, others will notice that we are His disciples
CLEANSED and CHANGED by the expulsive power of a new affection.