Summary: Jesus humbled Himself, stripped down, picked up the wash basin and the towel, and got His hands dirty. He served.
Get Into The Game
John 13:1-17 September 4, 2005
Over the past three weeks, we’ve been talking together about engagement. I’ve been reading Scripture and painting pictures of what our lives, our church, and our community could be like if we each truly engaged in the vision of loving God through worship, loving one another to fruitfulness, and loving others into the Kingdom of God.
We are never finished casting vision, never finished inviting people into the fullness of what God has for them, never finished teaching and equipping to engage in that vision. But there does come a shift, from talking about it and practicing it to actually doing it. It is like a football team, which has spent all week in practice, learning patterns and practicing tackling and increasing the level of physical fitness. Then comes “game day”, time to take it all out onto the field, time to leave nothing behind in the locker room, and time to play your heart out.
September feels like “game day” to me. It is a fresh start, into a new season, following a time when we hope to have rested. It is time to engage.
What does the “coach” say on game day? Let’s look to our “coach” and see…
There are three sections in this passage. The first, vs. 1-3, set the stage. Vs. 4-11 describe what happens, and then vs. 12-17 is the “de-briefing”.
Here is the set-up: “1It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.
2The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 3Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God, so…”
You can imagine the scene. They all knew going to Jerusalem was risky, Thomas had even said “let us also go to Jerusalem, that we might die with him”, it has been tense for Jesus and His disciples all week as they clashed with the authorities in the temple, and now Jesus knows that the time had come. Time to reinforce all the lessons, time to reach back down into that which is most important and make sure that is absolutely at the fore-front of everyone’s minds. The meal has already begun…
One more quick piece of essential background before I read the rest – remember, hot, desert climate – no showers – people walked everywhere – and there are no socks.
“4so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?"
7Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand."
8"No," said Peter, "you shall never wash my feet."
Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."
9"Then, Lord," Simon Peter replied, "not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!"
10Jesus answered, "A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you." 11For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.”
It is a living parable. The God of the universe, about to die a horrible painful death on a cross, gets up from the table, removes His outer clothing which represents respectability, togetherness, social acceptability, and then washes the feet of His disciples. We see Him filling His hands with water, pouring it over their heel, their toes, using His own hands to wipe away the filth and the dust and the grime and the smell.
Imagine you were there. Imagine Jesus two people away, then one person away, and then He comes to your feet. He removes your sandals, you hear the water dripping off of Jesus’ hands as He lifts them out of the bowl, and then you feel His hands on your feet, washing, tenderly, intimately, and then you feel the towel.
What Does It Mean?
“12When 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. 13"You call me ’Teacher’ and ’Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”