Summary: Let us all take out our towels from our drawers and kneel down before others, and serve them as Jesus serves us, by loving them unto the end. Let us each serve our Lord, by serving all people, in the grace of God’s ultimate and sacrificial love.
One of the neatest gifts I’ve ever received was this little, hand towel. I was given this during my seminary commencement, and have cherished it ever since. The towel has a little saying on it: “Blessed to be a blessing” Isaiah 61:1. Isaiah 61:1-2 says: “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives… to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, and to comfort all who mourn.
Days after we arrived here, I unpacked my boxes, and placed this towel on my bookshelf. I keep it there to serve as a reminder of God’s calling on my life. As I gazed upon this towel these last, few days, I’ve thought, Yes, I am blessed, and for that I need to be a blessing to others. But more than this, I am also so loved by God, and because I am loved by him, I need to love because of him. For, without the love of Christ, what does it mean to be a blessing anyway? You know, in some ways, I think it would be equally fitting if the towel read, “Loved, to be love” (John 13:34).
As we reflect upon Jesus’ final hours this evening, I would like us to ponder the love of Christ as he served others before his darkest hour. Please turn with me to John, Chapter 13.
LOVED TO THE END
READ JOHN 13:1 (AGAIN). I adore how John ends verse one. “Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.” Another translation reads, “He loved them to the end.”
No pun intended, but I just love how Jesus loved his disciples unto the end. He hosted the Passover meal. But more than this, the master humbled himself by serving those he’d been teaching, leading, and shepherding. He even served the one who, in many ways, seemed unlovable.
Jesus loved and served the betrayer: Judas Iscariot. John’s account of the evening doesn’t say that Jesus hadn’t washed Judas’ feet. John simply recorded that Jesus washed “their” feet — meaning all who were present in the Upper Room that evening. Jesus loved the one who hours later betrayed him. He loved Judas until last, even though Judas did the unthinkable: he sold out one of his own, for his own, personal gain. But why, might we ask?
JUDAS BUILT UP ANGST IN HIS HEART
Let’s hear what the Apostle John wrote in chapter twelve, verses 1-6.
“Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
For whatever his reasons, Judas walked away from that which Christ called him towards. Judas said all the right words, but acted with self interest. Maybe felt brokenhearted because the reality of who Jesus was, wasn’t confirming to his perception of who he preferred Jesus to be. Maybe he understood the prophet Isaiah to mean something other. Maybe he wanted Jesus to transform his reality to a widely held perception that the messiah would come as a revolutionary zealot, versus one who gave his all with sacrificial love. No matter his motivation or desire for personal gain, Judas was not thinking as Jesus commanded. He wasn’t flowing in the love Jesus was calling for him to remain. And the Father allowed and used all this, for His kingdom’s eternal gain.
Still, despite Judas’ betrayal and ill gotten ways, Jesus didn’t hold a grudge against Judas. Instead, he served him until the last, with his love. And on that fateful evening in which he was betrayed, Jesus — in love —simply let Judas go. He said, “What you are about to do, do quickly.”
LOVE DOESN’T HOLD GRUDGES AND LETS GO
Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to let go of others, and our grudges, when we feel betrayed. As an under-shepherd, I’m beginning to understand this. In my flesh, I want to push back against those who rebel, and pull back into the fold those who are running away.