Summary: The behavior of Jesus at the last supper was in line with what Jesus would do the next day on the cross. Through it all, Jesus was the servant king.
The Hour of Darkness and a Servant King
("The King whose Scepter is a Towel"- title from a message by Daryl Johnson)
What do you picture when you hear the word “KING”? The first word that comes to my mind is POWER. And if I hear KING of KINGS I think … ABSOLUTE POWER. But our true KING of KINGS and LORD of LORDS who is different from any other King.
Most Kings carry a scepter as a symbol of their power. If you got a King Costume for Halloween, it would probably come with a scepter. But Jesus is a different kind of King --- Jesus is a King whose scepter is a towel.
The event we’re talking about happened at Passover, the very night when Jesus would be arrested. John 13:1-2 - It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.
Jesus took this opportunity to take an amazing action that would show what it looks like to be a King who serves.
1. A King who Serves
Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; (Notice, Jesus is already KING of KINGS – he has all the POWER any King could have … but here’s what King Jesus did …)
So he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. John 13:3-5
So many things about this would have been shocking to the disciples. Jesus was leading the Passover Feast. As leader, he would be wearing a special Sedar robe. But Jesus --- the leader --- took off that special robe right in the middle of the Passover celebration. He stripped down, wrapped a towel around his waist, and knelt down to take the part of a slave. He became a King whose scepter was a towel.
When Jesus washed the disciples feet, this was NOT out of character … in fact it was typical behavior for Jesus. This act symbolizes the nature of Jesus.
• He rose from supper --- just as he had risen from his Heavenly Throne ---
• He laid aside his garments --- just as He laid aside His glory in Heaven.
• He wrapped a towel around himself --- just as He had wrapped flesh and blood around himself to become a human.
• He then washed their feet --- the most menial act of service --- just as the very next day he would die the degrading death of a common criminal.
• Then Jesus took up his robe and returned to his seat of honor at the Passover feast --- just as He returned to his seat of honor in Heaven after His ascension.
In the upper room that night, the Eternal Son of God, King of all creation, stripped off his garments, got on his knees, and washed dirt from the feet of his subjects --- the very ones who should normally be serving Him.
And Peter couldn’t take it! He knew this was all backwards …
2. A King who Cleanses
Peter was so horrified by Jesus’ actions that he cried out, “No! You will NEVER wash my feet!” This is so like Peter. Last week we talked about how he contradicted Jesus when Jesus talked about His impending death. Peter said, “God forbid it, Lord! This will NEVER happen to you.” (Peter was big on broad statements that use the word “NEVER”!)
Once again we see Peter doesn’t yet understand that God’s ways are NOT man’s ways. The fact is, Peter would have been comfortable washing Jesus’ feet. That would have fit his concept of the way things ought to be … although he would NOT have been comfortable washing the feet of the other guys. In fact the Disciples had been arguing that very day about who was going to be the “greatest” in Jesus’ Kingdom.
Jesus told Peter – “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” This showed that the service Jesus gave was ESSENTIAL … not optional. The purpose of Jesus’ service is to CLEANSE us. Jesus’ service cleansed the dirt from the disciple’s feet --- his death on the cross would cleanse everyone in the world of their sins.
And--- like what he told Peter --- Unless I wash you, you have no part with me! This is true for all of us. Unless we accept the service of Jesus washing us, we can have no part of Him!