Feet. Even just saying the word can make some people squirm. Touching the feet of another or having another’s feet touch you can be repulsive, and in some cases an act of war. Who can forget the Iraqi journalist who shouted and threw his shoes at President George Bush as a means of fighting back against U.S. Military occupation of Iraq? Hitting someone with a shoe is indication of an insult and their target is viewed as disgusting and equal to dirt.
Or like the story of a man who had a rare foot disease. The man’s feet was consumed by the disease that it started to effect his whole body with skin rash and pain. The man’s wife takes her husband to the doctor and after review the doctor prescribes the care and cure. The doctor takes the wife aside and privately explains that the man has low blood circulation in his feet and requires multiple foot massages each day for at least the next several months, if not for the rest of his life. The doctor notes that if he doesn’t have his feet massaged then it’s highly likely the disease will spread to the rest of his body to experience significant pain and emotional damage that would threaten his mind and eventually his life. After the doctor instructs the wife on her husband’s prescription she returns to her husband. He asks, “Sweetie, what did the doctor say? Am I going to be ok?” She responds, “I’m sorry honey, but he wants me to massage your feet every day and I told him that you both were going crazy and must want to die.”
– Sounds like the wife may have had a foot in mouth disease of her own.
– Moving on, today we are walking through John 13 to understand an important last lesson from Jesus’ life as He serves the disciples.
EXAMINE John 13:1-17 Healing Pride
We serve others because of our identity.
The Disciples were gathered for the Passover feast. The Passover was a meal of remembrance for God’s deliverance of the Jews from the Egyptians. Once again the expectations were high for the Jews to be rescued from Roman rule. Would Jesus be Israel’s deliverer?
Jesus knew His role and purpose was to be Israel’s deliver. John says “Jesus knew his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, … and that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God” (John 13:1, 3).
The Lord Jesus had accomplished life on earth for 33 years. He had put in the time and endured all of earth’s imperfections and inadequacies in comparison to Heaven’s throne. Jesus was near escape of earth and was returning to His rightful spot in the greatness and glory of God. While Jesus’ identity should have been a position of privilege and power, instead it led Him to humbly serve. Serving was not something He did but was who He was; His identity was a Servant.
– Illus Work 1: AGS When I worked for a printing company and was in process of transitioning from there to full time student, I had put in my two weeks notice. Over the 2+ years of employment I had developed into a supervisory role and a significant part of operating machines for bindery projects. My shift was 6am-2pm but frequently would work extended 12 hour shifts 4am-4pm. While I enjoyed my work and the company, my leaving became a sense of relief due to some of the expectations and I joyfully handed off responsibility to others. In fact, there was a phrase that employees used when people were leaving the company – “Short-timers Disease”.
– Illus Work 2: YP There have been 3 other churches that I was led to transition away from in ministry service. My first was my home church that was a natural progression for continuing my education. A second church I served was in NC as a YP. Again, my leaving was a natural progression from my seminary graduation as the church was not able to provide a full-time vocation. Yet, my leaving was a sense of relief as the ministry did not entirely fit me personally or progressively for my giftings. The third church that I was led to leave was in transition to become SPBC lead pastor. While leaving was somewhat unexpected, it had become a reprieve to equip others for the ministry there while also was a personal calling to serve in this new adventure.
In contrast to the ways we leave jobs with a sense of reprieve and short-timerness, Jesus gave His best. He extended full love [agape] to His Disciples. Jesus knew He would endure the taunts, the throbbing and tormenting torture of the cross. And He spends His last few moments on earth teaching Disciples how to serve by washing their feet.
◊ We must understand Jesus’ identity to serve us isn’t for pampering but to remove our pride. Jesus washing the Disciples’ feet was intended to humble them because one of them should have assumed the role. Indeed Peter had difficulty with Jesus washing his feet and attempted to stop Him. Yet, Jesus said it was necessary to allow Him to receive service, so in turn and later they could do the same. Likewise, the Disciples were often bragging who is the greatest and Jesus had to instruct them that significance is servanthood (Matthew 18:1-4; 20:26-28; Mk 10:45; Jn 6:1-13).
è Do you promote your position & privilege over others or do you serve people regardless of the task?
- At church: Nursery isn’t just for women & teens; Greeting isn’t just for young people who want church to grow; Ministry teams aren’t just for select few members; Close parking spots are for guests/elderly/moms) not regulars…
- At school: Do you notice peers sitting at lunch table alone – serve by sitting with them. Do you notice uncoordinated kids at gym being mocked – serve by stopping bullying. Do you notice the depressed or dejected – serve by praying for & with them.
- At work: Do you relentlessly pile work on others or pitch in as part of the team to accomplish projects?
Jesus served the Disciples with His identity by washing their feet as a precursor to washing their sin stains through His sacrificial death. So, we too must allow Jesus to wash us.
o Testimony: My foot washing experience @ GBC Conference with my best friend JB. My washing his feet was a sign of friendship and care for him… but his washing my feet began the realization that I felt it unnecessary and personally undeserving for him to wash my feet. I became broken and humbled at the way someone would express love to me in that manner.
è Do you view Jesus as distant or wrathful rather than a compassionate foot washer? The gospel removes our pride and wrong perspectives of Jesus. I pray this passage helps you to see yet another depth to Jesus’ love. May His love humble you and break down the walls you build from allowing others inside your heart. All of us have dirty feet and impure hearts in need of Jesus’ salvation.
Jesus washing feet shows us God is intricately involved in the details of our life, even the parts that stink.
We serve others with our initiative.
In Palestine, there would be extensive walking necessary for travel. The roads would not only be dirty, not paved, but filled with animal waste and other pollution. Washing feet would have been not only a ritual custom but an essential act of hygiene, especially for people who at meal times would recline in close proximity, side by side (Jn 13:23). And Jews expected servants or Gentiles to perform such menial tasks as washing feet.
Yet, Jesus chose to rise from the table, lay aside His outer garment, tie a towel to His waist, pour water into a basin and to kneel and wash filthy, smelly feet (Jn 13:3-5). The disciples should have been worshiping Jesus- he’s the Son of God, the sign-wonder working Savior of the world who is worthy of worship. Yet, Jesus was completely confident understanding his identity and mission to obey the Father’s will and serve.
è Initiative is important. Jesus sees the need and meets the need. Jesus doesn’t parade his actions but quietly presents the attitude and performs the action of a servant. Even more, Jesus washes the feet of disciples who would forsake Him on a variety of levels: Peter would deny knowing Jesus; Disciples would flee; Judas would betray. And Jesus spent three years with Judas, knowing he would betray Him but yet Jesus still taught and treated him with agape love.
We don’t serve because it’s something to do, but we serve because we are servants of God; it’s our identity. The church’s activity is too often wrapped up in recruiting volunteers because Christians have lost their identity.
o At work, view self as team members not just employee. And so at church, we are servants and not just privileged members.
è Our initiative is for God’s glory not our self-importance. Too often when we are presumably serving others it is with a cell phone in our hand to update status or take pictures for self-promotion. Or our service to others is unfortunately what we think a person needs rather than what they truly need or want. – Think about spouse… children… family… relationships
– When we see a need, do we serve or snub?
We serve others with our influence.
After Jesus washed the Disciples’ feet, He resumed place and taught them the lasting lesson. His example provided a prototype of living as a servant. Jesus explains that a servant is not greater than his master. The servant cannot change the pattern set for them by the master. If they want to have the impact and influence of their master, they must follow the same pattern. Further, Jesus pronounces a blessing for those who follow this pattern.
If we want impact and influence, then we must serve.
Some of our common issues and struggles is that we are not following Jesus’ pattern of service.
– We seek a church to meet our needs, but shouldn’t we seek to find a church where we can meet its needs?
– We seek marriage to meet our needs, but shouldn’t we take initiative to humbly serve?
– We seek people to change but shouldn’t we invest and serve to make positive changes?
“love one another just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (12:34-35)
When we serve others we are living counter-culture to individualism. We shift from me to we through humble service.
When we serve others we are living counter-culture to materialism. We shift from materialism to generosity through realizing it is better to give than receive.
When we serve others we are living counter-culture to consumerism. We shift from fear of commitment to sacrifice by believing there is freedom in surrender and service.
à If we are not serving others then we are not following Jesus. (cf. Mark 10:43-45; Philippians 2:3-8).
è Who’s feet are you supposed to wash this week? What is your act of service to love in Jesus’ name? Let us go low so God can be high.
è Have you allowed Jesus to wash your feet, and soul with the water of His Work on the cross and the sanctifying Word of truth?