We're so glad that you've decided to join us today.
When we meet in person, we share our joys and concerns. Take some time to think about your past week, and what joys and concerns you have. You can share these in the comments if you would like. The prayer below is on our denomination website. As you pray, think of the specific people and needs from your past week and maybe how you might show you love for those in need by serving them as Jesus served his disciples.
Holy God, source and sovereign,
you put all power and authority into the hands of Christ--
Christ, who washes our feet in humble service.
Teach us to love one another as Christ has loved us,
so that everyone will know that we are his disciples;
through Jesus Christ our Lord we pray.
(from the Presbyterian Church USA website. https://www.pcusa.org/)
This week's lesson is on John 13:1-15, 34-35.
There are many dirty jobs in our world. The circumstances of these jobs make a difference in our willingness to tackle them. But when we consider a job to be below us, are we really honoring Jesus?
There are five books in the Bible ascribed to John: the Gospel, 1-3 John, and Revelation. The other three Gospels are called the Synoptic Gospels because they hare much of the same perspective (as shown by the amount of shared material). All four Gospels include a retelling of the last supper, but the earliest surviving account is from Paul. He shared a description of the supper, material he learned from the Lord (1 Corinthians 11:23a). The focus of the other accounts (the bread and the cup) are in the background of John’s last supper. Rather than the institution of the elements of the Lord’s Supper, John includes two things the other accounts leave out. The first is the content of our lesson today. The second is nearly five chapters of Jesus’ oral teaching and a lengthy prayer (John 13-17), mostly unique material found nowhere else in the New Testament.
I. Clean Feet (John 13:1-11)
A. Enduring (v. 1)
The Jewish people of Jesus’ day saw the Passover as one of the most important annual feasts. It commemorated the exodus events, when the Lord “passed over” (Exodus 12:27) the homes of the people of Israel that were obediently marked with with blood on the doorposts and lintels of their homes (Exodus 12:7, 23). The unmarked Egyptian homes suffered the final of the 10 plagues, death of the firstborn (Exodus 12:29-30). This led Pharaoh to relent and allow the people of Israel to leave Egypt and its oppression (Exodus 12:31-32).
Passover, then, had both spiritual and physical themes for Jewish people like Jesus and his disciples, which likely resonated harshly because of the oppression of the Romans in Jerusalem and all of Judea.
Several times in the Gospel of John, it is said that Jesus’ time was not complete (see John 7:6, 8, 30; 8:20), meaning he was not finished wit his earthly work. This verse represents a turning point. Jesus’ hour had come because all that remained were the events leading up to and including his crucifixion (John 18-19), resurrection (20:10), and appearances thereafter (20:11-21:23).
B. Betraying (v. 2)
Luke and John both stated that the prompting of the devil motivated Judas (see Luke 22:3, which says Satan “entered” Judas). Matthew indicates that Judas betrayed Jesus because of Judas’s love of money (Matthew 26:15; see John 12:6). The two causes, Satan and money-loving, are not incompatible. Satan may tempt us at our weakest point, just as his first temptation for Jesus was to use Jesus’ power to create bread for himself when he was extremely hungry (Luke 4:2-3). Further, the love of money pits a person against the Lord (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13).
Betrayal is working against someone who trusts you. Jesus’ long-running controversy with the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem had escalated to the point where they sought to kill him (John 11:53). This required some plotting, however, for these leaders feared Jesus’ popularity with the common people.
C. Washing (verses 3-11)
John gives three insights into the state of mind of Jesus at this critical time. First Jesus was fully aware of his power and authority. He was in control of all things, including what would happen to him next. Nothing compelled him to act as a servant but his own decision and desire.
Second, Jesus was aware of his origin in God. John often presents Jesus this way, as one on a mission from God.
Third, Jesus was aware that he would return to the Father when all things were accomplished. He was ready and prepared for what lay ahead.
In John’s account, without a word Jesus rose from the table, surely causing every disciple present to wonder what he was doing. Jesus removed his outer clothing, for what he was about to do was grimy work. Foot-washing was a filthy job. Jerusalem was a hot and dusty city. People either wore sandal-type shoes that allowed dirt in easily or walked barefoot without any protection. A good host would provide guests with a servant to wash their feet. This foot-washer was the lowest of the household servants who likely took no pleasure in such a demeaning task. It was this dirty job that our Lord Jesus chose to illustrate what it meant to be a servant in his service.
In what ways have you discovered that shared meals offer witnessing or service opportunities today not available at other times?
The washing proceeded one at a time, perhaps in silent embarrassment from the disciples. Jesus was their esteemed Lord, their master and teacher, and such an honored person should never be expected to wash feet!
Finally it was time for Jesus to wash the feet of Simon Peter. Peter protested. It was not that Peter’s feet did not need washing, but that it was demeaning for Jesus to do so, and Peter did not intend to allow it.
Jesus warned that Peter’s refusal would mean the disciple had no part with him. That does not mean that Jesus would disown him. Instead, Peter would cut himself off from Jesus and his blessings. Jesus connected the meaning of this foot washing to his mission of cleansing souls.
In what ways have you seen people argue with Jesus today?
In an instant, Peter shifted from outright refusal to a desire for also his hands and head, his entire being, to be made clean. Peter glimpsed that Jesus the servant is also Jesus the Lamb, who cleanses us from sin. Jesus’ great intersection of humility, service to others, and the cleansing away of dirt points us directly to the coming cross.
Jesus corrected Peter’s zeal by saying that one who is fully washed does not need to take a second bath, only to wash his feet. This seems to be saying that one who comes to faith and is covered by the cleansing blood of Jesus is spiritually clean, counted innocent in the eyes of God. Symbolically, we are saved from our sins (the bath) but still commit sins (dirty feet). We all need a repeated washing of our spiritual feet. This process is often referred to as sanctification, the ongoing process of learning through the Holy Spirit and growing in our relationship with Christ.
II. Clean Lives
A. Serving (verses 12-15)
Some might ask why all churches don’t reenact foot washing every time we take the Lord’s Supper. The reason is that Jesus lifted up his action as an example of humble service. He was not introducing a new custom among the people of Israel. Rather, the command is for all disciples of Jesus to be servants of one another.
Literal Foot Washing
For several years I was part of a group that practiced literal foot washing. In the early days of the Protestant Reformation, members of this tradition first experienced foot washing in homes and later included it in observances of the Lord’s Supper. The churches I was part of practiced foot washing on a day leading up to Easter.
Since I hadn’t grown up with foot washing, I initially recoiled at the practice. I could definitely relate to Peter’s reluctance to allow Jesus to wash his feet. But as I experienced foot washing first-hand (first foot), I was impressed and inspired by its significance. It was more than a mere symbol; I appreciated the bond of unity and mutual humility that foot washing fostered.
It’s been many years now since I’ve participated in a foot washing ritual. So I ask myself: What are other tangible ways that I am submitting to Jesus’ example of being a servant? How about you?
B. Loving (verses 34-35)
A few verses later, Jesus framed the foot-washing lesson in a different way. He gave the command for his disciples to love, a command with important qualifications. First, this love is to be mutual. Second, Jesus pointed to his own example of service as the best way to understand this love.
This loving community will be noticed by others. Such a loving community is unlike anything naturally occurring in the world.
Conclusion: A Matter of Heart
Is your “whole body … clean” but you still have dirty feet from pride and lack of love? Is your heart, your inner being, truly clean? Washing your feet or your hands will not clean your heart. No doctor prescribes handwashing for heart disease. Jesus does not seek people with hard, dirty spirits who have immaculate personal hygiene. He wants those with “clean hands and a pure heart” (Psalm 24:4)
Father, you sent your Son to die for us because of your great love. Cleanse our hearts that we may model that love! In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
This week's benediction comes from the Passion Translation.
Next week's lesson will be on John 15:4-17.
We are a small, rural Presbyterian church in southwestern Pennsylvania.