By Diane Barstow
Devotion from John 13John 13 is where the narrative of Jesus’ public and private ministries pivot. He has said all He needed to say to the Jewish leaders and the crowds, now His final words are for His disciple’s ears only - and up to this point, Judas as well. As with us, a man’s last words are considered the pinnacle of His life, either the culmination of the wisdom attained in a lifetime, or even confession of a long-held secret. On His last night living on earth, He would naturally have much to say to His closest friends, and these words above all should be given a close inspection and weightiness!
Before we get to all that let’s take a brief fly-over of His last week in Jerusalem, a week jam-packed with events and final warnings. Some of these events are found in the other gospels, Matthew 24, Mark 14, and Luke 22.
Saturday, the sabbath - they’re in Bethany, at the house of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. Mary busts an expensive alabaster container of fragrant oil and anoints Jesus with it for His burial. This is the final straw for Judas who objects to the ‘waste’ of this valuable asset, and plans how he will betray Jesus to the religious authorities.
Sunday - the triumphal entry and Jesus weeps over Jerusalem.
Monday - Jesus curses the fig tree, cleanses the temple, and heals the blind and lame.
Tuesday - Judas meets w/Sandhedrin and agrees on a price while Jesus is teaching publicly in the temple. The ‘curse of the fig tree’ is explained, teaches on forgiveness, faith, the parable of the 2 sons, parable of the king, son, and vineyard, the intercouse between He and the lawyer regarding the great commandment. He asks how David calls Him Lord, and finally as He prays for the Father to be glorified - He is answered from heaven!
Wednesday - silent according to the gospels
Now we come to Thursday - preparations are made for this last supper, in 13:1-3 John gives a summation of His ministry up to this point. NOW His day has come, today is the day of salvation. Then in verse 4 He does something astounding - He gets up mid-meal and performs an extraordinary act of humility and instruction. It is important to recall that Luke indicates that the disciples were arguing amongst themselves as to who was the greatest! And then Jesus gets up and washes their feet.
Look at the overarching message in this exemplary act of humility. It is obvious, since this is the only gospel in which this event is recorded, that every small detail is emblazoned on John’s memory!
Jesus rose from supper - a place of rest and comfort; Jesus rose from His throne in heaven, a place of rest and comfort
Jesus laid aside His garments - taking off His covering. Jesus laid aside His glory, taking off His heavenly covering.
Jesus took a towel and girded Himself - being ready to work. Jesus took on the form of a servant, and came ready to work.
Jesus poured water into a basin - ready to clean. Jesus poured out His blood to cleanse us from the presence, guilt, and penalty of sin.
Jesus sat down again after washing their feet. Jesus sat down at the right hand of God the Father after cleansing us.
Jesus completely gave Himself to washing their feet. He was thorough in the work. First, He rose from supper, then Jesus laid aside His garments, which had to remind Him of what awaited Him in a few hours, when He would be stripped of His garments and be crucified. Jesus then took a towel and girded Himself. Finally Jesus poured water into a basin. If Jesus wanted to just display the image of a servant. He would have had a servant or one of the disciples do all this preparatory work. He then would have quickly wiped a damp cloth on a few dirty feet and considered the job done. That would have given the image of servanthood and leadership, but Jesus gave Himself completely to this work. I’ll add, this is how He approached everything He had done - fully and completely. If any of you have seen The Chosen, you’ll recall the scene in season 2 where He was so exhausted after pouring Himself out in healing the people all day long that His mother washed His feet and He crumpled onto His bed without even eating.
The form of God was not exchanged for the form of a servant; (Phil calls it taking on the form of a servant) it was revealed in the form of a servant. In the washing of their feet, the disciples, though they did not understand it at the time, saw a rare unfolding of the authority and glory of the incarnate Word, and a rare declaration of the character of the Father. (FE Bruce) This is of course after they had seen Him glorified in the transfiguration, and had heard the Father speak from heaven twice! That the Father chose to make the final revelation to the disciples of His character be the absolute humility of acting as the lowest of the low, a foot washing slave, in the context of ‘final words’ requires us to take it seriously. There’s no record of whose feet were washed first or last, but we may conclude that all their feet were washed. Peter, never lacking the wrong thing to say, tries to refuse when it’s his turn, but Jesus tries to head him off by saying, I know you don’t understand this, but someday you will! Peter doubles-down and says you will never wash MY FEET, but Jesus matching hyperbole with hyperbole says, ‘If you won’t allow this then you have no part in me at all!’ Peter then over-reacts and says, ‘Then wash all of me!’ Jesus (I imagine Him chortling) says, ‘Dude, you’re already clean, you’re just a little contaminated by your contact with the world!’ Jesus confirms that they are all clean, except the one who will betray Him (more on this later). Jesus even explains the concept to Peter the truculent! He, like us, never fails to reveal his lack of understanding!
This takes us to verse 12 where Jesus asks them a question - ‘Do you know what I have done to you?’ He then explains that they call Him teacher and Lord, which is true, then ‘If I the Lord and teacher wash your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example to you also should do as I did to you. Truly, truly I say to you that the slave (us) is not greater than the master (Jesus).
‘It is easy to criticize those with dirty feet instead of washing them. In the world they criticize; this is the business of the public press, and it’s very much the business of private circles. That is the world’s way. Christ’s way is very different. He says nothing, but takes the basin and begins to wash away the stain. Do not judge and condemn, but seek the restoration and improvement of the erring.’ Spurgeon
If we are going to wash one another’s feet, we should be careful of the temperature of the water. Sometimes we try to wash someone with our water too hot, we are too fervent and zealous. Sometimes our water is too cold, we are cold and distant in heart to them. Jesus washes us with the ‘washing of the water by the word’ and we should use the same water in ministering to others.
According to my research communion was instituted at this point, after the foot washing and before Jesus reveals the betrayer. It blows my mind that Judas would allow his feet to be washed and partake in such a sacred moment and still betray Him!
Verses 18-29 the one who would betray him is revealed and sent to do his diabolical worst! Now that Judas has left, He tells them that His time is upon Him. It is as if this discourse was for even less ears than earlier in the evening. Jesus then announces that the Son of Man is now glorified, that God will be glorified, and that the Father will glorify the Son. He addresses them as ‘little children” (a theme carried on in 1st John) as says He will be only with them for a little longer and that they can’t follow Him (immediately). So He has a fresh new commandment for them! It has the same weight as the great commandment Jesus discussed in the previous chapter, but in a fresh manner. In these next two verses every use of the word love is agape - unconquerable benevolence. That nothing this person could ever do can conquer my benevolence toward them. Now it can be sorely tried, but never conquered if the power of that love is that of the Holy Spirit.
Because He is leaving them and they cannot follow immediately, He gives them a new assignment. ‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know (ginosko - experiential knowledge) that you are My disciples if you have love for one another,’
What are the qualifiers? A commandment, a standard of love, and two goals. Up to this point Jesus had only referred to the commandment of God, or the commandment He had received from the Father - this is His First commandment to them! The standard is the quality of His love which He had revealed by washing their feet, becoming the least of all servants! And the two goals: for their love to be evident to all and that it would indicate that they are indeed His disciples. John continues the theme in 1 John 4:11-12 “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another God abides in us because He has given us of His Spirit.” This refers us back to Galatians where the spiritual fruit of the Holy Spirit is love. To to whom is this love to be shown? I guess we must in all honesty begin at home. With our husbands, children, roomies - the very ones who try us the hardest and see the depth of our failure to love! Gal 6:2 says for us to bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ (His commandment) and 6:10 tells us to ‘while we have opportunity, ...do good to all people, … especially to those who are of the household of the faith. So in regards to my own household of faith, I have to ask myself am I looking for opportunity to do good for my husband? Or am I waiting for him to ask me to do something? Am I seeking creative avenues to bless my son and his family? Or do I wait until they need something? How can I love those closest to me on a daily basis? I think prayer is one usually overlooked aspect of love. Am I fervent in prayer for them?
What about the body of believers around us in our church fellowship? Are we friendly? Welcoming? Do we hang around after service or scurry away to do our own stuff? Do we ask the right questions - how was your week?
For those on social media - do we argue with other believers? Are we rude? Are we public with our doctrinal disagreements? Do we ‘like’ and support those sharing their testimony online? Are we delighted when someone well-known falls or is our heart saddened? How do we answer when asks about a public failure?
What about our brothers and sisters around the world? Are we generous and prayerful regarding their poverty or persecution?
What is dividing the church as a whole today? Covid/vaccination, politics, and race!! Am I actively pursuing unity through love - the perfect bond of peace. I had hoped to be able to speak at length about CRT and racism, but events conspired against me! Let me encourage you to do some investigation on your own. The Center for Biblical Unity is an excellent source of information. I have a quote here from Tony Evans, I hope to watch the entire sermon soon, but this gives me great hope!
“The moment this new relationship in Christ is not the starting point of your racial identity, you will forever live in racial conflict, and confusion, and debate and crisis. Why? Because you’re starting at the wrong place.
Until black Christians, white Christians, asian Christians, hispanic Christians decide I am Christian first, I don’t have to lose my culture, I don’t have to give up my culture, but I must submit it to the authority of Christ when it comes in conflict with Him. It is time for the Church of Jesus Christ to create something new, to create something that the world has never seen, to create a brand new church under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Without us losing our uniqueness, but creating something new, because Jesus is our peace.” Tony Evans
16 times in 106 verses in the NT!
Love will grow cold Matt 24:12
The Pharisees disregard the love of God Luke 11:42
Nor do they have the love of God within themselves John 5:42
3 times here in our text John 13:34-35
Remain in His love John 15:9, 10, 1 John 2:5
Greater love has no one John 15:13
The love that the Son and the Father share John 17:26
It is poured out within our hearts by the HS Rom 5:5
God continues to demonstrate it by the cross Rom 5:8
We cannot be separated from it Rom 8:35, 39
It must be free from hypocrisy, be genuine Rom 12:9, 2 Cor 6:6, 2 Cor 8:8,
It does no wrong to a neighbor and is the fulfilment of the law Rom 13:10
Love refuses to stumble a fellow believer by its freedom Rom 14:15, Gal 5:13
Paul urges us in the name of Jesus and the love of the Spirit to pray for him Rom 15:30
Paul wishes to come to the Corinthian church in gentleness and love 1 Cor 4:21
Love edifies one another 1 Cor 8:1
Love’s character, expression, and supremacy 1 Cor 13:1-13
It is to be pursued 1 Cor 14:1, 1 Tim 6:11, 2 Tim 2:22
All that we do, be done in love 1 Cor 16:14
Giving is evidence 2 Cor 8:24
He is the God of love 2 Cor 13:14
Faith working through love Gal 5:13
Serve one another through love Gal 5:13
The Fruit of the Spirit is love Gal 5:22
We are chosen to stand before Him in love Eph 1:4
Ephesian church has a reputation of love Eph 1:15, Col 1:4, Philemon as well Phi 1:5, 7, an appeal to love :9
But God’s great love Eph 2:4
Rooted and grounded in love, to know the love of God, Eph 3:17, 19
Bearing with one another Eph 4:2
Speak the truth in a loving manner Eph 4:15
Build ourselves up in love and walk in love Eph 4:13, 5:2
Husbands are to love their wives just as Christ loves the church (present tense, imperative) Eph 5:25
Paul prayer that our love would overflow Phil 1:9
Love as binder Phil 2:1-2, knit together by Col 2:2
Rescued from darkness, and transferred to the kingdom of God’s be-love-d Son Col 1:13
The perfect bond of unity Col 3:14
Thessalonian church’s faith and love 1 Thess 1:3, 3:6, 3:12, 2 Thess 1:3
Breastplate of faith and love 1 Thess 5:8
Love of the truth necessary to be saved 2 Thess 2:10
It is the goal of our instruction 1 Tim 1:5
Paul experienced both grace and love to be more than abundant 1 Tim 1:14
Continue in love 1 Tim 2:15
Show yourself an example of love to quiet critics 1 Tim 4:12
God has given us a spirit of power and love 2 Tim 1:7
Follow the teaching of love 2 Tim 3:10
God won’t forget our labor of love Heb 6:10, Rev 2:19
Provoke one an, covers a multitude of sins 1 Peter 4:8
A greeting 1 Peter 5:14
Increase in love 2 Peter 1:7
Do not give the world the love the love of God 1 John 2:15
We know and understand it 1 John 3:16, 4:9, 10, 12, 16-18
There is none if we withhold from our brothers and sisters 1 John 3:14
Love is from God, God is love 1 John 4:7-8
Obedience is the evidence of our love 1 John 5:3, 2 John 1:6
Church had left its first love Rev 2:4