Living for Eternity
Christlike Humility and Love
Turn to John 13. One of the things that is happening in this passage we will look at this morning is the beginning of Jesus’ farewell to His followers, specifically His disciples. This is something that we do not do as often anymore in our society, especially with our availability for things such as access to travel and Facetime. But remember that when people years ago would say goodbye, especially if they were moving out west or somewhere far, or going to live across the ocean like many of our grandparents might have done. Goodbyes were really that, weren’t they? As we may never see each other again, and the only interaction we may have with each other is a letter. You think of a young married couple who may move 2,000 miles away, and saying goodbye to Mom and Dad and siblings that they have been with their whole lives. Of course, this goodbye by Christ was in reference to His leaving the world, which our only equivalent would be if we were saying goodbye because we were about to die.
I said to you a few weeks ago that after the 9/11 event, when MacArthur was asked on national TV, what do we learn? He said that we are all going to die and we do not know when, therefore, we had better be ready. There are those whom the Lord calls home and they would be described as ready, and as sad as this can be, there is something very special about one whom the Lord has saved and they go home to be with Him. And we certainly cannot answer all the questions of life and why one person may die at age 95, and why someone dies at 70 or 45 or 15 or as a child. I remember Haddon Robinson once saying that sometimes a person who never had any time for Christ, someone who may have lived for self, who cannot speak or hardly eat seems to live on and on. And then we will hear of a young person who has just graduated from university who loves the Lord and gets killed in a car accident. Again, a good reminder that we all need to be ready to die, ready to say goodbye. We are taught to not procrastinate at work or do things that we need to get done at home. But also, far more important, that we do not procrastinate in things we need to do for the Lord. So, Jesus is about to say goodbye to His disciples, as they sit down to eat together.
“Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.”
John 13:1 (LSB)
We notice the strong love that Jesus had for those who were His own. His own, of course, are those who were given to Him by the Father (John 6:37), those who were drawn by the Father and someday will be raised up by the Father (John 6:44).
“And during supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him.”
John 13:2 (LSB)
Notice as well that even when Christian relationships are strong, the relationship here between Christ and His disciples, Satan is still busy working. The power of Satan as he can influence the heart and mind of even someone who has lived with Jesus for three years. Maybe like a young guy attending Bible College for three years and coming home, only to walk away from Christ, as Satan can cause disunity, dissatisfaction, jealousies, competition, and unbelief. We can have a growing church here, and we can do valuable ministry and people are maturing in their faith, but Satan can still be busy working.
“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God.”
John 13:3 (LSB)
Notice, however, that in spite of the work of Satan, Jesus “knowing.” As He was confident in the work of the Father, that even when we see things that are going in the wrong direction, we too, can be, should be confident in what God is doing.
“got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He tied it around Himself.”
John 13:4 (LSB)
I notice here that sometimes when we are unsettled, it can take our hearts out of ministry, or it can cause us to be fearful. Yet when Christ knows exactly what is about to happen to Him, He ministers. Good to know that of all the things that may go on in the world against God, nothing can thwart the plan of God. God’s plan is no less on track today than it would have been 20 years ago or at this time. So yes, we can be concerned about the many issues in our world, the many evils in our world, but we can be encouraged and confident that God is going to do His will on the earth. As here we have Satan working right in the middle of Jesus’ disciples, and yet the Lord is doing His work. Good reminder that we cannot wait for things to change to get engaged for Christ. Good reminder that when people ask about ministry, there should be a confident response, always an excitement about what God is doing. See, the Lord does not need our government to change for Him to work. He doesn’t need our society to make an about-face, for God can work in the best of times and the worst of times. We know this.
“Then He poured water into the washbasin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel which He had tied around Himself.”
John 13:5 (LSB)
This is so connected with Philippians 2:5-11, one of our Sunday night studies. Verse 2, where it says that Christ humbled Himself. It was Christ who chose to empty Himself, the Philippian passage says, nobody humbled Him. Our Lord humbled, Himself. And therefore, I need to humble who? Myself. As this passage should be a passage that strikes each of us individually, personally. There is no need to look to someone else.
“So He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, ‘Lord, are You going to wash my feet?’”
John 13:6 (LSB)
Often when something happens, we can tend to remain silent. So, we might smile here at Peter’s personality to speak up.
“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘What I am doing you do not realize now, but you will understand afterwards.’ Peter said to Him, ‘You will never wash my feet—ever!’ Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.’ Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.’ Jesus said to him, ‘He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.’ For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’”
John 13:7-11 (LSB)
This whole section introduces a number of statements that are difficult to understand (vs 7):
- “What I am doing you do not realize now, but you will understand afterwards.”
This statement has a few ramifications …
- it represents our Lord’s humbleness in going to the cross
As the washing of the disciples’ feet was just a mere act in comparison to His brutal death on the cross. Remember in the eyes of the disciples, Christ would soon triumph. In fact, Peter has just witnessed the triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
- it represents the many things that the disciples still had to learn
This term, “you will understand afterwards,” falls in line with much of what John has been saying all along in his gospel:
“So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.”
John 2:2 (LSB)
They learned more after the resurrection:
“These things His disciples did not understand at the first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him, and that they had done these things to Him.”
John 12:16 (LSB)
They learned more after the appearance and the ascension of Christ:
“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak from Himself, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.”
John 16:13 (LSB)
They learned more after the Holy Spirit came upon them:
“For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.”
John 20:9 (LSB)
We could say they leaned more upon further study of God’s Word. So valuable for us, that we would be able to say, them Elimites learned more after they studied. They learned more after they submitted to the work of the Spirit. They learned more after they continued to be obedient. They understood better. The second statement in this section which is difficult to understand is Jesus’ statement (vs 8):
- “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”
Jesus is responding to Peter’s objection. And we know it is not just a matter of Jesus’ demonstrating His humbleness, though that is part of it, but it was not like Jesus responded, I need to do this humble act or you are out of here. For what Jesus is saying, of course, is that if I do not wash you, you will not be clean. In other words, there is no way for you to live forever in My presence, without this washing, not the foot washing. But the washing that will come when I die on the cross and you are forever cleansed from all your sin. As Jesus will become the eternal cleansing fountain, the only fountain that is able to wash someone as white as snow, as without His cleansing we would never be clean. We may look good. We may be dressed up this morning. We may be very respected at work. We may be very accepted by society and do many good things to be approved by many, and it might be all honorable and good. In fact, this is the conservative agenda, isn’t it? As we might look to the very right conservative views and very much fit in: high morals, high regard for the sanctity of life for both the unborn and the elderly, a strong view of right marriage between a man and a woman, a great honest work ethic, knowing the value of purity, caring and giving, model citizens. All of these things may put us in a very good place, which we admire and respect. And standing side-by-side with us may be a number of various beliefs and religions. Sort of the cream of the crop. And Jesus would look at all this and say, “Depart from Me, I never knew you.” For all your righteous deeds are as filthy rags. You have no place in the kingdom of God. Jesus, what is the need? Cleansing, because you are dirty. For if I do not wash you, you have no part in Me.
We need to be careful that our message to people about a good agenda, though many of those things are right and biblical, and often this is where are hearts are. Yet our core message needs to be this for me, you, and everyone else, we need to be cleansed by Christ. For we are all sinners and we all fall short of the glory of God. Third confusing statement (vs 10):
- “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.”
Jesus is using an analogy here of those who have had a bath, they are clean. And in Jewish custom, they will then only have to wash their feet after walking in sandals in the dirt and the dust of Israel. And therefore, Jesus is speaking here that those who have been cleansed by Christ are clean, their whole body is clean.
“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
- Cor 5:21 (LSB)
We become clean, as we are given the righteousness of Christ.
“And you being dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive with Him, having graciously forgiven us all our transgressions.”
Col 2:13 (LSB)
We are clean because all our sins have been forgiven. “Clean before my Lord I stand and in me not one blemish does He see.” Yet in a very practical sense, as we live for Christ day-to-day, there is the need to be cleansed daily, isn’t there? In 1 John, John spoke of the need to confess our sins continually, if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. And of course, when Jesus says that not all of you are clean, He was referring to Judas, who was there with them.
“So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.’”
John 13:12-17 (LSB)
We have been learning on Sunday evenings that we are to imitate Christ. And we always need to remind ourselves that this example from Christ is from His humanity. Of course, we cannot follow His deity, but we are to strive to be like Christ in His humanity. Our first response to this can be that I am too unworthy Lord. And we understand this, as we could never be truly be like Christ, though we will be like Him someday in eternity. Yet we cannot allow our perceived “humbleness” or “false” humility to keep us from striving for this goal, as we are to do what Christ did. This is what the passage says. As this can become a bit of a cop-out. As we may also be unwilling to be humble as Christ was humble. Yet if anything, we should have a much greater humility than Christ, but we do not. To even say things like, I am not a Bible student, I cannot teach, I cannot lead. And there may be some truth to all this. But this type of “false humility” is really an insult to Christ. For He has redeemed each of us so that we would be fit for His use. And yes, we are to be humble, but even that humbleness should give us a tremendous desire to serve others and to be busy doing His work.
So be careful of terms such as: I only do what I can, I am not gifted like others, or I cannot do that. Imagine last week’s passage when some said they were going to follow Jesus, and He said that no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God. And Jesus called us, equipped us for a specific ministry, and our response is, “I’ll only do what I can! … or “I cannot do that!” That is a long way from saying, “Lord, I will do what I can through Your strength … Lord, help me, help me and thank You for gifting me as Your slave.” There is a difference, isn’t there? For one is an unwilling servant, or at best a reluctant servant, while the other is a willing servant, offering to do whatever the Master would ask. That phrase (vs 17), “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” This is the ultimate response of the true believer. You know these things. We know what we have studied this morning, last Sunday, and the week before that, and everything else we have studied in God’s Word.
Interesting, however, the blessing does not come from the knowing, does it? The blessing comes from the doing. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. Knowing God’s Word is so important. Reading, studying in private, studying with a group of people, Sunday nights. Knowing God’s Word gives to us knowledge and wisdom, we couldn’t live without it. But we must be doers of the Word and not hearers only or intakers only, as this falls so much in line with last week’s lesson, that those who follow Christ are honoured by God. Those who do this command of Christ, humbly serve others are blessed. This is one of those reaping and sowing promises in the Bible. You live and serve humbly, you will be blessed, and we can take God at His word! So, Jesus will go on to tell them about Judas, so they know, so that they are aware. Though He does not give them specific information about His crucifixion. And then He tells that He will be with them for just a while longer.
“Little children, I am with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 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 will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 13:33-35 (LSB)
This is one of those things that is likely lacking in the modern-day church, as we are not quick to express our love or closeness with each other. We sort of think this is the norm. I was speaking with Arley and he was saying that most of the world are much more connected with each other than North Americans. I always sort of thought it was a British thing, as you always pictured the unemotional British guy, where my grandparents would have come from. But it doesn’t really matter, does it? Whether you are British or Cuban or Canadian. For this is a command of Christ, that we would love one another. And we can sort of toss that one out there. And if church-life is going well or we have just enjoyed a good season of ministry, or we had fun playing baseball together, and I am sure we will enjoy our marriage seminar next weekend. But this has to be more than that, as this is a full-fledged love and commitment to each other, that we would love each other as Christ loved us. That is a high commitment, that we would have the attitude that we even need to count on each other. We need to be thinking about each other, I am counting on you brother because I know you love. I am counting on you sister, because I know you love. And there is good truth to personal Bible study and personal growth, and that we invest so greatly in our families. But here is the middle of that, the interaction of believers in a local body. And if churches do not get this, it would be like Christ saying to us, what are you guys doing? What’s the problem at your church? For I told you to love! And some people wouldn’t like it frankly. They wouldn’t like the idea of being accountable to others, as they would rather be a “loose fit,” especially when I can turn on my tablet and listen to some great preachers, better than anything you are going to get from me this morning. But that is not what Christ is talking about here, as He is speaking about a “tight fit.”
Next weekend we are going to talk about love between couples. This passage gives us the source of that love. Think of all the things you might watch on TV, almost every movie you may have ever watched, they all include love. But not this love. This perfect human being who humbled Himself before the Father, looks to those who are His and He says this, I love you. But the focus of this passage is more than Jesus just reminding us that He loves us, as the focus here is that we are to love as He loved. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (vs 34). What is new about the command? Amazing how we can read something but not really read it.
- No one had ever been commanded to love as Jesus loved before
What do You mean Jesus, as You loved us? He loved them to the end (vs 1), He serves and lives out Philippians 2:3, count others more significant than yourself (vs 4), and Jesus acts it out, as he washes their feet (vs 12-15). He washes the feet of those who struggled greatly with humility. And we might talk about it, but as soon as something hits us the wrong way, we think, this cannot happen to me. We might all say that we don’t agree with the health and wealth prosperity gospel until something goes wrong, and we cry out to God and say, Lord, why is this happening to me? John Piper said that we can even hold our sense of entitlement before God, as we sort of learn that no one can do anything to us. But the lesson of Jesus’ love is that it goes way beyond that. And since we can be a little self-centered (speaking to myself here), the command is also new not only because no one had ever been commanded to love as Christ did. But also:
- We have the love of Christ in us to love like Him
This is not just trying hard to be like Christ. That because Christ has commanded me to love this way, therefore, I am going to just try as hard as I can to love people. In John 15:9, Jesus says “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.” This is part of our love relationship with Christ. That as I become more overwhelmed with the love that Christ has for me, therefore, I have a greater love for others. This why when you have a group of Christians who are growing in their love for one another, we look vastly different. And other people, onlookers to Christianity, will see that we live differently and love differently. For it says they will know that we are disciples of Christ.
Imagine a short time later when these disciples see Jesus on the cross, and they think back to this demonstration of Christ in washing their feet. And they also remember John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” As they watch their Lord die. And we live in a world that sings about love, that makes movies about love, that writes books about love, that, for the most part, still places an honour of a husband and wife loving each other. Yet they ignore, the greatest demonstration of love ever, Jesus giving His life for their sin. When the entire world has the wrath of God hanging over them, Jesus took that wrath upon Himself, for anyone who would believe in Him.
Folks, in all our arguments with people, discussions with unbelievers and believers alike, whether we talk about creation, or the real meaning of marriage, or the whole gender issue, or the massive problems over in Israel, or the economic worries, or the breakdown of the family, or the mass destruction of the pornography industry, whatever it might be. Don’t forget the heart of Christianity. That God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever would believe in Him, would not perish, but would have everlasting life. You know getting humility and love right is so essential. For if God’s people were humble and loving, we would thrive as studiers, wouldn’t we? as givers? as examples? as teachers? In 2 Tim 2 when Paul was instructing young Timothy about being a willing servant, it is interesting the kind of words he used to focus on. He said to Timothy if anyone [any Christian] is going a vessel on honour, useful to the Master. He said, flee youthful lusts, in other words, flee false love, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, purity. So we have seen love, but where is the humility. Well he is not done, for finally he says, be patient when wronged, humility! Lord, thank You for the challenge of Your Word. May we be doers of the Word and not hearers only. And all God’s people said, amen.