Serve One Another (By Les Kovacs)
Text: John 13-15
Observe: As the time for Jesus' earthly ministry enters its final hours, Jesus has supper with His disciples in the upper room. At the end of the meal, Jesus laid aside His garments and began to wash the feet of His disciples. At first Peter refuses, telling Jesus that He would never wash his feet. But Jesus insists that it must be done and they would understand why later. So then Peter insists that Jesus wash all of him, but again Jesus insists it is only his feet that need washing because he has already been bathed. When Jesus asked if they understood what He had just done, He explained that they must also wash each other’s feet as an act of service following His example.
Jesus next predicts His betrayal by one those present, and one of the disciples asks who it is. Even though Jesus tells him what to look for, he seems not to understand that Jesus is referring to Judas. Once He gives Judas the piece of bread, He tells him to do what he will do quickly, and he leaves at once to seek out the Jewish leaders.
After supper, Jesus tells them that he is leaving and where He goes they cannot follow. As usual, Peter objects saying that he would lay down his life for Jesus, but Jesus tells him that he will deny even knowing Him three times before the rooster crows in the morning. He reassures the disciples by telling them that He is going to prepare a place for them in His Father’s house, and that He has shown them what His Father is like. He is “the way, the truth and the life.” The Father lives in Jesus just as Jesus lives in the Father. He tells them to keep all His commands and that He will send them the Spirit of Truth. This Spirit will live in each of them, teach them many things, and remind them of what Jesus told them.
Jesus used the imagery of the vine and the braches, where He was the vine and they were the braches. Apart from Him they could do no good and must always remain in Him. And He gave them a new command, to love one another, as He has loved them. The world would hate them because the world hated Him first. Finally, Jesus tells them that when the Spirit of Truth comes to them, they must testify about Him because they had been with Him from the beginning.
Interpret: Jesus life was a living example of the things He taught, so when He washed His disciples’ feet, He assumed the position of the lowest servant, and commanded them to be as servants to one another. It’s another example of His humble service. Too often, we find it easy to criticize those with dirty feet instead of just washing them. The world’s way is to criticize others. That’s how news reports work, “Look at their dirty feet, or hands, or faces, or clothes.” Even if they recognize what a difficult walk a person must have had that day, usually all these reports do is point out the dirt on their feet. That is the way of the world, but Jesus’ way is very different. He says nothing, but takes the basin and begins to wash away the stain. He doesn’t judge and condemn, but seeks to restore and improve the ways of the downtrodden. Therefore, just as Jesus washed us “with the washing of water by the word” (Ephesians 5:26), we should use the same “water” in ministering to others.
When Judas took the bread from Jesus, in that moment he knew that Jesus knew that he would be the one to betray his Master. In that moment, two things are apparent. First, Judas knew that he was discovered. Second, he knew that despite his treachery, he was still loved, because the offering of the piece of bread in that culture was a token of friendship. Yet, he shut his heart against them both, and as he shut his heart against Jesus, he opened it to evil.
Later on, Jesus said that He was the way the truth and the life. Notice that Jesus didn’t say that He would show them the way. He said that He was the way. He didn’t promise to teach them a truth. He said that He was the truth. Jesus didn’t offer to tell them the secrets to life. He said that He was the life. He left no room for debate. No one comes to the Father except by Him. Period.
Jesus continued to teach His disciples right to the every end, and it was always done as an act of love. Every action in Jesus life was driven by His all-encompassing love. Its the hallmark of His earthly ministry. Jesus’ love infuses everything He does. Its in the patient way He teaches His followers. Its in the compassionate way He heals the sick. Its in the sacrificial way He serves others. And He calls His disciples to do the same. They will be known as His disciples by the way they love each other. In that love they will be connected to Him, and He to them. Without it, they can do no good thing.
Application: In Chapter 14:9, Jesus says, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” Philip had been close to Jesus for a long time, and still he did not fully understand Him. The same is possible, and unfortunately, true for many of us today. This gentle rebuke of Philip reminds us of what Jesus often said; that to know Him was to know God the Father. Yet we stubborn humans continue to wonder if God really loves us. We make our own plans without seeking His guidance first. We tell our little white lies, thinking that the “white” makes them somehow acceptable. We criticize others for their dirty feet, without ever giving any thought to how we might help wash them. To see the love of Jesus was to see the love of God. Seeing Jesus in action was to see God the Father in action. And we are called to do the same. Discipleship to Jesus is a call to humble action.
Questions: Have you ever taken the attitude of the humble servant and done something you thought was beneath you, but which Jesus would have done without even blinking an eye?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we ask your forgiveness when we forget that Jesus came to serve, not to be served. We often stand idly by when we see a need just because it might get our hands dirty. Help us to humble our hearts that we may serve others as He continues to serve us. We bless and praise the holy name of Jesus, our saviour and redeemer. Amen.
Song: The Servant King: Maranatha
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In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.