Sunday, April 15, 2012

Jesus Washes the Disciples' Feet (John 13:1-11)

This is my personal summary of Rev Dr Stephen Tong's sermon on 12 Feb 2012 in STEMI Expository Preaching at True Way Presbyterian Church Singapore. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 13:1-11

John 12 marks the end of Jesus' words to the Jewish public. It was the end of opportunity for them to hear Jesus. From John 13 onwards, Jesus would speak/preach only to his disciples.

John 13    Jesus' special act of washing the disciples' feet (The Last Supper)
John 14-16 Jesus promised the coming of the Holy Spirit
John 17    Jesus prayed before his final mission
John 18    Jesus was arrested
John 19    Jesus was crucified [and died]
John 20    Jesus resurrected
John 21    Jesus appeared to the disciples and the gospel of John ended.

Jesus last words to the Jewish public was recorded in John 12:50-'And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.' This means that Jesus' words are words of eternal life. This same word, is the Word of God. The commandments [in the same Word], are God's commands. God has sent Jesus to give the Word to the Jews as a command. But the Jews have rebelled against this command and rejected Jesus' words, and as such they will be judged by the same Word because Jesus is the Son of God who has come in the flesh. The same Word that was preached to them will become the standard against which the Jews will be judged.

Such serious word tells us that to 'know God' is to know Jesus Christ as the One whom God has sent, and this is what eternal life is all about. This is later mentioned again in Jesus prayer in John 17:3.

After this word, there is no more word from Jesus [to the Jews], the Jews too did not respond to him.
If we were to have our last opportunity to hear a sermon like the Jews here from Jesus, would we still treat it lightly?

John 13:1a: '... when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father...' Now Jesus knew that the time had come for him to accomplish his mission to die on the cross. When he has finished what he was tasked to do, it was time for him to go back to the Father. Which day would Jesus die on? Jesus must die on Passover because that is the day that the LORD has set for him. What sort of attitude did Jesus respond to this mission? The Bible tells us, 'Be glad and rejoice for this is the day that the Lord has made.' The Passover Lamb must be willing and joyful in going to be sacrificed.

John 13:1b: '... having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end...' That day (of Jesus death on the cross) is a historical point in time. But that date was when Jesus manifested his eternal love for humanity. It was on that day that He would bear the sin of humanity on the cross and fulfill his love for us, which is eternal. Therefore He would like to show his love to the fullest extent to his disciples. This is the only place in the Bible where we can find this kind of translation.

We read next that the devil had already put the seed of evil into the thought of Judas Iscariot. Judas' motivation by now had been 'wrapped' by the influence of another being. From a Christian's point of view, Paul spoke in Phil 2:13 '... for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.' This means that whatever good that we do comes because God has acted in our hearts so that it is possible for us to will and work for his good pleasure. Similarly, the devil too can inspire man to do evil and fulfill his purposes. This implies that man is never a completely active agent/ independent in taking initiative to do something. Our initiative in doing evil comes after we have accepted the suggestion of the devil, being used by him.

When we find ourselves in such a situation, on the surface it may seem that man is passive in the whole process. But before executing that evil deed, man actually plays an active part in accepting the devil's suggestion. However our relationship with God is not the same. It is God who, on the basis of his sovereignty, decides to grant us grace. Before God, we are completely passive. If God does not move us to do good deeds, we will not do what is good. Is there anyone who is willing to obey what God purposes to do? None of us will, except for the Holy Spirit to keep nudging us until one day we say to God that yes we are willing. Our obedience towards God, comes only after the Holy Spirit has normalised our relationship with God.

This is in accordance with what the Bible says that all the good we do comes from the good purpose of God. Therefore we say that to do good we are completely passive, but to do bad we would have played one active part. Why is it so? Can we say that to do good we have an active part to play but to do bad we did not play any part? No. Because in the matter of God's grace, we have no right to take part. However when the devil whispers a  temptation, none of us has the strength to reject him, but we are very willing to work with him instead.

So now we have a question about Judas receiving the devil's thought to betray Jesus. Note that Jesus said to Judas, 'What you are going to do, go and do it' This means that it was Judas himself who planned the betrayal (the evil plan came from himself although it was the devil who [had] put the desire to sin into him). 'When one is tempted, we should not think that the temptation comes from God, for God does not tempt anyone nor is he tempted. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death' (James 1:13-15). Therefore the Bible clearly tells us that God is never the source of evil and neither is God is the creator of evil.

At this moment, Jesus knew 2 things:
1. His time to leave the world had come
2. God the Father has given unto him all things
{Contrast with this: Three and half years before this, the devil tempted Jesus to give all material glory to Jesus. But Jesus was not interested at all in those. He knew he came from God and would go back to Him. This gave Jesus and affirmation and thus he was not afraid at all. He went on to perform the washing of his disciples' feet - which is to illustrate a point he would later make in John 13:13-16).

Jesus cleaned the feet of the disciples (24 in total), which must be the smelliest part of the body, to teach us humility: He came not to be served, but to serve. The climax of these all would be his death on the cross. Note that Jesus was still willing to wash Judas' feet even though He knew that Judas was going to betray him (Jesus did not wait until after Judas had left to begin washing feet). And when Jesus washed his feet, Judas did not feel any reservation.

On the other extreme, Peter's reaction was the strongest: He could not bear Jesus washing his feet. He asked, 'Lord are you really going to wash my feet?' Jesus answered, 'What i do now, you don't understand, but you will understand later' (In the Bible, Jesus was recorded to say these twice). Events were in the progression of time; now Peter would not understand, but later on he would.

But Peter really thought that he was below his Lord's status and could not accept Jesus to wash his feet. To this, Jesus' answer was that Peter would have no share with Jesus (i.e. no share in the kingdom of God). Upon hearing this, Peter was very afraid. To have no part with Jesus [in the kingdom] would have been the scariest thing that Peter could ever imagine. That's why Peter straight away 'jumped' and asked Jesus to wash not only his 2 feet but also his hands. But this would have been ridiculous - an adult asking another adult to wash him.

Jesus answer that a person who has had a bath, does not need to bathe again means that within Him one has already been cleansed. Jesus Christ is the Word of God, the Cleanser. The Word of God cleansed us. God's Word has made us Christians clean (sanctification), so only our actions are not clean; our footsteps are not clean. Many Christians today do not do what they should do, or do what they should not do (both are sins). They hear the Word, but are unable to do according to the Word. They believe the Word, but not do it (Note: Of all disciples, Judas had never been sanctified because his heart had never accepted Jesus. This is why Jesus said in v10 '... you are clean, but not every one of you.')

When Jesus said that one of them would betray him, everybody asked, "Is it me, Lord?" except Judas, who could not call Jesus as Lord (just as the Bible says that no one could call Jesus, Lord unless by the Holy Spirit - ). But if he did not ask, everybody would have concluded right away that he was the one. So he had to use the term 'Rabbi' to ask Jesus. This was told in St Matthew's Passion by J.S.Bach.

Among the 13 people in the room, only Jesus and Judas himself knew about this matter. Why did Jesus keep this knowledge from the rest? Because the time has not yet come. When did Jesus know about this? Since the time He selected Judas. Why was Judas selected in the first place? 1. That the world may know that everyone has the opportunity to repent, i.e. nobody can say that 'God never gave me the chance.' Jesus did not tell other disciples also for this reason, even until the last moment so that Judas still had the chance to repent. 2. That preachers will not fear if they were to be betrayed by their own disciples too.

Praise God for Christ's love. Jesus came to earth and gave us a model for us how we are to serve Him. Brothers and sisters, in our heart, do we hate people who hate us or revile those who betray us? Or instead, do we humbly love others and do not retaliate when others treat us badly?


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