Read John 13
Judas spent as much time as the other disciples with Jesus, shared all the same privileges—the teaching, the stories and the intimate moments. He saw all the same miracles and signs. He even went on mission trips for Jesus but still he lacked what was most important. Outwardly he did the disciple thing, but inwardly his heart worshipped something else more than Jesus. And what you worship most owns you most, it’s your master.
This teaches us that unless we have a heart which truly values Jesus, more than anything, then we’re in danger of trading his love for something else. Judas loved silver more than Jesus so when it came to the crunch he made his choice, and he never came back. Like all of us, the other disciples let Jesus down—they failed him in different ways—but they came back. Judas never came back. The heart always returns to what it values most!
The privileges of being around Jesus are not enough to save us, we need a heart—a new heart—that sees Jesus as what we need most… That views him as more valuable than anything and everything… So we can join with the apostle Paul and say; “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things as loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…”
One of the reasons Jesus is more valuable than anything and everything is because of his perfect love for us. No one else can love us perfectly. When Jesus said “he loved them to the end” in verse one it means he loved them perfectly. In spite of their many failings he loved them, all the way to the cross. He loves us perfectly in spite our many failings, and it’s this same love we are called to love one another with.
Jesus’ perfect love for us
Jesus shows this love for his disciples, including Judas, in the most special way in this story. With humble love he washed Judas’ feet, but those same feet went chasing after silver instead of Jesus. Humble love knelt before him, it was within his grasp, it was his for the taking, but he wanted the silver more. That’s the story of Judas’ life, that’s what he is remembered for. He got his silver but he lost everything else. The silver wasn’t as good as it seemed at the time. Judas did feel bad and changed his mind, but he did not return to Jesus. He tried to fix things himself by trying to return the silver. In the end he turned to suicide instead of Jesus… There are lessons for us here. 1: Do not miss perfect love when it is within your grasp because there will come a day when it’s out of your reach… 2: When we mess things up and feel bad about it, instead of trying to fix it ourselves we should return to Jesus and let him fix things. Repentance is more than feeling guilty; it’s going to the right place with our guilt - back to Jesus...
Knowing very well Judas would betray him, and the others would forsake him for a time, Jesus displays the humblest of love towards them when he stoops down and washes their feet. Instead of being irritable or rude he displays humble love towards each of them, Judas included… (Would you or I be able to do that???)
V3-5 “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciple’s feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”
The dusty and dirty conditions of local roads made such foot-washing necessary in day to day life. The disciple’s perhaps would have been happy to wash Jesus’ feet, but they would never have dreamed of washing each other’s never mind Jesus washing theirs. This was because foot-washing was reserved for the lowliest of servants. Peers and friends did not wash each other’s feet, except on very rare occasions as a mark of great love. When Jesus began to wash the disciple’s feet he took the posture of the lowliest slave & expressed great love. Lamentations 3:22 NIV says; “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.”
None of these actions would have been normal for the lord of a dinner party. A lord did not stand at his dinner table; he sat in luxury. A lord did not strip down to his undergarments; he wore his best of robes. A lord did not pour water or hold a towel. He certainly did not wash anyone’s feet! Jesus was taking everything that anyone would expect and turning it upside down. The Lord became the servant.
What makes the impact of this story even more powerful is what Luke records in his account of the same night. He notes that; “A dispute… arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.” He then taught them that true greatness was not celebrity status… and revealed himself as the One who serves... I can imagine Jesus teaching them these things as he washed their feet. I can imagine the disciple’s faces turning red with embarrassment. This humble love of Jesus would have humbled them all speechless, apart from good old Peter who always had something to say:
V 6-10 “He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean.”
This humble love that Jesus loves with is so perfect it makes people completely clean. At first Peter could not handle Jesus washing his feet. He could not accept the master of the universe stooping so low. He failed to see beyond the act itself to the symbolism of spiritual cleansing. Jesus’ response made the real point of his actions clear: Unless he cleanses a person’s sin, that person can have no part with him—cannot belong to him. This is true for each of us—we must be washed clean from our sin. All of us need cleaned. Jesus was not only giving his disciple’s an example of service here; this was a symbolic picture of what was going to happen the next day. It was symbolic of his great sacrifice on the cross which would completely take away the sins of the world. This becomes clearer when we here the following words of Jesus; “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean.”
It was the custom, when a guest was invited to dinner; he would take a bath and change into nice clean clothes before putting on his sandals and setting out on foot for the dinner party. By the time he arrived, his body was still clean, but his feet were dirty from the dusty road. So the first thing a good host would do was have his servants wash the feet of his guests. Jesus used this custom to make powerful point. When he said that Peter was clean, he was saying Peter was already right with God; because the next day Jesus was going to do all that was needed to make him completely clean. This did not mean Peter would never sin again. Like every disciple of Jesus, Peter would sin again, and when he did he would need cleansed—but not from head to toe…
In other words when a person trusts in Jesus they are made completely clean and therefore they are free from sins penalty, however they still need ongoing cleansing from the contaminating effects of sin in this world... Like a dinner guest who had bathed his body but then walked along a dusty road, Peter was fundamentally clean yet still in need of cleansing.
In humble love Jesus comes and baths us in his mercy and grace until we are completely clean. We need to bath in his mercy and grace so we are ready for his heavenly dinner party. Then we need him to come to us every day patiently correcting wrong attitudes we develop, kindly teaching us what is right, graciously forgiving our daily sins and humbling us again and again with his perfect love. We need to go to Jesus everyday and allow him to humble us again with his perfect love…
Our response to such love
Our only response to this love is to love one another with this love—we love because he first loved us… We forgive others because he forgives us… we show mercy to others because he shows mercy to us… we show kindness to others because he shows kindness to us… we serve others because he serves us… we teach others because he teaches us… we show patience to others because he shows patience to us…
We should lovingly (not begrudgingly) serve those who doubt us, deny us and even betray us. We should lovingly serve those who are despised most in society (people like Mathew the tax collector) as well as those who are closest to us. If we are followers of a foot-washing saviour then no act of service & no person could ever be beneath our dignity.
V12- 17; “When he has washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them; “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If then I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done for you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”
Then in verses 34-35 we find those famous words of Jesus;
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
It is new not because it has never been given, but because it is backed by a new & higher example than ever before. It is the test of true Christianity.
There is nothing that makes the world pay attention like true love (1 Cor. 13)... Christian’ ought to be a community of people who make it easy for others to believe in God... People may not understand our beliefs but they will be impressed with love. And if love is able to change our thinking, our priorities, our beliefs, our lifestyle then surely it can change others as well. When people look at our interaction and hear our conversations they should be able to see in some measure the love Jesus. They should see a community people who are patient & kind to one another. They should not see a group of people who are envious, arrogant, rude, self-seeking, irritable or resentful. But sadly so often that is what they do see & why would anyone want to join such a group? Only an encounter with the humbling love of Jesus can rectify that. Only an encounter with the humbling love of Jesus can change us from the inside out. Only an encounter with the love of Jesus can give us the security, acceptance & approval we all long for. Only an encounter with the humbling love of Jesus can turn our often selfish hearts into selfless hearts. And only an ongoing encounter with the humbling love of Jesus can clean our lives of the dirt that comes from within and without everyday! We need him to wash our feet if we are to love as he loves.
What we need more of, is the love of Jesus—a deeper understanding, a deeper awareness—of his love for us and a growing measure of his love in us as we learn to love one another as Jesus’ loves us.