THE PROFOUND HUMILITY OF JESUS Trinity
John 13:1-11 08.10.23
Do you think the Lord Jesus is like the best sportsman you know? Not so much. Is he like the most powerful man in the world? Not so much. What about the finest person in this Church? Not so much. Is he like you? Not so much.
Sure, he is like us all, coming as he did in human flesh, but the more we look deep into his heart, we see he is so unlike us.
That is clear in John 13 in at least 2 ways:
1. IN REGARD TO HIS MANNER HE IS SERVANT-HEARTED
For the first 12 chapters of this Gospel, we have been with Jesus through more than 1000 days of public ministry. The next 5 chapters cover just 1 day or so, Jesus in private with his disciples.
At last, he is away from the men out there who want to kill him. He is away from the fickle crowds who sang “Hosanna” but who tomorrow will cry out “Kill him”. He is away from his own brothers, who think he is mad.
Phew! Now he is just with good friends. Or is he?
One of the men in the room is about to strike a deal with Jesus’ killers to betray him. One is about to deny him publicly. Those he trusts most are going to go to sleep when they are supposed to be lookouts. All of them are going to run for their lives when he is arrested. Does even one of them get why he is going to his death?
If Jesus hasn’t stood alone for the past 1000 days, he sure is standing alone now, when things have never been hotter for him.
Wouldn’t you excuse him for walking away, or for worrying only about himself for a change? He is not much like us.
It is mealtime. Custom says that when you have come off the street into a house, a servant must wash your dusty feet. In the absence of a servant, will John or Peter do it, or Thomas or Andrew?
While they wait, Jesus rises. They are so astounded that years later, John can remember every detail, every move. Look at verse 4. Jesus “rose from supper / he laid aside his (outer) garments / he took a towel / he tied it around his waist / he poured water into a basin / he washed their feet / he then dried them with that towel.”
This should not be! Custom said that even a Jewish slave should not do this – get a Gentile dog to do it!
What is going on? Is it all about smashing social customs? No. Is it about hygiene? No.
Something else going on here. Something big. When he got round the table to Peter’s feet, Jesus said “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterwards you will understand.” (v7)
What is there to understand? What this is really all about. What is going on here is a picture of something that is much more significant than dust and grime being washed off dirty feet.
You see that when you hear Jesus say, “you are clean, but not every one of you.” (v10). All 12 of them have washed feet – how can it be that not all of them are clean? John tells us in the next verse that he meant Judas the betrayer was not clean.
This washing is a sign or a picture of a much bigger and better washing. This is a picture of what Jesus is about to do as a humble servant when in a day or two he dies to really wash them.
Paul asks “Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God … neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practise homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” Then he adds, “And such were some of you. But you were washed …” (1 Cor 6:9-11)
Washed of what? Washed of inside dirt. Washed of a bad record and a bad heart. When he died, the wrath of God that should have fallen on us fell on him.
Jesus on his knees washing dirty feet is a picture of Jesus on his cross washing away dirty sins.
Anyone can wash feet. The pope washes the feet of 12 homeless people every Easter. Nurses do it. Selfless volunteers in emergency care accommodation do it.
They are women and men washing the feet of other women and men. The gap between them is not big.
But the Man, on his knees, washing feet, and on the cross washing hearts and souls, is the Living God. In terms of the distance he crosses to get on his knees, and in terms of the real washing he brings, he is so not like us.
Paul describes it this way in Philippians 2:6-8 … “Though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God something to be grasped (hung onto), but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Does that still shock you? Did it ever? The Lord of heaven and earth on his knees as a servant? The King of Kings on a cross, dying for someone as unworthy as you? There is nothing in fiction that is stranger than this.
How can he do it? Why ever does he do it? How can he serve people who run away from him as fast as they can?
If, in regard to his manner, he is servant-hearted.
2. IN REGARD TO HIS MOTIVE, HE IS GOD-FOCUSSED
We read in verse 1 “Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father” and in verse 3 “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.”
Everything that Jesus does in his 33 years on this planet is affirmed by his conscious knowledge that he had been sent by his heavenly Father and now was to go back to him.
Why was he a servant to these men who were so weak and wobbly? Why die for people who deserve nothing? Why? Because they and we are so lovable? Or so intrinsically valuable? Or in such a mess, pity drives him?
Friends, we were not his focus. He did it because his preoccupation was to love and serve his Father.
Am I saying he doesn’t love those he came to serve? Of course not. John says, “he loved them to the end” (v1c). But the question is: why did he love them?
Every word he speaks, every deed he does, every affection in his heart is under the specific direction of his Father, as John has told us dozens of times in this Gospel. He has come from the Father and is just about to go back. He is here on a mission that begins not in his heart, and certainly not in our hearts – but in the heart of God the Father.
His life and ministry are not firstly and predominantly about us. Everything he does, everything, is done for his Father with a pure and unmixed heart. He is so unlike us.
Does that somehow make our position in his love less secure? Not at all! It guarantees us. When John says that Jesus knew that “the Father had given all things into his hands” (v3a), what had he put into the hands of his Son?
I think Jesus answers that himself in his prayer recorded in John 17. “I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.” (17:9) The Father said to his Son, “These are mine, now yours. Serve them; save them.”
Peter Andrew Nathanael and the other disciples didn’t put themselves in his hands. The idea of their being disciples didn’t originate with Jesus. The Father had given them to him, so he loved them and served them and washed them and saved them.
It’s the same for you if you are a follower of Jesus. He washed you by his dying not because you thought it was a good idea, and not even because Jesus thought it was a good idea. He did, but because it was his Father’s idea. He had given you into the hand of Jesus to be washed before he left heaven to come here in the first place.
Friends, that is why Jesus doesn’t walk out on these men in the light of their unbelief, betrayal and denial. It is because he is focussed with a single-mind on doing the will of his Father.
How unlike us, he is. Not dissuaded, ever, from doing what is right. Not ever giving up until the job is completely done. Not run by the responses, inconsistencies and outright sins of those he has been sent to serve.
At one Philippines pastors conference, I spoke 15 times Tuesday to Friday, and in 4 churches Saturday and Sunday. Monday was for travel. It was suggested that if we got up early enough, I could fit in another sermon on the way to the airport.
I could have said “no” to be fresher for the next round. But my reasoning wasn’t as worthy as that. It was more about self-pity … don’t they appreciate what I have already done? Do they think I am just a preaching machine? Why isn’t someone else doing it? Would this new crowd be worth the effort needed from a tired voice?”
Jesus is so unlike me. He goes all the way. No love is withheld. Regardless of whether those whom the Father has given him are loyal, understanding, consistent or even get it.
Do you get the connection between Jesus’ single-mindedness in regard to his Father and his servant-heartedness in regard to people like us? It is that focus that shapes his serving. Which will be the same for our serving, as we shall see.
For today, we have been looking at Jesus serving, not the way we serve. Look at him on his knees: isn’t he just superbly glorious?
When you see him as he really is, if I were to ask you if might it be a mistake to entrust yourself to Jesus, you would say “Of course it isn’t!” To trust yourself to the one who has come from God and gone back to God? To trust yourself to the one who always does the will of his Father? To trust yourself to the one who loves his own sacrificially right to the end? To one who washes people with a washing that no one else anywhere can do?
A mistake to entrust yourself – your soul and your future – to one like that? How could that ever be a mistake?
What if we fall and fail? Might he drop us halfway through once he sees what we are really like, or the way in which we betray him and sell him out?
He won’t because he loves all whom the Father has given him “to the end”, and because, as J. C. Ryle says “Those whom he loves at first, he loves at last.”
Would it be a mistake to come to Jesus, to follow him with all your heart? Might there be a better offer still to come? There won’t be. There will be plenty of other men like you. But there will never be anyone so unlike you.
Was it a mistake to start following Jesus with all your heart – last week, last year, 10 years ago, 60 years ago? After all, some of your friends and maybe some in your family think you’re crazy. Was it a mistake when there is no one else who stoops so low, washes so completely, and loves to the end?
Dear friends, hate your sins and despise your half-heartedness. Repent that in your heart, and in your fickleness, and in your inconsistency and weak loyalty, you are so much like these men who shared this meal with Jesus.
Look more at Jesus than all of that. Remember that during your weak love, “he loved them to the end”.
It is never, never a mistake to follow this Jesus, in regard to his manner servant-hearted … and in regard to his motive, single-minded in his love for his Father.