Lord and Servant

Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

John 13:1-20 | January 5 - Sunday Morning,

Sunday Morning,
January 5
Lord and Servant | John 13:1-20
Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

Our Father in heaven, we trust that the words we have just sung were not simply words on a page or on a screen, but that they do reflect the intentions of our hearts. We want You to speak. We have heard from a myriad of voices, internet, television, newspaper, radio, friends, family, all week, and now we need to hear from You. Take Your truth, plant it deep in us. Shape and fashion us in Your likeness, that the light of Christ might be seen today in our acts of love and our deeds of faith. Speak, O Lord, fulfill in us all Your purposes for Your glory. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

I invite you to turn in your Bibles to the Gospel according to John, chapter 13. If you’re using the Bibles in front of you in the pew, it’s on page 900. I would encourage you to have your Bible turned on or open so that you can follow along, not only with the reading of God’s Word but the preaching of God’s Word, the only ultimate final authority. It’s not from this preacher, but from this book.

Started the Gospel of John over two years ago. We’ve taken breaks off during the summer and in the fall semester hit several high points in the book of Acts for 12 or 13 weeks, and now we return to the book of John. And even though we are a little over halfway through the 21 chapters, we are going to move through a little bit more quickly in hopes of finishing John by the spring and getting to the crucifixion and the resurrection for Holy Week and for Easter.

This morning we are at John chapter 13, versus 1 through 20.

“Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 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 disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around Him. 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 also 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. And you are clean, but not every one of you.’ For He knew who was to betray Him; that was why He said, ‘Not all of you are clean.'”

“When He had 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 I then, 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 to 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. I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate My bread has lifted his heel against me.’ I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am He. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives the One who sent me.'”

Today’s a big day. It’s the launch in the New Year of our new shepherding model. You’ve received information about that. Of course, our new Sunday School program, excellent teachers and the Community Connection time, rooms were overflowing. We have new assistant director for women’s ministry. We have different staff members we welcomed at the end of last year and Dr. Mike Kruger is beginning his official work with us as teacher in residence, so lots of good things, all of which I am very excited about, but I have to tell you, there is one thing that I would be remiss if I didn’t say I was more excited about. No presents please, it’s my anniversary today. Eighteen years. No, you don’t, no, you don’t need to clap, just cash gifts are fine. [laughter] It’s also Trisha’s anniversary, funny how that works. We are going to celebrate 18 years in the best way we know now this afternoon – by hopefully taking a nap. That will be our gift.

And I love my wife and I love her enough and know her well enough to know that I should stop talking about her right now, but I do just need to tell you my, my Tom Brady joke. Did you know that Tom Brady and I have a lot in common? We were both born in 1977, we are both out of the playoffs, we both spent time in Boston, we both spent time in Michigan, and we both married supermodels. That’s the [laughter] Tom Brady connection.

I will sometimes say to my wife, with all seriousness, I say, “You have no idea how much I love you.” And I hope that’s true in your marriage. If you have kids, it’s certainly true that your kids have no idea how much you love them. Same for grandkids. Maybe you feel that way about your parents, a niece, a nephew, a roommate, a friend. Is there someone in this world who does not know how much you love them?

Just as an aside, not a bad idea sometime today, this week, to tell that person, call them on the phone, tell them after the service, tell them around the dinner table, “Do you know? You have no idea how much I love you.”

Here’s the reality for every Christian in this room. You have no idea how much Jesus loves you. We know the song, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” It’s one of the very first songs that we learn if you grow up in the church.

You know Bible verses. We know, true or false, Jesus loves me. True.

But if you are a born-again Christian, it is absolutely the case that you and I do not begin to fathom how much Jesus loves us.

He loves you to the end. Do you see that, verse 1? Let me give you four ways that Jesus loves you this morning, and will prepare us to see the visible demonstration of Jesus’ love for us at the table.

Here’s the first of the four: He loves you to the end.

You see verse 1, it says “before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knew His hour had come.” Whether by supernatural insight or because opposition and unbelief were mounting as we saw in chapter 12, Jesus understands that His hour has come, that His days are numbered, that soon He will die for the sins of the world.

Now what would you do if you knew you were to die unless than a week? What would you do? Many people would turn inward, pity party, feel sorry for themselves, or maybe not a pity party, just a party hard. I am going to go and enjoy this, and I’m going to do things, no consequences, right? Maybe you’d at least cross some things off of your bucket list, “I’ve always wanted to do X.”

Well, Jesus, knowing that he had some to the end, turned his attention to others. It’s amazing. “My time has come to an end, I’m going to die by the end of this week, therefore I better love people.”

His love, verse 1, says is directed to His own. We’ve already seen in John His special love. Yes, God loves the world, He sent His Son, but there is a special covenant people, shepherd/sheep love that Jesus has. So He’s spoken to crowds, He’s spoken to well-wishers, He’s spoken to enemies, now He says “My love is directed toward you, the few of you gathered here for the Feast of the Passover, for this meal.”

In John’s Gospel, the last week of Jesus’ life focuses on the disciples, not so much on the crowd or on the conflict with the Jewish leaders, we’ll get to that with his arrest and crucifixion, but mainly with the disciples. Moving into this upper room discourse where when all of the world is falling away and their Messiah is going to do the most Messiah unlike Messiah thing possible in their minds, die, what does Jesus do? He washes their feet and He teaches them about the Trinity.

He loves them. Nearly on His way to heaven, He reaffirms that He loves those who are in the world. Now think about it… He’s going to heaven where He belongs, and He says “I love you who are in the world.” That in itself is an act of condescension. People so far beneath Him, people so far removed from Him. It says He loved them to the “telos,” and that Greek word has come even to our English word sometimes, a “telos” is a final point, a fulfillment, an end, to the uttermost.

Now what does it mean He loves them to the end? It could mean He loves them to the extreme. It could mean He loves them to the end of His life, or He loves them until the end of time. I don’t see why we have to choose among the three; it can mean all of those. He loves them to the end.

Lion King taught us that hakuna matata is a wonderful phrase. I’m telling you that this is much, much, a million times much better, wonderful phrase.

Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them until the end.

Now, sadly, in our fallen world, not every marriage goes the distance. Not every parent-child relationship is sweet. If you’ve lived long enough, you have friends who have hurt you. If you are a little bit older than that, you have friends that you were, you were BFFs before they were called BFF’s, and I know they don’t call them that anymore.

In high school, in college, you had friends, you were tight, you did things together. You signed their yearbook, said “friends forever.” You sang the Michael W. Smith song, “and a friend’s a friend forever if the Lord’s the Lord of them,” and you were going to stay in touch… And you haven’t talked to them in 20 years. You get a Christmas card, “oh, that’s what they look like. See, we don’t look so bad, hon.” That’s what you do with the Christmas cards. [laughter]

And then last, we’re fickle, we’re fragile, we’re frail. But if you ask this morning, “Jesus, do You still love me?” Jesus would say to you, “Well, is it the end? No? Well, then I still love you.” To the end. When you’ve forgotten people, when others have forgotten you, when relationships have ended or broken or been separated by death, Jesus still loves you. Loving His own in the world, He loved them to the end.

Here’s the second way we see Jesus’ great love for us: He loves them, He loves you, to the end, and He serves you to the extreme.

Again, notice the juxtaposition between what Jesus knows and what He does. We see it in verse 1. He knows His hour is coming. Most of us, if we know our hour is coming of death, we’d start getting our stuff in order, we’d start having our last best meal. When He knows His end is coming, He wants to love.

Well, look at the same juxtaposition in verse 3. What does Jesus know? He knows the Father has given all things into His hands. That’s a lot to know, that His heavenly Father has given the worlds to Him, He has given all things. What else does Jesus know? And He knows He had come from God, so He knows where He’s come from and, third, He knows where He is going.

So imagine that Jesus knows in this moment, “The Father, God the Father Almighty, will give all things into My hands. I will sit at His right hand. I will be granted all authority given to Me in heaven and on earth.” That’s what Jesus has been given. He knows where He is from, He knows where He is going, to the realms of heaven and glory, and yet He saw this not as an opportunity to finally be free from the confines of earthly humility, He saw this moment as an expression of even greater condescension.

If ever, outside of the cross, there was an example of Philippians, here it is: He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. If you had been slumming around with some people or some place so much less than you were used to, and you knew you’re about ready to go, and you’re going back to the nice place you’re from, the nice house, the nice food, the people who treat you right, the angels, you’re going back to all of that. Would you then in your final days use that as an opportunity to express even greater humility?

There’s no way around it. What Jesus does here is a scandalous act of service. He removes the outer garment. Now He’s not naked, but He’s not very well clothed, some sort of outer robe and then He has a long towel to gird His loins and probably put over His shoulder and a very long towel that could hang all the way down that He could still use it to dry His disciples’ feet. So He’s got bare chest, bare legs, covered around His waist a towel, to do the work that only the most menial of servants would undertake.

The Jewish law, not in the Old Testament but later traditions, would not even allow Jewish servants to wash the feet of Jewish masters. It was the job of women, children, or preferably gentile servants or slaves. And of course, they’re not walking around in nice, comfortable socks and really great loafers or Nikes, they’re walking around in sandals, in the dirt, everywhere they go, walking in dust, mud, muck, and mire, and so they come in. And as they would have been reclining at table, you have to imagine they’re not sitting there like da Vinci paints them in The Last Supper, at a table like we would have a table, but they would have had just a very thin, sort of dining couch, they would have been reclining, and their feet would have been fanned out from this meal, and Jesus approaches and pours the water into the basin and approaches them, kneeling down in a scandalous act of servanthood to wash their feet.

I was trying to think of an analogy and it sounds self-serving, but I just, I think of, I teach a class every semester at RTS and, you know, as friendly as you try to be, it’s a, it’s a position of authority, and they call me Professor DeYoung, Dr. DeYoung, the right reverend, right honorable, whatever happens to work for them. They have to raise their hand if they want to ask something. They take notes when I talk about things. It’s a position of authority. I assign them things; they have to do it. I grade papers, I give them a number, I give them a letter. Graduations depend upon it. I’ve read more, I have degrees more, experienced more… What if I were to go in on the last day of class, take off this nice shirt, k? We’ll just stop right there, but that’s scandalous enough, say “hey, one by one, I’m going to wash your feet.”

Dr. Kruger’s here and he’d pull me into his office pretty quick after that little stunt.

They’d feel pretty weird, I’d feel pretty weird. What am I doing? They’d look at me: “Professor, what are you doing?”

Or, or, I’m trying to think of how I would feel if an older pastor, someone who’s walked the road and lived the life and preached the sermons and says, “Kevin, I’d like to wash your feet,” or a police officer, someone who I should honor and says “I want to do this for you,” the whole thing would just feel off.

Of course we would sound like Peter here. “What are you doing, Jesus?”

Now Peter gets a lot of things wrong, but here he thinks he’s finally gotten something right. He’s probably thinking, “This is a tricky Messiah test. I’m gonna get this one right. I’m not doing so well in this club, but I’m getting this one right. It’s going to be my best point since I called Him the Christ and then I misunderstood what that meant, but here we go: Jesus, come on. No way. You’re the Master, You’re the Lord. You don’t serve us – we serve You.”

And Peter got that wrong.

Of course, in one sense the Bible says all over the place we’re slaves to Christ, we owe Him our obedience, He’s the Master. Jesus even says this later in the text, verse 13: “You call me Teacher and Lord. You’re right.” He’s not blowing up all sort of social protocol. But in another sense He is our servant. It almost doesn’t feel right to say.

Mark 10:45: “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many,” though they didn’t know it, though they didn’t understand it. In a supreme act of humiliation, Christ displayed His supreme glorification by stooping to serve.

All my life I can remember pastors giving illustrations from this movie called Babette’s Feast. Some of you have seen it, you can go watch it. Finally I saw it this past year. I stayed up late one night. Trisha and I watched it. It has subtitles, so I’m just warning you. It’s about two unmarried old women who live together in a desolate part of Denmark. And one day, I won’t give you the whole story, but I’m gonna spoiler alert here, look, it’s an old movie, it’s your fault if you haven’t seen it already [laughter], one day a French refugee shows up on their doorstep and this lady was sent by a would-be suitor back in the women’s past when they were beautiful young women, and their father was sort of a cultish-like pastor for a kind of sect there, forbade them from getting married, and so this would-be suitor sent this woman who was fleeing the Revolution in France. Well, they can’t really pay her, but they take her in as an act of hospitality, and in return she cooks for them. These are very plain people, very austere, very dour in many ways. What they don’t know is that she was a world-famous chef in Paris, and one day she receives news that for years people had been putting her number into this lottery and she won the lottery, and she won $10,000 francs, an absurd amount of money in that time, and with her vast winnings, she decides to put on a feast for the beleaguered town, and so they show scenes and all of this exotic food and fish and fowl and snails and vegetables and fruits being brought in from over the ocean from France, food brought in for this great act of humility. And so in a supreme moment of sacrifice and humility and beauty, she prepares this multi-course extravagant meal for them, and they enjoy life and food and they enjoy each other and they smile and laugh like they haven’t in decades, and they don’t really know who she is. She has stooped to serve them though they do not know all that she is or all that she is doing for them in an act of supreme humility she prepares a feast like only she could.

Jesus explains this example for them. We’ll say more about that next week when we get to the new commandment. We’ll save that for next week, because this is an example for how we ought to serve each other, but what I want us to notice this morning is the way Christ serves us.

And remember, we are in John’s Gospel, with all of this mountainous high Christology. He’s the Lógos, the Word made flesh, “In the beginning, God,” Genesis says, John says “In the beginning, the Word.” He’s the only begotten Son of the Father, the miracle worker, the One sent from the Father, the only way to the Father, the One who reveals the Father, the One who is God autotheos, God of Himself, this Christ stoops to wash His disciples’ feet. Even the feet of Judas, who will betray Him.

You and I do not begin to fathom how much Jesus loves us. He serves us to the extreme.

Third, He cleanses you from top to bottom. Peter, as we’ve already noted, gives his typical sort of impetuous response, “How dare you do this!” Jesus says, “Well, let me tell you, if I don’t wash your feet, you don’t have any part of Me.” He means you don’t have a part in my inheritance, you don’t have any of the eschatological blessings, this is all or nothing, Peter. And Peter, “ok, I got that one wrong, I’m getting this one right: Well, then, head to toe, wash all of me.” Again, Jesus says, “Nope, that’s not right, either.”

Now verse 10. Look at it. It’s a difficult verse. You see there’s a little footnote there, some manuscripts omit “except for his feet.” I do think the best of the manuscript tradition has it as the ESV translates it, including that exception, “except for his feet.” It’s confusing—the one who has bathed does not need to wash except for his feet but is completely clean. This is, I think, the point that Jesus is making. Peter says, “Well, then You need to wash all of me,” and Jesus is replying to Peter, “No, no, no, you don’t understand. It’s not about physically washing. In fact, somebody could take a bath and then be clean with everything except for their feet because their feet have to get up, and then you’ve gotta walk around, and so you get out and you still have your feet, so no, Peter, as long as your feet, metaphorically washing what is the dirtiest part of you, symbolically then you’re clean. You don’t need the whole bath; you just need Me. This isn’t about physical water, this isn’t about a physical bath. What you need is My cleansing power.”

Now, yes, it’s a symbol for top to bottom, but Jesus says “All you need for me is this once for all, non-repeatable act of purification for your sins.” The symbolism is about service, but it’s also about cleansing.

And so just as Jesus displays humility in a lesser way but still true, the disciples have an opportunity for humility. Because as uncomfortable as they were for their Lord, their Master, to unrobe Himself and stoop down and wash their feet in a basin and dry their feet with a towel around His loins, they have to be humble enough to know that they need it.

Do you know that you need to be clean? Would we put Jesus at arm’s length? Not only because it seems awkward and it’s just out of, out of proportion here for Jesus to be doing this, or would there be a part of us, “No, come on, Jesus, I don’t, I don’t exactly need this. Yeah, okay, maybe they’re a little dusty. I can take care of my own feet. I can step into my own basin.”

That’s honestly how some of us approach God. “Thank you, God. What Bible verse does it say God helps those who helps themselves? Right, it’s somewhere in the Bible, isn’t it? And cleanliness is next to godliness?” You’ll find those two verses in the same place in your Bible – nowhere.

So we think I just need a little God, yeah, I need God, I need a little Jesus, I need Jesus to kind of help me, I get off track once in a while and just checking in with you. I’m not, I’m not filthy. I’m not dirty. I don’t need a savior to disrobe and wash my feet, do I?

Will you allow yourself to be washed by the only One who can truly cleanse you?

Jesus loves you to the end. He serves you to the extreme. He cleanses you from top to bottom.

And then fourth, finally, He loves you by pointing you to Himself.

We see this in verses 18 through 20. Now they’ve been cleansed individually, but He says not all of you are clean. He knows that Judas is going to betray Him, and part of what we will find in the next scene is that they’ve had a cleansing individually and they’re about to have a cleansing corporately because by the time you get to verse 30, Judas is going to leave them at night. The traitor in their midst, they will be cleaned corporately from this filth.

Verse 2 tells us that the devil had already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot to betray Jesus. It’s not to absolve Jesus of his responsibility, but it is to emphasize just how diabolical it is when we betray Christ.

You ever notice in reading through the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, lots of exorcisms. John – none. It’s almost as if John wants us to see all of the demonic activity concentrated here into the devil’s work with Judas. Because that’s where it is concentrated, this disciple, this one who broke bread with Christ, would betray Him for 30 meager pieces of silver. Jesus says this was to fulfill Psalm 41, verse 9, “But the one who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me, the heel of his foot.” We’re not sure exactly what this image means. It could mean lifting up your heel to trip someone, lifting up a heel like you’re walking out on someone, lifting up your heel to shake the dust off your feet, or perhaps lifting up a heel like a horse would to kick. Whatever the image it, it’s not a good one. It means betrayal. That one who was close, one who shared table fellowship with you, and in that culture to share table fellowship was more than just “hey, we’re going to catch a meal together,” it was to be invited in to the most intimate setting. You’re friends now, you’re family, you’ve had a meal together, you’ve been in a home together, and now this one will lift up his heel to kick him in the gut or to walk out on him. And literally he will walk out.

But notice, even here, as He envisions the betrayal to come, Jesus is still thinking of them. He is setting them up to believe. He says, verse 19, “I’m telling you this before it takes place so that when it does you may believe that I am He.” It’s that Greek phrase again, “ego eimi,” I am. Echoes of the divine name that’s revealed to Moses in Exodus chapter 3, I am, ego eimi. I want you to see, Jesus says, “I want you to see who I really am, and so I’m telling you now what’s going to take place because I know your hard of heart, I know your hard of hearing, and when it happens, I want you to remember that I told you so you’ll believe, finally you’ll begin to get it, I am the One you have been waiting for.”

And He says in verse 20, “Whoever receives the one I send,” likely not meaning the Holy Spirit, though He will send the Spirit, but meaning the disciples, “those who receive you, receive Me, and whoever receives Me, receives the Father.”

So you don’t understand, yes, one of you will betray me, but 11 of you will be My disciples and I will send you out, you will believe in Me and you will preach in My name.

See, even here at the end of His life, He is thinking of them. Now, for most of us, all of us, it is not love to direct attention to yourself. Love is to direct attention away from yourself. But Jesus here, in the supreme act of love, not only is focused on them, but He wants them to be focused on Him. He can do that because He’s the Christ.

If you are the only one who can save, if you are the only one who can satisfy, then you ought not direct attention away from yourself. So you say, “Well, how is this loving? Jesus is saying you need to believe in Me. That’s a selfish thing.” Well, it’s not selfish, it’s the most profoundly selfless thing He can do, to serve them, to die for them, that they might believe in Him because only when they believe in His name, can they have eternal life, can they have abundant life. Jesus alone can be entirely other-centered while at the same time pointing everything back to Himself.

We have a stunning picture in John 13 of love without limit. What did that theologian say back in the 70s, “I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that,” or was that the 80s?

Well, there’s nothing that Jesus won’t do, save for sin. He loves to the very last breath. Washing feet was an act of hospitality in the ancient world. You see it often in the Old Testament, more than you realize. The three guests who visited Abraham, the angels with Lot in Genesis 19, the servant going to find Rebecca in Genesis 24, the brothers when they are welcomed by Joseph in Egypt in Genesis 43, all of them talk about go, welcome, wash your feet. But they’re self-washing, or there’s a servant to wash their feet.

It’s like saying, “So glad that you can stay for the weekend. There’s a shower up in your room. Go ahead if you need to freshen up.”

But the only example of a superior washing the feet of an inferior is found here in John 13. Nowhere else is it attested in Jewish literature, in Greco-Roman literature, do you have a superior washing the feet of an inferior.

Listen, if you do not know Christ, or you’re realizing this morning that you don’t really know Him like you thought, turn to Him. You don’t know that you have tomorrow. Turn to Him today. Humble yourself. Your feet are dirtier than you think, and Christ can wash them cleaner than you can imagine.

If you are a Christian, ask yourself this question: How ought my life to be different knowing how much Jesus loves me? That Jesus would do this for you, that Jesus has shown himself even more of a suffering servant. Not only to stoop down and wash feet, but to die the ignominious death on a cross for sinners like you. Shouldn’t that matter in how you live your life? Set you free from feeling like you need to prove yourself to everybody, feeling like you’re not anything, anybody. What you do, what you live for, the sort of kindness, the grace that you show toward others, knowing what Jesus has done for you, how might our lives be different if we began to grasp just a little bit more in 2020 how much Jesus loves us.

Every Christian in this room underestimates how much Jesus loves them. I do, you do.

I’ll finish with this word from Calvin: “Though we think that we are at a distance from Christ, yet we ought to know that He is looking at us for He loveth His own who are in the world. We have no reason to doubt that He still bears the same affection for us, which He retained here at the very moment of His death.”

Do you know how much Jesus loves you?

Let’s pray. Our gracious heavenly Father, would you by Your Spirit not only reveal these things, but implant them deep in our hearts that we would know, that we would believe, that we would experience, that we would feel the love that you have for us in Christ. In His name we pray. Amen.