Cleansed for service in the Kingdom of God

That you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God

Scripture Readings

  • Psalm 133
  • John 13:1-17


Dear friends in the Lord Jesus Christ,

Over the last month or so the Word of God spoke to us from the Gospel of John.  As over-arching theme for this series we take the verse in John 20:32-33

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30–31, NIV)

I invite to have you Bible open so see something of the wonderful structure of this Gospel. The opening statement of John’s Gospel is:

…the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. (John 1:2)

Our Lord in John 12 cried out with a loud voice on that last day of his public ministry (after this He would not address the crowds anymore):

“Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. (John 12:44–45, NIV)

Chapter 1:5, 10 and 11 writes about the tragedy of mankind’s stubborn unbelief born out of sin.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome (known) it. (John 1:5, NIV)

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. (John 1:10, NIV)

He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. (John 1:11, NIV)

They rejected Jesus as Messiah and as Son of God, and as such God.

Now, turn with me to the end of John 12.  Now verse 37

Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. (John 12:37, NIV)

1John 1 declares:

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. (John 1:9, NIV)

John 12:46 says:

I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. (John 12:46, NIV)

Then, in chapter 13 we find Jesus, the Son of God, with his disciples in the Upper Room.  His public ministry has ended.  The world is outside.  Now our Lord is with his disciples.  Only a handful, of which there are the Twelve Apostles.

Did Jesus fail in his mission?

The question now is, was Jesus a failure? The world rejected Him, they did not know Him, and they did not receive Him.  There are millions upon millions of people who lived through the ages who did not believe and receive Jesus as the Son of God.  There are millions, if not billions, even in our day who still reject Him.  So, why did Jesus come into this world?  Did He die for nothing? Or was his cross ineffective?  Is the power of darkness still in control?

The answer of course is absolutely, “NO!”

In John 17:12 we find our Lord on his knees before his Father, interceding for his disciples:

While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. (John 17:12, NIV)

Jesus also declared:

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give sthem eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27–30, NIV)

What is “the world”?

John 13:1 reads

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. (John 13:1, NIV)

78 Times John uses the term “world” in his Gospel. What does John mean by “the world”?  God, through Jesus Christ his Son, created the world, the cosmos, the universe.

The world did not receive Him; this means the people, or the human beings living in the world did not receive Him.

Yet God loved the world and gave his only Son. John says Jesus, the son of God, “… loved his own who were in the world”.  1 John 4:14

And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. (1 John 4:14, NIV)

The word “world” in this verse does not mean all people, or every individual of this world see and believe the Saviour of the world.  It refers to the those in the world who actually believe in Him.  World here is a collective term.  When I say the people of Wee Waa have one dentist, I don’t mean that all people in Wee Waa go to the one dentist; I just state that fact that there is one dentist in Wee Waa and that some go to him for treatment.  There is one Saviour for the world, but not all in the world listen to Him and are saved.  That is a fact.

This means that not everyone in the world belongs to Christ.  Our Lord declared very clearly:

All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. (John 6:37, NIV)

He also says:

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws (enables) them, and I will raise them up at the last day. (John 6:44, NIV)

From them He would lay down his life, for they are his sheep.  Other sheep does not listen to his voice.  John 1:13 describes why:

[He gave them the right to be ] children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:13, NIV)

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. (John 10:28–29, NIV)

They are the “his own in the world” mentioned in John 13:1.

The “world” has another meaning: those who oppose the Kingdom of Christ are of this word. They are in rebellion against Christ. John writes:

The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. (1 John 3:1, NIV)

Our Lord spoke to his disciples as a group in the Upper Room and the last words recorded in this room were:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NIV)

How did Jesus show his love to his own?

I believe it was the Wednesday night, the night of the preparation for the Passover, that we find Jesus and his disciples in the Upper Room.  John does not record what the other Gospels record about how they got in the Upper Room, how Peter and John prepared for the meal, how they followed the man carrying the jar to his house and that they prepared the guest room.  But John 13 begins with these words:

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end [or: He showed them the full extend of his love] (John 13:1, NIV)

This verse is an introduction for the rest of the Gospel.  What follows now is all Jesus would do to to confirm to them that He is the Son of God sent into the world to be lifted up like the serpent in the desert: He would die to take their sins upon Him.  He would promise them that He would give them what they ask in His Name as they carry out their task as disciples in the world. He would promise that He would go to the home of his Father to prepare a home for them, and then return. He would pray for them and intercede before the Father to be kept safe from this world. He would promise them the Holy Spirit.  He would be betrayed, denied, arrested, ridiculed, and nailed to the cross of shame.  And then He would raise on the third day to bring victory over death. And then He would ascend into heaven with the promise to return to make everything new.

All these things were things He showed and demonstrated to them his love and the extend of his love for them.

The glorious Son of God, rejected by the world, hated by the world, in the Upper Room with a handful of believers whom the Father gave Him and enabled to believe.  There in the Upper Room with his own, do we find Him with his disciples at his feet as they learn from Him?  No, we find the Saviour, the Son of God, the One who created the world, the One who knew and had all heaven could give Him, yet He gave it away and did not cling to it, but emptied Himself of his eternal glory, his disciples not at his feet, but He at their feet.

The most important lesson

With his public ministry now over, Jesus Christ is preparing his disciples for service.  He would empower them with the Holy Spirit and a bit less than two months, at his ascension into glory to the Father 40 days after He rose from the dead, He sent them out:

He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24:46–48, NIV)

You are witnesses to the world.  Through his church, empowered by the Holy Spirit and the Word, the Son of God would complete his purpose to reach everyone called and enabled by the Father so that, on the last day, there will be no none lost for which Jesus died.

What He did in the Upper Room as they prepared for the Feast of the Unleavened Bread and the Passover, was what the lowest of slaves did to visitors when they arrived for a meal.  And yet, listen to verse 3:

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; (John 13:3, NIV)

Why would the Son of God, who had all things in his power, knowing that He is going to receive the glory He once had with the Father do what He was about to do?

He took off his upper clothes.  Who they saw then was not their rabbi or teacher.  Stripped to the most basic of the lowest of slaves, He took a towel and wrapped it around his waist, He took as basis poured water in it and began to wash the feet of his disciples.  Slaves did this because the dusty roads and streets would soil one’s feet, especially waring open sandals.  Then people reclined at the table as they sat on the floor; the chances are that ones feet might be close someone elses body.

Twice in this paragraph there is mention of Judas who would betray Jesus.  In verse 2 we read:

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. (John 13:2, NIV)

And then again in verse 11:

For He knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. (John 13:11, NIV)

In the midst of weak and trembling disciples, who still had so much to learn about trust and faith in their Lord on the one hand, and the devil on the other, Jesus the Son of God was on his knees washing the feet of all of them – Judas included.

If ever there was a hardened heart before God, it must have the heart of Judas.  He saw the Messiah perform miracles, He hear Him pray, He heard Him teach, He saw his wash his feet – and yet, he yielded to the enemy, became an instrument in the hand of Satan and betrayed Jesus, the Saviour of the world.  Let’s learn from Judas and his service to the father of the lie: once he is finished with you, there is only one destination: death!

To have part in Christ

Jesus got to Peter who refused that Jesus wash his feet.  “You shall never wash my feet!”  “Unless I wash you, you have no part in Me,” was our Lord’s reply.

Earlier Jesus said to the crowd following Him after He multiplied the bread:

Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” (John 6:53–54, NIV)

These words of our Master does not refer to the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. It refers to the fact that Jesus came from the Father to do the will of the Father and that those who believe in Him as the bread of God from heaven, will receive eternal life.

Here the implication is the same:  Jesus is the one who did not come to be served but to serve.  He did not come for those who not sick, but for those who need a doctor.  His mission was to seek and to save the lost.

The Master at your feet Peter is not begging you to be saved, but is the King of Heaven who came to gave Himself a ransom for the lost.  If He does not wash you, you have no part in Him.  This also implies that as the Son of God came to serve, those washed by Him must be ready to serve as He has served.  Understanding this, Peter wanted to be washed all over!

What follows tells us something about being justified in the works and grace of Jesus and him alone, and the daily walk in the Lord to be constantly washed, again and again.

“Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” (John 13:10, NIV)

Those who are Christ’s are totally justified men and women, but they do need constant cleansing from their repeated defilement by sin in order that the fellowship they have with the Father and with the Son might not be broken.

He finished washing their feet, clothed Himself again and returned to his place.  He is not the slave anymore: He is the Son of God.  What He had just done is a summary of his mission.  He then said:

“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. (John 13:13–14, NIV)

He is Lord, a title only reserved for God through the Scriptures.  He washed the feet of his disciples, and said, “You should wash one another’s feet.”

He set an example that we should do

What a lesson!  The Lord will use his disciples, his church, to conquer the world with his Gospel.  But fundamental to their attitude, now tasked with this glorious privilege, lies servanthood.

And have we not forgotten this!  We can so easily take the important places, we so easily assume a position of influence, but when it comes to servanthood, we shrink.  Schisms in churches ripped the heart of the church in two by people who just couldn’t play second fiddle.  May God rescue us from pride and conceitedness.  That we return to the prayer of our Lord, “Thy Kingdom come!”  Only then do I understand my kingdom does not even exist.  I am a slave to the One who took me out of darkness and by grace put me in his Kingdom of light.


Paul writes:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3–4, NIV)

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 26 May 2013


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