This sermon is number 4 in a series of 8
Portions From John - Part 4
"Aiming High By Stooping Low"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2011 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Good evening, good to be back. We're turning in our Bibles tonight to John's gospel chapter 13. We were in John chapter 10, I know, this morning - and don't worry, I can count! This is the sequence which I've been given these chapters in, because the chapters we deal with in the morning lend themselves more to evangelistic themes in the gospel, and so it's a little bit out of sequence - but I can understand why that is, there's more teaching here tonight particularly for believers. So we're back in John 11 next Sunday morning preaching the gospel, but tonight we're turning to John 13.
Now just by way of introduction before we read: John 13 through to John 17 comprises what's called 'The Upper Room Ministry', but it's effectively a farewell from our Lord Jesus to His beloved disciples - and of course it ends with that great intercessory prayer in chapter 17 when He prays for His own. But we're looking tonight in chapter 13 at an object lesson that they would never, ever forget: the Lord Jesus washes the disciples' feet.
So that's how He opens this instruction in the Upper Room - and in chapter 13 we're reading down to verse 17 from verse 1: "Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. And supper being ended, the devil having 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 to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, 'Lord, are You washing my feet?'. Jesus answered and said to him, 'What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this'. Peter said to Him, 'You shall never wash my feet!'. Jesus answered him, 'If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me'. Simon Peter said to Him, 'Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!'. Jesus said to him, 'He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you'. For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, 'You are not all clean'. So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, 'Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, 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 should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them'".
When we come to chapter 13 in John's Gospel it is effectively 'Countdown To Calvary' - we are in the last week of the life, of the earthly ministry, of our Lord Jesus. Some churches call it 'Holy Week'. We're probably on the day that is Thursday of that week - there's a bit of debate, but we'll say it's Thursday. The disciples have met together in the Upper Room to observe the Passover, and we read at the beginning of the chapter: 'Jesus knew that His hour was come'. Now, more than any other of the four Gospels, John emphasises that Jesus is on a heavenly timetable - His Father's will. We read in chapter 2 and verse 4 at the incident of the marriage feast of Cana, Jesus said to His mother: 'My hour has not yet come'. In chapter 7 in another incident, and chapter 8 as well, He says again: 'My hour has not yet come'. Then when we come to chapter 12, if you look at it, and verse 23, we read: 'Jesus answered them, saying, 'The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified''. We read Him saying in verse 1 of chapter 13, our text, that the hour had come - and then when we come to John 17, that great intercessory prayer, and verse 1, it says: 'Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: 'Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You''.
What was this divinely appointed hour? Well, very simply: it was the hour in which the Lord Jesus would be glorified, He would be crucified, suffer death, be buried, three days later resurrect, and then ascend to heaven. From a human point, it seemed anything but glory - it was suffering - but from the divine vantage point, God saw it as glorious. The Lord's earthly ministry would be over, in close to 24 hours He'd be hanging on a cross. Though the cross is not mentioned in this portion of Scripture, it casts a shadow over every word - not least this object lesson of washing the disciples' feet. I want you to notice this and see the parallels with the washing of the disciples' feet, and what the Lord Jesus Christ would do for us as His children at Calvary.
Look, it says in verse 2 that Jesus rose from supper - He rose from a place of comfort and rest, just as He rose from his throne in heaven, a place of comfort and rest, to come to this earth to be our Saviour. Look on, it says He laid aside His garments, He took off His covering just as He laid aside His glory in coming to this earth, and took off the heavenly covering. It says He took a towel and girded Himself, verse 4 - He was ready to work, just as He had laid aside His glory, and then took upon Himself the form of a servant and came ready to work for God and on the behalf of mankind. Then it says He poured water, verse 5, into a basin - He was ready to clean, just as He poured out His blood to cleanse us from guilt and the penalty of sin. Then in verse 12 it says He sat down again after washing their feet, just as He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, the right hand of the Father, after cleansing us from sin and having risen again from the grave.
Is it any wonder John began this chapter, ending verse 1 with these words: 'He loved them to the end'. Literally it means, 'He loved them to the outermost', to an infinite degree He loved them! He demonstrated this love by washing their feet, but that was pointing - surely, was it not - to Calvary. He gave Himself completely in this object lesson. I mean, He could have taken a wet flannel and just wiped the dust off their feet, but He didn't. He gave Himself completely to this act to indicate how, going to Calvary, He was giving Himself wholly to the Father's will for God's glory and for us. It's wonderful, isn't it?
Now it's easy here to celebrate the cross redemptively - all the great truths of our salvation - and fail to appreciate practically what Jesus was teaching in the washing of the disciples' feet. What I mean by that is: Jesus links the cross with service. I have to say that I find most of the time in the New Testament when there is teaching on the cross it always has a practical application. I'll give you two examples - Philippians 2: 'Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus', and then it talks about the humiliation of the Lord Jesus and His condescension, and how we ought to condescend to one another, how we ought to forbear and think of others as greater than ourselves, and serve them and be long-suffering with them. So it's connected - there was feuding in the church of Philippi, and that was the point that Paul was making, but he uses the cross. Then in 2 Corinthians 8 and verse 9 we see exactly the same: 'He who was rich, for our sake became poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich' - and Paul says, 'you know the grace of the Lord Jesus'. If you look at the context, he's exhorting these Christians to give money, to give money to those saints who were in need. Now we would think that, perhaps, abhorrent, to use the cross as a motivation to give money - but Paul used the wonder of the sacrifice of Jesus in a very practical way: how it ought to affect our lives as Christians.
Now, as we read here we read that Jesus knew many things here. He knew Judas was going to betray Him, verse 2. He knew that the Father, verse 3, had given all things into His hand. There are great profound truths in this portion of Scripture that we don't have time to go into - but what I want us to concentrate on is this great object lesson of washing the disciples' feet, and I want us to see what the Holy Spirit has to teach us this evening through this. First of all this object lesson teaches us a lesson in security, that's the first thing I want to bring to your attention. If you look at verses 1 to 3, you will see that the emphasis is on what Jesus knew. He knew that His hour was come, He knew that Judas would betray Him, He knew that the Father had given all things into His hand. Then in verses 4 and 5, the emphasis is on what Jesus did. So, because of what Jesus knew, He did what He did in washing their feet and ultimately going to the cross.
Now think of this: Jesus knew that the Father had given all things into His hand, He knew who He was, He knew where He came from, He knew where He was going - and so He enters into this act, and ultimately on the way to Calvary, not as a mere victim of fate, but as a victor and the master of His own destiny. It smacks of Him being in sovereign control of this hour. Now this knowledge that Jesus had relates directly, I believe, to this object lesson. Here's the reason: we often think like this, do we not, when we look at this incident, 'Wow! Look at who He was, the Son of God in flesh', and we marvel at what He did, who He was and what He did washing the dirty feet of the disciples. From such a height He stooped so low for this deed! Now that's true of course, but there is a great danger of missing something else very important when we focus on that. The title I was given here tonight is: 'Aiming High By Stooping Low', and there's no doubt about that - that is what this passage is teaching us. But have you ever considered that here we have One who was stooping so low because of how high He was? Let me repeat that: He was able to stoop so low because of how high He was.
Let me explain: He knew that the Father had given all things to Him, that's what John says. He knew what His destiny was - and if you have all things in your hand, you'll have no problem picking up a towel. Perhaps I'm not explaining myself? Let me apply it like this: have you ever considered that pride, the thing we all have a problem with - and some of us, including myself, have enough to sink a battleship - pride actually comes from insecurity, have you ever considered that? You might say: 'Well, that sounds contradictory, because I would have thought pride came from a sense, or even an overt sense of security, self security'. Well, listen carefully to what I'm about to say: I believe the desire to exalt oneself comes essentially from a dissatisfaction with oneself - so you have to overcompensate, if you like. You see, the tragedy of pride is that security can never be found outside of God. Lucifer find that out, didn't he? He would exalt himself, and he was cast down. He wasn't satisfied to get his satisfaction, his identity, his meaning, his security, from God - so he sought it in self, but you cannot find security in self, and then you become insecure. But when you find security in Christ, and you realise who you are in Christ, and what you have in Christ - you've nothing to prove any more, because you're secure not in yourself or your achievements, but in who Christ is and what He has done! You're satisfied in Him, so you don't need to find satisfaction in yourself or your own achievements. You know that you have been born of God, you know that you are in Christ, you know that you have all things, you know that you are going to God - so whatever you do, whether it's something grand and God uses you in a mighty way, or whether it's something menial or humble, it doesn't affect your worth because you do not derive your worth from what you do but from who you are in Christ!
Are you getting this? So I know that it is marvellous and awe-inspiring to see the stoop from the heights which He stooped to do what He did in this task of washing the disciples' feet, but I want you to consider tonight that actually it was the heights of security that He was in that enabled Him, with confidence and security in God, to take such a low step. You see, the irony is: in God's economy it is through humility that we show our security. To resist humility and be proud and assert oneself shows that we are insecure in our relation to God. I haven't got time to go into this, but if you want an example of this you see it in 1 Corinthians chapter 3. Corinth was a church that was broken up into factions because of schisms that took place over saints that followed particular personalities that enamoured them, preachers that they liked, teachers, Christian leaders. We read in 1 Corinthians 3, listen carefully as I read it to you, 21 through to 23, 1 Corinthians 3:21: 'Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours' - do you hear that? You don't need to boast in anyone who's particularly gifted or profound, because all things are yours. Listen: 'Whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come; all are yours. And you are Christ's, and Christ is God's'. So he's saying: don't find your identity in the personality that you're following, while you get a sense of satisfaction because, 'Paul, he's got the brains', and 'Apollos, he's the gifted orator', and 'Cephas, he's got the charisma' - people like him, he's a man's man. Don't derive your identity from that, derive your identity from God, what you have in Christ. Christ is God's, and therefore all things are yours - do you see it?
When we give in to pride and a competitive spirit we show that we are insecure in our relationship with God. If you have to prove something, you're insecure - but if you have nothing to prove, you can wash someone's feet. It's an object lesson in security, but see something else: it's an object lesson - as we have obviously stated already - in humility. The Jewish laws and traditions said that a teacher or Rabbi had no right to expect his disciples to wash his feet. They might be his understudies, but it was wrong for him to expect such menial service of them. It was customary that the lowest servant of the house would wash the guests as they entered into a house - not all the time, but particularly for formal meals, just like this Passover meal would have been. Now, look at verse 2, it appears that midway through the meal Jesus rose from the supper to wash their feet. Now the Authorised Version and the New King James which I'm reading tonight says: 'And supper being ended', but other texts actually say, 'And during supper', during the meal. If you go down to verse 4, that seems to be borne out by that verse, 'rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself'.
Irrespective, what is very clear is that they ate this meal with dirty feet. You say: 'Well, so what?'. Well, they ate this meal, most likely, if it was the Passover, around a U-shaped table that was very low in height. They didn't put their knees under the table, it wasn't high enough. They didn't sit in chairs, they sat on the floor - in fact, they reclined to eat the meat. You may have seen it in pictures - but by reclining it meant that your feet, at such a low height of a table, would be very close to the person beside you eating. In the dust of the desert of the Middle East, you can imagine how dirty feet would become. So it appears that they had started eating and they were halfway through the meal - why didn't any of the other disciples wash the feet of the rest? Why didn't a disciple do this first? Why was it left to Jesus? Well, we've read from verse 1 that Jesus knew many things, didn't He? One thing He knew was the pride that was deep down in the heart of these disciples.
Don't misunderstand me, I think that any of them would have washed Jesus' feet - but they couldn't have washed His without washing the others, so no one got their feet washed. Someone put it like this: 'It would have been an intolerable admission of inferiority among these fellow competitors for the top positions in the disciples' hierarchy'. What they mean by that is, if you look at Luke's gospel chapter 23 - don't look at it now - but it wasn't minutes after this event that the disciples were arguing among themselves who was the greatest! Can you imagine that? They would wash Jesus' feet if they didn't have to wash the other boys!
It was an object lesson in humility. Now, the more I think about this act, the more profound it becomes. I cannot share with you tonight in the time we have what is in this portion of Scripture, but I believe the problem is: all we ever seem to do about this portion of Scripture is think about it. If you look with me please to verse 13: 'You call me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, 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 should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them'. We think about it, we preach about it, we spiritualise it - but Jesus says: 'Blessed are you if you do these things'.
Now, I'm going to give some of you a shock: I want to wash someone's feet here tonight! How do you feel about that? Are any of you at this moment feeling a little bit of panic? My wife might! 'Who is he going to pick? I hope it's not me!' - why wouldn't you want it to be you? Why? Would it be that you might be embarrassed, someone washing your feet? Why would you be embarrassed by letting someone serve you? I'll give you the answer, the answer is: pride - that's why! To be served by another often demonstrates, in our warped mentality, that we need others - and we don't want to demonstrate that we need others, we want to demonstrate that we don't need others! It makes us feel vulnerable when others serve us at times and, plus, we have been conditioned through education and through media and through society to be self-sufficient. It feeds our ego, our self-satisfaction.
Now I'm serious, I'm not just using an illustration - I'm going to pick one of you tonight. I'm just looking around! You're saying: 'Not me!', aren't you? 'Don't pick me!' - are you going to crawl under the seat? 'I don't want to do it! The preacher washing my feet?'. What if Jesus was the one looking around to pick someone to wash their feet? How would you feel about that, never mind the preacher. Jesus, the Son of God, how would you feel then? Well, how did Peter feel? Look at verse 6, He came to Simon Peter, and Simon Peter said to Him: 'Lord, are You washing my feet?'. Peter said in verse 8: 'You shall never wash my feet!' - and verse 8 is a strong double negative, Kenneth Wuest translates it like this, 'You shall by no means wash my feet, no, never!'. Well, I'm going to wash somebody's feet - who will I pick?
Well, I'll put you all out of your misery, I've already asked Trevor Alexander to come up to the front here! He's going to come, he's going to bring a basin - now, did the Lord not say 'Do this'? I want you to consider, if it was you sitting on the seat, and I was doing this to you, how you would feel. I want you to think about that, really, as Trevor comes.
Now let me just say before I do this that there is the potential of this being humorous, because when we're embarrassed, and when we feel awkward and other people feel awkward for you, we tend to laugh things off - but I want you to resist the humour tonight and try to appreciate what this actually means. OK? [David washes Trevor's feet]
Now, I know all of you couldn't see that, but you got the gist. Trevor, I only want to ask you one question: how does it feel to have your feet washed?
Trevor: 'I suppose, to see you get down on your knees and to, you know, put feet in the water, it's unusual and also quite humbling - and perhaps a bit embarrassing as well, especially with all these people here!'.
That's all I want to ask you Trevor, thank you for obliging. Now, Trevor said it was humbling. Many years ago I visited India, and some of the dear Indian people - very poor, poor people - they got the whole team who were away in India, lined them up, and did what I have just done to Trevor. It was the most humbling experience of my life - these poor Indian people washing my feet. That's exactly the words that I used to express that experience: how humbling it was. Now if you ask me - I was doing it here tonight, that's the first I've ever done that - how I feel, the answer is exactly the same: I feel humbled. It was hard to do that, it takes boldness - not timidity - to be humble in an active way. Don't think it's timidity or fear, it's much easier standing behind the pulpit here, and above contradiction almost! It's very different than formality. I wonder how the Lord felt? Did He feel humbled? Of course He didn't, because He had no pride from which to be humbled from, had He? He was humble, He was there, He was it!
It's very powerful, isn't it? What an illustration of Philippians 2 verses 1 and following, but we'll read from verse 4: 'Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross'. Now listen, put all this together for a moment: the Father had put all things into the Son's hands, and yet He picked up a basin and a towel, and that was printed indelibly upon the consciousness of the disciples. Eventually they got the message, because in 1 Peter 5 and verse 5 we read that Peter said to elders, by the way, and all of the assembly: 'Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility'. The scholars believe that this idea of clothing yourself with humility is exactly the same terminology that is thought of when Jesus girded Himself with the towel to wash His disciples' feet. That's what you leaders ought to be doing, you're meant to be servants washing feet. Peter went on to say: 'God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble' - as someone put it, 'He resists the proud, but can't resist the humble!'.
Oh, there are so many lessons from this object lesson - particularly in relation to humility. Here's another one that I want to share with you tonight, listen carefully: you must learn to be served by Jesus before you can learn to serve Him properly. Have you got that? You must learn to be served by Jesus before you can learn to serve Him properly. One of the signs that you are learning this is if you let Jesus serve you through His body, that is, the church, other believers. Do you take service well when others serve you, or do you react proudly? Some of you might be familiar with William MacDonald, many of his writings are brilliant, and a preacher of the word of God, outstanding expositor of the Bible. When he first went to the Lord's work, he went out looking to God alone for his needs, and he believed - as many do, and you know this - that God would move the saints to touch their hearts to give and to provide for his need. But this was a real problem for William MacDonald, because he served in the Navy - I think it was - and then he went into business, and he was a very successful businessman. In business he had developed a work ethic, and he believed that whatever you needed, you got yourself, with your own graft and the sweat of your brow. So this idea that you went out and didn't earn a living, as such, but waited on God to touch the hearts of saints to give you finance - he felt a wee bit guilty about it. It didn't sit right. In fact I heard it recently described - by an unbeliever, I have to add - as tramping through life living off charity with religion as an excuse - very nice!
Pride really has a hangup receiving unconditionally, doesn't it? Some of us even have problems receiving a compliment. We don't realise that that's not humility - provided we don't let it puff our heads up - but we imagine that there's nothing, at times, to compliment. Well, anyway, to go back to MacDonald for a moment. On one occasion a lady, after a meeting, gave MacDonald a gift. Within the gift, the envelope, there was a poem, and this is how the poem went. Listen carefully, it says:
'I hold him great who, for Love's sake
Can give, with generous, earnest will, -
But he who takes for Love's sweet sake,
I think I hold more generous still'.
'He who takes for Love's sweet sake. I think I hold more generous still'. You see, if you're going to minister effectively for Jesus, you've got to learn what it is to receive service and ministry from Jesus, and from His body, the church. Temple, the preacher, said: 'Man's humility does not begin with the giving of service, it begins with the readiness to receive it - for there can be much pride and condescension in our giving of service, but there is very little pride at times when we receive it'. It's hard for pride to receive ministry of this kind.
It's an object lesson in security, you need to be secure to minister - knowing what you are in Christ and what you have in Christ. It's an object lesson in humility, and part of that is that you have to learn to take from God's hand before you can ever give - because we have nothing to give of ourselves anyway, until we have taken from Him. Peter bore that out, didn't he? Because it's also an object lesson in fellowship, verse 8, Jesus said to Peter after he protested, 'No! Never wash my feet': 'If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me'. Jesus was using a term in Greek, 'louo', which means 'to bathe, to bath, to immerse'. You must allow Jesus to wash you completely, and it's in the perfect tense which means this is settled once and for all and you never need to be washed again. This is salvation, this is regeneration, where you come into union with God through Jesus Christ. Judas hadn't got this, that's why Jesus said at the end of verse 10: 'You are clean', Peter, 'but not all of you are clean' 'You are not all clean', He says, repeats again in verse 11.
Are you washed tonight? Is there someone here that is not cleansed of your sin? But once that happens (and it only has to happen once), because we walk in a defiled and wicked world, we get dirty feet, and you must have your feet washed before the Lord - spiritually speaking. Verse 10, look at it all: 'He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you'. So let me try and sum it up: Jesus uses this word 'louo' for regeneration, where we get washed completely clean of our sins, but here in verse 10 He uses the word 'nipto', which means 'wash a part of the body', for this washing of the feet. He's saying this: 'You're clean, cleansed and forgiven, when you come to Christ in repentant faith, trusting in Him alone' - but because you get dirty and defiled as you walk through this life, you need your feet washed. So if the bathing is union, this washing of the feet is communion. The bath speaks of being cleansed of the penalty of sin, and the feet being washed by the basin speaks of being cleansed of the pollution of sin we pick up every day. It's all of what John talks about in 1 John chapter 1, when he says: 'If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and we make God a liar. But if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness' - but we must walk in the light, as He is in the light. We must walk before Him to have our feet cleansed, and the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, goes on cleansing us of all sin.
Now that's evangelical doctrine about justification, and about communion and fellowship, but consider this - linking all of this together tonight - consider: true humility grows out of a constant relationship with the Father through the Son. I believe there is an allusion here to the fact that unless our fellowship with God is right, our fellowship with others won't be. Jesus said to Peter: 'Peter, yes, you have to be washed all over', and he said 'Wash me from head to toe!', and Jesus told him 'You're already clean, but you have to have your feet washed'. He's teaching them: 'Unless you receive ministry from Me, unless you allow Me to serve you - and sometimes I will serve you through the ministry of the church, the body - unless you do that, you'll not be in a fit position to minister to others'.
You see, when we're not right with God, we're not right with our brothers and sisters. Genesis chapter 3 teaches that, where God's relationship with man was broken through man's sin, and then in chapter 4 man's relationship with his brother was broken because of sin. You've got to get your fellowship with God right, and unless you're fellowshipping and relating right with him, you'll not relate right with others. The church today desperately needs this lesson on humility, because it is filled with competitive spirit, criticism, jealousy, backbiting, bitterness! The only sign that that is, is that we're not right with God! We're not receiving from God. I want you to consider this, and I believe this is a word from God to someone, or more: I consider Trevor a friend, but Jesus was at the feet of a traitor! It doesn't say 'He washed everyone's feet except Judas, named Iscariot'. Is there someone who has betrayed you, and the Holy Spirit of God is calling you to wash their feet? Wow! Peter wasn't ready to minister to others because he hadn't learned to receive ministry from the Lord yet. Are you not able to minister to others effectively because you haven't been cleansed of bitterness, you haven't been freed of a competitive spirit?
What an object lesson on security and humility and fellowship - but see finally, just to sum up: it's an object lesson in service. As a whole, the Romans in their culture had no use for humility. The Greeks despised manual labour - but do you see what Jesus does? He exalts these virtues to the highest place, and He tells them: 'Yes, you aim high by stooping low. You climb the ladder in the kingdom of God by going down'. He's teaching them that the highest rank in the power structure of the kingdom of God is the servant! It's an object lesson in service. Warren Weirsbe says: 'The world asks, 'How many people work for you?'; but the Lord asks, 'For how many people do you work?''.
But more than all that, look at verse 17, Jesus says: 'If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them'. If you mark your Bible, you should maybe mark the word 'do' - especially between 13 to 17, these active words. Jesus is saying: 'You will be truly blessed, you will be happy if you do these things'. Listen to what He's telling us: true happiness - you know that thing that everybody out there is searching for, irrespective of their background, their class, their creed; everybody's wanting to be happy, even you. You want to be happy, don't you? Well, blessedness comes, true happiness comes through humble service. Blessed are you if you do these things! Now listen to what He's saying: 'You cannot be happy if you will not be humble!'.
I think I said here once before that you cannot be happy unless you are holy, but equally: you cannot be happy if you will not be holy, but you will not be holy if you will not be humble. The order here is important in the mind of God as He imparts it to us: first there is humbleness, then there is holiness, and then there is happiness! What are you trying to find your happiness in? You must first be humble before God and before men, then you will be holy, and then you will be happy. Now I was thinking about this, and I thought to myself: isn't it ironic that when we think of Christian service, you know, Christian work, full-time work, we in the church tend to think of elevation, don't we? Don't we? An exaltation - I mean, be honest, don't we? Someone being made a pastor, or being made an elder, or going to the mission field, they are promoted in a spiritual sense to another level - that is exactly the opposite of what Jesus is saying here. He is teaching us: 'You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that He who was rich, for your sakes became poor - and He came to serve'. It was because He knew who He was, it was because of what He knew; it was because He was secure in God, and in the will of God for this hour, that He could do it. A Malay proverb puts it like this: 'The fuller the ear of rice grain, the lower it bends' - the fuller the ear, the lower it bends.
'Wouldst thou be great, then lowly serve;
Wouldst thou go up, go down;
But go as low as e'er you will,
The Highest, has gone lower still'.
He was made sin for us - but here, I come back to this: we could celebrate this redemptively, and that's wonderful and we've touched on that, but it's practical - you must do it! If you want to be blessed, you must do it. You can be moved by this meeting tonight, and I daresay you might have been moved seeing that tonight - I was moved doing it, Trevor was moved receiving it - it's a very, very sacred moment in a sense. We can be inspired and stirred emotionally, and even spiritually, by a portion of Scripture like this - but you will not be truly blessed until you do it!
Now you say, 'David, what are you saying? That we have to wash everybody's feet now, is that what you're proposing?'. Some might say: 'Do you not know that this is a rite and an ordinance in the Roman Catholic Church, and in the Orthodox Church, and certain sects of Christendom do this, and we wouldn't have anything to do with them'. Well, look, I'm not interested in any of that, all I'm interested in is John 13 - but it might be a good exercise once in a while to do this, just to remind ourselves what actually happened. But I don't believe the Lord is enshrining that this ought to be a thing always being done in the church, He's speaking to us of a principle of serving one another. This was a cultural form that happened, and the most menial servant did this in the home, but whatever it is today to do tasks that we at times may feel are beneath us, to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, we must serve one another in that manner!
Now some people spiritualise how we do this, wash one another's feet, and they say: 'Well, it's washing through the Word, as you share the Word with Christians who have been defiled and backslidden, and are out of fellowship with God, and then you renew them', and so on and so forth. Well, that may be an application, but let's not go against what Jesus says here: 'Do', He says, 'Do'. If you look at John's other writings, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John - what are they all about? There's a lot of truth in them, but they're also about love - and if you see your brother in need, and shut up your heart of compassion against him, how dwells the love of God in you?
Now I'm almost finished, but we need to ask a question: when did the disciples learn to actually do this? We heard the Lord exhort them 'Do this to one another. You have seen Me do it, do it to one another'. We saw in 1 Peter 5 verse 5 that with Peter, the penny had dropped years later - but do you know the point at which the disciples learned what this was all about? Pentecost! That's right! In fact, the penny dropped regarding everything at Pentecost. Here's the lesson from that: to wash one another's feet is not natural, it is supernatural, the old nature goes against it because it is, in fact, the nature of God in Christ that is imparted to us by the power of the Holy Spirit. You look at the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy - but they all emanate from that first characteristic: love! It's agape love, that's the love of God, it's supernatural! That's why you have to go against the grain. Jesus didn't, He didn't have to humble Himself, He was humble - but if we're going to do it, we're going to have to humble ourselves, we're going to have to count the sin nature dead and ask for the fullness and power of the Spirit to walk as He walked!
You see these Apostles and disciples were going to be the foundation of the church that it would be built on. It would not survive if they did not learn to serve one another, and started lording it over one another. I want to ask you, having heard this message tonight: will you now seek opportunity, by the power of the Spirit, to wash someone else's feet? On Friday afternoon when I was sort of finishing off this message, I noticed that the sun momentarily came through the clouds. It was time for a cup of tea, and I went out into the back garden to catch whatever rays I could in a half an hour. I was sitting down meditating on what I had been studying, and I just said to the Lord: 'Lord, I don't go about saying, 'Lord, whose feet can I wash?''. I said, 'Lord, would You teach me how, and show me how, to wash people's feet?'. Now, I'm not exaggerating, a few minutes after that the phone rang, and a person who was very very distressed, that I've been dealing with of late, came on the phone at the point of breaking - and I spent an hour and a half on the phone with them, and I was absolutely exhausted after it, but I realised how I can wash feet.
'He humbled Himself to the manger,
And even to Calvary's tree;
But I am so proud and unwilling
His humble disciple to be'.
Someone has summarised this portion like this: 'God's formula for spiritual help and joy: one, submit to the Father; two, keep your life clean; three, serve others'. Go and do likewise, and you will be blessed.
We're going to close in prayer just now, and then the praise team is going to come and lead us in a final song, 'The Servant King', very appropriate. After that the meeting will be over and I will go to the door, but let's just close in prayer - and in this moment please, I'm conscious God has been speaking. Maybe there is someone here with a root of bitterness in their heart. Please think of this, I mean I just despair at times when preaching, that people just - it's as if they're watching television, and it's not talking to them, and they don't apply it to their situation. Listen: there is someone in your life, and they have been a traitor to you, or they have deeply hurt you. I'm not saying that you deny what they've done, or legitimise it, because it might be very wicked - but you need to learn to wash their feet, even if that's just praying for them every day. Could every believer here tonight say to the Lord just now as we pray: 'Lord, give me an opportunity' - by the way, it's a bit inconvenient to wash people's feet at times, and you can get your own hands dirty, but that's the cost of service - will you say, 'Lord, give me an opportunity to wash someone's feet'..
Father, I thank You for the Lord Jesus, for His humility - and to think that He is the revelation of Your heart, O God, and we just cannot conceive of this: the great God of heaven, and He reveals His heart, and it's a humble one! The great Lion of Judah, but His heart is of a Lamb. Oh Lord Jesus, teach us Your way, help us to follow You, to wash one another's feet. The irony is, Lord, it's our pride that would stop us doing it - and yet what is the result of it? Humility. Maybe folk here tonight just need to exercise their will, against their intuition and emotion and embarrassment, and just go and do something, that they might be blessed. So teach us now how to serve, that in our lives we might enthrone Him, each other's needs to prefer, for it is Christ we're serving. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Scrabo Hall in Newtownards, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the fourth recording in his 'Portions From John' series, entitled "Aiming High By Stooping Low" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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