John 13.1-20 Dirty Jesus

February 24, 2008 Series: Gospel According to John

Topic: Gospel Passage: John 13:1–13:20

John 13.1-20 Jesus Emptied

February 24, 2008

Sam Ford


How would you spend the last night of your life?

Have you ever wondered how you would spend the last night of your life?  Most of us probably start listing all of the BIG THINGS we wish we could do, like some sort of Bucket List of expensive, risk, or adventurous things that we never had time or courage to do.  But if you were healthy and knew you were going to die in a day, what would you want to do with those last 24 hours? 


My Jewish grandmother died this past Saturday.  It was a Jewish funeral full of various Hebrew songs and Jewish traditions.  There was an extremely inexpensive coffin which I found out is intentional as they want it to decompose as fast as possible to make it easier to become dust again.  Her death was a bit unexpected, although she had a number of health issues she was dealing with.  The night before she was taken to the hospital, she had a made a list of things to do.  On  the side of the bed was, scratched on a small piece of paper were her last words.... a Clean teeth, have nails wine.


But think about your own 24 hours....the people you would want to spend your time with, the things you would buy, things you would give away...the things you would do. 


Jesus' last night...

Unlike any other gospel, John gives us a very vivid picture of Jesus last day on earth and how He spent his time.  In fact, John devotes four chapters, beginning with 13 providing intimate details about what must have been the most difficult night on earth for Jesus.  He spends his final hours with his closest friends, and through His actions, gives them a picture of what Jesus did to bring us back to God AND what He is calling us to do in response to that truth. 


Great Danger #1:  We serve for the wrong reasons/WARPED THE GOSPEL

There are two great dangers in studying this passage.  One is that we misunderstand what Jesus is doing here  When we see Jesus in John chapter 13 serving his friends and washing their feet, we can very easily "I just need to work harder, to get better, to love more people, and to do some more good things!"  I need to hunker down and be more "Christian", I need to make myself lower than as many people as I can find; where are the dirtiest jobs?


We cannot get away from the core of the gospel that our goodness comes, not come from you and I doing something better in our lives, but from what Jesus alone did.  And it seems like a lot of us believe that as we become Christians, but we subtly shift into thinking there are "Christians" and then there are the really "Good Christians" who live out their faith better than others.   If you're a "real Christian", if you "really love Jesus" then you'll do this;  THIS IS A PICTURE OF THE GOSPEL, not a new checked box in our religious piety.  


Great Danger #2:  We don't serve at all/A FALSE GOSPEL

The 2nd danger that we encounter is admiring what Jesus teaches us, but never responding to it.  We'd rather sit back and comment on how He set such a great example for us we refuse to follow it.   This is a difficult passage because it gives us a picture of what our RESPONSE to an understanding of the GOSPEL should be...something that most of us are not-servants.  We have the most difficult time serving others because it is in our nature to BE SERVED and not to SERVE, especially those who don't deserve it.  We live in a proud and egotistical world.  We live in a world where we are encouraged to promote ourselves, to praise ourselves, to put our personal rights and happiness first!  Churches fall into the trap of preaching a gospel that changes Jesus from the savior who by grace makes us clean and right with God to the means to our own personal happiness.  [ME CHURCH VIDEO]


Church is supposed to be a group of people who don't think less of themselves, but they don't think of themselves at all!  At the core of our failure to serve is a complete ignorance of the fool Jesus became to show a people who think much of themselves, that their pretty foolish.   And John 13, Jesus gives us the clearest picture of WHAT GOD DID to bring us back to him, and how we are supposed to live that out in our lives.  And, quite honestly, it's a picture makes me feel ashamed and broken, more in need of a Savior than ever before.


READ John 13.1-20


John 13.1 What is the Passover all about?   setting the table

The setting for this scene is the Passover feast which began on a Thursday night.  Jesus will be crucified the next day and this evening will go late.  Traditionally, it happens once a year instituted during the Exodus out of Egypt (Ex. 12). 

  • 3000 years ago the Israelites were enslaved by the Egyptians under the rule of the Pharaoh Ramses II. The Jews were enslaved.
  • According to the Book of Exodus - a man named Moses was instructed by God to go to the pharaoh and demand the freedom of his people.
  • Moses' pleas were ignored.
  • Moses warned the Pharaoh that God would send severe punishments to the people of Egypt if the Israelites were not freed. Again the Pharaoh ignored Moses' request of freedom. In response God unleashed a series of 10 terrible plagues on the people of Egypt (blood, frogs, lice, flies, cattle disease, boils, etc.)
  • 10th and Final Plague Moses told Pharaoh that God intended to kill the first-born of both man and beast.
  • To protect themselves, the Israelites were told to mark their dwellings with lamb's blood so that God could identify and "pass over" their homes. The Pharaoh was unconvinced and refused to free the Jewish slaves, until the last plague.
  • Passover celebrates this history. The first 2 nights of the 8 day holiday are celebrated with lavish meals called Seders. There is an order to it:
    • Dip Vegetables in salt water to remember the tears of enslavement
    • Washings
    • Breaking of the Matzah bread (unleavened bread)
    • Telling of the Exodus Story
    • Easting of Bitter Herbs
    • Drinking of Lots of Wine


What the Disciples thought...following the triumphal entry (PRIDE WELLING UP)

As the meal is being prepared, you have to wonder what the disciples are thinking.  If you combine the accounts of Luke and John, you get a clear picture of what was probably going through their mind.  The disciples seem to have forgotten John the Baptist's proclamations of "Behold, the lamb of God."

  • Miracles, healing the blind, the lame, the sick, and then raising Lazarus from the dead
  • Luke 19:  Dinner at the House of Zaccheus, chief tax collector and rich man
  • Triumphal Entry - 2.5 million people gathered in Jerusalem


The disciples then, like others, are still expecting an immediate manifestation of the kingdom. And what better time than Passover!  When the sat down at this Passover Supper, I imagine they felt it was like some sort of state dinner, and they were the cabinet to their president, Jesus.  I can imagine that when Jesus read aloud from the Exodus 12, the disciples probably exchanged "ROME" for "Egypt" in their minds.  And they were all thinking about their own personal future glory.   Each of them wanted the "chief seat", under Jesus of course.  But in contrast to what Jesus will do, you find them disputing over "Who should be the greatest in Jesus' Kingdom?"


Luke 21.24

24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.

-          Matthew, the tax collector, well, I have a lot of money

-          Peter - I'm the rock

-          James - We saw Jesus glowing with  and Moses/Elijah

-          Andrew - I brought half these guys here

-          Nathanel - I'm the one he said their's no deceit in

-          Philip - well, I introduced you to Jesus

-          Perhaps even John is arguing...I'm loved.


What they're not doing

The one things they're not doing is thinking about washing their feet, a common practice when entering a home to eat.  That's' slave work.  Perhaps their dialoguing about how at Zaccheus's house they had 13 servants come out to wash their feet.  See, in the time of Jesus, roads were dusty and people wore sandals without socks.  When the apostles arrive at the upper room, they remove their sandals as was the custom for the day.  They sit down to the table with dry dusty feet, having walked a long time, over rocks, dirt, and all kinds of animal dung. 

  • It was a mark of honor for a host to provide a servant to wash a guest's feet;
  • it was a breach of hospitality not to provide for it
  • Wives often washed their husbands' feet, and children washed their parents' feet. It was such a lowly duty that is was forbidden for masters to demand this of their Jewish slaves.  Most people, of course, had to wash their own feet.   


There was no host for the evening (Luke 22.7-13), there was a guest of honor.  This was the man who had just been recognized by thousands as the coming King.  So, although there was water available, no one no one brought water to wash their feet, an eastern duty of hospitality made necessary by their hot, dusty climate. AND, no apostle volunteered to show this grace their brothers or their Lord-that was a servant's duty. 


Jn 13:2-4 - Regardless of what the disciples thought, Jesus knew a few things

On this Thursday, the day of the Last Supper, the people were bringing their lambs to the priests to be consecrated for their meal.  Jesus is probably thinking about a lot of things and John explains a few:

1.       He knew His time had come to leave the world:  He was going to die.

2.       He knew He would love them until the end

a.      Knowing that they were going to forsake him in just a few hours

b.      Knowing that they would reveal how weak they really were

c.       We see the Love of Christ to SINNERS not the faithful few we might imagine them to be.


3.       He knew that God had given Him all things, He knew where he came from, He knew where he was going.  His security was not in his circumstances, his security was not in his money, his security was not in his friends and brothers, his security was not even in his health, His security was in the fact that even in the midst of what seemed like chaos He was secure in God.  He wasn't afraid to lose anything....and therefore, he could love without fear.


John 12.25

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whomever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.


John 13.4 - What Jesus does and what His disciples do not...Jesus serves

As the disciples, filled with their ambitions, envy, and jealousies argue, they all fail to lower themselves for a moment to complete something that was needed. Jesus rebukes their aspirations, not with a lecture, but with his actions. 


John 13.5 Pours water into basin and washes feet of his creation

His actions are more than just really humble, they are a living parable of what God did to bring us back to him. 


1.       The God of the universe, about to die a horrible painful death on a cross, gets up from the table, removes His outer clothing which represents respectability, togetherness, social acceptability, he divests himself of privileges and leaves his state of glory for the purposes of becoming a servant to men.


2.       Then he washes the feet of His disciples. We see Him filling His hands with water, pouring it over their heel, their toes, using His own hands to wipe away the filth and the dust and the grime and the smell.


3.       He put his clothes on again - return to former glory after finishing his service to men on earth

If JOHN 13 provides the picture, Philippians 2.1-7 provides the caption. 

2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross

Pride VersionMake sure you speak your mind, you're probably right, love when loved, be in of one mind, if it agrees with yours.  Compete with one another, and make sure you have high-self esteem by recognizing the weaknesses of those around you.  Let each of us seek for our own interests.  Have this mind in you, which was not in Jesus but in his disciples, who though in the form of a broken men, counted equality with God something to aspire to, so they made themselves more important than everyone around them, taking the form of one who was to be served, making much of themselves, holding tight to their lives in this world that they might not lose their prominence in this world.

John 13.6-11 Peter's Refusal

You can imagine Jesus going around the table and the shame these guys much feel.  As Jesus is making his way to Peter, he vehemently refuses.... "You shall never wash my feet!"  I love Peter because he's so raw, genuine, and real.  God reaches down to heal us....he says, I will wash you...our responses are predictable, sad, and pathetic all at the same time:

  • I'm not dirty - My feet are not dirty, I am not sinful, I'm a good person. (PRIDE)


  • I'll do it myself. Someone tries to help you....whether you have a broken marriage, dealing with sin, financial assistance, you're afraid to ask. (PRIDE)


  • I'm not worthy - Do you realize how dirty my feet are?  They stink, they have calluses, they have corns, flaking skin, rotten toe nails, fungus....You don't know what I've done...I'm a bad person.  (DESPAIR)


"If I do not wash you, you have no share with me."

You must be washed by Christ, you can't wash yourself.  We're dirty and apart from Jesus, even our good works are what the bible calls, "Dirty Rags."  We turn the good things we do into self-pride.  Titus 3.5 - 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior  


That is what the Pharisees were good at.  Cleaning the outside of the cup, but the inside was a dirty as could be (Matthew 23.25).  It's like cleaning a shirt by putting in the dryer-it looks clean, but it's not. 


"The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean."

Jesus tells Peter that he only needs to clean his feet.  When you walk in this world, you are going to get dirty. The bathing that Jesus refers to is in the perfect tenses as in ONCE and FOR ALL.    But we sin.  Unconfessed sin makes us dirty then the relationship, although doesn't change our position with Christ, it does change our communion with Christ. 1John 1.9 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.



John 13.-12-20 Jesus Teaching/Commanding

If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also out to wash one another's feet. 


Jesus example should transform us, not just instruct us.

I do not believe, as some churches and denominations do, that Jesus is instituting foot-washing a religious ceremony. If we stop at just the work itself, we miss the message Jesus is illustrating for us.  When we see the gospel, when we see HOW MUCH, and HOW FAR, and HOW WIDE, and HOW DEEP, and HOW UNPREDICTABLY and HOW FOOLISHLY and HOW GRACIOUSLY and HOW MERCIOUSLY and HOW PATIENTLY God has loved transforms us. 


1.       We are called to love and serve in ACTION not just talk - There is a reason why Jesus didn't lecture them on what they should have done. 


2.       We are called to love and serve that kills us.  Up until this moment in history, when the God of the universe demonstrated and entirely new set of values, the whole point of ALL things had been for someone to get on top, and once he had gotten on top to stay on top or else attempt to get farther up.  If we live anything like Jesus, a life of genuine service and love will mean the death of our some of our own desires, our comforts, our preferences, and our success in this world. 


3.       We are called to love and serve those close to us first- All too often make the mistake Jesus' claim for some sort of social gospel. There is nothing wrong with loving and serving the poor and needy, the widows and orphans, the sick and the sore.  But all too often we immediately start searching for those in need far away and ignore the ones that are close to use.  Jesus began by serving the ones closest to him. 

  • Wash the feet of your family - Tell me how you have loved your kids/wife
  • Wash the feet of your friends - Tell me how you have loved your friends
  • Wash the feet of strangers
  • Wash the feet of touch lepers, the lame, the prostitutes, offend Pharisees.


4.       We are called to love and serve even those who we think don't deserve it - Let us never forget that Jesus washes the feet of Thomas who will doubt him, Peter who will deny him, and Judas who will betray him.  Consider for a moment, that one person who you cannot stand, the person who hurt you the most, the person who stabbed you in the Jesus has asked you to wash their feet-to love your enemies.  (Most of us will respond with, no way, I can't. Why?  I can't stoop that low.  Jesus did.)


5.       We are called to love and serve humbly (not false pride)- We do not live out humility because we view people more hurt, lost, or broken than us who need it. 


We live out humility because we realize how broken, lost, and hurt we are and we humble ourselves to do for others, what we need done for ourselves.


Jesus spent the last night of his life cleaning his disciples' feet.   He's still in the foot and body scrubbing business.  There are some people here who need a bath, for those I say Jesus lived the perfect life you should have and died the death you deserved.   He died for your sins,  that God might see His Son when he looks at you. 


For everyone else, you all need your stinky feet cleaned.  Many of us will be too prideful to admit it, or think that we need to "get our hearts" right before we partake in the same supper that Jesus did on this night.'ll never be right...confess of your sin, repent, and take the bread and wine proclaiming that you're dirty, Jesus clean me again, and again, and again....


1John 1.5-9

5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness



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