Reframing Leadership: John 13:1-20
May 19, 2019 Speaker: Curtis Hall Series: REFRAMING JESUS | Portraits of Glory from John's Gospel
Topic: Gospel Passage: John 13:1–13:20
Good morning Damascus Road Church. Hope you are all doing well this morning. For those of you that are new, My name is Curtis and I am an elder apprentice here at the church and we are going to be in John 13 this morning, so please open your bibles to there. Whether this is your first time here or you’ve been here for a while, we’ve been going through a series in John’s gospel since the beginning of the school year called “Reframing Jesus.” And the heart and thought behind this series is that we all show up on Sunday morning with some appearance of an understanding of who Jesus is, whether by our own thoughts, or by culture and this can lead to a significant problem because when we come to God’s word and the Jesus of the bible contradicts the Jesus we have created in our minds, which one are we going to choose? If God’s word is going to have its full impact, in changing and transforming us to become more like Jesus than we cannot bring our preconceived idea of Jesus, clenched in hand and insert it into the bible, rather we must take whatever ideas of Jesus we carry personally or given to us by culture and with open hands, submit them underneath the authority of God’s word. The result of this, is going to be a reframing of Jesus in our hearts and minds to who Jesus really is and so that “we may believe Jesus is the Son of God and that by believing we would have eternal life in His name.” (John 20:31)
As we carry this posture of humility moving forward, inevitably other areas of our lives that we thought we knew well are going to be reframed as well, so this week I get the pleasure of preaching on Reframing Leadership. I want to ask you what are your initial thoughts of leadership? Because the reality is, if you’re single you lead yourself, parents then you lead your children, older siblings lead their younger siblings, own your own business or have a position of authority at your job where you’re leading others. Whoever you are and wherever you are leadership either impacts you or effects you. So what are your thoughts on leadership? Some things I looked up online to see what people think of leadership and perhaps you can identify with some of them. The U of Sydney did a video asking people what they thought of leadership and some of the answers are, someone you want to be like, person of power and influence, someone who’s brave, someone who inspires. Forbes magazine did an article asking the same question and quoting two well known men, one of them, Peter Drucker said ‘The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.’ And then John Maxwell is quoted saying ‘Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.’ With all of these statements on what leadership is, I think its obvious we conclude that people don’t really know what leadership is suppose to be. There is a lot of ambiguity around the topic and very little clarity. So we can go on and on searching all the resources of what leadership is, cyphering it down and then finding commonalities and hopefully come away with some knowledge of what leadership is, but rather than just mere information, what we need is a living example of what true leadership is; not just theoretical ideas of what sounds good or right.
John 1-12: The first three years of Jesus’ ministry
John 13-17: Jesus’ final night and last words to His disciples.
The Servant Leadership of Jesus (John 13:1-5)
1 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. Will start here so we can set the stage for this story. It says ‘Now before the feast of the passover...’ This feast of the passover is an annual festival, it’s a celebration of Israel’s freedom from slavery to Egypt. Back in the book of Exodus, this story is recorded where Israel was enslaved to Egypt for close to 400 years before they were given freedom by God and then God tells them to keep this festival as a reminder. (Ex. 12:14)
This verse also says that ‘Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the father...’ This phrase that ‘His hour’ is used by John to signify Jesus’ death and has been seen few times throughout Johns gospel. The very first miracle Jesus ever does in John 2 where He turns water into wine He refers to ‘His hour had not yet come’ and then John 7, 8 where this is reiterated in John 12, where Jesus says ‘His hour had come.’ And this verse is just a repetition of that one, where it is certain now that Jesus’ death is very near. But, it’s not only about His death but also of His resurrection and ascension to God the Father.
‘Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.’ Jesus had loved and given himself to the 12 apostles fully throughout his ministry on earth. And this episode of Jesus loving His own comes with the reality of his impending death. I don’t know about you, but the fear and anxiety of knowing my time of death and the type of gruesome death the cross is, would cripple me and entirely distract me from being others focused and yet it says here that ‘Jesus loved them to the end.’ That even the fear of death itself will not get in the way of His great love for us.
So the stage that we have here is a feast about to take place, Jesus knows He is going to die soon, and yet still loves His own inspire of death.
2 During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 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.
As we take a look at the servant leadership of Jesus here, we need to notice that there is three things going on here. the first, Jesus hour had come and the shadow of the cross is over this entire story. His death is but moments away. Furthermore, Jesus knows that the devil had put it into the heart of Judas to betray Jesus and so He is not only going to die a painful death soon, but it will be by the hands of a close friend who betrays Him. Finally as verse 3 states, The father had given all things into His hands. This is a statement of authority that Jesus has and we get clarity on this verse found in John 17:2, Where Jesus says of the Father “You have given me authority over all flesh to give eternal life to whom you have given.” And with this great authority that Jesus has been given, perhaps he will change the outcome of His death and do something else? No, that doesn't happen. Perhaps with His authority given to Him, He will
confront Judas and burn him on the spot? No, he doesn't do that. What Jesus does do, is that he, as their leader changes His clothes to that of a poor servant, and as such, pours water into a basin and washes the feet of the disciples.
The story has a little more clarity if we understand 2 things: the disgust of feet and the act of foot washing.
The disgust of feet: In the Middle East, feet are considered filthy and undignified. You may have seen scenes from political protests where angry mobs pound statues or billboards with shoes, or you might recall the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush. It’s not only considered a profound insult, but to beat a person or a persons image with a shoe is to show the deepest possible form of contempt to someone. There’s a deep sense, culturally speaking, of disgust about feet.
The washing of feet: Foot washing was of necessity then because all the roads were dirt with animal feces and the only shoe they had then was a sandal made with leather and rope, so it was incredibly easy for your feet to be caked in poo, mud and sweat with all these working their way in-between the toes. You don’t want these feet walking inside your house and leaving stuff all over the ground, so what they would have was a slave, who would take this credibly low and culturally undignified role of washing the guests feet before they came in. In fact, some rabbis taught that this task was so lowly and demeaning that it was unacceptable to have a Jew do it, even if he was a slave.
Finally, we get the full context of Jesus the leader, lord and savior of His people, serving them by washing their feet. Jesus’ leadership here is not used to take from His disciples but to serve them, care for them and to do what according to some, is absolutely lowest of low tasks to do in a Jewish society.
The story takes a pause here as Peter reacts to Jesus’ leadership
Peter’s Reaction to Jesus’ Leadership (V.6-11)
6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”
The shock of Jesus washing Peter’s feet is significant, because it is an acceptable practice for the servant to serve the master, but never the other way around. It was culturally inappropriate. Furthermore, Peter has declared Jesus to be the Christ, their messiah who would save the Israelites from the bondage of the Roman Empire. There’s reverence on Peter’s part, where he has referred to Jesus as Lord here meaning ‘supreme in authority.’ Peter’s reaction is understandable, because this is like someone in society who rules over a nation or someone who is great, lowering themselves to this position of servant. This is Jesus we are talking about, who’s not just a king of a nation, be He is rightly titles the King of Kings, Jesus is also identified by John in the beginning of the gospel to be the one by whom creation was made and without Him
was not anything made that was made. This never happens, it’s sadly never seen and it brings shock to Peter. Regardless of Peter’s shock though, Jesus calls him to submit to this foot washing that He is doing, with saying ‘What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.’ Jesus is saying at this current moment, ‘Peter, it doesn’t make sense to you but it will later on, trust me.’
- A take away from Jesus’ response to Peter:
I think it’s interesting when I hear stories of people who have left the faith and when asked why, they say ‘Well, I was never able to ask questions that I had and was told to just have faith, so that’s why I left.’ Whoever gives that advice is horribly wrong, because that doesn't come from the mouth of Jesus. Jesus is more than okay with people asking questions and whatever questions you may have, you can and should bring them to Him! But know this, don’t be surprised if Jesus responds with saying ‘Trust me. You won’t understand now, but someday you will.’
8 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.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 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.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
Peter’s reactions to Jesus’ leadership is to reject Jesus washing him and Jesus’ very plainly lets him know that if he (Peter) doesn’t accept this, he has no share with Him. In other words, Jesus is saying you have no share in my inheritance if I do not wash you. After hearing this, Peter swings the pendulum to the complete other side by saying essentially, ‘give me a bath!’ and Jesus says he doesn’t need a bath to make him clean because by the declaration of Jesus, He announces that Peter along with the other apostles are clean, except for one who was to betray Him, that is Judas.
What’s going on in this story?
Jesus boarder line rebukes Peter, when he in pride doesn’t submit to Jesus washing his feet by saying ‘If I don’t wash you, you have no share with me.’ That is to say If Jesus doesn’t clean Him, then Peter will not share in the inheritance that Jesus has; this is a picture of the gospel.
Do you remember the beginning of the bible? The bible begins with God making everything perfect and then our first parents, Adam and Eve choosing to disobey God and go with what they thought was right in their own eyes. Because of their disobedience, sin entered the world, and has polluted everything in scope and degree. And as the apostles feet would be caked in mud and poo, so we are covered in sin. The bible says we were born in iniquity, that we apart from God, are children of wrath and that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Who will wash us from our sins? Who will make us clean? Who removes are hearts of stone and gives his hearts of flesh?
Jesus words to Peter are for us today just as much as they were to Him. Jesus speaks to you and me and says the same thing to us as dirty people, ‘unless I wash you, unless I make you clean you have no part in my inheritance.’ And what is this inheritance? Eternal life now and forever more, freedom from the slavery of sin and the removal of the sting of death? All benefits of the
inheritance but what we share in is God himself! Full access to God and life with Jesus now and forevermore, empowered by the Holy Spirit to live lives as sons and daughters of God. The servant leadership that Jesus has of lowering himself and washing the disciples feet is a sign of Jesus servant leadership, lowering himself, entering into humanity and going on the cross and washing us and making us clean with His shed blood. *Summed up in Mark 10:45*
Moving on from Peter, Jesus goes on to declare all the apostles clean except Judas and it needs to be noted here. As Jesus declared the blind to have sight, as Jesus declared Lazarus to raise from the grave so Jesus declares the apostles and whoever would trust in Him to be clean. But what about Judas?
Judas, who had been with Jesus for all of his 3 years of ministry, was one of the 12 apostles in the inner circle, in charge of the money for Jesus’ ministry, was secretly stealing it and it is said that ‘Jesus knew’ he would betray Him. How would you react to knowing someone who seemingly is a close friend is betraying you? Jesus shows restraint to his enemy, Judas with washing his feet along with the other apostles and moments later, Judas will go and betray Jesus for a few coins with clean feet. Jesus interaction with Judas can be seen as a picture of common grace, how God treats this world that doesn’t submit to and disregards God, and yet our God who is full of mercy and grace allows people to be successful, enjoy life and take part in enjoyment of God’s creation. Although Judas still partakes in the benefits of being associated with Jesus, it is declared by Jesus that he is not one of them and does not have a share with them.
A hard question to ask in honest self reflection, is to ask are you Peter or Judas? You’re not Jesus in the story, that spot is reserved for Him alone, but which one are you? Peter, although stubborn at times, submits to God and desires to have a share with Jesus. Judas, blends right in with everyone else, plays the part really well and yet Jesus knows him, and knows that his true allegiance is not with Him. Some of you may be Judas. You come to church every week, you serve in multiple capacities, you take communion signifying that you’ve been made clean and yet, Jesus knows otherwise. Jesus words ‘And you are clean, but not every one of you.’ should cause us to stop and ask a life changing question, ‘do we belong to Jesus?’
As the interaction between Peter and Jesus comes to an end, Jesus finishes washing their feet and then addresses the 12 apostles giving them a call to imitate His servant leadership by His example.
A Call to Imitate Jesus’ Leadership by His Example (V.12-17)
12 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? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 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. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
Jesus calls of us to understand what He as our teacher and Lord has done for us, in that it should lead to us serving one another. Jesus says ‘as I have washed your feet you also ought to wash each others feet.’ We need to discuss why we don’t do this in our church.
Other branches of Christianity will still do this practice of washing each others feet, because Jesus says to do so here. We are Christians, so we do what Jesus says, and if He tells us to do it, we ought to do it. I was a youth pastor for a short time, and we went to a youth retreat during the winter, where numerous youth groups partnered in and we would have a worship night, with numerous stations of activity for the students to be involved in. One of the stations was a foot washing station, because of this verse.
So what happens is well-intentioned people, seeking to obey Jesus, see that He has said, ‘I’ve done this for you, now you go do this,’ and although well-intentioned I would say it misses the mark for this reason. The focus of this text is not on the foot washing itself, but on what foot washing represents, which is in humility, serving one another; that’s the focus. Furthermore, There are things in scripture that we would deem a sacrament, which is established as a practice for the church, and we would say that communion and believers baptisms are sacraments. Foot washing though is not a sacrament but a sign, directing our eyes to Jesus, as our leader, takes on the form of a servant on the cross and washes us with His blood.
The example of this is seen in Philippians 2:5-8 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 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 selfish ambition 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 emptied himself, by 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.
Jesus, the Son go God, lowered His position by not counting equality with God and becoming a servant for us; for you and me. The world needs this type of servant leadership, amen? If you watch the news at all, you will see that primarily at University campuses where there are riots going on, the word ‘privilege’ gets thrown around a lot, and I am not trying to start a discussion now on whether that’s right or wrong but I see what my generation is looking for and it’s found in Jesus here. The idea behind privilege is, people are asking ‘Is there anyone out there who is higher up than me, who is ahead of me, that would lower themselves for my sake!?’ Some of you may laugh at people like that, but it is good to check yourself because that is exactly what God has done for you in Christ Jesus.
So Jesus, goes on to say in verse 14 and 15 says 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. It would serve us well to ask the question, why don’t we lead like this? What stops us from serving one another?
We don’t lead like this for the same reason the apostles didn’t, because it is humiliating, not just to take on the role of a servant, but to take on that role or servant amongst your peers. Historically speaking, the apostles would have had no problem washing the feet of Jesus, He was their master and it would have been honorable for them to do so. But for them to wash the feet of their fellow apostles, their equals, is humiliating and their would be no honor found in doing such a thing. Pride comes to the forefront of my mind when I think about this, because the rejection of serving one another has to do with their value against yours. We might think ‘They’re the same status as me, why would I submit myself to them?’ ‘Don’t they see me, the work I’ve done and the part I’ve contributed, they should submit to me.’ Jesus’ as our great example of servant leadership, giving us the call to imitate Him makes very clear that He is their Lord and teacher who has just taken a posture of humility to serve them, so they have no excuse! Notice as well, the word ‘ought.’ Jesus didn’t say, wash one another feet when you feel like it, when there’s someone who agrees with you on everything, when it’s an appropriate time. No, He says ‘Ive done this for you, now you do this to one another.’
I want to be really clear here. This is not a sermon on leadership, simply for the purpose of being a better leader. If you want that, go buy a John Maxwell book. The purpose of talking about servant leadership and looking at Jesus as our example is so that we would become more like Christ! The world does not need more leaders, who in their position of authority never look down to see who they can serve below them. We as Christians, Christ-followers, all should have the God-given desire to be more like Jesus and although we may not want to lead like this, we can empowered by the Holy Spirit, can walk in a posture of servant leadership towards one another, not because we inherently have this desire, but because this is God’s very nature, and as we are being sanctified every day, it becomes ours.
So why don’t you, individually, personally as a Christ follower imitate Jesus in His service?
(Possible plug for service opportunities at church)
We’ve looked at the servant leadership of Jesus, which led to Peter’s reaction to Jesus being one of shock and refute towards Jesus. Then we were given a call to imitate Him by His example and now we will conclude with the receiving of Jesus Leadership.
The Receiving of Jesus’ Leadership (V.18-20)
18 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.’ 19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.’
Jesus restates Judas betrayal that will take place, that He knows who is clean, and it’s not all of the 12 apostles. And scripture that once upon a time was written down in lament of a close friend being a betrayer is now finding its fulfillment here in Jesus, as Judas a close friend will go and betray Him. This is scripture has been foreordained to take place and to find its fulfillment in Jesus, but for what purpose? Verse 19 ‘I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.’ The treachery of Judas betrayal does not leave
Jesus as a helpless victim, but is meant to serve the redemptive purposes of which Jesus is on mission for, so that we may believe Jesus is the Son of God and that by believing we would have eternal life in His name.
Some of you come to church this morning not believing that Jesus is the Son of God, and if I was to ask you why you might say ‘I want a reason/sign.’ And here in these verses sums up the greatest sign the bible has to offer. The bible, a compilation of 66 books, numerous authors, over a span of thousands of years finds all of it’s fulfillment in one person, Jesus Christ. Here is one example of thousands of scriptures being fulfilled in the life of Jesus, bringing many of us to a place of belief in Jesus being who He said He was. It is by verifiable fact that we see Jesus as the Son of God and it is by His example of servant leadership that our affections our stirred to be more like Him, and Jesus calls you this morning to receive what He has done for you in your place.
The immediate context we’ve read is a story about a feast about to take place, which celebrates freedom from being enslaved to the enemy. And before taking part in this feast, they needed to be washed, they need to be cleaned by Jesus otherwise they could not be part of the celebration.
And as there is an immediate context, there is an ultimate context as well that one day, when God calls the church home and there is a new heaven and a new earth where there will be no more tears, suffering, death or pain anymore. We will celebrate with God by having a great feast, because Jesus has washed us clean and given us freedom from the ultimate enemy.
Have you been washed by Jesus? If not, today is your day to submit to Jesus and turn from your sin.
If so, how have you been serving one another?