With the advent of John 13, we have entered into the final section of John’s Gospel.
• Scholars view John 12:44-50 and John 13:1-3 as a summary of Jesus’ ministry in the first and a “summation of themes of John’s gospel” in the latter.
• The last 8 chapters of John focus on just 3 days of Jesus’ life.
• It seems fitting that the Passion events begin with such a summary.
With respect to our text today, the “summation of themes” of vs. 1-3 is (Beasley-Murray):
• “Jesus’ knowledge of ‘the hour’” – His Purpose
• “His love for his own” – Not come to Judge (this time)
• “The Father’s placing all things into his hands” – Father’s Jesus
• “The fact that he had come from God and was going to God” – Identity as Ruler/Creator/Co-Regent
• “The devil’s opposition to God’s work in Christ, particularly through Judas Iscariot” – The Battle
As is usually the case, we can go many directions with our text.
• I want to explore how Jesus “loved his own”.
• And in particular, if we are the object of this same love of Jesus even though we aren’t physically with Jesus.
• We are headed to a discussion of Jesus’ love as “Spoken Service” and the “Enacted Word”.
1) JESUS LOVED HIS OWN
John 13:1–4a (ESV) — 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. 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.
One is struck by the affection displayed in verse 1.
• John is reflecting on His own experience of Jesus’ love having been His disciple.
• He could say with certainty that Jesus “loved his own” and that “he loved them to the end”.
• He had a tangible, physical and personal experience with Jesus’ love.
• D.A. Carson says that the love John is referencing here is a love that John experienced as a believer.
o The object of Jesus love here is to “the newly forming people of God, the disciples of the Messiah, the nascent church, the community of the elect” – D.A. Carson.
• In other words, this love is only for the believer not the lost world.
How did Jesus love them?
• John and the disciples walked and talked with Jesus – fellowship.
• Jesus called them out of the world and darkness into the Kingdom and light – salvation.
• Jesus revealed for them the words and knowledge of God the Father that they might understand – teaching.
• And as we will soon discuss, Jesus also loved them by – serving.
• These are just to name a few.
One can’t help but notice that many of the ways Jesus loved them were linked to Jesus’ physical presence.
• To state the obvious, Jesus is not walking beside us; He has ascended to the throne.
• And contrary to a popular hymn, Jesus is not even living “within my heart” – the Holy Spirit is, of course.
• Yet, are there any ways we experience the same love Jesus showed the disciples?
• The answer to the question, which is found in our text in two instances, is a resounding YES!
(1) The first way He loves us just like the disciples is by using His Words to point us to spiritual truths.
• I want to call this “Diving Deeper” love – “DD”.
• We see this in our text today in verses 8-10.
• Jesus is talking about salvation and Peter is thinking literal.
(2) The second way He loves us just like the disciples is by using His Words (spoken service) and Actions (enacted words) to serve us.
• I want to call this “Dispensing Grace” love – “DG”.
• We see this in our text today in verse 4b and following.
• Jesus humiliates Himself to dispense grace.
o Kenneth Bailey often refers to this as “costly grace”.
2) “DIVING DEEPER” AND “DISPENSING GRACE” KINDS OF LOVE
John 13:4b–11 (ESV) — 4b 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. 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.” 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.”
“Diving Deeper” Love:
We will deal with the “DD” love first.
• We have noticed often that what the disciples thought was a literal/physical point was meant by Jesus to be a spiritual point.
• In other words, Jesus was pointing them to something deeper – something beyond their subjective personal experience.
Our text today is a case in point.
• Jesus speaks of “wash you” and “share with me” and “the one who has bathed” and Peter thinks literal.
• Jesus is referring to salvation, grace and the Gospel and Peter thinks he must need a bath.
• Jesus, using His words, is trying to point the disciples to the grand truth behind his coming death and resurrection.
• The disciples, apparently, are thinking why Jesus is humiliating Himself like this – “Lord, do you wash my feet?”
• Jesus wants them to understand the cleanliness that really matters not personal hygiene.
• This love of Jesus that seeks to point them in this direction using His words is exactly what we experience when we are confronted with Jesus’ Words.
Other Examples of “Diving Deeper” Love:
John 4:31–34 (ESV) — 31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.
• Here, Jesus loved the disciples and us by telling us (His Word) that there was a food more important than the food one could physically consume with Him.
• This food was the will of the Father for Jesus’ life which He ate by being obedient to it.
• Neither the disciples nor we can physically see “the will” of the Father.
• But for Jesus it was more important that eating real food.
• We can know this just as the disciples – and to know this is to be loved.
John 6:60–63 (ESV) — 60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying [feed on my flesh and drink my blood]; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
• Again Jesus loved the disciples and us by using a shocking word picture (His Word) to point to a deep spiritual truth.
• Jesus’ Word is “spirit and life”.
o How much does His Word weigh?
o What color is it?
o Does it have a texture?
• Exactly, the thing that has such power as to give “spirit and life” can’t be literally seen by us or the disciples.
• The disciples, like us, could not actually see the Father (source of Jesus’ words) or Holy Spirit (keeper of His words) standing behind the ministry of Jesus Christ.
• Yet it was this fact, this life giving fact, which was of such utmost importance.
o This is why, for both us and the disciples, “the flesh is no help at all”.
o It is the born again heart that “feeds” on Jesus’ flesh and “drinks” his blood.
o Not a bunch of guys sitting around a camp fire passing around a sampler platter.
We even have examples in the way Jesus spoke to others in John, such as the following:
• John 4:13–15 (ESV) — 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
• John 7:35–36 (ESV) — 35 The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? 36 What does he mean by saying, ‘You will seek me and you will not find me,’ and, ‘Where I am you cannot come’?”
In every case, as significant as the physical world was to Jesus and the disciples’ relationship (and even that of His enemies), Jesus never settled for that.
• He sought to plunge them deeper into the truth of His word.
• And it is here that we have a connection with the disciples.
• We can experience the depth of Jesus’ word every bit as powerfully as the disciples.
• The “unseen” and spiritual are as real, important, and an expression of Jesus’ love as anything physical.
• And this is “Diving Deeper Love”.
“Dispensing Grace” Love:
This type of love which is found in Jesus’ words (spoken service) and actions (enacted word) is rooted in Jesus’ profound humility.
• So before we look at how we are on the receiving end of this “DG” just like the disciples, we need to see its roots.
“DG” love’s humble roots:
In our text today, we are told Jesus “laid aside his outer garments”, tied a towel around his waist, “began to wash the disciples’ feet”, and wiped their feet with the towel.
• It is important to know that foot washing was reserved for “Gentile slaves and for wives and children” – Beasley-Murray.
• Jesus is supposed to be the King not a Gentile slave.
• Moreover, Jesus’ act of removing clothing and tying a towel around his waist is an action in this context that would clearly identify Him with the actions of a slave.
o In fact, the Midrash commentary on O.T. occurrences of this behavior says it was done so that people would know the person was a slave – Beasely-Murray.
• As well, we must take note that Jesus also washed the feet of the one of whom He spoke when He said, “Not all of you are clean” – Judas.
o In other words, Jesus took the place of a slave and washed the feet of His enemy – Satan/Judas.
The entire picture presented to us is one showing that “Jesus’ humility had no boundaries” – Kostenberger.
• From the disciples’ perspective, seeing the Messiah stoop to this behavior would have been as disappointing for them as seeing Jesus come into Jerusalem on a donkey.
• Peter’s response towards Jesus action reveals an “inner revulsion” that the teacher “would stoop to wash his feet” – Kostenberger.
It is from this foundation of humility that Jesus, in His Words (spoken service) and Service (enacted word), loves us and the disciples by dispensing grace.
• That this grace flows from Jesus’ willingness to lower and humiliate Himself is why Kenneth Bailey calls it “costly grace”.
• We may not personally witness the humiliation and later exaltation in person.
• But, as we will see, we do have full access to this grace, just like the disciples.
“Dispensing Grace” Love Experienced:
First, we need to understand that Jesus’ humbling act of foot washing didn’t cleanse the disciples.
• Firstly, we know this because it didn’t cleanse Judas.
o He was still unclean.
o Jesus said, “you are clean, but not everyone of you”.
• Secondly, we know this because in John 15:3, Jesus says, “you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you”.
o What was the word He spoke?
o It was the word in our text today, “you are clean”.
So what was the point of Jesus foot washing if it didn’t cleanse?
• This is crucial because it will show us how we experience Jesus’ “Dispensing Grace” love just like the disciples.
I need to quote Beasley-Murray at length:
• “The two applications of the statement [our text and John 15:3] are complementary; they illustrate a fundamental assumption of the Gospel that the “word” and the “service” of Jesus are inseparable; the revelation that he brings from God is through word and deed—through incarnation, sign, death, and resurrection as exegeted by the Lord and by the Spirit he sends. Self-evidently, the word spoken and enacted must be received and believed if its effect is to be for life in the kingdom of God and not for loss of the kingdom (cf. 3:16–21). So it comes about that while all the disciples are “washed” by Jesus, not all are “clean,” for among them stands the betrayer, who has rejected the word both spoken and enacted by Jesus” – Beasley-Murray.
• In other words, Jesus’ service (foot washing, incarnation, death, resurrection, etc.) is the “enacted Word” of God.
• Jesus’ Word “you are clean” is the “spoken service” of God.
• This is great news for us!
So, again, how we do encounter the “DG” love of God just like the disciples?
• Because, Jesus’ Word to us is His “spoken service” to us.
• As believers, we are the direct object of the love of God via His Word as “spoken service” to us.
• Therefore, we (believers) partake in the fruits of His “word” and “service” just like the disciples.
• Its consequence and power are the same for us as for the disciples.
• We benefit from this dispensing of grace just as the disciples in that we are justified by faith; we are cleansed by Jesus’ word and service.
• And we didn’t need to personally experience Jesus’ “enacted Word” (foot washing, e.g.) to be so declared.
o Yet, mysteriously, there is a way we do experience Jesus’ “enacted Word”.
The obvious questions are:
• Where do we encounter Jesus’ “spoken service” – His Word?
• Where do we encounter Jesus’ “enacted Word” – His Service?
• Michael Horton puts the answer plainly, “God’s mission is to serve us through the marks of preaching and sacrament…”
• In other words, the preaching/teaching of Scripture is where we, like the disciples, encounter Jesus’ “spoken service” and the sacraments are where we encounter Jesus’ “enacted Word”.
o The sacraments are baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
o These are a “means of grace” – Dispensing Grace.
• “God serves us through his means of grace, creating faith and repentance that yield the fruit of the Spirit so that God can then serve our neighbors through our various callings in the world” – Michael Horton.
Awesome implication of this:
• This is the complete opposite of how most of us currently treat Church.
• We too often think of it as an obligation we have to serve.
• We think participating in the sacraments (enacted Word) is something we are doing to show God something.
• We think coming to Church and Sunday School (spoken service) is something we are doing for God.
o We have a very low view of the sacraments and Church!
o This is why we are hindering the receiving of Jesus’ love as “DG”.
• But this misses the mark entirely.
• Theologically, we can’t “do” for God.
• “God does not need your good works; your neighbor does” – Michael Horton.
• “Gifts do not go up to God but come down from the God who does not need anything and cannot be given anything that would obligate a return (Acts 17:24-25; Rom. 11:35-36)” – Michael Horton.
Church, where the “marks of preaching and sacrament” (dispensing grace) are administered, is where we are to go to primarily be served by Jesus and thus loved by Jesus!
• Church is not primarily doing; it is primarily receiving.
• It is something we go to so that we might receive the grace Jesus is dispensing though preaching/teaching (spoken Service) and the sacraments (enacted Word).
It is at Church that we are to be “re-salinized” and “re-lit” to be salt and light to our neighbor – Michael Horton.
• And in this context, worship is, along with an expression of our gratitude, a receiving of grace from Jesus through the words we sing.
• In other words, even worship is where Jesus dispenses and we receive grace – how Jesus loves us.
Using our text today, Michael Horton puts it this way:
• “Even before we come to worship God, we are first of all served by God as he distributes his gifts that provoke our praise and joy. Here [our text] Christ wraps the towel around his waist and washes our feet. Like Peter, we may bristle at this strange role reversal, but Jesus said that he “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). Of course Christ’s service to us evokes our praise and makes us fruitful in good works, but the means of grace come before the means of service” – Michael Horton.
Jesus’ servicing and grace dispensing is not just for us, by the way.
• We are told to love our neighbor.
• This loving our neighbor is an expression of our gratitude for Jesus, the Gospel and His service to us.
• “God is served by Christ’s perfect satisfaction, we are served by his gospel, and our neighbor is served by our witness, love, and diligence in our vocations” – Michael Horton.
And bringing it back to how we experience Jesus’ “DG” love like the disciples:
• “Not only once upon a time, on a hill far away, but each week the Son of God comes to serve us. We may protest. We may think that it is we who need to serve God rather than vice versa. Nevertheless, Jesus tells us as he told Peter that this is actually an insult, a form of pride. We are the ones who need to be bathed, clothed, and fed, not God” – Michael Horton.