Serve Humbly

More Like the Master

John 13

The Footwashing  13:1-19


Foundation – The knowledge and assurance of Jesus

Knew His Hour had come   – In other events when the prevailing mood of his antagonists on several occasions was to take him and rid the world of him, Jesus escaped them for his time was not yet come. Review the increasing hostility to Jesus in John 5:16, 18; 6:64, 70f; 7:6, 7, 30; 8:20, 37, 59; 10:31, 39; 11:53, 54, 57; 12:10. When the Greeks began to seek him Jesus knew that his time had come – 12:23

Loved his own to the end – This gives an explicit affirmation that the love Jesus has for those that the Father has given him (“his own who were in the world”) is that “greater love” to which he will refer in 15:13 (cf. Ephesians 1:4, 5; 2:4), that is distinct and specifically aimed at bringing to them the redemptive consequences of his work.

Verse 3 – The Father had given everything into his hands. In the eternal covenant of redemption, the people of the Father’s electing love including all the means that would redeem them and show the wisdom of God were put into the hands of Christ to execute. Now he was fast approaching the moment in which all would come to fruition—the final test in the garden which would essentially bring to maturity his righteousness, the enduring of the Father’s pleasure in bruising him on the cross, and the taking of his life again from the grave-all this had been assigned to him and was in his hands to perform. He would not be the victim of circumstances spun out of control but  with determination, purpose, and full knowledge moved toward his arrest, trial, abuse, and crucifixion.

He had come from God – He had consistently asserted this throughout his ministry in his discourses. This coming from God was a mission assigned him as well as a pleasurable knowledge that he was doing the will of his Father.

Going back to God – Jesus knew that he would accomplish the work that the Father had given him to do. In his work as Messiah—the God-man, the Son of Man that came down from heaven and loved righteousness and hated wickedness would hear the words, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet” Psalm 110:1; Hebrews 1:13). Those prophecies of his final victory over all his foes would begin the culmination in his enthronement when he went back to the Father. He would then intercede for his people and await the final manifestation of his absolute triumph (1 Corinthians 15:24-28)

Action – 4, 5

Lay aside robe – in a highly symbolic action Jesus laid aside his outer garment in the same way he laid aside the visible manifestation of his glory, not counting it a thing to be grasped to be equal with God (Philippians 2:6)

gird himself with Towel – Surely here we see Jesus showing that he had taken upon himself the form, that is the true and superlative manifestation, of a servant. (Philippians 2:7)

pour water – Even as he would pour out his life in order to serve his friends (John 19:34) plus look at the symbol of water scattered throughout this gospel. In particular we see John 19:34 where blood and water poured from his side upon the thrust of the soldier’s spear.

wash and dry –  By his act of servitude Jesus makes his people fit for their fellowship with God through forgiveness and sanctification.

A Lesson to Peter

Solo Christo -We must be willing to receive all from the Lord – to think that any sin may be kept from Christ or is beyond the reach of his redemptive work is to shut ourselves off entirely from him.

Sanctification is not optional – Without perpetual cleansing, we are not Christ’s. “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Jesus cleanses us from all sin in its condemning power but just as surely cleanses us from it corrupting power. He does not do one without the other.

Sanctification ongoing; justification complete – One does not need to be justified but once. That is a judicial verdict, complete at the moment of its announcement. The manner of living, however, our walk day by day must be more and more Christ-centered.

Application – Jesus now applies this lesson to them.

He is Lord and Master and his condescension is infinite 12-14. This application is simply breathtaking. Jesus, as Lord, creator, omniscient, and worthy of all praise, honor, glory, and worship has condescended to take our nature to redeem us. In the process, he made himself even in the menial task of washing feet, the servant of his disciples.

His servants should emulate their master – greater to lesser argument. 15, 16. There can be no condescension greater than that just demonstrated by Jesus. The distance between us and any other person in the world in the relative comparison of the dignity and honor of our positions is virtually nothing compared with the distance between Jesus and us. How could we ever complain at being called upon to serve someone?

His servants also should be encouraged by their election (18) and the contrast that produces between their desire to know him and that of one left to his own covetousness

Even this betrayal is a matter of prophecy and an evidence of Jesus’ condescension in his Messiahship 19

Just as the Apostles will emulate their Master, so a reception of the Apostles and their ministry is a reception of Christ and a true relationship with God 20 [1 John 4:6; Romans 16:25-27; Gal. 1:11, 12; 4:14; Hebrews 2:3, 4]

Betrayal Predicted  21-30

Previously indicated on other occasions 2, 10, 11, 18, 19 [cf. 6:64, 70-71; 11:57; 12:4]

The thought is “troubling” to Jesus as he considers the essence of his work in light of such sin. The reality of human emotion is seen in this phenomenon. Knowing that one that had been with him these years, had been sent on mission, had heard his teaching, and had seen the meanness and viciousness, and the irrationally sinful basis of it, was now in league with those opponents to bring about his trial and death certainly caused a deep movement in his spirit.

The Apostles ask who the betrayer is

Even after the sign given, the Apostle’s do not grasp the significance of it. Other gospels indicate that the disciples were more distrustful of themselves than they were of Judas. Even when Jesus spoke to him and sent him out, they think that it must be some mission to which Jesus has entrusted Judas. This shows how completely the external actions of Judas had covered his true thought.

Begins Parting Instructions  31-35

the Glory of Jesus  31-32

The Death of Christ which is his chief glory, glorifies the Father. All the glorious attributes of the Father come to bear on this event of the death of Christ. His justice is shown in actually executing such a payment for sin; his mercy is shown in giving such a payment for sin.

The Son’s glorification of the Father in such a way results in the Father’s glorification of the Son “in Himself.” [cf. 17:24] This death will gain for the incarnate Lord a glorious resurrection over death, over the condemnation of sin, and over all the hostile hosts until every enemy is placed under his feet. He ascended and is at the Father’s right hand experiencing in his completed messianic office the glory that, as Son of God before the incarnation, had enjoyed as the natural expression of love that constitutes the life of the Trinity.

The Going-away of Jesus  33 – This going away has two foci. One is the death that he is going to die. They cannot follow him there and it will make them sad. But he will return and their mourning will turn to joy (cf. 16:19, 20). The second meaning is his ascension. Even after that, however, in just a little while, they will see him again.

The Necessity of Love Among His Followers 34, 35 –  What about the world can possibly transcend the bond of election and redemption as a source of love? Those upon whom God has placed this special redemptive love, has chosen as his own, and has commended his love in that Christ died for them can certainly be the objects of our love.

Denial Predicted  36-38

Peter could not be content with the explanations that Jesus was giving. He had told him plainly that where he was going, they could not come. So Jesus reiterates that Peter can not come where he is going. Eventually, the way would be cleared and the disciples would follow.

Peter, as so often, indicates a discontent with the answer Jesus gives. He cannot be criticized for the immediacy of his desire to follow where Jesus goes at whatever cost (37). The pressing, however for special consideration shows an underestimation of what Jesus is telling them that he is going to experience. None can follow him there. He must do it alone. None other is qualified in strength, righteous character, honor, and knowledge of exactly what is transpiring. Peter, however, in his love for Christ, not only underestimates what Christ is on the verge of enduring, but overestimates his own courage.

Difficulty of following Jesus through his chosen route 36, 38 – Certainly this prediction must have been perplexing, shocking, and embarrassing for Peter. “You will deny me three times.” These were hard words to hear, but true; it was a harder experience to endure, but restoration would follow.

Extended Understanding

Christology – Person:  what are some ways in which Jesus indicates the uniqueness of his knowledge of and relationship to the Father?  Work:  What is the significance of his loving his own “to the end”

We should be impressed about how weak our powers of observation and deduction are even in light of special revelation; we need the illumination of the Spirit [cf. 12:16 w/28, 29; 1 Cor 2:14 and Phil 3:15, 16]

What are the spheres of ministry for which Jesus begins to prepare his Apostles? 15, 20, 34f

How do we process the relation between earthly affections and God’s eternal love [For his Son, for us]?

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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