One of the most personally convicting messages I ever heard, I did not hear in a church. In 2004, my husband’s youngest daughter graduated from Muskingum University with her teaching degree. The commencement speaker that year was the pastor of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City. As he spoke to the students about their future and what they might make of themselves, his text was John 13, verses 1-17. To the best of my memory, here is the story he told.
The church has had a well-known ministry to the homeless for a number of years and has had several run-ins with the New York City government because of it. They minister to the homeless people of New York with food and shelter and the Gospel 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Ministering to the homeless can sometimes be an inconvenient, messy prospect. Sometimes they will come in drunk, or simply not think about finding a bathroom. One of the homeless men, “Joe”, who had been coming to the church for a number of years had taken it upon himself each morning before anyone else woke up to get a bucket and cleaning supplies from the closet and go around and wash the urine off the walls of the church. He did this with no fanfare and seemingly no notice.
One evening at one of the preaching services, another homeless man came forward and spoke with one of the pastors. The pastor asked the man what he wanted Jesus to do for him. He said, “I want him to make me like Joe.” The pastor, of course, tried to correct him and tell him that he should want to be like Jesus. The man asked, “Is he anything like Joe?” The answer – based on our text in John 13 – is yes, Jesus is a lot like Joe.
As the speaker closed his address, he reminded the students – and me – that the place where we will make our largest impact on the lives of others is in service – especially when that service is messy and inconvenient and seemingly unnoticed and unimportant. And he asked the question . . . . Is there anyone who would mistake you for Jesus?
Let this mind be in you,
which was also in Christ Jesus:
Who, being in the form of God,
thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
But made himself of no reputation,
and took upon him the form of a servant,
and was made in the likeness of men:
And being found in fashion as a man,
he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death,
even the death of the cross.
Read John 13:1-20
1) John does not describe the “Last Supper” but goes immediately to the events and conversation that took place after supper was over. Read Luke’s account in Luke 22, and summarize:
a) Verses 1-6:
b) Verses 7-13:
c) Verses 14-23:
d) Verses 24-30:
2) In light of the above, what thoughts come to mind upon reading John 13:1?
3) According to John 13:3, what does John desire us to take note of as we look at this incident in the life of Jesus?
4) Apparently, part of Jesus instructions to the disciples who obtained the room and prepared the supper included provision for a basin of water and a towel in order to perform the usual custom of washing the feet (see background box below). Re-read Luke 22:24-30. What stands out to you as you observe Jesus now taking up the basin and towel to wash his disciples’ feet in verses 4-5?
5) Considering the fact that Jesus knew that Judas would betray him, knew that Peter would deny him, and knew that all of them would desert him, what does his willingness to serve the disciples in this menial way suggest about:
a) His love for them (verse 1)
b) His sense of self (verse 3)
6) How does Jesus’ example here and Paul’s advice in Philippians 2:5-8 differ from the “self-esteem” and “learn to love yourself” message of the world? Compare the life and ministry of someone who is following the “self-esteem” message and someone who has the “mind of Christ”.
7) What makes it difficult for us to serve others?
8 ) At first glance, Peter’s refusal to have his feet washed might seem to be the pious and humble thing to do. What is Peter really revealing about himself in the exchange he has with Jesus in verses 6-8?
9) How does Jesus correct him in verse 7?
10) What are the larger implications of Peter’s refusal to accept his gracious service according to Jesus’ words in verse 8?
11) There are several denominations that teach that people can be lost and saved repeatedly. How does Jesus address that belief here in verse 8?
12) Several times in this passage of scripture, John mentions Judas’ soon betrayal (verses 2, 11, 18-19). If the disciples appear not to have understood what Jesus was saying, what was his point in telling them? (see verse 19)
13) Not too many days before this incident, there had been another argument concerning who would be the greatest. Read Mark 10:35-45. According to verses 42 through 45, and John 13:12-17, how did Christ alter the normal master-servant relationship? What are some of the implications of this alteration for our daily lives as followers of Christ?
14) How does leadership in the Kingdom of God differ from leadership in the world?
15) Who does Christ charge us to serve in verse 14? Do Christ’s disciples have a choice as to whether they will obey this charge? What does Jesus say will be the result in verse 17 of such obedience?
16) Once again, John points out the gap between knowing and doing in verse 17. What is the difference between “works” as a requirement for salvation and true biblical faith? (See also James 2:14-26)
17) Compare Jesus method of teaching in this passage with that of the Pharisees in Matthew 23:1-7. What differences stand out to you?
18) Does this text teach that we must literally wash the feet of others? If your answer is no, what does it teach? (See verse 15)
19) What principles of service can we observe in Jesus’ example in this passage?
20) How can you and I obey our Lord’s command to follow his example in today’s context?by beakennedy and comments are closed.