The Example - John 13:12-20

Last week, we kicked off our series on Jesus’ Farewell Discourses (John 13-17) with the account of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples (John 13:1-11). This week we pick up on verses 12-20 to see how Jesus’ interprets this event for his disciples. Read the passage here.

Jesus begins by inviting them to evaluate the moment, “Do you understand what I have done to you?”. The foot washing was not just a one-time act of compassion by Jesus; it was also an intentionally constructed teaching moment. Last week, I mentioned that disciples were expected to follow the example of their rabbi. Jesus reminds them of this fact in his next statement, “You call me teacher and Lord, and you are right, for I am so (Jesus adds emphasis by pointing out he is not only a rabbi, but also Lord). 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. 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” (John 13:13-16).

Next Jesus highlights that belief alone is not what he’s after, but rather action, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” Jesus’ expectation of his followers is to do the things he says to do, and to follow in his footsteps. The blessing doesn’t come from merely believing that we should love and serve others, the blessing comes from actually loving and serving them.
Jesus finishes his instruction on this teachable moment by dwelling on what it means to be chosen and sent by God. Recognizing that his betrayer was sitting among them, he points out in that not everyone in the room is going to learn this lesson (verses 18-19). From the outside, Judas looked like a follower of Jesus, but in his heart, he had no intention of doing as Jesus said to do. According to Jesus, this fact excluded him from the body of Christ. The truly chosen are obedient.

Jesus’ final words seems a bit out of place, “Truly, truly I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” How does this phrase fit in? Jesus is explaining that those who follow his example are the ones who carry the presence of God with them in the world. Yes, belief matters. Yes, teaching matters, but truth divorced from action doesn’t carry the Spirit of God. Or as James would say, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:17) On the other hand, when we go into the world loving our neighbors and our enemies, we carry God’s presence. When we are received, he is received.

Taken all together, Jesus is defining what it means to be a disciple. A true disciple is one who hears the words and sees the actions of the rabbi and then models their own lives on that example. We are to say and do what Jesus said and did. The 90s axiom, “What Would Jesus Do?” may seem cliché, but they are profound words to live by, especially when we consider what happens next in the story. All of this was said and done in the shadow of the cross. Jesus’ foot washing action may have been shocking, but it was only the warm-up act to the example he would set next: dying for sinners on a rugged cross.

After his resurrection, Jesus gave his disciples the command to “make disciples.” In other words to recruit others into the self-sacrificial madness of God, all for the sake of loving our enemies. I love the way my friend Tim Meier put it in a talk he gave a couple years back. Paraphrasing Jesus’s great commission he said, “I want you (my disciples) to go and round up everyone who hates you and die for them.” This is the ultimate example of our Teacher and Lord.

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. - Romans 5:8

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. - 1 Peter 2:21

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Jon Foreman: Love is The Rebel Song 
Jon's music continues to draw me right in. This song deeply resonates with my heart, as I look at a world torn by violence, hate, and injustice. The gospel story of Jesus provides the means for healing across these divides. To quote the song, "in a world at war, love is the rebel song."

Missions Spotlight:
The Hoving Home

Please pray for all of the precious women and staff at the Hoving Home, Oxford, NJ, as they are currently in quarantine due to Covid. Please pray the health department will administer effective care and testing to all in residence and those who are involved with the Hoving Home.

Please pray for healing mercies to be upon these women.
(2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Click here for more on the ministry of the Hoving Home.

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