John 13:18

“I am speaking to 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.’”-John 13:18

Jesus circled back to Judas.  In verse 11 he had indicated that one of his friends would betray him.  Judas.  Jesus knew that he would be betrayed because it had been foretold in scripture.  Do you ever wonder if he knew when he chose Judas that he would be the betrayer?  The betrayal was part of God’s unfolding story.  Jesus referenced Psalm 41:9, which reads “Even my closest friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.” Jesus had trusted Judas. They lived life together, yet he was betrayed by him.

In the next verse of Psalm 41, the psalmist wrote, “but you, O Lord, be gracious to me, and raise me up, that I may repay them!”  The psalmist did not write this from a place of petty vindictiveness, but from a recognition that justice would prevail.  God will deal with sin.

Have you ever felt betrayed, cast off by another, lied about, or ignored?  Perhaps a more important question is how often have you been the betrayer?  Jesus came to deal with ever betrayer, rebel, and renegade, paying for their sins on the cross, but like us, they need to accept his free gift.

Jesus, your friend Judas’s betrayal led to the cross. What a punch in the gut that must have been.  Yet, you willingly stuck to the plan. Forgive us for the ways in which we continually betray you, our friend. Thank you for your persevering grace. Amen.

John 13:17

“If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”-John 13:17

My best friend in college would often say, “I thought about it,” his typical response when pressed to share whether he had asked somebody on a date.  After telling me about a potential love interest, I would say, “You should ask her out.” Inevitably, his response would come: “I thought about it.”

As we have been discussing, Jesus came as Lord, but also teacher.  He did not come to merely download “Jesus 101” into their brains, he came to show them how to live.

In the past decade or two, the Internet has allowed a resurgent interest in theology with women and men reading Calvin, Spurgeon, and even Augustine. They fill their heads with quotes and strongly held convictions. I speak as an insider.  Yet too often, we amateur theologians fail to put into practice what we have learned. What happens when there are large heads on weak bodies? We topple over.  Jesus was essentially saying to those of us who want to follow him, “Okay great, you know my message, but do not just keep it in your head.  Live a life of love.”  Serve one another out of the abundance of your heart.

Jesus, strengthen my hands, my feet, my back, and my heart for the battle you have called me to enter.  I am prone to archiving theological knowledge that goes nowhere. Make me one who lives out what I believe, in your Spirit. Amen.

John 13:16

“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.”-John 13:16

Jesus had been instructing his disciples in the way of the cross, which is the way of service.  They had been watching him and listening to him, yet they also held on to a tiny hope that he would leave the way of the cross, reveal his power, and ultimately seek glory in an earthly kingdom.

They saw him as Lord (see Jn. 13:13), which in their thinking gave him every right to rule with power, but he didn’t, at least not in any way they expected.  When he said, “A servant is not greater than his master,” he was telling them, “You all agree that I am your Lord and master.  If that is true, do you imagine that your lives will be exempt from service?  No. I want you to live the same way.”  They were to be his messengers, carrying the good news of the Kingdom of God into the world.  The message he wanted them to share was one of the Kingdom of the cross, which is built upon loving service, not control.

Over time, his message gets twisted.  So much of modern Evangelicalism, at least to the West, has abandoned the way of the cross, preferring the way of glory.  Some Christians talk about how God will bless them with wealth and possessions if they just believe rightly, or speak the right words, but God’s kingdom is filled with other-centered servants, not self-centered consumers.

Jesus, In our self-centeredness, we seek after our own comfort, recognition, and glory, yet you have called us to something greater.  You have asked us to be messengers of love and service. Forgive our self-centered ways and lead us back to the way of the cross. Amen.

John 13:15

“For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”-John 13:15

In modern times, we are losing touch with the notion of apprenticing, believing that we can learn all we need from Google, YouTube, and a six-month internship.  Current educational systems are designed to teach facts to large groups, but are less able to instruct people in how to really live.

Not surprisingly, the didactic approach has infiltrated our churches too.  Sanctuaries are structured much like classrooms with chairs facing forward toward the podium where a leader instructs the group.  Many places even use PowerPoint.  The implicit assumption is that mere exposure to the spoken word will work in our hearts, leading to Christian behavior. To be honest, I suspect that it rarely does.  Orthodoxy (right thinking) does not necessarily, or even typically lead to orthopraxy (right action).

Jesus was no modern day preacher; he apprenticed his followers, living, loving, and serving in real life.  He did preach to large crowds, but he dedicated considerable effort to apprenticing a small band of women and men who spent their daily lives with him.  When he said, “I am your example.  You should do just as I have done to you,” he was talking about much more than just washing feet.

Jesus, you tell us that you are our model for how to live.  You did not come only to talk at people, but by your example, to show us how to love.  Help us to know not only what you taught and did, but to actually model our lives to follow your example as closely as we can, by the power of your indwelling spirit. Amen.

John 13:14

“If I then, your lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”-John 13:14

Those of us who live in the West in the 21st Century have no context for foot washing.  If we get stuck in wooden literalism, we will believe Jesus actually requires foot washing, but we always have to pay attention to his symbolism.

In the first century in Galilee, the process of washing feet was a necessary, but less than glamorous, chore.  The dust from the road would cake peoples’ feet, getting into the cracks and crevices.  Foot washing was a job for servants, so when Jesus washed their feet, he willingly took up a distasteful chore that was well below his status.  He became a servant, and he asks us to do the same.

In order to serve with the heart of Christ, we must know who we are.  We are those in whom Christ dwells; God’s beloved.  When we believe in our purity in Christ, we will not be afraid to get “other people’s dirt” on us.  We also must know that every person we serve is a divine image bearer and that alone confers dignity.  To love another is to love Christ.

Jesus, you humbly, willingly, and lovingly washed your disciples’ feet, which was one more example of your servant heart.  You have called us to the same way of love.  Open my eyes to see the beauty of your imprint in every face I see and to know the lengths you went to in order to set them free. Amen.

John 13:13

“You call me teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.”-John 13:13

As he talked with his disciples, Jesus again confirmed his identity. He reminded them of who he was and by what authority he was able to tell them how to live.

Jesus was their teacher. They had lived for three years as his apprentices, listening as he taught them by words and action. He was not passing on a mere intellectual faith, but a comprehensive, embodied faith. He was teaching them to “become love” (Bob Goff, 2018). He spoke and lived in such a way that he wanted them to do likewise.

He was also their Lord. They recognized that he was no mere rabbi. He was someone greater. They believed that he was the promised Messiah. As Lord, he had every right to command them, but he taught and led instead as a servant. His servant leadership was countercultural then and it is countercultural now.

In today’s church, many of us have accepted Jesus as Savior. By his death and resurrection, he has redeemed us from the power of death. But do we also take him as teacher and Lord? Do we willingly look at his life and teaching to understand godliness? Do we submit our wants, desires, and self-centeredness to his lordship, asking him, with willing hearts, to take over our lives?

Jesus, you tell us that you are lord and teacher, yet so often, we fail to live in that reality, perilously rejecting your sovereignty. We seek instruction from the world instead of what you are teaching us. Forgive us, Lord, and turn our hearts once again to you. Amen.

John 13:12

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?”-John 13:12

After Jesus finished washing the disciples’ feet, he dressed and rejoined them at the table.  I imagine that the men were experiencing a myriad of sensations, thoughts, feelings, images, and questions.  “What just happened?”  “What did Jesus mean when he said ‘you are completely clean?’” “Who was he talking about when he said ‘but not all of you?’” “Why is Peter always running his mouth?”

Patiently, Jesus looked at each of the men and asked “Do you understand what I have done to you?”  Some of them probably thought, “Why yes, Jesus, you washed our feet.”  Often, we miss the meaning behind what a person says or does.  Some of them likely thought “I have no idea what you did!”  That would be the honest response, but if they were like many of us, they kept quiet.  We are reluctant to voice our confusion to God and others.  We have come to believe godly people should have all the right answers, and so we avoid revealing our naïveté. 

Each of us must answer Jesus’s question, “Do you understand what I have done for you?  Do you know what I have done on your behalf? Do understand the significance of my life, death, and resurrection, and how that affects your life now?”

As we get to know Jesus better, we begin to understand why he came and what he did on our behalf.  He came to save us from the penalty of sin, but he also came to show us a new way to live.

Jesus, your earthly life was a demonstration of Kingdom living, built on other-centered love.  Open my eyes that I might understand what you have done for me and in me, so that I might live with gratitude today.  Amen.

John 13:11

For he knew who would betray him; that was why he said, “not all of your clean.”-John 13:11

I have always struggled to make sense of Judas, the betrayer. He was angry and greedy, so he made a deal with the religious leaders to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.  I often wonder, was Judas beyond redemption?  My struggle lies with the fact that I too have betrayed Jesus in my words, thoughts, and actions.  One example that stands out clearly in my mind is when a co-worker asked me if I had been reading anything and I said no because I was embarrassed. Ironically, I was reading a book titled, Jesus the Evangelist. Even Peter, “the rock,” would betray Jesus just a few hours later.  So why did Jesus say “not all of your clean”?  Perhaps Judas did not understand the meaning behind Jesus is life and impending death.  Maybe he did not understand Jesus’s reason for coming or that his cleansing was essential to eternal life.

Matthew’s gospel tells us that Judas “changed his mind, brought the silver back to the chief priests and elders and said ‘I have betrayed innocent blood’” (Mt. 27:4).  I have often wondered if Judas was repentant, or at least hoped he was. I do not think that we will ever know from the text.  God knows.  Regardless, I do not believe that Judas was beyond redemption.

How about you?  Do you understand what Jesus has done for you?  How many times have you betrayed him by how you have treated others?  Have you ever failed to lovingly represent him?  How often has greed or self-centeredness driven your life?  Regardless, you are not beyond redemption.  His offer of complete forgiveness still stands.

Jesus, help me to know that I am never beyond your salvation and that no sin is so great that I cannot be cleansed.  Teach me to rely daily upon your purifying grace and remind me that I cannot do it on my own.  Amen.

John 13:10, revisited

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.”-John 13:10

Jesus had announced that Peter was “completely clean”–fully forgiven, freely justified, and set free from the penalty of sin.  Jesus made it clear that the person who has bathed does not need to do so again “except for his feet.” 

Although we are set free from the penalty of sin, we are not miraculously free from sinning.  Every one of us still sins daily.  Jesus was telling Peter, and the rest of the disciples, that his forgiveness covers all sin–past, present, and future.

Do you ever struggle with believing God is that good?  Do you have trouble believing that God not only cleansed you, but that he continues to do so, day by day?  Listen, his river of grace never stops flowing over you.

Jesus, I am so thankful for your work on the cross, where you delivered me from the penalty of my sin and purified me from all of my unrighteousness.  Thank you for reminding me, through your interaction with Peter that your forgiveness continues day by day.  Help me to live in that freedom.  Amen.

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