7 Questions God Has For You: Do You Understand What I Have Done for You?
Rev. Michael F. Bailey
August 7, 2016
John 13:1-15 Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus answered, ‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ Peter said to him, ‘You will never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.’ Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’ Jesus said to him, ‘One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.’ For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’
After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.
Sometimes in an act or action we see an entire story, don’t we? I mean, think about it: a ring is placed on a finger in a wedding ceremony; a favorite flower is lovingly placed on a casket; a stole is place on the neck of a kneeling ordinand; a mommy kisses a boo-boo. Lauralee and I just returned from the San Fransisco Bay area where we saw the story of a loving, committed Christian couple and their family in an act; one where I placed the waters of baptism, symbolic of God’s loving grace already being poured in the lives of our twin two month old grandsons. Today’s passage is also a story in action. Just before his crucifixion, Jesus joined in a meal with his disciples. A few days before, they had experienced the joyous shouts of the triumphant entry into Jerusalem, so I’m guessing the mood was pretty lively. Jesus got up, took off his outer garment, wrapped a towel around his waist, knelt down and washed the feet of his disciples. Peter, (who in the Gospel of John should always been heard as the mouthpiece for all the disciples) protested, and Jesus told him that you must let me serve you like this if you want to be a part of my life and ways. Then, Jesus taught that followers too are to be in this very same kind of service.
Jesus began his teaching that day by asking a question (one we would do well to ponder each day, not just one a Sunday in a “Questions” sermon series) “Do you know what I have done for you?” So do you? Do you know what Jesus has done for you?
For one thing, Jesus offers us comfort, care and cleansing. This Christ, the Lord of the universe, kneels to earth, to his disciples back then and today, and brings a washing of our wounds, our dirt, our pain, our anger and our secret dark recesses. It’s little wonder that Peter, and I dare say us as well, shy away from bring so thoroughly and intimately known – known in all of our brokenness and sin. On one hand, we like to put up a strong façade to each other and even to the Christ; we want to always appear to “have it all together.” To be washed by Jesus engenders being open, transparent, honest and revealing of our neediness, our broken places, our wounds and even our sin. And yet, Christ proclaims his cleansing to be a necessity for being in him and for him to be in us.
In this action story, Jesus shows another thing he’s done for us, namely revealing how we are to be in community with one another. In a word, Jesus, in his foot washing action models church. It sounds so idyllic, so sweet, so warm doesn’t it? This command to lovingly serve one another?
But, when you consider that first community gathered around Jesus, that first church, if you will, it quickly loses its sheen! Judas was there, and we all know what he did; denying, cursing Peter was in the room; thunderous James and John were there who would soon be sleeping through the Gethsemane experience when Jesus need them more than ever before. And all the rest were no better; both Matthew and Mark say they all deserted him and ran away. And yet, Jesus washed their feet; he humbly served them and calls us to the same kind of acts in serving one another in our community gathered around him. His call is for us to humbly, kindly and lovingly serve that person in church who betrayed a confidence; who cheated on their spouse; who is of a different race, gender identity or political party than you; that person who bad-mouths everything about the church; that person who annoys, angers and rubs you the wrong way….
It’s no wonder we have to receive his cleansing love in order to put it into practice; we’d never have this ability alone; we must have his love flowing through us, to love like this.
And finally, this story in action has Jesus doing another thing for us, that is, revealing how we are to carry out his mission to the world, that is, as humble, loving servants of all. And that word all is the catch isn’t it; all means all! Sometimes those we consider to be of influence, power or even wealth need us for something and we often are flattered! A friend from long ago recently called and asked if I could write a recommendation letter for his grandson to be admitted to a prestigious, selective university. I was glad to do so and when my friend called me back to thank me when his grandson was admitted, I thought, “Wow, a corporate pack of aged steaks will be coming my way this Christmas!” My friend is the largest food broker east of the Mississippi! Sometimes we serve thinking, “I may get something out of this.” But humbly serving all, means all; the least, the lost, the unloved, the despised – people who can’t do anything for us in return. These are the folks we are to serve humbly, not as superiors, not even to make our selves feel good. These are the ones we are to humbly serve as Jesus lives in us and serves through us. We are his heart, voice, hands, feet and loving presence on this earth, in this city, for this time.
“Do you know what I have done for you?” Jesus asked and then answering his own question he declared, “I have set an example for you, now you go and do likewise.”
That’s what we ponder today – Christ cleanses us, we are to serve each other in the church and the humbly serve in the world. Have you come to him in honesty so that with his touch you can come clean and become clean? Will you love in this church as he loves, even those you have problems with? How will you humbly serve in the world? What commitment are you willing to make, even this morning?
Share a time that you've served someone else or been served by someone else and the impact it had on you.
Share your thoughts on the importance of humility in following Christ.
Share an example of societal standards (like who washes whose feet) being contrary to God's standards.
Share your reaction to Jesus washing even Judas' feet, knowing that Judas would betray him.