A Horrifying Example
Holy One, I commit this day to You, desiring to abide in Your presence and abound in Your power.
Read John 13:1-17
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
How Jesus turns things upside-down! Reflect on this, and make a list of the ways in which he has turned things upside-down for you, in your experience.
This marvelous passage begins five chapters in which Jesus is alone with his disciples, preparing them for his departure heralded here in verse 1. Here and in verse 3 John twice allows us to see Jesus’ inner awareness: “Jesus knew … Jesus knew ….” In each case–especially in verse 3–what Jesus knew does not seem to fit with what he now does! The “so” which the NIV adds at the beginning of verse 4 seems to make it somehow logical, and fitting, that Jesus, who knows he is the Lord of everything, should dress and act as a servant with a bowl of water for the disciples’ feet.
But it’s not fitting. Peter feels how wrong this is. He refuses to let Jesus do it (8)–and uses the same super-emphatic negative that Jesus uses in 11:26 (see note for July 15)–“you will never, ever wash my feet–not ever!” Just nine words from Jesus (in the Greek) completely change his mind: “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” How amazing! The whole worldly structure of things, whereby the powerful exercise power and the subservient try to get a piece of it (remember the Greeks in chapter 12?) has been overturned by the kingdom of God. Unless we grasp this, there will be no new life, no resurrection, because we can’t be connected to Jesus. He turns things upside-down, completely, and then makes that topsy-turvy set of values the pattern for his followers (12-17).
Peter gets the point immediately (9): “Then, Lord, not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” The most important word here is “Lord.” How hard this is to learn! Churches and Christian leaders constantly find themselves pulled into worldly patterns of operating, not in obedience to Jesus’ example here.
Think deeply about how Jesus’ example might speak to you, right now, in your life and ministry.
Father, my natural inclination is to be served rather than to serve. I enjoy being above others, but I know that is not what true discipleship is all about. Create a servant’s heart in me.