They were so concerned about getting their way. They were concentrating on being who they wanted to be. Each one of them wanted to be thought of more highly than the other. You would almost think they were in a popularity contest. They were acting as the rest of the world but they supposedly had an advantage that should have prevented this maneuvering for position. What was that advantage? They knew Jesus. In fact, they had more knowledge of Jesus than anyone else. They traveled with Him. They ate with Him. They listened to Him. They had private conversations with Him. They could ask Him any question on their mind, face to face. Yet they did not act like Him.
Now, Jesus is coming to the close of His walk upon this world and is grieved at His disciples' lack of understanding of who they had been following these past three years. A last chance presents itself just before Jesus is taken from them. As they gather for the Passover feast, the shuffle for position continues at the table. "Who will sit at the right hand of Jesus, who will sit at the left? Who will sit next, and next and.. Who will have to sit furthest away? It won't be me! I'll get through that door first. I'll know where I'm sitting."
The last thing on their mind was serving each other. Can you picture them? Scooting into the upper room. "Okay, which is the head of the table? Let's watch where Jesus sits. Go for it. Am I in the right place??" And they all sit down and they realize they have missed a step. There is no servant to wash their feet! No one moves. The first person who moves loses. "I wasn't moving. I was scratching my nose." "No, I'm not getting up because the person that gets up to go and find a servant is acting like a servant. We've just been talking about who is going to be the greatest and where we are going to sit. If I get up, I'll lose my spot." I imagine they look at whoever is seated at the foot of the table, the furthest from Jesus. "I wonder who's there. They won't mind losing their spot. After all, they should be the servant." The guy at the foot of the table says, "I'm already at the foot of the table. I'm not budging. I've lost my spot at the head of the table. I'm not going to be the servant any more than this." To move means you lose.
But while they are looking at the foot of the table, Jesus leaves the head of the table. And He goes to the foot of the table. Not just to the foot of the table but to the foot of the person at the foot of the table. Suddenly, all has shifted. The people at the head of the table are wondering if they're still at the head of the table. "Jesus has gone. Now He's going to move down there, and those people are going to be at the head of the table. We've missed out!" And they're wondering, "Has our position shifted? Is Jesus playing favorites now at the foot of the table? Did we sit where we sat in vain?"
What a difference this is in what we see here and what we saw a couple of weeks ago in our series on Abraham. For a reminder, let's go to Genesis 18. You remember it when we went over it in a sermon. The three visitors that show up at Abraham's tent.
Genesis 18:2-5. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.
He said, "If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way--now that you have come to your servant" A little different picture.
Notice, these men were strangers, yet Abraham's first concern was that their feet have water. He had no clue that the feet he was providing for were feet that would be nailed to a cross for Him. He didn't even know that these feet would be the tiny feet belonging to his most famous ancestor in a manger in Bethlehem. But he provided for their comfort without hesitation, in fact, with eagerness: he ran to do it. He provided for all their needs and called himself, a "SERVANT," even though he was the head of his clan. Also, remember that it took Abraham 100 years to reach this point.
The disciples had not known Jesus for that long but they had known Him on a daily, face to face, basis for over three years. They should have known better. Look at John 13. And here we find the story unfolding.
John 13:4-17. ...so He got up from the meal, took of His outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was around Him.
He came to Simon Peter, I picture Him getting to the head of the table by now. That's where Peter would have been. He came to Simon Peter, who said to Him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?"
Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand."
"No," said Peter, "You shall never wash my feet."
Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with Me."
A great transformation happens right here with Peter between verses eight and nine. "Then, Lord," Simon Peter replied, "not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!"
Jesus answered, "A person who has had a bath (Baptism) needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you." For He knew who was going to betray Him, and that was why He said not every one was clean.
When He had finished washing their feet, He put on His clothes and returned to His place. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" He asked them. "You call Me 'Teacher' and 'Lord." and rightly so, for that is What I am. Now that I, you Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
After this took place, I imagine almost every disciple wished that he had been the first to move. They wished, "Oh, if I had only stood up. I felt the tug. I knew I should have stood up but I didn't. I knew I should have been the servant. But now, the King of kings and Lord of lords, Creator of me washed my feet. I wish that I had moved away from my position, not been so concerned with it." They wished they had moved away from this position to a far better place, a place where Abraham had knelt centuries before, at the feet of Jesus!
Today, Jesus calls us to do it again. Do not think of our place. Do not think of our position, but to be eager to serve one another.
At this time, those who wish to participate we're going to divide for our foot-washing service. The ladies that would like to participate together may go to the Fireside Room, the gentlemen to the Primary One Room down this hallway. The couple that wish to serve each other have a choice of going to this first room in the hallway, the Nursery, or upstairs to the Junior Room. If you wish not to participate at this time, feel free to wait quietly in the Sanctuary. Let's divide at this time.
(When the foot-washing has ended, we all take part in the "Lord's Supper," the sacrement of the Bread and the Wine. We sing a song and as we leave, we put an offering for the needy in our church at the door.
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last updated 6/30/2002 by Bob Beckett.