April 6, 2011 Devotion Sharing

Submitted by Peter Choi, Gracepoint Berkeley

John 13:1-17
What did Jesus do with the knowledge that “the time had come for him to leave this world?”  Why did Jesus choose this as his final lesson for his disciples?

Reflect on the words: “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done… you will be blessed if you do them.”  With this, and his many other words on being a servant, Jesus elevates to the highest place the value of servanthood and sacrificial love.  To what extent have I internalized these values, and in what ways have I become  a servant to others in my life?

In what ways has following the example of Jesus become a blessing in my life?

When Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave the world, he chose to wash his disciples’ feet. It’s too far-fetched to think that the only reason Jesus did this was for effect, although it would have been a very powerful illustration. No – it was also an expression of, as it says in v.1, “the full extent of his love”. So in the humiliating act of washing the dirty feet of his disciples, Jesus taught them what it means to love. Simply, to love means doing the thing that I would not do otherwise, doing the unimaginable, doing the unglamorous, doing what seems like a chore, doing what doesn’t garner the applause and praise of anyone watching, doing the necessary thing even at the protest of the beloved. It’s amazing to read in v.3 that “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power” – yet Jesus chose the towel and the basin. That is also love – the self-limiting of myself, even if it constitutes a “waste” of my powers and abilities. A “full extent” expression of love means all of these things, and they are all rolled into one. It’s a scandalous thing to consider during a time in which gods were thought to be above getting involved in the affairs of men, their lives too lofty to be affected by the ins and outs of mundane life. Not only did Jesus get involved, he lowered himself to serve men, and to express the full extent of his love for his disciples in this lowly way.

It’s not a “pebble-snatching” moment by any means, but the way that the narrative reads, it seems that this was something that Jesus was looking forward to – something that he was eager to do. And that is perhaps the most profound thing about love that Jesus wanted to teach his disciples – that love often transforms the thing that I am least willing to do into the thing that am I most willing to do. It may not be as dramatic as a war-time captive being able to forgive and even minister to his former captor, but there are many times when I know it is not what I would do if it were not for Jesus’ example and the many other examples I have seen at our church. And my life has taken on a totally different flavor. As we gear up for the new quarter at CSUEB, with Spring Kickoff just tomorrow, I realize that my life has come to involve many things that I had been least willing to do. They have become the things that I am most willing to do because I want to follow Jesus’ example, and the example of my own leaders. What is more, I find that as I serve others, my love for them actually grows, my sphere of concern for them increases, and I am enriched. I am blessed far more than I could have imagined because I chose to do as it has been done for me, rather than just sit back and relax.

John 13:6-9
“This was a world where roads were dusty and sandals were worn daily[…] The task of foot-washing was so menial that according to some Jewish sources, Jewish slaves were exempt and the job kept for Gentiles[…]  At the very least, all our ancient sources show that foot-washing was a degrading and lowly task.”[1]
What may have been going on in Peter’s mind as he refused Jesus’ offer to wash his feet?
What are some ways in which people respond to Jesus like Peter did?
What can I learn from the words “unless I wash you, you have no part with me,” about what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus?

For Peter, he may have been all too aware of the positional implications of Jesus washing his feet. He did what was right based on those implications by refusing Jesus’ offer. Often I find myself similarly importing worldly/human values when I am confronted by the truth of the Gospel. But what I see very clearly from Jesus’ response is that what relates me to him is the full expression of his love, which is true when I think about the cross itself. I am closest when I am able to set aside my human notions and simply accept the gift of grace that he has given me. Many times this is hard to do, because in accepting grace I have to admit that I am a sinner who cannot do anything to merit what Christ has done for me. And that can be very painful and embarrassing.

[1] Gary M. Burge, The NIV Application Commentary: John, (Grand Rapids, MI:Zondervan, 2000) 368-369.

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