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Author:Pastor Keith Davis
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Congregation:Bethel United Reformed Church
 Calgary, Alberta
Title:Love’s Humility
Text:John 13:1-3 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Love’s Humility

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, we live in a very proud and egotistical age. Ours is an age where people are not ashamed to call attention to “self”. We are obsessed with self: self-expression, self-image, self-esteem, and of course, self-exaltation.


It literally is an age of “self” indulgence. It’s the perception that the world and everyone in it revolves around me and exists to make me happy and serve my needs. And tragically, what gets lost in all this focus on self is the often unheralded and uncelebrated virtue of humility.


What’s lost is any sense of awareness, any care, any consideration for or about “the other” – you know, the other person who is living and breathing and taking up space beside you. We’re no longer willing, it seems, to ask the question: what is my obligation, my duty toward others.


And as difficult as it may be to hear this, that attitude of self, the exaltation of self has found its way into the church. Perhaps the most obvious example is seen in the style of worship. Self-styled worship is essentially when we transform worship from something that is supposed to be about God, pleasing to God and fitting for God, and we turn it into something that is about us, and pleasing to us, and fitting for men.


But there are many other examples in our lives – of the way we as Christians exalt ourselves, and think only of ourselves, and serve ourselves without giving any thought to the duty we owe to our neighbor. And that’s why the passage we just read is so important for us. It’s so foundational not just for Christian ministry in the church, but for living the Christian life.


See, Jesus is not showing us a one-time act or an unusual or exceptional favor that he performs for his disciples. No. He’s showing them and us, a life style. He’s showing them, and us, what god expects from us every day. Here in John 13 Jesus Demonstrates the Humility of Love

1 The Shocking Depth of His Love

2 The Shameless Demonstration of His Love



1 The Shocking Depth of His Love

Let’s listen once more to the way John begins this chapter. He writes:  It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.


John also expresses that same sentiment in verse 3: Jesus knew that the father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God. One of the greatest questions (mysteries) surrounding the life of Jesus Christ has to do with what did Jesus know and at what time (or age) did he know it.


At what age did Jesus come to realize his saving purpose and become aware of the nature of the death he must suffer? Although we can’t answer those questions with any degree of certainty, we do know that during his earthly ministry Jesus was always aware of his purpose and destiny.


At several points along the way Jesus reminded his own disciples and the people around him that his time had not yet come. And in several passages we’re told that when the chief priests and enemies of Jesus went to seize him, Jesus slipped away because his time had not yet come. So Jesus was well aware of the timing of his ministry and of the kind of death he must die.


And in the previous chapter (12) we find a passage which reinforces this. I did not preach on it this time around, but I will most likely return to it and preach on it for a Good Friday celebration. In John 12: 23 Jesus proclaims the hour has come for the Son of Man to be gloried. And then verse 27 as well: Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!"


So here John is alerting us to the fact Jesus was fully aware of that was about to happen -- that the week of his passion, the time of his betrayal, arrest, trial, suffering, crucifixion, and death were ordained by God. This was the destiny of Christ, these were the final steps along the pathway to secure salvation for sinners, and Jesus is prepared.


But there’s another reason that John writes these words (this prologue to the passion week). He wants to highlight the fact that everything that is about to transpire, everything that Jesus does, everything that he is about to endure, is done for the sake of love. I remind you again of one of the most famous verses in the whole book of John: For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life!


And one of the key words in that famous verse is the tiny word so God SO loved the world. And the extent of his love, the depth of his love, the full degree and magnitude of his love was made manifest when the Father sent His beloved Son into this world to suffer and die for the sake of unworthy sinners like you and me.     


Here, John is saying the very same thing about the love which the Son of God has for those for whom he was about to die. Jesus was about to show them the full extent of his love, the full degree and magnitude of his his love which is beyond all measure and imagination.


John literally says he now showed them that he loved them to the uttermost. And everything that happens from this point on – not just the foot washing, but everything leading up o and including the death of our dear Savior is encompassed in these words; as an expression of our Savior’s loving us to the uttermost.


So to all who read these words, they stand as a giant sign flashing these words: this is what love looks like! This is what love does! This is how much Jesus loves you and me! This is the extent to which Jesus was willing to go because love compelled Him, and this is what our love for each other should look like also.


Here Jesus is about to shock and embarrass his disciples and us, with a demonstration of his love.  Now, there’s something else here that really deserves our attention as well and it is this: when you read through this portion of the book of John we have to realize that everything that takes place from chapter 13-17 happens all at once, in one setting, at one place.


It’s remarkable because chapters 1-12 cover the coming in the flesh of the Son of God and his three year public ministry; and now we get to chapters 13-21 and it slows down to a crawl. It covers the final two days (Thursday into Friday), the final hours of the life of Jesus Christ.


Yet, these chapters are some of the most precious and beautiful chapters in the entire Bible. Even though the disciples are unaware of it at the moment, Jesus is speaking his parting words to them. He’s preparing them for all that is about to take place – and for all that they will be called to do after He leaves them.


And for anyone who’s had a chance to sit down with a loved one and hear those parting words, you know how precious that moment is. So that is what’s happening here. This all takes place in the Upper Room, here Jesus washes his disciple’s feet; he reveals the identity of his betrayer; predicts Peter’s denial.


He then comforts about his departure (John 14), Jesus promises to send His Holy Spirit after he goes to the Father; He teaches them about what it means to belong to Him – the Vine. He teaches them about the ministry and power of the Holy Spirit, and then he wraps up everything by praying with them – what is one of the most beautiful prayers ever prayed – what we refer to as Christ’s High Priestly Prayer.


And again, all that Jesus said and all that he did here was an expression of his amazing love for His disciples, and for his church. In Ephesians 3:18 Paul records his prayer for that the church in Ephesus; he prays that they might begin to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge!


Well here it is. Here’s what that love looks like up close and personal! Here are the measurements!  These are the parameters of Christ’s love and concern for His very own. Pastor John MacArthur wrote this about this love (and I’m paraphrasing a bit). When it says in verse 2 that Jesus loves us to the end, it means to the max, to the full. It means he loves us eternally and infinitely. He loves us as much as an infinite, eternal God can love. It’s immeasurable and inconceivable in its depth, its height, its length and width. It’s beyond human knowledge and description.    


I want us all to be amazed and encouraged by this thought, beloved, that Jesus loves you and me this much! You and I are loved more than we can even know (this side of heaven at least). Granted, none of us have ever met Jesus before. We’ve never seen his face (as the disciples did). We never had the privilege of knowing Jesus as a personal friend and teacher like the disciples.

And so for us, it’s very difficult to conceive of someone loving us so much when we have never met them or seen them face to face.


We would think it very strange and odd if someone came up to us (whom we’ve never met) and started to embrace us and kiss us and tell us how much and how long they’ve loved us. That’s because we normally associate that kind of love with the people we know and see and interact with on a daily basis.


Yet, Jesus is God, and as the second person of the Holy Trinity, Jesus knows us and loves us from all eternity. And the fact that He knows us and still loves us is really all that needs to be said. Because anyone that really knows us, knows that we are not worthy of being loved. Yet God’s love is unconditional. That means that He loves us because it is His sovereign choice to love us. He loves us in spite of all of our sin and hatred and ungodliness.


Because God is God, His love is eternal and unchanging. His love is from everlasting to everlasting. This means there never was a time when God did not love us, and there never will be a time when God will not love us. That is what these words mean at the outset of this chapter. All that we see Jesus do, all we hear Him say is an expression of the extent of His amazing love! 


2 The Shameless Demonstration of His Love

But then, secondly, we notice the shameless demonstration of this love. Going to verse 3-5 its says: Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.


For a lot of different reasons, we’re not accustomed to this practice of washing our feet when we come into the house. We wear socks and shoes, and even for some of us, when we do wear sandals we break the cultural taboo and we wear socks in our sandals! Also, we (for the most part) have paved streets, and thirdly when we do have to travel a fair distance, we usually drive and don’t have to walk.


But back in the Bible times, people did not have socks and shoes like we do. They usually wore sandals (with no socks. That’s ‘old school’). And the roads were dirt roads which in the hot and dry season meant dry and dusty roads. And the people usually walked from place to place.


So that is why in front of every home, there would be a pot of water for the purpose of washing the feet of the travelers before they’d come into the house. Normally, the duty of the washing of the feet would fall to a servant or a salve in the household; but even among the servants and slaves there was a division of duties and a separation of ranks.


This was a job relegated to the lowliest slave or the lowliest servant, and that’s because it was the lowliest task and required very little skill; and quite frankly it would not have been a very enjoyable task. And what’s more, among Jews it was considered to be beneath them to wash the feet of another Jew. That was a task better suited for a Gentile, for someone the Jews considered to be ‘beneath them’. So you can see already how this is shaping up.  


Now, as Jesus gathered with his disciples in the upper chamber, it is quite apparent that there was no servant present to wash their feet. That was undoubtedly due to the fact that Jesus and his disciples were moving about very cautiously. The Jews were looking for Jesus, waiting for the right time to arrest him; so no doubt this was a very private supper with just Jesus and the 12. The supper which would come to be called “the Last Supper”.


And since eating required them to sit or recline around the table, their feet would be in close proximity to each other and to the table -- so it was not only customary but also necessary to wash their feet before they ate.


But now the question comes: who’s going to do it?  Who among the 12 disciples will lower himself to do what must be done. And notice, John doesn’t record what the disciples were thinking in that moment. There’s no doubt that they all knew someone had to do it. And since Jesus is the Rabbi, the teacher, the leader and Lord of the disciples, they know that the job must fall to one of them. So who’s it going to be?


Now, remember what I said at the beginning of the sermon. We live in an age of self. Self-adulation; self-image; self-esteem. That was true in the days (and in the hearts) of the disciples as well. Throughout the three year ministry of Jesus, the disciples showed glimpses of greatness, where they acted and spoke in faith. But they also had more than their fair share of shameful failures; of embarrassing moments where they thought only about themselves.  


There was the request from the mother of James and John – that Mark 10 tells us was also their own request to Jesus: They asked him: Grant (that when you come into your kingdom) that one of us may sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory." To which Jesus replied: You do not know what you are asking,” Jesus replied. “Can you drink the cup I will drink, or be baptized with the baptism I will undergo?


Then there’s the passage from Luke 9: 46 which happened shortly after Peter made his glorious confession of Jesus as the Christ of God. We read: An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. After that question Luke tells us that Jesus took a little child and had him stand by him, and Jesus said: He who is least among you all – he is the greatest.


And then we come to Luke 22:24. And if you turn to that passage a moment, you’ll see the setting. It’s the last supper. It’s right here. Right now. We’re in the final hours, the final moments of the ministry of Jesus Christ. Jesus is about to make the greatest sacrifice ever – to give himself up on the cross for undeserving sinners, and what have these disciples learned from him? Verse 24 says A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest.


So there you have it. You have 12 proud, egotistical, self-centered, self-serving disciples all gathered in the upper room with Jesus, and each of them are looking at each other, waiting for someone else to volunteer to do what needs to do done, what has to be done.


And I think it’s important to point out as well that (with the possible exception of Judas) anyone of them would have volunteered in an instant to wash the feet of Jesus their Master. Peter makes that obvious in verse 8. He knows that it’s totally backwards (socially unacceptable for Jesus to be washing their feet. So that’s why he says to Jesus, You shall never wash my feet).


Peter was expressing what every one of them was thinking and feeling at the time. They each would have been willing to wash the feet of their Master, because in their eyes that was dignified, that was proper, even a privilege. As disciples, they could do for their Master. But their problem is that they are not willing to wash the feet of their own peers, their equals.  


Their pride is so strong that it will not allow them to lower themselves, to humble themselves; to degrade themselves to the point where they take on the job of the lowliest servant in the house and wash the feet of their fellow disciples. To them, that’s not something that ‘the greatest them’ would do. And what a terrible shame that it.   


I hope you can see that this is not just a problem of pride. It’s equally a problem of love -- a lack of love in their hearts for one another. If they had loved each other as Jesus loved them, then they would have been fighting over the water pot; they would have had 12 volunteers.


And that’s what we can so easily miss in this passage. True humility flows from a heart of love. Otherwise, it’s not humility. A sure sign of our love for someone is our willingness to our willingness to serve them; to do whatever needs to be done. We see this in marriage where a healthy spouse will often care for their sickly spouse – doing whatever needs to be done. We call that a labor of love. Where there is love, there is always the spirit of humility and eager service.  

Well, it is in the midst of this prideful stand-off with the disciples, who is it that lowers himself to do what no one else would do?  It’s Jesus. It’s their Master. In a shocking and shameless demonstration of His amazing love and abject humility, Jesus got up the table, took off his outer garment – which means he was naked --and he wrapped a towel around his waist; and just like any ordinary, household slave would do, Jesus began to wash the feet of his disciples.


Now tonight we are going to look more in depth as the application of this passage, but already, we can clearly see the message which Jesus conveys to his disciples. It’s the same message he has taught them all along, and which (up to this moment) they still did not take to heart; they still did not fully understand or embrace.


Truth be told, they would not fully understand the meaning of this message until after Jesus gave himself up on the cross for them, until after he rose from the grave and explained what all this meant. But right here, right now, Jesus was showing them what greatness in his kingdom looks like. Jesus was showing them what love looks like; what love requires; and what love acts like.  


Love, Christ-like love, is a humble love. It is a love that is divested, that is stripped and emptied of all personal pride, of all thoughts of self-esteem and self-promotion, and self-rights. If Christ’s love is in us, if His Spirit of love and humility dwell in our hearts, then we will love each other as he loved, and then there will be nothing that we will not do for each other or for our neighbor!


There will never be a job that is beneath us, or a person’s feet that we will not wash (metaphorically speaking), because Christ’s love focus on the other person, on their needs,


Philippians 2: 1-5 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:


I can’t force any of you come back to church tonight to hear the second sermon, but I encourage you to do so, and I appeal to you on the basis of this passage. If there’s one thing we need to learn as Christians it’s how to love each other with a Christ-like love, which then manifests itself in a servant’s heart, and servant’s hands that we are always willing and eager to serve. Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2018, Pastor Keith Davis

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