Christ Centered Humility (John 13:1-20)

Christ Centered Humility (John 13:1-20)


MPS: As Christ humbly served His disciples He calls His disciples to humbly serve the world in His name.

Out of love Jesus humbled Himself for His people. (1-5)

(V. 1) Jesus’ public ministry had ended and His death was imminent. God showed His love for the world by sending His Son Jesus. First, Jesus would come into the world as an infant, taking on the humiliation of the flesh. Next, Jesus would minister through signs and teaching over the course of three years. Finally, Jesus would display the depths of God’s love by taking on the punishment of sin in place of the world. This last display of God’s love would fully restore man’s long fractured relationship with their Creator.

(V. 2) All evil that proceeds from the heart of man is likewise aligned with Satan. Everyone you know can be persuaded towards evil much more quickly than good. The prophet Jeremiah writes, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Judas had been discipled by God in the flesh, yet his heart still produced the most evil possible, he betrayed his friend and master.

(V. 3-4) In the midst of Judas’ evil plotting, Jesus was intentionally and willingly, preparing Himself to take the role of a servant. He was focused on His mission to serve His disciples. The text reveals to us that Jesus didn’t approach His task halfheartedly of haphazardly. He did all that was required and expected of a servant who was preparing to wash and cleanse the feet of his houseguests. This speaks to the thoroughness of God’s work. He doesn’t cut corners. When God does a work He does it perfectly. Such is the work of Christ in the heart of a sinner. He radically changes us and cleanses us. He accomplishes that salvific work by His death. He applies and seals that work by the Spirit. This, all achieved and accomplished according to the pleasure and divine will of God.

(V. 5) What is truly the significance of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples? Foot washing was a courtesy and the most menial task performed for guests by servants of the master. The poetic irony of this situation is found in the master washing His servant’s feet instead of the other way around. We will get into the theological representation in a few minutes. However, at this point in the text we see the display of true humility. We have the King of Kings humbling Himself in a way that is more fitting of the servant of servants. We see that in Christ true and sacrificial love is displayed in the most humbling of ways.

If humility is counting others as more important than yourselves than how can the God of the universe ever really humble Himself? If we can all agree that each of us is no better than the other then humility should be achievable. Jesus, however, is not equal to us. He is infinitely good, righteous, all powerful, all knowing, there is no sin in Him. How can such a One ever truly count others as more important or greater than He? Through radical love displayed on the cross. Through a radical work that clothes His people with His perfect righteousness, which we will move onto now.

Out of love Jesus washes His people clean of sin. (6-11)

(6-7) We see how countercultural this act of foot washing truly is, Peter only understood the it through the lens of their culture at the time. Yet we see the most remarkable promise from Jesus. He says that afterwards Peter would get it, he’d understand. Some might think that Jesus is referring to His explanation later in this passage, however, it’s more likely that He is referring to Spirit’s illumination. It is absolutely impossible to perfectly understand the things of God because He acts and thinks differently than we do. Yet through the Spirit we can be taught the things of God and He illuminates for us the truth of God. Surely thats what Jesus has in mind here.

(V. 8-10) Peter goes onto his second objection and through his hesitancy we get Christ’s explanation; He has come to wash the world clean of its sin. Those who are in Christ remain present in this world, cleansed by His blood, but there remains a need to continually seek Him and His work in their lives.

Though Christ’s sacrificial death is a once and for all work, meaning that His death is sufficient to atone for the sins of all God’s people, we are called to come to the cross of Christ daily and regularly. We are walking in this world as foreigners and sojourners. We are visitors in this world deployed for the purpose of glorifying the name of God. As we take up residence here God calls us to come to Him daily. He is our fountain of life. Jesus here is telling us that we must continually seek Him, cherish Him, and be cleansed daily of the world’s sinfulness. 

(10-11) How humble must one be to wash one’s feet and even more so to wash one who would betray them only hours later. We see Jesus even washed the feet of Judas who He know would betray Him. Many of us are willing to serve in some of the most lowly ways. You might take joy in it. How many of us would humble ourselves to the point that we serve our enemy with a smile, without malice, and in the most demeaning of tasks. Many of us can’t help ourselves from saying something nasty about public figures I can’t imagine if we actually had to humbly serve them.

This could be the case  here today as we minister to one another in the name of Christ. There could be some who have yet to know Jesus yet we offer up the Lord’s cleansing blood praying that you’d be washed. Yet in your heart you reject our efforts, you reject Christ. Let us never quit ministering in God’s name. Let us never stop humbly serving one another regardless of the hate or malice they might have towards us. This is how we serve in love because this is how Jesus served His disciples and us in love.

How mighty the love of God is that He would cleanse His people of sin, give them unfettered access to Him daily, and even offer that up to the one who would betray Him. That is love without boundaries, love without borders, it is sacrificial and humble love.

Jesus’ people are called to humbly serve in His name. (12-20)

(V. 12-13) Jesus re-establishes Himself as their teacher, master, and Lord. This strikes with overtones of His divinity, which carries significant weight considering the humility just demonstrated by their Lord. He wants His disciples to understand the significance of what He’s just done. He has done something that no one else would be willing to do. He washed their feet, He cleanses their hearts, He restores them to God.

(14-15) Through this act God humbles Himself in the most extreme way and He expects His disciples to do the same. Let’s make this abundantly clear, humility or humble works do not achieve one’s salvation. Humility and humble works such as this are a result of our devotion and thankfulness towards God. He has been gracious therefore become gracious. He has been generous therefore we become generous. He has acted in humility therefore we act in humility.

This isn’t an achievement to which we expect recognition, that would be the opposite of humility. It’s kind of like character. I was once told that character is doing the right thing even when no one is looking. Humility is serving God and others in ways and in a manner that expects no recognition. False humility is a tool of Satan to rob God of His glory. Serving others and God humbly is only possible as we come to the cross daily, repent of our sin, and rely on the Spirit to work in us. Look around you and see what opportunities God has given to serve Him and others.

(V. 16-17, 20) Christ’s messengers are called to serve in His name with the greatest level of humility. “To serve Jesus is to take the way of the cross, and it necessarily leads people into lowly paths.” (Leon Morris) “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Php. 2:3) This is only possible when we take the way of the cross, looking towards our Savior as the greatest example of humility. We become meek, mild, and show deference. We stand for truth and are firm in our faith, but the manner in which we carry ourselves is as a servant who washes his master’s feet.

Let’s not miss the significance of the eating of the bread, which is quoted from Psalm 41:9, it represents the closeness of fellowship and demonstrates the gravity of Judas’ betrayal. It was such and unnatural act to betray a close friend like this. Jesus knew that Judas would betray Him, Judas knew that he would betray Jesus. Yet Jesus still served Judas and Judas was still willing to be served.

As disciples of Jesus we are called to serve even the most vile. We are called to serve others even if they despise us. We are called to love those in the world who are far from God because we once were far from God. It might be humiliating to smile and serve one even if we know they go around town telling others how awful we are. People might be gossiping about you, ridiculing you, or seeking to hurt you. You and I are called to love them in spite of their evil ways and serve them especially when we have to sit aside our pride.


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