Reading John 13:1-17 “It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 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; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
12 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. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
Someone once said, “Take ten chickens, any ten. Put them in a pen together, and spread a little chicken feed. In short order, you will witness an amazing phenomenon. In a matter of minutes, the chickens, previously strangers, will form a hierarchy based on dominance or, in everyday language, they will establish a Pecking Order. Instinctively, they will determine, through a series of skirmishes, who the Number One chicken will be; then the Number Two; the Number Three; all the way down to the unlucky Number Ten chicken.”
I remember growing up as a boy my grandmother who lived just next door raised chickens for eggs and later their meat. And sure enough there seem to be a pecking order. Some chickens didn’t even have any tail feathers left having been pecked off. And usually the rooster was the alpha male who was number one. Her rooster even attacked me a couple of times until I hit it with a rake one day.
And we seem to see this so called, ’pecking order’ throughout nature, in the animal kingdom and sometimes even with plants, and even among people. We see it today very clearly in the business world. But the truth is, it’s not just in the business world it’s everywhere. It happens at family picnics, parties, class reunions, sporting events, conventions, and even in some Churches.
In a number of New Testament passages we even see where the closest disciples of Jesus seems to have this problem; that is who amongst them was the greatest.
In Luke 9:46-48 it says “An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. 47 Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. 48 Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all–he is the greatest.”
In Mark 9: 33-37 another passage says, “They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. 35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” 36 He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”
And then we have our text which is in Luke 22:24-27 The disciples had been with Christ for about 3 years at this point and the end is at hand. They’re gathered in an upper room to eat the Passover meal with their teacher but they don’t realize yet that this is the “Last” Supper.
For 3 years they’ve lived together, ate together and learned together at the feet of Jesus. But this conversation comes up again and shows us that these guys haven’t understood one of the main things Jesus wanted them to understand. The conversation always started with the disciples arguing over which of them would be greatest in the coming Kingdom. And Jesus’ answer was always the same: ‘YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND! My Kingdom is going to be different than the kingdoms of this world. In My Kingdom – My church – the greatest will be the one who is the best servant.’
This passage in Luke 22:24-27 says, 24 Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them. 25 Jesus told them, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ 26 But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. 27 Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves.” In Matthew 20:25-28 Jesus says it this way: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
And mind you, all of this takes place as He instituted what we call the ‘Lord’s Supper’ of the ‘Communion service’. And here they are arguing about who was going to be preeminent. And so again Jesus lets them know, that if you want great in the Kingdom of God you’ve got be a servant. You’ve got to learn how to share your life with others.
The Apostle John records a little more of what transpired that night dedicating five chapter to what Jesus did, said and taught that night before He was arrested and then put to death. (Over the next few weeks I will be presenting lessons from what Jesus taught that night from John’s Gospel account.)
No one is exactly sure of the timing, but I wonder if it was at this point Jesus leaves the room but then comes back into the room ready to nail home this lesson. He approaches them with a towel wrapped around his waist… carrying a basin of water and in John 13 we read that He proceeds to wash their feet.
Now, why was He doing this? Well #1 their feet were dirty. In that day, most roads were dirt and as people walked from one place to another, and their feet got real dirty. As if you entered a person’s home it was customary for you to wash your feet before entering… or (if the family was wealthy enough), a servant would wash your feet. BUT the master of the house NEVER washed feet. That was demeaning. That was work that only a servant would do.
That’s why, in John 13 we’re told that Peter got so upset when he saw Jesus washing their feet. He tells Jesus: “No… you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus was their teacher, their master and He shouldn’t have had to disgrace Himself in this manner.
But of course… that was exactly the point. And here lies the 2nd reason why He washed their feet. To give them an object lesson they’ll remember.
After He washed all their feet, John wrote: “12 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. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”
Now remember, this all took place at the Last Supper… the template for our observance of Communion time. It suddenly occurred to me that there must be something about communion that should help me learn to share. It is something we all share in and do together.
If we are to learn anything from the texts mentioned today it’s that Jesus was against a ‘Pecking Order’. If Jesus, who is the Lord of Lords, the King of kings, the Alpha and the omega and Messiah, Savior and creator of all, could get down on His hands and knees and scrub their dirty feet to teach them a lesson it should catch our attention as well. Jesus wants us to be like Him, who came to serve others.
How do we do this? Well I believe that the Apostle Paul summed it up quite well in his letter to the Philippians when he wrote chapter 2, as we consider why we should serve, but also how to serve one another Read Phil. 2:1-16 “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in 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 of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. 14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. “Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life.”
So, I’ going to wrap things up here by saying that Christianity is not a self-centered religion, rather it’s quite the opposite. Jesus wants all of us to get this message crystal clear; ‘there is no pecking order in Christianity, rather greatness, or what really pleases our Lord and God is when we help and encourage one another whenever we can. Some of us need to humble our self and start encouraging and helping others. Maybe He presented this lesson at this time because it was a time of communion, a time for sharing. He shared Himself with them and all the world, and so maybe part of that memorial is sharing not only the bread and with one another but also our lives as well. He said in do so we will be doing God’s will and we will shine like stars in the sky.