Title: LOVE WITHOUT LIMITS
Text: John 13:1-17
What would you choose to do if you knew your final hours were coming upon you? Who would you gather around you? What last impression would you want to leave upon them? For sure, those final words will be imprinted upon the mind of those you leave behind for the rest of their life. It becomes your hallmark; what they will remember you for. When you get down to the last few hours, your last few breaths, you think intensely and you choose wisely those words which will have potential impact upon those you leave behind.
Such was the case with Jesus. Jesus very intentionally chooses the activities of His final night. There are some churches who are living out those final activities of Jesus on a regular basis…even weekly (Lord’s Supper). To say the room is charged with somber emotion is an understatement. Yet, no one but Jesus knows the full impact what is to come in the next few hours. So what does Jesus do with His final hours? He communicates a love without limits…He expresses love’s full extent. Read Text.
As the Passover approaches, Jesus focused His ministry on His disciples and preparing for the intense battle ahead. He closes His public ministry and turns to those who will carry on the mission. There are two crucial lessons He wanted to teach within our text of study: “I love you” and “I want you serve others after the same model I am about to show you.”
1. What would you say is the supreme act of showing your love for someone that you would be willing to perform? Would that action be different for a brother or sister in Christ versus one of your family members?
Insight: As the Apostle John reflects back on this moment of Jesus’ life when he later pens this Gospel, he now realizes the importance of what happens next, based upon what followed in the next couple of days. He introduces this emotionally intense evening with a statement that showed the completeness of Jesus’ love by laying down His life for them. Supreme sacrifices show supreme love. Jesus didn’t hold back…He gave it all!
2. Once again we come across a statement that shows us “the hour” has come (v.1). Knowing the time is short, Jesus chooses to do something that was a menial task that servants performed: washing dirty feet. Think beyond the obvious. Why did Jesus use such valuable time doing a servant’s duty? (Tremendous lessons in this act: to demonstrate His love; to model true servanthood, not just a flippant reference to serving; to show His final submission to His death.)
3. What do you learn from the fact that Jesus laid aside His garments and clothed Himself with servant’s clothes, a towel, to wash their feet? (To serve others we must lay aside our pride, our agenda, our needs, in order to genuinely serve others.)
4. We know by other accounts that Judas did not leave the room until after he had dipped the sop (bread) with Jesus and was told by Jesus to go do what he had to do. Yet, here, Jesus washes Judas’ feet. How hard would this be for you to do? What lessons do you learn from this example? (True servanthood serves even those who have evil intentions against us; doing so demonstrates our lack of animosity towards our enemies; it also demonstrates our forgiveness of their offense.) Isa. 53:12
5. When Jesus comes down the line to Peter to wash his feet, Peter objects. What do you think was going on in Peter’s mind at the time? (“I can’t imagine the Son of God, whom I’ve come to believe You are, to do a lowly servant chore…Lord, if anything, I need to wash YOUR’S!”)
Insight: Peter’s protest was because he failed to associate what Jesus was doing with His death (being obedient, even to the point of death), but regarded it merely as a act which any slave might perform before a banquet. Peter exemplifies prideful unsaved man, who is so confident of their ability to save themselves that they instinctively resist the suggestion that they need God’s cleansing. Don’t be caught harboring Peter’s pride yourself, and what God has in store for all those who will submit to His cleansing work!
6. Jesus’ response to Peter in verse 7 is usually run over and we go right to Peter’s next response. Don’t do that here. What’s the jewel of insight in this verse? (You don’t understand it now, but will later, that this partial washing actually represents something much deeper and to a greater extent than the surface washing. This actually is the picture indeed what takes place during baptism; and indeed, later Peter grasped the depth of the meaning, for he wrote about it in 1 Pet. 3:21.)
7. Peter would much rather wash the Lord’s feet than have Him wash his. Why is it that we would rather work at trying to please God than to be still so that He can do something great for us?
Insight: We would rather die for the Lord than for Him to lay down His life for us. But think of the desperate state that we would be in if we were to circumvent His death in our place. There would be NO hope for us!
8. Peter was consistently a man of impatient protest, or jumped into the middle of things when he should have backed off. What areas of life do you find yourself being like Peter?
9. Jesus plainly tells Peter that if He does not wash his feet, they can be nothing in common between them. Peter characteristically declares he wants a whole bath in that case. What is right about Peter’s thinking, and what is cleared up by Jesus’ response? (Peter is right in thinking he needed a complete cleansing. Jesus clarified that washing his feet was a symbol of the total cleansing that would come later with His death and our uniting with it in baptism. Rom. 6:3-6)
10. What insight do you gain about genuine salvation from Jesus’ words in verse 10? (You can go through a ceremony of baptism, but if your life continues to be a betrayal to our Savior, indeed, you are not clean, but still a traitor. Baptism does not a Christian make. Baptism with a change of heart does when you meet the Lord in the water and turn your life over to Him.)
11. If you think verse 14 is only a command to follow Jesus’ example in washing other’s feet; you miss the greatest point of all. What is the main point behind these words? (In being a servant, there is no competition. Our only competition should be to see if we can love others sacrificially, no matter who they are.)
You cannot call Jesus Lord and Master and not lovingly serve others. Jesus calls for sacrificial service in all of us. It means going over to someone’s house just before bedtime to talk and pray for a couple of hours because of a phone call. It means setting aside plans for your day off the help someone in need. It means postponing a payment of a bill because someone has a greater need. You cannot call yourself a servant if there is no action that a lowly servant would perform.
Total cleansing at the hands of Jesus lays upon us the obligation to reflect the love that has been so graciously shown to us. The servant who renders such a supreme act of service may then rightly call Jesus “Lord and Master.” This sacrificial love is to be our hallmark: "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (Jn. 15:13) This is the mark that sets us aside from the rest of the world. This is the mark that we belong to Jesus.