Peter Misselbrook's Blog
May 23 2013 - John 13:1-30 – The servant is not greater than his master

John alone among the Evangelists tells of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet at the Last Supper. It was an act of love (see 13:1), foreshadowing that ultimate act of love that was now just a few hours away.

But John introduces this extraordinary incident in an equally extraordinary manner. He tells us that Jesus knew that the Father had placed everything in his hands and that he had come from the Father and was about to return to the Father. It was this knowledge that prompted Jesus to rise from the table and set about the task of the most menial of servants. Knowledge that he is Lord of all enables Jesus to act as servant of all.

In this act Jesus shows what he has come into the world to do. He came not to be served but to serve and to lay down his life as a ransom for many. His entire ministry was one of service. He ministered to the crowds in all their need, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, teaching them about the kingdom, not only through parables but also by the character of his life. He had time also for individuals in all their varied needs: the woman at the well in Samaria; Zacchaeus, the despised tax collector; Lazarus his beloved friend whom he raised from the dead. His life was lived entirely for the blessing and benefit of others.

And Jesus taught his disciples that he and the Father are one. He does only what the Father has given him to do and says only what the Father has first spoken to him. He is the one who reveals the Father heart of God.

Those who do not believe in God accuse us of creating a projection of our own need for an authority figure. Sadly, that is sometimes what we do. We are used to human models of authority. Those with positions of great authority and power in this world are often domineering and demanding. All too often we project this image upon God and imagine that he is there to whip us into shape and to bark out the orders.

Jesus shows us what God is really like. He declares, “I and the Father are one.” Make no mistake, God is God; he is the sovereign ruler of the universe. But he is also the God who stoops and serves. He is filled with love and compassion towards the world he has made, determined to give himself to its mending and flourishing. Jesus shows us what God is like and forces us to throw away all those distorted images based on twisted human models of power.

It’s not always easy to live with such a Lord – see Peter’s response in 13:8. We seem to be more comfortable with law than grace.

Having washed the disciples’ feet, Jesus then says that he has left them an example that they should do as he has done. Confidence in who we are and where we are going should drive us also to joyful acts of selfless service. “If you know such things you will be blessed if you do them.” We were created that we might image God. We need to learn afresh what this means. We need to stop being precious about our own dignity and jockeying for position in the kingdom. We need to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. In this way we will show the world what God is really like.

Father God, thank you that you do not treat us as our sins deserve but are full of compassion and intent to bless. You did not spare your own Son but gave him for our redemption. Thank you that he is the image of the invisible God, the one who has revealed your character. Help me by your Spirit to be conformed to the image of your Son; make me like Jesus. As his character is formed in me, help me to serve others and so to make you known.

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Peter Misselbrook