Dearest Jesus, our Lord and Savior, we are gathered together this evening to worship, even as You once gathered together Your disciples for a final Passover meal. On that night so long ago, You gave all Your followers a command to love one another as You have loved us. You also gave them the gift of Your body and blood through Your supper in order to assure us all of the divine gifts of forgivenss, life, and salvation. Be with us and bless us this evening. Grant that we may repent of our sins, rejoice in Your grace, and rededicate ourselves to living lives worthy of Your name. Amen.
On Maundy Thursday Jesus shared a final Passover meal with His disciples. After that meal Jesus washed the feet of the disciples providing them an example of how they should be willing to serve one another. May the Lord bless our acts of service!
Text: John 13:3-5
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.
In Christ Jesus, Who commands us to love and to serve one another even as He has loved and served us, dear fellow redeemed:
Last Wednesday in our final midweek Lenten service Pastor Greve asked us to consider an unusual picture of our Savior Jesus. Instead of picturing Jesus as a loving and merciful Savior, which we customarily do, he asked us to picture Jesus issuing a stern warning to the women of Jerusalem who wept for Him as He carried His cross towards Calvary. That warning was necessary in view of their sentimental sorrow with regard to His upcoming death, their apparent failure to recognize their own sin, and the danger of their refusal to accept Jesus as their Savior. This evening I want to ask you to consider what might prove to be an uncomfortable picture of our Savior Jesus. I want you to picture Jesus, our Lord and Savior, the God and Ruler of both heaven and earth, bending down and washing the feet of His disciples. This picture might prove to be uncomfortable for us, for I believe many of us, had we been there, might have responded as did Peter, who initially refused to allow Jesus to wash his feet. It might, however, also prove uncomfortable because of Jesus’ command connected to this act as we heard it recorded in our Scripture lesson this evening, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13:14-15).
Maundy Thursday means literally—"the Thursday of the commandment." Jesus, before His death, commanded us to love one another by serving one another. That commandment may well prove uncomfortable for us, for while we often embrace it with our lips, which one of us has not violated it in our lives? We are to serve one another, but it is much more comfortable to be served, is it not? Would you rather sit at a restaurant table and be served, or would you prepare to be the waitress or the busboy? Do you expect and demand that others do your laundry and cleaning, or are you will to help out and so serve others? We live in a society, which exalts privilege and sets a comfortable life as the ultimate goal. Serving is viewed as an inconvenient irritation, and something to be left for others. Now, my dear friends, I am not saying that a comfortable life is an ungodly life, but it can be if we fail to recognize our Lord’s call to love and service. Let us, therefore, this evening consider the uncomfortable picture we might entitle—JESUS SERVES! In so doing, let us seek the answer to the following two questions: What moved Jesus to serve, and what enabled Jesus to serve? By answering those questions, I believe we will discover both the power and desire to fulfill Jesus’ command to serve in our lives!
What did move Jesus to serve? The answer to that question lies in John’s words in verse three of our text, “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands….” This verse might remind you of Jesus’ words, which begin the Great Commission, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). Those words were spoken after Jesus’ resurrection and just prior to His ascension. They bespeak Jesus’ power and majesty and His full use of the same during the period of His exaltation. John, however, says that Jesus knew that “the Father had given all things into His hands” prior to His exaltation, when as yet the most remarkable portions of His humiliation lay before Him. To what is John referring? What had God the Father given into Jesus’ hands? Because John says “all things” were given into His hands, John is of course reminding us of Jesus’ power and authority—a power and authority the full use of which He would not make as He approached and endured His sufferings and death. But it implies much more and is, indeed, referring to the whole plan of God regarding the salvation of the world, which God had placed in His hands.
Jesus once told His disciples at Jacob’s well, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work” (John 4:34). The work of God has been and remains not the condemnation of the world, but rather it’s salvation (cf. John 3:17). To that end God, our heavenly Father, sent Jesus, His only beloved Son, to be the “Bread of Life” (John 6:48) for all who would believe in Him. Jesus’ motivation for service was nothing less than the salvation of our souls. It was His commitment to the Father’s love and grace that moved Him to fulfill His Father’s will and give up His life for us. Pontius Pilate, the Jewish religious authorities, the centurion and soldiers of Rome surely had no power over Him, which He Himself did not consent to give them, for as Jesus testified, “No one takes it (My life) from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have the power to lay it down, and I have the power to take it again. This commandment I have received from My Father” (John 10:18). The Father gave all things in to Jesus’ hands—all power and authority as well as a commission and the commitment to fulfill all that had been entrusted to Him. In the end—Jesus was moved to serve—not just by washing His disciples’ feet, but also by washing away their sins as He shed His precious and holy blood. This He did, because of His love and commitment to His dear Father and to us as the objects of the Father’s love!
What then enabled Him to serve? Once again John reveals this in our text when he writes, “Jesus, knowing…that He had come from God and was going to God….” Jesus knew both who He was and where He was going. This enabled Him to serve. Jesus knew He was God’s Son, sent into the world to fulfill God’s plan as it had been established from eternity. As God’s Son He possessed all things—there was nothing that He needed or wanted that were not already at His disposal. Consequently, He had nothing to prove. He, to whom all of creation owed service, chose rather “to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). Herein our Savior revealed His own great love, mercy, and strength—yes, strength! True strength is not to be seen in the one who uses power to intimidate, to harm, to demand, and to take whatever is desired. No, true strength lies in the fact that you possess the ability to control and accomplish anything, but that you still choose to use your strength to help and to bring hope. This Jesus did, for He knew Himself to be the only-begotten Son of God!
Jesus, however, knew where He was going and so was enabled to serve. The writer to the Hebrews states, “Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame,…has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Yes, the sufferings and death of Jesus were real and the agony He experienced was beyond anything any human being has ever experienced, for He experienced the wrath of God in hell to remove our sins. But, this He did in humble service to you and to me—to win our souls and bestow upon us the gift of salvation, after which He knew He would ascend on high! Jesus Himself told the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, “Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” (Luke 24:26)
My dear friends, let us take just a few moments to apply both the picture of our Savior and His command to our lives. Jesus served us and has now commanded us to serve one another. This, however, presents a rather uncomfortable situation for us, for the question is not, do we understand Jesus' will, but rather have we carried it out consistently in our lives? We all have our sinful flesh, which would much rather be served than to serve! To humble ourselves before others, to place others and their needs before ourselves and our own needs—such thoughts may well prove uncomfortable. Such is the state of our lives in this sinful world! Jesus’ command may well serve to condemn our hearts and lives, for we must truly confess that all too often we resist bending the knee and washing the feet of another as our Savior did. We are too proud to attend to the needs of those around us. God help us and lead us to genuine repentance for our arrogance and sins, whenever and wherever they may occur!
Let us now, however, consider what ought move us and what can enable us to serve as did our Savior. My dear friends, as God entrusted to Jesus the plan for our salvation, so Jesus has entrusted to us the proclamation of that salvation! Jesus tells us, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you….Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:21-23). What a privilege it is to share with others that which we know can and will bring them life now and forever by the grace of God and through the working of His Spirit! What a privilege it is to be entrusted with God’s Word, which alone can and will accomplish that which the Lord intends! We have become partners with God in sharing the message of His grace, and that in spite of the fact that by nature we were all lost in sin! Yet, that truth as well should serve well to enable us to go on! God our Savior has taken us poor sinners, destined for hell, and declared us His righteous children, destined for heaven! In view of that fact that we know who we are by the grace of God, and where we will go as His children and heirs, we need not concentrate on our own wants and needs. Rather, we can risk all to serve our fellow men, because we possess all through our Savior and are totally secure in His hands.
What does this mean in a practical way? It means that as we go about our callings as teachers, technicians, medical professionals, salesmen and women—we do so with the attitude of doing our jobs to the best of our abilities in service to others. It means genuinely caring about our family members—seeking the best for them, rather that seeking their best for ourselves. It means as a husband or a wife giving honor to our spouses and genuinely pursuing their best interests out of love for them—a love motivated by the love God has shown us in Christ Jesus.
My dear friends—may we, this night and always, treasure the picture of our Savior serving our needs, and may we with sincerity follow His command to serve. For with our Savior we are destined to spend eternity with God, while without Him no matter how successful and prosperous we may prove to be here in this life, we will have gained nothing of lasting value. Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting