Sunday, May 19, 2024

“Do You Understand What I Have Done For You?” [Matt's Messages]

“Do You Understand What I Have Done For You?”
Life in Jesus’ Name - The Gospel of John
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
May 19, 2024 :: John 13:1-17  

This never happens.

This sort of thing never happened back in the ancient world.

This foot-washing story, was astonishing to the first readers of John’s Gospel. It was astonishing to the people who lived in the story! The Apostle John was blown away by what he saw Jesus doing...and felt doing to him.

This never happens. I read this week that there are NO instances–no instances–in Jewish, Greek, or Roman historical sources of a superior washing the feet of a subordinate. None. This never happens.

And yet it happened that night.

We have reached the section of the gospel of John that is often called the Upper Room Teaching or the Farewell Discourse. It’s that last night before Jesus went to the Cross. And it was emblazoned upon John’s mind. John is going to give this one night five or six whole chapters in his 21 chapter book. Chapter 13 to set the stage. Chapters 14, 15, 16, and 17 to share Jesus’ deepest teaching and longest recorded prayer. And then the arrest and the trial and everything leading up to the crucifixion the next day. We’re going to be meditating upon this night for several months as a church family.

John just couldn’t get over it. And he wanted to make sure that we heard about it and that we understood what was going on. So he gave us these words in chapter 13. Let’s look at them together. Look at verse 1. John sets the stage. Verse 1.

“It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.”

Do you feel how weighty this is?

Notice the words, “Jesus knew.” That’s important. Everything that is happening in this story is something that Jesus knew about ahead of time. None of this is taking Jesus by surprise. We are shocked, they are shocked, but Jesus is not.

In fact, He’s choosing all of this. Like we said last week, it’s all going according to plan.

Jesus knew. What did He know? “Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father.”

Like we saw in the last chapter, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (Jn. 12:23 NIVO).

Jesus knows Who is, where He’s from, and where He’s going. And He knows how He’s getting there. He knows about the Cross, and He is choosing it out of love. Verse 1 again.

“Having loved his own [His own people, His own disciples, His own sheep] who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.”

Literally, “He loved them to the end.” Which has all of the ambiguities in Greek that it has in English. He loved them to the uttermost. He loved them to His own end. His own death.

Do you feel what John was feeling when he reflected on what was happening on that dark night? It was all going down. Everything was coming to a head. Jesus loved His people, and now He was going to show them just how much He loved them.

And He was going to start with a little human object lesson. Look at verse 2.

“The evening meal was being served [I think that’s what we call the Last Supper], and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus.”

That’s a key piece of information that John knew only later. But Jesus already knew it at this time. There is an agent of Satan at this Table with our Savior. Jesus knows that. He also knows that it’s His time to go. Look what else He knows. Verse 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;”

Think about that!! Jesus knows that He is in ultimate control. He knows that He has all authority. He knows that He has come from God and was returning to God.

What would you do if you were in that position?!

I would blast Judas right out of that room!
I would call in 10,000 angels for back-up.
I would call down fire on the Pharisees.
I would start barking orders.
I would call for a foot massage and for my throne to be set up and then ascend upon it.

And Jesus could have, rightly, done any of that. But He did the exact opposite! And what He did was burned into John’s memory. Look at verse 4.

“Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 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” (vv.4-5).

That just never happens. In the Greek, John uses the present tense so that it’s like a video, and you see Him doing each thing in your mind as it’s happening.

Jesus gets up from the meal.

Remember, they normally reclined at a common table in the center of a circle, and they come out like spokes on a wheel from the table as the hub. So all of their feet are on the outside. 

And, apparently, nobody has washed them. Normally, you would wash before coming to a dinner like this and then when you reached the dinner, a slave would wash off the dirt and grime and dust that came from the roads.

People’s feet could be really yucky in just a short amount of time. First off, at best they had sandals and many of them were often barefoot. And second, remember they had dirt roads, lived with animals, and had no plumbing. You don’t want to know what was often on their feet! 

How do you feel about feet? Some people think that feet are really ugly and gross, and they don’t want to think about feet. Maybe I should kick my shoes off and preach this sermon barefoot. What do you think? Do you think you could concentrate if I did that?

Feet can be really smelly. I’m sure these were really smelly. Somebody should have washed them. But nobody was willing to do it! 

Because that was seen as the lowest job there ever was. Get this. In Israel, it was only the Gentile slaves that had to do this job. If you were a Hebrew, a Jewish slave, you did not have to wash even your master’s feet, much less their guests’ feet.

But Jesus gets up from the meal, and he takes off His outer clothing, and He wraps a towel around His waist.

He’s dressing up like a slave! Everybody’s like, “What’s going on? What’s He doing?”

And then He gets a bucket with water in it. He pours water into a basin, and begins to go around the outside of the circle washing His disciple’s feet.

Do you see it in your head?

Jesus is kneeling at the feet of His disciples.

Is that right?! Can that be right? They should be kneeling before Him, right?

But He is kneeling before them. And he’s washing their feet. 

Have you ever had your feet washed by someone else? It can be really ticklish. It feels very intimate. Very vulnerable. Those are tender moments.

Our Lord, Who knew that He was about to die, Who knew that the Father had put all things under His power, was using this moment to act like a servant and wash and dry and wash and dry and wash and towel-off His disciples’ dirty feet.

John could hardly believe this was happening and could never forget it. And Peter couldn’t believe it either. In fact, he was sure it was wrong! Look at verse 6.

“He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’”

“You?!?!” Peter is stunned. “This can’t be right.” Servants wash the feet of lords. “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Can you feel how confused he is? Jesus says, “Don’t worry. You will ‘get this’ later.” Verse 7.

“Jesus replied, ‘You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’”

“I know it’s confusing, Pete, but give it time. All things will become clear. Roll with me now.” Verse 8.

“‘No,’ said Peter, ‘you shall never wash my feet.’”

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Steady now, son. That’s probably not a good thing to ever say to your Lord. I appreciate your honesty and your zeal, but we should never be saying, “No” to Jesus. I know you think you’re being humble, but there is a kind of humility that is actually proud. [This insight was gained from D.A. Carson.] Verse 9.

“Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.’”

“If you are going to be my disciple, then you have to allow me to serve you.”

Isn’t that amazing?! Christianity is so different from every other religion on the planet. Because at the center of our faith is a Serving Savior. A King Who came to serve His people. The other religions of the world say that we must do something for the god at the center of them. “We must serve the gods!” But Christianity says that the God at the center of our faith became one of us and then...served us. And we have to let Him serve us or we have no part in Him. 

Jesus was showing His great love to those who belong to Him. And if Peter was not going to receive Jesus’ love, then He would not belong to Jesus.

“Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

And so, classic Peter, verse 9.

“‘Then, Lord,’ Simon Peter replied, ‘not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!’”

“Give me the whole bath! Scrub me up because I want to belong to you!”

Gotta love Peter! I think Jesus is probably chuckling as He begins to say verse 10.

“Jesus answered, ‘A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.’ For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean” (vv.10-11).

Jesus tells Peter that he doesn’t need a full bath because everybody who belongs to Jesus is clean–though not everybody at that table truly belonged to Jesus.  This was just a symbol of cleansing. Not the full cleansing itself.  

And Jesus washed the feet of a person at that table who was not cleansed. And Jesus knew it. Jesus knew that Judas was going to betray Him. What must that have felt like as He took Judas’ feet in His hands and washed them with water and dried them with the towel around His waist? I can’t imagine. And John almost couldn’t believe His eyes.

And then it was over. Jesus had washed their 24 stinky feet and was taking off His servant outfit and putting back on His dinner clothes and reclining back at His place. And what did it all mean? Verse 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.”

“Do you get it? You just saw something happen that never happens. Do you understand what you just saw? What you just felt? Everybody feel how clean your feet are? Everybody remember what it looked like for your Lord and Rabbi to have knelt behind you and cleaned the muck off your feet?”

“Do you understand what I have done for you?”

I think the answer must have been, “No.” That’s why Jesus told Peter in verse 7 that they would understand later. Probably much later. After the crucifixion, after the resurrection, after the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost [See John 16:13].

They didn’t get it right then. It had to sink in.

But do we get it? We are on the other side of the crucifixion, the resurrection, the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost, and the writing of the Gospel of John. Do we understand what Jesus did for us?

I’ve got two points today to summarize what I think Jesus wanted them to understand from this astonishing object lesson, and here’s number one:


All of this was a picture of the gospel. All of this was a dramatic enactment of what Jesus was doing to save them. Do you see that?

Verse 1, “He now showed them the full extent of his love.”

And He gets up from table, leaving His rightful place. Like He left heaven. And takes off his outer garments like He laid aside His glory.

And He took on the form a servant. Remember how Paul said it in Philippians chapter 2?

“Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped [held onto], but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross!” (Phil. 2:5-8 NIVO).

Jesus was the Servant predicted by the prophet Isaiah. We read that in Isaiah 53 last Sunday. 

“[The Servant] was pierced for our transgressions, [the Servant] was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isa. 53:5 NIVO).

And we are cleansed. He did all of that for us. And we have to receive it. We have to let Him save us.  

Just like Peter had to let Him wash him, we have to allow Jesus to wash (not just our grimy feet) but our sin-stained souls.

Have you done that? Have you allowed Jesus to wash you clean, spiritually?

Judas did not. Judas had traveled with Jesus for 3 years and was never truly converted. In the end, Judas not only betrayed Him, but he rejected Jesus.

Remember how John said it in the very first chapter? “The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. [Light of the World!] He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (Jn. 1:9-12 NIVO).

Have you received Him? If you have, then you are clean!  Isn’t that wonderful? Jesus says over you, “I have washed you clean.” Do you know that? Do you understand what Jesus has done for you? He has taken away your sin. He scrubbed it off. It does not cling to you any more. He took your sin on Himself and washed it off, not just with the water, but the cleansing power of His own blood.

The Apostle Paul said it this way to his friend Titus:

“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done [We didn’t clean ourselves up!], but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life” (Tit. 3:3-7 NIVO).

That’s what He has done for us, brothers and sisters. Jesus says, “I have washed you clean.” Do you understand?

And, of course, it’s more than that. Jesus had another purpose for this little drama He acted out. He told His disciples that He was doing it to be a model for them of how to serve each other.


Look what He goes on to say in verse 13.

‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them. ‘You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (vv.13-17).

I think it’s fascinating that He doesn’t tell them that now that He has washed their feet, they need to wash His feet.

It’s not youscratchmybackIscratchyours, is it? No, it’s not “quid pro quo.” It’s "I have shown you how to serve one another." Especially those who may be under you!

He says (v.13), “You call me, ‘Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am.”

Notice that Jesus doesn’t stop being the teacher or the Lord. He still has authority. His is still the rabbi, and He’s still the master. He’s still the top dog. But He doesn’t act like the top dog here. The top dog takes the bottom spot.

“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet.”

What does that mean? Does He mean literally? Everybody take off your shoes! Wait. Hold onto that.

I think it’s fine to do it literally. I have done it many times, and had it done to me. Footwashing is beautiful.

Here is a picture of me washing Blair Murray’s feet at Family Bible Week in 2006. We were studying this part of John in the adult class that year.

I see some familiar faces looking on: Eric, Wally, Anita, Nancy, Heather, Dawn. They have big smiles because I think Blair was being funny. Imagine that.

Blair said that nobody could touch his feet. They were too ticklish, but he let me try, and that day it worked. And it became a very solemn moment. Every footwashing service I’ve ever been in has grown serious and weighty and meaningful. Normally there are tears and deep prayers.

But I don’t think that Jesus was just setting up another ticklish thing for us all to act out.

Jesus was saying that we need to act like servants of one another. We need to swallow our pride and set aside our reputations and serve one another in love. Jesus has shown us how it’s done. And if Jesus could do it, then obviously we can and should!

Verse 15 again. “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.”

In other words, if you aren’t willing to serve other Christians like this, then who do you think you are?

If the Lord of the universe will wash feet, then who do we think we are if we are unwilling to kneel before other Christians and serve them in love?

There is no excuse for refusing to serve others out of pride or reputation.

“Oh, I’m the pastor. I don’t do that.”
“Oh, I’m the husband. I don’t serve my wife. She makes me a sandwich.”
“Oh, I’m the boss at work. I don’t serve my employees. They work for me.”
“Oh, I’m the top dog. I don’t take the lowest place.”

Is that right? So you think you’re better than Jesus, huh?

Now, again, Jesus didn’t give up His authority. He still was Teacher and Lord for these disciples and for us. There is a legitimate use of authority in lots of situations and relationships in life. But Christians, including those in authority, are called to humble ourselves like our Lord did and serve one another in love.

 “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (v.15).

How are you doing at that? Are you a servant? How do you know? Do the people around you know that you are a servant? Do the people under you know and feel that you serve them? If you don’t know, you could ask.

I think one way to know is if it kind of seems weird. Because it’s still rare in our world today! 

Heather had a boss once that made it a point of learning and doing every job of every person under them. He was in charge of the food service at Moody Bible Institute, and he took a day to learn every position on the line. From dishwasher to server to the guy that cleared off the tables. And that has always stuck with me. He could have holed up in his office and made the big decisions. And I’m sure he needed to spend time in his office making the big decisions! But he also got out there and washed some dishes. He was washing feet.

Husbands, you have a responsibility to lead in your homes. What is the household job that your wife hates doing the most? That’s now your job. It’s not your job to make sure she gets it done. You get it done. And do it right. Don’t do it poorly so that she says, “I hate doing it, but he can’t do it right, so I’m going to do it.” And you get out of it. Even if you hate it more than she does, go wash her feet. You get the idea?

This is for church leaders. This is for parents. This is for the older kids in a family. This is for Christian friends.

Remember, this not about who deserves to have their feet washed. Which of these men deserved to have their feet washed by the Lord Jesus Christ? Don't wait until they deserve it to serve other people!

This never happens, but it should. And we should do it more and more and show the world what a difference Jesus makes.

“I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

You know who was good at this? That guy whose feet I was washing in 2006. Many of you may not have known him, but Blair Murray was a servant. He didn’t throw around his weight. He was an elder. He had been a leader and a teacher in this church for many years. But he didn’t demand his own rights and angle for adulation. He saw people’s needs, and he humbled himself and served them like our Lord here.

How are you doing at washing feet? How do you need to change?

Do you get it? Do you understand what Jesus has done for you in setting this mindblowing example? Jesus says that if you do understand, then you will blessed if you do it. That’s the last verse for today. Verse 17.

"Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them" (v.17).

Do you want to be blessed? I want to be blessed!!! I want our church to be blessed. I want us to be deliriously happy and have every good thing given to us as a church family. And here’s the way it comes–the blessing follows the serving.

Our Challenge Crew has served this last week by cleaning out all of this stuff throughout the church and several homes. A bunch of them came this weekend and rolled up their sleeves and organized it all. And it’s there now for us to choose what we want to take home. 

Thank you, Challenge Crew, for washing our feet, so to speak. May you be blessed.

Sometimes the blessing comes quickly. I know that I am often encouraged and filled with peace and joy after I humble myself and serve someone else. Just letting go of my pride and self-importance is a blessing all by itself.

But sometimes the blessing comes later. Sometimes much later. Some of this blessing will only come when Christ returns. Our Celebration Choir has a song they want to sing about that. It’s about the blessing that comes when we see Christ. Would the choir come forward?

Because Jesus Christ is coming again. Verse 3 said that “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God...” But He also knew and is going to teach in the next chapter that He was going to return to this world one day. And then He was going to hand out all of the blessings He has promised to His children, especially as we follow His amazing example.

It will be worth it all when we see Christ.


Messages in this Series

01. "That You May Believe" - John 20:30-31
02. "In The Beginning Was the Word" - John 1:1-18
03. "John's Testimony" - John 1:19-34
04. "Come and See" - John 1:35-51
05. "The First of His Miraculous Signs" - John 2:1-11
06. "This Temple" - John 2:12-25
07. "You Must Be Born Again" - John 3:1-15
08. "God So Loved The World" - John 3:16-21
09. "Above All" - John 3:22-36
10. "Living Water" - John 4:1-26
11. "Ripe for the Harvest" - John 4:27-42
12. "Your Son Will Live" - John 4:43-54
13. "Pick Up Your Mat and Walk" - John 5:1-18
14. "To Your Amazement" - John 5:19-30
15. "Testimony About Me" - John 5:31-47
Christmas Eve Bonus: "The Astonishing Gift" - John 3:16 Again
Christmas Eve Bonus: "We Have Seen His Glory" - John 1:1-18 Again
16. "Enough Bread" - John 6:1-15
17. "You Are Looking for Me" - John 6:16-36
18. "I Am the Bread of Life" - John 6:35-71
Vision Meeting Bonus: "As I Have Loved You" - John 13:34-35
19. "At the Feast" - John 7:1-52
20. "I Am the Light of the World" - John 8:12-30
21. "Your Father" - John 8:31-59
22. "Now I See" - John 9:1-41
23. "I Am The Gate" - John 10:1-13
24. "I Am the Good Shepherd" - John 10:14-21
25. "I And The Father Are One" - John 10:22-42
26. "I Am the Resurrection and the Life" - John 11:1-53
27. "Expensive" - John 11:54-12:11
28. "The Hour Has Come" - John 12:12-26
29. "Father, Glorify Your Name!" - John 12:27-36