In John 13:1-35 Jesus shows us that His love for His disciples will be the same love that His followers will have for one another. By this love, made visible in Christs’ tradition of sacrificial service, all the world will know that we belong to Jesus.
In the last week of His life, Jesus said that the hour had come that the Son of Man should be glorified (John 12:23).
The reason the hour had come is that Jesus had loved His own who were in the world and that He had loved them to the end, or literally, to “the goal”.
That goal or mission was to love them by laying down His life for them.
In John 13:2, we learn that Judas Iscariot had been inspired by the devil to betray Jesus. To the other disciples, Judas might have appeared faithful, but Judas’ heart was not united to Christ in love. His heart was united in love to money.
It is sad but true that there are those in the church that will fall away from Christ because, when all is laid bare, their hearts are united to the things of this world.
Even though Judas would betray Jesus and the other disciples would deny Him, Jesus knew that the Father had given all things into His hands. He knew that He had come from the Father and would return to the Father.
Knowing who we belong to and where we are headed are what enable us to deal with the realities of the world around us, and deal with the trials of our lives.
Knowing that we are loved by God and that the circumstances of our lives have a purpose is what enables us to stand fast.
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After dinner in John 13:4, Jesus rose from the table, took off his robe, put a towel around His waist, and washed the disciples’ feet.
By this simple action we see what Jesus had been doing throughout His life: Loving and serving.
Here, Jesus was symbolically washing a new priesthood, setting these Jews aside for service to a new Israel. For Peter, this seemed out of place.
Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me”. (John 13:8)
The washing of the disciples’ feet was a symbolic means of Jesus preparing the disciples for their work of serving a new humanity.
Being symbolic, by the way, does not make a thing optional. Just as the symbols of bread and wine represent our very real fellowship with Jesus, so also the act of serving one another reflects God’s love and the Lordship of Christ over our lives.
It’s important here to see beyond the event and notice what Jesus is doing in principle.
Jesus is handing down a pattern, a tradition (John 13:15). Peter has accepted Christ as the one who washes his feet and has thus welcomed God. Now he is to hand this service down to others.
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. (John 13:20)
Jesus is saying that whoever receives the tradition they hand down, receives Him, and the one who receives Him, receives the one who sent Him.
The disciples are going to be sent out into the world to deliver a tradition, a pattern they saw operating in Christ, one that centres on His unchanging word, work and service to mankind in laying down His life for many.
So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter. (2 Thessalonians 2:15)
The unbelieving world sees itself as malleable, subject to change and the victim of mindless evolution. But God is immutable. He does not change.
And so, when the world calls us to adopt their latest view of man, sin, love, creation or worship, we can reply with humility, “Thanks, we have our tradition and in that tradition, we are immovable”.
We are called to transformation. We change, we are transformed. But that transformation is in our hearts and occurs through insisting on an unchanging Saviour.
And as we embrace those unchanging truths and those traditions which our Saviour has given to us, the world will come to know that you are the Lord’s disciples.