If I ask you who is Jesus to you this morning, what would be your answer? We are all in church, and hence the most appropriate answer would be Lord, Saviour, Master, redeemer, Messiah etc. and you would be right. This morning, can we look at another role of Jesus?
John 13:1-9 (NKJV) Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, 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. Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, “Lord, are You washing my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.” Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!”
Those of you who know my passion for Servant Leadership would know that this is one of my favorite passages in the bible and I have preached many times from this passage. But this time you might have noticed a difference. Normally my lesson culminates in Jesus’ command given in in John 13:13-17, but today, I have stopped at Verse 9. Yes that is intentional, because today, I want us to look at focus on Peter’s behaviour during this episode. However, as we study Peter, let us continue to compare ourselves with Peter.
When Jesus begins his feet washing act, Peter is horrified. Peter knows that he is nobody when compared to Christ the messiah. Peter knew how sinful he is. He had already confessed to this earlier Luke 5:8 (NKJV) When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”. So Peter’s reaction was “really? You Lord? YOU, washing MY feet??” Very understandable reaction isn’t it? Jesus initially tries to make Peter understand by saying, “Peter, be patient, you may not understand what I am doing now, but you will eventually understand”. But that is not good enough for Peter. He becomes more adamant and emphatically conveys his unwillingness to be part of this deal. “No.. Never” he tells Jesus. Peter is actually being “humble” in a manner that translates to being disobedient here. He was at the point of rejecting a reward, about which Paul warns later in Colossians 2:18 (NKJV) Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,” Peter was trying to be “humble” without understanding things which are beyond his grasp at the moment. Jesus is saying I will wash your feet and Peter is saying No, you shall not. Was Peter trying to say, Lord, I know better than you, it is not befitting for your stature to do as you wish to. Believe me, I am wiser than you in this context?” False humility or disobedience?
What would we have done if we were in Peter’s position? What would our approach be to “being served” by Jesus? If Jesus came to us and said I have to serve you, what would be our reaction? Would we allow Jesus to “serve” us? Remember, when I asked you the question who is Jesus to you, no one said “Servant”. You will feel very uncomfortable if you have to call Jesus as your servant. Would we not be exactly like Peter and tell Jesus, Lord, you are my Lord, you are my Saviour, you are my Master, I cannot let you serve me. Won’t we consider ourselves “humble” and say, we are not worthy of this, we cannot have you “serve” me.
So let us examine the consequences of such a stand from our side. Let us go back to what happened to Peter. When Peter tells him, “No.. never, I know better”, that is when Jesus had to tell him of the dire and dark consequence of his choice. “If I do not wash you, you have no part in me”. This is a big message. Jesus is condensing a whole theological doctrine of “Original Sin” and “Total Depravity” in one sentence.
What does that mean?
How many of us think that we are good people? What if I disappoint you and say that we are all evil. You won’t like it isn’t it? So let us look at what the bible tells about us? Shall we? Right at the beginning, we see in Genesis 6:5 (NKJV) “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually”. Note the words every intent and “continual thoughts”. Isaiah 64:6 (NKJV) “But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away”. Jeremiah 17:9 (NKJV) tells us that “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?”. Desperately wicked. Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 7:29 (NKJV) Truly, this only I have found: That God made man upright, But they have sought out many schemes.” Micah Laments in Micah 7:2-4 (NKJV) “The faithful man has perished from the earth, And there is no one upright among men. They all lie in wait for blood; Every man hunts his brother with a net. That they may successfully do evil with both hands– The prince asks for gifts, The judge seeks a bribe, And the great man utters his evil desire; So they scheme together. The best of them is like a brier; The most upright is sharper than a thorn hedge; The day of your watchman and your punishment comes; Now shall be their perplexity.” Let me ask you do you still think that man is good? That man has anything good in us?
Hey, you might say, you are quoting all that from the old- testament? We live in the New Testament times, hasn’t things changed? Sure, things have changed, but has the nature of man changed? Paul says in Romans 3:9-10 (NKJV) What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; He continues in 1 Corinthians 2:14 (NKJV) But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
Hey , you say again, these are still words of men, Paul for sure, but he was a disgruntled Pharisee who got converted and hence might have been overzealous about these things, couldn’t he be?
How about Jesus himself? What did Jesus have to say about men? In Luke 11:13 (NKJV) If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” Mark 7:21-23 (NKJV) For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” These are Jesus’s own words. We don’t like them, or we don’t want to believe that they refer to us. Our first reaction is to believe that they are about unbelievers. Isn’t it? We want to believe that we are good.
There is a book titled “The Deadliest Monster” by J F Baldwin. This compares the stories of Frankenstein with that of Jekyll and Hyde. You might have heard about Frankenstein. Frankenstein was made good, but turned out to be bad. The book quotes Frankenstein ““I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous.” Jekyll was a rich upperclass doctor with evil nature that he could’nt control, and ultimately the evil nature takes over. Jekyll said “It was the curse of mankind that these incongruous personalities—the good and the bad were thus bound together—that in the agonized womb of consciousness, these polar twins should be continuously struggling.” Baldwin in his book says that man chooses to be like one or the other of these two monsters. Christian worldview clearly tells us that man is inherently evil and that man needs God’s grace to do good.
When Adam fell, the whole humanity fell. Before the fall, Adam had the ability “not to sin” but after the fall, he does not have the ability not to sin. We are sinners by default. (not able not to sin). Default wiring of man is towards sin. Only by Grace can one be saved from this and get the ability not to sin. Grace is absolutely essential for salvation and for resisting the temptation to sin.
Confessions of Saint Augustine records his thoughts on this. His view about the concept of sin can be understood by looking at the way he confesses about the Pear Tree incident (Confessions, Book 2, Chapter 4) (Outler, 2007). In this he discusses an incident where he and some of his young friends went and stole some pears from the tree. He says that the pears were not particularly tasty or good. He confesses “Yet I had a desire to commit robbery, and did so, compelled to it by neither hunger nor poverty, but through a contempt for well-doing and a strong impulse to iniquity. For I pilfered something which I already had in sufficient measure, and of much better quality. I did not desire to enjoy what I stole, but only the theft and the sin itself.” This shows the extent to which he considered sin to be part of humanity.
I think I have made you uncomfortable enough this morning, but there is a purpose for my action this morning. Going back to the story of Peter resisting Jesus’ offer to wash his feet. It is finally when Jesus tells him that “If I do not wash you, you do not have a part in me”. Now after understanding the true nature of man, that man is sinful, by himself, he cannot be sinless, we understand the gravity of “you do not have a part in me” statement. In other words, Jesus is telling Peter, that I unless you are willing to receive my “service” you cannot be saved. Unless I wash you, you will not be clean, Unless you receive from me you cannot give grace. We by ourselves cannot be good, cannot do good. We need Jesus’ help to do that.
The good news is that we have hope, we have hope that if we believe in Jesus Christ we can be cured of the sin that engulfs us. Matthew 19:25-26 (NKJV) When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” And God is making it possible for us through Jesus Christ. John 1:12-13 (NKJV) But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
So let us this morning invite Jesus to serve us, let us shed our false humility, let us shed our false belief that there is some good in us, let us admit our original sin, and our total depravity, let us admit that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and let us ask Jesus to wash us, so that we might be saved by His grace.
Hebrews 4:14-16 (MSG) Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.