How to Love One Another

Today we are talking about Loving One Another, based on John 13:1-17; 34-35.

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to develop the character quality of agape love for fellow Christians. Jesus stooped to love His disciples by meeting a very practical need that they had – dirty feet.

Historical Background: John’s Gospel reports more of the content of Jesus’ instructions to His disciples than does the other three Gospels. Chapters 13-17 concentrate on His teachings on that fateful night in which He was arrested. Before the instruction,Jesus washed His disciples’ feet and predicted His betrayal.

The first 12 chapters of the Gospel of John cover approximately 3 years in the public ministry of Christ. In these chapters John records His earliest contacts with the disciples and how he moved among the people throughout these three years working miracles and preaching His message (John 20:30-31).

Chapters 13-17 are restricted to one evening in Christ’s life. The audience also is limited to the 12 men that He has experienced authentic biblical community with over the past three years. This one evening was the last night before the crucifixion. There are many things that happen on this final evening but John alone records the washing of the disciple’s feet.

There is a change in John’s vocabulary from this point on. In chapters 1-12 this gospel is marked by words like “life” (50 times) and “light” (32 times). In chapters 13-17 the word “life” only occurs 6 times and “light” not at all. In contrast, the word “love” is found only 6 times in chapters 1-12 and 31 times in chapters 13-1 7. Clearly love takes on a new prominence in this farewell discourse.

Historical Chronology: Triumphal Entry & the fig tree [from Bethany to Jerusalem to Bethany] (Thomas and Gundry Sections 128-131). Here we see growing popularity among the masses (John 12:12-16) culminating in his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. At the same time there is a growing hatred from the religious leaders (John 12:19). They were desperately threatened by his words that judged their hypocrisy, but also by the number of people who were attracted to Him and His teaching.

  1. Official challenge to Christ’s Authority [Jerusalem in the temple] Sec.132-135
  2. Christ’s response to His enemies’ challenges [Jerusalem in the temple] Sec.136-138
  3. The Olivet Discourse: Jesus speaks prophetically about the temple and his second coming [from the temple to the Mount of Olives] Sec.139
  4. Arrangements for betrayal and plot by the Sanhedrin to arrest and kill Jesus [Mount of Olives & the palace of the high priest] Sec.140-142
  5. The Last Supper [Jerusalem]
    1. Preparation for the Passover meal in Jerusalem (Sec. 143 – Matthew 26:17-19; Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:7-13). The Passover Feast was an important event in Israel’s) history that commemorated their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. The preparations were incomplete because there was no servant at the door to wash dirty feet.
    2. Beginning the Passover meal & dissension among the disciples in the upper room in Jerusalem (Sec. 144 – Matthew 26:20; Mark 14:17; Luke 22:14-16, 24-30).
    3. Washing the Disciples feet in the upper room in Jerusalem (Sec. 145 – John 13:1-20).
    4. After returning to the table Jesus commands them to follow His example and love one another (Sec. 145-147 John 13:15,17,34,35). “By means of his words to his disciples, we are permitted here to enter into the thinking and emotions of Jesus just before his own crucifixion. Within hours of this event the Lord was hanging upon a cross. In less than twenty-four hours he was dead and buried. These therefore, constitute the last words of Jesus before his own death.” – Ray Stedman

Commanded in the Gospels: John 13:34; 15:12; 15:17

Illustrated in the Book of Acts: Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” The early church in The Book of Acts was characterized by love in action. Their love for one another was expressed in practical ways within their Christian community and outsiders were well aware that they were disciples of Christ because of their love.

Amplified in the Epistles:

  • Love [agapao): Romans 13:8; 2 Corinthians 11:11; 12:15; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; 1 Peter 1:22; 2:17; 1 John 2:10; 3:10, 11, 14, 18, 23; 4:7, 11, 12, 20, 21; 5:1-2; 2 John 1:5; 3 John 1:1.
  • Love [agape]: Romans 14:15; 1 Corinthians 4:21; 8:1; 13:1-4, 8, 13; 14:1; 16:14; 2 Corinthians 2:4,8; 6:6; 8:7, 8, 24; Galatians 5:13, 22; Ephesians 4:2, 15, 16; 5:2; Philippians 1:9; 2:2; Colossians 1:4, 8; 2:2; 3:14; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 3:12; 5:13; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Timothy 4:12; 6:11; 2 Timothy 1:7; 2:22; 3:10; Philemon 1:5, 7, 9; Hebrews 6:10; 10:24; 1 Peter 4:8; 5:14; 2 Peter 1:7; 3 John 1:6; Jude 1:12.
  • Love [phileo): Titus 3:15.
  • Brotherly love [philadelphia]: Romans 12:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; Hebrews 13:1; 1 Peter 1:22; 2 Peter 1:7.

Discussion Questions:

1 . What evening of the Passover week did Jesus give His disciples this command to love one another? (John 13:1-2; Matthew 26:20) The Passover feast began on the 15th Nisan at sunset, the Passover lamb being slain the afternoon of 14th Nisan. There seems no real doubt that this meal in John 13:1-30 is the real Passover meal described by the Synoptic Gospels (Mark l4:18-21; Matthew 26:21-25; Luke 22:21-23), followed by the institution of the Lord’s Supper.

Whether this meal was the actual Passover or not has been warmly debated, yet it seems that it occurred on the same night as the arrest and betrayal. If so, it was presumably Thursday night; and the Crucifixion occurred on Friday, the day before the Passover, which would have begun on Friday evening.

Luke states that when the day came on which the Passover lamb was to be sacrificed, Peter and John were sent to arrange the meal that the Lord and his disciples ate that evening (Luke 22:7-14). Matthew 26:17-20 and Mark 14:12-17 agree that the meal was on the day on which the Passover lamb was killed, which preceded the Passover itself. John stated later (John 18:28) that the Jewish delegates could not enter Pilate’s hall on Friday morning because they would be defiled and unable to eat the Passover. In that case, the last Supper must have preceded the Passover by twenty-four hours. If the Passover began on Friday night, the meal could have taken place on Thursday night, but would not have been the standard Passover Feast.

Jesus did celebrate the meal with his disciples on Thursday night, the hearing before Pilate and the Crucifixion took place on Friday, and his body was placed in the tomb before sunset late that afternoon.

John noted that it happened “before the feast of the Passover.” These words might suggest that this incident occurred while the evening meal was being served but before they actually came to the place where the Passover lamb would be eaten.

John alludes to the nearness of the Passover as if to remind his reader that Jesus had been introduced by John the Baptist as the “lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). As the first Passover had been the turning point in the redemption of the people of God, so the Cross would be the opening of a new era for believers.

2. What does John 13:1 tell us about Jesus? The word “know” is in the perfect tense. Vines says that this verb, “signifies, primarily, to have seen or perceived; hence, to know, to have knowledge of.” This word “know” emphasizes the full consciousness of Christ, he was not stumbling into the dark as he faced “his hour.” Jesus had a thorough knowledge of the time schedule he was on to redeem the world.

3. How does John 13:1 describe Jesus’ love for his disciples? The apostles, having joined Christ at this feast, were overcome with selfish ambition (Luke 22:24). They also had given way to greed (Matthew 26:8). In contrast, Christ was filled with love for his disciples. A love [agapesas] that he was prepared to choose through an act of his will to give his life as a sacrifice for their sins and the sins of the entire world.

The opening verse of chapter 13 sets the scene for the whole of chapters 13-17. Love is one of the key terms in chapters 13-17, it occurs 31 times in these five chapters as compared to only six times in chapters 1-12.

Christ had already demonstrated his love for them; choosing them, teaching them, protecting them, and meeting their needs were all reflections of His love. The disciples at this point didn’t fully understand the extent of Christ’s love, but later the writer of this gospel expressed his fuller comprehension of his Savior’s love in the first epistle he wrote.

1 John 3:16 “We know love by this,that He laid down His life for us;and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” The verb “loved” [agapao] describes the act of the will that gives to others’ basic needs without having as my motive personal reward. Agape love involves sacrificing myself and my comfort to meet another’s need.

Vines Expository Dictionary says: “Christian (Agape) love, whether exercised toward the brethren, or toward men generally, is not an impulse from the feelings, it does not always run with the natural inclinations, nor does it spend itself only upon those for whom some affinity is discovered. Love seeks the welfare of all, (Romans 15:2), and works no ill to any, (Romans 13:8-10); love seeks opportunity to do good to ‘all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith,”‘ (Galatians 6:10).

Jesus loved his disciples “to the end” [eis telos] may be rendered “to the uttermost, completely, to perfection, utterly, to the fullest extent. Jesus’ love for His disciples was a perfect, saving, eternal love. With a full knowledge of his coming suffering and death, he was still totally preoccupied with an all-consuming, perfect, and full love for own His disciples.

One commentator writes, “Love is the laying down of one’s life, and therefore to love completely means to love to the end of one’s life (1 John 3:16). The love that has been evident throughout continues right up to the end. At the end, in the crucifixion, we will see the ultimate revelation of that love,that is,its full extent.

These disciples that are being loved are called, “his own” [tous idious]. These disciples were given to him by the Father (John 10:29). Jesus had accepted the responsibility for them and was obliged to instruct and protect them (John 17:6-12). He loved them.

4. What new commandment does Jesus give his disciples in this passage? John 13:34-35 says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love [Present Imperative] one another,even as I have loved you,that you also love [Present Imperative] one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Love itself is NOT a new commandment (Leviticus 19:18). The new thing appears to be the mutual affection that Christians have for one another on account of Christ’s great love for them. Plummer says “the commandment to love was not new, for “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18) was part of the Mosaic Law, but the motive is new; to love one another because Christ has loved us” (1 John 4:19; John 15:12).

The word “new” [kainen] implies “freshness” or the opposite of “worn-out” rather than simply “recent or different.” Another source says, The word “new” signifies what is fresh, in contrast to that which is familiar and well known (1 John 2:7; 3:23; 2 John 1:5; John 15:12, 17).

The “badge of discipleship is love.” Love is to be the distinguishing mark of a Christ follower. In contrast, Jesus said to an unbelieving Jewish audience… in John 5:40-42, Jesus said, “and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. 42 but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves.”

Tertullian tells us that the heathen commented on the Christians: “See they say, how they love one-another!”

In verses 1-17 Jesus models the kind of love that He wants His disciples to practice.

5. What role does the devil play in this Passover meal? (John 13:2) The present participle “during” [ginomenou] tells us that the circumstances that follow happened while the supper was in progress. But before the dinner a Satanic suggestion had already been made to Judas.

One author writes, “The circumstances are listed in detail. Judas had already determined to betray Jesus (John 13:2). His specific motive is not stated, and the impulse is attributed to satanic suggestion. The casual allusion to the devil at this point implies a deeper significance to the conflict than a mere political or theological squabble. The conflict was basically actuated by a rebellion against God, the absolute opposite of the attitude of Jesus. It is possible that Judas, realizing that Jesus’ enemies were implacably hostile and that they were politically powerful, concluded that Jesus was foredoomed to lose in the struggle and so decided that he might as well gain immunity from sharing Jesus’ fate. Judas could compensate himself by claiming the reward for betrayal. His act, however, was more serious than an incidental piece of treachery; he sold himself to the power of evil. As John 13:27 states, “Satan entered into him,” and he came under the devil’s control.”

The text says,”the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot…” The perfect tense verb “having already (now) put” [ede beblekotos] denotes a thought that was literally, thrown or cast into Judas’ heart in the past which remains in his heart and is being exposed at this meal. Luke 22:3 says that Satan entered Judas when he offered to betray Jesus. Hence John’s “already” [ede] is pertinent. John repeats his statement in verse 27. In John 6:70 Jesus a year before had said that He had chosen one that was a devil.

We are told in John 13:27, “After the morsel, Satan then entered into him. Therefore Jesus said to him (Judas), ‘What you do, do quickly.”‘ This wasn’t demon possession but devil possession.

John MacArthur writes – “The fact that the devil entered the heart of Judas” does not exonerate Judas, because his wicked heart desired exactly what the devil desired, the death of Jesus. The devil and Judas were in accord.”

John notes that the devil had already prompted Judas lscoriot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus (John 13:2). It is extremely important to realize that Jesus is going to wash the feet of one who is considering betraying him. Judas has not yet given in to the temptation (John 13:27), but the devil has prompted him, or more literally, “put it into his heart.”

  • John 13:18 “I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘HE WHO EATS MY BREAD HAS LIFTED UP HIS HEEL AGAINST ME.”‘
  • Psalm 41 :9 “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.” David’s close companion betrayed him; he kicked him while he was “down.” The ultimate fulfillment of this verse is found in Judas (John 13:18, Matthew 26:21).

6. What does John 13:3 tell us about Jesus? The text says, “Jesus, knowing [eidos, repeated from verse 1] that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come forth from God and was going back to God.” John emphasizes the fact that Jesus was not the innocent victim of a plot, unaware of what was transpiring around him. Jesus was fully aware of his authority, his divine origin, and his destiny. John says much more about the inner consciousness of Jesus than the Synoptic Gospels do, either because he was more observant or because Jesus confided in him.

Jesus plainly restates this concept in John 16:28 when He said, “I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father.”

John MacArthur writes, “He faced the betrayal, agony, and death because he knew he would be exalted to the Father afterward, where he would receive the glory and fellowship he had eternally enjoyed within the Trinity (see John 17:4-5, which says, “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. 5 Now, Father,glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”

Jesus is fully conscious of his deity and messianic dignity when he performs the humble act of John 13:4-11.

7. What humble act of service did Jesus perform on the night before his crucifixion? (John 13:4) The immediate situation was that they had come to the banquet room directly from the street. Ordinarily on such an occasion the host would have delegated a servant to the menial task of removing the sandals of the guests and washing their feet. Since the meeting was obviously intended to be secret, no servants were present. None of the disciples were ready to volunteer for such a task, for each would have considered it an admission of inferiority to all the others. John the Baptist had used the act of such a servant as his standard of the lowest and meanest kind of service that could be required of any man (John 1:27).

On the night before His crucifixion, Jesus’ patience must have been taxed, because they still had not learned His oft-repeated lesson on humility. Jesus nevertheless corrected them by wrapping himself in a towel. Jesus “stooped to love them” and modeled a servant’s heart. Washing dirty feet should not have surprised His disciples since He clearly stated that one of His purposes for coming was to serve.

  • Matthew 20:28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give
    His life a ransom for many.”
  • Mark 10:45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
  • Philippians 2:5-8 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

8. Who customarily would be at the door when the guest arrived? It was a custom in those times to have a servant honor the guest by washing their feet when they arrived. Feet needed to be washed because when you reclined at dinner, you really didn’t care to recline your head 18 inches from someone’s dirty feet. The roads were either muddy
or dusty. Streets weren’t paved and sidewalks were unheard of. In those days more than human beings traveled the streets so the situation was pretty unsanitary with animal droppings from horses, oxen, and camels. So it was a courtesy to wash a person’s feet when they arrived at your home for a meal.

But when the disciples came to the upper room there was no one there to wash dirty feet. Why didn’t the disciples do it? Because they were having an argument. They were arguing about whom would be the greatest in the kingdom and no one wanted to disqualify himself by becoming a servant. They were seeking rank. I believe Jesus purposefully allowed the meal to start and waited to see whether one of his disciples would volunteer to be the servant. He waited purposefully to the middle of the meal to give one of them the chance to get up and go over and pick up the towel and basin and begin to wash dirty feet. They knew what the custom was.

The dusty and dirty conditions of the region necessitated the need for footwashing. People wore sandals without socks or stockings. It was a mark of honor for a host to provide a servant to wash a guest’s feet;it was a breach of hospitality not to provide for it (1 Samuel 25:41; Luke 7:40-50; 1 Timothy 5:10). Wives often washed their husbands’ feet, and children washed their parents’ feet. Most people, of course, had to wash their own feet.

Although the disciples most likely would have been happy to wash Jesus’ feet, they could not conceive of washing each other’s feet. This was because in the society of the time footwashing was reserved for the lowliest of menial servants. Peers did not wash one another’s feet, except very rarely and as a mark of great love.

9. How did Peter respond to Jesus washing his feet? (John 13:6-7) Peter’s response may have been representative of the common feeling among the disciples that Jesus ought not to demean himself by washing their feet. The two pronouns “you” and “my” stand together at the beginning of the sentence in emphatic contrast. The emphatic use of pronouns in Peter’s surprised question, “Lord, You [su] are washing my [mou] feet?” Kenneth Wuest translates it – “He said to Him, You – my feet you are washing?”

Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter” (John 13:7). The word “realize” [oidas] speaks of absolute and complete knowledge in contrast to the word “understanding [ginosei, future middle] which denotes knowledge gained by experience.

Peter said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me” (John 13:8).

Peter’s reply – “NEVER shall You wash my feet!” reveal both the impetuousness of his disposition and the high regard he had for Jesus. Peter, we may suppose, drew his feet up, as he spoke, in his impulsive humility” (Bernard). Peter felt that Jesus should not degrade himself by assuming such a position.

Slaves were looked down upon in the ancient world (d. Rengstorf 1964b), and Peter cannot stand the thought of his teacher doing the work of a slave (John 13:6). It would have been appropriate for one of the disciples to have washed Jesus’ feet, but the reverse is intolerable.

Peter’s response “Never shall You wash my feet!” [ou me eis ton aiona] is a very strong expression. The beginning of John 13:8 has been translated ”You shall by no means wash my feet as long as the world stands” or “NEVER to all eternity shall you wash my feet!” In the original language, this is a strong double negative [ou me]. Kenneth Wuest literally translates this double negative as “You shall by no means wash my feet, no, never.”

10. What did Jesus mean when he told Peter, “If I do not wash you,you have no part with Me”? (John 13:8) This expresses the necessity, not only for the cleansing of Peter’s feet to make him socially acceptable for the dinner, but also for the cleansing of his person to make him fit for the kingdom of God. The external washing was intended to be a picture of spiritual cleansing from evil. This cleansing was not merely about Peter’s hygiene but about his holiness. Peter couldn’t imagine being separated from Jesus. Peter continued to miss the spiritual lesson, but he was certain of his desire to be intimately joined to Jesus.

It does not say, “you have no part in me,” it’s not referring tq salvation. Peter had already received a spiritual bath when he placed his faith in Jesus as His Savior (Forgiver) and Lord (Leader). So the issue of Peter’s footwashing was connected with his spiritual cleansing that is essential for fellowship and ministry. This is why Christ says “you have no part with me” instead of “you have no part in Me.” Spiritual filth (sin) in our lives always hinders our fellowship with God, one another and ministry effectiveness (1 John 1:3, 6-9.

The result of “confessing our sins” (1 John 1:9) for parental forgiveness is predictable because of the trustworthy nature of our God. God promises to forgive [aphe, “cancellation of debts” or the “dismissal of charges”] and to cleanse [katharizo, purification from the pollution of sin] so that fellowship can be restored.

Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head” (John 13:9). Peter impulsively says, “Not my feet only,but also my hands and my head – Give me a bath!” Peter really doesn’t understand the symbolism behind washing his feet. A.T. Robertson quotes Dods as saying, “A moment ago he told his Master he was doing too much: now he tells him He is doing too little” (Word Pictures in the NewTestament pg. 238)

11. What was Jesus symbolizing by washing the disciples feet? (John 13:9-11) The interpretation of the symbolism is clear: After salvation all one needs is confession of sins, the continual application of Jesus’ death to cleanse one’s daily sins (1 John 1:7; 2:1-2). When Jesus added that not every one of you is clean, he was referring to Judas (John 13:11, 18). This suggests that Judas was not converted.

Jesus said, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet…” John MacArthur writes, “The cleansing that Christ does at salvation never needs to be repeated, it is complete and thorough at the point of conversion. But all who have been cleansed by God’s gracious justification need constant washing in the experiential sense as they battle sin in the flesh. Believers are justified and granted imputed righteousness (Philippians 3:8, 9),but still need sanctification and personal righteousness (Philippians 3:12-14).”

The guest was supposed to bathe before coming to a feast and so only the feet had to be washed on removing the sandals. This cleansing is effected once for all, and is never repeated.

So the bathing (John 13:10) is the cleansing from sin on the cross and that the footwashing would refer to the forgiveness of one’s daily sins. This passage illustrates the doctrinal truth that there is a difference between judicial forgiveness and parental forgiveness.

JUDICIAL FORGIVENESS
Judicial forgiveness establishes a permanent relationship with God at the moment of salvation. When a person receives Jesus Christ as his personal Savior, the gavel is dropped in heaven and a person is forgiven for all of his sins (past, present, and future), declared righteous and made a child of God (Colossians 2:13; 1 John 2:12).

The Bible teaches that Satan is answerable to God (Job 1:6-7). It appears that Satan uses these “report-in” sessions as an opportunity to accuse [kategoron] God’s people of disobedience. This is the devil’s constant occupation,”day and night” [komeras kai nuktos]. The godly of all ages have been the target of his slander.

When Satan enters God’s heavenly courtroom and begins to accuse the brethren, Jesus Christ comes to our defense. 1 John 2:1-2 says, “if anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins.” When Satan is accusing us, Jesus Christ is our advocate, [paraklotos] which means our defense attorney. Jesus steps up to the bench and pleads our case. He points out that our sins have been forgiven because we are trusting in his substitutionary death on the cross which satisfied [hilasmos, propitious, 1 John 2:2] the demands of a Holy God. Then the Father says, “This man’s sins have been paid in full, case dismissed!”

PARENTAL FORGIVENESS
Parental forgiveness on the other hand maintains our fellowship with God. Even if a child runs away from home, changes his name, nothing can alter his relationship with his biological parents, but his actions will hinder their fellowship. In the same way nothing can alter our relationship with God, but sin in the life of a believer can hinder his fellowship with Him. This is why believers are encouraged to obtain parental forgiveness (1 John 1:9; Matthew 6:9, 12). We need a daily cleansing so we can experience sweet fellowship with our Savior.

Foot Washing – Parental Forgiveness (Matthew 6:9, 12, 1 John 1:3, 6-10)
Daily cleansing to maintain fellowship with God – John 13:10, Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet,…”

Bath – Judicial Forgiveness (Colossians 2:13, 1 John 2:12)
Total cleansing to establish a relationship with God – John 13:11, For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12. Why does Jesus say “you are clean, but not all of you?” (John 13:10-11) This was a plain hint of the treachery of Judas who is reclining at the table after having made the bargain with the Sanhedrin (Mark 14:11). A year ago Jesus knew that Judas was a devil and said to the apostles: “One of you is a devil”  (John 6:64, 70). The disciples did not suspect that Judas was a counterfeit in the past nor did they suspect him of being the unclean one now.

“Not all of you are clean” is a reference to Judas who was soon to lead the mob to capture Jesus (John 18:3). Jesus had known [eidei, imperfect tense] that Judas would betray him and yet he treated Judas with his usual courtesy. In fact Judas was already engaged in the process. Judas did have his feet literally washed, but he did not enter into the meaning of the event.

13. What second lesson from this footwashing did Jesus want to teach His disciples? (John 13:12) Jesus said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you?” A second lesson Jesus wished to impart to the disciples by this act was one of love and humble service. His question, “Do you know what I have done to you?” is in contrast with his words to Peter earlier: “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter” (John 13:7). The discernment of the disciples developed slowly. It took them a long time to begin to comprehend the intensity of Jesus’ love for them and the nature of his humility in dealing with them. After giving this object lesson in humility, the Lord questioned the disciples in order to draw out the significance of the lesson: “Do you understand” [ginoskete, perfect active indicative] “what I have done for you?” He asked them. (John 13:7). It was a searching question, particularly to Simon Peter and Judas.

14. What titles did the disciples call Jesus that He accepted without reluctance? (John 13:13) He was literally, “The Teacher” [ho didaskalos] and “The Lord” [ho kurios], both titles of respect that placed Jesus on a level above the disciples. Jesus emphasized the fact that as their leader He had stooped to serve their needs so they should do the same for one another.

15. What word in John 13:14 suggests moral obligation to follow Christ’s example? Jesus says, “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher,washed your feet, you also ought to wash one anothers feet.” The verb “ought” [Gr. opheilete] means “to owe a debt” and suggests moral obligation. It occurs several times in John’s Epistles (1 John 2:6; 3:16; 4:11; 3 John 8), but in the Gospel only here and John 19:7. In John 13:14, Jesus teaches that the obligation to ministry is a debt that must be paid. The word ought is the past tense of owe. The phrase “one another” denotes the mutual obligation and reciprocal nature of this love that serves each other.

If the Son of God, the second person of the trinity, the pure and holy, spotless One can get on the floor and wash the filthy feet of 12 self-centered selfish undeserving disciples, then we should be able to love as He loved. If He was willing to stoop to love, shouldn’t we follow his example?

16. Was Jesus instituting foot washing as an ordinance? (John 13:12-17) The “example” does not imply the perpetuation of foot washing as an ordinance in the church. The only other allusion to foot washing in the New Testament is found in 1 Timothy 5:10, where it does not refer to a regular custom, but seems to allude to humble slave like service to the poor. John calls this act an example [hupodeigma] which implies that the emphasis is on the inner attitude of humble and voluntary service for others. This passage emphasizes inner humility, not a physical rite.

The word used here suggests both “example” and “pattern” (Hebrews 4:11; 8:5; 9:25; James 5:10; 2 Peter 2:6). Jesus’ purpose in this action was to establish the model of acts of love done with humility. Not to follow the example of Jesus is to exalt oneself above Him and to live in pride.

Notice the purpose clause, “that [hina] you also should do as I did to you.” The verb “do” [poiete] is a present active subjunctive that is literally translated, “keep on doing.” Doing what? Doing acts of love in humility!

“Jesus, however, does not say to do “what” he did but “as” he did” (IVP). Notice the wording “do as I did to you”, Jesus didn’t say, “what I have done.” Jesus wants his disciples to imitate the spirit of his action, not necessarily the action itself. It is the spirit of humility that Christ modeled. This inner attitude manifests itself by voluntarily doing selfless acts of love, whether foot washing is needed or some other menial task.

Calvin’s comments should be heeded by all who take the practice as one to be perpetuated: “Every year they hold a theatrical foot washing, and when they have discharged this empty and bare ceremony they think they have done their duty finely and are then free to despise their brethren. But more, when they have washed twelve men’s feet they cruelly torture all Christ’s members and thus spit in the face of Christ himself. This ceremonial comedy is nothing but a shameful mockery of Christ. At any rate, Christ does not enjoin an annual ceremony here, but tells us to be ready all through our life to wash the feet of our brethren.”

Calvin here warns against the danger of externalism, he wanted his readers to grasp the spirit and attitude of humble service that Christ modeled.

17. Why does Jesus compare himself with his disciples and the Father? (John 13:16) The text says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him.”

Jesus is saying as my disciples (slaves) you are not greater than your Lord (master Gr. kyriou), so if I can stoop to serve so can you.

Jesus again doesn’t miss the opportunity to remind his disciples that he was sent”  [pempsantos] and therefore always conscious of being commissioned by the Father. Jesus included his disciples in the commission (John 20:21) and also included them in the action of servanthood. Jesus portrayed for them the true nature of Christian living: serving one another. And for those who would be willing to take this role on themselves, Jesus said there would be blessings.

18. What “things” do you “know” now from this passage that you need to “do” in order to be blessed? (John 13:17) The word “blessed” means “happy.” The second “if” [eon] in this verse is a third-doss condition. This means that “Happiness is conditional.” The text says there are two conditions for happiness: Just knowing does not bring happiness, nor does just doing these things occasionally. What things is Jesus referring to?

Jesus says if you want to be blessed you must be a Room Maker, Group Lover, Bath Taker, Foot Washer, and Apron Wearer. Jesus says we need to make room for community in our busy lives, love one another to the fullest extent, experience judicial and parental forgiveness and be willing to do any menial task to demonstrate our love on one another.

Reflection:

1. Who is the person in your life who has demonstrated what it means to “wash feet”? What has the person done for you?

2. Are you willing to stoop to love? Is there any task too menial for you?

3. What “things” do you “know” now and need to “do” in order to be blessed? John 13:17

4. How will you put Jesus’ teaching into practice in at least one relationship this week at home, work, or church?

Sources: The questions and answers for this study were gleaned from the following resources.

1 . Serendipity Bible for Groups by: Serendipity House, Zondervan Publishing House, 1998
2. The Gospel of John, Introduction, Exposition and Notes by: F.F. Bruce, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1983
3. The Expositors Bible Commentary, Volume 9 by: Fronk E. Goebelein (General Editor), Zondervon Publishing House, 1981
4. Light in the Darkness, Studies in the Gospel of John by Homer A. Kent Jr., Boker Bookhouse, 1974.
5. The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel by: R.C.H. Lenski, Augsburg Publishing House, 1943.
6. The Gospel of John, A Series of Verse- By-Verse Outline Studies by: John MacArthur Jr., Word of Grace Communications.
7. Making Room for Community by: Rick Leineweber,MP3/CD, Grace Fellowship Church,2004
8. The Gospel According to John by: Leon Morris, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1971.
9. The Words and Works of Jesus Christ by: J. Dwight Pentecost, Zondervan Publishing House, 1981
10. John: The Gospel of Belief by: Merrill C. Tenney, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1948.
11.The Gospel According to St. John by: B.F. Westcott, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1975.
12. The New Testament – An Expanded Translation by: Kenneth S. Wuest, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1961
13.The MacArthur Study Bible by: John F. MacArthur, Jr., Word Publishing, 1997
14. The Chronological Life of Christ Vol.2 by: Mark E. Moore, College Press Publishing Company, 1997
15.Word Pictures in the New Testament Vol.5 by: Archibald Thomas Robertson, Broadman Press, 1932

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber Jr.]
© Copyright 1994 Richard D. Leineweber Jr.

Related Images:

The Seven Realities

Here are the seven realities of experiencing God:

  1. God is always at work around you.
  2. God pursues a continuing love relationship with you that is real and personal.
  3. God invites you to become involved with him in his work.
  4. God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal himself, his purposes and his ways.
  5. God’s invitations for you to work with him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action.
  6. You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what he is doing.
  7. You came to know God by experience as you obey him and accomplish his work.

We tend to ask questions trying to determine whether we really heard from God…

  1. How can I know it is God speaking to me?
  2. How do I know where God is at work?
  3. What kind of adjustments will I have to make to be obedient?
  4. What is the difference between adjustment and obedience?

Here are three similarities in the lives of biblical servants through whom God worked:

  1. When God spoke, they knew it was from God.
  2. They knew what God was saying.
  3. They knew what they were to do in response.

Let’s look at the seven realities of Experiencing God in the life of Moses:

  1. God is always at work around you. The people groaned in slavery, cried out to God, and he heard them, he looked on and was concerned (Exodus 2:23-25) .
  2. God pursues a continuing love relationship with you that is real and personal. Moses came up to the mountain of God and talked with him, and told Moses of his plans for deliverance (Exodus 24:12, 15-16, 18).
  3. God invites you to become involved with him in his work. God said he was sending Moses (Exodus 3:8, 10) to do the work of God.
  4. God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal himself, his purposes and his ways. The lord appeared in the flames of the bush, and later while Moses would visit God face to face (Exodus 3:2-8, Numbers 12:6-8).
  5. God’s invitations for you to work with him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action. Moses gave five excuses why God could have picked a better person for this job (Exodus 3:11, 13, 4:1, 10, 13).
  6. You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what he is doing. God said GO and Moses started back to Egypt (Exodus 4:19-20).
  7. You came to know God by experience as you obey him and accomplish his work. Moses came to know God more intimately through his obedience (Exodus 14:15-17, 21-23, 26-27, 29-31).

When God is about to do something, he reveals to a person or to his people what he is about to do. Points to remember are that God sees, hears, cares, acts and has a plan for this people. When God reveals what he is about to do, that revelation becomes an invitation for us to join him. The great part is that God is already at work in the place he is going to send us!

God uses ordinary people to accomplish his purposes. We often think of Elijah as an extraordinary person of faith, but the Bible actually tells us he was ordinary (James 5:18-19). Peter and John were nothing special to the rest of the world (Acts 4:13) but were used in a mighty way by God. This is God’s pattern to use the weak to accomplish mighty things (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). When people don’t measure up to human standards, God is still at work in their lives.

When you believe that nothing significant can happen through you, you have said more about your belief in God than you have said about yourself. – D. L. Moody

Related Images:

Learning to be a Servant

Jesus came as a servant to accomplish God’s will in the redemption of humanity. Here are two classic verses regarding the obedient servanthood of Jesus:

  1. Philippians 2:5-8 (servant, humility, obedience)
  2. Matthew 20:26-28 (greatness, service, example of Jesus)

As the Father had sent Jesus, he also sends us (John 20:21). The master never allows the servant to run out on his own to do whatever the servant wants to do for the Master. That is not a biblical servant.

Here are two concepts regarding a servant (Jeremiah 18:1-6).

  1. The clay must be molded.
  2. The clay must be in the potter’s hand.

A clay pot or cup cannot do anything on its own; it must submit to the will of the potter. So, a servant can do nothing on his own, when God works through a servant he can do anything… as long as he is moldable and remains in the potter’s hands. The Master alone makes the clay into the vessel he chooses (John 15:5).

Use Elijah as an example (1 Kings 18:15-39) when he was going to prove once and for all who was the greater God. He was outnumbered 850 to one. Had Elijah run in and did all this on his own, he would have failed.

  1. At whose initiative did Elijah offer this challenge (1 Kings 18:15)?
  2. Who brought the fire down from heaven (1 Kings 18:38)?
  3. After is is all said and done, what did Elijah have to do? He was to be obedient to God and focus on the task or mission he was given.

Sometimes we think that we should NOT just stand there, but do SOMETHING. This is not the way it is with God. He often wants us to stand still until he leads, then we go and do the work he has for us. God wants us to adjust our lives to him, and then he will accomplish great things through his servants.

Related Images:

Developing Spiritual Discernment

The longer one is a follower of Jesus Christ, the greater one should have spiritual discernment, which is the ability to determine right from wrong, good from evil, this direction or that.

Discernment does not come by flipping a coin and saying “heads or tails,” and it doesn’t completely rely on common sense or the conscience. Spiritual discernment is a gift from God and comes to us through the Holy Spirit, who dwells in every authentic Christian. It is the supernatural ability to “know” something not because of personal knowledge or experience, but because of personal time spent with God in prayer and time spent in his Word.

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord. (James 1:5–7)

The ability to know God and discern his will for your life comes through…

Salvation: Spiritual things can be discerned only by the indwelling Holy Spirit. When you trust Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you have met the prerequisite for knowing the mind of Christ. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment: ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:15–16).

Scripture: As you study Scripture, you learn how God works in the lives of His people. Understanding God’s principles gives you a basis for knowing how He is working in your life today.

  • The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise (Psalm 111:10).
  • These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come (1 Corinthians 10:11).

Situations: Are you focusing on God’s will for your future? Instead, focus on God’s purpose in your present situation, and trust Him with your future. God always has a personal will for you, and your responsibility is to adjust to what He is doing in your life right now. Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:33–34).

Surrender: Are you surrendering to what God wants to do in your life today? Pray to be moldable clay in the Potter’s hand, allowing God to mold and shape you into the vessel of His choosing. O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does? declares the LORD. Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel (Jeremiah 18:6).

Servanthood: Have you given up ownership of your own life? When your heart is willing to be God’s servant no matter the cost, He will reveal His plan for you. No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? (Matthew 6:24–25).

Related Images:

To Be Successful or Faithful?

There has been a debate on whether we are called to be successful in our lives and ministries or simply faithful to what God has called us to do. For pastors, we often view success in terms of numbers; we are successful if the numbers increase.

I read a book by a guy named Kent Hughes called, “Liberating Your Ministry from Success Syndrome.” Imagine a pastor of a small church in a transitional community who faithfully preaches week after week, cares for the congregation, invests in leaders, witnesses regularly, and serves the community; but the numerical growth is just not there. At the Convention he hears stories from other pastors with churches experiencing tremendous growth. The conclusion is often, “I’m not successful in what I am doing. Maybe I should be in a different vocation. God has not blessed with response to he must not be pleased with me.”

So, we beg the question, “Has God called us to be successful or faithful?” Sometimes we see both; but often we have to resign to the fact that even with the hardest work and best laid plans, God is the only one who can bring about growth (1 Corinthians 3:6, 7).

Check out what God says to Ezekiel:

“He said to me: Human one, listen closely, and take to heart every word I say to you. Then go to the exiles, to your people’s children. Whether they listen or not, speak to them and say: The LORD God proclaims!” (Ezekiel 3:10-11)

Getting people to respond to your ministry is hard. If we are doing it in our own strength, it is sure to fail (John 15:5), but even when we rely upon God to make it happen, we must faithfully do our part and leave the results up to him. Let’s look at evangelism as an example.

Most Christians know that they should be sharing their faith with others, that it is part of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. But, most Christians feel very uneasy about doing it. Many Christians rarely share their faith with others.

  • Some don’t because they don’t want to look foolish in the eyes of their co-workers.
  • Others hold back because they don’t want to offend someone.
  • Many believers choose not to share their faith because their afraid they won’t do it right.
  • Others fear they’ll mess up the message or be unable to answer unexpected questions, so they don’t talk about it.

If you can relate to these statements or if you’re someone who keeps the lid on our faith because you’re afraid of what might happen if you talked about it, then you’ll be encouraged and challenged by Ezekiel 3:10-11. In this passage, the Lord told Ezekiel to take his word to heart and then to share it with the Jewish exiles in Babylon, where Ezekiel was himself an exile. God told him to speak, “whether they listen or not” (Ezekiel 3:11). In other words, Ezekiel’s calling was to be faithful, not successful.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with success, whether in life or in serving the Lord, but our chief calling as God’s people is to be faithful to him, to serve him with excellence, to obey him wholeheartedly. If God chooses to bless our efforts with success, that’s great, but many times we cannot guarantee success. We should always choose to be faithful and do what God tells us as well as we can.

How do you feel about sharing your faith with others? What about seeing the fruit of your labor (like success)? What do you find uncomfortable about this? What about setting goals and action plans to reach them? What encourages you to continue serving the Lord even when it does not appear to be successful? What would it mean for you to be faithful as a servant or witness for Christ?

[print_link] [email_link]

Related Images:

What Prevents You From Serving?

Volunteerism – nothing much would happen at the church without volunteers, so why is it so difficult getting people to step up and lend a hand? Some studies suggest that people do not serve because they have not been asked? Not sure about how to respond to this one, because what part of the Great Commission are we leaving out? We don’t ask people to sell all they have and move to Africa for the sake of the gospel, we simply need people to set up chairs at 9:00 each Sunday, and care for children and preschoolers at 9:45 or 11:00.

I was reading Andee Mark’s article, The Un-Interview, today. She says we need more than an “interview” with potential volunteers, we need meaningful conversations with them. People will give many excuses for not serving, mostly because we all carry false assumptions (ideas and expectations) about ourselves and about others.

I believe one of the most destructive assumptions is that we are consumers at the church. We won’t admit it but I feel it is totally true. When it’s all about me, I want and expect others to do the work so I can just sit back and enjoy. It’s about customer service, I’m the customer so those around me are here to serve (me).

When people say they don’t have time for volunteering:

As ministry leaders, this is the excuse we most often hear from someone who is unwilling to serve in ministry. Rather than pull our hair in frustration, what if we view this as a clue to what God wants to do in that person’s life, and embrace it as an opportunity to engage in spiritual direction… that is, creating space for this person to grow in their understanding of God? (Andee Marks)

As a leader, we need to recognize wrong assumptions and start addressing them, in our own lives and in the lives of the people we serve with. In doing so, we can help people to grow out their consumer mentality. What about the following false assumptions that people may have about serving in the church?

  1. The church doesn’t need help.
  2. I have nothing of value to offer.
  3. There are other people more qualified to serve than me.
  4. Serving will require time or skills I don’t possess.
  5. I will be asked to serve in an area they don’t enjoy.
  6. I feel that I have already served enough, it’s time to step aside.

Talking about these openly and honestly will help others realize that God may have more in store for them than what they assumed.

[print_link] [ email_link]

Related Images:

To Serve or Not to Serve?

Tonight the topic for my small group is, Ransomed by God, out of Hebrew 9:11-28. The purpose of the study is to clarify that Christ was God himself, sacrificing himself for sinful humanity. The theological doctrine we are covering is substitution. I love this key verse out of Mark, he is so to the point:

But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:43-45)

  1. What does it mean to willingly be the slave of everyone else? What does this look like in daily life?
  2. Why do you think God’s plan was for Jesus to be a servant rather than an earthly king?

Since the context is about leadership, here are some thoughts from Ken Blanchard regarding self-serving leaders vs. servant leaders:

One of the quickest ways to tell the difference between a self-serving leader and a servant leader is how they handle feedback:

  • A self-serving leader always fears he will lose his position. They focus on protecting their status, so when there is feedback, it is seen as a threat to their leadership and position.
  • A servant leader sees leadership as an act of service. They welcome feedback as a way they can provide better service in the future.

There is generally a temptation to hold on to position, so we are all self-serving to a degree. Is there anything more self-serving than a new baby. They don’t come home from the hospital asking how they can help around the house. Life is a journey of moving from a self-serving to a serving heart. Babies mature into adults, and eventually we all must learn that life is more about what you give, not what you get. Every morning we should ask the question, “Which type of leader will I be today?”

Here is how to combat the temptation to be self-serving; surrender your motives and actions to Christ and role model how Jesus would lead. (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Related Images:

Helping, Fixing or Serving?

I am a tremendous advocate of servant leadership. As we think about the biblical mandate of serving others (Mark 10:45), we often think of volunteerism; doing something for someone else. I found this article about the motivation and the larger picture behind volunteerism and doing things for other people: whether we should call it helping, fixing or serving others.

”Fixing and helping create a distance between people, but we cannot serve at a distance, We can only serve that to which we are profoundly connected.”

Helping, fixing and serving represent three different ways of seeing life. When you help, you see life as weak. When you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole. Fixing and helping may be the work of the ego, and service the work of the soul.

Service rests on the premise that the nature of life is sacred, that life is a holy mystery which has an unknown purpose. When we serve, we know that we belong to life and to that purpose. From the perspective of service, we are all connected: All suffering is like my suffering and all joy is like my joy. The impulse to serve emerges naturally and inevitably from this way of seeing.

Serving is different from helping. Helping is not a relationship between equals. A helper may see others as weaker than they are, needier than they are, and people often feel this inequality. The danger in helping is that we may inadvertently take away from people more than we could ever give them; we may diminish their self-esteem, their sense of worth, integrity or even wholeness.

When we help, we become aware of our own strength. But when we serve, we don’t serve with our strength; we serve with ourselves, and we draw from all of our experiences. Our limitations serve; our wounds serve; even our darkness can serve. My pain is the source of my compassion; my woundedness is the key to my empathy.

Serving makes us aware of our wholeness and its power. The wholeness in us serves the wholeness in others and the wholeness in life. The wholeness in you is the same as the wholeness in me. Service is a relationship between equals: our service strengthens us as well as others. Fixing and helping are draining, and over time we may burn out, but service is renewing. When we serve, our work itself will renew us. In helping we may find a sense of satisfaction; in serving we find a sense of gratitude.

Harry, an emergency physician, tells a story about discovering this. One evening on his shift in a busy emergency room, a woman was brought in about to give birth. When he examined her, Harry realized immediately that her obstetrician would not be able to get there in time and he was going to deliver this baby himself. Harry likes the technical challenge of delivering babies, and he was pleased. The team swung into action, one nurse hastily opening the instrument packs and two others standing at the foot of the table on either side of Harry, supporting the woman’s legs on their shoulders and murmuring reassurance. The baby was born almost immediately.

While the infant was still attached to her mother, Harry laid her along his left forearm. Holding the back of her head in his left hand, he took a suction bulb in his right and began to clear her mouth and nose of mucous. Suddenly, the baby opened her eyes and looked directly at him. In that instant, Harry stepped past all of his training and realized a very simple thing; that he was the first human being this baby girl had ever seen. He felt his heart go out to her in welcome from all people everywhere, and tears came to his eyes.

Harry has delivered hundreds of babies, and has always enjoyed the excitement of making rapid decisions and testing his own competency. But he says that he had never let himself experience the meaning of what he was doing before, or recognize what he was serving with his expertise. In that flash of recognition he felt years of cynicism and fatigue fall away and remembered why he had chosen this work in the first place. All his hard work and personal sacrifice suddenly seemed to him to be worth it.

He feels now that, in a certain sense, this was the first baby he ever delivered. In the past he had been preoccupied with his expertise, assessing and responding to needs and dangers. He had been there many times as an expert, but never before as a human being. He wonders how many other such moments of connection to life he has missed. He suspects there have been many.

As Harry discovered, serving is different from fixing. In fixing, we see others as broken, and respond to this perception with our expertise. Fixers trust their own expertise but may not see the wholeness in another person or trust the integrity of the life in them. When we serve we see and trust that wholeness. We respond to it and collaborate with it. And when we see the wholeness in another, we strengthen it. They may then be able to see it for themselves for the first time.

One woman who served me profoundly is probably unaware of the difference she made in my life. In fact, I do not even know her last name and I am sure she has long forgotten mine.

At twenty-nine, because of Crohn’s Disease, much of my intestine was removed surgically and I was left with an ileostomy. A loop of bowel opens on my abdomen and an ingeniously designed plastic appliance which I remove and replace every few days covers it. Not an easy thing for a young woman to live with, and I was not at all sure that I would be able to do this. While this surgery had given me back much of my vitality, the appliance and the profound change in my body made me feel hopelessly different, permanently shut out of the world of femininity and elegance.

At the beginning, before I could change my appliance myself, it was changed for me by nurse specialists. These white-coated experts were women my own age. They would enter my hospital room, put on an apron, a mask and gloves, and then remove and replace my appliance. The task completed, they would strip off all their protective clothing. Then they would carefully wash their hands. This elaborate ritual made it harder for me. I felt shamed.

One day a woman I had never met before came to do this task. It was late in the day and she was dressed not in a white coat but in a silk dress, heels and stockings. She looked as if she was about to meet someone for dinner. In a friendly way she told me her first name and asked if I wished to have my ileostomy changed. When I nodded, she pulled back my covers, produced a new appliance, and in the most simple and natural way imaginable removed my old one and replaced it, without putting on gloves. I remember watching her hands. She had washed them carefully before she touched me. They were soft and gentle and beautifully cared for. She was wearing a pale pink nail polish and her delicate rings were gold.

At first, I was stunned by this break in professional procedure. But as she laughed and spoke with me in the most ordinary and easy way, I suddenly felt a great wave of unsuspected strength come up from someplace deep in me, and I knew without the slightest doubt that I could do this. I could find a way. It was going to be all right.

I doubt that she ever knew what her willingness to touch me in such a natural way meant to me. In ten minutes she not only tended my body, but healed my wounds. What is most professional is not always what best serves and strengthens the wholeness in others. Fixing and helping create a distance between people, an experience of difference. We cannot serve at a distance. We can only serve that to which we are profoundly connected, that which we are willing to touch. Fixing and helping are strategies to repair life. We serve life not because it is broken but because it is holy.

Serving requires us to know that our humanity is more powerful than our expertise. In forty-five years of chronic illness I have been helped by a great number of people, and fixed by a great many others who did not recognize my wholeness. All that fixing and helping left me wounded in some important and fundamental ways. Only service heals.

Service is not an experience of strength or expertise; service is an experience of mystery, surrender and awe. Helpers and fixers feel causal. Servers may experience from time to time a sense of being used by larger unknown forces. Those who serve have traded a sense of mastery for an experience of mystery, and in doing so have transformed their work and their lives into practice.


Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D. is Associate Clinical Professor of Family and Community Medicine at U.C.S.F. Medical School and co-founder and medical director of the Commonweal Cancer Help Program. She is author of the bestseller, Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories That Heal.

[ Helping vs. Serving – Noetic Science Review (PDF) ] [print_link] [email_link]

Related Images:

Servant Leadership

I like reading on topics about leadership, mentoring, and discipleship. I recently participated in the Dave Ramsey EntreLeadership event (held at Regent University). The seminar was primarily for business owners but the principles learned (many which I’ll share in later posts) can be adapted to my church staff leadership situation, and as I seek to lead others to be ministry and small group leaders. Another servant leadership promoter is Ken Blanchard, the one minute manager guy. He has an entire ministry focusing on Jesus as the ultimate example of leadership (Lead Like Jesus). Men, as you consider your leadership qualities, have you emphasized developing as a servant-leader?

He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.” (Mark 9:35)

The world tells us that leadership is about power and domination. The stronger, richer, smarter, and better looking you are, the better leader you’ll be. Studies have even shown that a beautiful woman will get a job before a plain woman, even if the latter is more qualified. The world looks on the outwardly aspects as a form of leadership. But that”s a leadership that only goes so far and can actually hinder your influence on people around you.

True leadership is found on the inside. It’s the leader who humbles himself and puts others’ needs before his own. It’s the boss who is willing to put in the extra hours to help you with the work instead of cutting out early. It’s the pastor or staff person who sees himself as much of a sinner as everyone else. In order to be a good leader, you have to learn how to serve others, to put others before you.

Jesus shows us true leadership. Even when he was incredibly weary from travel, he would help and heal. The night before his death, he washed his disciples’ feet. He never asked to be honored on earth, and he’s the Son of God! Jesus knew what it meant to be a leader.

Application: How do you lead the people around you? Do you find yourself becoming authoritarian? Do you lead from a position or a purpose? Do you influence people with fancy words, a nice house, and fancy clothes? Do you influence people by helping them move, cooking a meal for them, or washing the dishes? Husbands, as a leader in the home, do you take the time to make the bed or fold the laundry, straighten the kitchen? We can show our love and God’s love through our service to others. Take inventory on how you use your time to serve those in need. Are you a godly influence?

Related Images:

I Have Set for You an Example

This is lesson four in my class on the words of Jesus. To see the others, click the “notes” tab above and choose the lesson you want to see.

At the Heart of it All Today: Parables, other teaching and the foot washing episode emphasize the role of servanthood in the life of a disciple. Jesus promises eternal rewards to those demonstrating self-denying love for others.

Key Term: Servant; Jesus cast himself in this role and he demands we do the same. In a world were status is everything, Jesus turns the world’s value system upside down.

Key Verse: Matthew 10:39, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

A Hundredfold Investment: (Matthew 19:27-30)

  1. The rich young ruler just walked away and Peter responds to Jesus’ statement about rich men entering the kingdom of heaven. There is an obvious contrast since the disciples have given up much to follow Jesus.
  2. Peter was not really accurate by saying they gave up “all” to follow Jesus; he still owned a house (Mark 1:29) and a boat (Mark 3:9, 4:1), but he is correct that they have given up on a comfortable life with security.
  3. One’s true family – while it is great loss to leave one’s family, new friends are made along the path of a disciple, ones that share the same values and goals. There is fellowship (koinonia) that at the root means to share a common life.
  4. Receiving back a hundredfold – not really a material investment but a spiritual one. From a material investment, faith is a poor risk, but from an eternal perspective, all things are possible with this ultimate long-term investment.
  5. The term palingenesia is translated “new creation,” “new order of things,” “renewal” or “regeneration.” It is only used here in the gospels. Paul used it in Titus 3:5 to refer to the individual believer’s spiritual renewal. So, in the new world, things will be radically different. Those who gave up all in this life will see a radical difference in the next.
  6. Judging the twelve tribes of Israel – this is quite a shocking statement for the twelve. They will have positions of authority in God’s kingdom, much like the rich young ruler had in this life. No one would have guessed these men where “ruling” material, but Jesus sees potential in people.

The “No Seniority” Story: (Matthew 20:1-16)

  1. The Old Testament often describes Israel as a vineyard (Matthew 21:33-46, Psalm 80:8, 14, Isaiah 5:1-2, Jeremiah 12:10, John 15:1). Jesus is not nationalistic, but focuses on individuals who make up this new kingdom.
  2. The land owner is God – calling people to work in the vineyard. The workers from the start of the day expected a day’s wage.
  3. The eleventh hour – literally “at the last minute; before sunset.” The men were not lazy guys wasting the day; they just had not been hired yet. They wanted a job and the owner was generous with payroll. Those who worked all day were grumbling at his generosity; literally it means, “Is your eye evil because I am good?” Maybe the beginning of the phrase, “give him the evil eye.”
  4. The target audience – often the Jews since they did not believe the Gentiles were welcome in the kingdom. The grumblers may be similar to the older brother in the Prodigal Son. Jesus is likely warning the disciples they are not privileged characters in the kingdom just because they were called first (Matthew 19:27). Those who follow Jesus should not be so concerned with place, position or rewards. Do we serve God for what we get out of it, or do we serve him because he deserves it and it is the right thing to do?

Not One of Us: (Mark 9:38-40)

  1. This passage comes immediately after Jesus telling the disciples that striving to be the greatest was wrong, and that service to others was what mattered. John, a part of the inner circle, declaring that this other man was “not one of us” may be an indication that they had an inflated opinion of themselves. After a failed exorcism in Mark 9:14-29, they complain that this power was showing up in someone else; in one not officially a part of the group.
  2. Tolerance may be the lesson; not like today where beliefs don’t matter, but be willing to accept others who have the same goal. John wanted to narrow the circle while Jesus says it is ok to widen it.
  3. This is quite similar to Matthew 12:30 (he who is not with me is against me) but Jesus’ meaning is different. One cannot remain neutral toward him; each person must decide to follow or oppose Jesus. In Mark, (whoever is not against us is for us) refers to the disciples being accepting of others who do good work for Christ.

Sisters with a Difference: (Luke 10:38-42)

  1. This story follows the Good Samaritan, who also put love into action. Perhaps the point in pairing these two stories is that while doing good deeds is commendable, we are not saved by doing good works.
  2. Martha wanted everything just so, and Jesus gently scolds her. She had too many irons in the fire, and probably was not enjoying Jesus’ visit too much. The “one thing” probably meant “one dish” for a meal, but with a deeper meaning. Martha’s desire to serve was commendable but she could have served one dish to spend more time with the Master.
  3. Mary at Jesus’ feet – contrast to the rabbis looking down on the intelligence of women. Women had a vital role in the early church.

Duty Above All: (Luke 17:7-10)

  1. The is a story of a farmer with a worker who serves I the field and in the house, too. At the end of the work day, he cannot just sit down and have dinner, there is inside work to be done, he is still on duty and cannot expect to be thanked for doing his duty. A human master can make demands, and so can God.
  2. This can be directed at people who take pride in their accomplishments for the Lord. When Christ-followers lead a godly life or do good works, they are not going above and beyond the call of duty, but rather this is what is expected on earth and we should not expect praise.
  3. This is in the face of the Pharisees, who had a system of rewards and merit, which Jesus discounts. There is no call to boast in our service of God. We are his servants, not his peers.
  4. Main theme is God’s grace – when a disciple has done all he can for the kingdom, he has no right to expect salvation, but only accept it as a free gift (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 3:27, 11:35).

The Lowest Form of Service: (John 13:4-8, 13-16)

  1. A clear and straightforward story but also not understood by the disciples at the time. In those days there were no facilities to take full baths every day, so they did what I call, “a bird bath.” Attention was given to the exposed parts, which was the task of a slave; a humiliating work for the lowest of slaves. Here, doing this act was one of love and devotion.
  2. This undignified act was setting the disciples up for an even more humiliating and undignified event, the crucifixion.
  3. Wash feet or have no part of me – “part” is literally “inheritance” or “heritage” which may indicate Peter would not share in the joys of heaven. Peter reacts to the foot-washing in the same way he objected to the prediction of Jesus’ suffering. Jesus knew that suffering and humiliation are the roads to glory.
  4. Roles are reversed in this scene. To accept this is to embrace a new order where humility is honored over vanity and pride. The twelve had been arguing about who had precedence. Jesus emphasized that greatness consisted of servitude.
  5. Key point often overlooked – Jesus does this act of service and love for people who would in the matter of hours desert him and run away; being a devoted servant to those who will prove to be disloyal. Also, Judas was present; can it be that this was an act of forgiveness, and him telling them to “do likewise” was a reference to the disciples forgiving Judas because it is what he had to do to fulfill prophecy?

A New Commandment: (John 13:34-35)

  1. Jesus may be gone soon, but the love he has shown them will live on. They already had a few commandments like loving their neighbor as themselves (Leviticus 19:18), now they are to love others as Jesus loves them. This love will be distinctive of a Christ follower.
  2. This command must have made a deep impact on John, since he writes about it in his gospel and returns to the theme in his letters (1 John 3:11, 16, 4:19, 2 John 1:5).

Disowning the Master: (Matthew 10:32-33)

  1. There is a picture of a believer being dragged into court to testify of his devotion to Jesus, but the image is wider to any word or deed where one denies their faith. He is addressing lukewarm believers, those who are half-hearted. Pharisees love the praise of men more than the praise of God (John 12:42-43). Paul was not ashamed of the gospel (Romans 1:16) and encourages Timothy to not disown Christ (2 Timothy 2:12).
  2. Disowning Jesus is not so words of denial, but of missed opportunities, not speaking up when the situation calls for it. Actions may deny him as well, hypocrisy is an appropriate term. We would not be studying the Bible of following Jesus if it was not for those in the first century who stood up of their faith.

Forgetting Everything but God: (Matthew 10:38-39)

  1. The ultimate paradox: to possess life we must give it up. Some men would commit sin to keep on living (situation ethics). This phrase of Jesus might be a reference to Leviticus 18:5, “Keep my decrees and laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them. I am the Lord.” Like, God wants you to live, so sinning in order to keep on living is not wrong. Losing earthly life was not the worse thing that could happen.
  2. Too many jewelry crosses around the necks of those who don’t stand for Christ (Madonna, anyone?). In New Testament times, people did not need gold crosses, they saw real ones every day. It was a barbarous form of execution used on slaves and rebels. So, the believer might not only die a martyr’s death, but die with the lowest form of execution possible.
  3. Today we are to deny self, use self-discipline, and live for Christ more than ourselves (Galatians 2:20).

A Cup of Cold Water: (Matthew 10:40-42)

  1. Jesus words of the cross are balanced with a promise of reward. He is speaking to the disciples, the ambassadors for the faith, similar to 2 Corinthians 5:20 (see Ephesians 6:19).
  2. This water symbolized hospitality. While the world would harass, harm and kill people of faith, there are those who will stand up and offer kindness. Each act of compassion makes a difference. God will not forget your work of helping his people (Hebrews 6:10) and whatever you do for the least of these, you do it for Christ (Matthew 25:40).

Related Images: