Sermon – March 8, 2020

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John 13:1-20 – Cleansed to the Full

The Bible often uses everyday language and pictures to help us understand the reality that lies behind not only our lives but also our salvation. Jesus has shown us his power and identity as God-Incarnate through the signs of his miracles. These displayed the reality of who Jesus was. As Jesus washes his disciples’ feet, he gives us a sign that is meant to display the reality of what Jesus does. Whereas we might expect to see a picture of the Passover Lamb, John gives us instead a foot-washing. But why? Today in John 13, we have a wonderful picture of the great work of Jesus in our lives: his unmatched ability to cleanse us completely from our sin and guilt!

1. Jesus loves us fully
Verse 2 seems out of place. Why mention Judas here when he doesn’t really come into the focus of the text until around verse 10? Mentioning him before the foot washing helps the reader to keep him in mind, especially as we find out that Jesus knew already about his treacherous heart before he washed his feet. Jesus knew that Judas would betray him – and loved him enough to give him a sign of the cleansing and hope that he was passing up. He pleads with him by washing his feet to turn and live; all the time knowing that Judas will choose to die. This is a wonderful picture of Jesus’ full love for us: he loves even when he know that such mercy will not have its desired effect.

2. Jesus loves us fatally
John, supposing that we have read other Gospel accounts, leads us to expect an account of the Last Supper; expectations that focus our attention on the Passover and the sacrificial death of our Lord. Instead, he gives us the foot washing. I suspect that he does this to supplement the other accounts – sacrifice is not overshadowed but colored. Jesus’ death provides us the full cleansing that we need in our lives. When we bathe, we are clean, but as soon as our feet hit the ground we are certain to be dirty again. This world, paired as it is with our sinful flesh, will always make us dirty and distanced from God. But Jesus’ sacrifice is always enough to cleanse us.

3. Jesus loves us forever
We are not to think that Jesus’ love for us stops at his death, however. He loves us enough to die for us, but loves us beyond this. Peter says that Jesus will never cleanse his feet – but the cleansing that Jesus will provide is precisely the opposite, a forever cleansing. After all, if we receive the one he sent, we receive him and the Father, and having received them we get the fullness and abundance of their life. Jesus loves us forever.

And, of course, we are to embody these things as well. Jesus does all of this, and if our master does all these things, so should we. So, we love fully. We do not hold the pictures or the words of the gospel back from those we might think of as less “worthy” of the gospel. We love fatally, always reminding ourselves of Jesus death, reminding one another of our forgiveness in the Lord. And, we love each other forever. Bound by the Lord, he stands between all believers. We never break with one another, for that is nothing less than breaking with Christ.

Let the great love that Jesus had for us be the theme of our love for one another!