Today we are at week 20 in our study of the book of John. John is intentionally walking us towards his objective:
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)
I want to encourage you again and again to be a reader of Scripture. Not just a reader, but a re-reader.
There are so many layers to the reading of John’s letter. It includes cool Jesus stories. It’s different from the other Gospels. It’s written with different sections, with repetitive themes, and with countless hyperlinks. John is written to be processed, not just read--and that process is towards belief.
So as you read, read slowly and deeply. Look for hyperlinks and read them. Read commentaries. Re-read. And most importantly, read as a process. John is not a grouping of what to believe. John is a process towards belief. He invites us into process where we can build belief--belief in who Jesus is, and belief in what relationship with Him does.
Today we are walking into John 13 where Jesus is celebrating the Last Supper with His disciples--their Passover celebration together. To build some foundation for us to walk into this conversation and to connect us with each other we are going to do a two part conversation to get things started. The first step is this (which is not actually a conversation, but a choice): What is one of your primary character or personality traits?
Look at this list and pick just one:
- Great listener
What personality or character trait did you pick?
How do people tend to respond to this attribute of you?
Wouldn’t it be fun if we flipped this question? We could hand around the microphone today and ask you to look at the people you are with and name their primary personality or character traits. Some might be really close; some might miss by a mile.
We aren’t going to do that for each other, but we are going to do that for God. I am going to ask you to make a list of attributes that people in your world ascribe to God: good or bad, accurate or inaccurate, honoring or offensive.
Make a list of attributes that people in your world ascribe to God.
There are endless attributes of God:
Now I want you to lean into the good, the bad, and the ugly. Just as we talked about people’s response to your personality or character trait:
How do people in your world respond to their perceived character traits of God?
What if seeing someone else's character traits made you feel bad? What if seeing God’s character traits made you feel bad?
Then every time you are nice, it reminds me that I need to be nicer. It makes me feel guilty and inferior. It makes me feel like a failure, and I tend to then avoid you.
Every time you are caring, it reminds me that I need to be more caring. It makes me feel guilty and inferior. It makes me feel like a failure, and I tend to then avoid you.
Every time you are generous, it reminds me that I need to be more generous. It makes me feel guilty and inferior. It makes me feel like a failure, and I tend to then avoid you.
Every time you listen to me, it reminds me that I need to listen more. It makes me feel guilty and inferior. It makes me feel like a failure, and I tend to then avoid you.
Everytime you are faithful, it reminds me that I need to be more faithful. I could go on and on…
We are to be Christlike. Paul puts it this way:
Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1)
Paul also says:
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5)
Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. (1 John 2:6)
I want to be Christlike. But the pathway to being Christlike is not seeing an attribute of Jesus and then being reminded that you are not there, feeling guilty and inferior, feeling like a failure, and then avoiding Jesus.
As we walk into John 13, this is a moment to be compelled to be more Christlike.
But while the disciples in time and in processing got the call to be Christlike, their first reality was being blown away by the nature / personality / character of Jesus being on display.
As we walk towards John’s objective, I want to marvel at Jesus.
It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not everyone was clean.
When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (John 13:1-17)
The disciples had just spent years with Jesus by this point. They knew the ins and outs. They had seen the miracles and the crowds. They had marveled. They had talked about it. They had seen people oppose Jesus, but it didn’t stop Him. In the other gospels, we see their eagerness for Jesus’ rise in power. They saw Lazarus rise from the dead. They saw the explosion of popularity. They had just experienced the triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
They had to be swimming in the “greatness” of Jesus.
And then Jesus does this…
Selfless. Humble. Caring. Intimate. Personal. Thoughtful.
What is the response to Jesus’ character and personality being on display?
It is just a few verses down--John is building to Jesus’ new command:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34)
We will be talking about this next week!!!
But here today, with Jesus’ character on display, we are going to end with a vulnerable question.
Jesus' character in the past needs to be seen, but it also needs to be recognized today. The belief that John is walking us towards is not just for the people 2000 years ago; it is for today.
So--how have you seen or are you seeing Jesus' character of humbly serving being lived out?
Yes, I see Jesus in the gospels creating an inclusive and accessible path for humanity. But I also believe that God is at work now--in our church, in our community and in our city.
I see Jesus serving as AA sponsors meet with their sponsees in our coffee shops; in community conversations as He softens hearts; in giving us each a purpose where we are currently placed; through people helping when things desperately need help; and in the way that He has brought this church community together.
And even though 2020 was a rough year in many ways, if we look at the long trajectory of history, humanity is clearly better off today than it was 100 or 1000 years ago. Things do continue to progress forward. Things are getting better. There is clearly something pulling humanity into a more compassionate, caring, connecting, better future. For me, that is clearly Jesus continuing to work.
How have you seen or are you seeing Jesus' character of humbly serving being lived out?
And tying to our earlier conversations: What is your response to recognizing that character trait now?
Take It Deeper Questions:
- Read John 13:1-17.
- Would you rather have someone touch your feet or touch someone else’s feet? Why?
- In your life, who have you seen “washing feet”? What do you admire about them? What obstacles do you face in being like them?
- How does Jesus’ personality and character being on display impact you today?
- How can you be Christlike in relationship with the people in your world?
Bible Reading Plan:
- Leviticus 4
- Leviticus 5
- Leviticus 6
- John 8
- John 9
- John 10