04.17.14 Jesus Most Private Message John 13:1-17 Sermon Summary
Jesus’ Last Supper is uncharacteristically a closed communion. All his other meals in the Gospels are populated with all sorts of people, especially sinners and the like. Even when he’s the invited guest of a closed communion, the party is crashed by such people because they just know that they are welcome wherever Jesus is. So this Last Supper is quite unusual.
Here in John, when Jesus performs his most intimate parable, he also offers his most private message. The washing of the disciples’ feet is an active parable, a story Jesus tells not by painting pictures with words but playing a role for all to observe. One of the disciples, Peter, initially refuses to have Jesus wash his feet. It is here that Jesus reveals the key issue for him.
He tells Peter, “Unless I wash your feet, you have no share with me.” The issue of greatest importance to Jesus is that his disciples have a share with him. And before telling them how they can do this, Jesus enacts it and enfolds them. This is why he tells Peter, “You do not understand now what I am doing, but you will.”
And they don’t have to wait long to understand, for immediately after Jesus finishes washing their feet, he says, “Now you know what I have done for you. As I have served you, so you must serve one another.”
What we learn here is that having a share with Jesus is not a matter of correct doctrine, but of faithfully following Jesus’ example. Jesus says as much when he states, “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and that is what I am. But now that you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”
It is amazing that Judas is at the table. Peter is there also. As are all the other betrayers, deniers, and deserters. One has to ask, how does Jesus do it? How does he serve all those who abandon him?
John gives us the answer in the opening comments of the chapter. Jesus showed his disciples the extent of his love for them (1) knowing that God had given him all things, and that (2) he had come from God and was returning to God. In other words, Jesus was able to do this because he had a share with God.
Today we have a share with God when we have a share with Christ. And we have a share with Christ every time we gather at the communion table. Here, where Christ serves us—the betrayers, deniers, and deserters—where we also serve one another, we have a share with Christ. And from here, we are able, as he did, to serve the world.