Day 5: Bending Down
"Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him." - John 13:3-5
Text: John 13:1-17; Philippians 2:1-11
Today, we enter into chapter 13 of the Gospel of John, at the very beginning of the section of the book Dr. Sinclair Ferguson entitles "The Book of Glory" (John 13-21). The disciples have now spent three years with Jesus, and over the last three years they have been forged into a brotherhood. They have also heard again and again from Jesus that "his hour had not yet come." Now we are told that his hour has finally arrived. He is going back to the Father; and knowing that, Jesus provides his beloved disciples with a live action parable that speaks to the heart of His identity and His ministry: He washes the disciples feet. Today we will look at the steps of our Lord's iconic act of service and how they exemplify His character as portrayed in Paul's letter to the Philippians.
"Who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men." - Philippians 2:6-7
Jesus knows from where He has come and to where He is going. He knows that He has come from the Father, and that He is going back to the Father (John 13:3). Fully knowing His dignity and deity as the Son, He leaves His position at the head of the table, He takes off His outer garment, and He takes the role of the lowest servant. The Lord of Glory washes the disciples filthy feet.
"And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." - Philippians 2:8
The pattern in both of these passages is the same: glorification comes by way of humility. Jesus' humility is on full display as He washes the disciples' feet, but His self-humbling is not simply an example for them to follow; it powerfully brings salvation to His people. The only way to save His people is through washing the filth of their sins away through His humiliation on the cross, and only those who are washed can have any part in Him. (John 13:8)
"Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." - Philippians 2:9-11
Finishing the footwashing, Jesus puts on His outer garment again and returns to His place at the head of the table. Here we hear echos of Jesus' words from John 10:17-18 - "For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again." He does this of His own accord. Also, we see the pattern of His ministry and life on display: He comes from His exalted position in Eternal Glory, He Bends Down in humility, but His humiliation leads to His exaltation.
"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 2:3-5
After acting out this parable in the upper room, Jesus askes the disciples a simple question: "Do you understand what I have done to you?" He wants them to reflect on what they have seen. What is implied by these two facts: 1.) that He is the Master and they are His disciples, and 2.) He has served them in this way? They should pattern their attitudes and lives after His. The disciples quite obviously took this teaching to heart. Gone were the days of arguing over their position and who would sit nearer to Jesus in the Kingdom. Instead, we hear Peter teaching "Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.' " (I Peter 5:5b). Paul also expresses this mindset when writing to the believers in Corinth: "For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake." (2 Corinthians 4:5)
This is to be our mindset as well.
More in Lent Devotionals 2023
March 17, 2023Day 21: The Old Made New
March 16, 2023Day 20: Born Again
March 15, 2023Day 19: Heirs
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