logo Living Water Christian Fellowship logo
Home Recent Sermon Multimedia Sermons News & Events Our Vision Donate Now Through CanadaHelps.org!

"The Triumph of the Towel"

Evening Mar.29, 2015 Jn.13:1-17

Palm/Passion Sunday "Walk Through Holy Week"


Oddly, we can find no account of the "Last Supper" as such in John's gospel: there are only oblique references to "Passover" and "the evening meal". We know this has to be the same occasion as Matthew Mark & Luke talk about so plainly, but why no Last Supper, no Holy Communion or "words of institution"? John's emphasis is on Jesus giving us another symbol of covenant love instead of the sacred bread and chalice.

You've maybe heard the expression, "Diamonds are a girl's best friend," or: "Say it with flowers." But Jesus chooses a different means to express the depth of His love for us. V1B "Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love." How? Not by diamonds, or by flowers, but by washing His disciples' dirty feet. So pieces of towel tonight are the token or reminder of how Jesus communicated His love, to the fullest extent - more precious and emotion-laden than flowers or jewels or any other gift.


Jesus' next actions surprise us, especially given the context within which John couches it. There's a real build-up - you can almost hear the drum-rolls - and then we're caught off-guard. V1A "Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father." A positively momentous time: the Saviour's last hours on earth. It called for some appropriate feat to top off all His previous miracles, even bigger than raising Lazarus from the dead (ch.11) - should Jesus jump from the top of the Temple to an impossible safe landing?

V3 continues, "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..." How might Hollywood finish that sentence? How would popular screenwriters conclude this story? Someone here with total power, on the path of infinite glory (to be with God!) - should He nuke His enemies? Have the earth open to swallow them in a giganitc earthquake? Call down fire from heaven? What would be the appropriate theatrics?

NO: Jesus' next movements are completely incongruent with His absolute, infinite power - at least from a human way of thinking; yet they are at the same time radically subversive, challenging our ordinary patterns that "lord it over" others. Vv4-5 "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." Huh? Is that it? That won't draw at the box office!

There's something amazing about seeing One with total power stooping to do such a basic task of serving as washing others' feet. Yet it's at the same time so in tune with His teaching back in the Sermon on the Mount at the outset of His ministry: When someone strikes you, turn the other cheek; let the person have your cloak; go a second mile with the person who forces you to go one (Mt 5:39-41).


As teacher, Christ is very intentional and pointed about this object lesson, not wanting anyone to miss it. He sums up in vv15&14, "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you." "Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet."

Love to its fullest extent involves getting beyond my selfishness: having an eye out for others' needs, looking for opportunities to serve them - not just bent on satisfying my own wants. Surely in the 21st Century, with our cocooning, our in-home multimedia theatres, our clutching the remote control and our selfie-taker, we need to hear this afresh. Get over yourself! Look for ways to make a positive difference in someone else's life. Washing of feet challenges our self-coddling - and our self-sufficiency.

Note Simon Peter's objection when it's his turn to be washed. V8A "No, you shall never wash my feet." Our pride finds it hard to let others do something for us, ESPECIALLY God Almighty. (Who wants to be owing HIM a favour? Who knows what HE might ask you to do in return!) But as long as pride is calling the shots - as long as WE are deciding and controlling who we are willing to accept help from...or deeming ourself NEEDING to accept help from - Jesus isn't totally "Lord". We're hold-outs, unwilling to completely submit, unable to actually trust His appraisal of our state.

He makes it quite clear in v8B: "Unless I wash you, you have NO PART with me." Ouch! Shut out.

This is what GRACE is all about: letting Jesus wash us, cleanse us, admit we're in desperate need of His unique blood to cleanse our filthy sins and most secret transgressions. Accepting His offer and estimation that we DO in fact need His forgiveness and refreshing.

In v17, we have His assurance that this IS actually the path of blessing: "Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them." Amen! May it be so! Let's pray.