Humility Caring (John 13:1-17)
(One Truth: Walk in Truth)
May 8th, 2016
I. A Humble God?
Over the past five weeks, we have been looking together at the extremely important, but often neglected topic of humility. We've been asking this question of God's word: “What would it look like if I were to live on strict diet of God's humble pie, that is, how does genuine humility before God express itself in my everyday life?”
You may remember that our working definition of humility went like this:
Humility is an inner condition, springing from a true recognition of my proper position.
But if we keep in mind everything we've learned, an extremely interesting question we might ask is this: “Is humility a quality that God possesses?” When our working definition speaks of our “proper position”, it presupposes that that position is inextricably linked to God's position. He is above, we are below. He is over, we are under. He rules, we obey his rules. He is, and we are because He is.
So doesn't that mean humility is not a quality God possesses? Keep that question in mind and turn with me to John 13.
II. The Passage: “Do You Understand What I Have Done?” (13:1-17)
Let's look together at verses 1-17 of this chapter. As I read through this passage, let's think very carefully about not only what we learn here regarding humility, but specifically about humility as a verb. John 13, verse 1. We read...
Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.  During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him,  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.  He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?”  Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”  Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”  Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”  Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” >>>
 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”  When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you?  You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.  If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet.  For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.  Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
I would guess that most of us are familiar with this story. But one of the features of this passage that we often miss is how the first three verses are related to the verses that follow. Look again at verses 1-3. Look at what Jesus “knew”. He knew (v. 1) “that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father”. He also knew (v. 30 “that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God”.
Isn't it fascinating that those astounding truths about Jesus and his relationship to the Father and His work in this world are described in verses 1-3 as the very explanation for what happens next in verse 4? Jesus, the Word who became flesh (1:14), Jesus, the Son of God (20:31), understood that his final words to his followers before the darkness of His death, that His final words must point their hearts in the right direction and pave the way in terms of understanding why He was doing what he was doing in laying down his life.
How did He point their hearts in the right direction? He showed them, he modeled for them the fact that selfless service is humility caring. Humility serves. Humility minsters to the needs of others. Humility washes feet. There are four things I'd like to point out to you from this chapter, four things I believe we learn here about humility caring. Let's ask some questions of the text and see what we discover. First of all, why foot washing? Why did Jesus choose to wash his disciples feet as an expression of loving service? Well, I think that show us...
1. Humility’s Care Knows No Depths
Foot washing was the duty of the lowest slave in the house. It was a dirty and menial job. When Jesus chose this act as a means of teaching His disciples about serving one another in love and humility, He was trying to show them that you cannot put a depth restriction on service; you cannot say “I love you, but I will only do such and such to demonstrate my love.”
Sometimes, whether we are honest with ourselves or say it out loud, there are some things we just will not do. We are happy to serve, but not if we have to get ‘dirty’, not if it will affect our image, our reputation.
Jesus did what He did in order to prove that there is no depth to deep to which genuine love, the love of God, will not go for the good of others. We could say that serving is like dancing the limbo… “How low will you go”? True humility knows no depths.
Another question we could ask of this passage has to do with the issue of “when”. What is significant about Jesus’ timing for this act? This is what verses 1-3 were touching on to a certain extent. Why now? Why here? Well, I think what we see here is that..
2. Humility’s Care is Not Showy
Jesus did not wash their feet in public, in the heyday of his ministry. He did it at the end in an upper room. Jesus did serve people in public, but I think the intimacy of this event challenges us to ask, “Am I serving, even in those private moments, in my everyday, with the people in my circle? Or am I just looking for those premiere service events; those organized projects, those scheduled opportunities where there may be some social pressure to serve?”
Jesus warned his disciples about this kind of temptation when he said:
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.  “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,  so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1-4)
That does not mean we can not and should not hold service day or service projects. But genuine humility, by its very definition, is not about the spotlight. It desires to serve not simply when we have to or when it would look good, but all the time, no matter the circumstances.
Another question we might ask of this passage is this: “Which disciples did he serve in this way?” I think the answer to that questions points us to the fact that...
3. Humility’s Care is Without Prejudice
There is no indication that Jesus did not wash everyone’s feet. Why does that matter? Because He knew that (v. 11) Judas would betray him. AND, He still washed Peter's feet, even though Peter resisted His service. But again, why is that significant?
Because, like point #1, it guards us against becoming choosy. There are people who are easier to serve, who will thank us and respond positively to our servive. There are others who will be indifferent or arrogant. There will be still others who will scorn our attempts to bless them. We cannot pick and choose who we will serve in humility, because genuine humility does not differentiate between the neediness of others; because genuine humility means seeing ourselves as poor beggars who have bread to share with other poor beggars.
We are called to love all, even an unconscious stranger on the side of the road, even those enemies who persecute us. When you serve others, are you choosing to serve those who are easy to serve? If you are, well keep serving them! But be open to whoever God brings down your path. Humility’s care is without prejudice.
A final question we might ask about this passage is related to verse 13. Jesus declares there, “You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.” In light of that, we might ask, “Why does Jesus stress his identity and relationship to them?”. Well, I believe we learn in the verses that follow that...
4. Humility’s Care is Inspired by Jesus
What do I mean? Well it is inspired in two way. First, it is inspired in terms of loving obedience, and, number two, it is inspired in terms of a living example.
Jesus will go on to speak about this idea of loving obedience in the next chapter. Look at 14:21 and 23...
“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me.” AND V. 23... Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word...” (John 14:21-23)
You will not bow down to serve others to the glory of God unless you have first bow down and are bowing down under the loving leadership of the Lord Jesus. No man or woman will really live this way unless they are doing it as an act of worship! In fact, I speak to you this morning knowing I can only do so much. I have to trust God has given you a heart to love him and others, and will use my words to stir that heart/
In regard to a living example, look again at verse 15...“For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.”
Jesus Christ should set the standard for our service, not simply what you are used to, or have done before, or have seen in other believers. When we honestly assess our own track record and desire to serve others, do we see Jesus reflected in our ministry to others? Do we see a care that knows no depths, a care that is not showy, and a care that is without prejudice?
III. Humility Ousted
So here's what I and the elders want to do in order to personally apply this lesson. Joy, our church administrative assistant will be contacting you this week in order to arrange a time for one of the elders to stop by your house. Why are we stopping by? Well to serve you as Jesus served his disciples. We could wash your feet. But instead we are hoping to do something similar in terms of our own day and our own culture: we will be stopping by to clean your toilets.
Now hold on. I know what you're thinking. And no, you will not have to provide any cleaning supplies. We will bring our own. And please, please, please do not clean them before we come over. All you need to do is figure out a good day and time for our visit.
Okay...hold on...how are you feeling right now? What is running through your mind at this moment? I'm guessing that humility is in danger of being ousted...by pride. You see, genuine humility not only cares, but it opens us up to the loving service of others. It was pride that caused Peter to resist Jesus. Pride that made him believe He knew better than Jesus.
If you want one of the elders to clean your toilets, just say the word. We would be blessed to serve you in that way. But not to worry. We won't be calling you to schedule a time. That was only a means of making a point. But maybe we should do that, and involve everyone in serving like that. Can you imagine, teams of people going into each others homes to clean toilets, as an expression of love? Would you like to be involved in that?
Is there any good reason you would not be involved in doing that as an expression of love for your brothers and sisters in Christ?
If we you are hesitant, if you consider this silly, if you have no interest in something like this, there's a good chance, that inside you, pride has ousted humility. It is pride that declares, “I don't need to serve like that.” It is pride that asserts, “I don't have the time.” It is pride that reasons, “Well, that's not something I would be good at...or toilet cleaning is not my spiritual gift.” It is pride that says, “I've done enough already.”
The question Jesus asked his disciples in verse 12 is the same question the risen and reigning Lord Jesus is asking His followers this morning, those sitting in this room...“Do you understand what I have done to you?”
And that brings us back around to our initial question, “Is humility a quality God possesses?” Well, the Bible never describes God using the word humility. As we said at the outset, our working definition helps us understand why that is. But this doesn't mean God cannot and did not humble himself. Listen to how the Apostle Paul calls for humility and how he describes the inspiration...
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,  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.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  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 2:3-11)
When we humble ourselves, it is a response of submission and acknowledgment of our proper position. But when God the Son humbled himself, by “being found in human form, by “taking the form of a servant”, by “becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross”, it was a voluntary act of love and grace; and the depths of that love and grace was so obvious because of HIS proper position. The hands that washed their feet, were the same hands pierced for their sins...and for ours. In fact, I think we could say the foot washing on Thursday was ultimately a picture pointing to the heart washing on Friday.
“Do you understand,” asks Jesus. His explanation is simple and clear (v. 15): “For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” And He even adds an extra encouragement: (v. 17) “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”
We love because He first loved us, because He humbled himself and died in our place. And if we truly grasp that, it will humble us. And that humble love for Jesus leads to care for others, because Jesus led, and leads the way. Look around! Everyday, there are opportunities to serve. There are formal and informal ways to serve your church family. There are ways each day you can go the extra mile for family, friends, co-workers, etc. Let your prayer this morning be, “God, humble me and make me a servant to others, just as Jesus humbled himself and was a servant to me.”