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照着我向你们所做的 As I have done to you

Sermon passage: (John 13:1-17) Spoken on: February 27, 2022
More sermons from this speaker 更多该讲员的讲道: Rev Enoch Keong
For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: John

Tags: John 约翰福音

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About Rev Enoch Keong: Rev. Keong is currently serving as a pastor in the youth and young adult ministries, as well as the John zone pastor in Jubilee Church.

Title: As I have done to you
Date: 27 February 2022
Preacher: Rev Enoch Keong

“You shall never wash my feet.” Peter said or perhaps even shouted these words because he simply couldn’t wrap his head around the things that Jesus was doing that night; washing one by one the disciples’ feet. Had we been in the hall that night to observe the facial expressions and the body language of the diners, we would have seen that it wasn’t only Peter, but all 12 disciples had looked surprised, fidgeting around due to nervousness and discomfort. We only hear Peter’s voice because the rest of the disciples tend to comply, while Peter as usual would voice his thoughts and feelings.

Foot washing was a common practice in ancient Israel. The common footwears in those days were sandals, the city streets were dusty, so foot washing was a practical to do. It was done mainly for the sake of personal hygiene and to show hospitality to guests. Foot washing was also a religious rite.

Did people of similar social status wash one another’s feet back then? Yes, there are record of it, and it was done to express great love for the other, but instances as such were far and few. Usually, it was the lowliest of servants who were the ones tasked to do this job. Some Jews had even insisted that foot washing should not be part of the job scope for Jewish slaves. Foot washing was a duty reserved for gentiles slaves, and also women and children; the second and third class in the eyes of people. In other words, the ones who washed the feet were usually not the ones that people respect.

The disciples respected Jesus a whole lot, which goes to say why it was so tough for the disciples to be washed by him. It was too much of a surprise for Peter, so much so that he protested and blurted with uncontrollable exuberance, “You shall never wash my feet.”

Apart from the respect for Jesus, Peter’s words probably also stems from pride. Peter took pride in having a respectable teacher, in being a disciple of a teacher that has a large following, who could feed 5000 by saying a thanksgiving prayer.

Peter couldn’t help but blurted out these words also because his aspiration was to do glorious thing with their teacher and miracle worker. Foot washing, something so embracing, simply went against what he had in mind.

One thing that can be said for sure is that these words stemmed from a false and incomplete understanding of God. But Peter is not to be blamed for it. The foot washing incident took place before the Passover, according to John. Peter would need a few more days before he started to figure out that it was God the Son who was washing the disciples’ feet.

Respect, pride and aspirations are good stuff. False and incomplete understanding of God, not so good. Through washing the disciple’s feet, Jesus shall redefine and start reshaping all these aspect, making them appropriate for a child of God. We will come to this later.

In the story, the disciples only knew that they are to emulate Jesus. We, readers, are better informed, we have John telling us thing not yet known to the disciples.

Jesus, says John, knew that the time has come for him to return to the Father, that Judas will soon betray him, and very importantly, that God has given all things into his hands. In other words, Jesus had complete knowledge and total control of the situation.

With all the knowledge, power and status, Jesus could have given Satan a showdown and exercised divine wrath unquenchable on Judas. Wouldn’t this be our suggestion to Jesus? Solve problems with power. John instead gives a one-word summary for everything that Jesus would be doing from this point till the end of the book. The word is love. We know very well how this word is used on God and Jesus. But do we also realize something? Before the foot washing narrative, John did not highlight to readers that Jesus’ love for his own was the fundamental reason behind his actions. John holds back from making this emphasis. He keeps it fresh for the reader. So that, when he finally mentions it here, no one is to miss it. What John would not want is a situation where familiarity breeds indifference when it comes to this important truth. Because Jesus’ followers must know clearly and deeply, that yesterday, today and tomorrow, Jesus loved and shall love his own to the end. Can I suggest that we do one thing each time we reread the gospel of John? When we come to chapter 13, we pause deliberately at the end of the first verse. Pause and give thanks. Pause and reflect on the Lord’s love. Should things had not been as smooth for you and your loved ones in recent times, then maybe pause and reflect by asking Jesus, “where is your love?” I believe, in whichever way we choose to go about this pause and reflecting, the Good Lord will meet us in his time, his way.

To demonstrate this love, Jesus rose from supper and did the totally unexpected. He washes the disciples’ feet, including the feet of Judas, the one who will soon betray him. John details every move of Jesus in verses 4 and 5. John tells us that Jesus, “...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.” Authors of the bible don’t usually say so much when it comes to action steps. John does it to slow the readers down, so that us, the readers may have ample time to see the absurdity of God washing fishermens’, tax collector’s and even betrayer’s feet. Foot washing is Jesus’ way of saying that he will stop at nothing in order to love.

But why foot washing? There must be other humble acts of service that Jesus could choose from. John gives us the answer to our question through his choice of a verb. In verse 4, John use the verb ‘laid aside’ – which in the original Greek is only a single word. John uses this word to describe the way Jesus handled his outer garment when doing the foot washing. This same Greek verb appeared 3 times in John 10:17-18, rendered as ‘lay down’. Let me read for us the 2 verses, “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. This charge I have received from my Father.” These 2 verses are obviously about Jesus laying down his life by going to the cross. By using the same action word in both places, John connects the 2 events, making the foot washing and the crucifixion to say one and the same thing, that the exalted Lord chooses to deny himself in the service of others. So, Jesus chose foot washing because the act is able to express servanthood and self-denial, and that’s all that should be said in answering the question on why foot washing. Jubilee Church preaches on the 4 gospels in turn every year, from Advent till Easter. This understanding has help us arrived at a decision before the pandemic, that is to conduct foot washing only once every 4 year when the church will be preaching on the book of John. The purpose is to remind and encourage ourselves not to lose steam but to press on in serving one another and the people beyond our church’s walls.

Having answered the question on why foot washing, we are ready to expand on something brought up earlier, as in Jesus, through washing the disciple’s feet, redefines and reshapes thinking and perspectives, making them appropriate for a child of God. We mentioned that the disciples approached Jesus with respect and brought along with them their aspiration and so on. All these were permitted previously, but no longer so when Jesus presented himself as the servant king, and explained that what he did was an example for them to follow. All the old thinking and perspectives must change when the hands that created the world, wet and rubbed and dried the feet. The love of the Lord invites the disciples to correspond with love for him. The pride that the disciples had through being with him is to transform into faith in him. Aspiration is to transform into hope in the servant king. And finally, God’s people are to have a readiness to constantly seek for a true and fuller understanding of God. Jesus’ self-denial should lead to such newness

This newness was evident among the disciples upon the resurrection. The same is seen among us, in the Jubilee community. This is why I struggled quite a bit when preparing this sharing. Jubilee is already a Christian community that is actively seeking and serving God. And there are many among us whom I would want to applaud. So although, we can always be better, I wonder what is there to say.

May I then suggest for us 2 other ways to reflect on the passage on top of the suggestion to pause and reflect on 13:1, mentioned earlier on.

The journey in serving God is filled with potential pitfalls. Foot washing for that matter, is often conducted in worship services as a sign of leadership rather than servanthood. And we have heard people admitting to themselves that they had been busy serving because they enjoy busyness, that they want to be seen as helpful, that they take pride in appearing to be humble, and so on. So may I invite us to do a self-check based on what is shared this morning. If this newness has faded along the way for some reasons, pray and ask for help to have them rekindled.

Speaking about checking, in our world that is flooded with information true and untrue, checking should also include verifying the information before we march out as humble servants. Something happened when I was preparing this sharing. COVID case count is on the high side for the past few weeks, and some Jubilee members are not spared. There was a text sent out to say that one of our member’s grandchild was infected and was admitted to the ICU. It was a half-truth. Yes, the child was infected, but was recovering from home. The sender for sure must have been concerned for the family, and helped to mobilize prayers. But what had happened points us to the need to check and know the real needs, otherwise we are being eager in serving, yet not effective in our service.

Secondly, serving isn’t smooth sailing all the time. So allow me to say a few words to us who might be feeling tired, unappreciated or discouraged, or wonder if our persistence is a true contribution to God’s kingdom. Much like to trace the more advanced dot-to-dot puzzle we see on the screen, serving God and people can be laborious and complicated. At times we are unable to locate soon enough the starting point. Where is dot marked number 1 on the puzzle? And with the many dots to connect, we may get it wrong once a while and need to undo and rework on what had been done. With the many dots, our strokes may become uneven and the picture may not turn out to be as nice looking. But, the journey of serving God can be viewed from another perspective. The starting point is that we have been served through Jesus’ self-denial. Jesus, in doing so, has given us a pattern to trace and fill in the details. And as we do the tracing in following the pattern, we are in fact sharing the gospel; we are bringing Jesus to people, matters and places, because Jesus is himself the pattern. Jesus adds to the pattern that he gives a beatitude, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”

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