Series: Easter: This Changes Everything
Preacher: Japhet De Oliveira
Reflection: Sam Millen
Live Wonder: Bec Reid
Live Adventure: Jess Lee
Live Beyond: Art Preuss
Live Purpose: Don Pate
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: John 13:1-17 in the New Testament for Everyone (NTE). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: As extraordinary as it was for Jesus to wash His disciples’ feet, the full significance of this event becomes even more unfathomable as we ponder Jesus washing the feet of Judas. Although he had already decided to betray Jesus, there was no hint of animosity aimed at Judas. He was shown perfect love instead—and yet somehow it didn’t melt his heart. As much as I believe God’s love can change our hearts, I have to wonder why not everyone is awed by it. Starting with Lucifer, who became miserable in heaven, and had now “put the idea of betraying [Jesus] into the heart of Judas” (John 13:2)—it is clear that not everyone appreciates how God’s Kingdom operates. Apparently Judas was not looking for a Messiah to wash his feet, but a mighty leader to drive out Roman occupation by force. The idea of a “suffering servant” (see Isaiah 53) never appealed to him. By washing his feet, Jesus demonstrated to Judas, in no uncertain terms, that He was the opposite of who Judas wanted Him to be. Power and greatness are measured differently in the Kingdom of God, and Judas wanted no part of it. It is difficult for humans to comprehend this concept— force does not equal strength.
When commenting on the section following our passage (John 13:18–30) in The New Daily Study Bible, The Gospel of John, Volume 2, William Barclay gives us additional insights. Barclay titled the section, “Love’s Last Appeal,” and he states:
When we understand aright what was happening, we can see that there was appeal after appeal to Judas. First, there were the seating arrangements at the meal. The Jews did not sit at table. . . . They reclined on their left side, resting on the left elbow, thus leaving the right hand free to deal with the food. Sitting in such a way, a man’s head was literally in the breast of the person reclining on his left. . . . The disciple whom Jesus loved must have been sitting on his right, for as he leant on his elbow at the table, his head was in Jesus’ breast. (p. 169)
But it is the place of Judas that is of special interest. It is quite clear that Jesus could speak to him privately without the others overhearing. If that is so, there is only on place Judas could have been occupying. He must have been on Jesus’ left, so that, just as John’s head was in Jesus’ breast, Jesus’ head was in Judas’. The revealing thing is that the place on the left of the host was the place of highest honour, kept for the most intimate friend. (p. 170)
Wow! Jesus’ head in Judas’ breast. Judas was not merely tolerated as a villain needed for the plot, but given special status. God’s love is powerful, but love’s power is demonstrated through vulnerability instead of force. God’s love could not force Judas to change.
Recalibrate: Why wasn’t Judas’ heart melted when Jesus washed his feet?
Respond: Reflect on this famous quote by C.S. Lewis: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable” (The Four Loves).
Research: Read John 13:18–30.
Remember: “Then He poured water into a bowl and began to wash the followers’ feet. He dried them with the towel that was wrapped around Him” (John 13:5, ICB).
Sam Millen is the pastor at Anacortes Adventist Fellowship in Washington State. He his wife Angie is a schoolteacher on Orcas Island and their three children are really awesome!
This week’s Scripture shows us a glimpse of Jesus’ deep tender love. He asks the disciples, “Do you understand what I’ve done to you?” after He has washed their feet. It is time to let your children wash your feet. Get a bucket or basin with some warm water, and set up a chair in a wet area so that a splash of water won’t matter. Ask your children to sit in the chair first and wash their feet. While touching their feet—and while you might be giving them a little foot massage—explain that this is what Jesus did to the disciples. Explain how dirty their feet might have been and how yucky it would have been to touch their dirty feet, but yet He still washed them clean. Swap places and ask them what it is like to wash your feet. Listen to what they say.
Do you find it easy to do things for other people if it means you get lots of praise and recognition? Lots of people are happy to do something for someone else when it means they will be seen as a hero or get lots of praise for it. But how many people do you see offering to take the garbage bin out or clean up after the dog? That is what Jesus did in our story this week—He showed humility by doing the task that no one wanted to do. He washed the disciples’ feet—a dirty job usually performed by the lowest-ranking person in the room. Are there tasks that we won’t do because they are lowly? Because they are dirty? Because they are unpleasant or hard? But aren’t those the jobs that most need to be done? And won’t God reward those who do His work? We need to be willing to do whatever is needed.
One of the greatest evidences that you are a humble leader is when you are put in a situation and given a task that you know how to do very well, but you are not given the position of a leader. You see, humility is not just being grateful for what has been done for you—humility is also recognizing that you are not the only one who can lead something. Peter still has no idea what Jesus is trying to accomplish by washing his feet. But he hears that if he doesn’t allow Jesus to wash his feet, “He would have no part in Him.” Peter would rather swallow his pride and be with Jesus than to try to push his ideas, his opinions about what should be taking place, his understanding of what a leader is or is not doing, even if it doesn’t make any sense to him (at this time). Peter wanted so desperately to be, wait for it, with Jesus that he decided to go along with Him.
Let’s get real: Have you ever taken over a task that was assigned to somebody else? How did that person react? How else could you have “helped” in that situation? Have you ever done this at home with a sister or a brother?
“It is finished!” Jesus cried out and it was over. In the original Greek language “It is finished” is actually only one word, telew. (It’s pronounced “tel-e-oh.”) Finished! Done! Completed! Over! So the question is this: What, exactly, was “finished?” Many things—God’s plan for Jesus and His ministry here on earth, the ownership of Satan of this planet, the last and final sacrifice in the “sacrificial system,” the nefarious plan of the temple leadership, the question as to whether or not Jesus would go through with it. It was all finished! Oh, and there’s one more thing that was finished—any possibility that I might have that I can contribute to my salvation. He paid it all! I can’t add to that no matter how good I am. My efforts at self-salvation should have all been finished there too!
Bec Reid is a real estate agent within her family business. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and is a part of the Wahroonga Adventist Church community.
Jess Lee is an education consultant for the New South Wales Adventist education system. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and attends Kellyville Church.
Art Preuss pastors in Massachusetts at the Springfield, Florence, and Warren Adventist churches and serves in the U. S. Air Force Reserve as a chaplain.
Don Pate is “retired” in Tennessee after decades of teaching and pastoring but is still active in speaking and creating for the Kingdom.