Humility! – John 13:1-17

Humility! – John 13:1-17
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 30, 2013

There was an old country western song by Mac Davis called, “It’s Hard to be Humble.” The chorus went, “Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way. I can’t wait to look in the mirror. Cause I get better looking each day.” I wonder if our world today truly understands what it means to be humble. Humility is more than being nice or acquiescing your moral standards to be liked by others or being soft-spoken.

Jesus was humble but he was not weak or effeminate. He willingly displayed his strength in his personal humility. Here in John’s gospel we find Jesus actively displaying for his inner circle of disciples what real humility is all about. He would teach, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35 NIV) and that “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11 NIV) And here he not only teaches by his words but through his actions. Let’s discover what true humility is all about…

READ: John 13:1-17

Humility is not something you necessarily practice because it first and foremost must come from the heart of God. It is forged in the love God displayed for us in Jesus and is acted on when the love of God overwhelms you to show his love to the world. I believe…

I. We discover true humility when we realize God’s purpose is bigger than our life! (Vv. 1-5)

It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 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 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.

1.  The final Passover feast for Jesus with his disciples was beginning and Jesus had so much more to share with them. His time was short now and John begins relating with us what occurred during this meal and it is so important for him that he takes the next five chapters sharing with us. John writes that “It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father.” Here we discover again that Jesus knew his Father’s plan. It speaks of God’s predetermination and the working of his kingdom. It was time. Therefore, “Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.” Love for the believer is to be more than emotional feelings. Love is a sacrifice of one’s time, talent, or treasure. In fact, love can demand your very life! The word John uses is agapaō, meaning an active love and it also means that Jesus had shown his love for his disciples, was showing his love for them, and would do so in the future as well. The “full extent of his love” would be his death on the cross, but his full display of it was now going to be shown to them, even to the one who had already betrayed him — “The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus.” How could Jesus do this? How could he show his love? John relates, “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 he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.” God’s purpose was bigger than Jesus’ life and while he lived he was willing to serve. He dons the simple clothing of one of the lowliest servant’s jobs there was, a towel. “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.” It is one thing to teach humility through one’s speech but quite another thing to show it through one’s life. We discover true humility when we realize God’s purpose is bigger than our life!

EXAMPLE: We know that God loves us. We know he sent his Son to die for us on a cruel cross. We know these things but do we understand their purpose? Therefore believers should be more than willing to display their love for God and others by actively serving even those who do not love Jesus, those who would betray him. We know that the most important commandment of God is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength”, but we often forget the second one which immediately follows which is “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:29-30 NIV) Jesus taught, “There is no commandment greater than these.” This is why Jesus “poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” Whose feet are you willing to wash this week? We discover true humility when we realize God’s purpose is bigger than our life!

Folks are always embarrassed by displays of God’s love and often act in different ways. Some are humiliated themselves, some are surprised, and some are angered. I believe…

II. We discover true humility when we realize our uncleanliness! (Vv. 6-11)

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not everyone was clean.

1. Jesus begins to work his way around his disciples and “He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?'” Herein Peter’s words we find the embarrassment of those who think of themselves as following God all of a sudden shown what that discipleship means. Peter, like many who are ignorant of what discipleship means is shocked that his master, his rabbi, his teacher, would stoop and wash his filthy feet! He knew in his heart of hearts that it should have been him who was washing Jesus’ feet! Jesus tells him, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” And what is Peter’s response? “NO!” “You shall never wash my feet!” In Peter’s response is the seed of personal pride and thereby rebellion. He could not imagine Jesus washing his feet, he knew it should have been him, and so he responds in pride. Jesus tells Peter, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” What did Jesus mean? Some incorrectly think Jesus is referring to baptism and that this supports the false doctrine of baptism being part of salvation, but it does not. Jesus is referring to the washing of his blood in Peter’s life. John would later write that it is Jesus “who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood!” (Revelation 1:5 NIV) Peter’s pride gets in the way as it often does in the lives of those who are embarrassed by humbleness. “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Perhaps Peter sees his sin and all of sudden realizes he needs a through washing. Maybe this is why Jesus responds in the way he does by telling Peter, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” Jesus saw Peter’s heart, just as he saw Judas’. While Peter would deny Jesus, he would not betray Jesus. “For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not everyone was clean.” We discover true humility when we realize our uncleanliness!

EXAMPLE: I have found it kind of humorous when those who find themselves the recipients of the love of God through the actions of others, are often embarrassed by it. We live in a country where many of us were taught that we are to depend solely on ourselves. We are more than willing to help others that need it but often refuse help when it is needed. When we find ourselves in need of help it is often hard for us to accept it. When Tillamook, Oregon experienced flooding quite a few years ago it was difficult for many of the farmers and their families to accept the help of our Disaster Relief Team and the Red Cross. Covered from head-to-toe with mud they would often at first decline our assistance, but then realize their predicament and accept a hot meal or a shower. The reason for this is pride and it is misplaced. We discover true humility when we realize our uncleanliness!

Realizing we need forgiveness of our sins begins the process of developing true humility in our lives. However, after our acceptance of Jesus as our Savior we are to imitate him, in fact we learn…

III. We discover true humility when we do as Jesus did! (Vv. 12-17)

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

1. After showing his disciples how they were to be servants; “When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place.” “A place for everything and everything in its place!” as my Mama would quip. Jesus knew his place and it was about seeking the lost and teaching his followers to do the same through their service. So, after giving his object lesson in humility the Lord questioned the disciples in order to draw out the significance of his lesson: “‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ He asked them.” He wanted them to realize that as his disciples they were to do as he had done and in fact this would become increasingly important after Jesus ascended and they would become the leaders, the teachers of the early church. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.” They would have to model Jesus in a sin-fallen world.  Jesus bluntly tells them, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” In fact, this is to be our understanding as well. Jesus set for us an example by what he did with his friends. For Jesus the truth is the fact that “no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” If Jesus stooped to wash his follower’s feet, we should be willing as well. We should be willing to serve others in order for the kingdom of God to be established. In order for others to come to know the Lord, we who are the followers of Jesus are to be servants of all. “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”  The truth for our lives today is that we discover true humility when we do as Jesus did!

EXAMPLE: Humility is not necessarily found in the act, it is displayed in one’s life. He was one of the humblest people I ever knew. Was it because he was soft-spoken? Nope, because he could be very verbally penetrating in his assessment of others and he was never afraid to let you know how he felt. Was it because he was sweet and often expressed concern for others? Not really. It was because he was willing. Willing to allow others to ask him questions and was never condescending in his answers, willing to serve when others needed him, and willing to come along side of you when you least expected it. He had the capacity to love others even when they did not love themselves. He never asked for a thank you. His name is Jesus. We discover true humility when we do as Jesus did!

Conclusion:

We discover true humility when we realize God’s purpose is bigger than our life! We discover true humility when we realize our uncleanliness! We discover true humility when we do as Jesus did!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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