Wednesday, March 19, 2003

The Upper Room Discourse

This is the second post in a series that explores the Upper Room Discourse recorded in John 13 - 17. To start from the beginning, click here.

Setting the Tone

Jesus started at the top and chose to give it up for our sakes.

You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death —even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8, The Net Bible)

John 13 gives us a picture of Jesus near the bottom of this descent. Within twenty-four hours he would be dead, cold, and in the tomb. He knew this. He also knew from where He came. Knowing this, Jesus chose a slave's work.

Just before the Passover feast, Jesus knew that his time had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now loved them to the very end. The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, that he should betray Jesus. Because Jesus knew that the Father had handed all things over to him, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, he got up from the meal, removed his outer clothes, took a towel and tied it around himself. He poured water into the washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel he had wrapped around himself. (John 13:1-5)

Soon to come would be His final appeal to His Father for a different way. Then would follow betrayal, arrest, a mock trial, beatings, a scourging, crucifixion, the bearing of our sins, death, and burial. The one who existed in the form of God and chose to descend was about to crash in the dirt.

He knew this. He also knew the trials that were ahead for His followers. He knew that they needed support and understanding. He knew that the heightened emotions of this evening would create a teachable moment. Knowing this, Jesus chose to set aside His own emotional needs to minister to the needs of His disciples.

"Because Jesus knew that the Father had handed all things over to him, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, he got up from the meal, removed his outer clothes, took a towel and tied it around himself." I marvel at this word "because" in this text. I can think of a lot of things Jesus might have done because "the Father had handed all things over to Him." Washing dirty feet is not one of them. His action set the tone for the discourse ahead, and it was needed to correct a persistent problem among the disciples. As Luke's gospel records, not long after Jesus washed their feet:

A dispute also started among them over which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. So Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ Not so with you; instead the one who is greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is seated at the table, or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is seated at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. (Luke 22:24-27)

And of His washing their feet, Jesus had this to say to His disciples:

So when Jesus had washed their feet and put his outer clothing back on, he took his place at the table again and said to them, “Do you understand what I have done for you? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and do so correctly, for that is what I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you too ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example: you should do just as I have done for you. I tell you the solemn truth, the slave is not greater than his master, nor is the one who is sent as a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (John 13:12-17)

I find this to be incredibly challenging. Your dirty feet are mine to wash. Your needs are mine to meet.

As the Upper Room Discourse progressed, Jesus commanded that we "Love one another." He set the tone for this right from the start.

Thursday: Our Destiny

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>


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