John 13: An Amazing Example of Love, Humility and Betrayal

As we draw closer to Resurrection Sunday, I want to look at an amazing record in Scripture of the last week of Jesus Christ’s life before his death. John 13 sets forth the heart of our Savior as he approaches the immense suffering and death of the crucifixion. It sets forth a tremendous example of how we should approach life even in the darkest circumstances.

John 13:1: 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.

Amplified: He loved them to the last and to the highest degree.

End-telos: Not just the end of his life, but for all eternity. Figuratively he love them to the uttermost.

Agapao is the Greek word for “love” in this passage. It means a love that is awakened by a sense of value in an object that causes one to prize and treasure it. This love springs from an appreciation of the value and worth of an object, its preciousness. It is to love with wonder and admiration, to cherish with reverence. It is a love that compels one to sacrifice oneself for the benefit of the one being loved.

What an amazing love Jesus had for his disciples. He prized and treasured their worth. They were precious to him. He knew they had tremendous value even though their actions did not always reflect it.

F.B. Meyer: These last words have been thought to refer to the end of life, but it surely were superfluous to tell us that the strong waters of death could not quench the love of the Son of Man. When once He loves, He loves always. It is needless to tell us that the Divine heart which has enshrined a soul will not forsake it; that the name of the beloved is never erased from the palms of the hands; that the covenant is not forgotten though eternity elapse.. We do not need to be assured that the Immortal Lover, who has once taken us into union with Himself, can never loose his hold. Therefore it is better to adopt the alternative suggested by the margin of the Revised Version, “He loved them to the uttermost.” There was nothing to be desired. Nothing was needed to fill out the ideal of perfect love. Not a stitch was required for the needle-work of wrought gold; not a touch demanded for the perfectly achieved picture; not a throb added to the strong pulse of affection with which He regarded his own.

It is very wonderful that He should have loved such men like this. As we pass them under review at this time of their life, they seem a collection of nobodies. But they were his own, there was a special relationship between Him and them. They had belonged to the Father, and He had given them to the Son as his special perquisite and belonging. “Thine they were, and Thou gavest them Me.”

Remember for a moment the actions of these men. They bickered over who would be the greatest; they so often had so little faith; they had limited spiritual vision; they were petty; they lacked understanding; one would betray him, one would disown him, one would deny him but He still loved them. Remember the song “Jesus loves me, this I know!” Do you know it? Do you believe it?

John 13:2-5: 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. 

The Greek word for “put” is ballo in Greek. The devil threw or cast into the heart of Judas the plan to betray Jesus. It was in his heart which is the deep personal and emotional seat of who he was. It took some time for the slanderer to get Judas to the point of betrayal. Judas had already met with the chief priests and temple commanders on how he could deliver Jesus to them. They promised him money and he began to look for an opportunity to deliver Jesus to them in the absence of a crowd. It is interesting to note that “ballo” is part of the word that makes up the word devil in the Greek (diabalos-one who throws or casts slander and accusations). The slander and accuser cast his lies into the heart of Judas where they took root. The Bible talks about the “fiery darts of the wicked one” in reference to the whole armor of God. Ephesians 6:16. Judas’s shield of faith was down and the fiery darts of the wicked one took direct aim at his heart.

There is more in the background of this passage than even John tells us. If we turn to Luke’s account of the last meal together, we find the tragic sentence: “A dispute also arose among them, which of them was to be regarded as greatest” (Luke 22:24). Even within sight of the Cross, the disciples were still selfishly arguing about matters of precedence and prestige. Pride was consuming them, and Jesus Christ addressed it by example later in this record.

The roads of Palestine were unsurfaced and uncleaned. In dry weather they were inches deep in dust and in wet they were liquid mud. The shoes ordinary people wore were sandals, which were simply soles held on to the foot by a few straps. They gave little protection against the dust or the mud of the roads.

Washing someone’s feet was considered an important part of hospitality and was usually done by a person’s slave or servant. It was considered the lowest of jobs to wash the feet. The feet would be dirty and tired. It would never be dreamed of that a Rabbi would do this. Jesus went against all cultural norms to show the ultimate example of humility.

Barclay: Jesus knew all things had been given into his hands. He knew that his hour of humiliation was near, but he knew that his hour of glory was also near. Such a consciousness might well have filled him with pride; and yet, with the knowledge of the power and the glory that were his, he washed his disciples’ feet. At that moment when he might have had supreme pride, he had supreme humility. Love is always like that. When, for example, someone falls ill, the person who loves him will perform the most menial services and delight to do them, because love is like that. Sometimes men feel that they are too distinguished to do the humble things, too important to do some menial task. Jesus was not so. He knew that he was Lord of all, and yet he washed his disciples’ feet.

Philippians 2:7a: But [Jesus] emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,

“Empty” means to means to completely eliminate elements of high status or rank by eliminating all privileges or prerogatives associated with such status or rank. This was the Son of God, the Messiah, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, yet he emptied himself and took the form of a servant.

We are supposed to exhibit this same type of humility: Philippians 2:5: Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus. HAVE HABITUALLY AS YOUR LIFESTYLE THIS ATTITUDE IN YOURSELVES WHICH WAS ALSO IN CHRIST JESUS.

It is said the branch most full of fruit bends the lowest. We are to empty ourselves of pride, entitlement, self-gratification, self-exaltation, self-importance and become a servant to Jesus and one another.

In the court of the Temple there were two objects that arrested the eye of the entering worshipper–the brazen altar, and the laver. The latter was kept always full of pure, fresh water, for the constant washings enjoined by the Levitical code. Before the priests were consecrated for their holy work, and attired in the robes of the sacred office, they washed there (Ex. 29:4). Could this passage also show that Jesus was consecrating his disciples for the holy work of the gospel after his death and resurrection?

Did you know that Judas was present here and Jesus washed his feet? Look at the immense love of Jesus, perhaps giving Judas a chance to repent. I believe he was giving Judas one last chance to turn away from his wicked plans and come back to Jesus. This is the heart of a true King. Once Satan enters the heart, it blinds you to the love of Christ.

Barclay: Jesus knew this also. He was well aware that he was about to be betrayed. Such knowledge might so easily have turned him to bitterness and hatred; but it made his heart run out in greater love than ever. The astounding thing was that the more men hurt him, the more Jesus loved them. It is so easy and so natural to resent wrong and to grow bitter under insult and injury; but Jesus met the greatest injury and the supreme disloyalty, with the greatest humility and the supreme love.

John 13:6-11: 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!” 10 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.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

Up until the life of Jesus, rulers and leads and powerful people did not think of themselves as genuinely serving the people under them. Humility was considered a weakness, not a strength. Washing his disciples feet was so against common custom that the disciples could not even mentally grasp what he was doing, but afterwards they would fully understand and experience what it meant to be a leader was being a servant to others. Christ changed humility from being a weakness to a virtue.

John 13:12-20: 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? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 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. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. 18 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ 19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”

“You also ought to wash one another’s feet.” It is deeper than just this physical act but is the ultimate example of humility, love and service. It shows a marvelous love, a marvelous deed and a marvelous obligation. If our Lord and Master can be this humble and serve like this, we need to follow his example.

The Greek word for “servant” is doulos that is translated slave. It has a bad connotation in our culture, but in the Eastern culture illustrates the total commitment to service. Other verses in the New Testament expound upon a lifetime of service to others.

I Corinthians 10:24: Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

Romans 15;2,3a: Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself…

Mark 9:35: And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

Galatians 5:13: For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 

The world is upside down. The world teaches us to please ourselves first, to look out for number one (ourselves), to seek our own good first and use our flesh to feed our appetites. It is a culture of selfishness. However the Bible teaches that the true meaning of life and the essence of Christianity is service born out of love rather than self-exaltation.

John 13:21-30: After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. 23 One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus’ side, 24 so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25 So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” 28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29 Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. 30 So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

In the East, the dipping of the morsel of bread was given to the most honored guest at the table. Jesus gave it to Judas. In an Eastern custom that is still in practice, a “sop” is offered to the most honored guest. The sop is the tastiest morsel of food tucked into a bit of bread, or a piece of bread dipped in the most delicious pool of lamb juices in the communal bowl. It was token of intimacy. Token of a special friendship. Mark of honor. It was Jesus’s last appeal to Judas. It was meant to touch his heart. But this incredible act of love and tenderness did not move Judas.

Psalm 41:9: Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.

Within hours Judas would lead a mob to have Jesus arrested.

Judas was a close friend of Jesus,  a part of his inner circle of disciples; he saw countless miracles, he heard life-changing teachings by Jesus; he cast out demons and healed the sick in the power of Jesus’s name; he traveled with Jesus and saw the Heavenly Father at work in Jesus, yet Satan still influenced him to betray him. It is a sobering reminder of the frailty of the human heart and how soon it can turn on Jesus.

Judas left the presence of Jesus and it was night. It is always night without the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the dark night of the soul.

John 13:31-35: 31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. 33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Judas wanted Jesus to be crowned the King to establish his rule now. He wanted to force Jesus’s hand and cause him to defy Rome and set up his kingdom. He did not want to wait. Judas also was deceived by money and loved it more than he loved Jesus.

In the midst of all this turmoil and hours before he would be seized to be crucified, Jesus gave a farewell commandment of love. To be a disciple of Jesus we must be marked by his love. The Greek word for “new” means new in quality. This was a new quality of love, a special love and this commandment of love was directed toward his disciples, his followers. The new mark, the insignia, the brand of a Christian, a disciple of Jesus was this new quality of love which was first directed to each other, to love one another (those who had committed to follow Jesus). Christ was introducing a new, more elevated, more intense, more selfless love than what was clear in the Law. He said, “Just as I have loved you, you are to love one another.” It is very essential for Christian unity and our personal wholeness that we love our fellow Christians. This important commandment is repeated 13 times in the New Testament.

Other verses in the New Testament expound upon the importance of loving our brothers and sisters in Christ.

I John 2:10,11:  Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

If we do not walk in love with our brothers and sisters in Christ, we walk in darkness, we stumble and grope around aimlessly without true direction or purpose.

I John 4:20,21: If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

We cannot love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and hate our brothers and sisters in Christ. Our testimony and witness for Christ becomes a fabrication if we do not walk in love.

Love is to be the organizing principle that guides everything we do. All genuine love starts in God and follows His ways. God is love and His purposes and will are wrapped in love. We are to be imitators of Him and if do not walk in love, we are not acting as God would act.

Why don’t we love one another? Why don’t we act in love? Why has the history of Christianity been such a poor witness of love?

We often are selfish, we often feed the wrong appetites. Many do not know the Bible and do not know how God would act, or don’t have courage to act in a truly loving manner. There is both kind love and tough love. But today in Christianity around the globe the love of so many has waxed cold. Love has been replaced by envy, distrust, division, jealously and hatred. We dishonor Jesus when we act in such a manner in the Body of Christ.

Christianity is to be the ultimate example of love, humility, and service yet it has been replaced by denominations, factions, divisions, and hatred. Christians are to have a special love for each other, a special bond and affection. My how we have fallen short of Jesus’s Commandment to love one another.

John 13:36-38:  Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”37 Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!

Peter did not disown Jesus once or twice, but three times!

Look at the drama and the intensity of this moment after the third denial.

Luke 22:60: Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.

All of Peter’s promises vanished in the pressure of the moment. Now it is so easy to get down on Peter. “Oh that Peter, what a shallow fellow he is, oh how he failed Jesus!” But what would you do if you were in his shoes?

The Greek word for “deny’ means “reject, disown, and to desert his cause.”

How will you react when the pressure is on? What would we do in a life or death decision? Do we really mean He is Lord of our lives or will we disown him when the pressure turns white hot?

Would you stand for Jesus or disown him? Would you water Jesus down to make him less controversial. Would you desert his cause when confronted about Jesus? Would you lose everything for him? Would you lose your life for his sake? Or would you disown him? Jesus is ok in the privacy of my home, but I do not want to make waves in the world because I publicly follow Jesus. Jesus is called the Rock of Offense in Scripture for a reason. You either love him or are offended in Him. The world hates Jesus. The world despises everything that he stands for. The world wants to wipe out Jesus from the face of humanity. Will you stand for Jesus despite this intense opposition form the world? Is our love for him superficial? Does our love for Jesus wax and wane with the circumstances of life? How deep is our love for Jesus? How rooted are you in Him. How precious is Jesus to you? Are your possessions, relationships, reputation more important than Jesus? He died for you. He suffered immensely for you. He gave his life for you. What are you going to do in response?

Would you lose your home, or lose your job, be thrown in jail, cancelled, or ostracized if you stand with Jesus or when push comes to shove would you deny him? What would you do? Think about these things and we won’t be so quick to condemn Peter.

John 13 is a remarkable record of love, humility, service and sacrifice as well as a sad record of the human heart when it comes to Jesus. Will we betray him, deny him or desert his cause? Or will we follow his example and be marked by his love? How easy this record shows us that we can turn from Jesus when we are pressured or persecuted.

This is the season of Lent, a time of reflection, a time to ponder our love and commitment to Jesus. Think about how much he loved you. Think about what he did for you. Ask yourself if Christ so loved me that he died for me, isn’t he worthy to give your life in service to him?

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