A Servant with a Towel Ministry John 13:12-20

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Last week we discovered that when it comes to serving others, there is nobody like Jesus. Jesus, while living on earth, gave everything he had as the servant of God. Tirelessly, he gave sight, cured diseases, healed pains, raised the dead, and blessed humanity by bringing good news to the poor.

  • We learned that it takes real humility to serve those that you know will run out on you!
  • We learned that it takes real humility to serve somebody other than yourself!
  • We learned that it takes real humility to give up your time and your resources to minister to someone else!

Jesus didn’t have to do this; it wasn’t like they deserved it—in fact, it was counter cultural. Most rabbis would have never done this. But Jesus was teaching while he served, he was demonstrating what true servant leadership is.

In addition to these things, we learned that He was modeling for us what it looks like to serve those who don’t deserve it.

  • He was modeling for us what it looks like to serve those who are not always faithful to us.
  • He was modeling for us what it looks like to serve those who are filled with evil desires.
  • He was modeling for us what it looks like to serve those who are unkind.
  • He was modeling for us what it looks like to serve those who are unwilling to change.
  • He was modeling for us what it looks like to serve those who are not always spiritual.
  • He was modeling for us what it looks like to serve those who could care less what your name is and whose child you are.

We learned that Jesus was a Savior with a towel mentality.

Verses 12-14 reveal to us some important background information:

12 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.

Last week I shared with you that hospitality in the Jewish culture was unparalleled to most. A good host would often times offer a visitor or weary traveler a place to stay and a towel to clean their dusty feet and hands after traveling on the roads to come to visit. Those who were extravagantly rich would have a slave do this, for it was the job of a servant.

And here we see Heaven’s Hero performing the job of a slave to model for us what the Towel Mentality looks like (He doesn’t have to do this)!

Jesus asked the disciples if they understood what He had done, and it is not likely that they did. So, He explained it: He had given them a lesson in humility and service, as an example for them to follow.

The second thing we see in this passage is that if the disciples called him Lord and Teacher, they were now responsible for following His teachings and doing exactly what they saw Him doing (serving).

To embrace him as their teacher and to call him their Lord was to commit themselves to his call upon their lives, to embrace and carry-out the words he gave them to live by.

The love Jesus had for His disciples, and those who would come to be His disciples, is shown in the washing of the disciples’ feet. What enabled Jesus to perform this act of utter humility was a keen understanding of who He was, where He had come from, and where He was going (13:3). This is a key to humility in all persons—a healthy and balanced understanding of who they are.

If Jesus, Lord and Teacher, washes our feet, how much more should we wash one another’s feet (13:14)? One scholar notes that, “What is at hand is not the institution of an ordinance of foot-washing, as this passage has sometimes been interpreted, but the lifestyle of humble servant hood.”

Here we discover that Jesus (in serving His disciples) was doing this for a reason. He was giving them an example of what a servant of the kingdom should look like and should be doing.

Do you have a Towel Ministry today?

Do you have somebody to serve today?

Are you making a divine difference in the world?

Is your time of service accounted for today?

The first thing I observe in verse 15 is a ministry model set by Jesus.

15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.

The first thing I observe is that Jesus is using what is called a purpose clause here in this verse. In using this clause it is to declare that they are to be doing this act continuously. It is not a one-time activity. It is meant to be something that is practiced throughout their lives.

He modeled it for them, and then charged them to follow his example. He does not institute another ordinance, but he models ministry and reveals humility that they are to have among each other.

We know this is not an ordinance because it doesn’t appear anywhere else in the New Testament for us to wash feet. It was an example of ministry in the body and a picture of what our mentalities ought to look like.

He was giving them an example of what a servant of the kingdom should look like and should be doing—serving others.

Servants that follow Christ serve one another. We have an example of what service entails and involves (doing what others are not willing to do). Our motive for serving others is to be pleasing to Christ and to serve because he served.

  • It takes real humility to serve those that you know will run out on you!
  • It takes real humility to serve somebody other than yourself!
  • It takes real humility to give up your time and your resources to minister to someone else!

According to this verse and teaching, the disciples must be willing to humble themselves and serve one another.

  • There can be no divisions among them.
  • There can be no strife among them.
  • There can be no hatred among them.
  • There can be no evil feelings among them.
  • There can be no wicked behavior among them.

They are told to hold each other in high esteem and be willing to serve one another.

I pray that we will obey this teaching of Jesus as a ministry model!

  • I pray that we will esteem each other better than ourselves as a ministry model.
  • I pray that we would honor one another in our dealings, ministry, and callings as a ministry model.

I pray that we would not deceive each other; that we would not belittle, harm, cheat, steal, mistreat or abuse one another, but rather that we will be willing to serve each other.

However, in order to that what Jesus is calling us to do we have to possess a kingdom mentality!

In the following two verses we see a ministry mandate being revealed by Jesus.

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.’

Here is a very interesting mandate from Christ. If you KNOW THEM and if you DO THEM you will receive something.

The way it is written in the original language is called a present tense active statement. He is saying that you will be blessed if you KEEP ON KNOWING AND DOING these things He has mandated. The disciples blessing is a promise to be happy in Christ when serving others.

Here is the key to blessed congregation, it is the key to joy and happiness within the church.

The church that does not value each other and serve one another is not a happy church—it is a miserable church. Jesus is giving them the key to ministering to one another and with one another. It is humility, service and honoring each other.

Warren Wiersbe comments on the text saying, “The sequence is important: humbleness, holiness, then happiness. Aristotle defined happiness as ‘good fortune joined to virtue … a life that is both agreeable and secure.’ That might do for a philosopher, but it will never do for a Christian believer! Happiness is the by-product of a life that is lived in the will of God. When we humbly serve others, walk in God’s paths of holiness, and do what He tells us, then we will enjoy happiness.”

The text says, “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.’

Here, a friend in my library said “Judas was in the Upper Room, pretending to be Christ’s disciple!” He says Judas was so successful that even the other apostles did not realize he was a counterfeit.

Christ first quoted Psalm 41:9 in verse 18 to show that He would be betrayed.
Christ had just washed Judas’ feet, now Judas would lift up his heel against Christ!

Yet Christ’s death on the cross would defeat Satan, who was using Judas as his tool (v. 2, 27). Satan first plants the thought in the heart, then enters into the person to control the life.

Wiersbe also comments that “Christ quoted this verse to the twelve disciples to keep them from stumbling in unbelief (v. 19). The Christian who knows the Word will not be easily discouraged by the defeats that occur along the way.”

Jesus knew those he had chosen to save, and he also knew the one who would betray him so that the scripture might be fulfilled!

Wiersbe also says, “The remarkable thing is that the others at the table with Jesus did not know that Judas was an unbeliever and a traitor. Up to the very hour of his treachery, Judas was protected by the Savior whom he betrayed.”

This verse teaches me that nothing gets past Christ. He is aware of every action and intention of the heart. The believer can learn from this model of ministry.
There will be those that are in opposition to what you are called to do, those that the evil one influences to do harm to you. However, we are to be just like Christ and serve them to the end.

As we close our text today, we see the ministry mentality that Jesus has developed as He instructs His disciples on what was to take place—His mind is focused on the sacrificial choice He has made with His life.

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.”

It was in this hour that Jesus was focused on two things: He knew he needed to fulfill the word of God and to magnify the glory of God.

He informs them of the “it” that will take place—the betrayal, deception, act of treason and the act of delivering over the Son of Man.

‘When IT takes place you will believe that I am the Messiah’

A friend said that this statement was also a sign for Judas to go into his scheme. This was necessary for the plan of God to be fulfilled!

How we know that He had a ministry mentality is found in the last portion of this verse.

Jesus reveals that whoever receives the one he has sent, will receive Him, and if they receive Him they will receive the one who sent Him.

This is an indicator for them to know who they are and who it is that has sent them into the world. They have been sent by Christ as His ambassadors and also as representatives of the Father!

These words are challenging because we as believers are handpicked by God and called to represent Him in the earth! We are a royal people with authority and privilege from the God of Heaven and earth. Whoever receives us, receives the one that sent us.

“Jesus was concerned that Judas’ treachery would not weaken His disciples’ faith. This is why He related it to the word of God: when the disciples saw all of this fulfilled, it would make their faith stronger (Jn. 8:28).

Judas had been disloyal, but He expected them to be loyal to Him and His cause. After all, He was God the Son sent by God the Father. They were Christ’s chosen representatives; to receive them would be the same as receiving the Father and the Son. What a privilege to be ambassadors of the King!”

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