A Savior with a Towel Mentality Jn. 13:1-11

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When it comes to serving others, there is nobody like Jesus. He came down from heaven, was born of a virgin and wrapped in swaddling clothes to serve sinful man.

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.

Jesus was a servant! Oh how I want to be like him. Oh how I want to do what he did, how I want to make a difference and live a life like he did.

I want to say at the end of my life that I gave everything I had to everyone I could, that I served the least of these. I too want to be servant of the Father.

I want to have a towel mentality; the towel mentality runs to serves others and it sees no task as too big or too dirty. Those that have this mindset place others before themselves, and are willing to do the work so that somebody else might get closer to God.

Pastor Israel Kande of Immanuel Church did this for me in Cape Town South Africa. He and his family gave up their home, lived with others, cooked and cleaned for us. They washed our clothes, waited on us, guided us, prayed for us, carried our bags and then blessed us in several other ways—they had a towel mentality.

I was humbled, beyond measure, on that trip. A towel mentality does not do things because it has to, it does it because it wants to.

A towel mentality doesn’t serve because it needs recognition, it serves because God is pleased. A towel mentality doesn’t serve because it must, it serves because it sees the need. It serves because it loves and it desires to see God glorified in the earth.

This mentality is what we need in the body today.

Today we see an incredible passage before our eyes, the Son of Man who was without sin, stooping to serve those shaped in sin. Here we see a Holy God serving those who were lost and filled with rebellion against God. This passage gives us a glimpse of God like we’ve never seen before.

  • His mercy and humility is on display.
  • His love and service is on display.
  • His activity and purpose is on display.

The text opens up to reveal the Savior’s disposition in verse one:

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.

The Passover has come and the Lamb of God is preparing to be offered to God, but before He goes He reveals what true service is.

As a servant, He is modeling for us all what the servant disposition ought to look like. This is what real ministry is. It’s the servant life. Jesus focuses on two things:

  • Serving those who don’t deserve it.
  • Serving those that the Father has called unto himself.

The text says that when he knew “HIS TIME HAD COME” to leave out of the world He DISPLAYED LOVED FOR HIS DICPLES!

Look at His disposition: His love for them was displayed in his act of service to the very end—even after knowing that he was about to die because of them and for them.

  • 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!

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 verses two through five, we see the decision the Savior makes to serve his disciples.

2 During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 3 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, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 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.

He was willing to do it in spite of satanic influence working in the ones he called to follow Him (Judas was already in motion to do harm to Him). He was willing to serve them even after knowing that the greatest suffering of His life was before Him.

As a servant, he was influenced by knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands and that this was His ministry from God (v. 3). He was influenced with knowing that He was not going to be here long and his time to influence the disciples was short. He was leaving them shortly and going back to God!

Jesus has to decide within Himself to do this humbling task! Jesus has to humble himself to do the work of a slave when He was the King of Glory. As the creator of the universe, the Eternal One, He has to FIX HIS MIND TO DO THIS TASK!

  • He’s the King of the Jews (He doesn’t have to do this).
  • He’s the King of Israel.
  • He’s the King of righteousness.
  • He’s the King of the ages.
  • He’s the King of Heaven (He doesn’t have to do this).
  • He’s the King of glory.
  • He’s the King of kings and He is the Lord of lords.
  • He’s God’s Son.
  • He’s the sinner’s savior.
  • He’s the centerpiece of civilization (He doesn’t have to do this).

He stands alone in Himself. He’s unique, unparalleled, unprecedented, supreme and pre-eminent (He doesn’t have to do this).

And yet He decides to lay aside who He is and take up another title to serve those who were undeserving to be served.

Look:

4 He rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 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.

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.

Those who were extravagantly rich would have a slave to do it, for this was the job of a servant.

Here is 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)!
He’s modeling for us what it looks like to serve those who don’t deserve it—those who are not always faithful to us.

  • To serve those who are filled with evil desires.
  • To serve those who are mean to you.
  • To serve those who are unkind.
  • To serve those who are unwilling to change.
  • To serve those who are not always spiritual.
  • To serve those who are unfamiliar with your pain.
  • To serve those who could care less what your name is and whose child you are.

He’s modeling for us what it looks like to serve those who could care less that you have laid down your life, left your comforts and dreams to fulfill your father’s call. He models what it looks like to serve those that would could care less that you would endure hardship for them (and even death if necessary) to help draw them closer to God!

This is what He models for us.

In the next part of our passage we see the Savior’s declaration as Peter questions Jesus’ actions.

6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8 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.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”

Peter understands that what Jesus is doing is so unnatural and counter cultural that he is objecting to his Master serving him.

In other words, he is saying, “Jesus, please, I’m not worthy for you to wash my feet; I’m not worthy for you to serve me; I’m not worthy of such grace and mercy. I am your slave and as a slave I’m not fit to be served in this manner.”

Peter has the right mindset here; he doesn’t deserve what God is going to do!

  • He doesn’t deserve what God has in store.
  • He doesn’t deserve to be in Christ presence.
  • He doesn’t deserve to be washed by the Lord.

However, because of God’s grace, Jesus is going to give him what he doesn’t deserve—because of His love He is going to serve him like He never has before. Peter is in for a blessing, the one who designed the feet is going to cleanse them.

Is there anybody here that understands what Peter is going through?
Is there anybody here that knows what it’s like to have God stoop down and do for you what should’ve never been done?

Is there anybody here that knows God should’ve never touched you?

  • He should’ve never cleaned up your addictions.
  • He should’ve never cleaned up your attitude.
  • He should’ve never cleaned up your behavior.

Is there anybody here that understands that because Jesus has washed you clean today you have more than you have ever deserved?

Is there anybody here that understands If Jesus has washed you clean today, has taken you unto himself as a disciple and shown you hospitality and grace, love and kindness, mercy and forgiveness that you got more than you deserve?

Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”

Peter comes to understand that if he doesn’t allow God to wash him he will have nothing to do with Him and changes his mind by saying, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”

What we see here is the picture of self-surrender. Peter surrenders his entire body to Christ for the Masters cleansing—it’s the picture of communion with God after fellowship.

In the close of our text today, we see Jesus explaining the need for the cleansing He offers to His disciples.

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.”

The word translated “wash” in John 13:5–6, 8, 12, and 14 is nipto and means “to wash a part of the body.” But the word translated “washed” in John 13:10 is louo and means “to bathe all over.”

The distinction is important, for Jesus was trying to teach His disciples the importance of a holy walk. When the sinner trusts the Savior, he is “bathed all over” and his sins are washed away and forgiven (1 Cor. 6:9-11, Tit. 3:3-7, Heb. 10:17, Rev. 1:5).

However, as the believer walks in this world, it is easy to become defiled. He does not need to be bathed all over again, he simply needs to have that defilement cleansed away. God promises to cleanse us when we confess our sins to Him (1 John 1:9).

But why is it so important that we “keep our feet clean”?

Warren Wiersbe commenting on the text says, “if we are defiled, we cannot have communion with our Lord. ‘If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me” (John 13:8). The word translated “part” is meros, and it carries the meaning here of “participation, having a share in someone or something. When God “bathes us all over” in salvation, He brings about our union with Christ; and that is a settled relationship that cannot change. (The verb wash in John 13:10 is in the perfect tense. It is settled once and for all.

However, our communion with Christ depends on our keeping ourselves “unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). If we permit unconfessed sin in our lives, we hinder our walk with the Lord; and that is when we need to have our feet washed.

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