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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Leading by Loving: John 13:12-20

For my class on Biblical interpretation, we're each assigned a passage that we will eventually do a major exegesis on.  We're also required to do an initial devotion, and I decided that since I haven't posted on here for so long, I'll share what I wrote.  It might have been for a class, but I learned a lot from the last hour and a half's worth of studying!

12 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. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
    18 “I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned[a] against me.’[b]
   19 “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. 20 Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”

In this passage we see a display of Jesus’ ultimate humility.  He is the disciples’ teacher and Lord (13) and they, his servants, are no greater than he (16).  But Jesus has washed their feet in order to set an example for them (15).  He wants his disciples to be humble, to have the mindset of serving everyone around them, even those who might seem “lesser” than they.  He wants them to love one another just as he has demonstrated his love for them.
            Jesus continues to show love to his disciples in the following verses (18-20) by sharing with them an Old Testament prophecy that predicts his betrayal(18).  Jesus says, “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He,” that is, the Son of God.
Jesus is nearing the close of his life on earth at this point, and he wants to make sure that his disciples know exactly who he is.  He continues in the next verse, “Whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”  When his disciples believe in Jesus, they would believe in God, the one who sent him.  Jesus’ ultimate goal for his disciples was for them to have a saving faith in him and in God.
            The lessons that Jesus taught his disciples here apply still today.  The term “servant leader” is one often used in Christian circles, but I think we sometimes glaze over it or fail to understand its full meaning.  Jesus personifies the ultimate “servant leader.”  He leads the disciples by setting them an example of humble servanthood.  A true leader is the servant of his followers.  This idea is contradictory to the worldly idea of leadership, which says that leadership means having the most power, the most people at your beck and call to do your bidding, the most authority to make people do what you want.  Jesus counters this entirely.
            Just as Jesus loved his disciples by revealing to them who he was so that they might believe in him, he loves us by revealing himself to us.  This happens when we read the Word or hear it spoken, every time we partake of the Lord’s Supper, when Jesus give us his very body and blood, and when others around us love us with the love of Christ.  All the ways Jesus reveals himself to us are for the purpose of strengthening our faith in him, so that we might believe and be saved.
            As Christians, as followers of Christ, we are to follow his example of loving, humble service just as the disciples were instructed to do.  The biggest difference between the worldly idea of leadership and Christ’s is, ultimately, love.  When we love all those around us, in the same selfless way that Christ loves us, that’s when we made a difference in the world, just as the disciples did.  We also have the opportunity, in loving others, to be a means by which Christ reveals himself to them.  When we speak his words of love and forgiveness, when we serve in selflessness and humility, we are God’s instruments for revelation of himself.
            We serve in love and humility and demonstrate Christ by loving others because it is what Christ has done for us.  He became the ultimate servant, giving up some of his rights as God to come to this earth and serve us in love.  He was humbled to the highest degree when he was killed, hanging naked on a cross.  He loved us with unmatchable, selfless love when he took our sins upon himself and gave to us his righteousness.  And he lovingly revealed himself to us by coming to earth and living among us, so that we might believe in him and be saved.
            This is what Christ has done for us.  It is the greatest honor and privilege we have as Christians to imitate Christ: to love and serve others as he has loved and served us.

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