First Mennonite Church
April 3, 2022
Jesus Knows Our Heart
Text: John 13:1-30
Biblical scholars call John 13-17, The Farewell Meal and Discourse of Jesus. Chapter 13 marks the decisive moment in the timeline of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Jesus’ “hour” has now arrived. Every previous mention of this hour had either been as not-yet or as imminent, but in 13, verse one, we are told “Jesus knew the hour has come for him to depart from this world and go to the Father.”
It is of special importance that we take notice how John’s Gospel carefully narrates this crucial moment in the life of Jesus. Jesus knows where he is going, but he also knows whom he is leaving behind. Therefore, John takes particular care on how he portrays Jesus at this juncture. So John goes on: “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”
Jesus knew he was going back to the one who sent him, the Father. Jesus knew that the hour of his glorification has arrived. The hour of Jesus’ glorification included his suffering, death, resurrection and ascension. The accounts found here in John 13-17, are another difference between John’s narrative and those of the Synoptic Gospels. John’ Jesus does not seem concerned at all with his impending suffering. The other Gospels, on the other hand, tell us that Jesus was greatly grieved and as he prayed intensely, his sweat were like great drops of blood (Luke 22:44). There in Gethsemane, Jesus seemed to beg Peter, James, and John to stay awake and to give him support. In John, Jesus’ final hours are dedicated to those who had shared in his ministry for three and a half years, to those whom he had loved even to the very end. The NIV puts the last part of this verse this way: “He now showed them the full extent of his love.” Both versions translate the Greek correctly. Jesus showed his disciples “the full extent of his love” as he also “loved them to the very end.” Therefore, from here on Jesus opens his heart to his disciples in ways he not done before.
So, what did Jesus do to show such abiding love? We read: So, he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. The master becomes servant. The teacher teaches by example. But when Jesus comes to Peter, he does not accept the fact that the Master and Teacher has taken the role of lowest in society. The rules of the English language make it difficult to reflect the emphatic response of Peter to Jesus. This is how we read: He [Jesus] came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” A literal translation would sound something like this: Lord, you my feet are going to wash? Yet after Jesus’ explanation to Peter on why he is doing it, the emphasis is even stronger, “No; never will you wash my feet!” Peter felt it was out of order that Jesus, the Lord, Rabbi, Master, would do something of such lowliness. Peter did not want to accept such service. He must have felt unworthy. But Jesus told Peter, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.”
This is another of those “unless” conditions Jesus gives in John. There are a total of seven authoritative conditions which Jesus introduced with “unless.”
- Unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God (3:3).
- Unless one is born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5)
- Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you have no life in you (6:53).
- Unless you believe that ‘I AM,’ you will die in your sins (8:24)
- Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone (12:24)
- Unless I wash you, you have no part in me (13:8).
- As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you,
unless you abide in me (15:4)
When Jesus finishes washing the feet of his disciples, including Judas’ feet, Jesus explains to them: “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
Jesus was teaching two things with this act. Humility has no bounds. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). By washing the feet of his disciples, Jesus revealed his identity as God’s ultimate servant who welcomes the disciples not only as guests, but as God’s children into the Master’s house. It shows the intimacy between host and guests being welcomed in unlimited love and generous hospitality.
Secondly, Jesus’ role as servant becomes the model on how the disciples were to treat one another. Love has no bounds, either. However, as clearly illustrated, the objects of God’s love can either accept it or reject it. Peter, although hesitant, either because of pride or misunderstanding accepted it in the end. Judas who allowed to be washed without hesitation failed to understand and accept such great act of love offered to him. And this is how the disciple are expected to show love. Thus, we are called to love, whether our love is accepted or rejected. Jesus extended it to everyone equally and so we must do.
Following the foot washing, Jesus puts on his robe and goes to the table again. And while the disciples are still in shock and confused about what Jesus just did, Jesus makes an even greater shocking announcement. “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 against me. . .. Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.”
The world outside of Jesus’ intimate moment with his disciples was ramping up to get Jesus arrested and killed. Jesus knows that the hour has come; the disciples only know that the moment is tense and they are fearful. However, when Jesus declares that among his own there is one who will betray him, the announcement is beyond shocking to his disciples. They cannot fathom that one among them could turn against their dear Lord. Their response is quite amazing and teaching.
His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. It seems from John as if the disciples began to suspect each other as the betrayer. But that is not what we see in the other Gospels. That is not what John is saying either. For instance, in Matthew this is how the disciples responded after Jesus said one of his own will betray him.
They were extremely sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?” (26:22). The disciples’ response is so amazing and illuminating. Their surprise, their innocence, and love for Jesus was made so clearly. They pleadingly asked Jesus to search their heart for the faintest trace of darkness in it. Each of them opened their hearts before each other. They did not start suspecting on their fellow disciples who the betrayer might be. Rather, each started to search his own heart. “Surely you do not mean me, Lord?” They abhorred, they hated even to think that one of their fellow disciples was capable of doing such heartless act. By searching their own hearts first, they reflected the simplicity and integrity of their love for Jesus.
What a noble character we see in those 11 disciples!
On the other hand, Judas was the last one to ask the question, “You do not mean me, Lord?” (Matthew 26:25) Maybe he only asked to avoid being singled out if he were to remain silent.
Even after Jesus gives Judas the piece of bread as a sign of who is the betrayer, the disciples still cannot think of Judas as the one. They thought Judas was only going out, maybe to buy food or to give alms, but not that he would come back leading a mob to arrest Jesus. What John tells about the moment Judas left the group is revealing. “It was night.” It was dark not only outside. It was a dark moment in the world, but most of all, it was dark in Judas’ heart. Even after three and half years of being with Jesus, Judas had not seen the light that is the life of mankind.
My dear sisters and brothers, the Lord is humble. His death on the cross is testimony of his extreme humility. The people who died on Roman crosses were the worst of the worst, the ones considered unworthy to stay alive. Therefore, Jesus’ death make possible God’s salvation for even the lowest in the world. No one could go any lower than Jesus in his humility. Through humility, Jesus showed his deepest love for those he loved even onto the end. Through humility Jesus revealed the full extent of his love for you and me. However, he knew from the start the hearts of his disciples even that Judas would reject his love.
Jesus washed the feet of Peter, just as he did Judas’. With clean feet, Judas went to carry out his evil transactions of selling his Lord for thirty pieces of silver. Judas failed to see and receive the love Jesus was offering, still yet, Jesus loved him just the same.
The Lord knows our heart. He knows what is down in my and your heart this morning. He loves us unconditionally. May we respond by opening our hearts to him. May we respond by giving our heart to him. Shall we pray with the psalmist who said, “Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 138: 23, 34).
Amen. Let us pray.