John 13 – Jesus Serves the Disciples

A Reading of John 13 – “Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. 2 During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, 4 got up from supper, and *laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself…”

A Reflection on John 13 – It is still Epiphany in the Church Calendar, but as we look at the text, we zoom forward to Maundy Thursday. We find Jesus (in Jn 13) at the table. John 13 gives a unique example of simple, lowly service as love. Unlike the other Gospels, John gives us more teachings of Jesus at the Last Supper. The glorious collection of truths in John 13-17 begin with this teaching on love. “A new commandment I give to you.” And this teaching begins with an action, an enacted parable. All of the rich words of John 13-17 unfold just as Jesus unfolds the towel to wash (or “wipe” like Mary did to Jesus) the disciples’ feet. The dirt on their sandal-shod feet was not what we sweep up in the kitchen. It was the build-up of the filth of excrement, decaying animals, rotted food, the “waste” of open sewage which ran in the streets. It was the foul remnants of a defiled world. To clean this was the lowest servant’s work. It could not even be required of a Hebrew slave, in Israel only Gentile slaves could wash feet.

Jesus’s reason for taking this sub-human role is striking: “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God, and was going back to God — rose from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself about.” As the earthly ministry and mission of Jesus was about to reach its climax, as He was fully aware and this crested in His thoughts – What did He do? He arose to do the lowliest service to scrub off the filth of uncleanness.  Jesus unexpectedly provides an action to explain His mission. He made vivid His teaching by this parable. We are to love one another. The next day, Good Friday, Jesus would love them in a more unimaginable way. He would do the work, not of a domestic (Gentile) slave, but of a domestic animal, a sacrificial animal. He would take upon Himself, not the filth of feet, but the blackest wickedness of all the world of evil men. His servanthood with the basin and towel, though shocking to His disciples, is only a small, small example of being the Suffering Servant for us: “And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore … He was pierced through for our transgressions” (Is. 53:3-5).

If through Christ’s crossly and costly work, you have His love in you, What simple actions would show your love to others in your family, church or community?

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Year A – Proper 7 – Romans 6:1-11

Romans 6:1–11 – What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For whoever has died is freed from sin. 8 But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Summary and Insight – As we enter Trinity Season of the church calendar year, you may notice that the Epistle readings for the upcoming weeks will be coming from the book of Romans, highlighting certain passages starting at chapter 6. This passage deals with the truth that everyone is a slave to something or somebody. As Bob Dylan sang “It may be the Devil, or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody!” We can either be slaves to sin, which leads to death, or we can serve the crucified, risen and reigning Lord Jesus Christ, which leads to life. We who have been united to Christ by faith are no longer under the dominion of sin. That means that sin no longer is ruler of our lives, but through Jesus, we have become slaves of righteousness. We must remember that it is all due to his grace. It is only through grace that we no longer have to serve sin, but we are freed in order to serve Christ. But we now have a simple choice to make, will we serve a loving master who desires that we have eternal life and fellowship with him, or will we serve our sinful desires, which will always and ultimately end in death?

Discussion – How does our status as Christians being united to Christ free us to serve Christ?  What ways are we still allowing sin to reign in our lives?

Prayer – Heavenly Father, We thank you for the incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of your son. We thank you that we have been united with Him, that we would no longer be slaves to sin. We acknowledge that we fall short, and still allow sin in our lives. We pray for the grace to put away our sin, so that we may serve only Christ. We thank you for our new freedom in Christ. And we ask this all in his name. Amen.

Contributed by Jared McNabb

Year B – Proper 24 – Mark 10:35-45

Mark 10:35-45   James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”  36 And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?”  37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”  38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”  39 They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized;  40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” 41 When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John.  42 So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them.  43 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant,  44 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.  45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Summary – This passage highlights the zeal of the “sons of Thunder” (James and John). They wanted to be great in the kingdom, they wanted first place. Instead of reproving their obvious pride of position, Jesus draws out a rich lesson in leadership. He as whether they were willing to do the service that would yield to them that rank of leadership. Would they be able to drink the same cup as Jesus? Would they be able to be baptized with the same baptism as Jesus? This refers to Jesus death and the things he would suffer. Jesus assures them they will partake of his sufferings, but finally redirects the quest – “whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant.”

Insight – Like James and John we cannot always see our own motivations clearly. It is hard for us not to want to be in first place. Jesus set the example for us in that he came to be born into a humble family, though he was rightfully the Prince of All the World. He did not grasp or cling to his position of first place. He did not seize power by avoiding the cross and worshiping the devil in His temptation. He went through his life and especially his ministry being repeatedly rejected and verbally attacked. As he says, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Then, he finally yielded to being physically attacked and tortured to death, though he as the Son of God could have called it off at any moment with legions of angels.

Catechism – What did the Son of Man do? The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Discussion – What are some ways we can serve and follow the example of Jesus?

Prayer – Heavenly Father, we thank you for sending Jesus to be a Servant to us and to show us how to love others. Grant us the grace to desire to follow him who gave his life a ransom for many. Help us serve one another in our families and the church. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.