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Knowing that the Father had Given All Things into His Hands- Unity of the Brethren

Connecting the Body- Washing the Feet of the Disciples

 

How Jesus announced His Kingdom and showed us the foundation of His Kingdom with one simple gesture-

 

I wrote this with the story of the Moravians in my mind, a body of believers who have had a long history of seeking to unite the body of Christ and had a major impact on the Protestant faiths, one that far exceeds the small size of this community of believers.

 

I am pondering over John 13:3-10, one of the most profound and significant passages in Scriptures.  This passage announces the fulfillment of all the that Old Testament points to, the arrival of the New Covenant, the Kingdom itself, and the path to fulfilling His commands to seek first the Kingdom of God. 

 

The passage opens with this:

John 13:3-4  Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he came forth from God, and was going to God, arose from supper, and laid aside his outer garments. He took a towel, and wrapped a towel around his waist.

 

I believe here was the moment when Jesus had to make the final decision to accept the cup of suffering and fulfill all that the Old Testament was pointing to, the death and resurrection of Christ, when the prophecy in Genesis is fulfilled.  The moment of everything hangs on this phrase “knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands”.  Christ is given the choice, and the action He takes next makes it clear the decision He has made.

Since the beginning, Christ has been shadowed and prophesied, starting in the book of Genesis:

 

Genesis 3:14-15   God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all cattle, and above every animal of the field. On your belly shall you go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life.  I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will bruise your head, and you will bruise his heel.”

 

Christ was about to fulfill that promise made from the beginning of time; He was going to conquer Satan through the cross and the empty tomb.  So this moment is THE moment upon which all of the Word before this moment points to and is validated or invalidated based on the decision He makes.  He chooses love, love for His Father, and love for us.

 

Understanding the context of what comes next, I believe, is essential to seeing the fullness of what Christ is showing us through the first act he chooses to do directly AFTER the decision has been made.  The Word is being fulfilled.

 

Jesus is preparing the disciples for Passover, which is a long-standing tradition commemorating the night the firstborn sons of Israel were spared under the blood of a lamb (whose bones, like Christ’s, were not to be broken).  But he is about to do a variation on the preparation, I believe, that is stunning and reveals the Old Covenant is broken, the New Covenant has been brought to fruition, the Kingdom of God has come.

 

The preparation for the Passover is a ritualistic washing of the hands, a purification rite, but Jesus changes the old and converts it to the New.  Instead of washing the hands, He, Jesus, is going to wash the disciples’ feet.  Remember this exchange from Matthew?  It helps us understand the profound change Christ is presaging through his actions:

 

The Pharisees ask Jesus this question-

Matthew 15:2 Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don't wash their hands before they eat!"

 

Jesus doesn’t answer them directly, he simply points out their hypocrisy-

Matthew 15:7-9 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, ‘These people draw near to me with their mouth, And honor me with their lips; But their heart is far from me. And in vain do they worship me, Teaching as doctrine rules made by men.’”

 

Remember that Jeremiah promises this-

Jeremiah 31:33  But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says Yahweh: I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people:

 

Jesus was presaging, the change that the Old Testament has been pointing to since the beginning of the Word- the Old Covenant, the letter of the Law without the perfect salvation, is being changed to the New Covenant, the heart, the spirit of the Law which is only possible through the blood, the death, the resurrection of Christ to come one day later.  The perfect lamb has finally come.

 

Jesus tells his Apostles later explicitly why they were not washing their hands, and, I believe, why they were not having their hands washed for this Passover-

Matthew 15:16-20   So Jesus said, “Do you also still not understand?  Don't you understand that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the belly, and then out of the body?  But the things which proceed out of the mouth come out of the heart, and they defile the man.  For out of the heart come forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual sins, thefts, false testimony, and blasphemies.  These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands doesn't defile the man.”

 

Jesus was changing a crucial part of the ritual preparation of Passover from one that reflected the LETTER of the Law to one that would reflect the HEART, the SPIRIT of the Law made possible through the sacrifice He knew was coming because He made the commitment to do it.

 

John 13:5  Then he poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

 

Jesus is a mesh thinker, that is, He moves to multiple purposes with single gestures.  So it is here.  Jesus takes the role of the slave, who is the one who would traditionally wash the feet of the guests of a household.  He has broken the Old Covenant and made a visible, powerful illustration of the New Covenant.  Jeremiah is being fulfilled.  The whole of the Old Testament is being fulfilled.  He is also preparing his disciples the 11 gathered there and we who have followed the 11, for a life of slavery to one another.

 

So this simple gesture so far has announced the fulfillment of the Law and demonstrated what it means to be a leader in His Kingdom He is unlocking for us, the birth of the servant leader.  But, I believe, Jesus is telling us something else very powerful in this act.  The exuberance of Peter will serve to give Christ the dialogue that illustrates another lesson, the secret to building His Kingdom on earth-

 

John 13:6-8  Then he came to Simon Peter. He said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?”  Jesus answered him, “You don't know what I am doing now, but you will understand later.”  Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I don't wash you, you have no part with me.”

 

Notice Peter’s protestation and Christ’s response- “If I don’t wash you, you have no part in me”.  I believe this speaks to multiple truths, being washed in Christ, but also, being a willing recipient from other members of the body of Christ when they serve us. 

 

For this, I am thinking of the 5 loaves and the 2 fish, when Christ illustrates the manifold blessing of God on those who give the all to the all.  We give all that God has given us to serve others. 

 

What we have been given feeds far more people than what it should, in addition to feeding us as well.  What we have left is far more than what we gave in the first place.  By allowing people to serve us, we are allowing ourselves to also be the conduit through which Christ blesses the servant who is serving us, also through Christ.

 

This, in my humble opinion, points to the power of the body of Christ connecting for the purpose of worshipping Christ and lifting one another up in Christ (Ephesians 4- my ministry call chapter).  As we come together in Christ, worshipping Christ, serving one another, our blessings multiply so that we can feed more and more of His sheep, to go out and make disciples, and be fed ourselves.

 

Now Peter, in his typical exuberance, responds to Christ’s chastisement with this-

John 13:9  Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!”

 

How Jesus responds to Simon points to another significant lesson for the body of Christ when we come together to worship Him and live Him out on our Christ-centered connections with one another-

John 13:10  Jesus said to him, “Someone who has bathed only needs to have his feet washed, but is completely clean. You are clean, but not all of you.”

 

Why do we need to wash one another’s feet?  We are clean, after all, completely clean.  We are bathed in the blood of Christ.  But there is a part of us that will always remain unclean, a part that we will never lose until we are with our King in His eternal Kingdom, our flesh.

 

I believe that the feet symbolize this part of ourselves.  It is the only part of us that remains connected to the earth, like our feet, always making contact with the dust of this world, needing to be cleaned with regularity.

 

So when we come together for the purpose of worshipping Christ (which is a non-stop worship if we perfectly live Christ) and living out His truths in our lives and for the purpose of bringing others to worship our Father who is in heaven, we need to help one another clean the parts of our lives that remain connected to this world.

 

This, to me, is the process of accountability, of examining ourselves, of knowing one another by our fruits, for the purpose of drawing one another closer to Christ.

 

When a Christian remnant was gathered at Hernhut, on the estate of Count Von Zinzendorf, fleeing Catholic persecution from their homelands in Moravia, Bavaria, Poland and other parts of Europe, the early community produced chaos, separation, division.   Even Christian David, the one who gathered most of the Moravians to Hernhut, accused Von Zinzendorf hiimself of being the anti-Christ because he fell in with a false teacher.  Not until Zinzendorf intervened and presented clear standards for the community to hold one another accountable with did the community come together and the great baptism of the Holy Spirit take place on August 13th, 1727, a date still celebrated by the Moravians to this day.

 

In the same way, the 120 or so who gathered in the upper room had become of one mind, knowing the standards of their fellowship and the purpose of their fellowship, before the Holy Spirit fell upon them and the day of Pentecost arrived.

 

So it is, in this one gesture, immediately following the commitment by Christ to live out the prophecy which the whole of the Old Testament pointed to and shadowed, Christ showed us the foundation of the Unity of the Brethren (which the Moravians called themselves, but for which we all, as a body of Christ, should strive to see come to fruition), the call, the purpose, and the path of that unity-

To love the Lord with all our hearts, all our minds, all our soul-

To love one another as Christ loves us-

To be Servant Leaders, humble as the lowest of slaves-

To allow others to serve us as we serve them-

To be connected to one another for the edification and glory of the King of Kings-

To rejoice in Truth (hold one another accountable) and Hope (for the purpose of lifting one another up to go deeper and deeper into the eternal depth of Christ’s perfect love).

 

To summarize, this is the significance of these few verses in John 13-

  1. This announces the New Covenant
  2. IThe passage illustrates Servant Leadership in the Kingdom of God.
  3. Christ's actions illustrate Perfect Love for God and for one another through God
  4. And finallly, this act spells out the significance of connecting to the body

    a.  To serve one another

    b. To be served by one another

    c. To multiply the blessings of God so that the Sheep can be fed

    d. To hold one another accountable so that we can lift one another up closer to Christ

 

This act fulfills the great commandment and the great commission and serves as our model for doing the same through our individual commitment to grow in our personal relationship with Christ, our connected relationships commitment to live Christ in the center of our fellowships, and our corporate commitment to lift the body up closer and closer to Christ so that His name will be exalted by all who see our shining city on top of the hill.

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Greetings Friends, 

  God is Good and my faith is strong, while I often wonder how the hands of God (US) Feet, Arms and Legs too, may take a view that God will provide, while turning there backs on those who are in need of help. Kinda like saying "God will help so I will just go on my merry way" or "Go get a job or Sorry, Just can't help ya. 

  While my faith in God is still strong,  my faith in man is pretty weak. It saddens me to think how many Arms, Feet and Hands will "talk the talk but not walk the walk".  Just a footnote, your post is good as everything looks good on paper and truth and goodness reside in these words. Sorry if this seems a little down but I feel pretty much on my own here. You ever get that?. Just Me and God. Blessings, God Is Good! Carry on.


Scott,

 

Perhaps people who say "God will help so I will just go on my merry way" should read this passage- James 2:14  What good is it, my brothers, if a man says he has faith, but has no works? Can faith save him?
15  And if a brother or sister is naked and in lack of daily food,
16  and one of you tells them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled;” and yet you didn't give them the things the body needs, what good is it?
17  Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead in itself.
18  Yes, a man will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.
19  You believe that God is one. You do well. The demons also believe, and shudder.
20  But do you want to know, vain man, that faith apart from works is dead?


 Scott H. Clark said:

Greetings Friends, 

  God is Good and my faith is strong, while I often wonder how the hands of God (US) Feet, Arms and Legs too, may take a view that God will provide, while turning there backs on those who are in need of help. Kinda like saying "God will help so I will just go on my merry way" or "Go get a job or Sorry, Just can't help ya. 

  While my faith in God is still strong,  my faith in man is pretty weak. It saddens me to think how many Arms, Feet and Hands will "talk the talk but not walk the walk".  Just a footnote, your post is good as everything looks good on paper and truth and goodness reside in these words. Sorry if this seems a little down but I feel pretty much on my own here. You ever get that?. Just Me and God. Blessings, God Is Good! Carry on.

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