Lessons in John 13

from the Lips of the Master

The Lord Jesus has been revealed as the elect and beloved Servant.
"Behold my servant, whom I chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased."
(Matt. 12:18, cf. Isa. 42:1) In John 13, the feet-washing is a living parable on the
self-humbling of Christ as outlined in Philippians chapter 2. It teaches us something of
what it meant for Him to take that form of a servant. Thus He gave an example for all
acceptable service, John 13:15.

It Involved a Decision

"He riseth," v.4. Here is a picture of that great decision in
eternity, to serve on behalf of fallen man at infinite cost. By this the Lord teaches His
disciples that, in all spiritual service, there must be a determination to do it, a
sincerity in doing it and the actual doing of it. "As the servants of Christ, doing
the will of God from the heart." (Eph. 6:6) James speaks of the "doers of the
word and the ‘not-doers’." The "doers" are characterized by their
uncompromising walk, continuing in the perfect law of liberty, and are blessed in their
doing. The "not-doers" are characterized by their unbridled talk, contemptuous
of the perfect law of liberty, and are self-deceived in their heart. (Jam. 1:22–26)

It Involved a Renunciation

"He laid aside His garments," v.4. This answers to
Philippians 2:7, "[He] made Himself of no reputation." The Lord did not empty
Himself of anything. It was Himself that was emptied out, into the vessel of perfect
sinless humanity, yet never ceasing to be God. He did not lay aside His divine nature, but
took to himself a human nature, so that He might die. He did not become another person,
but partook of "the seed of Abraham." Thus having two natures in one glorious
Person, He was "God…manifest in the flesh."

It Involved Humiliation

"He took a [servant’s] towel," v.4. This answers to Philippians 2:7, "[He] took upon Him the form of a servant." The lord thus
taught the disciples that true, acceptable, spiritual service will involve taking the
place of submission. As sinful beings, we cannot imagine what it must have meant for the
Lord to become a man. Human existence is all that we have ever known, but not He, the
eternal Son of God. We began in humanity. He became a man.

It Involved a Voluntary Restriction

"He girded Himself." The Lord was never restricted in
Himself. He is God. He did however, restrict the expressions of His greatness on
occasions. Relative to time, He came from the infinite extensions of eternal days
to the realm of sunrise and sunset. Yet ever He possessed His attribute of eternity. Relative
to space
, the One of whom the poet wrote, "Who art Thyself Thine own vast
dwelling place," came to dwell on the insignificant speck of stellar dust. Yet He
ever possessed the attribute of immensity. Relative to power, He came from the
infinite expressions of absolute authority and might, to learn obedience by the things
which He suffered and to be touched with the feelings of our weaknesses. Yet He ever
possessed the attribute of omnipotence.

The disciples could learn by His example, that if their service was to
be after the character of their Lord’s, it will be very costly relative to their own
persons., their own time, their own movements and their own energies. They will "not
go out free." As to our time, it is irretrievable and "cannot be gathered up
again." As to our movements, we are accountable, and we shall meet them again at the
Bema. As to our energy, it is expendable and soon, so soon, our strength diminishes and
the good that we would, we cannot.

It Involved a Special Provision

"He poureth water into a basin." The water was there, but it
had to be taken up, and it had to be poured out. We read of "the water of the
word." At great cost to God and to many of His servants, even martyrs, we have the
Word in our mother tongue. It is there, readily available, in Western lands at least. But
it is not enough that it has been provided. It must be appropriated. By daily discipline,
it must be personally taken up.

The Lord did not pour the water into the cup, that would have been
useless. He did not pour the water on their heads, that would have been thoughtless, it
was their feet that needed the water. He did not pour it on the floor, that would have
been waste. The water was applied where it was needed. The disciples could learn by this,
that the application of the Word must be relevant to the need, thoughtful, and profitable
to the blessing of those ministered to.

It involved Completion

Having washed the disciple’s feet, He took a towel and wiped their
feet dry. Their cleanliness and comfort were restored. He did it completely, for behind
the task was His own character. He did it tenderly, for behind the towel was His own
blessed hand. He did it perfectly, for behind the act was His own purpose, divine
instruction. Paul followed His Lord in this, he "finished the course." Spiritual
service must be done in the right way, for the right reasons and at the right time and we
are not to leave our allotted task undone for someone else to fulfill.

The Lord has given the example that "Ye should do as I have done
to you," v.15. May we all be followers of the Perfect Servant.

From Precious Seed Magazine, March–April 1989