“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and do so correctly, for that is what I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you too ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:13-14).
My absolute favorite type of movie to watch are the ones with mind-bending plot twists at the end—the ones that make you re-think all you thought you knew. And of course, you rewind and start the movie over to watch it again with this newfound knowledge and it makes you see the whole movie differently. As we approach the end of Jesus’s earthly ministry in this part of John’s gospel, we are about to see a monster plot twist. The signs pointing toward this plot twist begin to build in John 13.
In chapter 13 we realize the end is nearing, we experience Passover with Jesus and His disciples, Jesus washes the disciples’ feet and charges them to do the same for others (mini plot twist number 1), Judas is discovered as the betrayer (mini plot twist number 2), we are given the command to love one another, and Jesus tells Peter he will betray him three times (mini plot twist number 3). What? What? What? And we haven’t even made it to the cross yet! This is a jam-packed chapter for sure.
The Kingdom isn’t What We Expected
One of the bigger plot twists we begin to see is the realization that Jesus’s kingdom is not the type of kingdom anyone was expecting. It was an upside-down kingdom. Jesus was not the Savior anyone had in mind. He fulfilled the prophecies–yes, but not in the way everyone was expecting. He kept throwing the Jewish people for a loop with all He said and did. Jesus was constantly taking what they thought they knew—what they expected—and flipping it.
A Kingdom of Service
First, we see this in the washing of the disciples’ feet. This is likely a familiar story to you and as such can lose its potency. But this was truly an extreme act. Kruse, in his commentary on John says, “Jesus’ action was unprecedented. A wife might wash her husband’s feet, children might wash their father’s feet, and disciples might wash their master’s feet, but in every case it would be an act of extreme devotion” (Kruse, page 280). Jesus is flipping what it means to lead. This act is showing us by example that true leaders serve. We each have a high calling in our lives—to go low—to take the road of service to others in any way we can. It is difficult and counter intuitive to be sure, but it is the way to truly live and I love that Jesus models this for us.
Not only that, but the blessing we find in life comes in the serving. Jesus says, “If you understand these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (John 13:17). The blessing comes in the doing. Upside down, right? Logic tells us we get blessings in life from getting, getting, getting, but Jesus says the opposite–the blessing comes in the giving, giving, giving! This is the exact opposite message, by the way, that we get from pretty much every commercial we watch and billboard we see. The world is saying things like: you deserve this, it’s all about you, step over people to get what you want, do whatever you want. And it is easy to believe those messages, right? Jesus’s directive is still upside down in our culture, but I bet if you start to put it into practice and serve others you will realize how right He was. The blessing is in the serving.
A Kingdom of Love
Lastly, let’s look at the command to love others. “I give you a new commandment–to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples–if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). But, why did Jesus say this was a new commandment? It starts out as one of the most familiar commandments that the Jews already knew—love one another. But the twist now seems to be instead of loving others as you love yourself, you are to love others “just as [Jesus has] loved you.” This is a new level of loving! And of course, something we are incapable of doing in our own power. And I love the result of this love–others will notice. Love and grace for others in our world today sometimes seems in short supply. Our witness will shine best when we are known by our outlandish love for those in our path. Sure, it isn’t always easy; I know a lot of people who are very hard to love, but that is why this commandment is so upside down.
Our world needs this to be true of us: to be a people who serve and love others with the love of Christ. I’m thankful He will help us do this and I am thankful for the blessings that come when I do them. Let’s flip this world upside down with the message of Jesus.
Colin G. Kruse, “The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: John” Copyright 2003, Intervarsity Press original publisher, this edition was published in 2004 by Eerdmans.