Washing the Feet of a Betrayer: John 13:1-17

Focus Passage: John 13:1-17 (NIV)

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 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.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Read John 13:1-17 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

While finishing washing Peter’s feet on the night He was betrayed and arrested, Jesus finishes His discussion with Peter about washing feet by saying something profound. John’s gospel shares this conversation with us and he tells us Jesus finishes verse 10 by saying, “And you are clean, though not every one of you.” John then continues by giving us a side-note to draw our attention onto the significance of this statement: “For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.” (v. 11)

In case you had a question in your mind about whether Judas Iscariot, the betrayer, was present during the foot washing, this should help give you an answer. Part of me wonders if Jesus’ eyes finished scanning the disciples and came to rest on Judas Iscariot, in a subtle way telling Judas Iscariot that Jesus knew it was him. John tells us that Jesus knew Judas Iscariot would be the betrayer, which leads us to a powerful question: If Jesus knew Judas Iscariot would betray Him, then why even select Him to be a disciple?

While this question is significant, it is also significant to recognize that Jesus washed Judas Iscariot’s feet, but even with “clean” feet, Judas Iscariot had not let Jesus clean his heart or his attitude. While Peter had offered to let Jesus clean every part of his life, Judas Iscariot held part of his life back and tried to keep it hidden from Jesus. If Jesus had the conversation He had with Peter with Judas Iscariot instead, perhaps Jesus would have been able to reach the area of Judas Iscariot’s life before it was too late.

This truth teaches us that even if we let Jesus wash part of our lives, we must be invite Him to wash every part of our life that needs to be cleaned. Jesus’ statement at the end of his conversation with Peter hints at the reality: Judas Iscariot teaches us that even though we have let Jesus clean a part of our lives, if we are holding something back from Him, Satan is eager to use what we are holding on to in a way that derails Jesus’ ideal for our lives.

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The Request Jesus Cannot Grant: Mark 10:35-45

Focus Passage: Mark 10:35-45 (GW)

35 James and John, sons of Zebedee, went to Jesus. They said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do us a favor.”

36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked them.

37 They said to him, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”

38 Jesus said, “You don’t realize what you’re asking. Can you drink the cup that I’m going to drink? Can you be baptized with the baptism that I’m going to receive?”

39 “We can,” they told him.

Jesus told them, “You will drink the cup that I’m going to drink. You will be baptized with the baptism that I’m going to receive. 40 But I don’t have the authority to grant you a seat at my right or left. Those positions have already been prepared for certain people.”

41 When the other ten apostles heard about it, they were irritated with James and John. 42 Jesus called the apostles and said, “You know that the acknowledged rulers of nations have absolute power over people and their officials have absolute authority over people. 43 But that’s not the way it’s going to be among you. Whoever wants to become great among you will be your servant. 44 Whoever wants to be most important among you will be a slave for everyone. 45 It’s the same way with the Son of Man. He didn’t come so that others could serve him. He came to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many people.”

Read Mark 10:35-45 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

As Jesus approached the last week before facing the cross, two of His disciples came to Him with a request. By this point, all the disciples likely were sensing Jesus’ ministry leading towards one single moment, and the only thing they could conclude based on their preconceived ideas is that He would launch the campaign against the Romans and make the nation of Israel independent again.

The request these two disciples make is selfish, but also understandable. They ask Jesus, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” (v. 37)

However, Jesus’ response is interesting. First, He asks them a counter-question, which they respond to, and after this, Jesus responds to their initial request by saying: “I don’t have the authority to grant you a seat at my right or left. Those positions have already been prepared for certain people.” (v. 40)

When I read this event knowing that Jesus would be on a cross not to long afterwards, it is hard to not see the disconnect with what these disciples ask and what they think they are asking. These disciples think they are asking for the places of most honor in a typical king’s kingdom, but they don’t realize that Jesus’ kingdom is different, and that when He receives His glory, it will look entirely different.

Jesus breaks both sides of the bad news to these disciples by saying that He doesn’t have the authority to grant their request and that those positions have already been reserved for certain people.

This leads me to wonder who these “certain people” were.

The highest point in Jesus’ ministry where He has individuals on His left and His right happens not long after this event. During this high point, Jesus is hanging on the cross with two criminals, one on His right and one on His left. This means that the point when Jesus was glorified, He was among the worst people in society and among those that the world condemned.

I am sure that these two disciples would not have asked the question they did if they knew Jesus would be glorified on a cross. While these disciples each faced trials, persecution, and death because they dedicated their lives to Jesus, it was only after Jesus’ death on the cross that they truly began to understand what His true mission was.

For us living today, Jesus’ message to these disciples is as true for us as it was for them. Jesus warns His followers to not seek power, fame, or position over others, because they might not realize what they are truly asking for. Instead, Jesus tells each of His followers that they should focus on serving like He served, because when we ask God for help serving, He is more than willing to grant our request!

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Focusing on the Lazy One: Matthew 25:14-30

Focus Passage: Matthew 25:14-30 (NLT)

14 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. 15 He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.

16 “The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. 17 The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. 18 But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.

19 “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. 20 The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’

21 “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’

22 “The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’

23 “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’

24 “Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25 I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’

26 “But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, 27 why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’

28 “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. 29 To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. 30 Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Read Matthew 25:14-30 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

In this journal entry’s passage/parable, a powerful challenge is given regarding our perspective on life. While most people simply think of this parable praising the two resourceful and talented servants, it also reveals something significant about how important our perspective is – both our perspective of God, and our perspective of His gifts.

The best reflection of this perspective comes from an unlikely source: the third, lazy servant. While the first two servants are praised, less space is reserved to discuss these resourceful servants than the third, unresourceful one. Four verses (verses 20-23) share the master’s response to both resourceful servants, but the third servant receives four verses just for the dialog (verses 24-27) and two of the last three verses entirely to him as well.

This detail regarding focus is important. It tells me that more people will likely struggle with being a third servant than being a five-bag or two-bag one, and that we can learn more from the mistakes of the third servant than from the successes of the first two.

A simple reading of this parable reveals that the third servant saw things differently. Verses 16-18 tell what each servant did with the money entrusted to him: “The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.

The first servant invested, the second servant worked, while the third servant hid. The first two servants saw this money as a blessing, an opportunity, and a responsibility. The third servant saw the money as a curse, an unreasonable test, and probably as unfair. He might have thought something like: “Well, I could definitely do something great with two or three bags of silver, but one bag is not enough.” Or he may have been observant to how much the other servants were given and upset that he received the least, thinking to himself “It’s not fair.”

The third servant’s perspective was different. The second servant received less than half of the first, but still had the same positive perspective. This means that perspective is as important as ability – maybe even more important. Any increase is better than no increase, and even if the money was spent on a poor investment, if knowledge increased, then the master may still have considered the test a success.

A fearful, inactive, lazy third-servant perspective is opposite to what God wants from us. He wants to be able to bless us in ways that double or triple the blessing’s effectiveness. This is only possible with a positive outlook on life, a positive view of our ability, and a right perspective regarding the Gift-Giver.

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Inspiring a Gospel: John 14:15-31

Focus Passage: John 14:15-31 (GW)

15 “If you love me, you will obey my commandments. 16 I will ask the Father, and he will give you another helper who will be with you forever. 17 That helper is the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot accept him, because it doesn’t see or know him. You know him, because he lives with you and will be in you.

18 “I will not leave you all alone. I will come back to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. You will live because I live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father and that you are in me and that I am in you. 21 Whoever knows and obeys my commandments is the person who loves me. Those who love me will have my Father’s love, and I, too, will love them and show myself to them.”

22 Judas (not Iscariot) asked Jesus, “Lord, what has happened that you are going to reveal yourself to us and not to the world?”

23 Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will go to them and make our home with them. 24 A person who doesn’t love me doesn’t do what I say. I don’t make up what you hear me say. What I say comes from the Father who sent me.

25 “I have told you this while I’m still with you. 26 However, the helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything. He will remind you of everything that I have ever told you.

27 “I’m leaving you peace. I’m giving you my peace. I don’t give you the kind of peace that the world gives. So don’t be troubled or cowardly. 28 You heard me tell you, ‘I’m going away, but I’m coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I’m going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I am.

29 “I’m telling you this now before it happens. When it does happen, you will believe. 30 The ruler of this world has no power over me. But he’s coming, so I won’t talk with you much longer. 31 However, I want the world to know that I love the Father and that I am doing exactly what the Father has commanded me to do. Get up! We have to leave.”

Read John 14:15-31 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

On the night Jesus was betrayed and ultimately arrested, He promises to ask the Father to send the disciples help. The help Jesus promised comes from the Father in what Jesus describes as “the Spirit of Truth”. When describing how the Helper would come, Jesus tells His followers: “I have told you this while I’m still with you. However, the helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything. He will remind you of everything that I have ever told you.” (v. 25-26)

It seems interesting in my mind that Jesus would describe the Holy Spirit as being sent from the Father in His name. In this verse, while the Holy Spirit comes in Jesus’ name, the description Jesus shares is that the Holy Spirit clearly comes from the Father.

Also contained in this short description is one of the things the Holy Spirit would do. Jesus tells His disciples that the Holy Spirit “will remind you of everything that I have ever told you.” (v. 26)

This detail is significant for us to pay attention to if we ever have doubts about whether the gospel writers could be trusted to accurately share what they witnessed while writing their respective gospels decades after the events actually happened. In John’s case, his gospel was the last to be written, and it may have been written so late in his life that all the remaining original disciples had already died.

As an old man, some skeptics might believe that we cannot trust John’s gospel record because it was written so long after the events he describes actually took place. However, if we think like a skeptic in this case, we are actually discounting the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

John says that the Holy Spirit’s role is reminding us of what Jesus has taught us, and this was true while he was writing his gospel record. John’s gospel shares a unique angle on Jesus’ ministry that can best be understood as simply inspired. While John may have held the pen, the Holy Spirit inspired the memories, events, and words that were written.

It is the same in our lives as well. While we were not present while Jesus walked the earth, the Holy Spirit is ready and willing to help us remember truth we learned while we were younger, and the Holy Spirit is happy to help redirect us back to focusing on Jesus. Jesus has offered to send the Holy Spirit to help us, and there are no downsides to accepting the Holy Spirit’s help with our lives.

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