Please take your Bible and turn with me to John 13. As you well know, today is Valentine’s Day and therefore I thought that it would be appropriate to talk about love.
John 13:1 Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. 2 And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him; 3 Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; 4 He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. 5 After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.
I. Jesus Demonstrated What Love Really Is When He Washed His Disciples’ Feet
A. Jesus’ Actions Must Have Shocked the Disciples
I’m sure that the disciples were shocked by what Jesus did. Probably the only sound that could be heard in the room was the trickling of the water as it washed over the disciples’ feet. The disciples were shocked and stunned for at least a couple of reasons:
1. Only Slaves and Servants Washed Dirty Feet
As many of you know, it was a common practice in ancient times for a host to have one of his slaves or servants wash the feet of guests when they first entered their home. People wore open toed sandals and walked along dusty roads and therefore there was always an ample supply of dirty feet.
Apparently the man who prepared the room for Jesus and His disciples to celebrate the Passover, also set out a towel and basin of water for the washing of their feet. Yet he did not provide a servant to do so. Perhaps the Lord had requested that he not provide a servant. No doubt Jesus already knew that this was going to be an issue.
I’m sure that everyone saw the towel and basin of water when they first entered the room, yet no one made a gesture that he might be the one to wash their feet. All through the meal the towel and basin of water sat there in the corner; that is until Jesus quietly got up, went over to it and prepared Himself to do the servant’s task. I have read that when Jesus tied the towel around His waist, He was declaring Himself at that moment to be not only a servant, but a slave.
There’s another reason why Jesus’ actions probably stunned the disciples –
2. The Disciples Had Been Arguing Over Whom Among Them Was the Greatest
It appears that the disciples argued often over whom among them was the greatest. There was always a clash of their egos.One such occasion was when the mother of James and John came and asked Jesus that her two sons might sit on His right and left hand in the kingdom. The Bible says that the rest became extremely angry when they realized what the two had done. There were other occasions as well. For instance –
a. Right After the Transfiguration
The Bible says that at one point in His ministry, Jesus took Peter, James and John with Him as He went up on the mountain to converse with Moses and Elijah. Scripture says that right before their eyes, Jesus was transformed so as to reveal His heavenly glory.
While this magnificent event was occurring on the mountain, the remaining nine were still down in the valley, trying to cast a demon out of a man’s son. Try as hard as they could, they were unable to do so. As soon as Jesus came down from the mountain, the father ran up to Him, pleading with Him to help his son. After Jesus cast out the demon, the disciples asked Him why they had not been able to perform the miracle. Jesus told them that it was because of a lack of faith.
Shortly after that, an argument broke out among disciples concerning who was the greatest in God’s kingdom. Though the Bible doesn’t tell us what started the argument, most likely it had something to do with the fact that three had been chosen to go with Jesus up on the mountain, while the other nine hadn’t. Perhaps the three boasted a little about their experience and tried to pretend that they might be a little more spiritual, and perhaps the others were a bit envious and jealous. The primary cause of the disciples’ bickering was rivalry.
b. During the Passover Feast
How often the disciples argued we’re not told, but I believe that it was quite often. Even during the Passover Feast, the Bible says that they were arguing once again over whom among them might be the greatest. To make it even worse, the word that the Bible uses for their strife indicates that some of them liked to argue. Paul used this same word to describe people who are inclined to be quarrelsome and contentious. Some people love to argue and debate. Some people get a high out of trouble.
B. Why Did Jesus Wash the Disciples’ Feet?
Now get the picture in your mind, the disciples are sitting there together, puffed at each other, and then Jesus quietly gets up from the table and takes the towel and the basin of water and begins to wash their feet like a common slave. I am sure this stopped them dead in their tracks.
Why did Jesus do this? The Bible tells us that there were are several reasons:
1. He Wanted Them to See How True Love Really Acts
John 13:12 So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? (Do you understand what I just did and why I did it?) 13 Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, (a pattern, something to be imitated) that ye should do as I have done to you. 16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. (i.e. – none of you is too good to do this)
Jesus understood the importance of the disciples learning how to love and care for each other. Soon Jesus would be gone and they would need to learn how to love and depend upon each other.
On another occasion Jesus said that a house divided against itself cannot stand. (see Matthew 12:25) No marriage divided against itself can stand. No family divided against itself can stand. No church divided against itself can stand. Satan knows that if he can divide us, he can conquer us. The only winner in an argument is Satan.
2. He Wanted Them to Know What Will Truly Make Them Happy
John 13:17 If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.
I think that Jesus was trying to say to them – “Step up from this world’s way of thinking, and begin to live on a higher plane.” The world’s way of thinking says, “Live for self.” God’s way of thinking says, “Live for others.” The world’s way of estimating importance is by lording our success over others. (What we have is – bigger, better, faster, more powerful, more beautiful…anything that draws attention to us) God’s way of estimating importance is by our willingness to deny ourselves so that we might bless others.
3. Jesus Wanted Them to Know That He Really Loved Them
There’s a third reason why Jesus did what He did. He loved them.
John 13:1 … having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.
Christ’s love was not a pretend love. It was not just words. He loved them so much that He was willing to become their servant. He was willing to wash their dirty feet. That’s the meaning of agape love.
II. The World Will Know That We Are One of His Followers When They See This Kind of Love
John 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
A. The World Will Know That We Belong to Me When They See This Kind of Love
“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
I’ve thought a lot about that statement and the primary thing that stands out to me is that the world understands that Jesus loved people, and therefore the world believes that anyone who is a follower of Jesus should love people as well. Yet all too often the world doesn’t see that kind of love coming from Christ’s followers. The world sometimes sees professing Christians acting like a bunch of pompous hypocrites. They hear us talking like we’re angry with the rest of the world and hate everyone who doesn’t agree with us. It hurts to say this but it’s true.
Recently I had the opportunity to talk with a young man about the Lord. The young man was polite and courteous, but he wanted me to know that he sees a lot of hypocrisy in the church that causes him to question whether or not it is real. Pause for a moment and let Christ’s words sink in deep into your heart – “It is by your humble, sacrificial acts of love that the world will recognize and believe that you are truly one of My disciples. When they see this kind of love, they will believe. When they don’t see this kind of love, they will doubt and perhaps rightfully so.”
B. This is Christ’s Commandment For Us – That We Love One Another
Jesus said something else here that is very powerful and important. “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” For years I struggled with the fact that Jesus said that He was commanding them to love each another. Can you command someone to love? Doesn’t love have to happen spontaneously from the heart in order for it to be true love?
1. A New Commandment Versus an Old Commandment
1 John 2:7 Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning. 8 Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. 9 He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. 10 He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. 11 But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.
So which is it John? Is it an old commandment or a new commandment?
a. An Old Commandment
1 John 2:7 Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning.
Way back in the book of Leviticus it says – “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.” (Lev 19:18) It has always been the will of God that we love each other. It has always been the will of God that we love Him. We read from the book of Deuteronomy – “Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5) The problem has not been with God commandments. The problem has been with our ability to obey and fulfill the commandments. Our fallen nature keeps getting in the way. The Bible says that the flesh produces things such as: hatred, hostility, jealousy, selfish ambition, and rivalry. (see Galatians 5:19-21) The flesh has always been very selfish and self-centered. Though the disciples wanted to be spiritual, they were sinful. Even in their most spiritual moments, they still acted selfishly.
b. Yet It is a New Commandment
1 John 2:8 Again, a new commandment I write unto you…
To fully understand what Jesus was saying, we must realize that He called it a ‘new’ commandment.
There are two different words in the Bible for ‘new.’ One word refers to something that is brand new in time. If Jesus had used that word, then what He said would mean – “I am giving you the 11th Commandment.”
But that wasn’t the word Jesus used. The word Jesus used meant new in that it was something totally brand new, unprecedented and never known before.
This was a new a commandment in that it was not only new in its essence, but also new in the fact that it was a commandment that could be fulfilled.
2. A New Commandment That Can Finally be Fulfilled
a. Fulfilled ‘by’ Christ
Jesus fulfilled the commandment to love God with all of His heart, soul, mind and strength and to love His neighbor as Himself. John writes –
1 John 3:16 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us…
Jesus demonstrated His love, both for His Father and for us, by laying down His life.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
b. Fulfilled ‘in’ Christ
1 John 3:16 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
Before any of us says that we can’t love someone else, we need to stop and ask ourselves – ‘Was God able to love me?’ John’s reasoning is this – “If Christ was able to love us in such a sacrificial way, surely we should be able to love each other. If Jesus could lay down His life on a cross, surely we could stoop to wash each other’s feet.”
We should be the disciples of love, not only because our Master has loved us, but also because He has given us a new nature – the nature of love.
1 John 2:8 Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth.
For the believer, the darkness of sin has past and he or she is now in the light. Salvation is not only the forgiveness of sin; it is also a new birth that produces a new creation. Christians love because they have been given the new nature of love.
We should note also that John tells us that if we do not love, then we’re still in the darkness.
1 John 2:9 He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. 10 He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. 11 But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.
Does this mean that if you are a believer, you will never have a disagreement with a fellow Christian? John is not saying that Christians never get upset with each other. We do – right? Even the great Apostle Paul and Barnabas had such a difference of opinion over John Mark and eventually they parted ways. Yet after a period of time there was the desire for reconciliation. Paul came to the point to where he spoke very highly of John Mark and how much help he had been to Paul in his ministry. Brothers and sisters in Christ sometimes have disagreements. Yet they cannot remain in a state of anger and hostility. John writes –
1 John 3:15 Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.
‘Hateth’ is a Present Tense Participle indicating that it is an ongoing, action. It is a continuous state of being. It’s going being upset and starting to hate. It’s saying, “I can’t stand that person.” It’s wishing ill will towards them. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount that anyone who speaks down against their brother or sister is in danger of the fires of hell. (see Matthew 5:22) Jesus also said that we can’t truly worship God if there is unresolved conflict between us and a brother or sister in Christ. (see Matthew 5:23-24)
John tells us very plainly that people who hate other believers do not know the Lord. Carefully read through the book of 1 John and you will see that loving the brethren is one of the identification marks of a believer. As Warren Wiersbe says, ‘It’s one of the birthmarks of a believer’
Fellow believers may have conflict from time to time, however, if they are a true believer, they will eventually desire forgiveness and reconciliation. More than one Bible teacher has written that if true revival ever breaks out in the church, one of the first signs will be forgiveness and reconciliation of believers who are at odds with each other.
Christlike love was one of the chief distinguishing characteristics of the early church.
1 John 3:16 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.
III. The Kind of Love Jesus Had Will Be Seen In Us Only When We Are Full of His Spirit
I could tell you today that we should love each other because it’s the right thing to do. I could tell you that we should love each other because it makes us look more like a Christian. I could tell you that we should love each other because Jesus commanded us to do so. All of this is true, but the primary reason why we should – can – and do love each other is because we have the Holy Spirit living within us. The Apostle Paul wrote – “…God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (see Romans 5:5)
A. The Fruit of the Spirit
It’s the Spirit of God within us that causes us to love each other. Christlike love is one of the by-products of the Spirit’s indwelling presence. Paul tells us in Galatians 5 that Christian love is a part of the ‘fruit of the Spirit.’ What does that mean?
We all know what fruit it. It’s something that grows on a vine when that vine is receiving proper nourishment. Fruit is beautiful. Fruit is sweet. Fruit is luscious. Fruit is pleasing to the eye and to the taste. Fruit is a sign that the plant is alive and healthy.
Referring to the Spirit’s fruit is another way of referring what He is able to produce in our lives when He has control over us. I’m sure that every true believer has had the experience of the Spirit filling their heart with God’s love. It’s a love that is peaceful, full of joy, kind and caring. It’s a love that causes us to want to minister and care for that other person. It’s the a love that enables us to lay aside ourselves so that we can wash their feet.
B. The Fruitfulness of the Believer
Look with me once more at something Jesus said that night.
John 15:1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. 2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. 3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
1. Spirit Has to Prune Away Self
Jesus said that before we can bear ‘more’ fruit and ‘much’ fruit, something has to be pruned away out of our lives. What is it that needs to be pruned away? I believe that much of it has to do with ‘self.’ Self has to be pruned away before the Spirit can produce the fruit of Christ. If that is so, then the more of self that is pruned away, the more of Christ will be seen.
I read once that by the time Paul wrote ‘For to me to live is Christ’, he was nothing but an only gnarly branch that bore some of the sweetest fruit the world has ever known.
2. Spirit Then Can Produce Christ-likeness
John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. 6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. 9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. 10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. 11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. 12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
There is much here to be studied and we will save it for another week, but today I want us to make the connection between abiding in Christ, bearing much fruit, and love. I believe that abiding in Christ is allowing the Spirit to control our lives so that the life of Christ flows in and through us.
The more of the life of Christ that flows into us by the Holy Spirit, the more fruit we will bear. The more we die to self, the more the Spirit is able to love God and others through us.
Once there was a Christian named Tertullian who sought to defend the Christian faith before those who were skeptics. In his work known as the Apology, Tertullian proposed that it was the Christians’ love for each other that gave some of the greatest evidence for the validity of the Christian faith. Tertullian reasoned that while the world hated and murdered each other, Christians loved and were even willing to lay down their lives for each another.
Jesus said – “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35)