John 13:15 – “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”
When I am thinking about a particular Scripture passage and reflecting upon it, one of the things I often do is write out my own translation of the verses with some explanatory comments. I also often place them in a more contemporary context. I do this because I want to feel the original force and even scandal of the message. As we think about the ministry of the church, we are to follow the example of our Lord Jesus. So, here is the Gospel of John 13:1-17….
It was just before the biggest and most important feast of the year, Passover. Jesus knew that it was finally the time for him to face the cross and die for the world’s sins. Having spent the past three years loving his followers, he now wanted to leave them with a clear demonstration of his love that they would never forget.
The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already gotten a hold of Judas Iscariot to betray Jesus to those who wanted him dead and gone. But it was all according to plan. Jesus knew that his heavenly Father had given him all authority because he was his Son, and he was ready to do what needed to be done to secure salvation and return to his rightful place at his Father’s right hand. So, Jesus got up from the meal, rolled up his sleeves, put an apron on, and ran a sink full of hot water. Jesus told the servants to take the night off, and He began taking the dishes from the dinner table and started washing them, taking care to do all that waiters and dishwashers would do.
When Jesus came to take care of Simon Peter’s dishes and serve him dessert and coffee, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to serve me?” Jesus replied, “I know you do not understand why I am doing this since it seems like something that is beneath me to do, but later you will look back on this night and understand completely what I am doing.”
“No,” said Peter, “this is not right – you are the Master and this is not what well-respected Rabbis do – you are only disrespecting yourself and making us all look foolish. You are not going to take my dishes and wash them.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash these dishes and serve you, you are not going to be able to follow me anymore and you will have no part of what I am doing in this world.”
“Well, then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “if that is the way it really is, then don’t just wash the dishes – come on over to my place and clean out the fridge and scrub the kitchen floor!”
Jesus answered, “A person who has had a decent meal needs only to wash the dishes so that he can enjoy the freedom of hospitable relationships with me and those around him. And all of you here have had a decent meal, though not every one of you.” For Jesus knew that Judas was only picking at his food in anticipation of betraying him.
When Jesus was all done washing the dishes and serving his disciples, he took his apron off, rolled his sleeves back down, and returned to the table. He looked them all squarely in the eye and said, “Do you understand what I just did for you? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Master,’ and rightly so, for that is exactly what I am. So, now that I, your Master and your Teacher have washed your dishes, you also should wash one another’s dishes. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I am telling you the plain truth that no follower is greater than the one he follows, nor is a preacher greater than the one he preaches about. Now that you know that it is your task in this life to provide humble loving service, you will have God’s stamp of approval on your life if you quit thinking about how to have and use power for your own purposes, and start thinking about how to use the power and authority I am giving you to love other people into the kingdom of God.