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March 29, 2019, 1:00 PM

Live a Life that Reflects Jesus –


Dichotomy of the Flesh

John 13:1-17

 

            So, at high risk of every alarm in this sanctuary going off at exactly 12:02, I will do my very best today to make sure we’re out of here before then. Now I’m not going to guarantee that every Sunday, but today, yeah. I think my problem is I’m just not gifted with conciseness. Mari gives me a hard time. We’ll be driving down the highway and I’ll be blabbering and she says, you’ve got a lot of words to use up today, don’t you Dave.

 

Or we’ll be laying in bed at night and I’ll just be yacking away and she’ll say, well you didn’t get all of your words used up today did you, Dave? In other words, ‘zip it, I’m trying to go to sleep!’ So yeah, I guess we all have our struggles, mine is loquaciousness – I talk too much. I think I even remember my dad mentioning that a time or two when I was a kid. So I’ll get to work on that.

 

I want to move right into our Scripture today John 13:1-20. Most of you know this story well. Jesus washing His disciples’ feet. No other story depicts Jesus so clearly in the role He wants us to emulate if we are to follow Him.

We’re going to tie in the third of our mantra words – live. Remember those four words? By now they should be rolling off your lips, right? Love. Know. Live. Grow.  And don’t forget transparent, accountable and intentional.

 

 

 

So our third vision word, live, intends to remind us all that our life here on this earth should be one that reflects Jesus in everything we do. Our character, our attitude, our actions, our words, our heart, –the very core of our being should pulse with the desire to love and to care and to live like Jesus, because of who He is and what He did for us. No other story shows the essence of Jesus quite the way this one does and His vision for all of us. So here we are John 13:1-20.

                Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him,

                        Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.

                Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”      Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”   Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

                When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.

                If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.

                If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’

                I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”

 

 

            So much in these words. As usual, a bit of context here; scholars tend to split the Gospel of John in half. Our Scripture opens the second half of the Gospel, which is known as the Book of Glory. The first twelve chapters are known as the “Book of Signs.” Those early chapters are focused on Jesus’ public ministry within the world of Judaism where He is reaching out to all men and women who would believe.        

            He works to establish His identity through His miracles and His statements. And then He gives a discourse or an explanation of the deeper meaning to those who were there listening. You see this so clearly in His parables and His I AM statements, then through His healings of the blind man and so many others. His truth separates those who choose to believe in Him as the Son of God from those who make the conscious decision not to believe. 

 

But in the second half, the Book of Glory, there is only one sign – Jesus’s death on the Cross. Our Scripture begins our Lord’s explanation to His friends in what’s known as His Farewell Discourse. Having been rejected by Jewish hierarchy and the masses, the second half of John’s Gospel shifts focus to Jesus’s private ministry. His audience here --- well, it’s been whittled down to the small circle of His closest followers.

 

            Jesus turns His attention to the HOUR and that’s how our Scripture opens. It’s time for Him to say farewell to His followers and begin the brutal, but glorious return to the Father through His arrest, His crucifixion, His resurrection and finally His ascension.

 

            Something to understand here, in the theology of John’s Gospel, the death of Jesus is NOT witnessed as a tragedy. And remember John was the ONE disciple who was present at the crucifixion and the one closest to Jesus all the way through. He understands Jesus and the events surrounding Him better than anyone. In his view the Cross is NOT a low point, as it might be seen in other Gospels, but it’s the moment of Jesus’s greatest glory here on earth.

To set the stage for our Scripture,  let’s go back to chapter 12, vs 23, Jesus said, “The HOUR has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” Then in vs 27-28 Jesus follows with, “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” And then in 32-33, “And I, when I am lifted from the earth, will draw all people to myself. He said this to show the kind of death He was going to die.”

 

So He knew very well what was coming at Him and in its face He stood not only courageous, but confident that His death would go far beyond anything physical this earth was gonna throw at Him. We’ve talked about how Paul saw the transition from his life on earth to his heavenly life as a blip or a hiccup; “for to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain (Phil 1:21).”

 

Paul wasn’t only ready, but anxious to see His Lord. Well as scandalous as Christ’s death was, it really wasn’t even a consideration to Him. He knew the pain and suffering He would endure, but He was already looking past it to the glory He would bring His Father through the Cross.  

 

            And in our Scripture, Christ was looking to His legacy. Knowing that the hour had come; what final message would He leave to show His followers by example how they, how we, would live a life that reflects the truth of His nature and His Spirit. Sure His steady walk to the Cross from the day He was born was enough. It showed His humility; His obedience; His integrity; His faith and His trust in His Father. And those qualities should be imbedded in every believer.     

            As Christians we’re all called to take up our own Cross daily and that bigger story of Jesus’ life as He shines as the light that we all are called to follow. But His final example in our Scripture teaches us to put aside our ego; let go of our pride and realize we are better than no one and servant to all --- just like Him. “Do you understand what I have done for you?... I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. A servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.”

 

Humility!  We all realize the challenge, but it’s a battle we all continue to face.  

Remember we talked about knowing God and the importance of getting our vertical relationship with Him right first, then we can get our horizontal relationships right? God’s love is perfected through His love for us and our love for Him and our love for others. Remember?

 

Well, it’s no surprise, and we’ve hit this before, the first step in making your relationship with God genuine --- is humility. We will never get our relationship with God right as long as our pride, our ego… our SELF gets in the way.

 

And when we finally see past our own arrogance and get it right with God, and grasp Jesus’s message that it’s all about glorifying the Father and not me or you - then ego will be a foregone conclusion in our relationships with our brothers and sisters. We’ll begin to see others the way God sees them; the way He sees all of us; in -- HIS – image. Our desire will be to serve others, humbly, place others ahead of ourselves – just like Jesus did in our Scripture.

            Now today’s message is called Dichotomy of the Flesh because that’s exactly what we’re faced with! We’re called as Christians to live a life like Jesus, but we’re pulled by Satan to live a life in the flesh. Dichotomy is a really cool word. Good old Webster gives us this definition, “a division into two especially mutually exclusive or contradictory groups or entities; something with seemingly contradictory qualities.” Now remember that last part.

In our humanity our flesh is drawn in two completely contradicting directions creating this dichotomy. We want to do what’s right. We want to live a life like Jesus. We want to help people. We want to love God and love others. We WANT all the right things. But no matter how badly we want that life, the desire of the flesh, our passion for the things of this world always sneaks in and corrupts.

 

As a kid I loved to sing. Still do, but my junior and senior year in High School I was part of an 8 member Madrigal that went to state competition. Took a solo and was part of our acapella choir too. Fun times.

 

Now my senior year, just before our Madrigal went in to sing, the group asked me to pray, even though I’d probably been out drinking with most of them the night before. Well, for sure I loved Jesus. I was a follower – I guess, sort of. Better than the rest I suppose or so they thought anyway. So I prayed. I don’t remember the entire prayer, but I do remember the opening line, “Dear God, please help us to do our damndest to win this competition.”

 

Ya think God’s really going to respond to a prayer like that? Cursing to God? Yeah, well, not the way we’d hoped FOR SURE. But I was so incredibly insecure and I wanted so badly to be cool with my peers, I thought THAT would do it. I honestly somehow thought they would think, man David’s really got a good connection with God to be able to talk to Him like that. Right. Made that one all about me, didn’t I. Do you see the dichotomy?

 

Well, God’s never let me forget that prayer that day. It’s stuck in my head as a powerful example to me of ego getting in the way and a need to be accepted more by the world than by God. Messed that one up pretty bad. I know God’s forgiven me. And I’ve forgiven myself for that moment. But looking back you know something else I learned from that experience – forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting.

 

We may want to forget those deep secret sins that haunt us. We may even try to forget, but always through worldly means – alcohol, drugs, work, depression, whatever we think will help us bury the memory. But we don’t --- ever --- really forget. It’s not about forgetting. It’s about how we deal with those experiences. It’s about using what we’ve gained from them to share our story with others, so we can all understand we’re not alone.

 

We all mess up and do stupid stuff. But what are we called to? Repent. Not just once with the thought that that covers all. And not just twice in case we think we might have missed something the first time. But every time we find ourselves falling into sin and away from God, He calls us to turn back to Him in repentance. We acknowledge our sin and we ask forgiveness.

Look at David’s Psalms. How many of those were cries of repentance to God for forgiveness.  Psalm 6, “Oh Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath… Turn, O Lord, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love.”  And then Psalm 32, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.” David begins his Psalm in 38 with the exact words he used in Psalm 6, but he adds, “For your arrows have sunk into me and your hand has come down on me.”

 

Then we know his cry in 51 after he was called out by Nathan, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin!”  And there are so many more Psalms where David reaches out to God for forgiveness from his sin against his Lord.

 

A little bit of a rabbit hole there, but a really, really important one. You see repentance is itself accountability ---- to God --- and in our repentance we absolutely must be transparent to recognize our sin --- or our words --- mean nothing. Now the tie in to our Scripture… it all --- goes back --- to humility. Look at David’s Psalms. It’s when we humble ourselves that we become transparent and we acknowledge our sin. In our arrogance we’re blind. We close our eyes to those sins that control us, because we’re afraid to let go.

 

 

They’ve become part of our life --- our crutch to somehow support --- our walls to hide behind --- but in every case a barrier to our relationship with God. Remember last week… there is NO FEAR in God. Seek forgiveness. Then forgive yourself. Then let go and use that experience as a catapult to a new life in Christ rather than hold onto the chains that’ve been confining you.  

 

I want to go back to this idea of dichotomy and our Scripture. Now the context we’re in is the Last Supper. Even though John doesn’t really bring it out specifically and mention the passing of the bread and wine, the context is there. Those bible critics who try to distort Scripture to prove that it’s conflicting, might ask why John didn’t mention it.

 

Well, simply there are many logical reasons. He was writing to believers who were familiar with the act of the Lord’s Supper already. Personally I’m in the camp that he’d already read the other Gospels and was trying to supplement rather than repeat. And as we’ve said before John was all about the essence of Jesus, His heart; not His acts. At the end of the day, the Gospels do NOT --- contradict. They complement each other. And our Scripture is a perfect example.

 

In Luke’s Gospel he tells of a dispute among the disciples in the upper room just after the Lord’s Supper as to which of them was to be regarded the greatest. Luke’s version of Jesus’s response goes like this, “…let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as the one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves (Luke 22:26-27).” Now doesn’t that sound like a perfect segue in to Jesus’s words and His actions in our Scripture?

Same story. Different perspective. Different point of view.  

 

What Jesus was doing in our Scripture was responding in the moment, probably to that very argument by the disciples. They were making this whole thing about them. Jesus had to send a message, deeper and more personal than any He’d given them before. One last message to ground them in the CORE He wanted in His followers.

 

What better way to explain greatness in God’s kingdom to those men than by leading through an example of absolute humility and service to them. Jesus knew where He came from and where He was going, as well as, the authority He’d been given. That led Him to do something His followers never would have expected.

They were completely caught off guard. I doubt they knew the word dichotomy, but that’s exactly what they were facing. Footwashing was such a menial task that according to some Jewish sources, Jewish slaves were even exempt from it and the job was given down to the gentiles. It was seen as a lowly and degrading task. Now when it was done by a wife for her husband, or a child for the parents or even a pupil for the teacher it was seen as an act of great devotion.

 

But there were definite social implications. Nobody of a higher status would be caught dead washing the feet of someone beneath them. But now here Jesus, their teacher, their mentor, their Lord was preparing to wash their feet. No! Lord, that’s beneath you! You can’t do that for us! But when Jesus takes His outer garments off and ties the towel around His waist, He is taking the posture of a slave.

Jesus is giving them more than just a lesson in humility here. What His actions are symbolizing is the work He is about to do on the Cross and despite Peter’s arguments, the cleansing in that room at that moment, just like on the Cross in the coming hours, could only be done by Jesus.

 

What a profound message. In the face of everything coming at Him, He wasn’t through teaching.  But that was His entire purpose, to serve God’s will, when He “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Now wasn’t that exactly John’s perspective?

 

          An article in Inc.com just this month brings our Scripture into a contemporary context. The year was 2012, and everything seemed to be going wrong for Best Buy. The CEO had just resigned after admitting to an improper relationship with a female employee. Employee engagement seemed to be at an all-time low. And Best Buy stores were bleeding money--as customers came to test products they wanted, only to buy them online from Amazon at a cheaper price. Best Buy was dying a slow death.

 

 

            But fast forward to today, and the company is thriving: The stock price is surging and workers seem happier than ever. So, how did Best Buy do it? Hubert Joly, the new CEO, focused on people and he practiced --- humility. In his first months on the job, Joly did something really great: He visited several Best Buy stores and even worked at a store for a week, giving him the chance to speak directly to front line employees; get to know them personally and show how much they are valued.

            Based on their feedback, -- Joly fixed broken systems; he restored the beloved employee discount program; and he invested in employee training

And it worked. A recent survey showed 78 percent of employees would recommend working at Best Buy to a friend, and Joly has a 92 percent employee approval rating. And -- their bottom line -- is up. Proof that real change comes through humility.

 

            Remember Jesus’s words, “A servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” At Best Buy they’ve bought in. They’re all part of the team – different roles, but all functioning together with a united purpose. In God’s kingdom with humility driving the ship we all serve as a community together - no one greater, no one lesser. In business the bottom line is profit. In God’s kingdom, the bottom line is eternity.

            Live --- like --- Jesus. Rip pride and arrogance out of your life. Sin no longer controls. It’s just a by-product of the world we live in. Repent and ask God to forgive. Submit to Christ, like He submitted to the Cross --- for each of us. Give Him complete control --- right now. No hesitation --- give in --- know that He is Lord.


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