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Life To The Dead Servants
by Pastor Mike Fortune
October 25, 2008

Introduction: YouTube: The Good-O-Meter 
PowerPoint File

Life Comes From...

  1. Thinking of others [John 13:1-7; Hebrews 6:11; 1 Peter 4:7-11]
  2. Accepting grace [John 13:8-11; 1 Corinthians 11:27-30; John 12:26]
  3. Living grace [John 13:12-17; Acts 13:36; Acts 20:24]

I love that video clip. It’s got such a delightful sense of humor to it. But it also contains some of the best theology as well. According to Jesus Himself in John 12:47, He did not come to judge the world. He came to save it. So life comes, as we’ll see in our passage today, when we accept and live that grace.

Today, we’re continuing our fall sermon series entitled Life to the Dead. If you’ve not been with us every week, I’d encourage you to jump online to toledofirstadventist.org and click on audio visual links on the left. Or you could also type Toledo First into iTunes and subscribe to the podcasts describing how Jesus brought life to a dead party, entry, prediction and prophecy. Today’s episode is entitled Life to the Dead Servants. We’re zeroing in on the life Jesus brings, or wants to bring, to all his disciples. Judas included.

And in a perfect world, God’s grace would have convicted him too. In a perfect world, all the people who heard Him would have believed in Him. All the religious rulers would have loved Him. And none of his disciples would betray Him. But as we’ve seen in the first twelve chapters of John’s Gospel, that’s not what happened. Some of the people believed. But as discovered in John 12:37, many did not. Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs such as raising Lazarus from the dead.

Our passage today picks up where we left off so let’s open our Bibles to John 13:1-17 which reads, “It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. 2The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 3Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" 7Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand."

8"No," said Peter, "you shall never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."9"Then, Lord," Simon Peter replied, "not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!" 10Jesus answered, "A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you." 11For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

12When 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. 14Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. 15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

Now just think about this for a second. Jesus is on top of the most wanted list dead or alive [11:57]. People are ready to kill Him by throwing rocks at Him [10:33]. Others are plotting to arrest and kill him [11:53]. His disciples don’t understand what’s happening [11:8]. Many of the crowds that saw the most miraculous things don’t either [12:37]. It’s Thursday night and in a few hours He knows He’ll be completely abandoned by the very people professing love for Him. He knows He’s gonna be falsely accused, tried, beaten, mocked, and crucified on a cross. Anticipating that excruciating pain, Jesus says in John 12:27 says, “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? Save me from this hour? No! It was for this reason I came!”

Life comes from thinking of others first
That’s the background to John’s staggering introduction to chapter 13 verse 1 which reads, “Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.” But how on earth does Jesus do this? When the weight of the world is on Him? When those closest to him are being so childish? When He Himself is afraid and scared? How is it possible that Jesus was able to even think about serving His disciples in that Upper Room? How could He whose heart the Bible says was troubled say shortly to those disciples, “Let not your hearts be troubled.”? Think about that! In times like these, what happens when the Savior needs a Savior?

Point number one this week is: Life comes from thinking of others first. But how was Jesus able to do that? And show them that? I asked everyone in staff meeting this week when we game planned this service. And Pastor Rachel said she thinks He was able to do that because He knew who He was and where He was going. And I have to say, I agree! Isn’t that what the Bible says? Knowing that the time was near. Knowing that He was about to go to the Father. Then He did this stuff.

Jesus knew whose He was
So you can only think of others first if you know who you are first. It didn’t matter that everyone else was confused. That those closest to Him were arguing amongst themselves. That the religious rulers were divided. Jesus knew who He was. And Jesus knew whose He was. He was the Son of God in whom His Father was well pleased! And if you know He loves you like crazy, as much as He SO loved the world, you’ll be able to think of the world instead of yourself even in the most stressful of situations! That’s the way it works! Traditional hierarchy and customs and expectations won’t matter to you. Nothing will prevent you from accepting and showing grace to others. From not only thinking of others more than yourself, but also showing that love to others. Which is the true test of a disciple. Jesus would say in John 13:35, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

He showed them love
When Jesus stood up from that meal, removed his cloak or outer garments, and took the basin and the towel, he was basically saying to these quarreling Christians, I know you’re not perfect, but I want you to know I love you like crazy. And I promise you that I will love and serve you till the day I die, even if you don’t love and serve me back.”

Whoa, that is crazy is it not?!! In other words, “Your response to me will not dictate my response to you. I not only love you. I like you. Flaws and all. And so does my Heavenly Father. You can know this is true because He tells me what to say according to John 12:49. I love you so much I’d rather die than spend eternity without you. And so does my Father in Heaven.

Pastor Rachel is right. When you know how much you’re loved, it’s so much easier to show that love to others. Even when those others don’t love you back. That’s why life comes from thinking of others first. Point number one. Hebrews 6:11 says it this way: “11We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure.” We can show love, to the very end, because we are loved, from the very beginning. Nothing we do or say changes the way God feels about us. Even if we betray Him, or are even thinking of doing so, like Judas was, He still thinks of us first. Serves us till the end. Because He loved us from the beginning.

1 Peter 4:7-11 states, “7The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. 8Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. 11If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” Life comes from thinking of others first. Point number one. We can show love, to the very end, because we are loved, from the very beginning.

Life comes from accepting life
But life comes also from accepting grace. Which is point number two. Moving on with verses 4-8, “4So he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" 7Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand." 8"No," said Peter, "you shall never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."9"Then, Lord," Simon Peter replied, "not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!"

Accepting God’s grace is such a simple thing to do, but it’s never easy! Every fiber of our being revolts against it. We don’t want to admit we need a Savior. We don’t want to continue to trust and obey. And this is ingrained from our earliest childhood. I’ll never forget what Josh said when he was a little kid and Grandma Judy was visiting. She asked Joshua what he wanted to play or do next and his response to Grandma Judy was, “I wanna do what I wanna do.”

But it’s the same way today for all of us adults too isn’t it! We were just talking about this in our Wednesday night prayer meetings where we’re studying Stuart Tyner’s excellent book Searching for the God of Grace. At the beginning to the 2 nd chapter, Tyner highlights how even the songs we sing are laced with poor theology about grace preventing us from accepting it. Maybe you’ve heard, hummed, or even sung these famous lyrics: “Nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could, so, somewhere in my youth, or childhood, I must have done something what?”

Maria and Captain von Trapp sing this beautiful duet with some awfully ugly theology in it. But whether we’re singing it in harmony or shouting it at the top of our lungs, our response to Jesus is the same! No no never never uh uh uh no way! “Lord, you are not gonna wash my feet! I know I blew it here tonight, but somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good...”

But Jesus’ basic reply is: “If you don’t accept grace, you’ll have no part of me.” Jeremiah 5 says the prophet walked up and down the streets of Jerusalem and found not one who was good. Romans says the same thing. That’s why 1 Corinthians 11:28 says, “28A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.”

It’s not really talking about pigging out on those little crackers and cups of juice at communion. Though that’s also what they were doing and that’s not good either. It’s really talking about taking part in communion, however you’re doing so, without realizing your need of Him. Without accepting grace. The point of verse 27 in 1 Corinthians 11 is that we’re all in need of Him. Because we’re all unworthy and continue to be. But nobody in that Upper Room was willing to admit that! Maybe that’s why Jesus warned us in John 12:26 that “26Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”

And while both Judas and Peter allowed Jesus to wash their feet, it becomes obvious that only Peter accepted grace. But accepting God’s grace doesn’t mean you’ll follow Jesus perfectly. Shortly after this, Peter would deny Jesus. He who exaggerated his acceptance of Jesus with the words, “Not just my feet but my hands and my head as well” would be cursing a blue streak denying He even knew His name just a few hours later.

So running ahead of Jesus is just as dangerous as lagging behind. How do you become a Christian? You pray, read, and share. And how do you stay a Christian? You pray, you read, you share. Anybody telling you anything else is selling you something! Promising you ocean front property in Arizona. Promising you more than they can deliver. Pulling a classic Peter.

But God isn’t asking for more than you can deliver. He’s only asking you to think of others to the end. Because you are loved from the beginning. He’s only asking you to accept grace and to sing His praises. I really don’t think Jesus is pleased when we promise Him the future. When we shoot the moon. When we over exaggerate what we can offer.

Life comes from living grace
He sees through all that. He knows we can’t deliver. But loves us anyway. “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? Save me from this hour? No! It was for this reason I came!” He wants us to follow Him and serve Him. But He wants us to do that day by day. Because all we can offer Him is today. That’s why I’m convinced that life comes from thinking of others today. Accepting grace today. And living grace today. Which is point number three.

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

When Jesus said “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet” he wasn’t just saying we should do foot washing in the middle or end of the meal as our promise to each other to serve and love each other till death do us part. He wasn’t just saying we should think about others first. And merely accept grace. Luke Peter and even Judas did at first. He was saying we should actually live grace! Which Judas did not. He was saying we should live grace to the very end! Till death do us part! Till the day we die! Which is no small feat Jesus is asking of us! This is something that only God can do in us! But it can be done! One day at a time till the day we die. For with Him, all things are possible.

Proof of this can be found in the book of Acts. Chapter 13:36 says this of David. “36For when David had served God's purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed.”

One day, I hope that’s what’s on my tombstone. “Mike served God’s purpose in his own generation.” Or if my tombstone isn’t big enough, I’d settle for: “Mike lived grace.” Paul says it a little more poetically in Acts 20:24, “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.”

What’s our job? Our job is to testify to the gospel of God’s grace. And how do we do that? Point number one: We do that by thinking of others first. By accepting grace. Point number two. And by living it. Point number three. Which is the single hardest thing you’ll ever do on any day of your life for the rest of your life. Why? Because you are not born living grace. And you are not even born again living grace. Even after conversion, even after baptism, is was not something that came naturally to the disciples. It is something that comes supernaturally.

How to live grace
You can only live grace if you have accepted grace. And you can only accept grace if by faith you choose to see yourself as liked and ridiculously loved by God. That’s why Jesus called the religious people of his day hyper actors. It’s where we get the word hypocrite today. They talked about all kinds of stuff. Even religious stuff. Good stuff from their earliest childhood about God and His love and grace, but by their lives, they broadcast that they have not accepted it. Which means it will only be a matter of time before it becomes obvious to everyone that they aren’t living it either.

It’s funny. I used to think this passage was all about feet. And the washing thereof. But now I’m beginning to see that it was really all about thinking of others first. And accepting grace. And about living grace. In times like these, we need a Savior. And thank God we have one. His heart may be troubled, but there’s no reason today ours should be. For it was for this reason that He came! So together in closing, let’s sing His praises. Testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. To the very end.