You know it’s going to be a good day when the first messages your phone dings with is a group text from your two neighbor friends who are already deep into their Bible reading for #samepagesummer. While I’d been dilly-dallying with muffins and coffee they were asking questions about John 13 and I was seriously late to the real feast. But the conversation that ensued really got me thinking why the gospel is so key to understanding passages like John 13, why our marriages need the gospel, and why things like the Bible Reading Challenge are so important today.
I’ve heard lots of sermons on Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. People pushing the “servant-leadership” narrative love to use foot washing as an example of showing real humility to people they see as beneath them. I’ve even been to weddings that included a foot-washing ceremony to symbolize how husbands and wives ought to serve each other. This is all fine and good. But friends, our marriages are starving for substance not symbolism and no amount of servant leadership methodology will suffice to put an ounce of humility in a self-righteous heart. And yet Christ tells His disciples in verse 14, “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.”
What precipitated this stunning display of humility? Look back at verse 3. “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.” So Jesus, having in mind all of His Divine Authority, His exalted seat at the right hand of the Father which He had vacated, and the glorious truth that He would soon occupy His rightful place once more, knowing all this, the Creator took on the form of a servant, stooped, and washed His creatures’ feet. And then He told them to do the same.
I’ve read lists. I’ve read books. I’ve heard messages detailing the practical ways this is to be done within the home, within the church, within the community, across racial/social/economic/language/cultural barriers. And almost every time I see one of those lists it’s still dripping wet from the hands who made it made it. Hands that are doing nothing more than trying to wash themselves clean. Hands that unlike Jesus’s, have not been given all things into them by the Father. Hands with not an ounce of Divine authority to make even the outside of a cup clean, let alone the inside. Hands who when they hold out their righteous acts of service to spouse and community are only full of filthy rags. These hands are very familiar to me because they have been my own.
Jesus said, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” This friends is the gospel that cleanses. The gospel that transforms marriages and communities. The gospel that enables prideful, arrogant, self-absorbed men and women to serve the one-anothers and the least-of-these. How does it do that? Philippians 2:1-11 gives us some insight and it does so in a way that the reader can’t help but hear echos of John 13. “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant.” If Christ has washed you, has by His perfect atoning sacrifice on the cross made you clean, then you are as Philippians 2:1 says, now in participation with the Holy Spirit, which works in the believer both to will and to do.
When Jesus stoops to wash the disciples feet, He does so with His own Divine Authority over all things in mind. He does so with His own exalted position at the right hand of the Father in mind. And when Paul says, “Have this mind among yourselves,” he then goes on to describe the person of Christ, who has all authority in heaven and on earth, who didn’t have to achieve equality with God by performing any works because He already was God to begin with. Too often when we set out to do the foot washing in our homes and communities, we do so with the mindset that we are being like Christ. And that we are the ones stooping to those beneath us. And that even though we are in some position of privilege or authority, we are going to show how humble we consider ourselves by performing these lowly tasks that really belong to the station of the person or set of people we have been placed above. Instead of looking to Christ and letting that very act change us as surely and miraculously as it saves us, we look to ourselves and see how well we resemble the exalted one we seek to emulate.
Friends, our marriages, our churches and our communities need the gospel everyday because therein we see Christ. We cannot have the mind of Christ among us unless we are actually thinking His thoughts after Him. And the only way to know His thoughts is through the pages of Scripture where the Holy Spirit so clearly reveals them to our hearts! Isn’t it glorious that when Paul says in Ephesians 5:22 “Wives, submit to your own husbands,” he doesn’t follow it up with qualifiers or practical exceptions to the rule so we know exactly what that should look like? No! He follows it up with the example of Christ! And 3 verses later Paul says, “Husbands love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her,” he doesn’t continue by giving a list of practical ways this is to be accomplished in the home. No! Instead he goes straight to the mindset, or reason Christ gave Himself up. “So that He might sanctify her having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.”
Paul is saying, “Husbands, wives, look to Christ! Look how your marriage is a reflection of the beautiful union of Christ and His bride, the church! Look what He did to redeem that bride! Look how it was all done to present her holy and blameless and without spot to Himself!” Look at the means He uses to wash her! He uses the word! The gospel doesn’t just save, it sanctifies! Have we forgotten that the same power that healed the serpent-stricken Israelites when they were commanded simply to LOOK is still at work, not just to save but to change? Why do we think a list of practical how-tos will have more of an impact on our marriages than the God-breathed, Spirit-empowered, Christ-exalting Word of God? Why do we think empty apologies, the applause of lawlessness and social-media campaigns are going to heal our broken country more than the Gospel! We must look to Christ to be saved and we must look to Christ to be sanctified!
This is where the Bible Reading Challenge comes in. On June 1 thousands of people around the world opened their Bibles to John 1 and began a three month journey through the New Testament, the revelation of God concerning His Son, Jesus Christ. Something miraculous happens when the people of God start reading His Word. They change. They stop looking at themselves as little Christ figures stooping down to serve others and see themselves as they really are without Him. Nothing more than little Judas’s, lifting up our heal against the God of the universe. But Christ stoops, and He takes that filthy, rebellious heal, and He washes it with His own blood. And He gives us His Spirit within us and His transforming Word and sends us out to others with the gospel so that they too can become clean.
If you are overwhelmed by what you are seeing out in the world, if you are overwhelmed by what you are experiencing within the walls of your own home, the best thing you can do this summer is take your eyes off your circumstances and look to Christ. We’ll be looking there with you. We’re all on the same page. same page summer plan