Take Up Your Washbasin and Towel!

Last night, at the combined Holy Thursday service of the Centre Grove and Curwensville UMCs, my sermon was on the example of Jesus in washing the feet of his disciples, hours before his betrayal.

The story in John 13 is loaded with topics and lessons but I chose to focus on Jesus’ example. Jesus’ example teaches us to be “doers of the word and not only hearers” (James 1.22, CEB).

After Jesus washes his disciples’ feet, he says …

Do you know what I’ve done for you? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you speak correctly, because I am. 14 If I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you too must wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example: just as I have done, you also must do. 16 I assure you, servants aren’t greater than their master, nor are those who are sent greater than the one who sent them. 17 Since you know these things, you will be happy if you do them. (John 13.12-17)

Our faith (what we know) and action (what we do) must go hand in hand. Jesus says, “Since you know these things, you will be happy if you do them.”

But what drove Jesus to wash his disciples’ feet (an action performed by the lowliest of servants, in his day)? It’s the same thing that drove Jesus to the cross—love! At the beginning of the story in John 13, we’re told that Jesus, “having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them fully.” (Psalm 36.7 says, “Your faithful love is priceless, God!”)

Before Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, he “took off his robes,” and after he washed their feet, “he put on his robes and returned to his place at the table.” This is the same language Jesus used when he talked about laying down his life and taking it back up. We, too, are called to lay down our lives for others.

Jesus gave us an example. The point is …

God’s love compels us to lay down our lives for others!

Jesus gave us an example. Now, he sends us. After washing his disciples’ feet, Jesus talked about “those who are sent.” Interestingly, Jesus’ first words to his disciples after his resurrection were, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I am sending you” (John 20.21).

As people who have taken up their crosses, Jesus teaches us to also take up our washbasins and towels, to lay down our lives for others by serving them with humility.

After this experience, leading up to his betrayal later that night, Jesus continued talking about our call to love others …

34 “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. 35 This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.” (John 13.34-35)

12 This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends. … 16 You didn’t choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you could go and produce fruit and so that your fruit could last. (John 15.12-13,16)

Take up for washbasin and towel!

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