The stories about Jesus recorded in the four different accounts of his work and ministry on the earth give us very different pictures of his life and work. Especially the Gospel account by John that was written some thirty years after the other three, points to very different things as a whole from those recorded by Matthew, Mark and Luke. John was with Jesus as one of the very early disciples and writes as an eye witness to the conversations, the signs the he performed and his life among the people. One thing that John brings out in a powerful way that I want to focus on today is that in following Jesus it is vital to not only study and learn what he said and did, but to do what he said, to follow his example in life.
One story that makes this point powerfully is in John 13. It was right at the end of his ministry on earth. He knew his hour had come that he should leave this world and return to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the very end. It was the night before the Passover and Satan had already entered the heart of Judas to move him to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. Jesus and the twelve were together in the upper room taking of the Passover meal when Jesus arose from the table, laid aside his outer garments and wrapped a towel around this waist, took a basin and filled it was water and began to wash the disciples feet. That was normally the job of a servant. The roads were dusty or muddy. Their shoes were mere sandals which amounted to a strip of leather with straps to hold them on. So their feet became filthy. Washing of feet before a meal wasn’t just good hospitality. It was a real need. There weren’t any servants there. None of the disciples were ready to put themselves into the place of the servant and admit they were somehow beneath the others. Jesus, knew who he was. He knew he was from God and was returning to God. “SO HE AROSE AND LAID ASIDE HIS GARMENTS AND WRAPPED THE TOWEL AROUND HIS WAIST.” His knowledge of who he was made it possible for him to take the place of the servant.
He washed their feet one at a time, including Judas’ feet. I might have used a steel brush to work on Judas’ feet, but I suspect Jesus was tender and especially gentle with Judas. When he finished washing their feet and put his garments back on he said to them, “You don’t know what I’ve done to you. You will know later. You call me teacher and Lord and that is good for so I am. If I your teacher and Lord have washed your feet you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have left you an example. A servant is not above his master or a messenger above the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you IF YOU DO THEM.”
Calling Jesus teacher and Lord is important. But only if we actually follow His teaching and obey him as Lord. It is great to know what Jesus did and why. It is important to understand his lessons. But the blessings only come when we DO THEM. Please understand this isn’t some rare thing Jesus said on one occasion but wasn’t a pattern for him. Two chapters later he declared, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” A little later in that chapter he will say, “He that loves me is the one who keeps my commandments.” In Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Luke records Jesus saying, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and not do the things that I say?”
Our Lord’s grace is truly amazing. His love won’t stop even when we are failures like the twelve, whom he said in the same chapter of John 13 would all forsake him. Judas would betray him and Peter would deny him. Yet he loved them to the very end. But please understand something. His unfailing love for Judas, didn’t mean that Judas wasn’t lost. He called him the Son of perdition. He said it would have been better for him to have a millstone tied around his waist and be cast into the sea than to betray him. Peter said in Acts one that when Judas hanged himself he went to his own place. Jesus loved him. He would die for him. His grace was there for him. But he was lost eternally.
The insane notion that because God loves us and he is gracious toward us that we can’t be lost is not only a perversion of all God says, it is the exact opposite of what the New Testament teaches from beginning to end. “God’s grace that brings salvation has appeared to all people teaching us to deny ungodliness and worldly lust and to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world.” (Titus 2:11-13) We can’t be separated from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus according to Romans 8. But we can be separated from God. We can turn back, fall away and even fall so far that it is impossible to renew us to repentance. (Hebrews 6:4-6) The Book of Romans is a powerful declaration of how we are saved by grace through faith and that we can’t earn our way into a right relationship with God. But it is immediately after his declaration in Romans 5 that where sin abounded grace abounded all the more that Paul says in chapter 6:16-17, “Don’t you know that to whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants you are whom you obey, whether of sin that leads to death or to obedience that leads to righteousness. But thank God you have obeyed from the heart that form of teaching delivered to you and are then made free from sin you became the servants of righteousness.”
God’s love and grace are beyond imagination. But grace isn’t liberty to live anyway we want and expect to have the blessings of glory and salvation. James was right when he said, “Faith without works is dead being alone.” The blessings come when we know his will and do them, not when we know his will and talk about it.