16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.
17 If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.
18 I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me.
19 Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he.
20 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.
Prophecy: Jesus foretells the betrayal of Judas, in order that afterwards the disciples might indeed believe that He is the Son of God.
I used to sit under the teaching of an old preacher who frequently taught about numerology, or the study of the symbolism of numbers. While it is possible to go too far in this interpretive mode (Augustine is one example of going too far—numbers are forever being explained by him.), this preacher taught that every time chapter 13 was encountered there was something wrong. I thought, as a young man, that I had caught him, and asked him, ‘What’s wrong with Chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians?’ This chapter is famous for its love theme, and stands as one of the highest expressions of the truest expressions of man. The preacher had the whole congregation memorize this chapter because we lacked love for each other, a fact I should have remembered before I objected. He replied to me without a second’s hesitation, ‘There is too little love being shown, even among Christians.’
At any rate, I come to the 13th chapter of John, and I do find something terrible wrong. The chapter begins with Judas being prompted by Satan to betray Jesus (verse 2) and that is so terribly wrong. In the passage today, in verse 13: “He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me”, a quotation that Jesus is making from Psalm 41. McGee opens his commentary on this passage noting: “The third reason is that another person had entered into the room. There was an uninvited guest present. His name was Satan. We speak of thirteen persons in the Upper Room, but actually, there were fourteen because Satan was there. Satan put into the heart of Judas Iscariot to betray Him. Wherever the Devil gets into Christian work, others are affected and the Lord must wash them. He must wash us if we are to have fellowship with Him.”
There is great irony unfolding in these chapters which denote the last week of Jesus. On the one hand, the greatest discourse of Jesus is given to his disciples, and some of the greatest treasures are told privately to them. Jesus is letting his disciples know of the full estate that they are coming to, showing them that God is lifting them far above any station that they could ever have dreamed about, and Jesus is also giving us a higher hope than ever conceived as He unfolds the plan of salvation to those with faith.
The main irony is found in Judas; that someone should betray Jesus was foretold long ago in the Psalms, but the timing of the betrayal exactly fulfills Psalm 41. What irony there is when this is the very hour at which Jesus gives his last words, knowing time is short, and that there are things which must be said before He dies. But there is also irony in the fact that Jesus tells us of the dizzying heights to which He will raise us, but He does so only after telling us that we ought to wash one another’s feet. So at once I am raised up beyond expectation and told to humble myself beyond expectation.
Is that not the essence of my Savior? Has He not been lifted up, that every knee should bow, and that He should be above every other name? And yet, did He not humble Himself, counting Himself of no repute, and becoming obedient to death on the cross? What a life I am called to! I can never follow Jesus that way, because my heart and life are simply not good enough. But in realizing that it is impossible for me to live this life in my own power, I make the first step towards actually getting there. In the discourse that follows Jesus outlines his plan for the disciples and talks about His very Spirit being given to us, and this that we have no hope of accomplishing in our own power, becomes possible as we yield to the leadership of that Spirit.
I fear we Christians have become too self-centered, and seek to please ourselves rather than others. Tozer noted this trend even in his day: “In the United States and Canada the middle class today possesses more earthly goods and lives in greater luxury than emperors and maharajas did a short century ago. And since the bulk of Christians comes from this class it is not difficult to see why the apocalyptic hope has all but disappeared from among us. It is hard to focus attention upon a better world to come when a more comfortable one than this can hardly be imagined.” If it was true in Tozer’s day, it is even more true today. We in the United States are in what is called the “post-Christian” era. I may fight against this declaration, and I do; I may pray hard for a revival to sweep my country once more, and I do; I may struggle to find Christians honoring truth in an increasingly decadent society, and I do; but I cannot help but be confronted on every side by the generation that knows not Christ.
When we seek blessings and goods for ourselves we tend to forget about the imminent return of Christ Jesus, who asked, “When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on the earth?” Surely in America He will find divorce, broken homes, moral degeneration, amid a growing and alarming tolerance for sin on the part of Christians. Is it not time to fall on our faces before God in repentance? In the Old Testament when kings read the Law, and discovered their own wickedness and short-comings, they covered themselves in sackcloth and ashes. Perhaps we need ourselves to get out the sackcloth and ashes. It is the first step toward revival of a desperately lost nation. And while we are at it, perhaps we can learn anew to wash one another’s feet.
Tozer, A.W. (2010-06-03). Man - The Dwelling Place of God (Kindle Locations 1918-1921). Unknown. Kindle Edition.
McGee, J. Vernon (1990-01-30). Thru the Bible 1-5 (5 Volume Set) (Kindle Locations 102598-102601). Grupo Nelson. Kindle Edition.
O For A Closer Walk With God1. O for a closer walk with God,
A calm and heavenly frame;
A light to shine upon the road
That leads me to the Lamb!
2. Where is the blessedness I knew,
When first I saw the Lord?
Where is the soul refreshing view
Of Jesus and His word?
3. What peaceful hours I once enjoyed!
How sweet their memory still!
But they have left and aching void
The world can never fill.
4. Return, O holy Dove, return,
Sweet messenger of rest!
I hate the sins that made Thee mourn,
And drove Thee from my breast.
5. The dearest idol I have known,
Whate'er that idol be,
Help me to tear it from Thy throne,
And worship only Thee.
6. So shall my walk be close with God,
Calm and serene my frame;
So purer light shall mark the road
That leads me to the Lamb.
Lyrics: William Cowper