Here is Night #3’s message.
The first night we talked extensively about the first Passover…and last night we talked specifically about Jesus being our Passover Lamb. We didn’t talk much about what happened after that initial Passover, though.
Exodus 12:14-17 ESV
14 “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast. 15 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven out of your houses, for if anyone eats what is leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. 16 On the first day you shall hold a holy assembly, and on the seventh day a holy assembly. No work shall be done on those days. But what everyone needs to eat, that alone may be prepared by you. 17 And you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day, throughout your generations, as a statute forever.
God wanted the Israelites to remember this event for generations. And so…He made it into a yearly festival. Folks would travel from miles around and gather. They would sacrifice their lambs. They would share the meal. And it would be a huge deal.
And Jesus, being a good Jew, would have done this as well. The passages that we are going to look at tonight center around the Passover celebration…and Jesus was going to participate in with his disciples. This would be the last week of his life on earth…and so these are the days leading up to his arrest, trial, and crucifixion.
And what we are going to see first tonight is Jesus taking very common practices in his day…traditions…and giving them new meaning.
John 13:1-17 ESV
13:1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 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, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
It’s the beginning of the Feast of the Passover…and the passage says that Jesus knew that his time had come to leave this world. Jesus knew that his death was coming.
You know…in movies and on TV and even sometimes in the real news, you hear about someone who has gone to the doctor and gotten a bad report. Maybe it’s cancer and they only have a few weeks to live. What do they do? Usually they will go and spend all of their money on things that they want. They will take a great vacation or buy a really fancy sports car or go skydiving. And it’s all about the experiences that THEY can have before they die. How many stories have you heard of someone who hears that they are dying…and they decide to go to a homeless shelter a feed the hungry? Or they decide to go next door and mow their elderly neighbors yard?
Jesus knew his death was coming…and instead of becoming self-focused and self-absorbed with all of the terrible things he was facing…he decided to serve his friends. The passage says that he just kept on loving them…this passage shows us that love leads to service.
In fact, verse 3 says that God had given everything in Jesus’ hands. He had all of the power, all the authority, all of the everything. And if you had all of the power, all of the authority, all of the everything…what would you do? I can tell you what Jesus did: he got up from his meal, took of his outer clothes, and took a towel and tied it around his waist. He poured some water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet and dried them off with the towel around his waist. With all the power, authority, and everything…Jesus served.
Seems backwards, doesn’t it? Foot washing in these days was so degrading of a task that a master of a house who owns slaves wouldn’t even make his Jewish slaves do it…he would make Gentile slaves do it. That’s why Peter responds the way that he does: he loves Jesus too much to let him do things that even slaves don’t do. In his mind, Jesus would never be so degraded as to dress up like a slave and do what was not even required by a Jewish slave.
And you know what blows my mind…the passage says that the devil had already put it in the heart of Judas Iscariot to betray Jesus. But does the passage say anything about Jesus skipping over Judas’ feet? No. Jesus even washed the feet of his enemies. And that’s consistent with what Jesus teaches us to do…love our enemies.
M. Scott Peck tells that the foot washing of Christ was one of the most significant events in Jesus’ life. He says, “Until that moment the whole point of things had been for someone to get on top, and once he had gotten on top, to stay on top or else attempt to get further up on top. But here this man, already on top—who was rabbi, teacher, master—suddenly got down on the bottom and began to wash the feet of his followers. In that one act, Jesus symbolically overturned the whole social order. Hardly comprehending what was happening, even his own disciples were almost horrified by his behavior.”
Jesus symbolically overturned the whole social order. The top is no longer on the top. Jesus was definitely on the top…he says, “I am the Lord and the Teacher. And if I…being THE Lord and THE Teacher…wash your feet, you surely should do the same.”
He asks us to do the same for others…including the Judas Iscariots in our life. Now, it was customary for people who had guests in their house to wash their feet in these regions. It was a tradition. And Jesus takes this very common tradition…and turns it all over on its head and gives it a brand new meaning. The washing of feet wasn’t just washing feet anymore…it was being a humble servant of others.
It’s interesting that Jesus asks us to do this. In other places in the Scriptures, he asks us to baptize and teach others and to share communion…which we will talk about in a minute. And we do those things…we share communion and baptize, but we don’t often have feet-washing services. There are some churches that have these feet-washing services. I think most of us wouldn’t like to do it because it would be too unsophisticated or backcountry or something… but that’s exactly the point. Jesus did not care about dignity or appearances or his reputation. He became a slave to others. I wonder, if we would literally wash each other’s feet, if we wouldn’t be reminded that Christ did the very same thing?
But the point remains…Jesus took the tradition of foot-washing and turned it upside-down and used it to show us that he has called us to become a slave towards others.
Let’s look at what else happens this night.
Luke 22:14-20 ESV
14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
Jesus and his followers are getting ready to share in the traditional meal of the Passover. This was a very sacred, special event…rich in tradition. And Jesus honored a lot of these traditions, but not all of them.
Remember a few nights ago when we talked about the 4th Element of the Sacrifice? That element stated that the people prepared and then ate the Passover. And do you remember how they prepared? They had their belts fastened…their sandals on their feet…and their staff in their hand. And God wanted them to do that so that they could walk out the door quickly when Pharaoh released them. The belts were fastened…and mostly likely, they had their cloaks tucked into their belts…that would help them walk. And their sandals on and their staff in their hands…all to help them walk. I think we can probably deduce that they would eat the meal standing up.
However, in a parallel passage for this story in Mark 14…it states that Jesus and his disciples ate their Passover meal reclining…which is how they usually ate in this day…laying down on a pillow.
So…Jesus honors tradition. He was eating the meal. But he also has a tendency to break tradition…by doing so laying down. There is a great place for tradition in our faith. They have their place. They remind us of what happened long ago. However, if the traditions we honor lose their meaning…and we observe that tradition just because “we have always done it that way”—then it may no longer be worthy of being observed.
And that is what we are going to see with Jesus and the Passover meal tradition tonight. He takes something that the Jews have done for so long…and he changes the meaning of it and turns it into something new. And that new thing…we participate in that every time we take communion.
And so we are going to put everything together from the last 2 nights tonight. The Jews celebrated the Passover tradition. They chose their lamb and sacrificed it. And they remembered that the blood of that lamb over the doorframes secured their lives. And they ate this meal to remember that.
But Jesus does what he does…he takes it and gives it a new meaning. Let me tell you story.
In Jesus’ day, families usually lived in a cluster of building called insulas. These insulas were usually located around a courtyard, and entire families would live together in these insulas. Grandparents, parents, children, grandchildren, aunts, uncles…all would love together and constantly interact with each other in these insulas.
So let’s say that we have the son of a family in this insula. And this son is of the age to marry. The father of the groom and the father of the bride would negotiate what was called a bride price. The is a monetary amount that the groom’s family would pay the bride’s family for her…not as an exchange of property, but because both families realized that the bride leaving her family would be a great loss. And they were compensated for that loss.
The bride then and the groom would sit down to a meal together with their families. The groom would have a cup of wine in front of him. He would take a sip from the cup of wine and then slide the cup across the table to the bride. What he was doing was symbolically saying that he wanted to make a covenant of marriage with her. If she drank from the cup he gave her, she was agreeing to the covenant and basically sealing their engagement. From that point on, she was referred to as “one bought with a price” and seen as an engaged woman.
Then the groom would get up from the table and leave and return to his father’s home…the insula. And the groom would begin to build new rooms on to the insula for he and his bride. Meanwhile, the bride would prepare for her groom’s return. Nobody knew when he would come back…to build on the insula could take some time, but she didn’t want to risk missing him; she wanted to be prepared. Because on the day he came back for her, it would be their wedding day. So she had to be ready. She didn’t want to be caught unprepared.
When the groom was done with his building on the insula, and when it met his father’s approval, he would travel back to his bride. He would then blow a shofar, which is a ram’s horn. The bride would hear it, she would know that her groom and come back, and that her wedding day had arrived.
Can we see what Jesus is doing here at the Last Supper? He took what had become a great tradition and gave it a new meaning.
Like we just read in Luke, Jesus took a cup of wine…took a drink out of it…and then slid it across the table and shared it with his disciples. Just like the groom does with the bride. His disciples would have immediately recognized that Jesus was…in essence…proposing to them, wanting to enter into a covenant with him. He even says that the cup is a “new covenant.” And all of the disciples shared that cup, thus entering into the covenant with Jesus.
And then…this is what Jesus says:
John 14:2-3 ESV
2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
Do you see what has just happened? He just had a cup of wine…and gave it to his disciples. And then he says that his father’s house has many rooms…insulas. And that he, as the groom, is going away to prepare a place for his bride. And if he goes away to prepare a place for his bride, he will come back to get her.
Jesus confesses his great love for his bride. He is saying, at the Last Supper, that he loves us so much that he would pay the bride price…he would give his life for ours. And he seals it with a covenant…and then goes to prepare a place for us…and if he does that, than we know that he will come back to get us to take us to where he is.
So…imagine the beauty of that night for Jesus and his disciples. He takes these traditions and gives them new meaning. I think that for a lot of us…the taking of communion has become a stale tradition that we just do every week because we have always just done it every week. And it has lost its meaning.
But tonight…you have discovered new meaning.
This night for Jesus and his disciples…much like our night…would have been very meaningful spiritually for them. For lack of a better word…it would have been a spiritual high or a spiritual mountaintop.
And camp is the same way for us…and this night and last night have been the same way…spiritually high.
But I want us to look at something. This is what happens immediately after the washing of feet and the wedding imagery and the new understanding of communion.
Luke 22:24 ESV
24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.
What?! Can you believe it? They come out of this super-meaningful spiritual moment…and immediately, they begin bickering amongst themselves as to which one of them was the greatest.
They immediately went back to their old way of life. After all, this wasn’t the first time that they had this argument. In Matthew 18, this same argument came up. At one point, even the mommy of two of the disciples came up to Jesus and asked that her sons be the greatest in Jesus’ kingdom. Crazy…they were so lame that they had to have mom come and vouch for them.
They went back to their old way of life after having this amazing encounter with Jesus. You see…they knew that Jesus was the King. And they knew that Kings had people in their kingdoms who were officers, statesmen, and other important officials. And they were jockeying for position.
But think about what they had just witnessed. Jesus, their King, had taken the role of a slave. And even told them that they should do the same thing.
The disciples knew Jesus was a king…but they expected him to be a king like all the other kings in the world. But in case you didn’t notice…Jesus is not like all the other kings.
Jesus has to respond:
Luke 22:25-26 ESV
25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.
The kings of the world have authority…they have subjects…they tell people where to go and what to do and have people bring them their food and on and on.
But then Jesus makes a statement that changes everything: “But not so with you.”