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In the Upper Room


The Upper Room

When He had finished washing their feet, He put on His clothes and returned to His place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” He asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them." (John 13:12-17 NIV)


In his gospel about the life of Jesus, the Apostle John gives us a very different picture of what went on in the Upper Room at the Last Supper. Spread over five chapters, John ignores the Seder meal itself - the changing of the meaning of the Bread and the Cup from deliverance from slavery in Egypt to deliverance from sin and death. Instead, John focuses on Jesus' washing of the disciples' feet and His extensive teaching about the Holy Spirit, ending with Jesus' prayer for His disciples (and us) in chapter 17.


It all begins with John 13:1: It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.


He loved them to the end.


The act of washing feet in that culture was a profound act of humility and service. It was the work of the household slave to wash the feet of travelers who were welcomed into the home. Everyone at the table that night knew that Jesus, the Master, was stooping to serve them like a slave. Peter wasn't even going to allow Jesus to wash His feet. He knew the roles should be reversed and Peter should be washing his Master's feet. But Jesus told Peter, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” (John 13:8b) Peter relented and allowed Jesus, his Master, to become his servant.


He loved them to the end.


The things Jesus taught His disciples in the next four chapters demonstrate the depths of His love for us. He taught them about finding peace in Him - Let not your hearts be troubled... (John 14:1ff NIV). He taught them about abiding in Him and producing fruit - “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5 NIV) He taught them about the work of the Holy Spirit to guide and protect us in a world that hates us - “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV) And He taught them about His heart for us in His prayer for us - "Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one." (John 17:11b NIV).


He loved them to the end.


After this final, intimate time with them, Jesus went to Gethsemane, was arrested, stood trial at both the High Priest's house and in Pilate's Hall, walked the Via Dolorosa (the way of sorrow), laid down His life in a brutal execution at Golgotha, and then conquered death for us by rising from the dead at the garden tomb.


This is the Passion of the Christ, being poured out for the rebellious, lost, broken people whom He created to love and to be loved by. It is life changing to see the depth of His passion - the extent of His love - for you and for me. No one else has ever loved me like that. No one else ever will.


And if the love of Jesus fills my heart and begins to direct my life, I will reflect the deep love of my Lord for other people. "Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet." Servants of Jesus Christ serve others. We follow our Master's example. We humble ourselves to live out the servant's role. Nothing is beneath us when it comes to spending our lives for others whom we love, and whom God loves through us. I wish I did not have to admit that I fall short of this servant example of my Savior and Lord. Far too often I instinctively draw back from self-sacrifice into "What's in it for me?"


He loved them to the end.


Jesus is still loving His disciples like that. He still loves me like that. He still loves you like that. And He will love us to the end of our earthly lives and beyond. In the confidence and assurance of that great love, we are set free from our selfish, fallen sin nature to begin to choose to follow Jesus as Lord and allow Him to put us in places of humility, sacrifice and service that demonstrate His love to the end. That is the task until the end of this life and the beginning of eternity.


So be it. Amen.

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