Introduction: Servant Leaders.
There are many leaders who our world would recognize as humble servant like leaders. People like Gandhi, Confucius, and many others would fit into this category. In our text today we will see Jesus teach on humble servant like leadership. As Christians we need to ask ourselves, “What makes the difference between Jesus Christ and other leaders who teach on humble servant like leadership?” I think the answer to that question has massive implications not only for everyone here but the whole world.
Theme: If the Cross is the heartbeat of our lives we become a culture of the Cross.
1. The Heart of the Cross—John 13.1-3.
We are now in what some call the Farewell Discourse. As Jesus sees the Cross approaching He is beginning a more intentional focus and teaching to prepare His closest disciples. Our author uses verbal clues to demonstrate this to us—READ John 13.1. Jesus clearly had the Cross in mind during these final moments with His disciples. The phrase, “…Jesus knew that his hour had come,” has been strategically used throughout the Gospel. There are at least 9 times John uses this language of the “HOUR” to hint at the CROSS. I think Jesus does not want His disciples to think of the Cross as merely an example to be followed but a foundation for how they think about every aspect of life. The worldview of the Cross is the HEARTBEAT of Jesus’ life. The Cross affects Jesus’ conversations, habits, friendships, how He thinks about everything.
What is also amazing about this verse is it reveals the power that motivated Jesus to endure the burden of the Cross. Love fuels Jesus to endure the suffering of the Cross. The phrase, “…he loved them to end,” means His love reached its full extent. Jesus’ love is exhaustive, unwavering, never strays from its focus. We think of the heart as the place where love FUELS us. Jesus’ love for God’s glory and the joy of all peoples fuels Him to the Cross.
Is the Cross of Christ centerpiece of our lives too? Does the Cross shape the way we talk, think about our careers, our relationships, parenting, feelings, how we examine social issues, our voting, and so much more? Does the love of God and the love of our neighbors fuel our friendships, marriages, parenting, how we care for plants and animals, and many of things? Love was the POWER that motivated Jesus. If most of our honest we are motivated by love, but our love is motivated by love for ourselves. We are motivated to love others as long as it is convenient for us. But this is not crucified love—this is NOT the love of the Cross.
2. The Life of the Cross—John 13.4-11.
Not only is Jesus motivated by love be He wants to show us what His love looks like in everyday stuff of LIFE. In verses 4-11 Jesus gives us an example of what His loving crucified LIFE looks like. Almost every commentary I read talked about how washing feet was considered one of the worst and grossest task someone was asked to do in their life. This was not a once a year cleaning practice, but something more regular. I was talking to a few people this and there is only example I can think of that would help you understand the significance of what is happening here.
I want to imagine someone you really respect, admire, and you perceive as an exemplary leader offers to come to your house. This could be a president, business leader, entrepreneurial, artist, athlete, or something else. Now imagine when them come to your house they say, “Can I clean out all the sink and toilet drains in your house? I want to do this because it will show you what my leadership is all about.” If you have cleaned out her drains you know how gross that task is. I mean there is all sorts of gross stuff in there. The point is, think of the most consistent gross task you have to do on a regular ongoing basis and that was what Jesus was offering to do for his disciples. Not only was Jesus doing this, but He saw this how He was called to live. This is not only an example of what Jesus came to do, but who He is.
Peter struggled with what Jesus was doing in a way that many of us would—READ John 13.6-8. When most of us think of leaders or leadership we do not think of lowly servants. We imagine if we had a vast amount of money, resources, people at our disposal, we would have them getting us coffee, doing our laundry, mowing our lawns, managing our schedules, and so on. But Jesus told Peter he did not fully understand what Jesus was doing. Peter could physically understand, but he did not understand the spiritual reality. Peter did not understand that in God’s kingdom this how we live and offer life to others. Jesus goes on to explain more—READ John 13.9-10.
Jesus wanted Peter, the disciples, and us to understand that the Cross will make us CLEAN. Once someone has been made clean by the Cross they are NOT made clean through other ways. Many of us would affirm this truth, but we function a different way. We proclaim our justification is by FAITH, but deep down we believe our sanctification is on us. We say we believe Jesus made us generally clean, but He got us started and now we have to figure out the rest. We need to figure out purity, holiness, and righteousness. But what Jesus is telling Peter is even our sanctification is on Him. We live in a fallen world, so when scars, wounds, failures and sin arise they are meant to remind us of our DESPERATE NEED for Jesus and His Cross. Dear friends, the Cross is not something we grow beyond, but desperately turn to every moment of everyday.
3. The Culture of the Cross—John 13.12-17.
In these final verses tells us this is not just about some individualistic transformed life—READ John 13.12-17. Jesus told them they would consider Him a powerful, transformative leader, and that was true. Jesus wanted them to understand they are NOT greater than Him. Jesus is the God of the universe, the Creator of heaven and earth, the One who knows the personal details of everyone here and on the face of the earth. Yet even though He is all of those things the God of the universe chose to do what would have been considered a cultural abomination to make people clean. Jesus wants His disciples to understand if He, the God of the universe, their Teacher, is willing to do this then they should too—“a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him” (John 13.16).
Jesus wants us to understand if we claim to be His servants, messengers, followers, and disciples then we WILL follow His example. We will live a life similar to Him. Simply put Jesus’ people live like Jesus, because He transforms them into that. The Cross is not some mere historical event but it transform cultures. Yes, the Cross transforms individuals, but individuals make up cultures, and if those people are transformed than there culture will. When people walk into a church, when they meet a Christian, they should be meeting a citizen of a different culture. Friends, if the Cross is the heartbeat of our lives we become a culture of the Cross.
I asked us at the beginning, what is difference between Jesus and other servant like leaders we have seen arise? I think the difference did not give us some mere example to live by, but through the Cross He has provided the transforming power to actually live like Him. If all we needed were examples there would NO need for the Cross. The Cross of Jesus Christ actually purchased the power to live differently. We can now live in such a way that seeks to glorify God, love our neighbor, and experience everlasting joy. I pray the Cross will become the heartbeat of our lives so we become a culture regularly transformed by the power of the Cross.