Sermon on John 13:1-15 (by Martin Damašek)

Dear brothers and sisters,

the story of washing the disciples´ feet is not merely a “beautiful story” of “feeling for the other one” or a mere demonstration of human humility that ought to be followed to become “a good man”. Something much more serious and deeper is going on in the Gospel text.

In the Gospel narrative, we encounter the root of sin, namely the human pride presented in Peter. This pride manifests the need for the law that restrains man and mirrors his sin.

In Peter´s dialogue with Jesus, we have a deep dive into the very core and root of sin and we see the need for the law which reflects the reality of sin and curbs it to manage it so we may at least live. This root of sin is pride. The underlying pride in Peter´s heart does not allow him to love and trust the Lord (1st commandment). Rather, Peter goes into an argument. Or like the people of Babel, Peter considers something more important, than the Word of the Lord – namely, the pride and legal status and habit that Peter ascribes to Jesus (that is the temptation of the theology of glory).

But we do not have to go to any high theology to see our own sins.

Peter is not alone with his sin and its root, pride. Rather, Peter represents me and you. In Peter, we can see ourselves: Do you promptly and easily slip into an argument or an opinion exchange instead of loving your neighbor by gently listening? I do.  And often just listening is the most loving receiving of our neighbors. 

Or, like Peter, do we not proudly stick to our social and other habits and positions instead of coming to Christ´s Church for the only thing that can change our lives, i.e. the Word? How often do we slip back to the old Adam when we think that we are better than the Slovaks or the Czechs or the Americans or the other way around. 

Or, how often do we boast and take pleasure in showing off by opulent parties or weddings instead of loving our neighbor by coming to him/her, being with him/her and listening to him/her. How scandalized and ashamed we would be coming to a wedding without any gift and receiving a gift from the bridegroom at the wedding party. But that exactly is the way how we really are to Christ – miserable beggars who can only receive the mercy to be invited. 

Just allow yourself to realize: It takes more denial of pride in man to receive than to give.  But Peter was rather reluctant to receive.

This sin cannot be overcome with the law. To overcome one´s pride, one needs to open up for receiving a gift, remember, it takes more humility to receive than to give.

Rather than a nice and sentimental moral story, today´s Scripture text is a great Gospel of the saving love of God.  

First, Jesus is the Teacher and the Lord who came from God and received all things into His hands from the Father (v. 13:3 and 13:13). That is the first great Gospel of the text. The Son of God who had been given all power had come to our world. We are not alone!

Second, the Lord, out of His love to His own who are in the world (v. 13:2), took the scandal (v. 13:4, rose from supper) and became a slave for His loved ones (v. 13:4). The Lord of lords came among His loved ones and became the lowest among us.  In fact, taking a place of a slave when taking off his outer garment and taking a job of a slave. So much He cares for the most despised and overlooked. We are not alone even when we become so replaceable.

Third, when His hour came (v. 13:1), Jesus washes not merely the body but man´s sins by His blood shed on the cross. The feet washing is a great Gospel of the ultimate promise and gift of sin removal and salvation (v. 13:8, 12). The Son of God loved His own in the world that He came to wash us, so we may dine with Him in eternity. We are not alone and we are not left to the despair of our sin! We can run to the cross of our Lord who came among us, for us and shares His blood of salvation with us.

And this is the ultimate gift of grace by God: To receive his wonderful gift of the Gospel of His Son coming among us as the Teacher and the Lord, but also coming among His loved ones as a slave so we are not alone, coming among us to wash not only the disciples´ feet but to wash our sins too.  The Lord of lords, with all power and might having been given to Him, loves us so much that He came among us as one of us and gave us the amazing gift of His blood that He shed on the cross for the sake of our salvation. It is finished, it is done and nothing can separate us from His love and nobody can steal our salvation. That is our joy and comfort. So, let us take courage now in this world and let us testify of this great gift, comfort and joy.

Thanks be to God!