His Great Love # 8
Love Serving, continued -
The Disciples, Personal Interests Dominating, continued -
So they came to the upper room which Jesus had taken. In every nicely-appointed guest house or guest chamber in Jerusalem, just inside the door was a little table, and upon it a basin, with a jug of scented water and an apron and a towel. If it were the house of a wealthy or well-to-do person, there would be a servant in attendance. But when Jesus took the room He did not employ a servant, and only the things were there. And the disciples arrive in this spirit, with this mentality, in the upper room - annoyed, irritated, eyeing one another, and they pas in through the door. They look up at the ceiling, or somewhere else, but none of them sees the basin! They are not in a mood for that sort of thing at all. The supper is ready, and they sit down to supper with unwashed feet. Now when I was a young man, there were two cities which were said to e at that time the two dirtiest cities in the world, and one of them was Jerusalem; but even that had a semblance of sanitation. But there was no such thing in the days when the Lord was there. All the garbage and refuse was pitched out into the street. Think of a hot day in the east, the dust and the mess and the smell! They had come through that and gone in. That basin was not a thing that you could just pass by as though it did not mean anything - some quite unnecessary thing. There was a real need for it and for that scented water. But no, they had carefully not seen it!
That is the very strong setting of the whole scene. It is not exaggerated, it is only bringing out the details that are here, a matter of reading between the lines. They had all passed by and sat down to supper.
The Servant Spirit Lacking
Now, let us look at these men themselves. There feelings had been irritated and accentuated; and you know, when we get like that, what excuses we make and how we argue and bring up all we can to support our position. Is that not human nature?
There was Matthew. Now Matthew had taken on service with the alien government in occupation and had made a lot of money out of it, so much so that when Jesus called him to discipleship, he made a great feast for all his friends. He could not have made a great feast without having money, and he could not have had an expensive feast without having servants. So Matthew was doubtless a man who had always someone to wash his feet, and who thought of himself as the big man. No servant, he!
There were James and John. They were friends of the High Priest and had access to the High Priest's court; so they were somebody in the social world, in the world of public influence and importance.
And there was Peter, and Peter could, under these conditions, argue like this - "I am one of the inner three; I have always been privileged above the rest. I have been recognized as something more than the others. Whenever the Lord has wanted something special, I have been one of the three with Him, so it is not my place to wait on the others."
The Lord - Prompted By Love To Lowly Service
I am not saying all this merely to draw an entertaining or vivid picture. It is by way of getting the right setting for our Lord. In that atmosphere, in the presence of that mentality, that attitude: false, artificial, unworthy, and oh, so petty, so mean, so contemptible: "He...riseth from supper" - to perform Himself the task they all avoided. What a significance there is in John's statement in that connection! - "knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He came forth from God, and goeth unto God." This One it is Who rises from supper, and (following, no doubt, what was the usual custom) goes quietly over to the door and takes off His outer robe and lays it down, takes the apron (the servant's apron) and puts it on, ties the towel round His waist, pours water into the basin, and comes to wash His disciples feet. "Having loved His own that were in the world (and just now, at any rate, so very much of the world), He loved them unto the end (unto the uttermost)".
The question immediately arises, and is answered here, What is love to the uttermost? What is the love of Christ? What is the love of God? It is NOT in sentimental words. No, this is it. It is NOT love for the lovely and the lovable, only, for those whom you cannot help loving. This is the love to the uttermost.
Our Cleansing The Outcome Of Selfless Love
The rest of His explanation, His comment, His message founded upon what He had done, does bring us all up short for He said, "What I do Thou knowest not now, but Thou shalt understand afterwards" And what did they know afterward? They came to know that the world itself was a filthy place, deep-dyed in sin's degradation, with all the muck and refuse of hell spread over it - worse than the streets of Jerusalem - and men had to be saved from that degradation, cleansed from all that filthiness; and it was going to be done, not by a haughty Matthew nor a self-important Peter, but by the Lamb of God becoming "obedient unto death, yea, the death of the Cross" (Phil. 2:8). It was going to be done by stripping by humbling, by emptying, by the spirit of uttermost service - service of this kind, Christ's service to us. Oh, what humiliation, what emptying, lies behind our cleansing! What it has cost! That is what He calls love - not the finding of a place for ourselves in the Kingdom, being something important, giving ourselves airs. Moffatt translates that fragment in 1 Corinthians 13 - "Love...doth not behave itself unseemly," - as "Love giveth itself no airs." We look at the Lord Jesus, and there we see love. To think for a moment of what any given thing is going to mean to our pride, to our influence, to our position, to our prestige, never comes in with love. Love, this love, never leaves room for such a thing as standing up for our rights, for saying they are not being recognized, that we are not being given our place. Oh no, there is none of that here. If the Lord Jesus had taken that position, He certainly would never have enacted this object lesson of love, and would never have gone to the Cross at all; and we should never have been cleansed and saved from this world. It is a sad picture from one standpoint.
(continued with # 9 - The Call to Fellowship With Him In Servanthood