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Will You Follow?

John 13: 1-17

Let us walk with Jesus and His disciples along the streets of Jerusalem.
It is Passover week and Jerusalem is filled with people -- tourist, pilgrims, celebrants, local citizens -- all gathered
in Jerusalem for the great religious feast of the year.

Passover was the time when all faithful Jews celebrated the deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage.
It commemorated the sparing of Jewish lives even as the angel of death was taking the lives of the firstborn sons of Egypt.
More than any other feast, Passover set the Jews apart as a people.

The deeds of the past are on the minds of the people as they move about Jerusalem, but these are not the thoughts
of the disciples of Jesus.
Their minds are on the future.
The kingdom of God is near.
Jesus has told them this.

How can one think of feasts when something as important as this is about to take place?
They are thinking about the kingdom, and of their place in it.

They are probably thinking: "I wonder where I'll fit into Jesus' plan.
I'm sure that He has recognized my leadership ability and my outstanding qualities.
I believe that I would make a great general. I know that I'm as good as any of these others

And as these self-serving, egotistical thoughts run through the mind of each member of the disciples,
it suddenly dawns on him that the others are probably thinking the same thing.
He's probably thinking that he'd better keep an eye on them for they'll be trying to get on Jesus' good side.
He's determined not to let them get ahead of him.

So, as Jesus walks ahead, they began to push and shove to get closer to Him.
Their patience with each other is getting thin.
They are tired.
As they move down the road their shuffling feet raised a cloud of dust that covers them to the knees
and causes them to choke.

Jesus knows His disciples.
He sees what is happening.

The small group of devoted disciples is disintegrating into a pack of self-serving, spiteful children.
Can they not see what they are doing to each other and to Him?
They are destroying everything that He has been teaching them for three years.

In the mind of Jesus, the situation is critical because He knows how little time He has left to be with them.
There are so many things that He hasn't been able to tell them yet, and time is running out.

They make their way to a small inn where Jesus has made plans for their supper.
This is not just a Passover meal, but it is to be a going-away party given by Jesus.
Jesus should have been the guest of honor.
He should have received a parting gift from from the men whom He loved.

However, no one is in a mood for a party.
Their bickering and jockeying for position has spoiled the mood and ruined the occasion.
This is not the time for any of Jesus' final teachings.
None of them will hear what He has to say.
They are too busy thinking about their own plans for the future.

It is a sullen, quiet group that climbs the stairs to that little room on the second floor where the simple meal has been laid out.
Without saying a single word they all decide to depart from their usual routine.
Always before when they had come in from a long walk, one of the disciples would pick up the basin of water
and the towel and would kneel in front of the others and wash the grimy dirt road off the feet of his companions.

Usually, the first to enter the room would be the one to do this.
They had no slaves to do it for them.
They voluntarily did it for one another.
But not this time.

Their attitudes were evident.

The meal is ready for them.
The road dust is still on the disciples feet.

Jesus is sick in His heart because these are the men that He loves and trust to carry on the work after He is gone.
He sees their shortcomings, their human frailties, but all they can see is how faithful they have been to Him.

They feel that they already know everything they need to know for the days ahead, but Jesus knows
that they have to see how wrong they are. So Jesus decides to teach them a message of renewal and self-sacrificial service.
He lays aside His robe, just as He will later lay aside His life for mankind, and He kneels down beside the men
who have called him, Teacher, and He begins to wash the filthy dirt from their feet.

The room is silent.
The tension is so thick that you could cut it with a knife.

As Jesus demonstrates His willingness to serve them, the disciples realize how petty and selfish they have been.
They sit there, red-faced, as He continues to wash the dust from their feet.
The water in the basin gets dirtier and dirtier, and the disciples feel lower and lower.

After a little discussion with Peter about whether or not he is going to let Jesus wash his feet,
Jesus completes the task, and the men sit down to supper.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell us that this is the time when Jesus instituted the supper that we are going to
celebrate again in a few moments.
John doesn't mention this fact, because it was probably enough for him that Jesus washed the disciple's feet.
John saw the importance of the power of a great example.

That is just as true today as it was then.

We can talk it, we can preach it, we can become educated about it, we can even sing it, but until we demonstrate
servanthood through our own example, we will have no impact on the world.
We will have no impact on our families or our friends.
When we are content to let others serve us and take no steps to serve others, we have not learned from the example of Christ.

Albert Schweitzer said that only those are happy who have learned to serve.
We serve by caring and helping to meet human needs, most especially the need everyone has for a relationship with God.

Missionary Parkes Marler served in South Korea working among 550 lepers.

When he first went to this assignment, he was afraid of these diseased people.
Many have lost their fingers, hands, ears, and noses.
They were all disfigured by the leprosy.

However, he soon came to love them dearly.
As he preached to them, many became believers and were baptized.

Missionary Marler told about hearing a Korean leper lady sing the gospel song,
"Where He Leads Me I Will Follow."

Because part of her lips were gone the words sounded as if she were singing,
"Where He Needs Me I Will Follow."

That is our role.
That is our calling.

The Lord's Supper serves as our reminder to follow the example of Christ through serving.
Will we follow?

Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
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