Second Baptist Church Lincoln
July 8, 2018
5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
12 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. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
Recently, we held our State Convention here in our church building. It was a fun event and we had some excellent speakers. Prior to the convention, the pastors had a one-day seminar with Lee Spitzer. He spoke on an area of relationships that I suspect he also spoke about at First Baptist years ago when he pastored there. He spoke on friendships. He broke it down into various levels of friendship. He asked the group to evaluate their own friendships, and he asked the question, “How many would you include in your closest circle of friends.?” I thought about it a while, and it was very hard to evaluate how close some of the relationships really are.
I was hard-pressed to come up with even a small list, based upon the level of friendship Lee was describing. Someone I would share my deepest thoughts. Someone I would share what is really important to me. Someone with whom I would confide over my greatest struggles. As I looked around the room, I realized I wasn’t alone.
If I were to ask you the same questions Lee asked that morning, I think I would get a similar response. Most of us do fine when it comes to casual friendship and what we would call “Acquaintances.” It is safe to keep people at an arm’s length. If something happens to jeopardize the friendship, there is a much easier exit from a casual friendship. So we end up having many more casual relationships, and very few (if any) deep, rich, and abiding relationships.
You will recall that we are in the midst of a sermon series on “Becoming an Alongside.” It comes from the book, “The Ways of the Alongsider” by Bill Mowry. We are on point number six of becoming an alongsider, and today’s sermon is about “going deep” into a friendship. Three of the six lessons have been about relationships. That shows how important relationships are in this whole process. For the sake of review, an alongsider is “a growing Christian who comes long side a newer or weak Christian to help bring them into a deeper and closer relationship with Christ.” Today, we are looking at the importance of relationships moving to a deeper level.
Most often, we talk about relationships moving to a deeper level when it comes to romantic love such as marital relationships. However, this is also true of the Agape love (Love that comes from God.) It too, needs to move to a deeper level. Let’s look what is happening in the 13th chapter of John. Jesus has just gathered in the upper room with his disciples. He strips off his outer garment and kneels down and begins to wash his disciples feet. In that culture, this is the act of a servant toward the master of the house or any guests that enter. The disciples were clearly confused by his actions. Peter said, “Lord, I will never let you wash my feet.” And Jesus replied, “Then you will have no part of me.”
What Jesus is doing here, is teaching them to be a servant. They are probably under the impression, that Jesus is this great healer, great teacher, great ruler, and is clearly the Son of God. So if that’s the case, and they are his immediate followers (his inner circle), That they carry with them a pretty high status. They have a pretty good position of power being this close to the almighty. And Jesus takes them down a few notches as he demonstrates what a real master is -- he’s a servant. He takes on the role of a common household slave. And just in case they missed it, he does a little debriefing session. He asks them, “Do you know what it is that I have done here?” He wants to know if they really caught it. “You call me master and Lord, let’s see if you are willing to follow my example. Now wash each other’s feet.”
The University of Sioux Falls has a path for their student body that includes being a servant. Service is taught in the classroom through the curriculum, it is taught on the athletic field through sportsmanship. It is taught through the various disciplines and career choices. So in the middle of campus, is this statue. Jesus washing his disciple’s feet. It stands as a reminder to the students as they walk from class-to-class what their role in life is. To be a servant. Be a servant to others. Being an alongsider to others is not assuming a position of power and influence over them by being their superior. It is coming alongside someone and becoming their servant, so that as he mature into a disciple of Jesus, he will have witnessed real humility and service. He will then be prepared to offer his life as a sacrifice of service to others.
There’s a couple things we need to know about the relationships of being an alongside. First, it is RISKY. When we enter into the AGAPE love of spiritual friendship, there is a closeness that entails honesty and transparency. We may reveal things about ourselves that is humiliating and private, making us vulnerable. Yet when we build trust, it often requires us to be this vulnerable. Sometimes that trust is broken. So essentially, we are confiding and providing information to someone who may or may not break our trust. That is why being an alongsider is risky.
The second thing we need to know about being an alongsider is that we need to be an excellent listener. Close our mouths and open our ears. Bill Mowry gives an acronym C-A-R-E as a guide to understand how to converse and listen to someone else. Here it is: C is for Be Concerned. Imagine if we tried to have a relationship with someone we were indifferent about. We really didn’t care about them all that much.Their outcome and success was irrelevant to us. We had no feelings for them one way or another. Imagine it was that way in the course of a spiritual relationship. We don’t really care whether they believe Christ is Lord. We feel like their decision to follow Jesus is no business of ours. It would be hard to be an alongsider with that level of apathy. Concern only happens when we put aside our own self-interest and focus on someone else.
The second one is “A” for Ask questions. Concern starts when we are curious and want to know more about another person. It is the opposite of apathy to ask questions and delve deeper into the life of another person. Sometimes we think we are being intrusive and nosy to ask those questions. But mostly, asking questions is a sign that we are deeply interested and care about someone else. Those questions also draw us into a deeper relationship with that person.
Thirdly is “R”. Remember what is said in a conversation. When we remember what is important to that other person, it shows we really care, and it gives us perspective about who they are. Why ask a question, only to immediately forget what the person tells us. If they share prayer request, a funny story, an important detail of their past, or details of his or her family background – this all helps us to deepen the relationship and form a stronger agape bond.
Finally, “E”. Engage in action. You know that old saying, “Talk is cheap?” Well, if we really care about someone, we are willing to step up and help them where it is most needed. It might be helping financially, help with a home project, a text message or email letting them know you care and inquiring how things are going.
I’ve thrown a lot of things at you today, but it all comes back to deepening the relationships so that there is a strong bond of Christ between you and that other person. Keep in mind, that Jesus didn’t appear to sit around and talk about the weather. When he talked with the Woman at the Well, he went to deeper levels of conversation. Today’s scripture is the beginning of a long dialogue between Jesus and his disciples that lasts for several chapters. It was the night before his crucifixion and he knew that his time was limited. He had a lot to say and they had a lot to learn. Those are good examples of the depth of a relationship and what it takes to form a bond of deep and caring love. AMEN