What You Should Do With Clean Feet
I’m going to invite you to John chapter 13 today. John chapter 13 is where we’re going to be. And we’re going to answer this question, what you should do with clean feet? That’s where we’re at in this story. This is the famous passage of John, where Jesus washes the feet of the disciples. And I’ve told you this last couple of weeks for me, John 13 to John 17, I think is my favorite section in all of scripture. And it’s because these are the last moments Jesus spends with his disciples. He chooses to spend his last six hours before he goes to the cross for six hours. He spends his last six hours in the most intimate of settings in the upper room with his closest friends, teaching some of the most deep, deep lessons on discipleship in pursuing Jesus with your life.
These sections for me, I don’t know, I’ve always clung to last words, someone’s last words. I feel like if you know your time is coming to an end and you’re lucid enough to just share some parting thoughts on your way out. This is Jesus’ parting thoughts for us, and they are a beautiful, beautiful section of scripture. In John 13, it kicks off with the washing of feet. And I talked about the significance of this last week and what it means to be a servant leader for the Lord, just how that represents. And we’re going to continue to move through this passage this week. We just looked at first five verses last week. So we’re going to pick up in verse five today and talk about this. But I do want to carry on the idea of last week that set the tone for what we’re going to engage in this week.
And that is you will never do what Jesus has called you to do in this world, and you will never live the way Jesus has called you to live in this world until you walk in a confident identity that he gives to you, because you’re never going to want to stoop to the idea of being a servant to help others without being confident in your own position as who God designed you to be. Because when we are not confident in who we are, we are constantly looking at things and other people to affirm us in our position. And we’ll treat things and people as if they are to serve us because we lack security in our own identity. But when you are secure in your identity in Jesus and you find your purpose and worth and meaning in him, you don’t need things and you don’t need people to affirm you.
It’s nice to be encouraged. We should all encourage one another, but you find your identity and your confidence and everything that God made you to be. And it’s in that position that you can do what Jesus calls you to do. And Jesus says as much in John chapter 13, verse 14, right? We pointed this out last week. He says this, “So if I, the Lord and the teacher washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” The only way you will ever take such position is to find your confident identity in your position in Jesus. And that’s so important. In fact, I would even argue this way and I was reminded of this this morning in my own devotions. The first book of the Bible is the book of Genesis. The book of Genesis was written by Moses and Moses was called to lead the children of Israel, and the children of Israel, when Moses was called to lead them for hundreds of years before he led them out of Egypt, their identity was slavery. They found themselves as being slaves.
And you can imagine in a position like that, the kind of value you may feel, or the lack of value, I should say that you may feel in your life. And so when you turn to Genesis, I know so often in our times today, we like to turn to Genesis and turn it into a science book. And I think there are things to learn about creation as it relates to science from Genesis. I don’t want to slight that, but I don’t think that’s the primary reason Genesis was written at all. In fact, when you look at the story, you see God’s grand story unfolding in the very beginning of Genesis, but you also see within that story, how God has created human beings uniquely, how God fashions humans different than any other creature breathing in the breadth of life.
And really we find our identity in His identity because God makes us in His image, right? And so different than any other creature, God, and from the very beginning of the Bible is showing your identity in Him, your purpose in Him, so that we understand why we’re to live in this life. Your identity matters tremendously in everything that God calls you to do. You will never do what God calls you to do until you find yourself resting securely in your identity for Him. Now, I’m not saying it’s not a struggle for us in life. There’s always a battle there in finding our worth in other places, because we’re always being discipled by something. So sometimes we will see our worth or value given to something else. And we’ve got to remind ourselves of where it comes from in God. So there’s a struggle. There is a spiritual battle there.
Adam and Eve, as soon as that started in the Garden of Eden, as soon as they walked in the Garden of Eden, it’s like there was a spiritual battle taking place with Satan. And the same is true with your life. That’s not a story distinct to Adam and Eve. That’s a story that is for all of us, because all of us face spiritual battles and things are constantly tugging at you to find a different purpose or meaning in life other than what God has created you for. And the world won’t even tell you that it will bring you happiness, or it will bring you joy. And the truth is it will for like five minutes, like the Bible tells you, sin is fun for a season. And for a season you will find joy in following a path of destruction.
But then one day you’ll wake up and realize, “Hey, I think I’m on a path of destruction.” And you’ll try to find something else to fill it. And your choices are another false God or the Lord himself. And so that identity is important. I should get off that. And just let me dive back into this and say this, John 13, 14, Jesus here is talking about the washing of feet. And very broadly, we see this as an attitude of a servant, a very unique step Jesus has taken because we’ve talked last week that this is the servant, the servant of servant positions. This is the lowest servant in a household would perform this act for dinner guests. One of the first acts of hospitality when dinner guests would show up would be to wash their feet. The servants of servants would do this, and Jesus is taking that position, King of Kings becoming the servant of servants for you and for me and calling us to mimic him in this world.
Now I’ll say, when you study this, here’s an interesting thing, is that a lot of Christians take this metaphorically. Most Christians, I would say, take this metaphorically. And then there are actually some Christians throughout history who have not only taken this metaphorically, but have also taken this literally. And I will tell you, I’m not one of those that take this literally. I am not touching your feet and you’re not touching that. It’s gross. But when you think about this, I do want to give a little credence to brothers and sisters in Christ that gather, they gather on Sunday and they will literally at times wash one another’s feet. And there’s something about that that I think is important to learn from, though I don’t think it’s a mandate in scripture for us.
And the reason is, is because when you think about the ordinances the churches observed, I’m getting a little geeky here for a minute. So hold on to this and then we’ll jump into the broader picture of this lesson. But when you think about the ordinances that God gives His church, I believe there’s two primarily, baptism and communion. That doesn’t mean communion God calls us to do. And the reason God calls us to do I believe is because it’s a picture of the gospel. Baptism is a picture of what Jesus has done to me inwardly. He’s transformed my life. He’s cleansed me. He’s made me new. And I demonstrate my faith in Jesus for that, by being physically baptized, to say to the world, “I belong to Jesus. Jesus belongs to me. He has cleansed me and forgiven me of my sins and my hope is in him.”
And so we have this outward profession of baptism that symbolically represents what Jesus has done in my life because of the gospel. Communion is the same thing, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus symbolized in the blood that was shed and the body that was broken and the cup and the bread. And this becomes a picture for us of the gospel. And I think washing of the feet is very symbolically representative the same way. And that’s what brothers and sisters in Christ that wash one another’s feet in church service, I think that that would be their argument for Jesus says, “Mimic me.” We should mimic him. And what he did here was he literally washed feet and it was a symbol of the gospel. It’s this cleansing that Jesus has done to us. And I would say that’s a great argument for doing this, but I would then say, but the only reason I say it’s not a mandate in scripture, it’s because when you read the rest of the New Testament, nobody does it.
I think that the church took this as a metaphorical picture. So when you read the rest of the New Testament, you see people continue in baptism, you see people continue in communion. Communion is talked about. You don’t see people continuing in the literal washing of feet. There is one reference in I Timothy 5:10 that says to give honor to this widow who washed the feet of the saints. And I think in I Timothy 5:10, it’s a metaphorical picture of a lady who is just saying that she honored and served God’s people well. And so that’s when I come to this passage, I don’t think it’s another ordinance the church needs to add, but I do think it is a beautiful representation of metaphorically the attitude God’s people is to care.
Now, if you hear that and you’re like, “Yeah, but I come from that kind of tradition where people will wash each other’s feet and I want to keep doing that.”, I’ll say, “More power to you.” As long as you won’t create some kind of environment that it just gets really strange for everybody. If it just feels like it fits the moment and really honors Jesus and points to the gospel, I would say, “Go for it, man. Go do that.” I think it’s a beautiful picture in John 13 as a powerful story. And that’s what I want us to see today as we look at this passage, starting in verse five, I want us to see two gifts that God gives to you through this symbolic representation. One gift that you then can give in return. And then I want to encourage you. And by encouraging you in that gift that God can call you to give.
So there’s some encouragement because I think the gift that God desires for us to give is not always easy to give, especially when you think in terms of this is a very lowly position of service, and you’ve got to swallow your pride to take this position, find your confidence in Jesus. So some encouragement helps us get there. So let’s look at this together in John chapter 13 in verse five. So I got to find the page, two gifts to receive in Jesus. And in verse five, it says this, “Then he poured water into the basin and began washing the disciples’ feet and wiping them with the towel, which he had tied around himself.”
So he came to Simon Peter and said to him, “Lord, you’re washing my feet.”So when you start to see how this story unfolds, Jesus, you can imagine, goes to the dinner table and the way that they had positioned themselves in the ancient world, the way that they would sit around a table to eat, their legs would have been, they would have been in a table really more like a U shaped and the tables were lowered to the ground. And they more leaned rather than sit in chairs like we think about. Today, when we sit around the table, they had lower tables and more lean under it and kind of put the rest of their arm on a pillow. And all of their feet would have been sticking into the middle of this table area. So this would have been a very, if this was the area Jesus washed the feet, a very easy way to get to all of their feet because it all would have been together in this U shaped, around this U shaped table.
And Jesus goes in and he washes their feet. And Simon is immediately uncomfortable with this because he knows what this represents. He looks to Jesus as Lord and rabbi. They’re going to refer to Jesus as much in this story. And yet the person of the highest position, the one that all of the disciples have chosen to follow, the one that the world is now going after and chanting Hosanna blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord is the one who’s taken the lowest position. And Simon gets uncomfortable with Jesus doing this. Now I would say for us, this is an important part of reflection for us because I think in our relationship with God, it’s when Jesus gets us uncomfortable, that we tend to grow the most.
Christianity is not a faith that we follow for the purpose of convenience. In fact, if your thought is, if I follow Jesus, Jesus is going to make my life easier, Jesus is going to do certain things that I want him to do, I would just encourage you to read the gospels. That’s like the Bible says, or Jesus very plainly says, “Take up your cross and follow me.” I mean, just reflection on that ought alone should say to us, sounds like following Jesus isn’t always roses. There’s some challenge to the experience of pursuing Christ.
And I think when we are willing to believe that God is greater than the challenges I face and I can be secure in Him though, the road might be rocky, that uncomfortableness and willingness to still follow Jesus because he’s true despite circumstances is a place we oftentimes find ourselves growing in the Lord. We’re just reminded last this past Saturday of men’s breakfast, just the story of Peter walking on water. And that would have been a moment, I think, written in scripture because if the disciples center on what stories should we include in the gospels? And Peter’s like, “Oh, the one that taught me the most, the one that made me really uncomfortable. Remember when I was about to drown?” It’s those moments in pursuing God that grow us the most because I think what we tend to find as we follow the Lord, even in adversity or we always find, I should say, because God is faithful.
God is faithful. And it’s not until we’re willing to step out in the things that make us uncomfortable in following after Jesus, that we can find that experience to be true. For us, all that we discover until we’re willing to be uncomfortable for Jesus is just words on a page that might tell us as such, but when we’re willing to step out, that’s when we discover it experientially and our heart can affirm it and validate it because we have stepped out. And so Peter is uncomfortable here, and our hesitancy as people is to come to this and try to make others feel comfortable. Let me step in. I’m sorry that you feel uncomfortable, I’ll help you not feel comfortable, but Jesus is completely okay with Peter not being comfortable here because he understands this is where Peter grows.
And if I added another thought to this, if you look at this for a minute in the Gospel of Mark chapter nine, and it happens again in the Gospel of Luke, just before Jesus is in this upper room with the disciples, what makes this so much more powerful is just before the disciples are in the upper room with Jesus, the disciples are arguing about who’s the most awesome disciple. In Mark chapter nine, verse 34, “But they kept silent for on the way they had discussed with one another, which one of them was the greatest.” Could you imagine that? This is the backstory to Jesus watching your feet is the disciples run around talking about, “I’m better than you. No, I’m better than you. No, I’m better than you. I’m going to be Jesus’ VP.” They’re all arguing about this. And then they walk in the room and then it just gets really awkward because Jesus is willing to take the lowest position among the group. How humbling that is, because it reveals our weakness.
I have dirt on my feet and Jesus is the one who’s willing to wash it. They revere him, and to see him take this position, it’s uncomfortable because can I tell you that the thing that drives us further from Jesus than anything else in this world, it’s your pride. It’s my pride. It’s thine unwillingness to sit before God and allow myself to be exposed in my guilt and shame, my dirty feet, to let the Lord take care of that. That’s why he came.
Pride brings destruction, and this is what Peter learns in the story. So this is where Jesus gives them then a couple of gifts. He wants us to recognize, look at the next verse in verse seven and eight. It says, this is the next blank on your notes. If you’ve got notes, this is actually the first blank in your notes. Number one gift is forgiveness for salvation. Look in verse seven, “And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘What am I doing? You do not realize right now, but you will understand later.’ And Peter said to him, ‘Never shall you wash my feet.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no place with me.'”
You see in this story that Peter is trying to brush away the importance of this moment, right? God, you’re not going to do this. God, there’s no way, out of everyone in this room, you’re the last one. And I think Peter has enough humility in his life to see what Jesus is doing as the King of Kings, becoming the servant of servants. There’s enough humility in his life to recognize this. But unfortunately, there’s also enough pride in his life to embrace this. And Jesus wants us to realize just how important this moment is. And guys, I want us to say in this room, these couple of verses, where Jesus is explaining that the picture of what he’s trying to create by washing their feet is so important for us not to blow by what Jesus is saying in the statement, because this is everything that Jesus has come to do in your life to contextualize them to just two verses and [inaudible 00:18:17] the washing of feet, your heart would let go of pride and performance before God and embrace what he wants to do for you, cleanse you, wash you, make you new.
For you in these moments, if you’ve never come to a place in your life where you look at this God who has furiously pursued you like the great hound of heaven for your soul, that you could be set free, that he was willing to go to the point from king of the hall, to the servant of servants for your life, that you would let him cleanse you and Peter seeing how important this was, then responds, “Never shall you wash my feet.” And Jesus answered, “If I do not wash you, you have, you have no place with me.” This is important to just the Lord, do what the Lord has desired to do for you by giving his life to cleanse you. And then the second gift Jesus gives to us, look at this in verse nine to 11.
This is the blank that you have. It’s forgiveness for continual relationship, forgiveness for continual relationship. He says that Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.” And Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet. Otherwise he is completely clean and you are clean, but not all of you.” For he knew that one who was betraying him, it was for this reason that he said not all of you were clean. So I’m going to tell you next week, I’m going to talk more about Judas as it relates to this story. But I do want to highlight what Jesus is saying here. Jesus is not talking about a complete cleansing for forgiveness of sins, for salvation. That is important. But Jesus also here is talking about a forgiveness of sins for continual relationship, meaning he says to Peter, Peter responds back, “Well, if I have no part in you, Jesus, by not letting you cleanse me, cleanse all of me.”
Jesus says, “No, no, no. Some of you have all been cleansed, but what you need is just your feet to be washed.” Let me give you an example, what Jesus is saying here. In Jesus’ day, remember we’re talking about the Passover celebration and the Passover celebration, someone would go through ritual cleansing before they fully engaged in the Passover celebration. And literally, they would clean themselves to journey into Jerusalem. And on that journey, what would happen is they would get a bit of the world on them. They would get some dirt on their feet. They’d already set themselves apart for the Lord to go to Jerusalem, to celebrate this Passover, but on the journey, they would get their feet a little bit dirty.
And so when they would partake of a meal, before they partake a meal, they would clean their feet. There was this act of hospitality that would take place as they would enter into home to celebrate Passover. And Jesus is taking that illustration to metaphorically represent our lives spiritually. He’s saying, “Look, when God comes into your life, when you humble yourself before the Lord, that you no longer embrace your pride, that you try to work your way to the Lord and you understand that you can’t achieve that, when you lay your life down, you allow the Lord to cleanse you because the Lord has come to cleanse you and he’s died for your sins on the cross. When that is happening in your life, you are bought by Jesus blood.” This is why it says in John 19:30, “It is finished. Jesus says you are paid in full. The debt that you owed, Jesus has completely paid for your life.”
So you belong to him. However, what happens then in your walk with the Lord is that as with all relationships, when sin enters, it creates distance. Just like with my children, my children are always my children. You’re bought by God. You always belong to the Lord. You’re the child of God. It says you’ve been adopted by him. That’s what scripture promises. But my relationship with my children ebbs and flows in proximity relationally and intimacy relationally. It ebbs and flows. And what affects that relationship could be physical distance or just sin for that intimacy, that affects relationship. And the way that we find ourselves united again is reconciliation achieved through forgiveness. And this is what God is saying to you is like, “I bought you. You belong to me. I always want you near.”
And what happens in your world walk with me is that there tends to be a bit of the world that gets on you. And in order to experience that intimacy for what you were called, the continual washing of your feet becomes important. It’s the refocusing of your life, back to Jesus, to turn things from the things of the world, to turn to Christ and surrender yourself again. What I’m saying is this. The same act in your life that brings you salvation in Christ should be the continual and perpetual attitude of your heart before Jesus always. I come to Christ once in my life and I say, forgive me. But I come to Christ every day of my life and I’d say, forgive me. Not because I’m continuing to seek salvation, but because I’m continuing to seek the Lord of my salvation, that I want to know you.
God, I want to walk with you. I hope in seeing these verses, one of the things that really draws to us here is seeing what Jesus is calling us to is not religion, but relationship. He’s not saying go for this legalistic process of doing a foot washing. What he’s saying is this is a metaphorical picture of how I have come to give my life, that we may live in intimacy, fellowship for all of eternity, for a world that tends to gravitate towards religion, this is a beautiful thought. Our natural tendency, our natural bend as human beings is to think religiously.
But by the grace of God, what we find here is an opportunity to think different than that, to think relationally, to know God and walk with God. And this act of Jesus, is I think intended to stir the affections of our heart, to see the goodness of a king who is willing to go to this extent for you and for me, to call you through this story into that continual relationship with him, to see the importance of this moment, to see the importance of every day, to let this God put His identity on you, to see the beauty of who you are not because of anything you do performance wise in religion, but to see the beauty of who you are because of what he has done for you. He has given an incredible worth of your life that no performance you ever do could add any more to that.
It is astounding that God would love us this way. And that’s I think part of the reason Peter started to be shocked by the fact that Jesus would even wash his feet. Who am I in comparison to Christ? And I don’t even think Peter had a full understanding of who Jesus might be in these moments, but now we know how precious of a gift that is that this God would want to know you. And you can share this to religious world that this church is not an invitation to religion. This church is an invitation to relationship to the king who desires to transform your life, to give you an incredible worth and value and meaning. It gives the gift of forgiveness in relationship. And then let me move on from there. You get one gift to give, right? I could probably highlight more, but I just want to focus on one, one gift to give.
And it’s for those with clean feet. And that is the gift to serve with a heart of forgiveness. Now that you’ve been forgiven, you have now also been given the gift to serve others with the heart of forgiveness. Remember we can serve now because we have been given elevated position in Jesus. We don’t need the world to affirm us. We have Christ who has affirmed us, which allows us then to serve because we don’t need others to come around us, but in that service, we can also carry a heart of forgiveness. So your blank is to serve with a heart of forgiveness. Look at this, in verse 12 to verse 16, it explains this section of scripture, “Then when he had washed their feet and taken his garments and reclined at the table, again, he said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done for you? You call me teacher and Lord and you are correct, for so I am. So if I, the Lord and the teacher washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet, for I gave you an example so that you also would do just as I did for you. Truly, truly I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent.”
So Jesus is saying, look, you should follow my example because I am your master and a master’s is followed by a servant. You duplicate what you’ve seen. You mimic the behavior that has been done. And the reason we’re able to do this is because of what Jesus has done for us. This is what he’s saying in this story. Now I’ll tell you this. Let me give you some pushback on what I just told you, that your blank is to serve with a heart of forgiveness. Nowhere in this passage is the word forgiveness mentioned. In John 13, the primary theme is certainly to serve. Are you going to see that reiterated in verse 20 again? That is hermeneutically, if you’re really studying this passage, that is the big idea God wants you to take. But I do want to hone down a little bit on the idea of in our service to be a forgiving servant, because that’s what ultimately Jesus’ service has done for us, right?
Jesus’ service has forgiven us, which has freed us to then serve ourselves. No greater example of service, I think is seen than in your willingness to forgive. It is impossible for relationships to exist without forgiveness. Your relationship with God would not exist without forgiveness. Your relationship with people cannot exist without forgiveness because your relationship with people, it’s messy and no one in your life has lived perfectly. And at some point that you had not to forgive them, right? If you walk in life with that sort of expectation to your relationships, your relationships are going to be very short-lived.
In order for relationships to exist, they require forgiveness. And we understand that the way God has called us to live in this world is relationally. We are created to love God, love others. Those two commandments that Jesus gives us in the New Testament, they’re all relational. And so forgiveness becomes a primary part of what it means to serve the way that God has called us to serve it. But here’s the reality. We don’t like to forgive. I mean a life, we want grace, but we tend to be people that demand justice. And so it’s a struggle. I love the way C.S. Lewis says, I put the quote here for you. But C.S. Lewis says like this mere Christianity, “Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea until you have something to forgive.” And Amen. That is so true. I can set up here and just tell you to do this all day long. But the proof is in the pudding. Is your life willing to demonstrate this?
And this is one of the attitudes that Jesus is expressing in the heart of washing our feet, and what makes forgiveness hard is that forgiveness demands that the forgiver pay the costs, but what makes forgiveness so powerful is that no one deserves the forgiveness they’ve been given. It’s a gift. The disciples in the room with Jesus did not deserve what Jesus is doing for them, but it’s a gift. And because of that gift, it speaks powerfully into the hearts of people.
It’s hard enough to get to a place to be willing to freely forgive. That’s true. And at the same time, it’s also hypocritical to be a follower of Jesus and not forgive. Forgiven people should forgive people. How can we claim to be a follower of one who was so forgiving to us and yet not forgive others? There is a struggle with that. I think one of the reasons that we struggle is because sometimes we have a picture of forgiveness that isn’t true, and it’s important to understand what forgiveness isn’t and what forgiveness is. Forgiveness isn’t forgetting. Forgiveness isn’t forgetting. I know sometimes we like to quote that verse in Psalm 103:12, to think that forgiveness means forgetting, but as 103:12 says, “As far as the east is from the west, God forgives you.” But if you think about it, really, God doesn’t forget anything. God knows everything. God doesn’t forget anything. How could Jesus die for your sins on the cross if he forgot what your sins were? God does not forget. But what that passage is saying is God doesn’t hold your sins against you because Jesus paid it in full.
He didn’t forget it. In fact, I would say sometimes forgetting intentionally trying to forget or act like you forget, it’s not always healthy for the other person. I can think of times in my life where as a young person, I was very thankful for this for my mother, because this helped me. But I remember in my life, my mom allowed someone to stay in her home who needed help recovering. And I was a little aghast by her decision because I knew just a few months before, this particular person had stolen things from someone else. And I said to my mom, “Why would you do this?” And she looked at me and said, “Because I forgive them, but I am not forgetting.” And what she ended up doing in that moment to help this person by not forgetting is she took the valuables. That would be a temptation. And she put them away. She hid them.
Why did she do that? Because she cared about the other person, and she wanted the best for them. She wanted to do what she felt would help them succeed in life. So she did not forget. And the reason she did not forget was not to attack the other person, but to help the other person. So I say sometimes forgetting is not always helpful, especially if you’re trying to help someone who struggles in a particular way, not to help them fall into that trap again. And so forgiveness doesn’t mean forget. For us as a people, sometimes that’s not even a possibility to forget. Forgiveness does not mean be best friends. Sometimes people have to take this to the extreme, like just because you forgive someone means you got to be besties when you’re done. And that doesn’t mean that either. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to become best friends, and forgiveness does not mean that law can’t be involved.
People can be held liable for what they do and you can still forgive them. In fact, sometimes that’s also helpful. Someone who has a perpetual track record of committing an offense that they may leave your presence and do it to someone else again, by not involving the law, you may be hurting other people. And so forgiving doesn’t mean not involving the law either. And I think it’s important considering we talk about what forgiveness means for our lives, that there are some things that we often associate with forgiveness that isn’t always true. And a lack of understanding with that makes it a struggle for us. But it’s also important to talk about what forgiveness is. So what is forgiveness?
One, forgiveness models Jesus, and this is what we’ve seen in the story Jesus tells us to mimic him. Forgiveness is something that models the Lord. It’s beautiful for us to demonstrate because it shows that we’re not in hypocrisy. Two, forgiveness is a release from my past and the burden of vengeance. When you think about what forgiveness helps us do as people, a lack of forgiveness tends to be something that traps you in your past. You live in perpetual replay of your life, meaning you sort of run forward in life, but as you’re running forward, you quickly find yourself thinking about something that you haven’t forgiven. And before you know it, here you do this giant circle heading back to where you started and forgiveness traps you in this past, where you run this perpetual replay, this giant circle, this giant loop, and you hold on to resentment and bitterness and it becomes toxic for you.
So I love, when it comes to the idea of forgiveness, just reading quotes from Corrie Ten Boom. Corrie Ten Boom for me is like the modern day example of what forgiveness should represent. When she, if you don’t know anything about her, when she helped Jews escape in Nazi Germany, she was eventually caught, she and her sister, they were thrown into a concentration camp and she faced some horrible circumstances. Her sister eventually died in the concentration camp. After she was released from the concentration camp, Corrie Ten Boom went on to create a place for four soldiers that served in Nazi Germany to help them deal with the things that they were struggling with because of what they did to the Jewish people, and more than just the Jewish people, but definitely to the Jewish people. She helped people recover from the offenses they brought against people like her sister.
She even talks about stories where people that she knew intentionally harmed her sister and led to her sister’s death later come to her and ask for forgiveness, and the struggle in her own life to let that go. Listen to these quotes. She says this, “Forgiveness is setting the prisoner free, only to find out the prisoner was me. Forgiveness unlocks the door of resentment, the handcuffs of hatred, breaks the chains of bitterness and shackles of selfishness.” Forgiveness, guys is a release from my past and the burden of vengeance. It’s toxic for your soul. Life is too short and your days are too precious to hold onto those things.
And what Jesus calls you to is far greater than being stuck there, which is why number three, forgiveness is an act of faith to move forward by the greatness of God. Forgiveness is an act of faith to move forward by the greatness of God. Forgiveness becomes this place where you say, “God, I could hold onto this, and I could produce my vengeance for this circumstance or God, I can trust in you to handle all things, because you say you will work is all together for good.” Forgiveness is an act of faith where you believe in the greatness of God that is bigger than your circumstances when you are not, and better at handling your circumstances than you are.
And do you believe God’s big enough to handle it? Do you believe that God is for you? And last, and this is more of the obvious one is that forgiveness is freeing to the offender. Guys, you can never live free to do what God has called you to do without the gift of forgiveness. People have no hope of transformation in this life without the gift of forgiveness. We as people, even when offenses are done to us, I think our ultimate hope should be that whatever is necessary to transform a heart so that never happens again, that God can miraculously do that. And forgiveness provides that runway for someone to run free, to allow the Lord the opportunity to transform their lives.
Verse 17, it says this. It says, “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” I don’t want to pretend forgiving is hard and messy, but it also says that forgiveness, this idea of serving in a forgiving way, you’re blessed if you do them. And why is that? Why is that? I would say it like this. Forgiveness is worshipful. When your heart is willing to give, it’s because your heart is in worship before the Lord, because forgiveness is about trusting in a God who is bigger and choosing to walk with him rather than holding on as a prisoner of the past. This is a place where you’re looking forward to your creator God, rather than the things that lie behind you, and forgiveness for us becomes an act of worship or reconnect to our creator, and we are blessed if we do that.
Those that forgive trust in the goodness and power of God, that’s greater than their circumstance. And if you do this, I think you, you win every time. There’s another passage. I would say that’s kind of like the opposite of this, in Matthew 6:15, look at this for just a moment. Matthew 6:15 says this, “But if you do not forgive other people, then your father will not forgive your offenses.” That’s a sobering verse, isn’t it? If you’re not willing to forgive, then your father will not forgive. Why? I want grace, I demand justice.
Why God will you not forgive? I think the obvious reason is because it’s, it doesn’t reflect the creator who came to give his life to forgive you. Now I will say this. Some people read this and they’re like, they’ll hit the massive panic button in life and be like, “Am I even saved? Because I won’t forgive them. So God hasn’t forgiven me. Am I going to heaven?” I don’t think that’s what this passage is saying. I think it’s just talking in relationship. Look, it says this verse that you are, God is already your father, meaning you belong to Him. So you’re already in the family. But what it’s saying is you’re not experiencing the intimacy of what it means to be in that family because you’re living contrary to your father.
So you want intimacy with God? Trust him by letting those things go. And if you do, you’re blessed because now you’re close to God. You’re choosing to walk with Jesus rather than see yourself as God to execute the vengeance. God is greater. I promise whatever God wants to do, the circumstances is far better than anything you’re ever going to do in your own strength anyway. So why waste your strength on things that God is better at handling? Forgiveness, it’s a gift that God has given you. And it’s a gift that God continues to give you that you can trust in him to do as you forgive others, because it’s you depending on a God who is greater than your own strength. And the blessing is that now you’re close to the Lord as you walk in this and trust in him. And it’s an attitude of worship before the Lord. And I should hurry up and end. So let me move past that.
Some encouragement for you, I’m going to say this as I get to this encouragement is the way you get to the place of being able to forgive, which I know is a struggle, we all struggle with it, is by allowing our heart to continue to be reminded of the grace we’ve already been given by the forgiveness we’ve received in Jesus, to let our soul be saturated and filled with what we’ve received in Christ. And so knowing it’s a challenge on how can we be encouraged to do that and to forgive, look at these next few verses, verse 18 and 19, “I am not speaking about all of you. I know that ones whom I have chosen, but this is happening so that the scripture may be fulfilled, he who eats my bread has lifted up my heel against me, from now on, I am telling you that before it happens so that when it does happen, you may believe that I am he. Truly, truly I say to you, the one who receives anyone I send receives me. And the one who sees me receives Him who sent me.”
Let me just say this about this verse 18 and 19. I’ll talk about verse 20. Verse 19, Jesus says, “I’m telling you this so you know when it happens that I was completely in control.” Bad things were about to happen. And I’m telling you the bad things are about to happen before the bad things happen so that you know I was in control of even the bad things. And that’s really important when you go to forgive somebody, because our tendency as people when bad things happen is either A, feel like we’ve been abandoned by God or B, question whether or not God is actually good. It tends to be in a negative way where people go.
But what Jesus is saying here is I want you to realize I am also the God of the hard things. Just because you go through hard things doesn’t mean I am bad and it doesn’t mean I am absent. In fact, the opposite is true because here we see in this story of a Lord who is pursuing us in difficult things, and enduring difficult things for you and for me. So when we think in terms of serving and forgiveness, yes, the road is hard, but that is not absent from God. In fact, Jesus demonstrated that by doing it with his own life and calling the shot as he walked through a hard road.
So you don’t do these things, enduring these things apart from God, but you’re enduring these things with God and in the difficulty is where God grows you. In the adversity, if we’re honest, is where we really seek Him. And so when you think about the difficulty of forgiveness, there’s this question in your life, will I trust the greatness of God or will I continue to trust in me? And then in verse 20, “Truly, truly I say to you that the one who receives anyone I send receives me. And the one who receives me, receives Him who sent me.” Let me help us think about our relationships in terms like this. This is something I try to reflect on often in my life, as it relates to God, God created human beings in His image. The most unique thing God has created in this world is you and me. And what he’s saying in verse 20 is this, how you serve others is worship to your Lord. The way you choose to treat people, Jesus sees that as the way you choose to treat him. That’s what he’s saying. “He who serves one who sent me is serving me and serving the Father.”
That’s what he’s saying, “I’ve made them in my image. I’ve given my life for them. Serve them. As you serve them, consider yourself Honoring me, consider it as if it is my feet you’re washing.” Consider it as if it is my life you are cherishing. That will transform the way you carry your life for others, the way you use your life for others, that every human interaction you have is a divine interaction because God created that person in His image. So church and the beauty of who you are in Jesus, may you honor your king in the way that you serve.