Jesus’ Last Words to His Disciples – The Servant Leader and the Trusted Traitor

Text – John 13:1-30


  1. Introduction
    1. We have entered the season of Lent. Very early in our history Christians have used the 40 days before Easter as a time of reflection, confession and preparation to celebrate Easter with unhindered joy.
    2. This year I have felt impressed to consider Jesus’ last words to his disciples. Those words are contained in John 13-17.
      1. My plan is for us to read through those 5 chapters during the next 6 weeks for our scripture reading. I will then focus on the theme for the sermon.
      2. Furthermore, I will be using the New Living Translation for our scripture reading because John is then most mystical of the four Gospels. He is sometimes difficult to understand just exactly what is being said. The NLT seems to me to be the least ambiguous of all translations in communicating the words of Jesus in this particular section of scripture.
  2. Exposition of John 13:1-30
    1. The setting is the Last Supper.
      1. Within a few hours at the most Jesus will be arrested and by this time Friday evening He will be in the tomb.
      2. This lends an urgency to His words as He prepares His closest companions for the catastrophe that is about to sweep over them like a tsunami.
    2. These events will be set in motion by the treachery of one of His most trusted disciples, His treasurer, Judas Iscariot.
    3. Verses 1-17, John opens his report of the Last Supper with Jesus washing the disciples’ feet.
      1. John introduces this passage with the statement, “Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.”
        1. In this discourse there are three or four repeating themes that you will want to take note of. The theme of love is one of them.
        2. He demonstrates the full extent of His love by washing their feet.
      2. Explain the need and that a wealthy host would have a servant wash the guests’ feet. Otherwise there was water, basin and towel so that the guests could wash their own feet.
        1. Note that washing feet was considered the most humiliating task a servant was asked to perform. It was so humiliating that a Jewish master could not require a Jewish servant to wash the feet of his guests.
        2. Thus we can understand Peter’s protest.
      3. However, once again, we find Peter telling Jesus what to do.
        1. Have you ever tried to tell God what to do? Life is much easier if we let Him be God and do what he wants.
      4. We also observe that even though he knew Judas was in the process of betraying Him, he still showed him the full extent of his love and washed his feet along with the rest of the disciples.
      5. Jesus then explains his actions, “If I, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.”
        1. Through His ministry, His disciples had feuded among themselves who would be the greatest. He taught them that the greatest in the kingdom had to become as a little child, and that the one who was the greatest of all would be the servant of all. But they still had not grasped that lesson.
        2. So, with time for instruction and transformation of the group slipping away, he makes the great point that in the Kingdom leaders would be servants, not rulers.
    4. Verses 18-30 The betrayal is set into motion
      1. Jesus uses the idea of clean and cleansing to transition into the announcement that one of them was going to betray him.
        1. This is not the first time he has told them, but this time they get it, and start asking, “Who?”
      2. When the host dipped a morsel into the sauce and gave it to a guest, it was a sign of honor and affection. That’s why the disciples didn’t realize that Judas had been fingered. “For the host to select a tidbit from the main dish and give it to a guest would be a mark of courtesy and esteem.” (EBC Vol. 9 p. 140)
      3. Judas was the treasurer. The treasurer of a group or enterprise is one of the most trusted positions in the entire organization. When the treasurer betrays the trust of those they serve it has a devastating effect upon everyone. Often times, after the treasurer has betrayed their trust, those betrayed have a hard time trusting anyone ever again.
  3. Conclusion
    1. This sets the scene for the greatest of contrasts.
      1. Here is the leader who becomes a servant.
      2. And here is the trusted servant who becomes the traitor.
    2. Reflect for just a minute on the irony of those two titles:
      1. Servant leader?
      2. Trusted traitor?
      3. While both of them almost seem like an oxymoron, they describe two kinds of people.
    3. Which are you?
      1. It’s easy for us to gloss over the negative and claim the positive, but during this Lenten season, let us take the time to ask the Holy Spirit to search us and give us the true answer to that question.