The Decision to Follow
John 13.12–17 NRSV
12 After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
There’s a great small group study called “Six Decisions That Will Change Your Life.” The purpose of the study is to move each of us from a Christian who “gets it” to a Christian that “does it.” In the end, it is about applying our faith in order to see God and to see God at work, both in our lives and in the world. But if all we do is spend our time studying faith and not living our faith, we’ve done very little, if anything at all.
Our decision to follow Jesus is one that involves following His example in everything we do. Faith isn’t something that we compartmentalize, putting it into a cubby alongside accessory–like components in our life. To follow Christ, to be “Christian”, is to live a Jesus–life all the time. It means to let prayer form you, to let Scripture to inform you, and to let the Holy Spirit conform you into the likeness of the Son of God.
Jesus gives us His example so that His life would become our life. One of the most amazing things about Jesus as we read the Gospel accounts is His consistency. He was a preacher, a teacher, a healer, a friend, a disciplinarian, all at the same time. It is the world that fails to find a constancy in its faith and life. And then there is Jesus, focused on who He is and what He has come to do. That constant, that consistent lifestyle, is what we are after. But we must follow that lifestyle and follow it always.
I had a question work itself into my heart as I sat with all of this this week. “Where am I ‘not’ being godly in my life?” This question bothered me because I noticed as I reflected on my on walk that there were areas where I was doing great with my faith and there were areas where I was coming up short, where I was inconsistent. The question is important for all of us because it begs an answer to the inconsistencies in our lives. Am I a Sunday Christian? Am I faithful only when I’m around my friends or Sunday school or small group? Am I faithful during the week but unfaithful on Friday and Saturday nights? Am I faithful at home, with my family?
For me personally, these questions hit me like this: as a young pastor, I preach and teach with excitement and with joy. I love what I’ve been called to do and I’m thankful everyday that God has called me to pastoral work. But when I get home, the same call to discipleship still applies. I walk in the door and go from being that same young pastor to being a young father. As a young dad, will I parent my children with a Christ-like attitude and a godly hand? As a young husband, will I honor and cherish my wife the way God cherishes His people? Am I just as much a Christian—someone living out the example of Jesus Christ—in one place as much as another?
I want us all to be faithful, to live out the example of Christ. Our text shows what Jesus’ desire is, verses 14–15, “So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” Jesus reveals in this intimate “last super scene” several things by washing their feet, by giving them this example. He shows that His desire is to wash His disciples clean, in all manner of filth and sin; to make them ready for the present meal and for the eternal feast; to be hospitable and generous toward’s their coming to dine with Him; to welcome them in fellowship. This act is about serving. And though He is the Lord, the Master and the Teacher, He shows that His role is to serve.
Taking on all these things, shown through this action—and many more—is no small task. But the decision to follow Jesus Christ, to emulate and imitate the Son of God, is a decision that saves both us and those we serve. For we welcome Christ into our hearts by serving as He serves, and by taking His life into our own; and we show the Saving–Christ to others by revealing the kind of Lord and God He is—a God who stoops to clean and care for the dirty, the hungry, and the lost.
St. Paul the Apostle said in Ephesians 5.1–2, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” The key phrase there is “And walk in love…”, showing us that love is so much more than a feeling. It doesn’t say “agree with love” or “believe in love,” but to “walk in love.” His example is to be followed, and to follow it is to go with Jesus INTO this way of life. Jesus’ example is an active, movement–based example that requires a hands–on approach. It is not an example that is shown in order to be taken merely at face value but to be shown face-to-face.
And then, in our final verse, Jesus says that when we do this, this foot–washing–work, when we follow this example, we will be blessed. And the blessing of God is the peace, the joy, the contentment that comes from an intimate relationship with God. And these things in their fullness come from God and from God only. There is no way to truly serve than to serve as Jesus did. There is no way to experience peace, joy and contentment than to receive them from God through the example of Jesus.
So make the decision to follow, to follow Jesus in His example and His life. It is a decision that will change your life. Amen.