The Gospel of John, Jesus' seventh sign, part 14
Jan 15, 2020
It was only after Jesus finished washing the feet of all the disciples—including Judas—that He saw fit to explain His actions in terms of humility and authority. John 13:12-16 says,
12 So 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 to you? 13 You call Me Teacher [didaskalos] and Lord [kyrios]; and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I gave you an example that you should do as I did to you. 16 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 him.”
Jesus was their Teacher and Lord. The Greek word for Teacher is didaskalos, which is from didasko, “to teach.” The Greek word for “Lord” is kyrios, “a possessor or owner; he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has the power of deciding.” In the political sphere the word applied to “the sovereign, prince, chief, the Roman emperor.”
As their Teacher, Jesus then shows them why He washed their feet, instructing them to follow His example with others. This implies, of course, that they were being consecrated (as priests) to a position of authority, for only then could they truly follow His example. It was important that the disciples understand that they were given authority, not to be served but to serve. Without humility, authority is always abused.
The Purpose of Authority
The world does not often give us a proper example to teach us the proper exercise of authority. The carnal mind always wants to use authority for its own personal benefit. Divine authority, however, is the power and responsibility to serve others, even as Jesus served others. So Jesus said in Matthew 23:11, 12,
11 But the greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.
Luke 22:14-38 gives another account of the Last Supper. Luke shows how the disciples then disputed among themselves as to who would be the greatest in the Kingdom. Luke 22:24-27 says,
24 And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest. 25 And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors’ [Euergetes] 26 But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. 27 For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? But I am among you as the one who serves.”
Euergetes was the equivalent of Soter, “Savior,” or Pater Patriae, “Father of the Country,” the honorary title given to Augustus Caesar by the Roman Senate in February of 2 B.C., which sparked the requirement for everyone in the empire to sign that document. This is what sent Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born.
The kings of the nations believed that authority was a privileged position that allowed them to be served by others. Jesus reversed this mindset, saying, “But it is not this way with you.” Hence, those who hold authority under Christ are required to rule by the mind of Christ, rather than by the carnal mind of man.
This is not as easy as it may seem, for the carnal mind is not humble but prideful. It does not want to serve but to be served. To be called or “chosen” is not to become privileged; it is the responsibility to train others to reach their full potential in Christ, so that in the end we may all be equal, needing no one to teach his neighbor (Hebrews 8:11).
Those who learn this principle are blessed, as Jesus said in John 13:17,
17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
John does not tell us about the disciples’ dispute. For this detail, we must look to Luke’s gospel. On the other hand, Luke does not tell us that Jesus washed the disciples’ feet at the Last Supper. We must combine the two gospels to get a more complete picture.
We also do not know if the dispute happened first or later. Nonetheless, it appears to me that Jesus washed their feet to answer their dispute by His personal example. In doing so, He also consecrated them to the priesthood of Melchizedek, even as Moses consecrated Aaron and his sons to the priesthood of Levi. Jesus then stressed the purpose of spiritual authority.
Judas’ Misuse of Authority
John 13:18 says,
18 I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scriptures may be fulfilled, “He who eats My bread has lifted up his heel against Me.”
Jesus had chosen all twelve of the disciples. Jesus knew that. However, He chose Judas “that the Scriptures may be fulfilled,” citing Psalm 41:9, which reads,
9 Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.
David was referring to Ahithophel, who was Bathsheba’s grandfather, who apparently harbored a grudge against David and who later sided with Absalom who overthrew his father for a time. David calls Ahithophel “my close friend,” and he speaks of him often in the psalms.
But the Absalom revolt was prophetic of the story of Jesus and His dispute with the chief priests over the throne. In the great replay, Jesus played the role of David, Caiaphas played the role of Absalom, and Judas played the role of Ahithophel, the betrayer. Hence, all of the psalms mentioning Ahithophel (though never by name) are prophetic of Judas.
Peter recognized this later when he recommended replacing Judas. In Acts 1:20 he quotes two psalms that instructed them to replace Judas,
20 For it is written in the book of Psalms, “Let his homestead by made desolate, and let no one dwell in it” [Psalm 69:25]; and “Let another man take his office” [Psalm 109:8].
By this we see that even though a man may be a called and chosen by Jesus Himself, this does not necessarily mean that his position is fixed in stone. God’s purpose for calling some people is often hidden until later. Yet it is clear that God is never taken by surprise, for such betrayals are also part of the overall plan. There is always pain when a friend betrays, but in the end it is a self-inflicted pain that was planned from the beginning by a sovereign, omniscient God.
John’s gospel shows us that even the betrayers ought to be served with humility, for Jesus washed even the feet of Judas, knowing full well what he was about to do. So also should we, as disciples, treat those disciples who betray Jesus today. They ought not to be treated as enemies but as friends, for both Ahithophel and Judas were called “friend.”
Nonetheless, such disciples must also lose their position of authority and be replaced by those who exercise authority in the proper manner that is pleasing to God. We see this in the case of King Saul, who was replaced by David. Saul, a type of the church under Pentecost, was disqualified long before the end of his reign, ensuring that his dynasty would not endure. Those who are part of Saul’s spiritual family must also be replaced as the Pentecostal Age ends and the Tabernacles Ages begins to dawn in the Kingdom of “David.”
How to Avoid Betraying Jesus
In the story of the Absalom revolt, we find another prophetic example that should be taken very seriously. The chief priests playing the role of Absalom convinced most of the people that Jesus was unfit to rule as the King. Those Jews who remained in Judaism, then played the role of those who supported Absalom’s claim to David’s throne.
Judas betrayed Jesus by supporting the usurpers, following Ahithophel’s example. Ahithophel hanged himself shortly after betraying David (2 Samuel 17:23). So also Judas was destined to hang himself shortly after betraying Jesus (Matthew 27:5).
David submitted to Absalom’s claim without a fight. As he left Jerusalem, weeping and barefoot, he made a sacrifice on the Mount of Olives, where Jesus was later crucified (2 Samuel 15:30, 32). Absalom thus took the throne without a fight. But sometime later, David returned to the throne, and Absalom was killed (2 Samuel 18:14).
The prophetic pattern shows that the Jews, who usurped the throne from the anointed King, will suffer the same fate as Absalom. They will not be chosen to rule the Kingdom in the Age to come, as so many teach today. Likewise, the disciples who betray Jesus by supporting those who would reject Christ and usurp His throne will be replaced, even as Judas was replaced.
Christian Zionists ought to pay special attention to this so that they do not find themselves fulfilling the role of Ahithophel and Judas. We should study the Scriptures and understand the prophetic types and shadows, so that we are not unwittingly betray Jesus in His claim to the throne of David.
Jesus thus warned the eleven disciples in the same way, saying in John 13:19,
19 From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He [i.e., the anointed King].
His words were obscure, because Judas was still present and listening, though apparently without comprehension. The words did not change his heart and mind, for he had already purposed in his heart to betray Jesus.
Consecration as Christ’s Agents
Jesus had consecrated His disciples to the priesthood. They were also being promoted from disciples to apostles, “those who are sent.” They were sent out also as “ambassadors for Christ,” carrying a message of conciliation to the world, telling them that God was “not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19, 20).
Whoever receives those ambassador-apostles receives the One who sent them.
20 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.
We see here an example of the principle of divine agency, where the one sent is identified with the one who sent the messenger. It is as if the messenger is the One who sent him. They are one. In other words, the relationship between the Father and the Son is hereby duplicated in Christ and His apostles. This is the principle that establishes what is called agency.
This is part 14 of a series titled "Jesus' Seventh Sign" To view all parts, click the link below.