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  • Adam Schell

Time to Clean Up

Lent: More Like Jesus

I don’t know if you’ve thought about this or not, but Easter Sunday is six weeks from today. And that means that it’s time for all of us to start preparing ourselves for Easter in a season that we in the church call Lent. That’s Lent spelled l-e-n-t, not l-i-n-t. L-i-n-t is the fuzzy blue stuff you pull out of your dryer after you finish a load of laundry.

L-e-n-t, Lent is kind of like New Year’s for us as followers of Jesus. Now, whenever a new year begins, a lot of us take the time to reflect on who we are and who we want to be…and then we make a commitment to do the things we need to do to become the person we want to become.

And, as followers of Jesus, we do the same kind of thing during the season of Lent. Lent is a season of reflection and a season of action. It’s a season where we reflect on who we are and who God wants us to be. And in Romans 8:29, we’re reminded that ultimately God wants us “to be like his Son” Jesus. But, when we look at our lives, we realize there are areas where we aren’t like Jesus. So Lent is a time when we commit to be more like Jesus.

Lent is a time when we commit to be more like Jesus.

So that’s what we’re going to be talking about throughout the season of Lent at Melbourne Heights. We’re going to spend some time reflecting on those areas in our lives where we aren’t living like Jesus. And we’re going to talk about what we can do to become more like Jesus.

And, of course, this begs the question, what do we need to do to become more like Jesus? 

What do we need to do to become more like Jesus?

Well, I’ll go ahead and tell you that that’s not the kind of question I can adequately answer in a 25-minute sermon…I won’t even be able to fully answer that question by the end of this series. But, I can start to answer that question by taking a closer look at a story we’re all familiar with. This particular story is so familiar that one of the most well-known paintings in all of history is dedicated to depicting this particular event. This painting was created in the late 1400s by none other than Leonardo Da Vinci, and it’s a painting that just about every church has hung in its fellowship hall at some point over the last 600 years.

Of course, I’m talking about The Last Supper, and you pretty well remember what it looks like. In this painting, you have Jesus peacefully sitting in the middle of the canvas while his disciples are engaged in various interactions all around him. Some of the disciples seem to be arguing, some of them are lovingly adoring Jesus, and the list goes on.

But even though this painting is considered to be a masterpiece, I have one big problem with it: Da Vinci’s painting isn’t what the Last Supper looked like at all. So what did Da Vinci get wrong? A lot of people think the big mistake Da Vinci made was putting Jesus and all of his disciples on one side of the table together. And that does look a little strange to us. I mean, if we were going out to dinner with twelve of our friends, we’d ask for a table for thirteen that we could all sit around it…we wouldn’t ask for a table for 26.

But Da Vinci actually got that part right. Back in the first century, the guests at a banquet or a dinner party would’ve only sat on one side of the table to make it easier for the servers to make their rounds.

So if it’s not the seating order, then what’s Da Vinci’s big mistake? It’s the way that Jesus and his disciples are sitting. Everyone at the table is elevated off the ground like they’re sitting in chairs. And that doesn’t look out of place to us because when we sit down for a meal – whether we’re at home or in a restaurant – we sit down in a chair, too. But that’s not how people in the first century ate.

Back in the first century, people ate around tables that were much lower than the tables we’re accustomed to today. So instead of sitting in chairs, they would’ve lounged on the floor around the table. While they were eating, they would’ve propped themselves up using their left arm for support, and in between courses, they would’ve reclined back on pillows.

In addition to that, their legs wouldn’t have been underneath the table either. Their legs would’ve been stretched out to the side, going behind the person lounging next to them. And that’s part of the reason why people only sat on one side of the table back then. If people sat all around the table then servers would’ve had to climb over everyone’s legs to be able to put food on the table.

But what’s the big deal here? Why did I spend the last few minutes critiquing one of the most famous paintings in history? Who cares if Jesus and his disciples sat, or stood, or stretched out during the Last Supper?

Let’s take a closer look at the story of the Last Supper, and I’ll show you why all of this matters. So, if you’ve got a Bible close by or a Bible app on your phone, go ahead and open it to John 13. John 13. And, as you’re finding it, I just want to point out that the book of John is essentially a biography of Jesus, so you can read all about Jesus’ life in the book of John.

But, as we’re reading about the Last Supper in the book of John, we’re going to see something kinda strange happen. So let’s take a look at John 13 together. We’ll start reading in verse 1, which says: 

1 Before the Festival of Passover, Jesus knew that his time had come to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them fully.

2 Jesus and his disciples were sharing the evening meal. The devil had already provoked Judas, Simon Iscariot’s son, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew the Father had given everything into his hands and that he had come from God and was returning to God. 

Now, this is where it gets a little weird. In verse 4, we’re told:

4 So he got up from the table and took off his robes. Picking up a linen towel, he tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he was wearing.

John 13:1-5 (Common English Bible)

So in John’s version of the Last Supper, Jesus washes his disciples’ feet. Let me say that again. In John’s version of the Last Supper, Jesus washes his disciples’ feet. And that sounds kinda strange to us. That sounds kinda odd to us. The truth is, that even sounds kinda gross to us because, let me tell you something, I’m almost 42 years old and I’ve never had anyone try to wash my feet.

But even though this whole thing sounds kinda strange to us, when you stop and think about it for a minute, the whole thing makes perfect sense. So let’s stop and think about it for a minute. So before Jesus and his disciples get together for dinner, they have spent the entire day walking through the streets of Jerusalem to get everything ready for the Passover meal.

But the streets of Jerusalem back in the first century aren't like the streets in America in the 21st century. The streets of Jerusalem weren’t made of asphalt or concrete. The streets of Jerusalem weren’t paved at all…most of the streets were just dirt.

So you have Jesus and his disciples out walking on these dirt streets. And none of them are wearing fancy shoes. Most of them would’ve been walking around barefoot on the dirt streets in a hot desert climate. And that means that as they were walking along their feet were getting hot, their feet were getting sweaty. And their sweaty feet were hitting the dirt streets, and the dirt was slowly turning into mud that caked onto their feet.

And I know that all of that sounds kinda gross. But having muddy feet would’ve been about as sanitary as Jesus and his disciples could’ve hoped to be. Because when Jesus and his disciples were out walking through the streets of Jerusalem, they didn’t have to worry about any cars that would go speeding by. No, they had to worry about the animals that were used to carry people or transport goods that were out on the road. And what they really had to worry about was what the animals left behind as they walked those roads. And I think you probably get the picture.

So, as Jesus is getting ready to share his last supper with his disciples, the disciples have sweaty feet. They have dirty feet. They have muddy feet. They have feet that are covered with the stuff they stepped in while they were walking through the city. And now, they are lounging around the dinner table together. And that means that the guy who’s like two people down from you is going to have your dirty, sweaty, stinky feet right beside his face.

So Jesus is going to take it upon himself to wash his disciples’ feet. Jesus is going to clean off their dirty, sweaty, stinky feet so that they can all enjoy dinner together.

But why does Jesus do it? I mean, this is Jesus we’re talking about. This is God made human. So why does God have to get down on his hands and knees to wash his disciples' feet? Why don’t the disciples do it themselves?

I think there are a few answers to those questions. I think part of the reason why Jesus washes his disciples' feet is because he wants to teach everyone who follows him – including us – about humility and service. But I also think part of why the disciples don’t wash their own feet comes down to a social status kind of thing. You see, it was typically the lowest servant or slave in a household who was responsible for washing the guests’ feet. And none of the disciples wanted to lower themselves to that kinda position.

But I also think there is something else happening here that’s easy to overlook. As a matter of fact, I’ve either preached or taught about this particular story at least a dozen times over the course of my time in ministry, and I hadn’t even thought about this until I was working on this particular sermon. But as I was working on this sermon, I realized that part of the reason why the disciples didn’t wash their own feet was because they didn’t realize they had a problem.

Now, I know that may sound a little crazy. I mean, these guys were sitting down at the table with dirt and mud caked onto their feet. So how could they not realize that something was wrong?

Well, think about it this way: I want you to picture yourself at a good Mexican restaurant. And I’m not talking about Taco Bell or Qdoba or something like that. I’m talking about a place like Chuy’s or El Nopal. And, when the waiter comes over to take your order, you tell him you want the fajitas. And we all know what happens when you order the fajitas at a good Mexican restaurant, right?

Ten or fifteen minutes after you place your order, the waiter’s going to come back to your table with a sizzling cast iron skillet in his hands and that skillet is going to be loaded down with peppers and onions, with steak or chicken or maybe even shrimp. And not only is everyone in the restaurant going to hear that sizzling skillet get carried over to your table…everyone is also going to be able to smell it, too.

But what you don’t realize is that that smell is going to stick with you the rest of the day. The smell of those peppers and onions, the steak or chicken is going to soak into your clothes and into your hair, and everyone else you bump into the rest of the day is going to know you had Mexican food for lunch.

That’s kinda what happens to the disciples. They’ve been walking around the streets of Jerusalem all day long, and they don’t even realize that all that dirt and mud was caked onto their feet. They don’t realize that their feet smell. So the disciples didn’t realize they had a problem.

And the same thing happens to us. Every day we walk down dirty and dusty roads in life. We walk down roads where a little anger gets kicked up on our feet. We walk down roads where a little greed gets kicked up on our feet. We walk down roads where a little jealousy gets kicked up on our feet. And the further we walk, the dirtier we get. And the dirtier we get, the less we live like Jesus.

But just like the disciples got so used to the smell of their dirty, sweaty, stinky feet that they didn’t even realize they had a problem, we get so used to the dirt in our lives – the anger, the greed, the jealousy that we don’t realize that we aren’t living like Jesus.

So we keep walking around with anger caked on us. We keep walking around with greed caked on us. We keep walking around with jealousy caked on us. Because there’s no reason to clean up if you don’t realize you’re dirty.

There’s no reason to clean up if you don’t realize you’re dirty.

And when Jesus grabbed that wash basin and towel, he reminded his disciples that they were dirty. He reminded them that they got angry, and greedy, and jealous. He reminded them that they didn’t always live like him.

This story should remind us of the exact same thing. None of us are perfect. We all mess up. We all make mistakes. We all have times when we don’t live like Jesus. So the first thing we need to do to become more like Jesus is to realize that we don’t always live like Jesus.

The first thing we need to do to become more like Jesus is to realize we don’t always act like Jesus.

So the first thing I want to challenge you to do as we enter into the season of Lent is spend some time talking with God. I want you to ask God to show you where the dirt in your life comes from. I want you to ask God to show you where you could be more like Jesus.

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