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Jeremiah 31:1-3 1
1 “At that time,” declares the LORD, “I will be the God of all the clans of Israel, and they will be my people.” 2 This is what the LORD says: “The people who survive the sword will find favor in the desert; I will come to give rest to Israel.” 3 The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.

clip_image052Background 2

The Book of Jeremiah, or Jeremiah (Yirmiyahu in Hebrew), is a book that is part of the Hebrew Bible and later became a part of the Old Testament. It was originally written in a complex and poetic Hebrew (apart from verse 10:11, curiously written in Aramaic), recording the words and events surrounding the life of the Jewish prophet Jeremiah who lived at the time of the destruction of Solomon’s Temple (587/6 BC) in Jerusalem during the fall of the Kingdom of Judah at the hands of Babylonia.

The Prophet Jeremiah that the book describes was a priest from Anitot in the land of Benjamin, who lived in the last years of the Kingdom of Judah just prior to, during, and immediately after the siege of Jerusalem, culminating in the destruction of Solomon’s Temple and the razing of the city by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. According to the book, for a quarter century prior to the destruction, Jeremiah issued prophecies repeatedly predicting its occurrence if the Jews did not repent and viewed the failure of his efforts, the destruction of everything he knew, the exile of the Jewish elite to Babylonia, and the fleeing of the remainder to Egypt.

The book of Jeremiah depicts a remarkably introspective prophet, a prophet struggling with and often overwhelmed by the role into which he has been thrust. Jeremiah alternates efforts to warn the people with pleas for mercy until he is ordered to “pray no more for this people” — and then sneaks in a few extra pleas between the lines. He walks about in the streets with a yoke about his neck and engages in other efforts to attract attention. He is taunted, put in jail, at one point thrown in a pit to die. He is often bitter about his experience, and expresses the anger and frustration he feels. He is not depicted as a man of iron. And yet he continues.

The Book of Jeremiah has also been found among the Dead Sea Scrolls in cave 4 in Qumran.

Biblical Truths 3

The people that escaped the sword: the exiles who were not killed but deported; they have found favor in the desert, across which they were driven into captivity. The prophet alludes to the first desert wandering of Israel (Exodus 16-18), in which the people found the Lord. His rest: the land of promise. The perfect fulfillment of this promised rest is found only in the New Testament (Hebrews 3-4).

Items for Discussion

  • In what ways is the timeframe of history when Jeremiah was so prophetic similar to our society and world today?
  • What can we learn about how to respond to our current world from Jeremiah?
  • What does Jeremiah tell us about the character of our God?
  • Do we have modern day prophets? Who are they?
  • How would Jeremiah’s actions of walking among the people with a yoke around his head help the people of his time?
  • How might the modern Christian use what we have today to accomplish the same kind of effect?

 

John 13:1-17
1 It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. 2 The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” 9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” 10 Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. 12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Background

Beginning in chapter 13, John turns from Jesus’ public ministry to his final private words to his disciples. Chapters 13-17 record what scholars call the “upper room discourse” because it took place in the second floor room where Jesus had his final Passover meal with his disciples. Knowing that he was about to depart from them, he distilled for them the most important truths and spiritual principles of the Christian life.

Sometime during their meal, Jesus abruptly rose from dinner and began washing his disciples’ feet. A little background information on foot washing in first century Palestine will help us to understand the significance of this act.
Foot washing was not merely a ceremonial custom. It was practically important because people walked through dusty and manure-filled streets with sandals. Your feet got dirty and stinky.

Not surprisingly, washing someone else’s feet was regarded as one of the most demeaning tasks anyone could perform. It was reserved for household slaves. But since there was evidently no household slave present at this secret meal, who would perform this task?

Jesus’ disciples were not about to do it for two reasons. First, rabbinic law held that although disciples should perform many services for their rabbis, they could draw the line at removing their sandals and washing their feet. Second, Luke says they were in the midst of their favorite argument–“which one of them was regarded to be the greatest” (Luke 22:24). Anyone who washed feet in this setting would be admitting he was the low-life of the bunch!

Biblical Truths and Theology 4

We must allow Jesus to wash us. It is in fact a symbol of Jesus’ death on the cross. This action comes immediately after Jesus explained the Passover meal as a prophetic picture of his death on the cross for our sins (see Luke 22:19-20). See also Phil. 2:5-8, which is probably Paul’s interpretation of Jesus’ foot washing. Just as Jesus laid aside his garments and assumed the role of a house servant to wash his disciples’ feet, so he laid aside his divine prerogatives to serve lost humanity whom he loves–all the way to dying on the cross for them. This is the way he “loved them to the uttermost” (vs 1).

This helps us to understand Jesus’ insistence in vs 8b. It means more than just “You must have clean feet if you want to have dessert.” It means that unless we are willing to let Jesus serve us by washing us, we may not have fellowship with him. Peter’s protest in vs 8a communicates an attitude that is unacceptable if we want to know God and belong to him. In his response, Jesus speaks of two distinct kinds of washings.

FULL BATH: We are dirty because of our sins, and we cannot cleanse ourselves. Only Jesus can do this because only Jesus was both qualified and willing to do this for us. We must allow Jesus to wash us by receiving God’s complete forgiveness through Jesus’ death on the cross. And this washing makes us “completely clean” (vs 10). We need be “bathed” in this way only once. This refers to the once and for all forgiveness we receive the moment we put our trust in Christ as Savior.

FOOT-WASHING: But even true Christians like Peter need to go allowing Jesus to wash their feet. This is something different from being forgiven for our sins, as Jesus emphasizes in vs 10. It refers rather to two ongoing ministries of Jesus which keep us in vital contact with him:

  1. We must allow him to cleanse us from the other effects of sin in our lives. Believers in Christ have been completely and permanently delivered from the penalty of sin–but we still need to be delivered from the ongoing power of sin in our lives. When we sin as Christians, we are still forgiven by God, but our sensitized consciences are defiled and we get accused by Satan. As the Holy Spirit convicts us of wrong attitudes and behaviors, we need to acknowledge them to Christ, allow him to apply his forgiveness to our consciences, and cooperate with him as he begins to change us from the inside out.
  2. We must allow him to refresh us from the effects of living in a spiritually hostile world. In the ancient world, it was impossible to walk around without getting your feet dirty. Foot washing was a means of refreshment which revitalized. In the same way, it is not possible for us as Christians to live in this world without being negatively affected by its spiritual atmosphere. This is different from choosing to sin. Every Christian knows the experience of spending a day in the world at work, school, etc.–and feeling somehow spiritually fatigued, coated by a “dust” which makes us feel jaded and tarnished and distant from God. We need to be refreshed in our communion with God, and Jesus is the One who can do this. As we turn to him by prayer or by getting into his Word, or by interacting with another Christian–he removes this film and restores our freshness with the Lord.

Items for Discussion

  • Have you ever washed someone’s feet? Please share.
  • Jesus is about to die. His disciples are arguing over who is the greatest. Why would foot washing be effective as a teaching tool?
  • Since foot washing never became one of the Church’s sacraments like baptism or communion, what do you think Christ intended us to do with this story? Re-Read John 13:14-15
  • In what way are modern Christians called to wash the feet of others?
  • Whose feet are the hardest to wash?

Discussion Challenge

  • What is the role of a church with respect to honoring Christ’s example and instructions?
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