LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION
Sermon Text, St. John 13:1-15 (v. 8-12). 8 Peter said to [Jesus], “You shall never wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” 9 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, “You are not all clean.” 12 So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you?”
Lord, this is Your Word and these are Your words. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Lord, help each of us to believe that in this Sacrament we receive forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. We pray that even though we are tempted to sin, that by this Sacrament we may still overcome and retain the victory which You give to us in our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ:
How many times do we pray, “Lead us not into temptation,” and yet how many times we are led into temptation and give in! Does God really answer this prayer? He does. But we can’t be sure about it by looking at how well we do against temptations. No, God gives us something much more reliable.
He has given us the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, which He gave to us on this Holy Thursday night.
First, what is the Lord’s Supper? As the Small Catechism says, it “is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ Himself, for us Christians to eat and to drink.”
Second, what does the Lord’s Supper give us? What do we receive? The catechism says: “The benefit which we receive from such eating and drinking is shown us by the words ‘given and shed for you for the remission of sins,’ namely that forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words.”
Now, the problem for us is not that we don’t know this. We know it by heart. But we keep what happens here separate from what happens “out there” – which we call the “real” world. So what happens to us out in the wide world, where temptations overcome us, seems to have little connection with what Christ gives us here, especially in the Sacrament.
So we hear from John 13 tonight – the only gospel that doesn’t record the supper part of the Last Supper. The supper had already happened – in verse 1, John says, “supper being ended” – and then comes this foot washing.
This gospel assumes we know what the Lord’s Supper is. John tells us what it means. In the same hour that Jesus said, “Take, eat; this is My body,” and “Drink, this is My blood” – He also washed His disciples’ feet.
How are these connected? Like everyone at that time in that part of the world, the disciples wore sandals all day – or went barefoot. Imagine how dirty their feet got! So our “feet” refer to the ways we touch the world and get dirty. The more time we spend in the world, the more unclean we get.
This is our sin, all the times we give in to temptation. How unclean we are because of our sins! The hasty words you speak in anger don’t just hurt that person, they stain you. The dirty looks you give don’t just do something ugly to someone else but they make you an ugly sight. Most of our sins don’t just hurt others, they leave us filthy and worse than we were before we did them.
The disciples needed their feet cleaned. None of them argued it, not even Peter. Jesus made it clear: He’s here for unclean people. Even for Judas, who partook of the Lord’s Supper, had his feet washed, and heard all this, before he goes out after this, in verse 30.
When Jesus asked the disciples, “Do you know what I have done to you?” He also gave the answer: “You are clean.” Why? Due to washing feet? No. It isn’t about feet, water and towels – but washing people clean of sins. His Word not only brings His true body and blood to the bread and wine, His Word puts the forgiveness of sins – total cleansing – into the sacrament.
This has everything to do with our life out in the world, and our prayer “Lead us not into temptation.” We have many sins to show for our best efforts to say “no” to temptation. Didn’t Peter vow all his strength to not deny Jesus? Wasn’t he warned in advance? Didn’t he still do it? Just like us.
What does Jesus say about it? This: “Take, eat; this is My body. Drink, all of you: this cup is the new testament in My blood. This do, often.” Then He says, “Do you know what I have done to you?” And He gives the answer: “You are clean” — meaning that we’re completely clean, innocent and pure, with no sins at all, and if we ask how this can be, He explains: “You are clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” Which words? His words in the sacrament. His Word “is the main thing” in the Sacrament.
In other words, this is where Jesus answers our prayer to lead us not into temptation. How? By forgiving our sins. The Lord’s Supper isn’t for people who keep themselves clean. The Lord’s Supper is for sinners. It’s for people who don’t overcome temptation. It’s for cleansing us from all our sins.
This is why we should come to the Lord’s Supper: because at the end of it, Jesus says: “You are clean.” This is how we pray, “Lead us not into temptation,” and mean it. We come to the Sacrament. Our attitude toward the Lord’s Supper shows what we think of our life of temptation. No week should be a non-communion week for us! Coming to eat His body and drink His blood, with faith in His words, shows that we want to get rid of our sins.
The Lord’s Supper is where God promises “to guard and keep us so that the devil, the world and our own flesh may not deceive us, nor lead us into shameful sin and vice.” It’s never too often to receive this protection! Amen!