A Servant of All

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 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.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

(John 13:3-9)

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave–just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” -Matthew 20:25-28
Well aware of His own sovereign authority, origin, and coming destiny, Jesus fleshes out for His disciples (and for all of us as well) a wonderful example of servant leadership in action. He had been from eternity with God and He was going back to God, knowing all the dignity and majesty of His office. And yet, He condescends to perform the most menial task. Believers comfortable in their own skin–knowing who they belong to, knowing their lives are filled with purpose and power and hope, knowing they are fully loved and accepted, have no trouble grasping this great truth of Scripture: Whoever desires to be great must be a servant. Those most highly esteemed in God’s kingdom are those who serve, those who willingly humble themselves.

Our Master has shown us true servanthood and has paved the way for our obedience. He is our great teacher of lowliness of heart, stripping off one glorious robe of honor after another until we find Him naked on a cross pouring out His lifeblood for each one of us. How then do we dare have the audacity to be proud? Paul tells us in Philippians:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to deatheven death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8)

O God, never suffer us to think that we can stand by ourselves, and not need Thee.”
-John Donne
We care so much about what man thinks. This thought has permeated our churches and our ministries as well as our lives. We oftentimes rate our success or failure on the approval and accolades of man. I doubt seriously if Mother Teresa began her ministry caring for the poorest of poor on this earth in Calcutta with the Nobel Peace Prize in mind. She was simply humbly serving her Master by stopping to love and care for those who could not help themselves–and it was the Lord who exalted her in the eyes of man.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. -Psalm 51:1-2

Our confidence lies in the fact that Christ is genuinely concerned about our welfare. He is acutely aware of all we are going through and has promised the grace sufficient to meet each need. He loves us and desires for us to fulfill His purposes!

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

To Peter’s credit, his opposition was motivated by humility. What he couldn’t accept was the reversal of the roles the Lord appeared to be initiating. Peter was the servant and Jesus was his Master. He had been privy to see His Master’s hands heal the leper and restore sight to the blind. He had seen Jesus raise the dead and believed Him to be the Son of God … and now He stoops to wash the feet of His disciples? Peter should be the one washing the Lord’s feet! It was a paradox beyond his comprehension. Yet Jesus’ purpose in this act of service was to teach a great spiritual lesson to His disciples and to all of us as well. We are all in need of continual cleansing and renewal to remain in fellowship with God. We sin, we fall, we break fellowship, we humbly repent, and we are then restored. This is not regarding our salvation, rather our abiding fellowship with Him.

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. -1 Peter 5:5-7

Take It to Heart

Nothing eternal is ever accomplished in the flesh. When our fellowship is broken through sin, we unfortunately begin to operate in ways that seem right in our own eyes. Jesus tells us that apart from Him we can do nothing.

Jesus silences Peter’s objections by stating his lack of understanding. His vision was now veiled, yet later he would comprehend. How often that happens to us as well. Our vision is blurred by our circumstances and we raise objections regarding God’s best for our lives. Often, like Peter, we oppose what we do not understand. It is only through our willing obedience that our eyes will be open to more of His ways. Never forget, Christ’s way is supremely the best way.