Practicing Servanthood of a Savior
Webcams are apparently here to stay. Ever wonder what it would have been like to have a webcam following Jesus? Imagine the views you would have seen as the dove came down from heaven at his baptism, as he turned the water into wine, as the lame walked, and the blind saw. Imagine the webcam operator when Lazarus was raised from the dead, when he walked on water, calmed the seas, cleared the temple, went to the cross, and was raised from the dead. All of these things happened in the public record.
I’d like to pull the drapes away and show you Jesus in his most intimate moments with His disciples. John chapters 13-17 show us a Jesus that the public never knew. These scenes were shared only with his closest disciples. But, they were also recorded by the disciple closest to Jesus as the Holy Spirit instructed him to write for our benefit and edification. Let’s start the webcam rolling.
“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” (John 13:1).
If you contrast this section of John’s gospel with those that come earlier, you will see that we have moved into a new realm. Previously, Jesus’ ministry had been in the public sphere. He was God come in the flesh to the world around Him. He came to those He created and they did not receive Him. Now He moves into a quiet time where He spends a season alone with His disciples in the Upper Room, teaching them the things that they must know before He leaves them.
Let me make three brief observations as we enter in to these special moments:
1) Jesus knew what time it was
He was aware of the season of His ministry. His life had purpose, meaning, and focus. He know the agenda and was living out the playbook.
2) Jesus loved His own
His life had been invested and intertwined with His disciples. At the last of His public ministry, it is important to note that He concentrated His energies on those whom he loved the most and that had been given to him by His father.
3) Jesus showed them his love
Rather than make it a topic of conversation, Jesus demonstrated His love in full to His disciples.
STORY, “Are you going to help me?”
“The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 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” (John 13:2-5).
Feelings of superiority prevent servanthood
Jesus’ foot-washing was an example of humility and service (v. 15). In Middle Eastern countries, it was the slaves who washed the feet of guests; here Christ took the place of a slave. He makes this clear to His disciples in vv. 13-16: if their Lord and Teacher has washed their feet, then they should wash one another’s feet and serve each other in humility. This must have been a striking rebuke to the Twelve, for just that evening they had been debating who was to be the greatest! (See Luke 22:24-27.)
Men who are obsessed with superiority do not easily take the role of servant. Interestingly enough, most people feel that Judas took the position to the left, that of honor. So, it was his feet that would have been washed first!
“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” (I Peter 5:5b-6).
In this part of the story, the action took place during the meal rather than the more customary before the meal. There were two reasons for this: 1) no one else had offered, and 2) Jesus used it to teach about servanthood. When Jesus moves around the table, there is a period of silence until Jesus comes to Peter... gotta love him! He says first, “You’re not washing my feet”. But then secondly He says if you got to, then wash me all the way”.
“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. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (John 13:12-17).
Jesus taught after He modeled
... so they could catch rather than simply see
Servanthood is at the heart of the gospel
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
Servanthood brings God’s favor
“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” (Philippians 2:5-7).
“My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).
Love is a command of Christ
Love is a command of Christ for those who would follow Him. Love is mandatory equipment on the journey of faith for a Christ follower.
Love is the distinguishing mark of Jesus’ followers
We are to be known by our love. John was to later write about how it is even possible for us to love...
"Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us” (I John 4:11-12).