“Being a Servant”
Text: John 13:1-5
Our special theme for the Walter Hill church this year is “Being the Leaven in 2011!” Of course, as Jesus taught with this very short parable in Matthew 13:33, this is what disciples in our Lord’s kingdom are supposed to be every day we live. We’ve seen that Jesus also taught in Matthew 5:13-16 that we are to be salt and light – synonymously with being leaven. This morning I want us to examine another role we must fill to be leaven, salt and light in this sinful world. I want us to talk about being a servant. According to 1 Peter 2:21, Jesus left us an example that we should follow in His steps – and that includes being a servant. Our scripture reading this morning gives the beautiful illustration of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet on the same night He would be betrayed. So I hope you’ll open your Bibles and study with me. As always, I hope you will be like the Bereans in Acts 17:11 and search the scriptures daily to make sure I’m telling you the truth.
As we open back up to our text of John 13:1-5, let’s read once again what Jesus was doing. However, this time I’m going to read from the NRSV. The manuscript evidence for “supper being ended” in verse 2 of the KJV/NKJV is weak and not accepted by most scholars so I’m using something different. Does that mean you need to throw your KJV/NKJV Bibles away? No, but they make it difficult to reconcile John’s account with the synoptic gospels. Hugo McCord’s translation as well as the ESV and NASB are very similar to the NRSV which reads: Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. This final Passover for our Lord will begin at sundown on Thursday evening. Verse 1 gives us a sense of time just as verse 1 of chapter 12 tells us that it was six days before the Passover when Jesus came to Bethany. Before the Passover began, Jesus knew that His death was getting very near but He will love them to the end – even Judas who will soon betray Him. “During supper” is more literally “supper was taking place” – the event has begun but not necessarily the eating. The identification of Judas as His betrayer will occur during the actual meal which John will record in verses 18-30. I want us to understand that the washing of the disciples’ feet occurs during the final Passover meal Jesus has with the twelve while the synoptic gospels focus on the meal and the institution of the Lord’s Supper. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. Washing the guests’ feet at such an event would be a job reserved for slaves or servants. We must keep that in mind throughout our lesson. But the first point I want to make about being a servant in the Lord’s kingdom is that our service must be motivated by love. Remember Jesus loved them to the end. Whether it is washing dirty feet, visiting the sick, helping to bathe a sick brother, feeding a family after a funeral or running an errand for a shut-in, our motivation must be love. We’re not looking for thanks or recognition – only God’s approval for doing what is needed. It’s fairly easy to show kindness to folks we like but how easy would it be to show it to someone we know is going to stab us in the back? Knowing what we know today, how hard would it be for us to wash Judas’ feet? Being a servant means even serving our enemies whom Jesus says we must love. Being a servant means we cannot be judgmental about someone’s character or intentions. Jesus knew Judas was a devil according to John 6:70-71 and that he would betray Him. Thankfully, we can’t see into people’s hearts and yet perhaps we still refuse to serve certain people. Folks, if we are going to be servants we must learn to love everyone – beginning today with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We’re never going to be leaven in this community until they see that we love one another – John 13:35 – even if we disagree with some of their beliefs. The second point we must learn about being a servant is that we must have humility. Like the subject of giving, this doesn’t preach very well. But, first of all, understand that humility is not the same as low self-esteem. Jesus certainly didn’t suffer from low self-esteem yet He was humble. He could even declare in Matthew 11:29 that He was gentle and lowly in heart or humble. Let’s look at two passages in the NKJV that translate the Greek word as humble rather than lowly. Romans 12:16 – Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. That last sentence pretty well describes humility. Next, turn with me to 1 Peter 5:5 and let’s read it together: Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for
“God resists the proud,
But gives grace to the humble.”
The quotation is from Proverbs 3:34 and ought to be motivation enough for us to be humble. I don’t want God to resist me! But, let’s go back to the night of this Passover meal and notice what happens in Luke’s account after Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper – beginning in Luke 22:24 – Now there arose a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest. Jesus then talks about the kings of the Gentiles. But notice what He says in verses 26 and 27: “But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.” The disciples have just witnessed one of the greatest lessons of service and humility ever given and they are arguing amongst themselves as to who is greater than whom! Humility is a conscious attitude adjustment we all must make if we want to please our Father in heaven and not be resisted by Him. As Paul wrote the church in Rome, he told everyone there not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think (Romans 12:3). Just in case we’ve missed the requirement to follow Christ’s example for service and humility, turn with me to Philippians 2:5-8 and let’s read together: Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. My friends, we are commanded to have the mind of Christ or to literally think like Him! Our final point this morning is that we have to get our hands dirty – we have to serve! Jesus loved His disciples, He humbled Himself to become their servant and then He washed their dirty, stinking feet. One of my first jobs was selling shoes and I often had to fit shoes for people with dirty, stinking feet and untrimmed toenails. We even kept socks and footie’s to put on these feet to protect the new shoes. I was paid to do that but Jesus freely washed the dirty feet of His students. It easy to sit around and talk about all the work that needs to be done and who needs to do it. But, at some point, it’s time to use some elbow grease and get our hands dirty. I’m afraid one of our biggest problems is that we love being served too much to serve. Turn with me back to John 13 and let’s read verses 12-17: 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? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” Jesus left us an example not to have a foot-washing service but to serve others. Who are you serving?
There are countless ways to serve in this congregation and community. We all have different strengths and talents but are we using them in our Lord’s kingdom to serve others? If you can’t find a way to serve, why not ask one of our elders or volunteer to help in one of the various ministries of this church? The 1st step in being a servant is choosing a master. If you’ve never made Jesus your Lord and Savior, why not turn your life around this morning and put Him on in baptism? His blood will wash your sins away and make you a citizen of His kingdom. Maybe you’ve been a lazy servant like the one-talent servant in Matthew 25:26 and you need to repent before it’s too late. If you’re not following Jesus as you should, why not respond to His invitation as we stand and sing?
(Walter Hill; Sunday A.M.; 1/23/2011)