Why followers of Jesus go lower and lower to serve – John 13:1-17, Part 5

All week long, we’ve been studying the famous story in which Jesus washes his disciples’ feet. Why did he do it? Jesus explains why in John 13, verses 12-17.

“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.”

This is the counter-cultural Jesus.  The rabbi was doing servant’s work.  How radical is that?  A rabbi, a teacher, lowering himself to wash his followers’ feet?  It’s a powerful image.  But it’s not just radical in his culture.  It is just as radical in our culture. 

How do we practice foot-washing in our culture?  When Jesus says that he has set an example that his disciples should do for others as he has done for them, is he saying that he wants us to practice ritual foot-washing in our church services?

Yes, we can have foot-washing as a part of worship services, like my church has done on Maundy Thursday in years past.  But starting a foot-washing ritual was not Jesus’ intent.  Instead he is teaching the principle of servant leadership.

I’ll never forget a conversation I heard when I was a missionary intern in Guyana in the summer between my junior and senior year of college.  I was talking to the leader of the denomination there, a Guyanese pastor.  He told me that the man just below him in leadership, the #2 pastor in the denomination, was willing to clean up vomit in the nursery in church.  That’s a servant leader. 

There is nothing a servant leader believes is beneath him or her.  In fact, Jesus is specifically calling his disciples to be people who treat others with the kind of sacrificial love that he demonstrated for them. 

That means you and I are not on some kind of trajectory where we are promoted higher and higher, and people must serve us.  Instead, followers of Jesus are people who give ourselves to serve, meaning that we are willing to go lower and lower. 

Do you find the church bathroom toilets need to be cleaned?  You clean them.

Do you find there are refugees who need transportation?  You drive them.

Do you find there are openings in the local school district volunteer team?  You fill them.

Recently, I was so inspired by several people in our congregation who gave themselves to serve. We have people who volunteer as stewards to count the money given in our offering baskets every Sunday.  For the last few years we’ve had six stewards.  That might sound like a lot, but when you considered that we require two stewards to count every Sunday, that meant on average a steward was counting every third week.  That adds up.  Over the course of the year, that’s more than once/month.  Our stewards serve sacrificially, which is amazing.  But we also wanted to see if we could lighten their load a bit.

We put out a plea to a bunch of people asking for more Stewards, and we had four more sign up!  Over the next two months, the new stewards will come on board, and now each steward will be serving less than once/month.  Because when more people are willing to serve, to love, then less people get tired and burdened from the weight of the job.  Then we are functioning as a unified body, a team working together.

There are all sorts of ways to serve others.  Certainly, you can serve in your church.  What serving teams and ministries could you serve with? Most church families could use volunteers in the nursery, singers and instrumentalists in worship, help with projects around the building, volunteers on the sound board, the projection system, and more. If you are not serving, I bet your pastor and church leaders would love to talk with you, to learn how God has gifted you, to see what might be a good fit.

You can also serve in the community.  This is important.  We should be known for being people who serve in our community.  This past spring it was wonderful to see so many people from Faith Church serving with SEEDS ESL classes.  Our people did meal prep, childcare, teaching, and leading.  They were serving with loving selflessness.

I’m not calling you to serve solely for the benefit of others.  Jesus showed us the way of servant leadership because it will help others and because it is best for us too.  Serving others in love is good for them and it is good for us, both personally and as church families together.

Let’s be people who are known for serving in love. 

Photo by youssef naddam on Unsplash

Published by joelkime

I love my wife, Michelle, and our four kids and two daughters-in-law. I serve at Faith Church and love our church family. I teach a course online from time to time, and in my free time I love to read and exercise, especially running,

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