Forthright Magazine

I must be a servant

The world urges us to focus on self advancement and glorification. Jesus stands in stark contrast to that way of thinking. John describes Jesus by saying, "having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end." Jesus arose from supper, took off His outer garments, girded himself with a towel and started to wash the disciples feet in a basin of water.

Peter seemed to be shocked at the idea of the Son of God washing his feet. Jesus responded to his protests by saying, "What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this." Peter emphatically stated, as is indicated by the use of a double negative, that Jesus would never wash his feet. The Lord answered, "If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me." One has to yield to the Lord to be part of him (John 13:1-8).

This demonstration centered around external, physical, cleansing. The Lord knew there was a cleansing other than physical, as his next words show. "And you are clean, but not all of you." John had already said the devil had entered Judas’ heart, but washed his feet anyway. He wanted the rest of the apostles to learn an important lesson. They needed to recognize the importance of following the Lord in humble service. As Jesus began to explain His actions, He acknowledged He was both their Teacher and Lord. He wanted the apostles to see what the Lord had done. He had taken the servant’s role and washed their feet. Now, Jesus wanted His followers to take the servant’s role as well.

“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, happy are you if you do them” (John 13:9-17).

Our Lord wants His followers to be servants. Paul understood the lesson and described himself to the Romans by saying, "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ…" (Romans 1:1; Titus 1:1). He apparently taught Timothy to be a servant and described both of them in Philippians 1:1 by saying, "Paul and Timothy, servants of Jesus Christ…." He also taught the Galatians to be ready to serve, even telling them,

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:9-10).

Opportunities to serve will come in many forms. The Lord described some of them in the parable of the judgment (Matthew 25:31-46). Paul described his actions in Ephesus by saying,

“I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me. I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:33-35).

Of course, service of others ultimately led Jesus to the cross. It caused Paul not to value his own life more than the opportunity to preach the gospel (Philippians 2:5-8; Acts 20:24; 21:13).

Every Christian’s goal should be to serve, like Jesus served. Each should strive to follow the Master in looking out for, and taking care of, the needs of others. No task should be too menial for one following the Lord who took up the towel and basin!


Gary C. Hampton
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