At one time or another, many of us have dreamed of a glorious and glamorous life as an athlete, actor or actress, entertainer, businessperson or politician. Okay, maybe not a politician. Jesus points to a different road leading to glory in John 13:1-17. Would you please take a few minutes to read this passage?
As you serve, know who you are and where you are going.
We read in John 13:1, “Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father.” —NIV
Jesus lived with a certain detachment to this world. He hung on to people, circumstances and possessions…loosely. He thought a lot about where He was going and how different it would be at the right hand of the Father, from the present realities that He faced. He lived every day realizing that life on earth is temporary, and every day brought Him closer to His departure.
Jesus spent a lot of time praying and enjoying fellowship with His Heavenly Father; however, He also thought a lot about seeing His Heavenly Father face to face again. There was no substitute for this sweet reunion that was coming so He didn’t want anything to spoil it.
When we think of closeness with our Heavenly Father, we usually think of experiences or “spiritual highs” we received in exceptional church meetings, conferences or in our private times with Him. We seldom think of serving other people when all we want to do is bask in His presence. None of us would think of washing the stinky, dirty feet of others when we think of being close to God.
Our Lord acted on His warm thoughts of the Father in John 13:3-4: “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.”
The principle behind this gesture (by Jesus) is more profound than most of us understand. Where the soil is dry and dusty and sandals are worn, frequent washing of the feet becomes not only a luxury, but is a necessity for comfort and health. This work was the duty of a servant; it is this fact that gives force to the beautiful symbolic action of our Lord. Jesus was secure in His Father’s love and His Father’s plan for Him. He did not have to prove Himself by serving. The Master of all, became a servant to all!
Humility was seen as a weakness in the Roman Empire 2,000 years ago. Today people look for competence, shrewdness, good looks, nice hair, public speaking skills, charisma and a “take-charge” attitude in their leaders—much more than humility and servant-heartedness
As His little children, our Heavenly Father asks us to remember who we are and where we are going. We don’t have to prove our importance to the God of the universe! We are free to humble ourselves before others and to serve them with no ambition for greatness. Jesus has shown us that to be truly great is to truly serve.
Whoever goes up must first come down.
As you serve, remember who benefits the most.
Jesus does not say, in John 13:17, that others will be blessed if you do these things. Instead, He promises, “…you will be blessed if you do them (these things).” In other words, you will be happy, fortunate and well off, from an eternal perspective. You benefit from serving, more than anyone else. This is liberating as you are now free to serve without looking for any gratitude or reward from people. The Lord will reward you for your service.
Note that Jesus does not say you will be blessed if you know these things. There is a big difference between knowing what to do and doing what you know. Most adult Canadian Christians do not need more information about God and the Bible—they need to apply and practice what they already know about God and the Bible. As great as Bible knowledge and theology is, it will not be worth anything in light of eternity if we do nothing with it.
The religious leaders that Jesus confronted 2,000 years ago were brimming with information about the Scriptures, but then they became masters at justifying their disobedience to those same Scriptures.
The more you do with what you know, the more you will end up knowing. When you practice the Word of God, you enlarge your capacity to store it. The more you obey the promptings of His Holy Spirit, the more you enlarge your capacity to be filled with Him.
Mrs. Charles E. Cowman observes (Streams in the Desert, April 26, pages 128-129):
Shining is always costly. Light comes only at the cost of that which produces it. An unlit candle does no shining. Burning must come before shining. We cannot be of great use to others without cost to ourselves. Burning suggests suffering. We shrink from pain … “The glory of tomorrow is rooted in the drudgery of today.” Many want the glory without the cross, the shining without the burning, but crucifixion comes before coronation.
When we serve people selflessly, our Heavenly Father will one day reward us more generously than we can ever imagine.
Whoever goes up, must first come down.
And let’s hope that our desire to go up is to serve in our giftedness and fill a need. Thank you. I feel affirmed in my quieter role!
You’re welcome, James. Yes, let’s be faithful stewards of the gifts entrusted to us as we fill the needs we are led to fill. I am confident you are doing this, James, and I cheer you on!