The Humble Servant

by Oct 16, 20182018 Event

Today was nothing new. The disciples had grown to expect their master to do the unusual, but today they would step out of public ministry to observe the Passover. They had observed the feast a few times over the three years that they had been following Jesus. This, at least, was something somewhat familiar. Peter looks back on the last year and thinks how much really great stuff he has done, and then he looks at his group of travel companions and begins to compare each of their accomplishments to his own. He feels pretty good about his standing among the group; by his own estimation, he is the clear leader, and an obvious favorite to sit at the master’s right hand when he reestablishes David’s fallen kingdom. His train of thought is interrupted as there is a small commotion among the disciples. They are entering the home where they will observe the Passover, but there is no one there to wash their feet, and it would be improper for them to enter the home from the dirty street without washing on any day, let alone while observing the Lord’s Passover. Each disciple looks at the other as if to say, “Not me”. Not one of them would like to take the servant’s place in order to wash the feet of the others.

It’s at this moment that Jesus does something predictably unpredictable. Jesus strips off his outer garments and grabs a towel. He grabs a bowl of water and begins to wash the disciple’s feet. Things felt awkward for Peter before when no one would wash the feet, but now things are really tense as each of the disciples sees the master stoop down and wash their feet. Peter slowly moved to the end of the line, wanting to delay the discomfort as long as possible.

Jesus made his way through the other eleven, and Peter felt with each passing foot that this object lesson was aimed at him, and his desire to be the greatest among the disciples. It got so awkward that as Jesus reached him, he refused. Jesus looked at him as if to say, “Really?” and said, “unless I wash you, you can have no part in me.” That was solidly a nonstarter. So, still wanting to distinguish himself from the others, Peter cried out, “then wash my hands and my head too”. Jesus saw right through it and told him that his feet would be enough.

Jesus’ disciples had learned much in the 3 years that they had followed the Lord, yet one lesson clearly remained unlearned. It was so crucial that Jesus took the opportunity to review it on his very last evening with them before the crucifixion. The disciples had often argued about which one was the greatest. Jesus showed them how he, the greatest of them, was willing to serve each and every one of them in the fashion of a servant. This is a lesson we would do well to remember. It is very easy for us as churches, ministries, or individuals to begin to look at what the Lord has done through us and start to compare us with others. We, like the disciples, can start to self-assess our own importance, which would preclude us from certain roles or tasks.

Jesus declared that the greatest in the kingdom was the servant of all. We have to ask ourselves if we truly have greatness in us, and if so, how can we serve? As a city-wide movement of churches, the Festival of Praise is only possible because of those who are willing to serve, so that others may be involved. Unity among the body requires humble service. Those in leadership are called, rather counterintuitively to serve. Will we lead through service? Will we love, rather than jockey for position? As we serve and seek God, we will be brought together in God’s blessing and mirror the Character of our Lord Jesus as he washed the feet of the disciples that historic evening 2,000 years ago.

“Not one of them would like to take the servant’s place in order to wash the feet of the others.”

by Steve Law


Steve is a former Missionary with Youth With A Mission and serves as a worship leader with Spotlight Church.  Steve also has a web design and marketing company based here in Stratford.

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