Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
Our Verse of the Day is a call to humility…. Jesus taught that if you want to be the leader … if you want to be first … then you have to put yourself last. A leader is expected to be a servant … a servant of all. And Jesus role-modeled this “unorthodox” approach to leadership to make a spiritual point with His disciples. We can find it the Gospel of John:
John 13:1-17 (NIV)
It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. 2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so He got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around His waist. 5 After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him.
6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to Him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” 9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” 10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For He knew who was going to betray Him, and that was why He said not every one was clean.
12 When He (Jesus) 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. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than His master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent Him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
Think about this scene for a moment. Jesus has just humbled Himself like an ordinary servant to make an important point with His disciples. Jesus had taught that He and God the Father are One … of One essence … and yet Jesus demonstrates that He is willing to serve out of reverence to the Father who sent Him into the world. Servants are not greater than their masters. Messengers are not greater than the ones who send them. And that is what His disciples (students or followers) were to become … ones sent on a mission (or Apostles). And that is what we are … ones sent on that same mission to share the good news of Jesus Christ. We are not greater than the One who has called us and sent us on this mission. Therefore, we are to follow the example of Christ – and be servants of all!
In his Letter to the Philippians, Paul testifies to the humility of Jesus Christ and the power of servitude for the glory of God:
Philippians 2:1-11 (NIV)
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; 7 rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He Humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
And Paul, as usual, shares some very practical advice on HOW to be a servant to all in his Letter to the Corinthians:
1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (NIV)
19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
Are you and I willing to wash feet? Are you and I willing to become all things to all people so that by all possible means we might effectuate their coming to faith in Jesus Christ … and therefore be saved … bringing glory to the God who saved us? What are we willing to do for the sake of the Gospel? I am reminded again of how any one of us came to faith in Christ:
Romans 10:14-17 (NIV)
14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (cf. Isaiah 52:7) 16 But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” (cf. Isaiah 53:1) 17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.
Everything we do as believers … as those who God has chosen to be conformed to the image of His Son (cf. Romans 8:29) … we are called to be “servants to all”. This is our job description as followers of Christ. We are to be ambassadors of the good news found in Jesus Christ … as though God were making His appeal through us. (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:20) Paul did the most incredible work in this regard, and he urges us to follow in his footsteps. God has called as many as He has chosen to be given to His Son for salvation (cf. John Chapter 17) … but we have to realize that we who have been granted salvation received it through the service of people of faith who lived before us. My point being … God uses people to accomplish His work. We were saved because another person was obedient to God and ministered the Gospel to us … just as God had ordained for them to do according to His own plan and purpose. The work of salvation did not end with them … nor should it end with us who now believe because of their testimony. It is an amazing thing to consider that God chose to save us in order to save others through us…. But that is a very humbling thing to consider as well. The God who created the universe … who created me … wants me to be an instrument of His grace?
Consider what Jesus prayed:
John 17:1-10; 20-24 (NIV)
After Jesus said this, He looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted Him authority over all people that He might give eternal life to all those you have given Him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. 6 “I have revealed you (your name) to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them.
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
Wow! Such wonderful, inspiring, prayerful words to receive from our Lord Jesus! First, we come to know that we were GIVEN by God the Father TO Jesus Christ to receive salvation and eternal life through Him. If nothing else, that should humble us into reverent fear and worship! But do you see the greater theme going on here? Jesus is praying for those who will believe … who will come to faith through sharing the Gospel with them. It is the message of sharing the truth of God to the world that unites us with all believers! God knows who He has chosen to give to His Son, and He knows who will believe His report. BUT WE DO NOT! So in the absence of this specific knowledge, we are called to share the report … the Gospel … with everyone. Yes, and we are to battle in prayer for everyone to come to a knowledge of the truth! As Paul wrote to Timothy:
1 Timothy 2: 1-7 (NIV)
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. 7 And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles.
We, as believers, were “predestined” to join the “legacy of witnesses” who have testified to the truth that is found in Christ Jesus! We came to faith because of hearing the message of Jesus Christ that was preached to us and we received it in our hearts. We were born again of imperishable seed through the living and enduring Word of God. (cf. 1 Peter 1:23) And like the Apostles before us, we have been “sent” to serve those who are being born now and will come to faith (as God foreordained). The question is: “Will we be obedient to His call to share the Gospel with those God has chosen for salvation.” When I asked myself this question, my thoughts raced back to the Book of Ephesians, and here is what God reminded me:
Ephesians 2:1-10 (NIV)
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.4 But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Note Verse 10. We who have been saved by the grace of God are HIS handiwork. God created us in Christ Jesus to do good works – which He prepared in advance for us to do! That work is serving others. That work is ministering to others. That work is proclaiming the kindness of God expressed in Christ Jesus. For it is the kindness of God that is intended to lead people to repentance. (cf. Romans 2:4) Oh how I pray that each of us will understand this call to humility … to servant leadership! By its definition …. by its very nature … it is how we serve God and His Kingdom. I pray that our lives will be “living gospels” to draw the lost to the Lord Jesus. I think that is the heart of His message to the disciples. This is what the call to be “servants of all” truly means….