To be a servant literally means “to tie or to bind.” Jesus taught and demonstrated a life of absolute service, to His Father, to His disciples and to the world. No other person in history has given Himself as wholly to serve as Jesus did. The privilege to serve is in our hands and in our hearts.
There are multiple examples of people serving those of higher status or position. These are only a few:
- Joseph served Potiphar and then Pharoah
- Samuel served Eli even as a young child
- the Shunammite woman served Elisha
- Nehemiah was servant and cup bearer to the king
- Ruth left her home caring for her mother-in-law Naomi, and gleaned in the fields
- David carried cheese to his older brother’s who were stationed at the front lines of battle
- Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Susanna served Jesus
Carrying the cheese may seem like the most insignificant of tasks, yet it was the first step from shepherd boy to king. Great promotions are often wrapped in small acts of kindness and service.
The easiest One of all to serve is, of course, Jesus. He has given so much for us, loves us beyond comparison, and paved a wide road of selfless servitude.
“Whoever serves me must follow me;
and where I am, my servant also will be.
My Father will honor the one who serves me.”
The words “servant”, “service”, and “serve” are found over 1100 times in the bible. To serve in Hebrew had two key ingredients: the action of working and obedience. In the New Testament, it refers to “a relation of absolute dependence, in which the master and the servant stand on opposite sides, the former having a full claim, the latter having a full commitment.”
Jesus disciples lived in a culture much like ours with people striving for bragging rights to top-dog positions. These chosen men quarreled over who was the greatest and best.
“He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him,
and said, “Whoever wants to be first
must take last place
and be the servant of everyone else.”
I flip the page in my bible to find the same problem within their ranks. Jesus admonished them,
“You know that the rulers in this world
lord it over their people,
and officials flaunt their authority…”
Flaunting and lording remains common place; however, it has no place in God’s kingdom!
“But among you it will be different.
Whoever wants to be a leader among you
must be your servant,
and whoever wants to be first among you
must be the slave of everyone else.”
Paul later wrote:
“Don’t push your way to the front;
don’t sweet-talk your way to the top.
Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead.
Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage.
Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.”
Daily we have opportunity to either puff ourselves up or propel others to reach their full potential. It is no surprise that God blesses and promotes those who serve and honour others above themselves.
Throughout the world, most cultures demonstrate a healthy expectation to serve those in higher position. It is quite easy to serve within our peer groups. It remains beyond our understanding to comprehend Jesus, the King of Glory, willingly serving downward.
“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.”
Remember, the meaning of servant is “to tie or to bind.” The towel wrapped around the center of Jesus’ body was a perfect symbol of servanthood. He bound Himself to serve. It was such a profound illustration that the disciples were shocked by His move.
“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.”
Peter, one of the dog-eat-dog Twelve, at first refused the gesture. Later he grasped the concept:
“Each of you should use whatever gift
you have received to serve others,
as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
I Peter 4:10
To follow Christ’s example we must know who we are, Who we belong to, and why we are here. Unless we are secure in our identity in Christ, we will have limited capacity to serve with wholehearted devotion.
Am I prepared to pick up the servant’s towel and wash the feet of all those around me? My honest answer is not entirely! Yet, the challenge is before me!
“I have given you an example:
you should do just as I have done for you.”
Humility to Serve
Through Christ our only right is to humbly serve!Through Christ our only right is to humbly serve! Click To Tweet
The mark of every Christian is humble service. When Peter began to comprehend what Christ was doing, he declared emphatically,
“not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
We may have good intentions with hearts rightly positioned and yet still get tripped up in the follow-through. It is our feet that need cleaning – these feet that embrace the ground, the dust of humanity, taking the most abuse and getting the dirtiest.
As Christians, Christ has already purified our hearts and cleansed our minds. Still, we need foot-washing reminders of our purpose in serving others.
Jesus actions prepared the disciples for servant leadership. Each of them would eventually lay down their lives in service for others.
All, that is, except one! Jesus washed the feet of Judas, who would soon betray Him to the cruelest of deaths. What an expression of ultimate servanthood!
Last fall I was privileged to attend a Women on the Frontlines Conference in Winnipeg. On opening night, a group of prominent male leaders, apologized for not being willing servants to women in their churches, communities and homes. They acknowledged the glass-ceilings they had perpetuated over women.
The sounds of gentle weeping crescendoed around me. Many women had never experienced such a gesture of respect and honour, even though the majority were recognized leaders in their churches and communities, sacrificially serving in various capacities.
For the remainder of the weekend, these men served consistently, joyfully and lavishly. Their acts of service washed deep wounds and lifted invisible burdens from many women present.
No towels wrapped the waists of these men, yet they displayed how people of strength open doors of opportunity, minister healing, and restore dignity through humble service.
Participants were impacted by this “upper room” experience. They were inspired to greater acts of service as they returned to cities and towns from Ontario to Alberta. Why? Because a handful of men showed the way!
Let each of us be encouraged to pick up the towel of service where we live and serve well. May we activate the words of Jesus, “do just as I have done for you.”