by Joe Leavell
We’re all busy and practically everyone around us is demanding a piece of our time. I get it. Some seasons of life can be more difficult than others, but I can’t think of a better excuse not to serve other people than when I know I am about to do something extremely difficult that takes a lot of time to prepare for. Many of us have had those moments when the stress level was so great that thinking of someone else’s needs just doesn’t seem possible. Jesus’ example, however, gives us another way of thinking through this kind of scenario.
Knowing that He was about to die one of the most cruel deaths imaginable on the cross and return to the Father victorious over death, Jesus had every right and excuse to prepare His heart and mind for what was about to come, and not think of training His disciples in service. Similar to an employee slacking off the last ten to fifteen minutes of his shift, Jesus could have placed His eyes solely on what He was about to do on the cross rather than spending that last Passover supper with His disciples. Honestly, as King of Kings, Jesus had every right to be offended that His disciples did not rush to serve Him! Yet, He lovingly chose to humble himself and take the posture of a servant. He chose to eat with them, teach them, and pray for them on His final night before going to the cross.
Frankly, Jesus did not have to come to earth in the first place. As King of the Universe and the Creator of Heaven and Earth, no one forced Him to take on the form of a slave or go to the cross. And yet, because of His great love for us, He chose to lay aside the glory and esteem of heaven in order to humbly die a cruel, criminal’s death for you and for me. What was He found doing the night that He was betrayed and arrested? He was pouring His life into those He loved by teaching them and serving them by washing their dusty and dirty feet. He even washed the feet of Judas, the one who did the betraying!
Why Did Jesus Serve?
Why did Jesus spend His last night serving His disciples? It wasn’t because of duty. As their Master, it was their duty to serve Him, not the other way around! Nor, did Jesus wash their feet out of guilt, reasoning no one else was doing it, and so, he supposed it had to be Him. He did not angrily plop down and start washing their feet because He resented their lack of service. He did not serve because He felt pressured, and was afraid that His disciples might not think He was spiritual enough if He did not do it. He did not do it because one of the disciples had dared to ask Him to do so. He served by washing their feet because of His unfailing love and desire to teach His disciples the heart of service to one another. A Malay proverb says, “The fuller the ear is of rice-grain, the lower it bends.” Jesus bent down and served, and ultimately gave His life because He was full of love (John 15:13).
Following Jesus’ Example
After He finished washing their feet, Jesus said these words, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, or is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (John 13:12b-16)
What is your reasoning for not serving others? Too busy? Too much work? Have too much to prepare for? Too many bad things have happened to you? Are we offended that more people don’t serve us? What is your excuse that keeps you from dying to your own wants and serving your spouse and your kids? What is it you use to justify not serving your church and your community? Are you waiting for them to earn it? Are you waiting for someone else to step in so you don’t have to serve? While there are legitimate and right reasons for saying, “No” in particular circumstances, let’s do some heart checking and see if we reflect our Savior’s example of serving others. We serve, not out of duty, or guilt, or because we’ve been pressured, but because we have a love that reflects the love of Christ and we desire to follow His example in serving others, even when we don’t really feel like it.