We Serve Because He First Served Us
Posted by Ted Torreson
What would you do if you suddenly realized you had the freedom to do anything…maybe even the power to do anything? What would you do?
Some of the thoughts that went through your mind might have been pretty selfless. You thought about helping others, ending world hunger, achieving world peace.
Yet many or your thoughts were probably all about your comfort, pleasure, entertainment and stuff you want. I know what I’d probably do. I’d probably spend a lot of the power I had to fix my own life. I’d get rid of my college loans and mortgage. I’d fix my injured back. (Maybe get my hair back) I’d get many of the things I’ve always wanted. I’d do many of the things I’d like to do. Sure I’d help people out, but they’d probably be my family and friends.
Jesus had the power to do anything. It says at the beginning of John 13,
“Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God…”
Jesus had the power to do anything. Think about what Jesus could have done. He could have devastated his betrayer, Judas, the guy who claimed to be his friend but stabbed him in the back. Jesus could have come down on him with an unstoppable blast of his divine wrath. He could have made his enemy, the devil, and all his demons appear right in front of Him and immediately defeat him in a flashy, fiery, confrontation. He could have defeated all his enemies.
He could have created the grandest palace he should have been eating the Passover meal in. He could have called any luxury into existence. He could have created the greatest pleasures, the most amazing musicians to play for him, the most succulent food to eat, the finest clothes to wear, the most gorgeous women to tend to him. Yet he does none of this. He doesn’t do the things we would naturally do.
Rather John says that when he “knew the Father had put all things under his power,” he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist” and began to serve others. Though he had the powers of the king of the whole universe, though he was God, he humbled himself. He made himself nothing and took on the posture of the lowest servant. He wrapped a towel around his waist and began to wash his disciples’ feet.
It wouldn’t be all that pleasant to wash a dozen people’s feet. Yet when Jesus did this for his disciples, their feet were more than just sweaty. The disciples wore sandals and walked streets of dirt, they walked the same streets that donkeys, horses, cattle, and camels walked. And they continually stepped in all the stuff those animals left behind. The streets were caked with it. So the Holy, pure and spotless king of the universe knelt down and washed feces and urine-caked mud off of the feet of his disciples.
So Jesus washes his disciples’ feet one-by-until he gets to Peter. Peter objects…because he couldn’t imagine washing any of his fellow disciples’ feet. Notice nobody stepped up to do that. They all thought that smelly job was below them. Peter didn’t even offer to wash his Master’s feet. So when his Master, Jesus, offers to wash his feet, Peter says, “No this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.” If anything, we should be washing your feet. Jesus turns their world upside down. In their world, the wealthiest, the most important and influential people would never serve others. They were there to be served.
Jesus states that “unless I wash you, you have no part of me.” Jesus isn’t saying that unless I wash your feet you’re fired as a disciple. He’s talking about a much deeper cleansing. Jesus’ washing of his disciples’ feet points forward to an act of cleansing something much worse than animal sewage from our lives.
He’s talking about washing away all the times we’ve chosen us over him, all the times we’ve chosen our ways over his ways, all the times we thought we were smarter than God. He washes away all the hurtful and ugly things our mouths have said, all the despicable things we’ve seen. He washes away all the times we’ve hurt others and have been hurt ourselves. He washes away all the holes that were left when we didn’t do what we could to help others, all the times we’ve neglected to do the right things. He even washes away those regrets.
Jesus’ washing of his disciple’s feet points forward to his death on the cross where he washed away all the junk in our lives we call sin. He washes away every mistake, every sorrow, and every hurt. ” He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). He has cleansed us with His Blood.
As he cleanses them, Jesus tells his disciples.
“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.”
Now I recognize that you don’t have all authority as Jesus did, but you do have a lot of power in your life. You have more freedom, more money, and more time than any generation that has come before you. You’re richer than 99 % of the people who have ever lived. So, what are you going to do with it? Who are you going to spend it on? Will it be on yourself, or will you spend it on others?
If you are in Christ, He has washed you, cleansed you, and has forgiven all of your sins. He has served you to the full, now you are freed and empowered to Serve others. “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Ro 5:8). “We love, because he first loved us” (1 Jn 4:19). We serve because he first served us.