If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. (John 13:14-15)
A servant is someone employed by another to perform domestic duties. In the New Testament context, a bond-servant or slave would be the equivalent of a present day servant.
A recent article in the Strait Times caught my attention. It featured a divorce case to be heard in the English courts in which the wife cited “unreasonable behaviour” to support her petition against her multi-millionaire husband. Nothing extraordinary about the case, except that when interviewed by a British tabloid, the wife mentioned that she could spend only £50 a week on food and could not leave her sprawling 40.4- hectare English country estate without her husband’s permission. In short, she was the mistress of the house in name, but in reality, she felt she was being treated like a “servant”.
Contrast that to the position of Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:6-7 mentioned Jesus “who, though was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men”. Jesus did not consider it beneath him when he proclaimed that He “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).
In another account recorded in John 13 and Luke 22, Jesus walked the talk when He rose from the table and began to wash the feet of the disciples, including those of Judas who would betray Him. He was doing the work of the lowliest of servants. The disciples, who were arguing among themselves as to who was greater, must have been stunned at this act of humility and condescension, that Jesus, their Lord and Master would wash their feet. Since there was no servant present to wash their feet, it did not occur to the disciples to wash one another’s feet. Jesus’ act was a display of His humility and His servanthood. This act foreshadowed His ultimate act of humility and sacrifice on the cross.
Further, when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, He told them (and us) “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet”. As His followers, we are to emulate Him, serving one another in lowliness of heart and mind, seeking to build one another up, in humility and love. When we seek pre-eminence, we displease our Lord who promised that true greatness in His kingdom is attained by those with a servant’s heart.
Our pride and selfishness can hinder us from doing acts of service especially if we are called to serve the “strangers and the least” in our midst; or when we are called to do the less glamorous job that no one wants to do. Richard Foster, best known for his book “Celebration of Discipline” said that “in some ways, we would prefer to hear Jesus’ call to deny father and mother, houses and land for the sake of the gospel than His word to wash feet. Radical self denial gives the feeling of adventure. If we forsake all, we have even had a chance at glorious martyrdom. But in service, we must experience the many deaths of giving beyond ourselves.”
Pastor David Yap in his sermon last week reminded us that we are called to worship and service for we are under God’s grace. Let us therefore have a heart of service for God and for one another just as Christ Jesus has demonstrated. The reward for our service comes from God, not from men. It is far more rewarding to hear our Heavenly Father said “well done good and faithful servant”.
By Vincent Lim, Deacon (YCKC Bulletin 7&8 Sep 2013)