30 Days in the Bible: Day 7: John 13:12-16
Jesus was just hours away from the beginning of His suffering when this teaching event occurred. There was much He wanted to say to the disciples, and John gives us a great deal of spoken teaching in the next few chapters, which are often titled the “Upper Room Discourse.” Even though He knew He would rise again, He wanted the Twelve to be prepared for the shock of not having their Master around. The time from Good Friday to Easter Sunday would be a very long weekend for the shocked followers of Jesus.
I find it fascinating that among all He wanted the disciples to learn and remember this night, He used two object lessons. One was taking the bread and wine of the Passover seder and investing them with new meaning. The other was this incident at the beginning of the evening where He used a towel and some water to teach about serving.
In the devotional for this passage we saw that Jesus emphasized His own willing and humble service on behalf of His followers. This example of humility should make it impossible for us to say we can’t bring ourselves to serve the lowliest of people or to perform the most menial tasks. However, there was more to what He says here than just “follow my example.”
Jesus not only reminds them of who He is, but tells them they are right in giving Him the titles of respect they use. Jesus does not renounce His claim to be their Master and Lord, or claim He’s only a servant, not the Messiah. Even as He performs the lowly job of washing the disciples’ feet, He remains their Lord. While He demonstrates by His own actions that greatness in His kingdom comes through humble service, He doesn’t become less than who He is by that service.
This reminds us that as we serve others with humility and labor for the Lord as His willing servants, Christians don’t simply become a class of slaves with no standing. We remain children of God, those who have been redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus, and people made in the image of God. When we humble ourselves to serve, we don’t lay aside who we have become through Christ; we realize that even with our glorified status as children of the King we are able to show our greatness through our work.
God already has an entire class of creatures who are dedicated servants in the angels. What He wants form us is sons and daughters who are willing to do whatever He calls us to do, no matter how simple or trivial the task may seem to us, in order to expand His kingdom. When we have that heart of service, we are able to be more like our Savior and Lord, and while we can never humble ourselves the way He did in going to the cross, we can give ourselves freely to His service and to His kingdom.