|Vol. 16 No. 11 November 2014||
Gary C. Hampton
The story is told of a Texas rancher who bought ten adjoining ranches and tied them together to form one giant spread. A friend asked him the name of his new mega-ranch. The rancher had wanted to keep part of each of the ten names of the ranches he had acquired as a reminder to everyone of the clout he had shown through his purchase. So he named his new ranch enterprise The Circle Q - Rambling Brook -Lazy H - Double Fork - Sleepy T - Triple O - Bent Arrow - Flying J - Rocking K - Crooked Creek Ranch. His friend, notably impressed, said, “Wow! I bet you have a lot of cattle!” “Not really,” explained the rancher. “Not that many survive the branding” (copied from a church bulletin).
Unfortunately, like the farmer in this story, our society seems to have made the advancement and glorification of self its primary goal. The men and women who are set forth as role models are the ones who have “pulled themselves up by the bootstraps.” In such a climate, a servant is someone who works for you, not a role to be desired.
Our Lord saw things in a wholly different light, as can be seen in an incident recorded in John 13. Jesus knew who He was, from whence He came and where He was going (verse 3). Despite the fact that He knew He was God, our Savior could aptly be described as the ever-loving servant. John described Jesus by saying, “having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” The beloved apostle went on to report that Jesus arose from supper, took off His outer garments, girded himself with a towel and started to wash the disciples’ feet in a basin of water (verses 1, 4-5).
The Son of God also recognized the importance of submission. A most interesting exchange occurred when He came to Peter. The apostle Peter asked, “Lord, are You washing my feet?” Tone of voice is not recorded in Scripture. However, the emphasis was likely on “You” and “my.” It is hard to imagine the shock he must have felt when the very Son of God stooped to wash his feet. After all, such tasks were performed by servants, which in man’s mind was not the role of the Savior.
Jesus responded by saying, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.” Peter emphatically stated, as is indicated by the use of a double negative in the original, “You shall never wash my feet!” The Lord’s answer to that comment is surprising in its strength. He said, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” In short, if Peter could not yield to the Lord, he could have no part with the Lord! Peter instantly said, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!” The Lord let him know that only the feet were necessary. After all, the feet would have gotten dusty as they walked along dirt paths (John 13:6-10a).
This demonstration centered around external, physical, cleansing. Of course, the Lord knew there was a cleansing other than physical, which is clearly demonstrated in His next statement. “And you are clean, but not all of you.” John added an inspired explanation. “For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, ‘You are not all clean’” (John 13:10b-11). Remember, the apostle had already written, “And supper being ended, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him” (verse 2). Later, Jesus would go into a more detailed explanation of the things that were about to take place. He knew Judas would betray Him. In fact, it had been prophesied long before the Lord ever came to earth! These prophetic words were specifically designed to demonstrate that He was the Son of God (verses 18-30).
For the rest of the apostles, though, there was another important lesson. They needed to recognize the importance of following the Lord in humble service. As Jesus began to explain His actions, He acknowledged He was both their Teacher and Lord. He wanted the apostles to see what the Lord had done. He had taken the servant’s role and washed their feet. Now, Jesus wanted His followers to take the servant’s role as well. “For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, happy are you if you do them” (John 13:12-17).
Clearly, the Lord wants His followers to be servants. That Paul understood this is clearly seen in his writings to the various churches. He described himself to the Romans by saying, “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ…” (Romans 1:1; Titus 1:1). He apparently taught Timothy to be a servant and described both of them in Philippians 1:1 by saying, “Paul and Timothy, servants of Jesus Christ…” He also taught the Galatians to be ready to serve, even telling them, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:9-10).
Opportunities to serve can come in many different forms. When Jesus told the Parable of the Judgment, He described the importance of feeding the hungry, giving a drink to the thirsty, taking in strangers, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and visiting those in prison (Matthew 25:31-46). Paul described his own actions in Ephesus by saying, “I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me. I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:33-35). Of course, service for others ultimately led Jesus to the cross. It caused Paul not to value his own life more than the opportunity to preach the Gospel (Philippians 2:5-8; Acts 20:24; 21:13).
Every Christian’s goal should be to serve, like Jesus served. Each should strive to follow the Master in looking out for and taking care of the needs of others. No task should be too menial for one following the Lord who took up the towel and basin!