Summary: Living a life of greatness by serving.

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Are Your Feet Dirty?

(John 13:1-17)


“A large group of European pastors came to one of D. L. Moody’s Northfield Bible Conferences in Massachusetts in the late 1800s. Following the European custom of the time, each guest put his shoes outside his room to be cleaned by the hall servants overnight. But of course this was America and there were no hall servants.

“Walking the dormitory halls that night, Moody saw the shoes and determined not to embarrass his brothers. He mentioned the need to some ministerial students who were there, but met with only silence or pious excuses. Moody returned to the dorm, gathered up the shoes, and, alone in his room, the world’s only famous evangelist began to clean and polish the shoes. Only the unexpected arrival of a friend in the midst of the work revealed the secret.

“When the foreign visitors opened their doors the next morning, their shoes were shined. They never know by whom. Moody told no one, but his friend told a few people, and during the rest of the conference, different men volunteered to shine the shoes in secret. Perhaps the episode is a vital insight into why God used D. L. Moody as He did. He was a man with a servant’s heart and that was the basis of his true greatness” (Gary Inrig, A Call to Excellence, (Victor Books, a division of SP Publishing, Wheaton, Ill; 1985), p. 98).

Have you ever been in the presence of someone who was definitely – by the world’s standards – greater than you? I can remember meeting some of my favorite recording artists like Geoff Moore, Stephen Curtis Chapman, and a couple T.V. personalities in my lifetime. And I can remember how awe struck I was to be in their presence. Their reputation and fame preceded them.

It’s amazing how little you feel compared to someone of greatness; how small you feel paired against seeming royalty. But Jesus turned the tables on all of this. Jesus completely threw the baby out with the bath water when he mentioned who was truly great. But not only did he mention who was great… he lived a life of greatness. Take for instance our scripture for today…

(John 13:1-17, NLT)

Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He now showed the disciples the full extent of his love. [2] It was time for supper, and the Devil had already enticed Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to carry out his plan to betray Jesus. [3] Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. [4] So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, [5] and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel he had around him.

[6] When he came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, "Lord, why are you going to wash my feet?"

[7] Jesus replied, "You don’t understand now why I am doing it; someday you will."

[8] "No," Peter protested, "you will never wash my feet!"

Jesus replied, "But if I don’t wash you, you won’t belong to me."

[9] Simon Peter exclaimed, "Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!"

[10] Jesus replied, "A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet, to be entirely clean. And you are clean, but that isn’t true of everyone here." [11] For Jesus knew who would betray him. That is what he meant when he said, "Not all of you are clean."

[12] After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, "Do you understand what I was doing? [13] You call me ’Teacher’ and ’Lord,’ and you are right, because it is true. [14] And since I, the Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. [15] I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. [16] How true it is that a servant is not greater than the master. Nor are messengers more important than the one who sends them. [17] You know these things—now do them! That is the path of blessing.

When we serve we become great; and it’s by serving we see…

• The full extent of love:

When we serve, we become the hands and feet of Christ – we become his likeness to those in need. When we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the homeless, encourage the brokenhearted, give hope to the hopeless, and become a friend to the friendless, we take on the attributes of God. We become – in essence – Christ-like ambassadors for God. Rather than hindering God’s work in the world, we become active participants within the Kingdom of God.

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