Summary: Part 4 of the Lenten series on Jesus with this one focusing on Jesus’ humility and sense of self.

Jesus Knew His Identity, Yet Served with Humility

TEXT: John 13: 1-9, 12-17

Sunday, March 10, 2002

We do serve an awesome, wonderful and great God. However, when I experience me, Richard Pfeil, I find that I am not all that great. I know that might be surprising, but.......Unlike God, I have frailties in my life. As you have worshiped, have you thought of things that just are not right in your life? As you ponder that, let’s bow our heads and go to prayer in confession to God.

If you are new with us or visiting, we have been on a spiritual journey discovering and celebrating Jesus and what makes him so attractive to people in his day and our own day. So far, we have learned three things:

1. Jesus was spiritually connected to God. In Jesus Christ, we find his spiritual presence.

2. We have learned of his ability to relate to all people and that Jesus had no “us” and “them” mentality in his heart and mind. God calls us to live lives without walls, as well.

3. We also discovered that Jesus looked at people very differently. He saw the diamond in the rough and sought to bring that to fruition in people’s lives.

I think Jesus was a very gracious and redemptive person, and these are two qualities that are so vital in our lives. I think our focus should be to be redemptive and to be gracious to others.

Another quality is found in John 13: 1-9, 12-17. This quality was very impressive to the disciples because they had a better handle on who Jesus was, especially Peter, James and John. They saw some things that no one else saw. They saw Jesus in his glorified being and presence on the mount of transfiguration. Through sleepy eyes, they saw angels ascending and descending to minister to strengthen Jesus. They knew he was the Messiah, but they also knew that in this human flesh resided the creator of the world.

Paul writes about this in Philippians 2 in speaking about Jesus.

Text from Philippians

We see that Jesus would not misuse his power or use it selfishly. In fact, he would not show off. He would not jump from the pinnacle of the temple, he would not use his power for self-enrichment, he would not even provide bread for himself when he was hungry. Jesus is not like modern speakers of today. One time I tried to hire an outside speaker, and they wanted $10,000 and an airplane fee, the finest hotels and the best of food. We do not see this in Jesus’ life. He traveled by foot and did not require limousine service or the best of food or the finest hotels. He said that he had no place to rest his head.

Instead of seeking to be served, we see this Jesus doing things like we read in John 13:


Although Jesus knew his identity, he served with tremendous humility. He did this through the simple act of washing his disciples’ feet. It is hard for us today to relate to washing people’s feet. Our feet are very clean. However, in those days when you came in traveling, it was customary to wash people’s feet. Because they wore sandals, their feet got very dirty even though the rest of the body was clean. Usually, they reclined to eat their supper and their dirty feet would make a mess of things. It was so demeaning to wash people’s feet, that Jewish slaves were not required to do it. Foreign slaves were the ones who washed people’s feet.

If I was to make an analogy for today, I think cleaning public toilets would be demeaning for me. For some people it’s changing messy diapers. What is demeaning to you? One wealthy American was visiting Southeastern Asia and happened to notice a missionary nurse cleaning the sores of an elderly man. The American quipped to the nurse, “I wouldn’t do that for a million dollars.” The missionary nurse said, “Neither would I.” She was doing it because she loved people and was willing to serve them.

Why was Jesus washing the disciples’ feet? In Luke 22:24, they had finished their meal. There had been a lot of “kingdom talk” for days before this, and the disciples misunderstood. They thought, “We are going to sit on twelve thrones!” They were very excited about it and began to ask who was closest to Jesus. Peter states, “It’s obvious that it’s me.” John says, “No, Peter. I am the beloved disciple.” There is a dispute that breaks out at this most holy and critical time, and Jesus has to figure out what to do. He has been training these men for two-and-one-half years, and it is the eleventh hour. Twelve hours from now he’s going to be killed, and he thought he had prepared these men for ministry in the world. All of sudden, everything is starting to unravel. They haven’t understood very much, and I can almost sense a panic in Jesus at times as he wonders, “What am I doing to do?”

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