Mark 10:32-37, 41-45
Luke 22:14-20, 24-27
John 13:1-5, 12-17
(Notice the how the disciples were constantly seeking greatness while Jesus was constantly seeking to serve.)
Jesus gathered with His disciples in an upper room to celebrate one final meal together before He would die on the cross. It’s important to know that it was the custom of the day for a host to provide a servant at the door of any dinner party to wash the feet of the guests. Remember, in those days people walked with sandals down dusty roads and reclined at low tables—a foot to eighteen inches above the ground—while eating. That meant their feet would be dangerously near the next person’s face. Having a foot washer greet guests at the door was standard practice, much like we would have someone greet visitors and offer to take their coat and hang it up.
Imagine that you can see everything in the room, but no one in the room can see you. You stand, unnoticed, and watch the events of the Last Supper. Here come the twelve with Jesus, climbing the stairs. The first disciple walks in the door, looks for the foot-washing servant and notices he’s not there. Does he wash his own feet? Does he take off his garment and become a servant and wash everyone else’s feet? Look at his eyes. He is saying, “Not me. I’m a disciple of the great teacher Jesus. I’m not a lowly servant.” So he hurries to the table to get a good spot. The second disciple comes in. Realizing that the first guy refused to be a servant, he comes to the same conclusion. He too goes in and looks for a good spot at the table. Each disciple does the same thing. They all file in. They all go right past the water basin and recline at the table, making themselves comfortable as they stick their dirty feet in each other’s faces.
Finally Jesus and His twelve followers are all at the table. Jesus looks at the water. He looks at the filthy feet of the disciples. You can see it in His eyes. Unbelievable! Three years of sermon after sermon, illustration after illustration, confrontation after confrontation, and not one of them is willing to serve his brothers. And even more heartbreaking, not one of them was humble enough to serve even Jesus.
After giving every chance for one of them to take the role of a servant, Jesus gets up from the table. No one knows where He is going or what He is about to do. Jesus quietly walks to the water basin and begins to remove His outer garment. He carefully picks up the servant’s towel and tucks it in His belt, exactly the way a common servant would. Then He pours the water into the basin and kneels down at the feet of one of His followers.
The Big Idea: Be like Jesus by serving others. Jesus said to the disciples, “I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15). In other words, “Be like Me.”
1. Jesus washed the disciples’ feet because HE LOVED THEM.
“…having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end” (John 13:1b). “…he now showed them the full extent of his love (NIV).
We need to remember that the disciples at that moment were not an easy bunch to love:
• They were arguing about which of them was the greatest (Luke 22:24).
• One of them would betray Him
• One of them would deny Him
• Ten of them would desert Him
Jesus had the right motivation for serving the disciples: love. Why do we serve others? Sometimes we can have the wrong motivation.
Wrong motivations for service:
• The need to soothe feelings of GUILT
• The desire to EARN God’s favor
• The need to be PRAISED by others
Love for others starts with a love for God. When we discover that God loves us with an everlasting love and that we matter deeply to Him, we want to obey Him. And one of the most important commands He has given us is, “Love one another.”
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).
“If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15).
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers” (1 John 3:16).
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:10-11).
How can you and I be like Jesus? Have the RIGHT MOTIVATION: Serve others because of LOVE.
2. Jesus washed the disciples’ feet because HE WAS FOCUSED ON THE NEEDS OF OTHERS.
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that people are in the business of “looking out for number one.” That was true in Jesus’ day and it’s definitely true today.
From the moment of birth, people urge others to meet their needs. The infant cries until Mom comes to feed or change her. The toddler misbehaves until Dad stops playing with little sister and gives full attention to him. At older ages siblings often demand privileges in at least equal proportion to, and preferably in greater amounts than, their brothers and sisters. Adults often seek the highest paying jobs, the most comfortable homes, the most prestigious cars, and the most extravagant vacations possible, and are willing to go to considerable trouble to achieve these ends. What begins as a survival instinct quickly becomes an expression of fallen human nature.
We are obsessed with having our own needs met. But Jesus was different. During the Last Supper Jesus knew that He would die in just a few short hours. When it would have been normal for Him to be consumed with His own concerns, He was focused on the needs of His disciples.
a. The Contrast: JESUS and JUDAS
• Judas sought PERSONAL ADVANCEMENT at the expense of others (John 12:4-6; Matthew 26:14-16).
• Jesus “took upon him the form of a servant” for the benefit of others (Philippians 2:3-8).
Jesus did not serve His disciples because He forgot who He was (John 13:3): (1) He knew who He was: “knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands”; (2) He knew where He came from: “and that he was from God”; (3) He knew where He was going: “and went to God.”
Jesus, who existed “in the form of God,” took “the form of a servant.” The form of God was not exchanged for the form of a servant; it was revealed in the form of a servant
b. The Parallel: Dirty FEET and Dirty HEARTS
• He saw the disciples’ dirty feet, so He “riseth from supper” (John 13:4) – He saw our dirty hearts, so He left heaven and came to earth.
• He “laid aside his garments” – “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God” (Philippians 2:6).
• He “took a towel, and girded himself” – “But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7).
• He “poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet” (John 13:5) – “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8).
After Jesus finished washing all of the disciples’ feet, He put away the towel, put on His robe, and returned to recline at the table. Then He took a piece of bread and broke it and said, “This is my body which is for you.” Next, He took a cup and said, “This is my blood. I pour it out for you.” One more act of service would follow—the ultimate act of service: the giving of His life. As Jesus poured water into a basin to wash the disciples’ dirty feet, He would pour out His blood on the cross to wash our dirty hearts.
“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
I’m sure that when the disciples remembered Jesus’ statement that He had come to serve, the two scenes that were replayed over and over in their minds were Jesus washing their feet and Jesus hanging on the cross.
How can you and I be like Jesus? Have the RIGHT ATTITUDE: Serve others with HUMILITY.
“Each of [us] should look not only to [our] own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4)
3. Jesus washed the disciples’ feet because HE UNDERSTOOD THAT TRUE GREATNESS COMES FROM SERVING OTHERS.
Illustration: “Be like Mike” (Gatorade commercial)
What does it mean to be like Mike? To be the best basketball player in the world, famous, rich, idolized.
What does it mean to be like Jesus? To serve others. Being like Jesus isn’t as attractive to the world as being like Mike. But most people don’t realize that true greatness doesn’t come from being a great basketball player; true greatness comes from serving others.
“If ye know these things, happy [blessed] are ye if ye do them” (John 13:17).
“…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant” (Mark 10:43).
“Who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27).
If I asked all of you the question, “Why do you love Jesus?” probably the most common answer would be “Because He gave His life for me.” “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
How can you and I be like Jesus? Have the RIGHT KNOWLEDGE: Serve others to achieve TRUE GREATNESS.
If service was not beneath Jesus, it certainly isn’t beneath us.
Be like Jesus by serving others.
• Have the RIGHT MOTIVATION: Serve others because of LOVE.
• Have the RIGHT ATTITUDE: Serve others with HUMILITY.
• Have the RIGHT KNOWLEDGE: Serve others to achieve TRUE GREATNESS.