Summary: The disciples didn’t understand he was calling them to be servants. You remember that just prior to coming to Jerusalem, Jesus had caught the disciples arguing over who was going to get the seat of honor and authority at the side of Jesus. Jesus knew if t
The Amazing Race: Service
Jim White tells the story of Pauline spending four months in Portugal. While there, she felt like God wanted her to teach a ladies’ bible study on Wednesday mornings. After awhile, she sensed they should begin feeding the poor. Pauline and the other ladies then began taking food to the poor in outlying villages where their houses were no more than shacks. While they were there, Pauline felt that every lady should feel like a lady and she began pampering these village ladies hands. She would take their hands and message them and rub lotions and give them a manicure. One particular lady was blind and her hands were blackened with dirt. She washed, massaged and cared for this lady’s hands dirty, dried and scarred. And then Pauline said, “I have never felt more fulfilled or satisfied or closer to Jesus than when I was doing that for those ladies.” Of the five disciplines that we will talk about this month, the discipline of service is our lifeline to Jesus. There is no time when we feel more connected to the presence of Jesus than when we serve. Jesus said, “Wherever I am, my servant will be also.” When we are serving, we are very much in the presence of Jesus.
In our Scripture today, Jesus gathers the disciples to celebrate The Passover, a time of remembrance and great celebration. Yet Jesus also knew it was his last night before he was to be crucified. Looming before him was the pain and agony of the cross he was about to face! But rather than focusing on himself and his predicament, he seeks to serve the disciples by giving them one last lesson, one which they would never forget, that of being a servant. He washes their feet, the most demeaning task of Jesus’ day that only slaves performed it. Why did Jesus do this? The disciples didn’t understand he was calling them to be servants. You remember that just prior to coming to Jerusalem, Jesus had caught the disciples arguing over who was going to get the seat of honor and authority at the side of Jesus. Jesus knew if they were ever going to fulfill his mission that they needed a serious attitude adjustment.
Servanthood starts with an attitude adjustment. Now in the midst of all the emotional turmoil of Jesus’ last night, what does he do but serve the needs of the disciples by preparing them through an example of service. In a simple but profound act, Jesus teaches them that this life is about service and is to be focused on others! Like the disciples, God needs to transform our attitudes so that we can become servants too. Contrast Jesus’ actions with the attitude we often have in our lives, focusing on our needs, our wants, our desires, our hopes and our dreams. We believe and live as if this life is about me. It seems like it has always been this way. Paul wrote in Philippians 2:21, “For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” From the day we’re born, our world revolves around us. Until there’s something else in our lives in control, we’re going to be controlled by selfishness. So for us to become a servant, we need an attitude adjustment. This life is not about us. It’s about serving God and others.
We are called to be servants. At Gretna UMC, we’re not going to use the word volunteer any longer. We’re going to use the word servant. Being a volunteer and being a servant are two different things. A volunteer only chooses to serve out of convenience or time they have left over after doing things for themselves. But the servant serves when the need presents itself. In fact, they don’t rest until the affairs of their Lord or Master are taken care of. There are no excuses. You cannot wait until you have time. Servanthood, unlike choosing to serve, is a lifestyle. It is not 9 to 5.
Service is the way we use our power. When I choose to serve or volunteer, I’m still in charge. I’m still in control. It’s really important to notice the play on words that Jesus used in verses 13 and 14. He said,” You call me Teacher and Lord, and you’re right. So I am.” But then he reversed it and said, “If I, your Lord and Teacher . . .” Servanthood is about your primary understanding of and relationship to Jesus. Jesus was saying: I am more than your teacher and example. I have to be Lord of your life.” Lord means absolute authority, owner. Everything I do is at his will and discretion, not my convenience. Mother Teresa puts it this way: “I belong to Jesus. He must have the right to use me without consulting me.”