Summary: Part - 3 of 13 in a Spiritual Disciplines series.
Spiritual Disciplines: Service
John 13:1-5, 12-17
Sermon Number 3
January 20, 2008
Jesus gathered with His disciples in an upper room to celebrate one final meal together before He would die on the cross. The disciples still had no clue as to what was going to happen next. They simply thought they were headed to an upper room to have the Passover meal.
As they walked into the room that night, there was something strange, something, rather, someone was missing. But first you need to understand the history and the customs of that era. The host was supposed 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 when they sat down to eat, they were not sitting at table like we do, they reclined at tables which were about one foot to 18 inches off of the ground. That is how they would eat. That meant their feet would be dangerously near the next person’s face and food. Having a foot washer greet guests at the door was standard practice, much like if you came into my home in the winter, you would expect me to take you jacket and hang it up.
Imagine that you are in the upper room that evening and you watch the events as they are unfolding. You stand with excitement as you hear Jesus talking and the disciples laughing and talking as they make their way up the stairs and into the room.
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? You can see the look in his eyes, he’s disgusted that the host has not provided a foot washing servant. So, instead of becoming that servant, he thinks to himself, “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, one near the center of the table.
The second disciple comes in and he too, realizes that there is no foot washer, and he also notices that the first disciple in the room did not take it upon himself to serve, so he goes and finds a great spot at the table and complains about the fact that there is no foot washer. 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, they are all at the table, sitting down. Now Jesus suddenly gets up from the table and walks over to the water basin and takes off His outer garment. He looks at the disciples as they sit at the table, waiting to be served, and they stare back at Jesus. You wonder what Jesus was thinking, ‘Unbelievable! Father, don’t these guys get it? I’ve talked to them until I’m blue in the face and they still don’t get it. What more do I need to do?’ 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 Jesus.
After giving every chance for one of them to take the role of a servant, Jesus picks up the servant’s towel and pours water into the basin and begins the process of kneeling at each of the 12 disciples and washing their dirty, smelly feet.
After washing all of their feet, including Judas’, Jesus returned to the table and said,
13"You call me ’Teacher’ and ’Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
The call from Jesus to the disciples and to each one of us is to become a servant. And if we were really to speak the truth about serving many of us are not really thrilled with the prospect of becoming a servant. You see the call of Jesus is not just to serve, but to become a servant.
In his book Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster wrote,
In some ways we would prefer to hear Jesus’ call to deny father and mother, houses and land for the sake of the gospel than his word to wash feet. Radical self-denial gives the feel of adventure. If we forsake all, we even have the chance of glorious martyrdom. But in service we must experience the many little deaths of going beyond ourselves. Service banishes us to the mundane, the ordinary, the trivial. (126)