Summary: See the Purpose of His Incarnation, It is a postive statement of His Ministry and It is a Perfect statement of His Character
THE ORDER OF THE TOWEL
One old cliche says, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” It doesn’t have to be true, but all too often it is. We have read this text before. Can we give it a second look?
Perhaps it doesn’t need interpretation as much as implemented. The intonation is on following this example of our Lord:
1. It’s one thing to see a leper, it’s another thing to touch the leper.
2. It’s one thing to hurt for the demonized, it’s another thing to get rid of the demon.
3. It’s one thing to sense a need to pray, it’s another to spend all night in prayer.
4. It’s one thing to see hungry people, it’s another to feed them.
5. It’s one thing to see dirty feet, it’s another thing to wash them.
Servanthood: We can talk about it, idolize it, praise it, memorize it, cheer it, rally around it. But can we live it? What kind of teaching is this from our Lord?
I. It Is a Purpose Statement of His Incarnation.
Define Incarnation - The Incarnation is the understanding in Christianity that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. The word Incarnate derives from Latin (in=in, carnis=flesh) meaning “In the flesh.” The incarnation is a fundamental theological teaching of Christianity, based on its understanding of the New Testament.
A. It contrasts with negative ones:
1. I came not to abolish the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17).
2. I came not to bring peace (Matthew 10:34).
3. I came not to call the righteous (Matthew 9:13).
B. It aligns itself with positive ones:
1. I came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).
2. I came for judgment (John 9:39).
3. I came to give life (John 10:10).
II. It Is a Positive Statement of His Ministry.
A. Did Jesus smile or frown when He said it? Does He begrudge serving or do His eyes sparkle at the prospect? This removes ministry from legalism. Jesus changes our “want to’s.”
B. Plato said, “How can a man be happy when he has to serve someone?” We would respond, “By having the mind of Christ.”
C. Jesus didn’t say this with a miserly heart.
III. It Is a Perfect Statement of His Character
A. The statement was made at the end of His ministry, and they (the disciples) knew that it was an accurate personal testimony.
B. The statement truly represented Him. There was no false egotism here. There was no, “I’m humble and proud of it.”
C. The statement reflects what a crucified mind can do to create an environment of transformational leadership
There were no chief seats for James and John, but there were plenty of cups. We should be as wise as James and John and commit ourselves to being able—even before we know what true service is all about. We learn more as we serve.
A Towel as a Gift. When I graduated from Lincoln Christian Seminary I was part of a new tradition. Every graduate received, in addition to his or her degree and the usual hood, a towel. This was to remind the graduate that no matter what degree was behind that graduate’s name it was all in vain unless the graduate joined “the order of the towel.” I have appreciated this servanthood reminder through the years. I am proud of that towel. Is that right? It has the nice Lincoln Christian Seminary logo on it. I don’t want to get it dirty. I might rub the logo off. Perhaps I should frame it. On the other hand, maybe Jesus wants me to wear it out.
The Joy of Service. Several years ago I received a very nice gift from my oldest son for Christmas. He had little money so the gift was one of the homemade variety. It was a set of coupons tied together with gold ribbon. Each coupon was good for some act of service. One was for washing the car (he wasn’t even big enough to do that job when he promised to do it), one was for taking out the trash without being asked, and others were for other acts of kindness. I never used one of them. I thought to myself that I didn’t want to take advantage of him when he was so young. However, I now see that was a mistake. I was a joy robber. He wanted to offer himself. Jesus didn’t get angry at James and John for asking for chief seats. He simply redirected their spiritual ambition. Let’s be willing to serve. Let’s also be willing to let others serve.