Jesus gave us a great lesson about serving as recorded in John 13:3-17 “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, are You washing my feet?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.’ Peter said to Him, ‘You shall never wash my feet!’ Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.’ Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!’ Jesus said to him, ‘He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.’ For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, ‘You are not all clean.’ So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.’” In the time of Jesus, most streets and paths were not paved; people generally wore sandals. Therefore, their feet would get very dirty from the dust or the mud of the street. To wash someone’s feet was a very menial task for a servant. And yet, Jesus, the son of God and their Lord and teacher, washed the feet of His disciples. Jesus said, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” Some believe that today they should follow this command of Jesus. Others would say that times have changed and that most people today do not walk on dirt streets and wear sandals. You must decide what you will do. But we cannot ignore the fact that Jesus, the son of God, washed His disciples’ feet as an example of the service we should have for one another.
One time the mother of James and John came to Jesus to request that her sons would sit on the right hand and on the left of Jesus in His kingdom. These were considered positions of great authority. Jesus told her that these positions were not His to assign but only by the Father. The other disciples were greatly displeased with the two brothers. Matthew 20:25-28 “But Jesus called them to Himself and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.’” There are two points I wish to emphasize. First, that the greatest among Christians is the one who serves. Whoever desires to be first should be the slave. It is not necessarily the one who has the greatest power, or the one who is most knowledgeable, or the one who is the most visible or the most vocal. The greatest is the one who serves. Second, Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve. We know that Jesus is the greatest. And yet, He came to serve His disciples, the people that came to him for help, and you and me today. Since we want to follow the example of Jesus, the conclusion is that you and I should seek to serve our fellow Christians and those around us.
Our motivation for serving one another should be our love for others. Galatians 5:13-14 “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” 1 John 3:16-18 “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” Jesus gave us the example of love by laying down His life for us. If we love our brother, when we see him in need, we will serve him in love.
I think it is important to consider the many, many ways that you can serve others. Jesus listed feeding someone who is hungry, giving drink to someone who is thirsty, giving lodging to a stranger, giving clothes to someone who is naked, and visiting someone who is sick or in prison (Matthew 25:31-46). Jesus also spoke of giving someone a cup of cold water (Matthew 10:42). We already read about washing dirty feet. John wrote about having this world’s goods and seeing your brother in need. “This world’s goods” could mean any possession or perhaps money that you might give to your brother in need. A mother serves her husband and her children in food preparation and all the care that she provides. A father serves his family by working to provide for their needs. Children serve the family by the chores they do. One who speaks before the church serves his fellow members. Holding open a door for someone is a simple way of serving. Praying for the needs of your brother serves him. May God open your eyes to the many opportunities for service to others.
God remembers how you serve others in love. Hebrews 6:10 “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” My encouragement to you is to be eager to serve others out of love.