My husband spoke the message (title: from death to death) at our church last night. It was based on Psalm 116, specifically verse 15, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints." One of the things that he shared was an encounter he had with his mom at age 14. He stated that if Christianity was just reading the Bible & going to church twice a week, he would quit the faith right then and there. I, too, grew up believing that there had to be more to Christianity than that—it just had to be! The Jesus I had read about was much more than the shallow Christianity I had encountered. So then, what else is there? What sets us apart? Answering those questions was what Louis taught last night. It was a word that has been wrestling within me since. Powerful; convicting; piercing.
This morning, God took me to John 13:1-20. I've shared that I'm in a season of learning how to love like Jesus did/does. Little did I know that this passage would radically change me & confirm what was already stirring in my soul.
John 13:1-20 Jesus Washes the Disciples' Feet
Theres a lot that's going on when this passage takes place. Jesus has just raised Lazarus from death, Mary had anointed (a symbolic act of the burial that was to come), he had just experienced the Triumphal Entry & experienced unbelief from his own people. Talk about enough excuses for anxiety and stress. Jesus knows that the cross is next and his time on earth is but a little while longer. So, just before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus takes the place of a servant and begins to wash the disciples' feet. Three things occur that interrupt the footwashing:
1. Judas Iscariot had set his heart to betray Jesus for money. Jesus knew it too.
2. The disciples don't understand what Jesus is doing. There is a spiritual significance taking place.
3. Peter mistakes the act of humility for one of humiliation and indignity, refusing to let Jesus wash his feet.
But, why exactly did He wash the disciples' feet?
Evidence of love. To truly understand this passage, I had to realize that Love was on its knees before being nailed to a cross. We cannot believe that the cross was the only symbol of love that Jesus displayed. He was at the feet of his creation, even kneeling down at the feet of Judas, his betrayer.
Example of humility & sacrifice. Jesus sets an example for us, for each other.
To show us who He is and who we are. Service exposes and reminds us why we follow Him in the first place. The reason we come to Christ in the first place is because we recognize we are sinners and we need to be cleansed. "[Jesus] comes to us in love, kindly correcting us, patiently explaining the way of salvation, graciously cleansing us, and humbling serving our every need. Then Jesus calls us to live with the same loving and humble service."—Phil Ryken
Jesus takes the role of a slave for a reason! If our Lord took the lowest place, I need to take even a lower one. John 13:16-17 says, "I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them."
"If we are followers of a foot-washing Savior, then no act of service could ever be beneath our dignity...To come under the lordship of Jesus Christ is to follow his example of servanthood..." —Phil Ryken
What hinders a lifestyle of humble service?
"Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged." 1 Cor 13:4-5
1. Envy: A feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else's possessions, qualities, or luck; a sinful response to the success of others; the pain we feel when others prosper. // Envy only makes us think about what we can get, not about what we can give.With envy, we long to see others to their knees, not ourselves.
2. Selfishness: stinginess resulting from a concern for your own welfare and a disregard of others. // Selfishness is expecting others to get on their knees to serve us.
3. Arrogance: Marked by or arising from a feeling or assumption of one's superiority toward others. Sinful response to our own success; It's demanding attention for our own accomplishments. // Lewis Smedes said that "arrogance drives us to be rude to people who have nothing to offer us, nothing to make us look good." Peter's heart was full of arrogance when he refused Jesus (John 13:8). He was saying that he was too proud to let Jesus serve him! We are no greater than Jesus, in fact, we're much less. We're not divine but human, not infinite but finite, not sinless but sinful. Donald English says, "At the source of all Christian service in the world is the crucified and risen Lord who died to liberate us into such service."
4. Pride: An excessively high opinion of oneself; conceit. // The root of all the previous characteristics above come from pride. Pride is loving ourselves the most but hardly loving others—pride is a lack of love.
I don't know about you but I've certainly struggled with all these, far more than I'd like to admit.
How do we cultivate a lifestyle of humble service?
How, then, do we move from responding sinfully to lovingly?
1. With willingness & intentionality. There are many ways to serve, if only we're willing.
2. With our words. Not manipulating nor monopolizing conversations, not calling attention to ourselves always but looking for opportunities to encourage and edify the other.
3. With our ears. Listen intentionally. You will always serve more by listening more and talking less.
4. With our hands. I love how Phil Ryken puts it:
"Some of us are called to serve at home, with a dishrag and a laundry basket. Some of us serve in the kitchen, using pots and pans to make meals for the homeless. Some of us serve by pushing wheelchairs and playing musical instruments for people at the nursing home. Some of us serve by building a home for orphans, or wrapping our arms around a child with special needs, or pressing a stethoscope to the chest of a little boy or girl who otherwise would never receive medical care." Seek to serve when you see a need, in any capacity you're capable to do.
5. With humility. Humility is going to the cross, confessing our sins and begging God to teach us to love the way He loves. Humility is also counting others more significant than ourselves. Humility is knowing that it's not about us.
In the last month, Louis and I have gotten anonymous letters with money in them. We have not communicated our financial needs to anyone but the truth is that we have been struggling. We're not worried about it, much less stressing about it because God has always been faithful to come through but it's been humbling to see Him provide through others. It has prompted us to separate of the little that we have to bless others as well! Someone saw our need and served us, I want to do the same... I want to wash the feet of others like others have washed mine.
"When a person does all the good he can, to all the people he can, in all the ways he can, as long as ever he can, he is symbolically washing the saints' feet. This is the meaning of kononiea, the Greek word used in the book of Acts to describe or set forth the fellowship in the church. It is a communion, a sharing, a mutual love, a ministry, that makes the trouble of one member become the concern of all."
written on July 18, 2013