The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;
so he got up from the meal, took off his kouter clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. John 13:2-5 (NIV)
The drama described here at the “pointy end” of John's gospel is like theatre. The scene is set. Judas, the yet to be revealed “villain”, is ready to make his move, but only Jesus, the central character, knows exactly how the drama is going to unfold. The “audience”, his disciples, have no idea.
So when the curtains open at the beginning of Act 1 of this 'final week drama', the disciples are astonished at what they see: Jesus, the hero of the drama, has stepped off the stage and come down to be amongst his audience. And now, one by one, he is washing their feet! (Including, but unbeknownst to them, the feet of the one who is about to betray him).
It was just the first of many twists in a plot which, though laid out in the Scriptures for hundreds of years, they were only seeing clearly for the first time now.
What a surprise it is to discover truth for the first time! What an astonishing Kingdom, where the king washes the feet of his subjects, where evil is overcome by good, and where greatness proceeds from humility.
As I picture the scene of this last supper, I see that Jesus would have had to get right down on his knees in order to wash his disciples feet. It's not hard to understand the reaction of Peter who initially balked at the prospect of letting Jesus wash his feet.
Such humility as Jesus displayed lays wide open even the hardest of hearts, piercing our very soul. I can find in myself only two possible responses – to run, or to bow down, offering everything to the One who offered everything for me.
And I see too another truth revealed, that if I follow the example of Jesus and humble myself to serve others as he did, then even the hardest of hearts can be opened to the truth found in Jesus. When I serve others with humility, the light of Christ will be revealed.
Lord Jesus, I am completely disarmed by the love and humility you have shown to me. I offer myself again into your hands. Help me to serve as you did. Please fill me afresh with your Spirit, and may your light shine through me that others would come to know you and love you, the most astonishing King of kings and Lord of lords.
Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. John 13:14-15, 17 (NIV)
See also The Noble Endeavour of Serving.
Reading: Mark 7-9
…on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” Mark 9:34-37
On learning that his disciples were discussing who was the greatest among them, it's interesting that Jesus doesn't rebuke them for this. Rather he explains to them what constitutes greatness in the kingdom of God, and it is clearly not what they were thinking. Greatness in the Kingdom allows no room for pride; rather, it stems from humility. It takes the opportunity to serve and delights in allowing others to go first. It is not self-promoting, but instead leaves God to promote as he sees fit. It seeks not the adoration of men, but rather, the approval of God.
Some of the greatest people in the Kingdom of God may be those whose deeds are unknown by the world, but, “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.” Matthew 10:26
I enjoy being recognised for doing something well. But being able to enjoy the moment with my Father in heaven, and then “chew the fat” with him afterwards – that is a very great privilege. Enjoying the warmth of his approval frees me from the need to have the approval and affirmation of others. To please him in everything I do, knowing that he sees all I do, and knows what is in my heart – this should be my number one priority. Whatever job he has for me is the job I will put my heart and soul into, whether that job be great or small.
Thank you Jesus for your wonderful example. Help me to delight in serving others, and in knowing that as I serve, I am bringing pleasure to you, my King. I look forward to the reward you have for me. My life is in your hands.
Yes, the title of this SOAP was rather grandiose, wasn't it! “Simon the Great!” I had a good laugh with God about this one. Have you tried using SOAP in your own times with God? It's a great way to listen to God as you read his Word. You can learn more about SOAP here: What is SOAP?
Reading: Jeremiah 17:19 – 23:8
But if I say, “I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot. Jeremiah 20:9-10 (NIV)
Poor Jeremiah. No doubt he's smiling now, but you really have to read “Jeremiah's Complaint” in Jeremiah 20:7-18 to appreciate how miserable he was. Yes, he was on fire, but everyone just wanted to put him out.
The people of God had lost their first love. “Yes yes, Lord,” they said, but their hearts were far away, worshiping other gods and letting justice fall by the wayside. And so it fell to Jeremiah to bring God's dire warnings to the people. They, however, appreciated neither the message nor the messenger, and had Jeremiah beaten and put in the stocks.
It's hardly surprising then that Jeremiah found himself feeling angry and depressed, and apparently reluctant at times to share what God gave him. Had the people listened and accepted God's message, it would have been a completely different story. How satisfying that would have been for Jeremiah, how rewarding to see the nation turning back to God. But instead, he was shunned, just as God was – the servant like his master.
Nevertheless, Jeremiah was no Jonah. He couldn't run away because he simply couldn't hold God's message in. It was like fire in his bones, and no matter how much he was mocked and ridiculed, no one could put the fire out, not even himself.
It's reassuring to see that even some of God's “major prophets” struggled. As I get to know Jeremiah from his writings (Jeremiah and Lamentations), I find myself liking him very much. I would like to have been around to encourage him and stand with him. Even in the midst of loneliness and difficulty, his passion for God was unquenchable.
But in the midst of his anguish, I see that Jeremiah did two things: He committed his cause to God, and he took his complaints to God. I can do the same. There is simply no point in running away, or in seeking solace elsewhere. God is the only one worth running to, and the only one who can truly meet me at my point of need.
Thank you Lord for Jeremiah. (I'd like to meet him one day!) As I walk this earth, please help me to never let go of you, and to always seek you first when I'm troubled. Hold me fast in that day so that like Jeremiah, I might finish the race, and finish it well.
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” Lamentations 3:21-25 (NIV)
Reading: Philippians 2
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place… Philippians 2:5-9a (NIV)
In the curious “upside-down, back to front” economy of the kingdom of God, greatness is to be found in humility. Choosing to put others before myself and to be like a servant is not actually choosing second best. On the contrary, it is a noble endeavour, and finds me living with the very same attitude that Jesus had. Rather than it being a humiliating waste of my time, serving is a way that I can embrace the very purposes of God for my life and achieve more quickly one of my life goals, to become more like Christ.
Somehow, viewing servanthood as a noble endeavour makes an enormous difference to the way I feel about it. It begins to feel like a privilege. It somehow brings to me a degree of personal dignity that I could never experience if I was always the one being served. And, of course, it can bring dignity to those being served, especially those not otherwise esteemed in the world's way of thinking.
When servitude is forced on a person, they are belittled and deprived of dignity. But when serving is a choice, everybody wins – the served and the server. Of course, nothing worthwhile comes without cost, and serving can certainly cost. But even if my efforts are not acknowledged or appreciated by those I serve, God is always watching, and his reward will surely follow.
Thank you God that you are working in me, “to will and to act according to [your] good purpose.” (Phil 2:13). I offer up to you my attitude about serving. Please make it pure, and work humility and generosity into the fabric of my heart. Help me to put selfishness aside, as well as the temptation to grumble and complain, and instead, create in me a pure heart, that I might have the same attitude as the one Jesus had, and still has – the noble attitude of a servant.