"Who Is Jesus?" part 5
The Servant King
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
May 2, 2010

What does greatness mean to you? When you think about being successful and achieving greatness, what do you think of? If you’re like most people, you most likely think about having wealth and fame, significant accomplishments, lots of power, and probably lots of employees to do all the “little things” for you. You probably think about the prospect of never having to do the “dirty jobs” again.

In fact, you probably think of people at the opposite end of greatness as being those people who work those minimum wage jobs, never get any recognition, and have to serve at the beck and call of those people who are truly great.

And I expect that concept of greatness has been around for a long time. If you go back to the time of Jesus, you discover that even then people equated greatness with power and prestige and position and prosperity. A person’s success could be measured by the number of servants they had. The greater you were, the more people you had serving you.

But then along came Jesus, and he redefined greatness.

We’re continuing this morning with our message series entitled, “Who Is Jesus?” And through the course of this series, we’re trying to uncover the identity of Jesus. We’re trying to discover everything we can about the Man, the mission, the message.

And I think we’re making some good progress. I think we’ve already learned a lot about just who Jesus is. And today, I want us to look at one of the main reasons Jesus said He came to begin with. You can see it in His words in Matthew chapter 20…

Matthew 20:28 (NLT)
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus redefined greatness. There has never been anyone greater than Jesus in all of history. Yet Jesus didn’t equate greatness with status. He didn’t associate greatness with the number of servants you have. No, for Him… the greatest person who ever lived… He saw His own purpose as coming to serve.

And Jesus didn’t just pay lip service to the idea of serving… He modeled it. He set the standard and became the example.

I mean, think about it. How did Jesus spend His time? He went from town to town, healing people and teaching them and reaching them, meeting their needs… He genuinely cared about people and did whatever He could for them.

And you see a great example of this servant attitude in action in John 13…

John 13:1-5 (NLT)
Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.

What a radical thing for Jesus to do… to wash the feet of His disciples. Let’s try to understand what He was doing…

We’re coming up on summer here, and pretty soon the beaches of PEI will be filled with people. Imagine that you were to go out to Cavendish one day and just walk the beach for a few hours… you don’t go swimming, you just walk on the beach. And you’re wearing your sandals. Can you imagine what your feet would look like after a few hours? Can you imagine what they would feel like? They’d be caked with a layer of dirt and dust, and you’d probably be looking forward to getting them washed, wouldn’t you?

Well, back in Jesus’ day, the main mode of travel was walking. People could walk for hours each day, wearing their sandals, and walking across the sandy, dusty roads. So a custom evolved that when a guest would enter a home, a servant would be there to wash the feet of the guest. Today we offer to take a person’s coat and offer them a drink. Back then, they washed their feet. And really, it was a pretty menial job. I mean, would you want to apply for that kind of position? This was the kind of job that only a servant or a slave would have to lower themselves to perform.

So here we have Jesus and His disciples entering into a room. We know it was suppertime, so it’s late in the day, and we know that Jesus had probably walked around teaching people that entire day. So His feet and the feet of all of the disciples would have been caked with dirt. But on this occasion… there were no servants present to wash their feet.

So they all went in and sat around the table. And after a while of sitting there, Jesus took it upon Himself to wash His disciples’ feet. And that was a radical thing for anyone to do, especially someone who was regarded as a great teacher and a leader. In fact, it was so radical that His disciples protested. Peter in particular refused at first to let Jesus wash his feet.

And I think you can understand why. I mean, think about it. Put yourself in their sandals. It’s the end of the day, you’ve been working hard, and you know that your feet are dirty and calloused and smelly. And then the one person you admire most and the person you want to impress the most wants to wash your feet? Riiight. Like you’re going to let that happen!

So just so you can really understand how they were feeling, I want you all to pair up and we’re going to wash each other’s feet this morning. Okay, not really. But did you experience that brief moment of terror? Did you think about how badly you need to trim your toe-nails? Were you afraid we were going to discover that wart? Did you think about how disgusting your shoes are and how bad they make your feet smell? And this is still 11:00 in the morning! It’s only been a few hours since you showered… I hope.

These disciples had been walking all day, and their feet really were disgusting. So of course they didn’t jump at the chance to have Jesus wash their feet. But Jesus insisted that they allow Him to. And then, when He was finished, He taught them the significance of what He had done…

John 13:12-15 (NLT)
After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.”

Servanthood. Jesus modeled it and He demanded it of His disciples… then and now. So this morning, as we talk about why Jesus thought it was so important to serve others, I want you to realize that these same reasons are why it’s important for us to serve today. Okay? These are the reasons it’s important for us to serve within the Church, but also within our interpersonal relationships. So let’s get going…

Why Is Serving Important to Jesus?

1.    Servanthood is a pure expression of love.

What motivated Jesus to wash His disciples’ feet? We’re told in the very first verse of the chapter…

John 13:1 (NIV)
Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.

It was the love that Jesus had for people in general and for His disciples specifically that led Him to serve them.

You see, you don’t show love by making people serve you; you show it by serving them.

Listen to what Paul wrote to the Christians in the city of Galatia…

Galatians 5:13-14 (NLT)
For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Do you see the connection between serving and love? First and foremost, love was the motivation for Jesus serving others, and it needs to be our motivation, too. In fact, I would say that if you can’t lower yourself to serve others, then you’re not really a loving person at all. You certainly don’t have the love of God in you, because the love of God leads you to acts of loving service.

And this is something you can’t fake. The love you express must be genuine, or regardless of what you do it will all be meaningless. I mean, there are lots of reasons you might serve others: maybe you’re putting on a show, maybe you’ve been guilted into it, maybe you’re trying to impress someone with just how humble you are, maybe you’re doing it to put another feather in your cap or to earn a merit badge… but if your primary motivation isn’t love, then it’s all meaningless. Paul said…

1 Corinthians 13:3 (NLT)
If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

Love is the crucial component. So if you lack that kind of love, then you need to start praying about it. Ask God to fill you with His love. And keep praying. Don’t let up until you are filled to overflowing with the limitless love of God.

Jesus served and we should serve because it is an expression of love. A second reason that Jesus served was to obey the commands of God.

2.     Servanthood is in step with God’s will.

Let me try to connect a couple of verses here…

John 6:38 (NLT)
“For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will.”

Matthew 20:28 (NLT)
“For even I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served but to serve others, and to give my life as a ransom for many.”

So if Jesus came serve, and if He came to do the will of God the Father, then is it reasonable to conclude that God the Father sent Jesus to serve? I think it is. And then Jesus took that very mission and He passed it on to us. Jesus told His disciples…

John 13:14, 17 (NLT)
“And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet… Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.”

And no, He wasn’t talking about literally going from person to person washing their feet. He was using the washing of feet as an analogy for what it means to serve. And serving is what Jesus expects of each of us.

Do you know what makes serving others so difficult? It’s the inconvenience factor. It’s the fact that in order to serve others you have to set aside your own preferences. I don’t think Jesus was looking for a new hobby when He washed His disciples’ feet. I don’t think it was necessarily something He would have put on His to-do list. But the need presented itself, and He was able to fill that need. He wasn’t looking to satisfy His own needs; He was looking to satisfy the needs of others.

How many of you use Facebook? It’s amazing, isn’t it, how quickly Facebook has caught on. And the way these things go, who knows if it will even be around next year this time? You know what’s scary about Facebook? How people I hardly know find out all about my life. And it’s not because of what I post; it’s what my wife posts. Did you see this comic a few weeks ago?

COMIC – Blondie, April 5, 2010
Dagwood arrives at work, and his coworkers greet him with statements like…
“Whoa! There goes the world’s greatest husband.”
“I wish my husband would surprise me by cooking dinner.”
“You’re a sweetheart, Dag!”
“Hey! There’s the husband of the year!”
Dagwood ends the strip by saying, “I can always tell when Blondie’s posted something about me on Facebook.”

Anyway… Facebook. I have a friend who likes to post quotes. Sometimes he’s quoting other people; sometimes he’s quoting himself. And I think he made a profound observation this week…

“What do we need to do with our children to begin to cultivate ‘disciples’ rather than ‘consumers’? We've mastered the ‘consumer’ thing.”
~ Karl Ingersoll, Tues at 18:43 · April 27, 2010

What’s a consumer looking for? They’re looking to be served. They’re looking to be waited on. They’re looking to get as much out as they can while putting as little in as possible. And I think Karl is right on the money. I think we’ve created a whole culture of consumerism. I think it’s in our society, I think it’s in our churches. When you move to a new city and start looking for a church, we even call it church shopping. We’ve become consumers in every aspect of our lives. It affects our view of church, it affects how we interact with each other, it affects our approach to our job… we’re a society of consumers.

But do you understand how different it is to be a disciple rather than a consumer?

A disciple is more interested in what they can give than what they can get. They’re more interested in serving than they are in what’s in it for them.

Jesus set a new standard of greatness, and He did it by serving… Serving as an expression of love and serving in obedience to the will of His Father.

And the third reason we’re looking at this morning… Jesus served because…

3.    Serving models true greatness.

We read from Mark 9:35 earlier, and in that verse Jesus said…

Mark 9:35 (NLT)
“Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”

What an incredible counter-cultural statement… something that seems completely foreign to our society… you achieve true greatness by becoming a servant.

It seems like a logical incongruity. But it really does happen. The best example from recent years that I can think of would be Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa devoted her entire life to loving and serving the very least on the streets of Calcutta. She never sought any positions or recognition. She was content to just serve the very least.

But she became admired and respected in ways that go far beyond what any elected office could achieve. And eventually she was invited to speak before world leaders and they listened! In fact, they would go to see her instead of having her come to see them! She descended into greatness.

Now, we all know about Mother Teresa. We’ve heard about her expressions of love and compassion in service to her God. She became famous for that. But that’s not the way it always happens. Many times, those who devote their lives to serving others are never recognized for it. Often, their good deeds can even go unnoticed for years. But someday, every good deed… every act of service… will become known.

1 Timothy 5:25 (NLT)
In the same way, the good deeds of some people are obvious. And the good deeds done in secret will someday come to light.

But even if their good deeds are hidden all through their lives, they still achieve greatness. Just because you may not be recognized for it now doesn’t mean that there is no reward. Jesus said…

Matthew 6:4 (NLT)
“Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”

The Bible frequently talks about how the good things you do now in secret will be rewarded in Heaven. And that’s where it really matters. That’s where true greatness will be recognized and rewarded in ways that go far beyond what can be experienced now. In that same chapter, Jesus said…

Matthew 6:19-20 (NLT)
“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.”

Now, we’ve looked this morning at a time when Jesus modeled servanthood by washing the feet of His disciples. And you’ve got to understand, this was something that was foreign to them, too. They thought greatness was all about position and power and prestige. They didn’t think servanthood had anything to do with greatness. In fact, just a little while earlier the disciples had been arguing about who was the greatest among them. And so Jesus gave them this object lesson by washing their feet as they were getting ready for supper. But then right after supper, they started up again! Listen to what happened…

Luke 22:24-27 (NLT)
Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them. Jesus told them, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves.”

Once again He had to reiterate that greatness was not something to be argued over. In fact, you can’t even strive for true greatness… you discover it. It’s the result of servanthood, not the goal of servanthood. Don’t aspire to be great; aspire to be a servant. And greatness will follow.

The apostle Paul recognized this attitude of servanthood in Jesus. And He points out that if we’re going to follow Jesus, if we’re going to follow His example, if we’re going to become more like Jesus… then we need to adopt that same attitude.

Philippians 2:5-8 (NLT)
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up his divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, He humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

You’ll never find a greater servant than Jesus Himself. Though He was God, He chose to serve. And He expects us to serve, too.

About 27 years ago (back in 1983) Graham Kendrick wrote a great worship song talking about Jesus as the Servant King. And he also pleads for all Christ-followers to become servants like Jesus, too.

The Servant King
by Graham Kendrick

From heaven You came helpless babe,
Entered our world, Your glory veiled;
Not to be served, But to serve,
And give Your life that we might live.

So let us learn how to serve,
And in our lives enthrone Him;
Each other's needs to prefer,
For it is Christ we're serving.

This is our God, the Servant King.
He calls us now to follow Him;
To bring our lives as a daily offering
Of worship to the Servant King.

Adapted from “It’s Your Serve part 1 – Jesus: the Radical Servant” by Greg Hanson, June 12, 2005



Copyright © Greg Hanson, 2010 SunriseOnline.ca