Jesus told His disciples “I am among you as One who serves” (Lk 22:27).
His public ministry was just that, about three years of public service, three years of preaching and teaching, three years of healing and doing good; and His ultimate act of service was the ultimate act of self-sacrifice, when He bore the wrath of God on our behalf on the cross. That is part of the uniqueness of the Christian Gospel: God has done the most glorious act of service imaginable! He paid the debt and secured salvation for all who would believe! The message is not: ‘Serve God and perhaps He will be pleased enough to let you into Heaven’, it is rather: “Believe that you cannot give God the service He deserves; believe that you have failed to give God the service He deserves; and receive the service of the Son who gave His life as a ransom for many as your only hope of salvation.”
So, before we even consider why we ought to embrace a servant-mindset, let us remember that unless we have been, and are being, served by Jesus we cannot serve God.
Do you remember when Jesus washed His disciples’ feet in John 13?
He took a towel, girded Himself like a servant, put water into a basin and began cleaning the dirty feet of fallen men. Peter, disconcerted by Jesus’ behavior, asked Him, “Lord, are you washing my feet?” And Jesus told him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this” (Jn 13:7). Peter, moving beyond disconcerted to out right objection, said, “You shall never wash my feet” (vs.8). But He had no choice. Jesus told Him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me” (vs.9).
That statement pointed beyond physical cleansing to the spiritual cleansing that only Jesus can provide. Like foot washing it requires humility to receive and the acknowledgement that one is dirty. And unless we acknowledge the filthiness of our sin and receive the spiritual cleansing that comes by way of faith in who Jesus is and what He did we have no part with Him. No one is exempt. All require such service.
In that passage Jesus went to further apply the foot washing He did by saying,
13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. (Jn 13:13-15)
You may not wash the feet of the people in your church, but perhaps you will vacuum the floor they walk on, dust the window sills that their children put their hands on, clean the restroom that they will use, or wipe down the table they will eat on…
You may not wash the feet of the people in your church, but when you spend three hours preparing a meal to bring to someone’s house, or drive to the store to get the ingredients to make the meal, or open your home to demonstrate Christian hospitality, you are following in the footsteps of Jesus and ‘washing the feet’ of the people who worship with you week-in and week-out.
If Jesus took the form of a servant for our sake and His Father’s glory, shouldn’t we joyfully do the same for the good of others and the glory of His name? The answer is a simple one. But let us never forget the non-negotiable prerequisite; after all, the mere contemplation of it provides fresh motivation for whatever tasks are before us – no can serve Jesus unless he has first been served by Jesus.