The recent incident on a United Airlines flight where a passenger resisting being ‘bumped’ from the flight was forcibly (some might say violently) removed from the airplane has been all over the news. While there are two sides to that story, the visuals that were splashed across social media and on the news are a public relations nightmare for the company.
When I heard the report, I thought to myself, “Somebody needs an education about the meaning of ‘customer service.’ Consumers in America expect to be served, though in my opinion good, polite service is less and less the norm. When I find a place that offers me a pleasant experience with staff that knows how to be efficient, interested in my need, and ready to provide great service, they have gained a loyal customer.
Jesus was a Servant Leader. The King of Glory did not bark orders, think himself too good to do certain tasks, or drive people to his agenda with power plays. Just hours away from His most excruciating moments, John tells us that He was at dinner with the men He loved. He was not pre-occupied with His own needs. He was not asking them to soothe Him, to comfort Him. Instead, He is serving! John tells us that ‘He knew His hour had come.‘ We would expect Him to say, “Gather ’round me, guys, and pray for me. Give me support here for this is a terrible test.” That’s not wrong, by the way.
Even leaders need support. Later that night, in the Garden of Gethsemane, He would ask to pray with Him. (They failed but that’s another thought.) At dinner, while they bickered about their importance, He got up and took a towel and basin so He could wash their feet! John records the memorable moment -“So he got up from the supper table, set aside his robe, and put on an apron. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples, drying them with his apron.” (John 13:4-5, The Message)
Footwashing was the role of the servant in the household with least stature. It was a real dirty, but necessary, job in a day when there were no sidewalks, lots of livestock in the streets, and little in the way of modern sanitation, if you get my drift! Feet were in the ‘stuff’ that you did not want dragged into your house. Sweaty, stained, grimy feet were the normal and so was providing water for washing the feet of your guests. It was a job for servants.
When He took the basin and knelt at the feet of those men, He was not shaming them for their fighting about self-importance. He wasn’t looking for their admiration. He was just doing what needed to be done because of love. When He finished, He turned it into a teachable moment. “After he had finished washing their feet, he took his robe, put it back on, and went back to his place at the table. Then he said, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You address me as ‘Teacher’ and ‘Master,’ and rightly so. That is what I am. So if I, the Master and Teacher, washed your feet, you must now wash each other’s feet. I’ve laid down a pattern for you. What I’ve done, you do.” (John 13:12-15, The Message)
Was Jesus telling us to have foot-washing services in our gatherings? Some think so, but really He was urging a way of life that is given to service that overflows from a heart full of love. We wash someone’s feet when we absorb their anger without retaliation. We wash someone’s feet when we offer them affirmation when we are crumbling inside. We wash feet when we forgive another’s selfishness, letting go of our rights. There are a lot of ways to take up the towel and the basin, disciple.
In a culture that makes much of service, where we deal with unhealthy levels of entitlement (you owe me) we see evidence of preoccupation with Self in these kinds of thoughts –
– “I’ve worked hard, who’s going to thank me?”
– “If somebody doesn’t show some appreciation ’round here, I’m going to start doing the minimum required of me.”
– “Doesn’t anybody realize how important I am?”
Jesus changes that with a principle He not only taught but lived. Greatness in Christ’s eyes does not come from having many servants but from being the servant of many.
Take this word from the Word into your heart today. Mediate on it. It will produce amazing transformation. “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.” (Matthew 20:25-28, NKJV)
“Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.”
(John 13:17, NLT)
Father, today as we walk in a world full of pride
remind us of the love of Your Son and
give us grace to take up the towel –
offering kindness, giving away our ‘rights,’
forgetting our craving to be served.
Jesus, we would walk with You,
know You, serve You – by serving others.
Holy Spirit, help us to see the Cross in all its ignominy
and all the love that put Jesus there.
Being so loved, lead us to love so that the radiance of Jesus
will shine through us.
In His holy Name, we pray. Amen
Jerry D. Scott, Pastor- Faith Discovery Church