The Servant King

August 22, 2021

Bible Text: John 13:1-17 |

Series:

The Servant King | John 13:1-17
Brian Hedges | August 22, 2021

Let me invite you to turn in your Bibles to John 13. Today we are resuming a long-running series through the Gospel of John. We’ve been taking it in segments, a few chapters at a time, and the last segment was in John 11-12 in the spring of 2020, so it’s been over a year since we’ve been in this Gospel. But we’re returning to it this morning, beginning a series that will take us 12 weeks; John 13-17.

The Gospel of John is a unique piece of literature, even within the Bible. There are four Gospels, but John stands apart; it’s somewhat different than Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Sinclair Ferguson says that “the fourth Gospel is like an art gallery with a room full of portraits of the same person, all painted by one of the great masters.” Of course, the person whose portrait we are examining is the Lord Jesus Christ, and John, the beloved disciple, as he calls himself in this Gospel, is the painter. He is the one that’s giving us these various portraits of Christ.

If you know the Gospel of John, you’ll know what some of these portraits are already: Jesus as the true Bread from heaven, the Bread of life who gives his life for the life of the world (John 6); or Jesus the Light of the world in John 8-9; or Jesus the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep in John 10; or the resurrection and the life in John 11; or in John 12, Jesus as the coming King. John 12 is recording, of course, Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, which marks a turning point in the Gospel According to John.

This morning we’re going to look at a slightly different portrait of Jesus, John 13, where Jesus is just with his disciples, and he reveals himself as the servant of the Lord. In fact, we might call Jesus the Servant King. That’s the first thing we see in this section of Scripture, John 13-17, which is known as the “upper room discourse.” It’s called that because Jesus here is with his disciples in a second-story room somewhere in Jerusalem. He was just there in a very intimate setting with his disciples. This is where they had their Passover meal together, it is where Jesus, as we’re going to see today, washed the feet of his disciples, and then he began to teach them, and you have several chapters of Jesus’ teaching and instruction to his disciples; and then his prayer, recorded in John 17.

This is one of the most precious portions of Scripture in all of God’s word. I was with a dear friend a couple of days ago, and he was telling me that this was one of his two or three most favorite passages in all the Bible. Some writers have called this the “holy of holies” in the Gospel of John; and in fact, one writer wrote a book called The Inner Sanctuary, because this is sacred ground as we hear the words of Jesus as he is approaching his impending death. It gives us what we might call the last will and testament of Jesus Christ.

Here he is, about to be crucified. This very night he will be betrayed; the next day will be Good Friday. What is on his mind as he is headed towards the cross? That’s what we’re going to find out as we study these chapters together.

We begin in John 13:1-17. That will be our portion for reading this morning, if you want to follow either on the screen or in your copy of God’s word. Let me read the text to us.

“Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, do you wash my feet?’ Jesus answered him, ‘What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.’ Peter said to him, ‘You shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.’ Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’ Jesus said to him, ‘The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.’ For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’

“When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, ‘Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.’”

This is God’s word.

This gives us a portrait of Jesus as the Servant King, and I want you to see three things about this picture. First of all, Jesus as a servant king loves his people; secondly, his example of humility; and then thirdly, his teaching, where he explains his actions to the disciples.

1. The Servant King’s Love

I want to focus for a minute on verse 1. Let me read it again. “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”

That verse is really the heading to these chapters that we’re going to study together over the next 12 weeks. If you were to think of these chapters as the inner sanctuary, this is the doorway into it. This heads everything else that will follow.

It’s important here to notice the way John sets this up. Notice in particular his use of the word “hour.” He’s giving us the setting in which to understand what Jesus does and what Jesus will go on to say. This is before the Feast of the Passover, and John says, “When Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father . . .” That phrase “his hour” is used over and over again in the Gospel of John, and it has a very specific significance.

Earlier in the Gospel of John, there will be references to the hour that is yet to come, but it hasn’t come yet. You remember when Jesus performed his first miracle; he changed water into wine at the wedding in Cana of Galilee. This is recorded in John 2. Before he did that, his mother, Mary, came to Jesus and said, “They’re running out of wine; won’t you do something?” This is the way Jesus responded: “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”

You have that kind of language used over and again in the Gospel of John. Then, when you get to John 12, there’s a change. In John 12 Jesus rides into Jerusalem; it is his triumphal entry, and Jesus says something in John 12:23-24. He says, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies it bears much fruit.”

When you read that in the context, it’s very clear that Jesus himself is the grain of wheat who is to die and be buried. The hour that has come for him to be glorified is the hour of his death, it’s the hour of the cross. That’s the hour.

That’s crystal-clear here in chapter 13:1. “Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father.” So the hour has come. We’re right on the eve of Jesus’s crucifixion and death. He knows he’s about to die.

Just think for a minute. If you knew that you were going to die tomorrow, what would you be thinking about? If you knew that you were to die tomorrow by a painful death, what would you be thinking about? But look at what Jesus is thinking about. He’s thinking about his disciples. He’s not absorbed in his own self-interest. “Jesus, when he knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” The servant king loves his people.

This shows us the depth of his love, so deep that even when he’s about to face such incredible suffering his thoughts are all for them. He’s concerned for them, he wants to comfort them, he wants to encourage them, he wants them to understand what’s about to happen, he wants them to take hope in the promise of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. All of this is what’s going to follow in Jesus’s teaching. He’s teaching them and then he’s praying for them in John 17; and here in John 13 he’s serving them.

Why? All for love, because his love for them is so deep.

It says that, “having loved his own, he loved them to the end.” This shows the duration of his love. He loved them to the end! The end of what? Well, the end of his life. He loved them to the very point of death. He loved them completely and fully. Some versions would say he loved them to the uttermost. The word carries this idea of the completeness of Jesus’ love.

I love the way one hymn-writer put it.

“Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made;
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Tho’ stretched from sky to sky.”

Why? Because his love is so deep. Its dimensions are so infinite, when you consider the height and the depth and the length and the breadth of the love of Jesus Christ! “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end,” and he will now display that love.

How does he display it? Both through washing the feet of his disciples in service and ultimately through the cross.

As New Testament scholar D.A. Carson says, “The way Jesus displays his unflagging love for his own is in the cross immediately ahead and in the act of self-abasing love, the footwashing that anticipates the cross. 'Greater love has no one than this, than that a man lay down his life for his friends' (John 15:13)."

There’s one more thing that puts an even finer point on what Jesus does here, and it’s in verse 2: enter Judas. We read that during supper, “the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him.” Jesus knows this, and you have to read between the lines just a little, but it’s pretty clear that Judas does not leave the room until after the footwashing, which means that Jesus, when he washed his disciples’ feet, he also washed the feet of Judas. He washed the feet of his friends, he washed the feet of his enemy. Why? Because of his love and because he is the servant king.

Now, the application for us is that we, of course, should imitate Jesus in his love. In fact, Jesus will teach this. This will be a running theme in John 13 and following. You have it in verses 34-35: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Jesus calls it a new commandment. Why is it a new commandment? The command to love others is not new. The Old Testament said very clearly, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” What is new is the measure of this love, the example of this love given by Jesus himself. He says, “Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another.” He’s showing us how to do it! He’s giving us the example of love. This is the new commandment: to love this way, the way Jesus loves.

What Jesus is showing us in this passage is that the expression of love—the tangible, concrete, real-life, on-the-street expression of love—is serving people. It’s servanthood, which means that if you’re not serving people you don’t love people, and if you do love people, it should bear the fruit of service. We do it for love. We serve for love.

Don Whitney has written a wonderful book, really a classic in its field, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, and in his chapter on service he writes about a missionary in Africa who was asked if he really liked what he was doing. His response, Whitney says, was shocking. “Do I like this work?” he said. “No. My wife and I do not like dirt. We have reasonably refined sensibilities. We do not like crawling into the vile huts through goat refuse. But is a man to do nothing for Christ that he does not like? God pity him if not. Liking or disliking has nothing to do with it. We have orders to go, and we go. Love constrains us."

There’s the key: love. It is the wellspring of obedience, it is the wellspring of servanthood.

Whitney goes on to say, “When Christ’s love controls or constrains people, 'they no longer live for themselves, but for him who for their sake died and was raised' (2 Corinthians 5:15), they serve God and others, motivated by love for God and others. The more we love God, the more we will live for him and serve him, and the more we love others, the more we will also serve them.”

How’s your love life? Do you love people? Do you love the church? Do you love your neighbors? Do you love your fellow man? If you do, are you serving them? That’s the concrete, real-life expression of love. That’s what drove Jesus to the cross. It’s what caused Jesus to then wash the feet of his disciples, as we see in these following verses, which leads us to point number two.

2. The Servant King’s Humility

We see his love, and that love leads him to humble himself and wash the feet of his disciples, and we see it in verses 3-5. “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”

To understand what Jesus is doing here, we have to understand something about the cultural context. In the ancient world, there were no paved roads, there were only dirty, dusty roads and dirt trails, dirt streets. No paved roads. People did not have boots and shoes with closed toes the way we do today; they wore open-toed sandals, which meant they were constantly walking these dirty, dusty streets, and their feet would get really dirty. If it was raining, their feet would get really muddy. So their feet, when they came inside from being outdoors, their feet would be really dirty.

In addition to that, when people dined together they didn’t have a high table where they were sitting in a chair with their feet underneath the table, hidden from sight. That wasn’t it at all. It was a low table, and people would recline on the floor with their food on the table and their feet stretching out close to the person sitting next to them, which meant that when you’re sitting there eating your dinner, somebody else’s feet were just a few inches away. You didn’t want somebody’s dirty, stinky feet right there when you’re about to eat dinner.

So it was customary—every household would do this—that when a guest came to the home, part of ordinary hospitality was to wash your guest’s feet, clean their feet off before they came into the home. Now, the deal was that only the servants would do this. This was not something that the master of the house would do, this isn’t something that the high and the mighty would do; this was a functional menial task that was reserved for the servants and the slaves. This is what the slaves did. And Jesus, in a surprising, startling act of humble service, washes the feet of his disciples. That’s the context.

Now, the way John words this I think is really interesting, because it’s not merely that Jesus was doing this functional task. It was that; this isn’t mere ceremony. But the way John words this shows us something about how this reveals the heart of Christ and the heart of God.

It actually corresponds pretty closely with Philippians 2, which we read earlier, Philippians 2:5-11, which is that famous Christ hymn. That’s what we used in the assurance of pardon.

I want you to see the parallels between these two passages, okay? Look at John 13:3 and how John begins. He says, “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper.” He laid aside his garments and washed the feet of his disciples.

He does so knowing all of this, knowing his authority, knowing his position, knowing that he had come from God, knowing that he was going back to God, he was going to be exalted. Here is Jesus, who was the word (John 1) who was with God, and the word who was God! Here’s someone who is eternally equal to God in glory and power and dignity! Now he’s the word who’s been made flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus, knowing all of this, becomes a servant.

It’s very similar to Philippians 2. “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. Being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

The implication here is not that, in spite of the fact that Jesus was divine, in spite of the fact that he is very God of very God, in spite of the fact that Jesus existed from all eternity as the word who was with God and the word who was God, and in spite of the fact that he knows he’s going to the Father, et cetera, et cetera—in spite of all that, he concedes to wash the feet of his disciples. That’s not the point. The point is exactly the opposite. It’s because this is who he is that he does what he does. You see, when Jesus girds himself with a towel, he is not disguising who God is, he is revealing the very heart of God.

The British theologian New Testament scholar Tom Wright puts it like this. “The word who was with God, the word who was God became flesh. He laid aside the clothes of glory and put on our human nature in order to wash our feet. He had come from God and was going to God. The point is not to say, ‘Fancy, despite the fact that he had come from God, he nevertheless washed their feet!’ The point is to say, ‘No, washing their feet was what he had to do precisely because he had come from God.’ The foot-washing and the crucifixion itself to which it pointed was Jesus’s way of showing who God was and is. Next time Jesus has his clothes changed, it will be to reveal him as the man, the king (John 19:5); after that, he will be naked on the cross, revealing the Father’s heart as he gives his life for the world.” Because he is God, this is what he does.

George Herbert, the English poet, said,

“Hast thou not heard that my Lord Jesus died?
Then let me tell thee a strange story.
The God of powers, he did ride
In his majestic robes of glory
Reserved to light, and so one day
He did descend, undressing all the way.”

Jesus comes and disrobes himself of glory in order to show who God is. He is humble, he is the servant, he is the God who serves his people.

Listen, what this means for us is that Jesus in his humility as a servant king reconfigures our understanding of God. If you want to know who God is, you look at Jesus. This is so important, because all of us have a theology. We all absorb certain ideas about God. We get it from our parents, we get it from school, we get it from church, and not every idea that comes from church is necessarily a good idea. We get it from TV and from movies and radio, and we absorb this theology of God. It’s not necessarily accurate. You have to test your theology by Scripture and supremely by God’s revelation of himself in Jesus in Scripture.

There are a lot of people who grow up in church and they completely reject God when they’re done, but the reason I think is so often because what they are rejecting is a caricature of God. It’s not the real God; it’s not God as he really is.

We sometimes think of God as a Celestial Santa Claus, who dispenses goodies to good little Christians. Right? Be a moral person, be a good person, and God up there, like Santa Claus, is watching who’s naughty and nice, and he’ll give you goodies if you’ll be a good person. That’s just moralism! That’s not the gospel!

Other people think of God as this Transcendent Traffic-cop who’s just handing out traffic fines to people who violate the rules. He’s just waiting to pounce on you if you do the wrong thing.

There are some people who combine those two things, and for them God is kind of a Jekyll-and-Hyde personality. Sometimes he’s good, sometimes he’s mean, and you never know which he’s going to be to you.

Listen, if that’s the God you reject, I reject that God! That is not the God of the Bible. That’s not the God that is revealed in Jesus Christ. The God as he is revealed in Jesus, the true God, is the God who loves his people so much that he goes all the way to the cross to serve them, to save them, to wash them, to cleanse them. The foot-washing is just one stop along the way, which is symbolizing that saving act.

3. The Servant King’s Teaching

That becomes clear when we consider the servant king’s teaching in verses 6-17. That’s point number three. The servant king’s love, the servant king’s humility, and then thirdly, the servant king’s teaching.

D.A. Carson, once again, says that “his act of humility is simultaneously a display of love, a symbol of saving cleansing, and a model of Christian conduct.” We’ve already considered his love, but I want to think for a minute about these other two things, how Jesus’s act of humility is a symbol of saving cleansing and a model of Christian conduct.

This becomes really clear in Jesus’s teaching, because what follows the act of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet is a dialogue with Peter, and then explanation and teaching to his disciples. His teaching is these two things; it’s teaching us something about salvation and it’s teaching us something about how we are to live as Christians.

(1) First of all, it is a symbol of saving cleansing. Look at verses 6-11. “He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, do you wash my feet?’” Peter is objecting. He doesn’t feel worthy of Christ washing his feet.

Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”

Typical foot-in-the-mouth Peter goes from one extreme to the other. He says, “Lord, you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”

Then Peter goes to the other extreme. Verse 9, “Lord, not my feet only, but my hands and my head!”

Peter’s probably thinking what all the other disciples think, but Jesus here is using this as an occasion to teach him something. Jesus says in verse 10, “‘The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.’ For he knew who was to betray him, and that was why he said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’” That’s referring, of course, to Judas Iscariot. We’ll talk about Judas a little bit more next week.

I want you to note here the two things Jesus says. He says, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me,” and, “the one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean.”

What does Jesus mean by that? There are two things, one that’s certainly hinted at and then a very definite meaning as well.

The hint—this is a possible picture—is the idea that there’s one bath but there are many cleansings. The one who is bathed does not need to wash except for his feet. In the ancient world, someone would get up, they’d take their bath in the morning, I suppose; they don’t need another bath once they’ve walked the roads, but they need their feet washed.

It seems to hint at the idea that in the Christian life, once you are in Christ, once you are a sharer in Christ, once you are united to Christ, you are washed, you’re cleansed, you’re forgiven! The washing of regeneration, the cleansing ministry of the Holy Spirit. You are washed and forgiven, you’re changed, and you don’t need to be bathed again. You don’t need to be saved all over again. You’re saved once. But you do need to be cleansed, your feet need to be cleansed, because you live this life in this world, and you pick up some defilement along the way. Your feet need to be cleansed.

A lot of commentators have suggested that this is Jesus essentially teaching what you have in other passages of Scripture, such as the book of 1 John, which talks about the need to confess our sins, and “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” It’s not that you lose your salvation if you haven’t confessed, but in order to keep the fellowship with Jesus intact there needs to be that ongoing confession of sin. We talked about that from Psalm 25 a few weeks ago.

That seems to be hinted at when Jesus says, “The one who is bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean.”

Here’s, I think, the definite point of the passage. When Jesus says, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me,” he is saying here that in order for someone to be in relationship with Christ, they have to be cleansed. The only way in which they will be cleansed is if Jesus takes the role of the servant in order to do the saving cleansing. What he is doing here when he washes their feet is symbolic of what he is about to do as the Son of Man, who came “not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” The foot-washing, in other words, is pointing to the cross.

It is through the cross that Jesus takes the ultimate role of servant. It’s at the cross that Jesus, through the shedding of his blood, cleanses us from our sins. Unless you are cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ, unless you embrace the crucified Messiah, the servant king—unless you embrace him, you have no part in him. There is no forgiveness outside of Jesus. It’s only in Jesus that there is forgiveness. So you can’t be like Peter and hold yourself off, “Lord, I don’t want any part of this.” If you do, you cut yourself off from Jesus. You have to embrace what Jesus does as the servant king.

(2) That’s the symbol of saving cleansing; now here’s the other part of his teaching. It’s also a model of Christian conduct. Look at verses 12-16.

“When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, ‘Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.”

That’s the clear teaching, right, the example that Jesus gives. He’s given us a model, a pattern for how to live, a model of Christian conduct.

What is the application? Does that mean we should start having foot-washing services? Treat feet-washing as a third sacrament of the church? There are denominations that do that. I don’t think that’s what Jesus means at all. I think, rather, he means that if you are to imitate him, the way to imitate him is to do what he did and to look at the people around you and in love for them, rather than being absorbed in your own self-interest, out of love for them you willingly and cheerfully take the place of a servant and you serve. You meet needs. You do whatever needs to be done to try to help other people.

I think that’s the attitude, that you have this attitude of a servant. Otherwise, if you’re like, “I’m not going to do that,” you’re essentially saying, “I’m greater than Jesus.” Jesus is saying, “A servant is not greater than the master, and if I’m your master and I do this, then you should do it as well.”

What does that look like? I want to give you some examples.

First of all, this is obvious—everybody’s expecting me to say this—serve at church. Join a ministry team, serve in children’s ministry or on the worship team or hospitality team or whatever. Obviously, we’ve talked about that a lot in recent months. That is a way to apply this, and we want you to do that, of course.

But listen, this is more than just filling roles. This is more than just filling the empty slots. What we need here at Redeemer is a culture of servanthood. It goes far beyond just getting all of the slots filled; it’s rather that we are so following Jesus that we are embodying in our lives the same attitude that Jesus has, where we are loving one another. You’re not doing that just to check a box, and you’re not doing that certainly to be seen by others. So it’s going to express itself in all kinds of ways, even beyond ministry teams.

It means serving one another in obscure, behind-the-scenes ways, behind closed doors, where nobody will see. It may mean giving a financial gift to someone in need, doing it secretly, not letting the left hand know what the right hand is doing, as Jesus says. It may mean watching a couple’s children so they can go on a needed date night. It might mean mowing an elderly person’s yard or bringing a meal to someone in need.

It also means serving in the community, and there are lots of ways to do that. It may mean joining a Big Brother, Big Sister program at a local school, or serving in a soup kitchen for the homeless, or donating blood. These are all ways that you can give of yourself in order to serve others. Where there’s a culture of servanthood, where we’ve really embraced the model of Jesus and we are seeking to live like Jesus, this should be happening all the time.

I think Peter got the lesson, because in his first letter, 1 Peter 5:5 (the last chapter of the letter), he says something really interesting, and he uses a verb that relates to the household slave girding himself with a towel to wash feet. He says, “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another; for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” He’s saying, “Gird yourself with a towel. Clothe yourself with humility. Learn to wash feet.”

One more application, and I’m done.

The final thing I want you to see is in verse 17, and it’s really the joy of servanthood. Jesus says in verse 17, “If you know these things, blessed [or happy] are you if you do them.”

I’ve given a lot of reasons why we should serve. We should serve out of love, we should serve out of obedience, we should serve in imitation of Christ and humility with one another. But here actually is a reason that appeals to your own self-interest. Did you know that the more you serve in this way, the more joy you will experience? This is a different kind of joy. I keep coming up against this in my own life.

Listen, I haven’t learned the lesson; I’m still learning this, figuring this out. But I have found that there are opportunities that people, and I think the Lord through people, present in my path, ways for me to serve, that are outside of my comfort zone, they are outside of my wheelhouse. It’s not preaching a sermon, usually, which is not really that hard to do—I’ve been talking for a living for over 20 years! I can do that. But it’s going to a less comfortable place, it’s maybe reaching out to people that I’m not as comfortable with, or whatever. There have been lots of those over the years, and initially when those come up, there’s something in my flesh that kind of resists it, you know? I’m an introvert, ya'll! I like to be alone and read books. People want me to get out and be with people! So there’s something in me that’s kind of resisting it.

You know, out of obedience and sometimes just out of sheer duty, I’m like, “Okay, Lord, yes, I should do that.” I go do it, and you know what happens? I find bubbling up inside this strange new joy, and I start to feel like, “This is right. This is walking in the footsteps of Jesus.”

Now, I feel like a baby in this, so I’m not trying to hold myself as a model, I’m just trying to say, if you will do this, if you will embrace it, if you will take the risk—yes, get outside of your comfort zone and serve others—you too will find this joy. If you know these things, happy are you if you do them.

Brothers and sisters, I think this is so built into the fabric of who we are as human beings made in the image of god. I think this is true even for many people who are not Christians. They find joy in serving others. You know why? Because that’s what they’re made for. But the fullest experience of that joy comes when you do it in love for Christ and in imitation of him.

We’ve seen the love of the servant king, the humility of the servant king, and his teaching. What’s our response? Love him, and love others as he has loved you. Trust him. He stooped to wash your feet, he went all the way to the cross to wash your soul. Trust him. Then follow him by loving and serving one another. Let’s pray.

Father, we thank you so much for revealing the heart of God through the gift of your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for us. How shall we respond to that? The only way to respond is with love and worship and humble gratitude, and then obedient imitation of Christ. I pray that that would be true for us.

Lord, I ask you to by your Spirit do a work in us that would take these words, the sermon, and make it more than just information, but that you would burn it deeply into our hearts and souls so that we would be shaped and changed, transformed as people. I pray that you’d do that for me, I pray you’d do it for my brothers and sisters in this room this morning.

Lord, I pray that as we come to the Lord’s table that it would be a means of grace for us, that as we contemplate the servanthood of the Savior, who gave his life like bread for the world, who shed his blood like wine to give us eternal life, that in contemplating him we would so value what he has done that it would make us want to be like him. So would you work in us and among us by your Spirit, through your word and the table as we gather for it this morning? We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.