John 13: It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 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.
My inspiration this week comes from the youths of the North West District Pentecostal Churches. Every year these young people participate in a week long celebration of Christ through competition. Youths from various churches in this region of Trinidad have been celebrating Christ and ministering on the theme “Servant Leadership” this year . Each night a different ministry is used to highlight the message within the theme. This year John 13: 1-17 is being used to encourage the youths to be more like Christ and do as he did. I believe there is a powerful message in this scripture and today I wish to share with you my understanding of servant leadership.
When I heard the term “Servant Leadership” I instantly thought, “oh that’s easy, it’s servants who are leaders”. Looking at the scripture now I understand that contrary to my thoughts servant leadership is really about LEADERS WHO ARE SERVANTS.
What greater leader was there ever amongst man than Jesus? He came FROM GOD and was returning to him after his resurrection. He had all authority under heaven and earth. He could take command of everything on this earth and had the power over life and death. He had thousands of followers and led them to their salvation so that they may share in glory with him in eternity.
Jesus knew he was a mighty and powerful man, he was well aware of the status he held in the eyes of men and god, he understood that he was the highest ranked individual on the earth at that point in time. Yet he shed his clothes and placed himself at the feet of twelve men who were lesser than him, one of whom was going to betray him. Humility must have emanated from Christ as he stooped and washed the feet of the men who served under him. Can you imagine the confused look on his disciples faces as their leader took his place beneath them wearing only his under garments and a towel?
I can’t begin to imagine myself stooping at the feet of men who followed me and washing their feet, especially knowing that I was about to give myself as a sacrifice to the world and return to almighty god. I might have felt so empowered that it would have been impossible for me to offer any type of service to the men who did not possess the same power as me. My pride might not have allowed me to become a servant to my servants. However Christ was able to humble himself and take a position interpreted as a low one in society; one at the very foot of men.
Jesus led by example and then instructs us to do as he did and serve each other.
John 13:12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.
In these verses any doubt the disciples might have had regarding Christ’s status was immediately removed when he confirms his authority as their leader and lord. The instruction for us to follow Christ’s example and wash each other’s feet was non meant for us to follow in the literal sense. Rather it was a symbol representing the humility we should embrace, to push past self and to serve even the lowest amongst us. Jesus knew the power we as his disciples would possess through his holy spirit (the same power he possessed while on earth), and it was because of that he knew he would have to lead by example in showing us to never think we are too mighty to serve others.
Christ being human understood what we would feel in our natural selves if we are to follow in his example. He knew it would be difficult for some of us to humble ourselves and serve others. He knew that some of us might struggle to get down to the feet of men so he gave us encouragement by promising a blessing to those who follow his example.
The ability to abandon our status and serve others “beneath” us does not come easy to all of us. However I want to encourage you to remember that if Jesus Christ, lord and savior over all the earth was able to humble himself and wash not only the feet of his disciples but also the feet of Judas Iscariot who HE KNEW was going to betray him then we are more than capable to do the same.
I have made a personal decision to be a bit more humble when given the opportunity to serve others. I will see every opportunity to serve someone else as a opportunity to bring glory to god’s kingdom.
What’s your decision?