It is hard to believe that we are already into January 2016! In a recent survey of 5,000 people, the number one resolution for 2016 was “to live life to its fullest.” Now, this resolution holds a different meaning for each person. For some, a full life is seen in having a certain amount of money, or a certain number of friends on their Facebook page. For others, a full life is found in accomplishing certain items on their bucket list, or in finding the “right” person to be with.
Even for Christians, this resolution carries varied definitions. But what we find in John 13:1-17 is a beautiful picture of what true fulfillment in the Christian life looks like: Serving like Jesus! There are two characteristics that Jesus displays and gives for us as an example of how we are to serve others, and thus “live life to its fullest.”
John thirteen opens up in the middle of the Passover. Jesus and the disciples have traveled to Jerusalem to partake in the celebration and memorial of the Passover with the other Jews. Jesus has already withdrawn from the public light and begins to concentrate on just ministering and teaching His followers. Jesus and the disciples are sitting down for what is to be their last meal together (the Last Supper). Can you imagine the group of men Jesus is eating with on that night? These are the men He has taught and walked with for 3 years now. And yet within this group is a man who is planning to betray Jesus, a man who will deny Him three times in one morning, and ten that will desert Him to hide from the authorities. In this group are two brothers trying to gain “first chair” next to Jesus in heaven, and the rest of the group getting upset and quarreling over the matter. Yet in spite of all this, we see in these verses the love and humility of Jesus to serve others. For believers, these two characteristics must be present in our service toward others so that we may live life to its fullest.
In order for us to serve like Jesus we must have the right motivation: love. In verse 1 John describes the compassionate love that Jesus had for His disciples. We find in this verse that His love was complete, the Greek meaning is that it was a perfect love. Jesus did not hold back anything in His love for His disciples. Even with the cross looming just hours away, Jesus focused on loving others.
Sadly, in verse 2 we find the direct opposite of this love that Christ has…Judas and the darkness of his heart. The darkness of Judas’s heart causes the love of Christ to sine that much brighter and glorious! Judas had a motivation in life…to serve self. He was interested in money and power, serving self and gaining wealth. And it was his selfish ambition that opened the door to Satan’s influence. But we must be sure to note that while Satan inspired the betrayal of Jesus by Judas, Judas was fully responsible for carrying our his actions.
So the natural question that arises from these first two verses is this: Why do we serve others?
Often times we serve out of a wrong motivation. Like Judas, there are often times people serve others in order to gain for themselves. At other times we serve in order to try and earn favor with God. And quite often we serve in order to receive the praise of man. But these are all the wrong motivations for serving others.
A proper motivation for serving others out of love must first begin with a proper love of God. When we discover that God loves us with an everlasting love and that we matter deeply to Him, we will desire to obey Him and follow His command to love one another (John 13:34-35; 14:15; 1 John 3:16; 4:10-11).
Not only do we need the right motivation — love for God and others — in serving, we also need the right attitude: humility. The world is consumed with gaining for self, yet the picture we have in John 13 is one of humble selflessness on the part of Jesus. In fact, in the middle of the meal, Jesus takes off his robe, wraps a towel around his waist, and begins washing the disciples feet.
It was customary for the host of a dinner party to offer a slave to wash the feet of the people attending the meal. Apparently there was no such slave at the door for this meal. So Jesus begins to wash the feet of the disciples. On the surface, as Peter exclaims, it seems that Jesus is performing a mere physical task (v. 6). From verse 6-9 Peter argues with Jesus that what He is doing is wrong and that He should stop. At each argument, Jesus gently responds, announcing that what is taking place is more than just a physical foot washing; there is a picture of spiritual cleansing that is taking place here.
To Go back up to verses 4 and 5 we find Jesus performing physically what Philippians 2:6-8 announces took place spiritually. Jesus, the second member of the Trinity, left the splendor and glory of heaven (took off his robe), and became a man, taking on the form of a servant (wrapped towel around His waist), and humbled himself, becoming obedient to death (washing their feet).
The big picture that Jesus is teaching here is that there must be an attitude of humility when we serve others. No Jesus was not a slave and no it was not His “job” to wash their feet, but the spiritual application of the example was that without the spiritual washing from Jesus, there cannot be spiritual life in man. When we serve others, we do it out of a desire for them to come to Christ and receive spiritual cleansing and life, not for what we might gain in the service.
Once that life is gained, the picture of foot washing is the daily need to examine life and ensure we are being sanctified in Christlikeness.
In the end (verse 12-17) we find that blessing comes when we do what we know to be right in serving like Jesus. When we serve out of a motivation of love for God and others, and when we serve with an attitude of humility, full life is gained and blessings for all eternity are reaped!
So what are you waiting for? If you want to serve like Jesus, you cannot simply wait for something to happen. Jesus said yo are blessed when you DO something. So lets do something…
- Serve whenever you can
- Serve wherever you can
- Serve whoever you can
- Be willing to do whatever it takes to serve
May the Spirit of God challenge each of our hearts at the beginning of this year to serve like Jesus for His glory and the advancement of His kingdom!