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Humility In Serving

Andy Yung

John 13:3-17 NIV

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 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.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

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.“You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. [16] Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (John 13:3-7)

What was Peter thinking when he told Jesus that Jesus shall never wash his feet?

The word ‘never’ in Greek means ‘never in all eternity’. Peter had always been quite different from the other disciples. He was the only one to understand that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and Jesus told him how blessed he was that God had revealed the revelation to him and not the others (Matthew 16:13-20).

It happened again this time, as Peter held a different view from the others. He had a deep conviction of Jesus’ deity, and allowing the Christ to wash his feet was unthinkable to him. How can the Anointed One, the Son of God do this? It was hard to fathom a serving God. It was not just tough for the Jews (then and now) to understand. It is hard for us to imagine that too.

What are the unbelievable characters of God that non-Christians find hard to imagine? There are many, but the hardest thing to understand is how Jesus died so that our sins can be forgiven. How can the Almighty can love the unworthy? A sacrificial and serving God is unthinkable, but this is true about God.

Jesus told the disciples to “wash one another’s feet”. From our humanistic view, washing someone else’s feet (serving one another) is a lowly job. Many look at leadership as a position of glory when it should be an act of humility. The glory is to be given to God, not the servant.

Even in the corporate world, we admire bosses who are willing to mingle with us and be one of us. Good bosses do not consider themselves superior than us, or dwell on their achievements. Instead, they recognise us in areas where we hold greater expertise, and they respect feedback. How much more is humble leadership required in God’s kingdom?

For those of us in positions of leadership in church, do we elevate ourselves above others? Do we seek to be noticed or recognised? It is of course nice to be appreciated, but will we continue to serve humbly if we are not? Do we call others to serve in the community but not do so ourselves?

The call to serve others with humility is not just for those in leadership positions, but every one of us. As disciples of Christ, we must all imitate Christ’s servanthood.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8)

Jesus told his disciples that they will be blessed if they serve one another (John 13:17). If we truly understand that we are God’s children, being blessed by God should be all that matters to us. It matters much more than blessings and praises from man, which are not what we should pursue. God’s blessing is like a father hugging his child when his child has done something to his delight. When we serve one another, it brings delight to God.

Humility in serving, especially from someone in a “higher” position is unusual, even unthinkable, if we do not have the mindset of Christ. That was why Peter was surprised when Jesus offered to wash his feet.

Surprise someone by serving them humbly, and help them to understand the way of Christ. The motivation should come from God. Let us imitate Christ in the way he served us in humility and love.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8 NIV)

Andy Yung

Andy is the head of compliance for an international bank and is happily married, with three daughters. He became a disciple of Christ three decades ago, and studies God's Word passionately. He desires to be constantly led by the Spirit. Andy joined the Central Christian Church in 1990.

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