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Can you remember the last time you experienced good service? The kind of service at a restaurant or perhaps in someone’s home, where you felt really cared for?
The Bible is very emphatic on the role of serving. In fact, the King James Version mentions that we’ve been called and told to serve over 300 times.
In John chapter 13, we find Jesus teaching His disciples about what it means to answer the call to serve. It was the night before Jesus was to go to the cross and die for our sins. It was actually the night that He was going to be betrayed.
John 13:2-9 says, “The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 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’m 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.’ ”
They’d just taken a walk from Bethany to miles away, and they’ve now come to Jerusalem. Their feet are all dirty. They wore sandals. The roads didn’t have asphalt. Most of the roads did not have cobblestone, so they kicked up a lot of dust and dirt.
It was a customary practice that when you arrive at a home, the host will ensure that the servant would come and wash each guest’s feet. But they were borrowing the use of the house for this private dinner. There was no host and no servant to wash their feet. But, by the door was a towel, a basin and a pitcher of water.
Everyone came right in and began to recline at the table, but Jesus began to wash his disciples’ feet. Why did he do that? To understand that we need to answer the question, how do you answer the call to serve?
Serving starts in the HEART.
That’s where it begins. It begins in the heart because our actions and our attitudes stem from the heart. The soil of the heart produces it. And our heart can produce good, tasty, and admirable fruit, or it can produce rotten, nasty, and objectionable fruit.
It all depends on what is in the heart.
So, here they all are. They have walked two miles to Jerusalem from Bethany. They went up the steps, are all reclined around the table and they’re starting to eat. Even though it was not the custom or the norm, Jesus gets up. You can imagine all eyes are watching, and they are wondering where is he going? He walks over by the door and grabs a towel. He takes off his outer garment, puts the towel around him, grabs the pitcher of water and the basin, and begins to wash the disciples’ feet.
Jesus was moved in his heart because he saw a need. Their feet were dirty and dusty so Jesus washed their feet.
Foot washing was something that Hebrew slaves, when they were owned by other Hebrews, were banned from doing. Only gentile slaves washed feet. Wives often washed the feet of their husbands, and sometimes the children would wash the feet of their fathers.
Jesus didn’t fit any of those categories. Yet here we are seeing that Jesus is washing the feet of his disciples. Jesus was modeling for us that serving starts in the heart. It’s in the attitude of how you see yourself.
Let me ask you a question. Do you look to serve? Or do you look to be served?
The question is a critical one because it shows the role and the value you place on being humble or walking in humility. Humble means you must take and make yourself low. I love the fact that Jesus did not think himself too good, too holy, too anointed, too spiritual, to serve others.
Jesus was modeling for us what Mark 10:45 says, “the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus was modeling for us that he did not think of himself as too busy, too important, too famous, too great, too powerful to serve others. Jesus recognizes that serving begins and starts in the heart.
Serving involves DOING.
Jesus was not spewing out rhetoric. He was not reciting some theological position. He was not verbalizing some wonderful doctrinal treatise. Jesus recognized that serving was not something that simply is just a positional thing. Jesus was telling us that serving must move away from the theoretical into the practical.
Serving involves doing.
John 13:12 says, “After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, ‘Do you understand what I was doing? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you’re right, because that’s what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I’ve done to you.’ ”
Jesus was teaching them. He was showing them, if you are really going to be a follower of me, do what you’ve seen me model. In other words, answer the call to serve and recognize that serving involves doing.
Serving is critical to having a healthy local church, the same way serving is so critical to having a healthy family.
There’s a whole host of benefits associated with serving. It’s an act of love. It’s an act of kindness. There have actually been lots of academic research to investigate the actual benefits of serving and volunteering?
Volunteering is when you give your time to a person, a group, a cause.
Nations like Canada, Germany, Israel, Spain, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, the United States, have gone through many academic studies to understand what the benefits are. And many of these studies have focused on the health benefits associated with volunteering and serving.
In fact, there’s a reduction in mortality and an increase in physical function. Your health improves. There’s an increase in muscular strength. There’s a reduction in depression.
Because you take your eyes and mind off your own issues and you start serving others and the depression you may have felt initially, it dissipates because serving is therapeutic.
Serving even reduces pain, and it increases life satisfaction. In other words, there’s a whole host of benefits associated with serving.
Serving is about coming alongside someone else and meeting their most precious need. Serving starts in the heart. Serving involves doing.
Serving is a CHOICE
Matthew 20:25-28 says, “But Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers in this world lord it over people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ ”
Jesus taught that it is your choice to serve. You must intentionally and willfully decide you want to serve and help people.
Something happens when your heart gets changed, where you can serve the needs of others. Foot washing modeled that.
Serving starts in the heart and involves doing.
But at the end of the day, serving is a choice that you must make.
We can shake this generation for Christ because the Kingdom of God calls us to be servants.
Will you answer the call to serve?