Recently as I was reading through John 13, I was struck by John 13:3 and John 13:5, which says, “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands…began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” This text tells us that although Jesus knew that “all authority in heaven and one earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18), that he served his disciples by doing one of the most menial tasks of servanthood: he washed their feet.
As Christians we are aware of the fact that Jesus is the Suffering Servant. We are aware that he came to serve us by his life and death. And we are aware of the fact that he saw himself as a servant. But are we aware that he was aware that God had given him all authority in heaven and earth…and still saw himself as a servant?
Just consider for a moment the words of Proverbs 30:21-23: “Under three things the earth trembles; under four it cannot bear up: a slave when he becomes a king, and a fool when he is filled with food; an unloved woman when she gets a husband, and a maidservant when she displaces her mistress.” These verses tell us what the normal reaction is when a person gets something they long for: power, position, or prestige. The writer of Proverbs says that the earth trembles when this happens and it cannot bear up under these types of situations. Why? Because people become unbearable tyrants or obnoxious braggarts.
But Jesus…he served. He humbled himself. Do you see the upside kingdom of Christ? How do we respond when given a place of authority? How do we respond when given a promotion or some new responbility? As Christians, Jesus tells us how we should respond in John 13:14-15 that we should serve one another and follow his example of exalted servanthood.
So here’s what we must do: We must serve, like Jesus served. But like you, I know that I haven’t and I don’t do this very well. There have been times that I’ve been proud, a bit tyrannical and self-righteous about leading people (sad to say). So because I know there’s sin in my past and there will be sin in my future, I have to read John 13 over again and thank God that Jesus, my representative before God, did this perfectly. Authority and power over everything, didn’t promote pride in Jesus; it promoted service. Leadership for Jesus was about serving people. And so we can thank God for our faithful Savior, representing us perfectly before God, yet repent of our own sin. Then we can get up from our prayers and go serve, in the power of Christ.