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The Master Becomes a Servant

Years ago, it was not uncommon for young women from well-to-do families to become school teachers. These were young women who enjoyed many advantages and probably didn’t even need to get a job to support themselves. But they chose to get an education and to labor in a field that involved a lot of work for modest pay.  And no glory, for schoolteachers didn’t get written up in the society pages like wealthy people who did high profile charitable work.

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God,  rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.  Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, “Lord, are You washing my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.” Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!”Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” John 13:1-10

Perhaps accustomed to being waited on by servants, yet these teachers were willing to become servants to attend to the needs of young children. We marvel at those who willingly take on the role of a servant.

How much more the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s own Son, who “made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:7)!

When He came into this world as a man, Jesus took on Himself the form of a servant. He did that first of all as God’s Servant, the obedient Son carrying out the Father’s plan of salvation. To complete that work, the Son also became the servant of those He came to save.

On the night of His betrayal, the night before He gave His life for us, we see Jesus as the Servant of God and of man. He knew that the time had come for Him to “depart from this world to the Father.” That departure would take the route of the cross. The service that Jesus had to do for us was to carry the burden of our sins.

Jesus had told His disciples that He would suffer, be put to death, and rise again, but they did not want to hear it. The role of a servant didn’t fit with their ideas of earthly glory for Jesus and for themselves. Then He told them in a different way. Laying aside His outer garments, He wrapped a towel around His waist, put some water in a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with a towel. He was doing the menial work of a lowly servant.

Peter considered this improper and at first insisted that Jesus not wash Peter’s feet. He didn’t understand what Jesus was doing. Only later would he understand, Jesus says. Yet Peter is adamant, insisting: “You shall never wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”

Peter still didn’t comprehend, but he accepted the Lord’s word: “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!

Peter did not honor Jesus when he tried to refuse the service that Jesus wanted to do for him. Nor does anyone honor Jesus who refuses the humble service that the Savior did for us all when He offered Himself as sacrifice for us.

Many refuse Jesus’ service because they think they don’t need it, though they may frame their refusal in pious words about Jesus as a good man and a wonderful example. Yet Jesus’ statement stands: “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.

We too need to humble ourselves in repentance, confessing that we need to be washed by the Servant Jesus. Then by faith in Him as our Savior we are, as He says, “completely clean.

“Portraits of Christ” in John’s Gospel:

Ch. 1 — The Son of God
Ch. 2 — The Son of Man
Ch. 3 — The Divine Teacher
Ch. 4 — The Soul-Winner
Ch. 5 — The Great Physician
Ch. 6 — The Bread of Life
Ch. 7 — The Water of Life
Ch. 8 — The Defender of the Weak
Ch. 9 — The Light of the World
Ch. 10 — The Good Shepherd
Ch. 11 — The Prince of Life
Ch. 12 — The King
Ch. 13 — The Servant
Ch. 14 — The Consoler
Ch. 15 — The True Vine
Ch. 16 — The Giver of the Holy Spirit
Ch. 17 — The Great Intercessor
Ch. 18 — The Model Sufferer
Ch. 19 — The Uplifted Savior
Ch. 20 — The Conqueror of Death
Ch. 21 — The Restorer of the Penitent