John 13:12-27 | Jesus' Call to Service | Andrew Gutierrez
Topic: Worship Gatherings Passage: John 13:12–17
Well, please open your Bibles this morning to John 13. Last week we were in verses 1 through 11, and we saw really a wonderful picture of Jesus’ humble love in his washing of the disciples’ feet. Here, in this section that we’re calling “Love & Betrayal,” he tells us how to love one another while he’s gone. He tells us how to serve one another, and he commands us to do so. And so we go from his example to our command really in these verses. The text for the morning is John 13:12-17. I’m calling this message “Jesus’ Call to Service.” Follow along as I read.
When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me” (John 13:12-20).
For the purpose our text this morning, we’ll just go through verse 17 of that text; but I want you to know the service that we are commanded to give one another.
There’s a new book called Finding the Will of God by Bruce Waltke, one of the best books on knowing God’s will that I’ve read. It is the best book that I’ve read on knowing God’s will. Bruce Waltke gives an illustration of the importance of knowing what the Bible calls us to in terms of service. He gives an illustration of one time when he was on an airplane, and he says this:
Back in the late 1980s when the zeal for the Equal Rights Amendment was at its zenith, a lady lumbered down the aisle of the airplane with her eye firmly fixed on the seat next to mine. I noticed she had ERA earrings and necklace and that her jacket and hat were covered with ERA buttons. After she had seated herself, I noted her bag full of feminist magazines.
She turned to me and asked, “What do you do?” Now I have learned that if I want to talk to a fellow passenger, I should answer, “I teach Semitics,” and that will begin a conversation. However, if I don’t want to talk, I should answer, “I teach the Bible.” The response to this is usually along, “Ohhhh,” and that ends the conversation.
But for this lady I said, I’m a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, knowing that would spark a conversation. She did not disappoint. For fifteen minutes, she berated Paul and the other male chauvinists in the Bible. I responded, “You really do not understand what Biblical leadership is, and it’s the church’s fault for badly representing its teachings.”
The symbol of Christian leadership is not a mason and iron fist but a towel around the waist to wash and dry the feet of those who we serve. Christians live by dying; they lead by serving. I went on to explain to her the gospel; principally, that Christ died for his people who were in the wrong and that a Christian husband pictures Christ’s love by being willing to die for his wife and that his wife’s submission to her husband pictures the church’s submission to Christ.
Her response amazed me. With tears in her eyes, she said, “If I could see that, I would throw all of this away.” She was looking for a model.
Well, we have a model. We have a model, not of authoritarian leadership. We have a model of a king who is a humble servant, don’t we? Jesus Christ. Christ has served us, but Christ does not just stop there. He also called us. While he goes back to heaven to prepare a place for us, he’s called us to serve one another. He’s commanded us to serve one another. And by this the world will know whether we are his disciples, we’ll learn later on in this chapter. If you are a Christian, you are called to regularly, humbly, sacrificially serve other Christians.
Is that how you view yourself, as a servant? This morning I want us to see four ways we should view our life of service as disciples. This is really kind of a mindset passage. Four ways to view ourselves, to view our life of service as disciples.
1. Recognize Him as Lord and Teacher
Number one, recognize him as Lord and Teacher. If we’re going to serve rightly, we must recognize him as Lord and Teacher. Verse 12 says this: “When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, ‘Do you understand what I have done to you?’” See Jesus expects that if they are going to call him Teacher and Lord, that they actually—get this—mean it. If they’re going to call him Lord and Teacher, that they actually obey him as master, listen to him and respond as Teacher.
Jesus has done what even a Jewish servant wouldn’t do, I told you last week. A Jewish servant would not get down and wash dirty feet. A Gentile servant would do that. Jesus gets down and washes dirty feet. Now, we know from the other gospel writers, the synoptic gospels, that the disciples at this time were bickering amongst themselves. You know what they were arguing about? Which one of them was greatest. They’re arguing which one of them is greatest. He gets down and does what even a Jewish servant wouldn’t do and washes their stinky, filthy feet. And he says, do you understand what I’ve done to you?
I was thinking about it. If there were twelve disciples at this time and, yes, he washed Judas’ feet. If there were twelves disciples at this time, three minutes each, that’s about thirty-six minutes, give or take a little bit. Maybe add some more time for moving the water basin to a different place, but he’s been doing this for forty to forty-five minutes at least. Probably in silence, other than his conversation with Peter. Their jaws would have been opened. Why is our rabbi, our Lord, doing this? This is so beneath him.
That’s really the message of his whole incarnation. He left the glories of heaven to come to earth as a servant, because that’s the character of God. And typical Jesus, he does something and then gets his disciples around and teaches them about what he’s just done, because they see it and they can understand some things. But then he kind of gives them the analysis of what he’s done and walks through what he’s done. Well, that’s what Jesus does. He’s taught them by example; now he teaches them in word.
You call me Teacher and Lord, and you’re right, for so I am. If then your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. Now he’s talking about their relationship to him. It’s not just that he’s washed their feet—end of story. He’s washed their feet; now I want you guys to think about how you’re related to me. You call me Teacher and Lord. You call me rabbi and master. He is both. He says, for so I am.
What he’s doing here is he’s reminding them of their relationship to him because that gives more force to what he’s going to tell them next. Sometimes we need to remind people about our relationship to them. If you have kids and you’re telling them something that they need to obey so that they stay safe, you might say something to get their attention like, listen, am I your daddy? Would I ever do anything to hurt you? And you make them say, no, you wouldn’t. Yes, you are my dad; no, you wouldn’t. Because then they’re listening to the next command because now they’re rooted in the relationship. They trust what you are going to say and that affects the way they obey the command.
Well, that’s what Jesus does here. You call me Teacher and Lord. Are you guys just saying this? Do you really want to learn from me? Do you really call me master? Because you’re right. I am Teacher and Lord. If then your Lord and Teacher—notice that Jesus switches the terms—that’s significant. It’s more difficult to acknowledge Jesus as Lord than Teacher. You can find a lot of people around Prescott who say Jesus was a great teacher. Is he your Lord? No way. I don’t like the way he says this about this or the way the Bible teaches that about that.
So Jesus reminds them, yes, you call me Teacher and Lord. I am your Lord, your master, and your teacher. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. The relationship is the foundation for their obedience. Jesus is, not only theirs, but our Lord and Teacher. They are to wash each other’s feet. They’re to serve one another. Why? Well, he gives a couple of reasons here.
They’re to wash each other’s feet because he’s their Lord; he’s their master. This isn’t really tricky. If a Lord tells someone to do something, the person is supposed to do it. The servant’s supposed to do it. Okay, it’s pretty simple. If I, your Lord, give you a command, you obey it. If I’m your teacher and you believe that when I say something, it’s valuable and you should follow it, then as I teach you something, you should do it. I’m Lord, I’m Teacher, and we also note here that Jesus is also their example.
He’s not just Lord and Teacher, telling them from heaven to do something. He came down to show them that he himself does this thing—serving them, loving them. Jesus expects professing students to learn from their teacher. It’s not a bad expectation, is it? Jesus expects professing servants to learn from their master, to obey their master. Remember Luke 6:46: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” That kind of thing doesn’t make sense to Jesus. To take the name of something but not actually do the thing that a servant does or a learner does. Who you say you are must be affirmed by how you live.
Sports fans are a strange group. That’s why they’re called fanatics. My wife was not—still isn’t—a big sports fan. Didn’t grow up in a home full of sports on TV. That was every day for us. Sports, sports, sports. So when she married me, she had to kind of learn a new culture. And she would often make fun of me because I would say things that are kind of so obvious and common like, hey, the Mets’ season is coming up again, and man, our pitching looks great. And that pronoun “our” always through her for a loop. “Our” pitching? And if you come across someone who’s not a sports fan and say something like that, like our pitching looks great this year. They might say, oh, our; oh, are you on the team? Well, no. Or are you like in management, the front office? Our—you’re part of the group. You have a uniform. Well, not exactly. I just like the team. Well then, why do you associate as though you’re on the team? It’s just a sports thing. I don’t know. Sue us. We’re excited.
But this is what Jesus is saying. You claim to be in a group and you are in the group if you look like what the group is to look like. You call me Lord and Teacher, and I say you’re right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. Jesus assumes that if they call themselves disciples, learners, servants, they’ll learn from their teacher to obey their master.
Listen to Ephesians 2:10: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” See I think a lot of people think that the Christian life is about being saved from hell and then just kind of doing what you want until heaven. If I want to serve, I’ll serve. If I don’t want to serve, I won’t serve. That’s not a New Testament understanding of being a Christian.
A Christian—the term itself—means to be Christ-like, a little Christ. A disciple is one who follows, who learns. So Jesus is saying that if you are in me, if you are a Christian, you will do what I’ve done. You will serve like I’ve served. To serve as a Christian isn’t amazing or mature Christianity. It’s every day, good ol’ fashioned, actual Christianity. That’s what it is to serve other people.
1 Peter 4:10: “As each has received a gift [so the Lord has gifted every Christian in a certain way and, by the way, those gifts aren’t meant for you; those gifts are meant to edify the body], use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” You know who said that, who wrote that? Peter. Peter was in the upper room. He was the one that told Jesus, you shouldn’t wash my feet. I should be washing your feet. Jesus preached him a sermon that you need to be washed by me entirely. You need to be cleansed by me. Peter understands now, years later, decades later, that every single believer must use their gift, must serve, must work humbly to help other people in the body. Peter writes that to us. “As each has received a gift, use it.” Peter was there for the original sermon and now he’s preaching it to us.
We have been made new by Christ. We’ve been made new. You know Adam and Eve were in the garden, and they were meant to represent Christ on earth, meant to glorify God, meant to represent God on earth, govern the land, rule the land, rule the animal kingdom. They were meant to do things for God. They sinned, mankind has fallen, we’re born into sin, we’re born enslaved to sin, corrupt, we’re born not doing what God would want us to do. Now that he regenerates us, raises us from the spiritual dead and gives us new life, now we’re given life to do something with it, not to just sit on the couch. We’re given new life to serve, to work for his glory. That’s what Ephesians 2 tells us.
Now, a Christian, a professing Christian’s willingness to obey a command reflects how they feel about the one giving them the command. So if you’re a Christian or professing Christian, how do you feel about the Lord’s command for you to serve? Do you hear, hey, you need to be serving the body of Christ; do you kind of think, ahh, I don’t want to do that. Well that says something about how you feel about the one who gives the command. Maybe you don’t like him as lord and certainly don’t want to hear from him as teacher. A believer in their right mind hears a command from the Lord and wants to obey it because he’s Lord and he’s teacher, and I want to obey it.
So evaluate. Use this morning to evaluate where your heart is. When you think of serving the body of Christ, do you think of that as a drudge or as an opportunity? And trace that back to how you feel about Christ. Do you call him Teacher and Lord? Then serve like he commands you to serve.
2. Serve Other Christians
As disciples, we live like he’s our Lord and Teacher; and secondly, we also serve other Christians. So the first part of this passage is really trying to get you to think about your relationship to Christ as you think about your life of service. Now we’re focused in on other believers. So we first focus in on our relationship with him. We recognize him as Lord and Teacher. Now we serve other Christians.
Second part of verse 14. “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” And in the English it sounds like, oh, that’s optional. Hey, you ought to do this. Hey, you ought to go buy a car this year. Hey, you ought to try out the new Sprouts. All right, if I don’t, I don’t. If I do, I do. That’s not this. This is a command in the Greek. You ought to wash one another’s feet. You ought to do this. Because he serves in humility, we serve in humility.
I told you, this act of washing people’s feet was below people. Not below Christ. And what’s interesting is Christ doesn’t just say, guys, I don’t view myself as any better than a Gentile servant. I’ve come to be as low as low can be, and I will wash your feet. He didn’t say that so they would marvel at him and go along their way. He said that so they would take the same mindset. You guys also are no better than a Gentile servant. You get down and wash each other’s feet.
It’s one thing to see Jesus do something humbly. It’s another thing to be told to do it yourself, and that’s what Jesus is calling his disciples to in this passage. Jesus is teaching them to do what’s below them for the good of one another. He’s calling us to do something very unpleasant because other people have needs. That’s what he calls us to do. That’s what service looks like.
Now, we all want to serve Christ, right? You come to church. I’m going to sing to Christ. I’m going to learn from Christ. I want to serve Christ. If Christ was here physically, we would do anything he needed. You need some water, I’ll get you the water. But when it comes to serving each other, not as enthusiastic all the time. Why? Because the people around us are just as sinful and wicked and have just as dirty feet as we do and it’s not always the most exciting thing.
But we somehow divorce service to others from service to Christ. They’re the same thing. If Christ was here and you wanted to serve him, bring him lunch, bring him a drink, bring him to your home, whatever he needed, if you wanted to serve him, then serve each other with the same gusto, the same motivation.
Colossians 3 tells people that are employees or slaves to serve their master as though they’re serving Christ. So serve one another because in that you’re serving Christ. I would encourage you all, and many of you are doing this, I told you last week there’s a common statistic that twenty percent of people in churches do the work of service in the church. Here I went and calculated—seventy-one percent. That’s pretty wonderful, but there’s still a twenty-nine percent; and that seventy-one percent, myself included, can also serve sometimes with a bad attitude, wrong motives. So let’s all just kind of examine ourselves and our life of service to one another before the Lord because we love him.
And so I would encourage you, be willing, be eager to get bumps and bruises being on the setup and teardown team. Come to church ready to get your uniform dirty, so to speak. Wake up early to be an usher and greeter. Wake up early to come to prayer at 8:40 to pray for what we do here on Sunday morning. Inconvenience yourself to make dinner for someone who’s sick or struggling because it would be really convenient for them to have a meal delivered. See, we do something that costs us because someone else has a need, so we will die so that they might live. We’ll get bruises so that they don’t have to. We will wake up early so that they won’t. We’ll make a meal and go through the pain and the labor so that they won’t have to. That’s service. That’s what Christ does for us.
I would encourage you to serve in children’s ministry. It’s very quiet in here now. Serve in children’s ministry for a million reasons. Children of Christian parents don’t come out Christians. Children of Christian parents aren’t Christians because they were born into your family. Every person must repent and believe upon Jesus Christ for salvation. We’ve got a lot of people, a lot of little people in a Christian culture who are not Christians. The greatest evangelism in our church is children’s ministry.
And then guess what happens. Sometimes those little children are converted and come to Christ. Now what are they? New disciples. New disciples that need to be taught by mommy and daddy. They need to be taught by the rest of the church because we are all part of the same body. Serve in children’s ministry. Jesus views them as valuable and important.
There might be no lower of a job in our church than serving in children’s ministry. The children don’t walk up to you, a little seven-year-old doesn’t walk up and say, thank you for your service. You got up early to tell me what to do three times and I disobeyed you. And I see that as just wonderful service. They don’t do that.
So serve humbly without maybe getting a lot of accolades here on earth but wait ‘til heaven. Serve humbly because they need it. They need help. They’re in need. When you serve in children’s ministry, you allow parents to be fed for ninety minutes without interruption and that doesn’t always get to happen. Those of you who are young people, single adults, just know that your time is coming when you’ll have to fight for every spare second of privacy.
Serving in children’s ministry is a way to serve families, serve other believers. Serving in children’s ministry is a way to serve families by saying the same thing that mommy and daddy are saying at home. One of the things I love about this church is that the things that Michelle and I say during the week to our boys, they hear reiterated by Pam Jones and Steve Gallo and Dave Sommerville, because it’s not just mommy and daddy’s faith. We’re all in this together and all of those people are saying the same thing that mommy and daddy say. And they all believe this. They all love Jesus. They all smile when they talk about his sacrifice.
Serve the families of our church. And I’m just giving you one example: children’s ministry where there’s a great need. There are other ways. Again, making meals, serving in men’s ministry, women’s ministry, and so many of you do that. But we serve one another and we embrace serving one another. Serving other Christians isn’t always easy but it always brings Christ fame. And that’s what we want, isn’t it? To make Christ seem as glorious and wonderful.
So if his disciples are serving and getting bumps and bruises, then he’s all the more famous because we are showing we’re no better than anybody else. We’re servants. We live like our Savior lived.
Some of you know the name Dawson Trotman, founder of Navigators. How many of you have heard of Navigators ministry? Navigators: Bible study materials, memorization of Scripture. Dawson Trotman started that organization with some others. Dawson Trotman was known as a humble man. There’s a story of one time he went to Taiwan to meet with some believers who were in remote areas. He would go with a local pastor, a local Taiwanese pastor, and they would hike to these remote areas and meet with believing churches, be with believers to encourage them. Dawson Trotman was kind of a religious celebrity, a Christian celebrity.
One person asked the Taiwanese pastor who was with Dawson Trotman, what will you remember about your time with Dawson Trotman? You know what he said? Didn’t point to his sermon. Didn’t point to the limo he rolled up in (I doubt he did). He didn’t point to any of that. He said, he cleaned my shoes. See, one morning on that trip the man woke up and saw Dawson Trotman cleaning the mud off of his shoes. That’s what he remembered. That is Christ-like.
You know, Dawson Trotman died, gave his life because someone was drowning and he went to save them and he himself drowned. That’s the way he lived. Just like his Savior. Philippians 2:3: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Okay, now, let’s just stop right there and acknowledge that is not the most politically correct statement to make today in 2017. You watch commercials, you listen to the media—you are the most important thing in the world. You deserve this. You deserve a Hawaiian vacation. You deserve that.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count other people more significant than yourselves. “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:4-5). This isn’t just some preacher telling you to serve. This is a messenger pointing to the great messenger—Jesus Christ, sent from heaven, to show us service and call us to serve one another.
In the New Testament, you see formal ministries and you see informal ministries. There are formal ministries with titles: elder, deacon. You also see informal ministries—people who just wash the disciples’ feet, who made meals for traveling evangelists. You see people who meet the needs of the saints, to care for the saints, and you don’t even know what all those ways are. It just calls them “those who met the needs of saints.” So there are formal and informal.
Same way with the church today. There are formal things that need to be done in church, and there are informal things that need to be done, every single day, in the church. We’ve put together a blue sheet, and it’s on the back table in the back as you go out. There are the formal ministries of Canyon Bible Church, and on the back there are informal ways to serve people. So there are ways to formally serve and ways to informally serve.
My call to you is serve—formally, informally. Meet needs as a believer, if you call yourself a believer, because not only is that what your Lord did, it’s also what your Lord and Teacher commanded—to serve one another. You can get that sheet on the back table. Maybe we’ll send it out in the weekly email as well this week. But look at those things and think about your life of serving other people.
I think of a lot of churches who advertise, and it sounds like a business a lot of times. Come to us, we’re this and we’re that. We’re not this; we’re that. It’s kind of—I don’t know, something about it rubs me the wrong way. What if there was a radio spot that said come to our church and we will hand you a wash basin, a towel, and we’ll put dirty feet in front of you? How many people you think would go to that church? Not a lot. But isn’t that the church the Lord desires.
Do you understand what I’ve done to you? I wash your feet; you call me Lord and Teacher; now go out and make a dynamic worship service. Not what he said. You serve others, each other in the same way. As disciples we live like he is our Lord and Teacher, and we serve other Christians.
3. Esteem Self as Lowly Like Christ
Thirdly, we are to esteem self as lowly like Christ.. Verse 15: “For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” When we humbly serve, we are esteeming ourselves rightly as lowly servants of Christ. Here you go. I’m going to thin out the church, all right? You are nothing. I am nothing. Nothing special. We as Christians are nothing in and of ourselves special. Nothing is below us. Nothing is below us. If we say that something is below us, isn’t that a way of saying we’re more important than Christ? Because nothing was below him. Esteem self as lowly like Christ.
Verse 15: “For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” And then he says this in verse 16: “Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” The person that does not want to serve other people in the body and just wants to show up, hear a sermon, hear the songs they like, or if they don’t, they’ll find another church that sings them, a person who’s just in it for themselves doesn’t view themselves as lowly like Christ.
And Christ is saying, “I say to you a servant is not greater than his master.” If you think that you don’t need to serve or don’t want to serve and don’t care to serve, isn’t that a way of saying that you are higher than your master, because he came saying, we need to serve. I need to serve. It’s a prideful attitude that doesn’t want to serve other Christians. If the master works, the servant must work.
I mean imagine being a servant in first century Judaism and seeing the master—I mean imagine the servants in the upper room who were serving the food, and all of a sudden Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords, gets down to do their job. If they were thinking rightly, they’d think, well, if he’s servant, then I got to serve because I’m below him. If they’re thinking wrongly—well, if he’s serving, I’m done. I’m just going to sit back. That’s not what he taught. I serve. You serve. If you don’t serve, it’s a way of saying you’re better than me.
A servant’s not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you were an ambassador for a king, and the king said, go to this faraway land and give this important message to their king. And you said, nah, I don’t feel like it. I don’t think I need to. I don’t want to. Maybe I’ll do something else. Isn’t that a way of saying that your will is greater than your king’s? That’s exactly what it says.
So Jesus says, a servant’s not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Listen to this: The one who deserves all rights and privileges and all glory and honor gave his life to serve. Should not the ones who do not deserve all the rights, privileges, glory and honor, but who will receive them, serve the way our king served? The answer is, we absolutely should serve the way he served. We are the lowly ones.
A few weeks ago, twenty-two of our men went out to a pastor and church leader conference in Los Angeles and there were five hundred or so, maybe more, servants from the church that we went to who were just serving as volunteers all week long. Many of them took their vacations, their week-long vacations to just serve, to pour juice, to run books from here to there. There’s constant buzzing.
And one of the things that you would hear from the pastors who went and the leaders who went, they weren’t just amazed by the truth that was preached or the singing, they were amazed by the service that they were given by good, old-fashioned Christians, the exemplary service. I don’t know if any of our men did this, but they had a shoe shine station. You can go and get your shoes shined. And if you were one of those guys and you went and got your shoes shined, there were two men there that were working all week long: Carlos and Will. Carlos is a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge. Will works for the D.A.’s office. These men are great men in the eyes of the world. All week long, they’re sitting down, hunched over, shining people’s shoes.
And by the way, that’s not just a one week out of the year thing. Okay, I’ll be lowly for one week. Both of them, if you knew them, both of them serve that body so faithfully. Will—I got to serve with—Will would drive 50 miles once a week—50 miles—to be at a high school Bible study and to lead those high schoolers in small group afterwards. Will gave up three weekends a year to go on retreats and one full week a year to go to high school summer camp, and a number of kids have been won to the Lord because Will served them. Will served the parents in that ministry by being an echo of what they said at home.
You see great people getting low, not for accolades. Will would hate it if he heard this sermon. But they do so because they love the body and they’re willing to roll up their sleeves and get dirty. And it doesn’t always turn out so wonderfully, by the way. But they esteem, we are to esteem ourselves as lowly just like Christ.
I want to say a word to the younger people in our church. Some of you are sitting over here. You’re all scattered. Listen, every young person wants to change the world. We used to serve in a single adult and college ministry. We would have people move from all over the country to move to LA because they wanted to change Hollywood for Christ. And Christ can do that. I believe it. But they so wanted to change Hollywood for Christ, when you’d ask them to do just a task in the body—hey, can you meet this need, can you meet that need? Aaah, they couldn’t do anything in the church because they were busy changing Hollywood for Christ.
Listen, if Christ wants to change Hollywood, he can do it tomorrow. He can do it tomorrow. What he desires is people who will just serve one another and not get accolades for it. Just serve one another. I’d say to all the young people in our body, if you want to know God’s will for your life, if you want to know what he has out there—the big and the bright, get on your knees, roll up your sleeves, meet needs in this body.
That might not be popular in the world. You might not win an Emmy for that. But great is your reward in heaven. By the way, that is living. That’s being alive. There’s nothing that rejoices the soul like serving the body and meeting needs in the name of Christ because your love for Christ is overflowing. Honestly, there is nothing like that. Try me. Nothing like that feeling. Helping someone. Helping someone grow, even helping someone come to Christ. Helping someone grow into the image of Christ. Meeting needs. That is what Christ desires.
Listen, Jesus is in an upper room with his disciples and he doesn’t say, go out and be the CEO. Go out and win the Emmy. He says, wash one another’s feet. And by the way, there will be Christian CEOs. There will be Christians who win Emmys, but that’s in the Lord’s hands. You wash disciples’ feet. Let’s together serve one another and in so doing view ourselves rightly as servants.
4. Enjoy the Blessing of Service
Finally, in thinking of service to one another and thinking rightly about service to one another, we must enjoy the blessing of service. Verse 17. Jesus is teaching that serving one another brings about blessing from God. Verse 17: “If you know these things,” if you know that you should humbly serve, if you know that you should serve one another, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” The term blessing here has really two meanings. To understand the word there’s kind of two aspects to understanding the word. Blessing is divine favor. We normally understand that. When you’re blessed, you’re given favor, divine favor. But that’s not the complete definition. It’s divine favor that leads to joy.
Blessing—you can translate the word “happiness.” If you know these things, happy are you if you do them. If you know that your Lord and master served you and served others and calls you to serve humbly people with dirty feet—if you know that and do that, you will be happy from the Lord. That’s what he’s saying.
Knowing a theology of service does not bring about joy and happiness. You can give me—we can be done with this message and you can tell me that you can come up with ten cross-references. That’s right. Serve, serve, serve, serve, serve. Knowing those verses, knowing those passages does not make someone blessed by God or happy or joyful. If you know these things, blessed are you if you … keep knowing them? Memorize them? Grow in your knowledge of them? No, blessed are you if you—what’s the word? Do them. Blessed are you if you do them. Knowing a theology of service does not bring about joy and blessing. Knowing a theology of service and actually serving brings about divine blessing and joy. Theological precision is nothing unless it leads you to being a person of the towel, water basin and dirty feet.
I would say, if you know theology and are not a servant, you actually don’t know theology. Our Lord, the source of all truth, served. Mark 10:45: The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many. There is a great reward for those who work faithfully as Christ’s servants. There’s a great reward.
Paul says this in Philippians 4:1: “Therefore, my brothers, whom I love”—he’s talking to the church in Philippi—“Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.” See, really Paul’s own reward was the relationship he had with those whom he served. You serve in the body, part of your reward is the relationship you build with people that you are serving and who also serve you. There’s great joy in being in a body as a servant.
I know this sadly to my own shame, when I was first converted, I just thought church was going—being a Christian was about going to church on Sunday, hearing a sermon and leaving. I did that for three years. Did not know joy, the enjoyment of being in a body, was challenged to serve personally, jumped in, and never looked back because that gives life. Serving, working hard, staying up late.
I remember Michelle and I lived fifty minutes from the church. 5-0. We would be the ones in charge of getting the children’s ministries pagers and putting them in their little charging machines. We’d be the last ones on campus sometimes. We’d be tried. We’d drive back home and have to go to work the next morning. But we were so happy serving. And I, sadly, to my shame, had to be shown that because I was living the wrong way. Thinking of myself, only showing up to the things I really wanted to show up for, only if it benefited me. When I was taught die to self, live the church, live for others, that’s the greatest blessing. Enjoy the blessing of service.
So many of you know exactly what I’m talking about. You know exactly what I’m talking about. You study for messages, fearful of what people might think as you teach them; but you get done teaching and someone says, maybe a week later, that was an encouragement to your soul. It’s worth it all. Or you serve in children’s ministry and a parent says, thank you so much for doing that. That means a lot to us. That’s all you need. You’re helping. You’re loving. You’re serving. You’re dying to self in order that others may live.
Listen, we deserve condemnation, don’t we? We deserve condemnation, but he gives his servants a crown and commendation. The idea that we get eternal rewards in heaven is so amazing to me because we do not deserve them, but our Lord tells us that he will give them. We have great reward coming. Those of you who serve, you have great reward coming. Trust the Lord. Trust the Lord for this promise. Trust him. Any time you’re thinking, ahh, I don’t want to serve, I’m done, trust the Lord. Trust for the moment when you see him face to face. Trust him for that. Wait for his reward.
So I would say, commit to serving the Lord by actively serving your brothers and sisters. Commit to serving the Lord with the right attitude. Do so all knowing that wonderful blessing comes from that.
The Lord has taught us about ways to think of our service. Four ways to view our life of service. First, recognize him as Lord and Teacher; serve other Christians; esteem self as lowly; and finally, enjoy the blessing of service.
Now, this is so easy on a Sunday morning, isn’t it? We hear the words. Okay, got it. Yes, I’ll follow him. Yes, I’ll get reward. It all sounds so romantic here. And then we go out and do it and things don’t go well. We miss a meeting or someone doesn’t tell us about a meeting and we get frustrated or some kid doesn’t listen to us five times in a row, or we try to serve someone, make this meal, slave over this meal, and bring it to their house and they go, oh, I’m dairy free. Service isn’t always as romantic as it sounds right here, right now.
Sometimes we serve people who we have conflict with. There’s pain in service. There’s difficulty in service. I want you to listen to Spurgeon. Always listen to Spurgeon.
But perhaps, you say, I cannot love my neighbors because for all I do, they return ingratitude and contempt [Spurgeon says], so much the more room for the heroism of love. Would you be a featherbed warrior instead of bearing the rough fight of love? He who dares the most shall win the most, and if rough be your path of love, treat it boldly. Still love your neighbors through thick and thin. Heap coals of fire on their heads, and if they be hard to please, seek not to please them but to please your master. And remember if they spurn your love, your master has not spurned it and your deed is as acceptable to him as if it had been acceptable to them. Love your neighbor, for in so doing you are following the footsteps of Christ.
Churches are constantly trying to show how dynamic and authentic and vibrant they are. May we be the people of the towel, the water basin and the dirty feet, and in this way follow our Lord’s commands and his footsteps. Let’s pray.
Lord, to be like you is costly, difficult, hard, not always immediately rewarding. It involves less sleep. It involves more exertion. It involves being patient. But Lord, convince us, please Holy Spirit, convince us there is no other way to live than exhausting ourselves for the cause of Christ. Lord, even now as we’re praying I think of Paul telling the Corinthians I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls.
Father, give Canyon Bible Church of Prescott that attitude, that we will most gladly be expended for one another’s needs, for one another’s souls, whatever one another needs because in serving one another, we are serving you. You are the object of our affection.
Father, I think the last thing I would say to you this morning in prayer, I want to thank you, Father, for this body. So many servants who serve formally and informally. So many people who live this out. They’re people of the towel. They’re people of the dirty feet. Lord, we are privileged—you know this—we are privileged as elders to serve a people like this. As I am grateful for who they are, I’m really turning that gratitude to you. You’ve made them to be this way. What a special body this is. May we excel still more, Lord.
Father, Canyon Bible Church of Prescott—our name, our brand can go away. But Father, in our service, please make your Son famous. Let people know what you are like by looking at our lives. May they be won to him and grow in their adoration of him. We pray this in his name. Amen.
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