INTRODUCTION / THE PASSAGE
Morning. How are you? I’m David Sorn. Lead Pastor here.
Every culture has a proverbial ladder.
Usually important people are on top…less important people on the bottom.
And the less important people are supposed to serve the more important people.
Even when you frequent a business or a restaurant…and you see the bus boy, the server, the cook, the owner, maybe the person who owns the whole strip mall that the restaurant is a part of…we create ladders in our mind of who is most important and who should serve whom.
But Jesus, as usual, doesn’t care much for how we look at our ladders…
And I want us to take a break from the Book of Luke this week to talk about that.
This is an important message the Lord has been putting on my heart that I wanted to share with our church.
I want to jump us ahead in the Bible to the Gospel of John, and a story that takes place on the night before Jesus died
In fact, this story takes place in the upper room, the same room in which Jesus and his disciples ate the last supper on that Thursday night almost 2,000 years ago.
Let’s start by taking a look at this passage:
(John 13:1-5) – NIV
It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 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.
Back in May, when we covered the story of John the Baptist where he said he was unworthy to even untie the sandals on Jesus’ feet, we talked about how it was the servant’s job to take off everyone’s sandals and wash their feet.
But the task of washing feet, was so menial and degrading, that many servants weren’t even required to it
Only slaves. And often, only Gentile slaves.
I mean, think about it: This was 2,000 years ago.
The roads were dirty and dusty and full of animal excrement...
I don’t even want to wash someone’s feet now…let alone back then.
WE WANT TO BE SERVED, NOT SERVE
What Jesus is about to do…get on his knees and wash the feet of his disciples…is unbelievably counter-cultural…back then and still today.
We live in a culture where we don’t think about serving other people…we think about people serving us.
In the last couple generations, we have seen the exponential rise of consumerism…
Which has led each of us to believe that we should be the ones seated at the table while someone else is washing our feet.
It’s mind-boggling to me how entitled we’ve become as a people.
Think about how we drive.
The road is ours. Get out of my way. We got to the stop sign at the same time, but I’M going first! Me Me me!
Think about how we act when we go out to eat.
It’s painful for me to watch people in restaurants sometimes.
We treat servers, not with gratitude because they are SERVING us…but almost like they’re sub-human.
No eye-contact…just demands…and complaints about why they are not getting our food faster…
And how they need to serve you your food just the way you want it…with extra onions, but only grilled ones, and actually just 7 of them.
Or you go to the grocery store, and they have 30 different types of pasta sauce…
But if they don’t have Prego’s Roasted Garlic Parmesan Alfredo Sauce…you are going to be having some words with the manager!
We expect people to serve us!
And Jesus’ actions today look about as contrary to how most of us live as you can get.
The majority of Americans NEVER (I literally mean NEVER) serve another person.
In fact, just a couple of weeks ago, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics just released their latest study on volunteerism in America.
And they found only 27% of women volunteer ANY of their time anywhere, and only 21% of men.
Think about that.
Let’s reverse it.
That’s saying: 73% of women, and 79% of American men never volunteer their time for another person. Ever.
But that’s what we should expect when we have built a culture around the idea of my life is about getting what I want when I want it.
In a lot of ways, we’re not all that different from the disciples.
In Luke’s account of Jesus’ last night, we learn that Jesus explained communion right before he washed his disciples’ feet
And shortly after Jesus had explained his own body would be broken for them, we’re told this happens:
(Luke 22:24) – NIV
A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest
They know that something big is about to happen…but they’re still thinking Jesus is going to conquer over their Roman oppressors, and soon they’re going to be famous and powerful leaders (WAY up on the ladder)
So Jesus gives them some verbal correction, but they still weren’t getting it
And so, Jesus, like the good teacher He is, moves to an object lesson instead.
I can imagine the disciples going back into an argument about who from among them would be the greatest, as Jesus just silently gets up, puts the towel around his waist, grabs the water basin, bends down on his knees, and starts washing their feet.
And now…the room is silent
CHRIST COMES TO SERVE, NOT BE SERVED
There is no place anywhere in all of Greco-Roman literature, or all of ancient Jewish literature, where a master gets down on his knees and washes someone’s feet.
Peter is absolutely flabbergasted by this…he’s not sure what to do with it:
(John 13:6-11) – NIV
6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
8 “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!”
10 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.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
Peter is shocked that someone as important of Jesus would want to wash His feet.
This is not how a conquering King is supposed to act.
They think world change is going to come from having power over…but it’s going to be the exact opposite.
Hear this: if you’re looking to change the culture of your work environment, or your family, or this world…
God’s ways are not by getting power over, but by serving under.
This is the SON of GOD…on his knees…washing feet.
Jesus is not going to wage war and take lives to establish his kingdom.
He’s going to give his own life…to establish His kingdom.
That’s the essence of world change.
This is Jesus’ heart from the very beginning.
Philippians 2 tells us that Jesus doesn’t change the world by barking orders from His heavenly throne…
But by stepping off the throne and leaving that glorious place of power, entering into our dirty world through the humility of a manger, becoming a servant, and then finishing by humbling allowing himself to be crucified on a cross
And sadly, most of us are living in an entirely opposite manner
Rather than put aside our needs, our advancement, our time, and serve others..
We wait for others to serve us…and in doing so, we look NOTHING like Jesus
Most of you are familiar with Mother Theresa and how she served the poorest of the poor in India, however, you may not know of one of one of the greatest ways she resembled Jesus was by literally taking care of others feet
When donations of shoes would come into her organization, she would let the poor she was serving choose the shoes they wanted first and only after everyone else picked, she would take last pair of shoes for herself…
And these shoes were often too small for her feet... as a result this is what her feet looked like:
(Show Picture of Mother Theresa’s Feet)
And again, most of us live the opposite way. Do you live like that?
At work, or at home, we get the best because we’re higher up on the ladder, or we’ve been there longer, or we’re older…
We’re constantly coming up with reasons for WHY people should serve US
At another time earlier in the Bible, when the disciples were fixated on people serving them, James and John (two of the disciples) were arguing about who could sit next to Jesus in His Kingdom…
And Jesus responded by saying:
(Matthew 20:28) – NIV
28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Question for you:
As one who follows Christ, could people say that of you?
Insert your name: Erika, Nathan…is not at church, or at work, or in his family to be served, but to serve
Most Americans believe in serving…just in other people serving us.
People lower on the ladder…with jobs we don’t have.
The disciples believed they understood the concept of serving too!
Don’t miss the meaning of this text by reading our culture’s thoughts of footwashing into it.
The disciples are not bothered or uncomfortable with someone serving them by washing their feet like we would be.
Honestly, as they traveled around with Jesus, somebody’s servant might have washed their feet almost daily.
And they never flinched.
They’re not bothered by someone washing their feet, they are bothered by WHO is washing their feet.
To see the King of Kings, the Son of God, on his knees, and washing their feet…that changed everything they had ever thought about serving
Jesus sees they are perplexed and begins to explain it more to them:
(John 13:12-16) – NIV
12 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. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 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.
He says, “you call me teacher and Lord”
He’s saying, “You’re right. I’m your teacher. I also happen to be Lord of the Universe. I am above you”
And yet, even I, the Son of God…am on my knees…serving you.
In other words, they have no grounds to say, his actions don’t apply to them.
If the one at the very top of the ladder is willing to serve even the lowest (like even the one who will betray Him), then we have no excuse.
How does this begin to change in your life?
How can we stop thinking like we need to be served and start serving like Jesus?
I remember reading not that long ago about Dawson Trotman, who was the founder of the Navigators (an amazing discipleship and evangelism ministry that bore much fruit in the 20th century)
He was once visiting Taiwan and they were happy to receive such an “important person” there
During his visit he hiked with a Taiwanese pastor back into one of the mountain villages to meet with some of the Christians there.
The roads and trails were wet, and all of their shoes became very muddy.
Later, someone asked this Taiwanese pastor what he remembered most about being with Dawson Trotman.
Without hesitation the man replied, "I woke up in the morning, and Dawson Trotman, had cleaned my shoes."
We’re never “above”
Listen, if Jesus doesn’t see himself “above serving people,” then we certainly aren’t!
One of the most basic and foundational ways we start doing this is by serving each other in the body of Christ.
The American church has, unfortunately, been drifting farther and farther into consumerism during the 21st century.
We read Christian books, we podcast messages, we come and experience a worship service, we consume and we take and we consume and take some more…but we never serve.
But when you read the New Testament, and it’s description of the body of Christ, has ZERO conception…none, zilch, nada, no concept for a Christian who attends a church but doesn’t serve the body.
Verse 14 tells us: We are to wash ONE ANOTHER’S feet…to serve each other in the body.
But too many American Christians say, “Jesus, wash my feet!! Wash me! And have that other disciple wash mine too! Have them be my small group leader. And have the one behind me teach my children in Renovation Kids. And the one in front of me, have her put the slides on the screen so I can worship you…and the guy over there…have him set this all up, so I can learn about you! Thank you!!”
“Oh, you said you want me to wash their feet too?!?”
“Me…hmm…no. I’m kind of important. I’m too busy…my life is out of control right now…I’m too talented to do that…if you could just see my schedule and what I have coming up this week…this month…
Before you say that, keep in mind, contextually, this is the night before Jesus died.
Jesus is going to be arrested within hours, he’s going to endure 6 horrible trials, he KNOWS he’s going to die the next day…
And still, He drops to His knees and starts washing feet.
And now my excuse of “I have too much going on in my life right now to serve others,” doesn’t seem to hold weight to, “I’m going to be crucified in the morning and yet I’ll still serve”
WHERE TO SERVE
And so, if you call Renovation Church your home, we encourage every single person, Adults AND Youth, to find a place to serve here.
100% of you. No joke.
We want you to imitate Christ.
We want you to let God use you.
On top of your chairs when you walked in today, was a list of 11 different teams where you can serve here at Renovation.
Every single one of these teams have needs.
Our children’s ministry is exploding.
We need people to teach preschoolers about Jesus and others.
We need people to set-up, tear down…greet, usher, work on the lights, slides on the computer
In fact, as our church has grown by almost 200 people in 24 months, one of things you might have noticed is that in the Spring, we were starting to overflow our parking lot almost every other week
And so, starting on September 9th, we are going to flatten out that hallway curtain, and permanently open up the backdoor, as another entrance into the building.
And in order to make that a good experience for guests, we are starting up a brand new volunteer team: Our Parking Lot Team
These parking lot greeters will help direct traffic as our parking lot fills up and we need to direct people to the back lot, and most importantly, be our front line greeters and first impression for our guests.
We need at least 10 people to sign up for this ministry this week to get this ministry started.
We want 100% of you to be a part of one of these teams. I’m not kidding. 100%
If you’re already serving once a month, tell your ministry leader you can do twice a month.
Our hope is that for you, like Christ, serving others becomes a LIFESTYLE.
Serving here at church is just the beginning.
But it is an important beginning.
Once you find a team you’re interested in, mark a team on your connection card that came with the bulletin.
Do you see where that is? On the side?
The New Parking Lot Greeters team isn’t on there, so you can just make a note if that’s what you want to do.
HIS LOVE ENABLES US TO SERVE
I don’t want you to misunderstand what I’m saying today.
I’m not saying, “Serve!! Because you should by golly!”
That’s not our ethic for why we do things as Christians
Our ethic isn’t guilt based…it’s imitation based.
Jesus explains this ethic when he talks about imitating his Father in heaven
(John 5:19) – NIV
Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.
And Colossians tells us that Jesus is, for us, the image of the Invisible God, and so if we want to be like God, we DO what He DID.
But here’s the problem, and this is perhaps why so many of us still feel so unmotivated to use our lives in service.
Too many of us miss God because we’re always looking up.
Trying to climb the ladder of greatness.
Trying to become a great Christian…an important one.
You know the ones at the top of the ladder..
Can you see them up there?
The type of people that would sit at his side at the top of the ladder in his kingdom
So many of us are looking up…picturing ourselves up next to God…
But the problem is…He’s not up on the ladder…
He’s on His KNEES…at your feet…ready to serve.
This is not the king that rules with a sword or an iron scepter…this is the king that rules…with a towel. On his knees.
And that’s how we oughta live… towel on…ready to serve.
And we can do so…when we really understand what He’s already given us as His Son or Daughter.
I think, so often, Christians are looking for others to serve them, treat them nicely, recognize them, because they’ve forgotten who they are in Christ.
That you’ve already received all you need in Jesus.
You are forgiven.
You are fully loved.
And when you’re fully loved by your father, you can pour out to others.
You can give of yourself, because He’s already given you everything.
You can drop to your knees in service, because He already gave up His life for you.
So start looking for ways you can stop sitting in the chair…waiting for people to serve you.
Start here…with the body of Christ.
And don’t stop here. Go out into the world as well!
What does it look like for you to imitate Jesus at work? Or at home?
With your roommates?
Or how can you serve your spouse? Or your kids?
What’s the Holy Spirit saying to you?
And then start living this out!
Listen, Jesus doesn’t wait for an invitation to step forward
And he doesn’t’ even wait for a thank you afterwards.
He just gets down on his knees.
Timothy Keller says, “Servanthood begins where gratitude and applause ends”
If you’re serving so people will thank you and notice you and you’ll get recognized…you’ve completely missed the point.
Spurgeon in his take on this passage even recommends that if you’re worried about your pride, find the place to serve that no one else wants to do…
It’s NOT about you.
This is tough for Americans.
In American churches, I find that so many Christians (and maybe this is you), don’t sign-up to serve because they haven’t found anything yet that perfectly fits them…
They haven’t found something they think they would completely enjoy.
But friends, yes, use your gifts, but listen, that’s consumeristic Christianity, not Biblical Christianity.
Do you think Jesus was saying, “Yeah, Father, I would wash their feet, but I’m not sure I would completely enjoy it…I think I’m more gifted for teaching”
You want to grow spiritually?
Stop putting your own needs and desires first.
When you start putting others first you’ll get the joy of doing what you were CREATED to do.
Because He created you to imitate Him: And he lived…NOT to be served, but to serve.
Before I close this message, look at the very last verse of our passage with me:
(John 13:17) – NIV
Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
Merely sitting here and listening to this teaching will not bring blessing into your life.
But being obedient…and actually stepping forward today to imitate Christ…there is a promise of blessing in that.
You’ll get to experience His love flowing through you.
You’ll see His movement in and around your life.
Do you believe that?
There is a blessing in living this out!
So find way to live on your knees.
Let me pray.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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