In one of the final scenes Jesus shares with His disciples, we find Him on His knees, tunic wrapped around His waist, washcloth in His gentle hands. He's washing their feet. And He tells them this is their example.
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve....
Now, here is where it's easy to get this message a little twisted. The question this raises is simply this: who is Jesus serving?
On the surface, one would say the disciples. He is, after all, washing their feet. He is doing them a service. On the broader scale, we might say that Jesus has come to serve man. Have you paid attention to His ministry? He heals the blind men. Frees the demon-possessed men. Raises a dead man. Men, men, men, everywhere you look. Every time we see Him, He appears to be serving a man. (A human.)
But oh, what a slippery slope that is. And far too many of us have gone down it over the years. Because we read that the Son of Man has come to serve, and we see Him seemingly serving man and it's easy to think that He has come to serve us. God sent Him to us, didn't He? God sent His Son to us. His Son is a servant. Therefore, God sent His Son to serve us.
This is the foundation of a shaky faith. This is the lie by which we start to pray for God to do for us, rather than for Him to simply be for us. This is the deception by which we pray for more than we need, for all that we want, and then declare God unfaithful when our beat-up old junker still sits in the driveway with no Ferrari in sight. We pray, expecting God to serve us, and when our requests don't come answered on a silver platter, we start to question everything He's said.
Didn't the Son of Man come to serve? Then serve me, Jesus! For crying out loud....
Do not be deceived.
Just as frequently as Jesus has reminded us that He came to serve, not to be served, He has made it equally clear that He has come to serve God. He heals the blind men not simply so they can see again; He declares it for the glory of God. He casts out demons, not just to free a man from bondage but to demonstrate God's supremacy in the spiritual realm. He raises a man from the dead, not because the man is His friend (although he is) but to show God's primacy over life itself.
And He washes His disciples' feet. Not because they were dirty (they were). Not because the disciples wanted their feet washed (they didn't). But because this, too, was a message from God to the men who would take over the mission.
For three years, these men have traveled with Jesus. And their feet are covered in the mess of ministry. The dirt of streets that have rejected them. The muck of the places that have accepted them. A whole mess of the world has come to rest on their feet, and now as their feet come to rest for a minute, Jesus kneels down to wash them. This...is a message from God.
It's a reminder that says, You're about to get dirty. It's a reminder that says, It's going to be tough. It's the culmination of three years of training but a promise for tomorrow. That when the road gets rough and life gets dirty, God is going to be there to tenderly care for them. That as they are doing the big things for Him, He will be doing the lowly things for them. Caring for their every need. Providing for their every necessity. Healing their aching wounds. Washing their feet.
It's a role reversal, for sure, but one that is meant to encourage these men in the day that is to come. For three years, they have been the little guys. Second always to Jesus' name. In just a few days, they're about to become the big guys, but they will still have little guy worries. God uses this moment to switch places with them, to show them what it means to have God at their service.
It's not that He does the things they think He should do. They didn't think He should do this. It's not that He does the things they think they need. They didn't think they needed this. It's not that He gives them everything they want. They wanted Him to stop this. Rather, it's that He does the things that strengthen them. That is His service to a man.
And why? For the glory of God.
When you do the little things for a man, you empower him to be the bigger guy he was always meant to be. When you take away his pedestrian (get it? pedestrian? foot-washing?) worries, you give him the space to focus on the bigger things. When a man grows into his larger self, he always finds God waiting for him, wanting to do big things through him. And without the little guy worries, he's free to do them. Then a man becomes who God has created him to be, and God is glorified.
So that's what this is. It's not just Jesus washing feet. Rather, it's a bit of a power shift. Jesus says, I have come not to be served, but to serve. Not to give you worries but to take them away. Not to do your bidding, but to do God's work.
And to give My life as a ransom for many, that you may not have to worry about the little things any more. That you may grow into your larger self. That you may do the things God has called you to do, knowing, trusting, that I am taking care of the little things. That through it all, God may be glorified.
For I have come to serve My Father.