Christ on Serving Others

In the Gospels, the two foundational passages on Christian service are Mark 10:45, and John’s account of the footwashing at the Last Supper.  In Mark, Christ states very clearly that I did not come to be served but to serve.   For those expecting of Jesus a Messiah who would rule like David or Solomon, these words were surprising.

In John’s Gospel, there is an extended account of the model of Christian service in chapter 13.  In John’s account, Jesus strips to his undergarments and brings a washbasin to bathe Simon Peter’s feet.  In Jewish society, this would have been a very humiliating act – definitely not something the host of a meal would have done for his guests.   When Peter protests that Jesus should not wash his disciple’s feet, Jesus states in classic unambiguous fashion, unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.  Jesus, the teacher par excellence, then explains the meaning of the footwashing ceremony for his 12 disciples:

Do you realize what I have done for you?  You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am.  If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.  I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.  Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.

This theme is not found exclusively in John. In Matthew chapter 23, Jesus says to the pharisees, “The greatest among you must be your servant.”

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