Last night’s family service looked at the whole question of servanthood, focussing on John 13:1-17. In this acted-out parable, Jesus demonstrated to his disciples what his teaching on servants really meant. He had taught that the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve (Mark 10:42-45), but still the disciples jostled for positions of authority and failed to understand the paradoxical nature of the kingdom of God, where the first shall be last and the greatest a servant (see also Matt 16:25, Matt 23:12, Acts 20:35).

In washing the disciples’ feet, Jesus, their Lord and Teacher, performed the task of the lowliest slave. Michael Card says ‘Jesus finally gives up on words. He has told them numerous parables about slaves, now he will portray the most humiliating of slave roles, the washing of feet.’  (Michael Card, ‘A Better Freedom’) The proverb tells us ‘actions speak louder than words’, and Jesus demonstrates this in His actions. Peter protests at first, but we must learn that whatever Jesus does or offers us is enough for us.

It’s a challenge to live a life of service to others, largely because we are selfish, tainted by sin, and also because we live in a ‘me-first milieu’, where it’s common to celebrate selfishness instead of seeing it as a monster far bigger than Goliath. But it is also the way to blessing and life, because this is what God created us for. ‘We weren’t made to serve ourselves, and doing so sends us into a spiral of misery.’ (‘Faith-Mapping’, Daniel Montgomery, Mike Cooper, P 155) Such selfless service can only be practised by those whose identities and purposes are secure in God (‘Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God.’ ) As we revel in God’s love and provision for us, we are set free from the bickering and self-importance which drives the world, and we can serve freely: ‘As people who have been given everything we need in Christ, we can look at the world around us with eyes open for the opportunity to share our abundance.’ (ibid., P 154) 1 Pet 4:10 reminds us that the gifts God has given us through His grace should be used to serve others; the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matt 25) shows us that this is done by serving those in need.

‘In any ordinary place

On any ordinary day

A parable can live again

When one will kneel and one will yield.’ (‘The Basin & The Towel’, Michael Card)