Read John 13:12-17.
After Jesus finished washing his disciples’ feet, he put his outer garments back on and went back to his place at the table. And he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and rightly so, because I am. So if I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I’ve given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.
“. . . If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”
John 13:12-15, 17
How Jesus Served
My career as a firefighter was filled with rescuing, and attempts at rescuing, people from death, illness, injury, and other problems. And people call that vocation the fire service. As firefighters, when we rescued someone we served them. And anytime Jesus rescued someone from death, illness, injury, or any other problem, he communicated God’s love with an act of service.
While Jesus was traveling to Jairus’s house where Jairus’s 12-year-old daughter lay dying, a woman touched his garment. This woman who touched him had for years lived with a chronic discharge of blood. When she touched his garment she was healed immediately.
And just as soon as she was healed, Jesus said, “Who touched me?”
The way the large crowd was “pressing in on” him made the disciples question why he would ask who touched him.
But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out of me.” (Luke 8:44-46)
I see this as an indication that every time Jesus healed someone, power went out from him. That’s how it is with an act of service. Power goes out from you and power goes out from me every time we perform an act of service.
Jesus spit on the ground and made mud, then he anointed the blind man’s eyes with the mud and the man could see. Jesus put his fingers into the deaf man’s ears and said to him, “Ephphatha,” (be opened) and his ears were opened. Jesus led the blind man by the hand, out of the village, he spit on his eyes and lay hands on him, twice, and the man could see. There are 31 individual healings of Jesus recorded in the bible, and additionally, there are 11 times when the bible records that Jesus healed many. And each required power to go out from Jesus. And each expressed God’s love through an act of service. (John 9:6-7, Mark 7:32-35, Mark 8:23-26, stronginfaith.org)
Do This, And You’ll Be Blessed
“For I have given you an example,” Jesus said, “that you also should do just as I have done to you.” Craig Keener, one of my favorite bible commentators, says of this verse, “Disciples were to learn especially by imitating their teachers.” Can I give you my best advice? Do everything you can to imitate Jesus. (John 13:15)
When it comes to imitating Jesus through serving, it will take energy, and time, and sometimes money. Power will go out of you, but it will be worth it. Because a few verses after his call for us to imitate his example, Jesus says to us, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”
If we imitate Jesus’ behavior in this passage, if we “through love serve one another,” we’ll not only bless others, but we’ll be blessed. I know the most fulfilling times in my life have been those times when I served others. Serving myself has always left me feeling empty. (Galatians 5:13)
The Ultimate Act Of Service
In our passage, Jesus not only gives us an example to follow on a practical level, but he provides a physical picture of what he did on a cosmic level.
Jesus interrupts his supper to remove his outer garment even as Jesus interrupted his time at his Father’s throne in heaven to remove his glory. (Philippians 2:7-8)
Jesus wraps himself in a towel even as he wrapped himself in the flesh when he took the form of a human being here on earth.
Jesus humbled himself when he washed the disciples’ feet, even as he humbled himself when he came to earth to serve. Jesus himself said,
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
Earlier in this blog post, I said that Jesus served whenever he rescued someone from death. Jesus did that when he raised Lazarus, Jairus’s daughter, and the widow’s son from the dead, physically. But Jesus’ ultimate act of service, his ultimate rescue, came when he took the weight of the sins of the world upon himself, when he sacrificed himself in your place, and in my place, so we could be saved from our sins.
Jesus’ ultimate act of service came at the expense of his life.
When he laid it down for you and for me.
I thank God he did.
Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, InterVarsity Press, 1993
Image of “Lavement des pieds de Saint Pierre par Jesus” via Wikimedia Commons — public domain