Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Seven Snapshots

Leslie Basham: Jesus washed His disciples’ feet. How does that translate to our culture? Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I mean, you’re talking about the person in the hospital who empties the bedpans. I mean, this is not some impressive position here. This is a lowly, demeaning job. And what is Jesus saying? “I have come to serve.” What He’s doing in that is elevating servanthood to the highest job in the universe.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, June 8, 2015.

Whether you’re doing messy, menial labor or in a more visible position, you can do your work with a servant’s heart. Serving has more to do with the heart than with the job. Nancy’s about to give some insight into this, continuing in the series, "Serving Like the Savior."

Nancy: Well, we’ve talked over the past several sessions about a servant’s heart and being servants of the Lord and then servants of one another and what it looks like to have a servant’s heart. We’ve looked at some biblical examples of servants.

I’ve been thinking as I’ve worked on this series about some people I know, people in our ministry, friends I have who have a servant’s heart. I have one friend that I see a lot. Invariably she says to me, “Is there anything I can do for you?” and she means it. To have friends like that is such a challenge and a blessing. That’s the kind of friend I want to be. I know some people who really have a servant’s heart, and those people are such a blessing to be around.

I want to tell you, when you think about people who have a servant’s heart, if you think for any length of time, you’re going to come to the One who has the most incredible servant’s heart of all—and that’s the Lord Jesus.

I want us to take some time today to just look at Jesus, the servant of God and the servant of God’s people. I want us to look at seven snapshots in the life of the Lord Jesus where we see Him serving, because serving doesn’t always look the same. There will be seasons of your life when you serve in one way.

Some of you have toddlers and you’re serving in one way today that may be different than you serve when you’re an empty nester or a grandma. Some of you are students. You’re serving in a different way today than you will be when you’re a wife or a mom. I want us to see that a servant’s heart has application in all seasons and all situations of life.

We see that in Jesus through the whole span of what we read about Him in Scripture. We see many things that are true of Him, but one thing that is always true is that He is a servant. So let’s look at these seven snapshots of Jesus as a servant.

The first one, interestingly, is in the Old Testament, because in the Old Testament we have a number of prophesies about the coming of Jesus. In the book of Isaiah particularly, Jesus is referred to as the servant of the Lord.

Now, when you read the book of Isaiah and you see that phrase, “the servant of the Lord,” sometimes that phrase is referring to the Jewish people, God’s chosen people. God calls them “my servant whom I have chosen.” But sometimes that reference is to Christ, the Messiah. Sometimes you have to read the context a little bit to be sure which one God is talking about.

But it says that God has called His people to be like Jesus. We’re all to be His servants. Let me read to you just a couple of verses from the book of Isaiah that refer to Jesus as God’s servant.

First I’m reading in Isaiah chapter 42, verse 1 where God says,

Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench. (vv. 1–3)

He’s going to be gentle. He’s going to be kind. He’s going to be tender.

He will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth. (v. 4)

What’s God saying? Jesus is My servant. The Messiah who is coming is coming to this earth to fulfill My purposes in this world. He will not give up until He does. That’s the heart of a servant.

Then in Isaiah chapter 52 we read again, verse 13, “Behold my servant,” God says speaking of Jesus, “my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and He shall be exalted.” It speaks of the exaltation of Christ, but look at the next verse.

Isaiah 52:14: “As many were astonished at you his appearance was so marred beyond human semblance and is formed beyond that of the children of mankind.” What’s that talking about? That’s a reference to the humiliation of Christ. The servant who was exalted in heaven came to this earth, humbled himself, and was marred by the beating, the torture, the persecution that He experienced there when He went to the cross. He was willing to be humbled. He was a suffering servant.

We want the exaltation part, but we don’t want the suffering part. We want the part where you get your name on the marquee, “servant of the week,” but we don’t want the part where you’re having to suffer and sacrifice and endure.

So we see that the first snapshot is the servant of the Lord in the book of Isaiah. You find that before He had even come to this earth as a human being living in heaven as He always had, He was God, and He lived with God as the Son of God there. He was identified as a servant of the Lord.

I just think it’s amazing that the Son of God, the Ruler and Creator and Owner of the universe would be willing to be a suffering servant. Don’t you think that would help us to be willing to serve if we realize that that’s what Jesus did? The Son of God—He didn’t consider it too big a thing for Him to step down and be a servant.

So we see that first snapshot back in the book of Isaiah, and then we come to the New Testament and we read about the day when the servant of God stepped out of heaven and came down to this earth and became . . . a baby—a helpless, dependent, needy baby! He took on the form of a servant. He was made into the form of a man.

Philippians 2 talks about this. It’s in the context of telling us to have a servant’s heart. Philippians 2 beginning in verse 3,

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit. [That’s not a servant’s heart. But instead,] in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Look each of you not only to his own interests [don’t just look out for your own needs] but also to the interests of others.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. [He did not cling to His rights as God. But instead,] He made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (vv. 3–7)

When we celebrate Christmas, we celebrate what theologians call the incarnation of Christ. The Son of God, the Word of God, becoming flesh. He wasn’t born in the earthly sense as a king or an important person or a rich man or a famous man. He was born as a humble infant, born to serve. That’s the heart of Jesus. That’s the second snapshot—the incarnation as He’s born to serve.

Then we see a third picture of Jesus during His earthly ministry. What did Jesus do during those three years of ministry here on earth? He went around doing good, serving others, feeding people, healing people, ministering to those who were lonely or ashamed or guilty or rejected or despised—I mean lepers and prostitutes and blind men and deaf men and hungry people and disenfranchised people and oppressed people.

He also ministered to those up-and-outers who had spiritual needs as well—Pharisees and people like Nicodemus. He didn’t care what their station in life, what their social status was. If they had a need, He was willing to meet the need.

You see Jesus blessing the children. Nobody thought anything about children. You see Jesus talking with women. Nobody thought anything about women. Important rabbis didn’t waste their time on women and children. But Jesus wasn’t born to be an important rabbi. He came to serve.

He said of himself in Matthew 20:28, “The Son of Man came not to be served,” though he certainly could have required that. He certainly was worthy of everybody bowing down and serving him, but that’s not why He came. He came instead to serve. Diakonos. It’s that word deacon, to minister, to serve, to wait on tables, to take a menial, lowly position, to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.

You don’t see Him trying to get other people to minister to Him, though there were times when He was hungry, times when He was tired, times when He was alone. But you always see Him giving and giving and giving. That’s the kind of heart I want to have. That’s the heart of Jesus.

Let’s look at another snapshot. It’s late in the story in John 13 when Jesus and His disciples come to that Last Supper. Jesus is getting ready to go to the cross, to lay down His life. John 13:1 says,

Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father; having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

And how did He show His love? We said earlier in this series that servanthood is what flows out of a loving and humble heart. Jesus loved His disciples, the ones who were getting ready to reject Him and deny Him and run from Him, abandon Him. He loved them. How did He show that? He did it by serving them.

Verse 2,

During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands and that he’d come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with a towel that was wrapped around him. (vv. 2–5)

Now, I think it’s hard for us to really picture the significance of this act because it’s not something we relate to in our culture. We get in a car. We have our shoes and socks on. So washing feet isn’t something that we need to do customarily as we go to somebody’s house or as we go out for a meal. But it was very important in those days in that culture.

As they were traveling in the Middle East, they were walking on dirt roads in sandals, so their feet got dirty. It was customary when they got to a place where they were going to have dinner or were going to meet with some other people that there would be servants whose job would be to wash the feet of the guests.

This was not a noble job. This was a lowly job. The low man on the totem pole washed the feet. It wasn’t a job that anybody said, “When I grow up I want to be a foot washer.” It wasn’t anything you aspired to. It was a job you had; it was a servant’s job. It seemed demeaning. It was a duty of the servants.

And for Jesus to wash the disciples’ feet—it was unthinkable! First of all, it appears that there was no servant there. They had borrowed this room to have this last supper together, and apparently when they got to this room there was no servant to wash the feet. So you’d think one of the disciples might have jumped in. but either they didn’t think about it, or they thought it was beneath them, or they thought one of the other disciples should do it. For whatever reason, nobody had washed the feet.

You need your feet washed before you recline to have this meal. And Jesus seeing that no one else had done it—and I wonder if Jesus was just waiting. I wonder how long He waited to see if somebody would think to wash the feet. I mean, this was so customary. It wasn’t like something you could forget.

So Jesus sees the need, not only physically dirty feet, but he also sees hearts that need to be washed. And in this incredible act of humility, without making a big deal about it, He just simply, humbly, lovingly takes off His outer garment, wraps a towel around Himself and goes and kneels, and one at a time starts to wash the feet of the disciples.

Now, the symbolism here is not lost on the disciples. It’s huge! Jesus is taking the place of a servant, a lowly servant. They had gotten to know Jesus over these years. They knew that He was a miracle worker. They had come to believe that He was God. They knew He was the Son of God. They knew that He could do miracles. They knew that He had come to redeem the world. They knew that He was going to die for the sin of the world. They didn’t understand all that, but they knew this was not some ordinary man.

They had grown to love and respect and admire and follow Him. They were going to give their lives for this man ultimately. And this man that they love and respect and have come to worship is on the floor doing the job of a menial servant.

I mean, you’re talking about the person in the hospital who empties the bedpans. I mean, this is not some impressive position here. This is a lowly, demeaning job. And what is Jesus saying? “I have come to serve.” What He’s doing in that is elevating servanthood to the highest job in the universe. There is no higher calling than to serve.

Verse 12,

When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, "Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord. [Those are titles of esteem.] You’re right, for so I am. [I am your teacher. I am your Lord. So notice what I have done as your teacher and your Lord.] If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet." (vv. 12–14)

Don’t look around for a servant. Don’t say that’s somebody else’s job. Say, “That’s my job.” Look around at the needs of those around you and say, “What can I do to serve and to minister to that need?”

"I have given you an example that each of you should do as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them." (vv. 16–17)

You’ll be blessed. We think, “If I serve I’m going to be miserable. If I serve my family, if I serve my husband . . ." The whole women’s movement has made it a despised thing to serve your family. Jesus said, “You are blessed if you serve.”

You are blessed if you serve your mate. You are blessed if you serve your children. You are blessed if you serve your parents. You’re blessed if you serve your boss. You’re blessed if you serve your coworkers. You’re blessed if you serve the children in the nursery, the people in your church, that special needs child that God leads you to adopt. You are blessed because you’re like Jesus when you serve.

Well, Jesus didn’t stop there. We see the next snapshot in the servant of the Lord, the Lord Jesus, within a matter of hours as He goes to the cross. Philippians 2 tells us, “Being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (v. 8).

Why does Jesus go and not just die as a martyr, but why does He go and voluntarily give up His life to die a criminal’s death, to die in shame and reproach and amidst scoffing and laughter and ridicule? Why does He do it? Because He’s a servant. He’s the servant of the Lord, and He’s the servant of God’s people. He came, not to be served, but to serve.

You say, “If I serve the way everybody else around me wants to serve, it’ll kill me!” You know what? It probably won’t. But if it does, you will die following in the steps of the One who laid down His life. And He calls us to die—die to our own reputation, our own rights, our own desires, our own plans. “I want somebody around here to serve me!” becomes our thought, especially in our homes.

Well, Jesus wasn’t finished serving when He went to the cross. After the resurrection we see that Jesus on two occasions prepared and served a meal to His disciples. You read it in Luke 24. You read it in John 21. Jesus preparing a fish breakfast for His disciples on the beach! He got the food, got it together, cooked it, and served it to them.

What’s He demonstrating? Here is the glorified, resurrected, risen Christ serving His disciples. Does that hallow and sanctify your serving meals to your family?

You think, Jesus only had forty days here on earth after the resurrection before He was ascended into heaven, and He took time out to prepare and serve meals. Isn’t that incredible? It forever hallows every act of service that we do to His name, no matter how menial or trivial or insignificant it may seem.

Then I want to tell you, Jesus isn’t finished serving. Philippians 2 tells us that “Having humbled himself and becoming a servant and giving his life on the cross God highly exalted him, gave him a name that is above every other name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow.” And He is now the exalted servant of God. But you know what? He’s not done serving. When He comes back to this earth, the Scripture tells us He is once again going to serve His faithful servants.

That’s an incredible thought to read about in Luke 12. “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service.” It’s a picture of what He did at that Last Supper, isn’t it? He wrapped a towel around His waist. “He will dress himself for service, then he will have his servants recline at tables and he will come and serve them” (v. 37).

Is that an awesome thought that when Jesus comes back, if we have been His faithful servants, if we have faithfully served others, if we have faithfully served the Lord, that once again He will clothe Himself for service as He did there at that Last Supper, and He will serve us.

You wonder if we’ll feel a little bit like Peter did. “Lord, you can’t do this to me.” Jesus wants to serve. He gets His joy out of serving. He gets His fulfillment out of serving. He fulfills His mission by serving. He has always been a servant from eternity past. He was a servant in His incarnation and in His years of earthly ministry and there at the Last Supper and when He went to the cross and after the resurrection before He was ascended. And when He comes back as the reigning Lord of the universe, He will still be a servant.

You know what that says to me? You’re never more like Jesus than when you’re being a servant. Never. You’re never more like Jesus than when you pick up that towel, that basin of water, and you say, “Let me wash your feet.”

Leslie: Are you ready to take on the important title of servant? Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been showing you why it’s so important, in the series, “Serving Like the Savior.”

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Leslie: Thanks, Nancy. Do you ever feel like God’s requiring more from you than He’s requiring from someone else? Nancy will give you important perspective on that tomorrow. Please be back, for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

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