The Lord’s Example
Descending into Greatness
The Bible tells us about the “Last Supper” in the book of John, chapter 13. This was the Lord’s last meal, together with His beloved disciples, before His death on the Cross. It was one of the last opportunities for the Lord to share something with His disciples. The time for Him to be crucified was drawing near. For the Lord to use those last moments together as an opportunity to teach, what He shared with His disciples that night, must have been so significantly crucial.
3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, 4 rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself.
Jesus laid aside His garments. Biblical scriptures often use a person’s robe or garments as a symbol of their identity… a king’s robe… a priest’s robe/garment, etc. When we give our lives to the Lord, He clothes us with robes of righteousness. The robe is a symbol of our identity in Him; washed clean and covered in His righteousness. The robe is our identity that we are Children of the Most High.
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness…
It is my belief that Jesus laying aside His garments was symbolic of Him laying aside His identity as Lord. He took off His garments – identity as Lord – and girded Himself with a towel – identity of a servant. (That doesn’t mean that for that moment He wasn’t Lord anymore. He was still Lord.)
After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.
The Lord laid aside His garments, and began to wash His disciple’s feet. He put Himself in a lower position than His own disciples and became their servant… the lowest form of a servant, I might add! Back in those days, it was customary that a guest in someone’s home would have their feet washed by one of the homeowner’s servants. It was the servant with the lowest ranking, among all the other servants of the household, who was assigned the task of foot washing. The lowest of low, you might say. That speaks volumes, in itself, concerning the example the Lord chose to use to teach His disciples.
And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.”
The word “first”, in the previous scripture, means “highest rank”. The word for “last” means “lowest rank”.
As in all the other scriptures in the gospels, again, Jesus is leading by His own example.
12 So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am.14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.
What the Lord said here is extremely revealing, especially when looking up key words in the original Greek language.
I am using the New King James version of the Bible. Some of the other Bible translations translate the word “Teacher” as “Master” in the previous scripture. However, Teacher is the correct definition from the original Greek language.
The Greek word for “Lord”, in the previous scripture, means, “to whom a person belongs”. We were bought and paid for with a price… we are not our own. We belong to Him. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
So, what He basically said to His disciples was (my paraphrase)…”You claim I have a higher “rank” than you, by the titles you address Me with, (Teacher / Lord) and you are correct. However, I washed your feet, which is an act of service performed by the servant with the lowest rank. If I, your Teacher and Lord, did this for you, then you also are obligated to set aside your identities and humble yourselves and serve each other.”
The Greek word for “ought”, in John 13:14, really means, “you are in debt to do the same” or “you owe to do the same”. It is not a choice. It is an obligation!!
I do not believe that the Lord taught this message so that all Christians would wash each other’s feet, in a literal sense. I believe He was addressing heart issues. He was setting an example that the “highest ranked” person in the whole wide world, Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, set aside His identity, and made Himself the lowest of all servants. It really comes down to a heart condition of humility vs. pride and worldly ambition.
The Lord’s teaching doesn’t end there. It gets better!!
For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.
The Greek word for “example”, used in the previous verse, means “an example to imitate, as a warning of something to be shunned”!!!! He wants us to follow His example of humility, as a warning to prevent us from being ambitious and prideful.
Why do we need to be warned? Because our ways are not God’s ways. It is so easy for us to forget that God’s definition of greatness, means to be a servant, a slave, not a lord taking a position of elevation, exercising authority, which is the world’s definition of greatness. It is easier for us to take on the world’s view, because from birth, we have lived in the world. For this reason, the scriptures encourage us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds by the word of God.
16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
The previous verse is amazing to me! The Lord Jesus is addressing the “high rank” of the office of Apostle. The words, “he who is sent”, in the previous scripture, is the Greek word for Apostle. Jesus is telling the twelve, to remember that Apostles are not greater than the Lord who made them Apostles.
Jesus was about to be crucified. The twelve would remain to spread the gospel and build the church. They were about to become the Apostles of the church, with influence and honor amongst other believers. The Lord knew the importance for them to understand this message, so much so, that He took the opportunity, during their Last Supper together, to warn them with an example, to keep their heart humble. He was saying, (my paraphrase)“I came to serve. I put aside my deity, took on the form of a man, and served. Most assuredly, I say to you, even when you are the Apostles of My church, keep a humble heart. Don’t put yourself in a position above your Lord. The position of an Apostle is not greater than the Lord who made the Apostle. Blessed are you if you follow My example.”
Philippians 2: 5-11
5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
I think it is safe to say that we all need to check our motives from time to time? Do we have a desire to be recognized among men as someone who is great? Do we do things hoping to receive honor and respect? Many Christians think that they need to serve, as a way to be recognized by church leadership, so that they will be promoted into leadership. Once they are promoted, they stop serving, because an elevated position of leadership was their motivation. Our motivation should be to please God… If a promotion means we have “arrived” and no longer are required to serve, then what is our explanation for Jesus washing His disciples’ feet?
Like always, there is a balance to every teaching. Sure, we are the Children of the Most High God. We are not “no-bodies”. Together we are the body of Christ. We have the presence of God within us. We contain the anointing and power of the Holy Spirit. We need to know our identity in Him, and stand firm in who we are in Christ. We have God’s love and favor. We are the apple of His eye. However, when it comes to recognition and esteem from people, we should rather desire a servant’s heart of humility in low esteem.
This message is sooo exciting to me! I hope and pray that the significance and depth of this message is sown deep into your spirit.
Tina — Keep Running 2 Win!
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