The passage this week corresponds to the Seeds Family Worship song, “The Perfect Example,” which is track 7 on the album “Seeds of Character.” Here it is (in ESV):
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? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, 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. 15 For I have given you an example,that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 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. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
I have the phrase, “you also ought to wash one another’s feet” from the song stuck in my head. I hope it will stay there as an encouragement to find ways to serve, and do so with humility. In this brief passage, Jesus tells the disciples three times that they should do as he did. There is no room for doubt: we need to serve one another.
As with many passages in Scripture, when I dig into it I do find myself asking questions about what the words truly mean. There is a clear call to action in the passage above, but we are also to “know these things.” And do I really know them? Through study and discussion and asking questions? For example, I find myself asking if the instruction to “wash one another’s feet” means I should focus my service on the church before serving the greater community. I don’t yet have a satisfying answer for that. But as I look for one, I should not shy away from serving; neither the Kingdom of God nor my own heart will suffer when I serve both brother and stranger, but both the Kingdom and my heart may suffer if I neglect to serve either party because I’m caught up in questions. Jesus’ story of the good Samaritan comes to mind– I don’t want to be the guy who asks, “But who is my neighbor?” to see if I can get off the hook for showing mercy.
I believe the best way to understand Jesus’ words is to continue reading them and living them out in the Spirit, growing as we go. As I learned in Galatians a couple of weeks ago, keeping in step with the Spirit is of utmost importance in obeying God by following the perfect example of his Son.
This summer I have had opportunities to serve my church and my community, sometimes simultaneously (which is my favorite). I have followed what I think the Spirit has called me to, and felt like I was in line with Scripture in the process. God is so gracious to give us insight into his plans and will! But I still have questions, and would love to hear from you. How do you serve? What do you think Jesus’ words really mean here?