Our idea of ‘servant’ is probably in the context of ‘public servant,’ someone who should work for us but acts more like a king on an elevated throne. Jesus the perfect king-servant showed that a servant is one who sacrificially helps others above self. Indeed, the only way a biblical servant is above another is when he stoops to lift another up.
I. John 12:12-33. Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead in full view of the crowds got everyone’s attention, especially those in power who wanted to hold onto their power. A line was drawn in the sand, and Jesus’ challenge was heard: “if anyone serves me, he must follow me.” To Peter and others who thought in worldly ways, following Jesus meant glory and honor … and power (John 13:31-38)!
II. John 13:1-8. Jesus illustrated that this wasn’t the case when He, through whom all things were made, removed the trappings of one above all others and did the work of the lowliest servant–washing feet. Confused by this, Peter, who surely remembered Jesus’ transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-5), balked at this redefinition of serving (Philippians 2:5-8) and had to submit to its necessity. With the later help of the Holy Spirit, he seems to have gotten it (1 Peter 2:21-25).
III. John 13:12-17. Before Jesus explained His actions, He “resumed his place” as their Lord and Master. The disciples must have recalled their earlier conversation about who was greatest among them (Matthew 20:22-28). That person, Jesus explained, is the wheat willing to fall to the ground to die to produce many seeds or the one who gives his life for a friend (John 15:12-17). Just as Jesus would be the greatest servant for mankind, He calls us to do for others what He has done for us.
We have been given great freedom to choose how we live our lives. May we not in selfishness indulge the sinful nature with that freedom but rather serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13), just as Jesus did.