Servants and Messengers - by Greg Steggerda

Jesus has a pointed question for me: Do you understand what I have done for you?

Actually, he asked his disciples that, in John 13, after he went around doing the dirtiest job in the room, which was washing everyone’s feet. Once finished, he said this, in verses 12-17: 

“When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them. ‘You call me “Teacher” and “Lord,” and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.’”

Jesus asked if they understood, but this morning the question seems pointed at me because I don’t always get his point. Why is the rabbi doing the dirty work here? In my world privates salute officers; in fact, soldiers drive officers around  and carry their radios. In business, executives are treated with respect and have more privileges than line workers.

In fact, what Jesus seems to be saying is that under him, all of us - officers and soldiers, managers and employees - fall into the category of servants and messengers. Jesus is Lord and Teacher; we aren’t, so we are subordinate. 

It’s a reminder that in Jesus’ world (as opposed to mine) there’s only one relationship that matters, that between creatures and the creator. Compared to that, minor differences of income, intelligence or giftedness are so minuscule as to be undistinguishable. There’s only God and his image-bearers, and God has already in so many ways demeaned himself and sacrificed himself for us. And he says to us, do the same.

We read this as a command to lower ourselves in some way by serving in love ones we won’t serve because they deserve it, or shouldn’t have to serve because of who we are. Jesus says no, you’re serving your peers, not your inferiors. In fact, you wash those feet because you see his image in that person. 

There is never a good reason not to serve, Jesus says. Just the opposite: there’s considerable risk to our souls in not serving.