When I was still attending my home church, Shinglehouse UMC, back in the mid ‘90s, the bulletin each week listed the following leaders of the church:
Pastor: Rev. Randy Headley
Organist: Barb Wheeler
Ministers: All The People
Did you catch that? ALL THE PEOPLE are ministers!
It reminds me of the Scripture in Matthew 25 where Jesus tells the story of the sheep & the goats and how doing things like feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick & those in prison, are all ways of showing love to Jesus himself. His words there are “because you’ve done these things for the least of these my children, you’ve done them for me…”
Our little church had captured that! The Pastor is in a church as a servant, and an administrator, and as a preacher, but most of the ministry of the church actually comes from the lay people who sit in the pews each and every Sunday. The ministry of the church comes primarily through them!
Well, what Jesus told in story form in the end of Matthew, he retells the night before his death, in very easy to understand, hard to miss terms by simply using an example.
John 13 (NLT) words it thusly: 4 So [Jesus] got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, 5 and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.
12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. 17 Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.
Even though the apostle John spends several more chapters on what Jesus did that final night, and what he taught, this teaching on service is the final night before his crucifixion. He wanted the disciples to remember these things, because they are some of the most important aspects of following Christ: the whole idea of service.
And Jesus goes about it in a way that they cannot forget. He, the leader, the master, the teacher, the KING, starts acting like one of the lowest of slaves… He gets down and washes their feet. He serves them.
Verse 4 says “so he got up from the table…” Later in verse 26, he is back sitting at the table and dipping the bread. ‘So what?’ you might ask… ‘What you getting at preacher?’
Just this… Jesus shows us here that service sometimes is inconvenient… maybe even in the middle of a meal. Yet, by his own example, we see that even a meal, the very meal that was to become the most famous meal in all of history, The Last Supper, even a meal is no excuse to keep us from serving others.
In my life, it was my grandmother who showed this behavior best. I’m thinking of the big Sunday dinners, or for that matter the everyday evening meals, where most of the way through the meal she is up & down, back & forth, making sure there were enough potatoes or meat or beverage or vegetable or whatever… but if she saw that one of us needed something, especially my grandpa, she would drop her fork, with food still on it, and get up to go get whatever was needed. Then she would return to her meal and the food on her plate.
Jesus does that here. Even though it’s the middle of the meal, he stops eating and takes off his outside coat, rolls his sleeves up (so to speak), grabs a towel, and starts washing the disciples’ feet.
Sometimes service as a disciple of Jesus Christ will be equally inconvenient, yet still necessary. Yet how many times do we say, ‘Wait a few moments, or a few days, and then I’ll be able to help?’
Notice also that Jesus also washes Judas Iscariot’s feet. They all sit down to the meal and are eating, when Jesus gets up and washes the feet of the disciples. Then he goes back to the meal and tells everyone that the one who will betray him is the one he gives the bread to. In fact, Scripture even records Jesus talking to Judas after the meal. There is no question about it… Judas was there when we are told that Jesus washed his disciples’ feet.
How many times do we say we want to serve Christ, but then when he deliberately puts us in a place where we need to serve him by serving others, we refuse to serve some just because they’ve been mean to us or hurt us in some way? We are more likely to say something like “If that’s the way she’s going to be, then see if I ever try to help her again!” Yet here is Jesus, who already knows what Judas is up to and what he’s about to do, and still he is shown the love of Jesus like every other disciple.
And lest we think that this is just a message for just the “church leaders on how to serve their church and their God, look again at verses 12-17.
ANY of us who call ourselves followers of Christ are his disciples and are called to serve him and follow his example. We are to be involved in service… through the local church and as individuals. It reminds me of the story I once read about “Who’s Job Is It?”
THIS IS A STORY ABOUT FOUR PEOPLE NAMED EVERYBODY, SOMEBODY, ANYBODY, AND NOBODY. THERE WAS AN IMPORTANT JOB TO BE DONE AND EVERYBODY WAS SURE SOMEBODY WOULD DO IT. ANYBODY COULD HAVE DONE IT, BUT NOBODY DID IT. SOMEBODY GOT ANGRY ABOUT THAT, BECAUSE IT WAS EVERYBODY’S JOB. EVERYBODY THOUGHT ANYBODY COULD DO IT BUT NOBODY REALIZED THAT EVERYBODY WOULDN’T DO IT. IT ENDED UP THAT EVERYBODY BLAMED SOMEBODY WHEN NOBODY DID WHAT ANYBODY COULD HAVE DONE. (author unknown)
We are to be involved in service… through the local church and as individuals. We are called, like Jesus said in verse 17: “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”
Jesus is our example here. We are to serve, we are to serve even if it’s inconvenient, and we are to serve even those whom we don’t like or who hurt us. But how we serve speaks of how we love our Lord.
We may gather on Sundays to worship God, but our service is how we work together and individually for the kingdom of God.