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John 13 - Who should be serving who?

Updated: Jun 14, 2021

In this chapter of John, we find many important events. We have the washing of the disciples' feet by Jesus, the Lord supper, Judas leaving to betray Jesus, Jesus telling about His coming departure, and Peter being told that he would deny Jesus three times before the rooster crow. All of these events have things to teach us about God and ourselves, but we will just be looking at the washing of the feet and what it means to us today.

If you have studied the Bible for any amount of time you are probably familiar with the events that took place. The setting is just before the Passover Festivals and Jesus and the disciples are in the upper room getting ready for what has become known as the Last Supper. It was customary for the house servants to wash the feet of the guest before eating. For whatever reason, there was nobody to wash their feet before eating. None of the disciples took the initiative to wash each other’s feet, after all, many times that were trying to attain a higher or more important role in Jesus’ kingdom.

Jesus got up and started washing the feet of the disciples (vs. 4-5). It must have been strange to see Jesus pick up a towel and water to wash their feet. It was probably a little embarrassing as well that none of the disciples were willing to do it. When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter refused to allow Jesus to wash his feet. It is hard to imagine anyone being comfortable with the Son of God washing their feet, either because of pride or a sense of humility. After some discussion, Peter consented to the feet washing. Then Jesus explains why He did this.


“When Jesus had washed their feet and put on His robe, He reclined again and said to them, “Do you know what I have done for you? You call Me Teacher and Lord. This is well said, for I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done for you. “I assure you: A slave is not greater than his master, and a messenger is not greater than the one who sent him.”

John 13:12-16 HCSB ( https://www.bible.com/72/jhn.13.12-16.hcsb )


Jesus did this to set an example for them in how to serve others. Jesus who is the Son of God has the right to demand service but did not; instead of coming to serve others. Jesus was telling the disciples that they should serve others. When I was going through college (at a Christian) feet washing was becoming a kind of trend. It was done for teachers and sometimes in church services. Where the pastor would wash the feet of the deacons or the deacons would wash the feet of the pastor(s).

Although doing this can be a show of humility or showing others that you are there to serve them. On the other hand, it can also just be all show without any true service. From then until now I have been in settings where they did feet washing, nothing changed; it was an outward show of false humility and service. Jesus does not want us to wash others' feet. He wants us to serve each other from a heart of humility and service to the Lord. Which most people understand Jesus saying here, at least in part.

Many people in the pews believe that this means that the pastors are to do everything that you want them to. They are the paid ministers and they are to serve the church, but what you mean is that they are to serve you. In part, you are right. The pastors are to serve the church members, but the main job of the pastors is to train the members to do the ministry and serve each other.


“And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors, and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ,”

Ephesians 4:11-12 HCSB ( https://www.bible.com/72/eph.4.11-12.hcsb )


What Jesus is telling us in John 13 is that each member of the body is to look for ways to serve others. We should not come to church with the attitude that it is my right to demand others serve me. Instead, we should come with the attitude of love and go out of our way to serve others. How lovely would the church be if every member served each other out of love? This is what Jesus wants. You have not right to demand service from others, but you do have a responsibility to be actively serving others. Who should be serving who? We each should be serving each other.


Questions for reflection:


1. In the world, today humility is viewed as a weakness and we are told to demand our rights. How can we make sure that we don’t allow our toxic culture in our society to become the culture of the church?


2. How would your church body change if you went serve others instead of looking to be served?

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