The Call to Serve

Embrace the Blessing

Jesus said, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” John 13:15

Changing my children’s diapers was often an unpleasant task, but I did it because I loved them. I’m not enthusiastic about cleaning bathrooms either—especially someone else’s bathroom—but I do it willingly because I care about the people who use those bathrooms.

On the night before His crucifixion, Jesus demonstrated His love for the disciples by undertaking the menial task of washing their feet (John 13:3-17). In doing so, He defined biblical servanthood.

John prefaces the story of our Savior’s humble act by writing, “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and He had come from God and was returning to God; so He got up from the meal …” (13:4). The certainty of who He was and what He possessed enabled Jesus to serve others. He had nothing to prove and no pride to preen.

Knowing who we are in Christ enables us to serve without an agenda too. We are children of God and fellow heirs with Christ. The certainty of our identity in Him and our home in heaven should fill us with so much love and gratitude that we seek opportunities to serve.

Peter misunderstood this kind of service. He assumed that such acts were signs of inferiority. That’s why he objected so strongly: “You [Jesus] shall never wash my feet” (v. 8).

Jesus, however, was modeling mutual service. We serve each other as equals, as an outworking of our love for them and their love for us. Within the Christian community, there is neither servant nor master—not even elder brother and younger brother (v. 16).

Our culture, as well as our egos, resists mutual service. We typically look for a pecking order—hoping our status will place us in a more favorable position. But Jesus calls us to “wash one another’s feet” (v. 14)—to embrace menial and unapplauded roles for His glory.

What act of service can you embrace this week? Working in your church’s nursery, serving a meal in a homeless shelter, or cleaning bathrooms for an elderly person? If we serve as a manifestation of love, Jesus gives us this promise: “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (v. 17).


Read James 2:1-9. What counsel does James give about pecking orders in the church? How can we avoid that problem in our churches?

Read Luke 12:35-48. What does Jesus teach us about service in these two parables?  What does the master do in the first parable to show his appreciation? Why do you think Jesus used such harsh language in the second parable?

Read Acts 6:1-4. What did the apostles say about serving tables? Did their actions conflict with Jesus’ teaching in John 13? Why or why not?

For more on this passage in John 13, read Maundy Thursday.

Denise K. Loock

This devotion is part of a Lenten/Easter series: The Upper Room Teachings


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