Several years ago I heard a story about a young couple who had recommitted their lives to Jesus and were searching for a new church. One Sunday they decided to attend a church they had heard good things about and was nearby their home.
Upon arriving they were warmly and graciously greeted by a number of people and the signage on the campus led them right to the Main Worship Center. As they entered into the lobby of the church, the unthinkable happened–one of their children threw up all over the lobby floor. The young couple was so embarrassed and their immediate thought was to leave and hope no one noticed them. A man nearby observed their utter embarrassment and approached them to comfort and help. He tenderly bent down to check on the child who was sick and then he cracked a joke to ease the tension of the young couple. He also brought a mop and bucket and cleaned up the mess on the lobby floor. He then escorted the couple into the service and they experienced a meaningful time of worship.
The couple loved the service and the message. But what they were most impacted by was the man who had cared for them and eased their embarrassing moment. They decided this was the church for them and returned to worship the following week. Much to their astonishment, the man who had helped them the previous week was preaching the message that second Sunday. After the service ended, the husband turned to his wife and others around them and exclaimed, “This place is awesome. They even let the janitor preach.”
This is actually a true story. The man who helped the young couple that morning was Milt Cole, RCC Pastor of Senior Adults and Care. Over the past 48 years, I have had the privilege of observing Milt’s life and learning from him what a humble servant looks like up close and personal. During the time I have known Milt, he has personally taught me so much about the servanthood Jesus models for His disciples in John 13.
In John 13, Jesus begins His discourse with His disciples at the Last Supper. It is right before the Passover Feast and Jesus has gathered His chosen disciples together for one final meal. It was also right before He would be betrayed and crucified, and Jesus knew this would be the last opportunity to teach them truths that would carry them after He is gone.
It is first century Jerusalem and there are very few paved roads. Most of the roads are paths that are covered with a thick layer of dust. When it rains, the dust turns into several inches of thick mud.
The custom was for the dinner host to provide a servant at the door to wash the feet of his guests when they arrive. You can imagine what a humbling, dirty, smelly task this would be for anyone. As the disciples entered the room, there was no servant there to wash their feet. And, none of them volunteered to take on this lowly task.
As the disciples reclined around the dinner table, verses 4-5 describe Jesus taking off his outer tunic, getting a towel and a basin of water and quietly moving from man to man washing their feet. Jesus, the Son of God – the Messiah, humbles Himself to the position of a lowly servant and washes the feet of these men. He models for His disciples, and for us, that no task or job is too low or beneath anyone when it comes to serving others.
Later in verse 12, Jesus asks the disciples, “Do you understand what I have done for you?” Obviously he washed their feet, but he had much more in mind. He wanted them to think deeply and observe His modeling of being a servant. In verses 14-15, Jesus tells them to “Wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done to you.”
Jesus didn’t give them an example to study on Sundays. Nor did he give them an example to discuss in their small group meeting. He didn’t give them an example to memorize His words. No, Jesus gave His disciples, and all of us, an example of servanthood so that we might do as He did. He desires for us to put into action serving others and not just think about, discuss or theorize what it might look like.
Jesus was gentle and humble in heart and he commands us to follow His example and serve others. He was God in the flesh, but He was also willing to humble Himself in the form of a servant. We, His followers, must also be willing to serve in any way that glorifies our Lord – even if it means cleaning up vomit on the church lobby floor.
This leads us to the question we all must ask and answer – “Whom can I serve today?”