Jesus had heard his disciples arguing about the question of who was the greatest. One person may have thought he was the greatest because he was the most outspoken, or because he was part of Jesus’ closest friends; others may also have reasons to think they were the greatest ranging from the issue of age to experience in fishing or probably the order of their call to discipleship. But when Jesus asked about what they were arguing about, they could not bring themselves to say. They were probably like us with our “church minds”. We are taught to be humble and not desire greatness. Something made them ashamed to say they desired greatness. Parents encourage their children only to try their best to survive; the society tells us we can only be great at the expense of others including those we love and care for. If you see anyone who does not desire to be great, there is a problem with the person- it is either he is dishonest or he has an attitudinal deformation!
Jesus did not say it was wrong to desire greatness; rather, he questioned the process the world’s culture had developed to attain greatness. The creator of mankind is not against the grasp for greatness. He put the desire in us when He made us and gave us authority over everything in our environment. The Creator is however displeased with the process people use to achieve it. Jesus did not discourage the desire for greatness, rather he encouraged it by showing the kingdom way to become great. Jesus showed how to be great. He made himself an example of how to be great. See what Matthew records in chapter 20 and verse 26 of his gospel:
It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. MSG
But among you it is quite different. Anyone wanting to be a leader among you must be your servant TLB
Jesus said “whoever would be great” should serve. He meant that greatness is not only possible but also accessible- to every human, whoever, and anyone! It does not matter your background, educational status, colour or experience. You can be great. Your Creator says you can be great!
Jesus’ secret to greatness is service, put more accurately, SERVANTHOOD. This suggested path to greatness is unconventional. It is a paradigm shift from the idea of the world. It is not conformational, it is a transformational! Jesus Himself practised this principle and I would be sharing 6principles from his example in John 13 where we have the story of Jesus’ washing of his disciples’ feet.
1. Get Up!
Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he GOT UP from the meal… John 13:3-4 NIV
Jesus took the initiative. He got up from the meal to serve his disciples. Malcolm Bane said “if you wait until you can do everything for everybody, instead of something for somebody, you’ll end up not doing anything for anybody.” Jesus did not wait for whatever reason. He got up from the table to serve. To become great you must serve. To serve Jesus shows that you must be ready to take the initiative. The people who become great by Jesus’ method are people who go ahead and do what the rest of us never got up to do. Be sensitive to needs. You see one, get up, and meet that need! Jesus didn’t wait for a foot washing rally to begin. He assumed responsibility. Your potentials require responsibilities to expose your possibilities. Take the initiative!
2. Set aside your robe.
So He got up from supper, laid aside His robe… vs 4
Too many times we find people who claim to be serving yet they complain and nag about who they are. They are insecure. They want to serve and yet prove that they are something. Jesus laid aside his robe, the same one that had brought healing to the people. He did not hold on to who he had become. He was secure enough to set aside what he was or had become. Humility is key to servanthood and greatness. Jesus did not have to project His worth, He didn’t think service diminished his person or that he’ll lose his popularity. Humility is mere “humbility” when you are still insecure.
3. Take your towel.
…took a towel, and tied it around Himself… vs 4
Jesus equipped himself for service. He did not just get up to do something the disciples would have to do by themselves later. He was well equipped for service. The Creator has equipped you with gifts and talents to serve your way to greatness. Use your gifts. That is the only way you won’t struggle and your work will be worthwhile. Myles Munroe said, “If you refine your gift, develop your gift and then serve your gift to the world, you become great!” Ability without skill is the source of mediocrity. Perhaps it is time for you to realize that your talents and gifts are for service and not to be laid up for self.
4. Pour water in a basin.
Next, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel tied around Him. Vs 5.
Jesus poured water in the basin, and started to wash the disciples. He used the water to keep them clean and his towel to dry them. Your service must be inspired and fuelled by the word of God. That’s what makes your service recognisable to God’s Kingdom and gives it the reputation of lasting even after you’re gone, for it is the Word that endures forever. Soak yourself in the Word!
5. Accept Service.
We find towards the end of this story the striking difference between Jesus and his foremost disciple, Simon Peter. Peter still had the idea of the world in his head. He still saw Jesus as the leader and would not have him serve him. He was still position-conscious. But as soon as Jesus showed that the key to experiencing grace is accepting service, he switched over and even wanted to be washed from head to toe. Don’t be too small (or too proud) to accept service from others. John Maxwell said, “True servants can receive ministry as well as give it because they understand God’s grace is what improves all service.”
When Jesus had washed their feet and put on His robe, He reclined again… vs 7
After the whole process, Jesus reclined to the table to rest and teach other lessons to the disciples. If you will serve your generation and thereby become great, you must learn to recline to recharge. You must be careful not to become what some psychologists refer to as “burned-out good Samaritans”. You must learn how to keep your battery recharged for greater services. Service requires energy. You must recline to keep yourself energized.
So you want first place? Then take the last place. Be the servant of all- that is what the pursuit of Purpose is all about!