Chapter 3 – Like Christ: As One that Serveth

“If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.” — John 13:14.

“I am among you as he that serveth.”—Luke 22:27.

Yesterday we thought of the right that the Lord has to demand and expect that His redeemed ones should follow His example. Today we will more specially consider in what it is we have to follow Him.

“Ye also ought to wash one another’s feet,” is the word of which we want to understand the full meaning. The form of a servant in which we see Him, the cleansing which was the object of that service, the love, which was its motive power,—these are the three chief thoughts.

First, the form of a servant. All was ready for the last supper, to the very water to wash the feet of the guests, according to custom. But there was no slave to do the work. Each one waits for the other: none of the twelve thinks of humbling himself to do the work. Even at the table they were full of the thought, who should be greatest in the kingdom they were expecting (Luke 22:26, 27) All at once Jesus rises (they were still reclining at the table), lays aside His garments, girds Himself with a towel, and begins to wash their feet. O wondrous spectacle! on which angels gazed with adoring wonder. Christ, the Creator and King of the universe, at whose beck legions of angels are ready to serve Him, who might with one word of love have said which one of the twelve must do the work,—Christ chooses the slave’s place for His own, takes the soiled feet in His own holy hands, and washes them. He does it in full consciousness of His divine glory, for John says, “Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He was come from God and went to God, rose.” For the hands into which God had given all things, nothing is common or unclean. The meanness of a work never lowers the person; the person honours and elevates the work, and imparts his own worth even to the meanest service. In such deep humiliation, as we men call it, our Lord finds divine glory, and is in this the Leader of His Church in the path of true blessedness. It is as the Son that He is the servant. Just because He is the beloved of His Father, in whose hands all things are given, it is not difficult for Him to stoop so low. In thus taking he form of a servant, Jesus proclaims the law of rank in the Church of Christ. The higher one wisher, to stand in grace, the more it must be his joy to be servant of all. “Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant” (Matt. 20:27); “He that is greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matt. 23:11). The higher I rise in the consciousness of being like Christ, God’s beloved child, the deeper shall I stoop to serve all around me.

A servant is one who is always caring for the work and interest of his master, is ever ready to let his master see that he only seeks to do what will please or profit him. Thus Jesus lived: “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45): “I am among you as he that serveth.” Thus I must live, moving about among God’s children as the servant of all. If I seek to bless others, it must be in the humble, loving readiness with which I serve them, not caring for my own honour or interest, if I can but be a blessing to them. I must follow Christ’s example in washing the disciples’ feet. A servant counts it no humiliation, and is not ashamed of being counted an inferior: it is his place and work to serve others. The reason why we so often do not bless others is that we wish to address them as their superiors in grace or gifts, or at least their equals. If we first learnt from our Lord to associate with others in the blessed spirit of a servant, what a blessing we should become to the world! When once this example is admitted to the place it ought to have in the Church of Christ, the power of His presence would soon make itself felt.

And what is now the work the disciple has to perform in this spirit of lowly service? The foot washing speaks of a double work—the one, for the cleansing and refreshing of the body; the other, the cleansing and saving of the soul. During the whole of our Lord’s life upon earth these two things were ever united: “The sick were healed, to the poor the gospel was preached.” As with the paralytic, so with many others, blessing to the body, was the type and promise of life to the spirit.

The follower of Jesus may not lose sight of this when he receives the command, “Ye ought also to wash one another’s feet.” Remembering that the external and bodily is the gate to the inner and spiritual life, he makes the salvation of the soul the first object in his holy ministry of love, at the same time, however, seeking the way to the hearts by the ready service of love in the little and common things of daily life. It is not by reproof and censure that he shows that he is a servant; no, but by the friendliness and kindliness with which he proves in daily intercourse that he always thinks how he can help or serve, he becomes the living witness of what it is to be a follower of Jesus. From such a one the word when spoken comes with power, and finds easy entrance. And then, when he comes into contact with the sin and perverseness and contradiction of men, instead of being discouraged, he perseveres as he thinks with how much patience Jesus has borne with him, and still daily cleanses him; he realizes himself to be one of God’s appointed servants, to stoop to the lowest depth to serve and save men, even to bow at the feet of others if this be needed.

The spirit which will enable one to live such a life of loving service, can be learned from Jesus alone. John writes, “Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them to the end” (John 13:1). For love nothing is too hard. ve never speaks of sacrifice. To bless the loved one, however unworthy, it willingly gives up all. It was love made Jesus a servant. It is love alone will make the servant’s place and work such blessedness to us, that we shall persevere in it at all costs. We may perhaps, like Jesus, have to wash the feet of some Judas who rewards us with ingratitude and betrayal. We shall probably meet many a Peter, who first, with his “Never my feet” refuses, and then is dissatisfied when we do not comply with his impatient “Not only the feet, but also the bead and the hands.” Only love, a heavenly unquenchable love, gives the patience, the courage, and the wisdom for this great work the Lord has set before us in His holy example: “Wash ye one another’s feet.” Try above all to understand that it is only as a son you can be truly a servant. It was as the Son Christ took the form of a servant: in this you will find the secret of willing, happy service. Walk among men as a Son of the Most High God. A Son of God is only in the world to show forth His Father’s glory, to prove how God-like and how blessed it is to live only and at any cost to find a way for love to the hearts of the lost.

O my soul, thy love cannot attain to this; therefore listen to Him who says, “Abide in my love.” Our one desire must be that He may show us how He loves us, and that He Himself may keep us abiding in “His love.” Live every day, as the beloved of the Lord, in the experience that His love washes and cleanses, bears and blesses you all the day long. This love of His flowing into you, will flow out again from you, and make it your greatest joy to follow His example in washing the feet of others. Do not complain much of the want of love and humility in others, but pray much that the Lord would awaken His people to their calling, truly so to follow in His footsteps that the world may see that they have taken Him for their example. And if you do not see it as soon as you wish in those around you, let it only urge you to more earnest prayer, that in you at least the Lord may have one who understands and proves that to love and serve like Jesus is the highest blessedness and joy, as well as the way, like Jesus, to be a blessing and a joy to others.

My Lord, I give myself to Thee, to live this blessed life of service. In Thee I have seen it, the spirit of a servant is a kingly spirit, come from heaven and lifting up to heaven, yea, the Spirit of God’s own Son. Thou everlasting Love, dwell in me, and my life shall be like Thine, and the language of my life to others as Thine, “I am in the midst of you as he that serveth.”

O Thou glorified Son of God, Thou knowest how little of Thy Spirit dwells in us, how this life of a servant is opposed to all that the world reckons honourable or proper. But Thou hast come to teach us new lessons of what is right, to show us what is thought in heaven of the glory of being the least, of the blessedness of serving. O Thou, who dost not only give new thoughts but implant new feelings, give me a heart like Thine, a heart full of the Holy Spirit, a heart that can love as Thou dost. O Lord, Thy Holy Spirit dwells within me; Thy fulness is my inheritance; in the joy of the Holy Spirit I can be as Thou art. I do yield myself to a life of service like Thine. Let the same mind be in me which was also in Thee, when Thou didst make Thyself of no reputation, and didst take upon Thee the form of a servant, and being, found in fashion as a man, didst humble Thyself. Yea, Lord, that very same mind be in me too by Thy grace. As a son of God let me be the servant of men. Amen.