14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. (John 13:14–17, NKJV)
Nothing in the context of this text demands the conclusion that Jesus was instituting a foot-washing ceremony for today (John 13:1-17). Far from it. He was, however, setting an example of humble service that every disciple must follow in our treatment of each other. At this Passover meal, none of His apostles lowered themselves to the menial task of washing the dirty feet of their companions (or even to wash their Master’s feet). In fact, there had been an ongoing squabble among them about who would be greatest in the kingdom (Mk. 9:34-37; 10:35-45). Earlier, Jesus had taught them, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). Jesus is great because Jesus served. And so, the Son of God sees greatness when we humbly serve each other (Matt. 20:27). Practicing humble service toward others is crucial. Jesus said the blessing comes when we actually follow His example and become a servant of others. We cannot say but not do, and expect to be blessed. By serving others we remove self-interest and give ourselves over to the welfare of others. That’s the example of Jesus we are called to follow.
24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24–26, NKJV)
We noted in yesterday’s Sword Tips (#1799) that gospel preaching gets personal by making personal applications that convict and convert. This by no means sanctions personal, verbal abuse while doing so. “Defending the truth” is not a cloak behind which envy and strife may hide (1 Cor. 3:3-4). Identifying a false teacher is not a personal attack when it is supported by Scriptural evidence of error being taught, endorsed, and promoted. Publicly identifying opponents of the truth is entirely Scriptural when it is aimed at (1) Saving the lost, and (2) Protecting the saved (see Rom. 16:17-18; 1 Tim. 1:19-20; 2 Tim. 2:16-18; 4:14-15; 3 John 9-10). This is very different from being quarrelsome and malicious toward those same people (which today’s passage forbids). Gentleness (not weakness) – when combined with the ability to teach, endurance, and humility – produces a powerful faith that equips the servant of the Lord to correct those who oppose truth (25) so they may repent and escape the devil’s clutches (25-26). The servant of the Lord does this by remembering the “good fight of faith” is not about him, it is about laying hold of eternal life – and about helping others do the same (1 Tim. 6:12).
9 When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him, and turned around and said to the crowd that followed Him, “I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” 10 And those who were sent, returning to the house, found the servant well who had been sick. (Luke 7:9–10, NKJV)
We have been discussing the healing of the centurion’s servant by Jesus. Upon seeing and hearing the soldier’s explanation of sending others to Jesus with his plea (Lk. 7:2-8), Jesus praised the man’s faith, and healed the servant without ever meeting the centurion or his servant. Jesus described the centurion’s faith at “great.” The word carries the idea of quantity, and means “so vast as this.” In other words, his faith was “large” in comparison to the faith Jesus witnessed in Israel. His faith was formed by hearing about Jesus (Lk. 7:3). But, he did more than just believe Jesus could heal his servant. He first sent Jewish elders to Jesus with his plea, and then friends to tell Jesus there was no need to come to his house. He was sure Jesus could just say the word, and heal his servant. Faith that brings God’s blessings is far more than mental acceptance. In our case, faith must compel us to obey Jesus (Jas. 2:14-26). Otherwise, we will not be saved (Matt. 7:21). By the way, it is important to see that as far as we know, the servant was not the person with the faith. Yet, he was healed. Living with large faith becomes a blessing to others.
6 Then Jesus went with them. And when He was already not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to Him, saying to Him, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. 7 Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. (Luke 7:6–7, NKJV)
The Roman centurion had heard about Jesus and the great miracles He worked. Having already sent Jewish elders to Jesus who begged Him to come and heal the man’s servant, he then sent friends to Jesus with an astounding message. He understood authority, and he believed Jesus had such authority over disease that He could just say the word, and his servant would be healed (Lk. 7:8). Jesus marveled at the man’s faith, and commended it to the crowd that followed Him, saying, “I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” (Lk. 7:9) The servant was healed that very hour. Like the centurion, may we fully trust the power of Christ’s word. God’s word will accomplish God’s will in our lives when we trust and obey (1 Thess. 2:13).
9 Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’ (Luke 17:9–10, NKJV)
Followers of Jesus want to grow in their faith to reach spiritual maturity. This growth of faith comes as we feed on the word of God and live by its truth (Heb. 5:12-14). By using the word of God we grow and are strong in Christ. Even so, in today’s passage, the Lord explains our faith will increase when we obey the duty of faith. Just as a servant obeys his master out of duty and without merit, our obedience to Christ expresses full submission to Him. We merit nothing by our obedience (we cannot earn our way to heaven) – we are “unprofitable servants” doing our duty (v. 10). Our faith in Christ compels our obedience to Him. It is our duty to obey His word, and we freely and willingly do so. Such submissive obedience shows we trust the Lord instead of ourselves. We do His will in His way precisely because we trust His way is right and good. That kind of faith grows as we fulfill our duty before the Lord. You see, saying and not doing is not faith (Lk. 6:46; Jas. 2:17). Doing our duty as servants increases our faith in the Lord.
7 And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? 8 But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? (Luke 17:7–8, NKJV)
Jesus continues to explain how to increase our faith as He answers the apostles’ request to “increase our faith” (Lk. 17:5). We cannot fail but see that Jesus explains there are things we must do for our faith to grow. Faith is powerful when it is active (Lk. 17:6-7). Furthermore, faith grows when faith serves. We are servants of God and of one another, not masters. Our duty is to serve the will of God, not ourselves. Faith does not elevate us to a place where we demand the Lord serve us. He is the Teacher and Lord, who willing served the Father’s will for our salvation. Now, our faith compels us to be servants (Jno. 13:13-17). That includes the service of forgiving others and being careful not to become offenses (snares) to them (Lk. 17:1-4). Servants of Christ live by faith, doing His will from the heart. The servant heart is fertile ground that bears the fruit of the Spirit by holding fast to God’s word and living as a servant (Lk. 8:15; Gal. 5:22-26). Thus far, Christ has said our faith will increase when we 1) Trust the power of faith (Lk. 17:6), and when we 2) Offer the service of faith (Lk. 17:7-8). What He will say next adds a third item to this list of how to increase our faith.
42 But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. 44 And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42–45, NKJV)
As it was in the days of Christ, so it is to this present hour. Worldly ambition drives many to exercise dominance and control over others, measuring their greatness by positions of power. Such is neither the measure nor the ambition of Christ’s disciples. When a dispute arose among His apostles over positions of prominence in the kingdom, Christ taught that importance and favor are measured by service and sacrifice, not subjugation (Mark 10:35-41). Jesus set the high bar of lowly greatness, serving and dying to save the lost. To be great and first in God’s sight is what matters. So, let us use His measurements of greatness, and serve others as He served us.