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.
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; (1 Peter 2:9, NKJV)
Peter has developed the point that Christians are “a holy priesthood” because Christ is the chief cornerstone of the house of God, the church (1 Peter 2:4-6). In this summary passage, he says our priesthood is royal or regal. Because we are citizens of the kingdom of God, we share in the blessings granted by the King (Jesus), who has “made us kings (a kingdom) and priests to His God and Father” (Revelation 1:6). Just as priests serve in a temple, Christians compose the temple of God – the church – and serve God in it (Ephesians 2:19-22). (This shows the importance and value God places on the church.) We are privileged to offer up spiritual sacrifices to God which are acceptable through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:5). Therefore, our sacrifices and service to God must agree with His will since we are “priests to our God” (Revelation 5:10). The church does not decide what is acceptable service to God. God has done that, and revealed it to us in His word. It is up to us to offer Him the priestly service He expects and deserves (Romans 12:1-2).
Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. (2 Corinthians 4:1, NKJV)
The apostles of Jesus Christ were commissioned by Him to preach the gospel to the world (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15). As they did their work, they were “ministers of the new covenant” (2 Corinthians 3:6). Their service to Christ and to the world was certainly motivated by the merciful forgiveness they had received under the new covenant. But also, God’s mercy continued to be with them as they served His will. And so, Paul could boldly say, “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). Christian, do not lose heart and faint as you fulfill the service the Lord has given you. You live in the mercy of God (Galatians 6:16)! Be patient and endure the trials that test and purify your faith. As the Master came to serve, even so He calls on you to persevere and have patience, and do not become weary as you labor for His name’s sake (Revelation 2:3).
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:29, NKJV)
Following Jesus does not mean, as many appear to envision, recklessly living as one pleases, confident that no matter what they do Jesus will take them home to heaven in the end. (Once saved, always saved is not the gospel of Jesus, Heb. 10:26-31.) To follow Jesus one must take His yoke (an instrument of control, direction and service) upon himself. No longer guided by selfish, sinful pleasures or thoughtless, godless deeds, we must let Jesus teach us a life of service under His yoke of training and guidance. The metaphor of a yoke indicates submission to the authority of Christ. His authority is not oppressive, but liberating, as it frees us from sin’s bondage. Living and serving under His authority brings rest to souls wearied by sin. Commit yourself to let Christ rule your life. Learn His ways. Live as His servant. Discover rest for your soul.