In words and example, Jesus served

Posted Nov 23, 2022

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Daily Scripture

WEDNESDAY 11.23.22 Mark 10:35-45, John 13:3-17

Mark 10

35 James and John, Zebedee’s sons, came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”
36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
37 They said, “Allow one of us to sit on your right and the other on your left when you enter your glory.”
38 Jesus replied, “You don’t know what you’re asking! Can you drink the cup I drink or receive the baptism I receive?”
39 “We can,” they answered.
Jesus said, “You will drink the cup I drink and receive the baptism I receive, 40 but to sit at my right or left hand isn’t mine to give. It belongs to those for whom it has been prepared.”
41 Now when the other ten disciples heard about this, they became angry with James and John. 42 Jesus called them over and said, “You know that the ones who are considered the rulers by the Gentiles show off their authority over them and their high-ranking officials order them around. 43 But that’s not the way it will be with you. Whoever wants to be great among you will be your servant. 44 Whoever wants to be first among you will be the slave of all, 45 for the Human One [of Son of Man] didn’t come to be served but rather to serve and to give his life to liberate many people.”

John 13

3 Jesus knew the Father had given everything into his hands and that he had come from God and was returning to God. 4 So he got up from the table and took off his robes. Picking up a linen towel, he tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he was wearing. 6 When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You don’t understand what I’m doing now, but you will understand later.”
8 “No!” Peter said. “You will never wash my feet!”
Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t have a place with me.”
9 Simon Peter said, “Lord, not only my feet but also my hands and my head!”
10 Jesus responded, “Those who have bathed need only to have their feet washed, because they are completely clean. You disciples are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 He knew who would betray him. That’s why he said, “Not every one of you is clean.”
12 After he washed the disciples’ feet, he put on his robes and returned to his place at the table. He said to them, “Do you know what I’ve done for you? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you speak correctly, because I am. 14 If I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you too must wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example: Just as I have done, you also must do. 16 I assure you, servants aren’t greater than their master, nor are those who are sent greater than the one who sent them. 17 Since you know these things, you will be happy if you do them.

Reflection Questions

Jesus didn’t just talk about service; he movingly modeled it. On the night before his crucifixion, Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. It shocked them—washing guests’ feet was usually the lowest ranking slaves’ work. Then Jesus told the disciples they were right to call him “Teacher” or “Lord.” His lesson for them (and us) was that by acting as a servant, he did not abdicate leadership, but redefined our ideas of glory and power. God’s standards, not earthly ones, guided His life.

  • Like James and John, we know what earthly importance, power and privilege look like. Down deep, most of us would like to have at least some measure of those things. But Jesus’ teaching was clear: “that’s not the way it will be with you” (Mark 10:43). What are some practical ways you can serve another person that will tangibly make their life better? Who is God leading you to bless with a concrete act of service?
  • John, a very precise writer, used the same Greek words to describe Jesus “taking off” and “putting on” his robes as when he quoted Jesus saying, “I give up my life so that I can take it up again” (John 10:17). In what ways was Jesus’ action not just practical, but an acted-out parable of the way he would give himself for us on the cross? Have you ever had an experience in which acting humbly toward someone else felt almost like dying? In the end, was it worth it?

Prayer

Loving Lord, I’m human. Sometimes I have ambitious dreams and wishes. Keep reshaping me, making those ambitions into ambitions to serve you and others. Amen.

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Dr. Amy Oden

Dr. Amy Oden

Dr. Amy Oden is Professor of Early Church History and Spirituality, teaching at several seminaries. Teaching is her calling, and she looks forward to every day with students. Her latest book (Right Here, Right Now: The Practice of Christian Mindfulness, Abingdon Press, 2017) traces ancient mindfulness practice for Christians today.

“But that’s not the way it will be with you. Whoever wants to be great among you will be your servant” (Mark 10:43).

Jesus’ preaching about the kin-dom of God can sound like crazy talk. Jesus says that God’s way of life reverses our everyday expectations: The first shall be last and the last shall be first. Whoever wants to be in charge must be servant of all. The smallest things (a seed, yeast) produce the greatest abundance. Jesus challenges our assumptions about reality, turning things upside down.

In my own life, I’ve sought after status the world offers, though perhaps I didn’t call it that. First, I wanted the PhD, so I would have the credential that others would respect and call me “Dr Oden.” Then, I wanted to be a professor and gain tenure, the prize that signaled I had “made it,” that I would be taken seriously, students and colleagues would respect me and I’d have career security. Then, I needed to publish a book, to prove I deserved the position I had gained. I was proud to publish my first book-–now I’d made it!

Sound familiar? What series of steps have you followed to gain status? To get to the top? We spend our lives following prescribed paths to respectability yet rarely do we find abundant life there. Each prize we gain only sets out another one that must be pursued. A never-ending shell game of false identity, false security.

Then I hear Jesus say, “But that’s not the way it will be with you. Whoever wants to be great among you will be your servant” (Mark 10:43) and everything shifts. Now I see the hunger to learn that pulled me into graduate work, the possibility of serving through my teaching and scholarship. Jesus’ words re-focus me toward walking alongside students and explorers, pastors and shepherds. Yes! This is the way that leads to real Life, abundant Life, eternal Life. Here and now.

What do you hear Jesus saying to you today? How does Jesus animate your servant heart, bringing it alive? Follow him there.

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