(watch here: https://youtu.be/fL6Z3XQAYAM)
1Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ 7Jesus answered, ‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ 8Peter said to him, ‘You will never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.’ 9Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’ 10Jesus said to him, ‘One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.’ 11For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’
12After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? 13You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”
Many of us have been called upon to serve another person at some point in our lives. Perhaps that person was ill and unable to tend to their own needs. Perhaps that person was too young to understand how to care for themselves. Perhaps that person was too old to remember how to care for themselves. Perhaps that person came to you while you were fulfilling the duties of your job. Perhaps that person didn’t want your help. Perhaps that person didn’t deserve your help. Regardless of who they were or whether they wanted it or even deserved it, you ended up serving that person. Did you always receive something in return for helping someone out? Unless it was expected of us at our job and we received money in exchange for our service, few of us receive anything more than a simple “thank you.” We serve not to receive but because the situation demands it of us. Our loved ones are in need and if we can satisfy their need then we do it. It’s just that simple. Some of us like to hope that one day our loved ones will eventually serve us in our own time of need but really there’s no guarantee. Serving others is not a requirement in life even though many of us are called upon to do it.
Most of the time our calling into serving others involves serving loved ones. We know and treasure the person we’re being asked to serve. We love them and want nothing bad to happen to them. We want to serve them and make their life a little bit easier. But what about the people we are called to serve that we know nothing about other than their apparent need? It’s one thing serving loved ones who may or may not want our help or even deserve it but it’s a lot harder reaching out to people we know nothing about. Should we expend effort serving those people? Of course, we should! Their need is just as important as the needs of loved ones. Just because we aren’t in relationship with them doesn’t mean that their needs should be ignored. It simply means we have an opportunity to start a relationship by first providing for their needs. And what a great way to start up a relationship, by serving someone in need! Trust and gratitude are quickly established which are two essentials qualities for a relationship to grow and flourish.
God wants us to serve not only our loved ones but all those who come into our lives. Jesus was sent into the world to teach us how to love and serve all people, even those who don’t want or deserve it. Just look at how he loved and served his disciples. They were supposedly the closest people in his life and yet they still failed to understand why he loved and served them. When he knelt to wash the feet of Peter, the ‘rock’ of his disciples, Jesus was met with defiance and ingratitude: “You will never wash my feet.” Peter didn’t want to be served by his master. Peter didn’t understand why his master was serving him. But with a quick response, Jesus could convince him of the necessity of his service as an example for others. Peter then gladly welcomed Jesus’ service.
Jesus didn’t seek out easy ways to serve only those he loved. Jesus sought out radical ways of serving those that came into his life. The disciples weren’t family—they were people whom the Father placed into Jesus lives. Washing their feet was the least desirable way to serve them. Only the lowliest of servants performed such tasks. But Jesus chose to wash the feet of his unware, undeserving disciples. He chose a hard way to serve his neighbors. Why? To give us an example of how we are to serve. Each of us is given both easy ways and hard ways to serve. It’s easy to serve loved ones in their time of need. It’s hard to serve strangers in their time of need. It’s easy to serve in ways that require little personal sacrifice. It’s hard to serve in ways that expect us to give up our own personal joy and happiness. We must find a balance between easy and hard ways to serve.
Life has a way of presenting both easy and hard ways to serve. There’s a reason why that police officer was suspended from his job for standing idly by during the recent school shooting in Florida. He was called upon to serve in a hard way and he chose not to act on that calling. I imagine each of us is called upon to serve in hard ways at our jobs. I would pray that each of us finds the strength and courage to act on those callings. God expects us to serve in both easy ways and hard ways. Hard acts of service stretch us and develop us to become all that God wants us to be. We are to be fearless and selfless in our acts of service. We are to rely on his guidance and protection in all our service.
As we continue our journey through Lent, let us find not only easy ways but also hard ways to serve. Let us seek our people we wouldn’t normally consider serving. Let us consider acts of service that may not be popular or comfortable. Lent is a time for stretching comfort zones. Let us use this time to grow in our understanding of ourselves and those around us. Life is about growth and service. Thanks be to God for both easy and hard ways to serve!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.