Jesus as Servant

washing_feetI have been to a few councils for ministry ordination. One frequent passage that is brought to the candidate is Philippians 2: 7 which says that Jesus “emptied himself.”  What exactly did he do in that passage?

Did he empty himself of his deity?  That is contrary to the teaching of the church through the ages, and contrary to the scriptures itself.

There is a passage in John’s Gospel that sheds some light in this question. It is when Jesus washes the feet of the Disciples in John 13.

I could go so far as to say that Philippians 2 is a commentary on Jesus as a Servant. If not a commentary, a song: many hold that it is actually a hymn of the early church.

Here is John 13:1-5:

 Now 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. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then 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.

John speaks of what Jesus knows, that he is from the Father and returning to the Father.  That he has god-like power in that “the Father had given all thins into his hands.”  As the LORD, Jesus removed his regular clothing and took on the clothing of a house servant and set out to do a very humbling work – he washed their feet.

Philippians says:

…he made himself nothing  taking on the very nature of a servant… (2:7)

The link is made stronger in that Philippians begins with an challenge to believers to serve each other, to be humble and considers others first.  (Phil 2:1-4). This is to be done in imitation of Christ (Phil 2:5).

In John 13 Jesus said, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you….”

So there is an ethical link – Jesus act of foot washing (John) and his submission to death on a cross (Philippians) are motives and models of Christian service.  I do not believe that foot washing is now a sacrament, but a picture of the way of life of all who follow Jesus.  If he, the Lord, the Master lowers himself to serve, what should we do?

 

 

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John’s Two Endings – John 20, 21

shepherd with crookIt would see as John 20:31 is the perfect ending of the book.  It summarizes John’s overall message very clearly:

“These are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, And that by believing you might have life in his name.”

But the book has one more chapter.  Is it an appendix of some sort?

I think that Chapter 20 summarizes the response of faith to the Gospel.  We focus on John, Peter, Mary Magdalene and Thomas as they come to believe that Jesus did rise from the dead.  Each person responds differently, but each comes to faith.  Then in effect, John turns to the reader and says, “these (chapter 1-20) are written that YOU might believe…”

This explains why Mary Magdalene is singled out, when in the other gospels we find that other women were also at the tomb.  John is not telling all that happened, he is telling us how faith happened for these four people.

John 21 is about following the Lord.  If we ended with John 20 we might conclude that the faith is merely personal and that when I meet the Lord, I am done.  But the brief call to mission found in John 20:19-22 is expanded in Chapter 21.

There we find two images – fishing and shepherding.  Both of these are strongly tied in the Gospels to leadership.  Peter, Andrew, James and John were called to become fishers of people.

In chapter 21 we find three commands – all directed to Peter.

“Throw your net there…”  In a replay of events recorded in the synoptic gospels, Jesus suggests a fishing strategy to fishermen.  They had caught nothing until they followed his instruction.  We are to read this larger than the story.  In being “fishers of people” the apostles will only be effective when they follow the Lord’s command.

“Feed my sheep.”  Three times, because Peter had denied the Lord three times, he is asked if he Loves Jesus.  When Peter replies that he does, he is called to feed and tend the sheep.

Fishing is associated  in our minds with fishhooks, though these fishermen used nets.  Shepherding is associated with shepherd’s crooks.  So ministry is by tradition done “by hook or by crook.”

“Follow me.”  Peter’s initial call to follow is restated.  It is also made clear that Peter should follow the Lord and not worry about what the Beloved Disciple was doing.  The calling is individual and the Lord decides how to call each individually. It is not wise to envy or to compare.

John 20, in sum, is a call to faith in Jesus as the Savior.  John 21, in sum, is a call to follow him in service.