knowing Christ: the call to SERVE

Knowing Christ:

Are you willing to test yourself and put yourself up against the teachings of Jesus Christ?

I’m afraid that we tend to be like the fellow in the old story who showed up for a court hearing concerning an accident in which he had been involved. His arm was in a cast, there were bandages all over him, & the exposed parts of his body were clearly bruised, scratched & cut. He was a real mess.

Looking rather surprised, the judge asked about his injuries. He replied, "Judge, I’m in a terrible condition. I have cuts & stitches all over me, & I’m feeling awful."

The judge said, "I don’t understand this. The accident report filed by the Officer says that at the time of the accident you told him you were just fine."

"Well Judge," the man replied, "let me explain. I was driving my pickup & pulling a trailer. In the back of the pickup was my old dog Shep, & my mule was in the trailer. All of a sudden an 18-wheeler sideswiped me, knocking me off the road."

"My pickup & trailer rolled over & over, & we ended up at the bottom of a big embankment. The next thing I remember, a police officer was picking his way through the wreckage. I saw him stop & examine my mule, then he pulled out his pistol & shot the mule between the eyes."

"Next, he got to where Shep was lying, & after examining him, he shot old Shep, too. Then he walked over to me & asked, "How are you?" And I said, "I’m just fine."

Often we would rather tell ourselves that we are okay instead of facing the reality of our circumstances. When you study the life of Christ as we have done for the last few weeks it is not unusual to shrink away from the spotlight. And yet I can’t think of cause more noble then intentionally studying the life of Christ so that we might pattern our lives after His own.

You cannot read through the Gospel of John without noticing the shadow of the cross that grows longer and darker until John has you standing in front of the cross itself. With this sermon we are only three Sundays from Easter however the events that start in John 13 are only a few hours perhaps even less than a day from the actual crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

By the end of John 12, Jesus has given His last public sermon and talk. From here on out His words were reserved for His disciples and prayer to His Father in heaven. Some have referred to what happened in the room where Jesus met with His disciples to celebrate Passover the Upper Room Discourse.

This discourse includes Jesus predictions of betrayal by his disciples as well as His promise to go back to heaven and prepare a place for them. He teaches them in this discourse by using metaphors to describe the relationship that His disciples will enjoy if they follow Him. (Vine and branches)

The most important thing about reading this private teaching that Jesus gave His disciples is that it gives us an insight into the things He most wanted to drill into their heads and hearts as He prepared to die on the cross, resurrect from the dead and then leave this earth with a promise to return one day.

With that in mind, I would like us to spend a little time revisiting the first lesson that Christ gives His followers. He begins their time together with a startling illustration and demonstration of what it means to be a servant. It is a clear call. It leaves no doubt as to the value of serving that is placed on anyone claiming to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

Let’s look at this story and see what we can walk out of here today knowing that we didn’t know when we walked into this room.

It’s a simple outline:

What did Jesus Know?

 1 Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end.

2 It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. John 13:1-3 NLT

He knew His time had come

“Jesus knew His hour had come to leave this world.” Several times in the story of Jesus we read some form of the phrase, “His time had not yet come,” but here it is clearly the beginning of the end for Jesus time on this earth.

It’s amazing really that He is not focused on what is coming. Here’s His to do list: Endure a lonely night in the garden praying, betrayal by two of his disciples and desertion by all but one, merciless beating and torture, a slow excruciating death on the cross, a resurrection from the dead, time spent reassembling the disciples, some last minute teaching and ascending back to heaven.

If you knew that you would die a terrible death tomorrow? What would you be focused on? What would be your point of interest? I can tell you I would probably be thinking about myself and what I’m about to go through.

Fully God and fully man, here is Jesus facing something we cannot even imagine. He is not saying to the disciples, “Don’t you care about what I’m facing?” He is not focused on himself. He is concerned that they be prepared for what’s about to happen. Jesus is focused on others!

We see that in Jesus through out his ordeal. At his arrest his concern was that the disciples be let go. When on the cross He is concerned about his mother’s future.

There in his last hours he ministers to the thief on the cross. Under maximum pressure he remains totally unselfish and loving toward his own. He was a servant.

He knew who He was

“Jesus knew that the Father had given Him authority over everything and that He had come from God and would return to God.” 

He knew Who he was. With all that in mind he bowed before these disciples and washed their feet. He was not ignorant of the glory and authority that the Father had given him.

But all that could not gender any pride, any arrogance in his heart.

Have you ever seen a person or been a person who was pretty humble until a little recognition and prestige came along? How much honor can I handle without becoming self conceited? Jesus knew that all authority in heaven and earth was his from the Father, yet his heart was not lifted up in pride, yet he bowed before others and served.

Perhaps it was because he knew who he was—because he was secure in own identity that he could bow to the lowest point of service. Its not great men who will not serve others—it is insecure men—the ones who think that washing feet defines them as something less than others. That person will not serve in lowly tasks because he sees it as a challenge to his identity.

He knew who would betray Him

There is Judas, full of deceit, full of hypocrisy, about to “stab Jesus in the back.”

Jesus discerns it. Jesus knows it.

What does Jesus do with that information? What would you and I do with that information?

Jesus does not distance himself from Judas. Jesus does not point his finger at Judas and say to him, “How dare you—after all I’ve done for you?” Instead he loves him to the end. He does everything possible to bring Judas to repentance. He washes his feet with the same tenderness and affection that he gives the other disciples. Maybe that will soften Judas’ heart. But it doesn’t. He comments on the pending betrayal—saying all are not clean in verse 10—another opportunity for Judas to repent. But instead of repenting Judas hardens his heart. In the latter part of this chapter he says it more plainly.

In verse 26 Jesus dipped the bread in the dish and gave it to Judas and exposed him as the traitor. That was Judas’ final opportunity for repentance. Opportunity after opportunity had been declined. As soon as Judas made that final decision, Satan entered into him and Judas left to do his evil deed. Jesus knew his betrayer. We learn something about Jesus in all that. We learn something about how he would have us deal with those who betray us. No resentment, no anger, no bitterness, only sorrow for the awful decision Judas had made and the terrible consequences that would follow for Judas.

Can you wash the feet of your enemies? Will you serve the person though you know he or she will not return the kindness?

What did Jesus Do?

4 So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, 5 and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him. John 13:4-5 NLT
He got up: He left His comfort zone

Jesus did something that no one else in the room was comfortable doing. There are times when serving may cause us to operate out of our comfort zone yet really most of the time we can serve in our strengths.

The fact is we have been taught all our lives to work on our weaknesses but we believe you ought to find out your strengths and work on and in your strengths. That’s why the class we are offering on Knowing your Strengths should be packed out. I’m quite sure most of you don’t know or understand what this class is or you would be checking it out.

The point is He got up and did something that needed to be done.

He took off His robe: To serve others you generally have to lay something down.

Serving others will always cost us something. Generally it will be our time but it may be money or personal desire that we lay aside when we commit to serve others.

What have you laid down in your life to enable yourself to serve others?

Let me tell you about a couple of friends of mine that have “laid aside their robe” to serve others. 

Lower Lights Christian Health Center was opened in April 2002 in response to the need for access to health care in the community of Franklinton on the west side of Columbus, Ohio.  In this community of 16,000 people, 45% of families with children live below the poverty level.  Many health care disparities exist and the availability of primary health care services is woefully inadequate.  

Dr. Dana Vallangeon,  opened Lower Lights Christian Health Center (LLCHC), a community-governed 501(c) (3) health center to help address the health care needs of Franklinton. Dana had felt a calling to serve in medical missions since her teenage years and the opening of this medical facility fulfilled that dream.  The mission of the health center is to minister the love of Christ through holistic high quality health care to all who need it regardless of ability to pay.

Starting in 2002 with only one provider and two office staff, today the health center has 5 providers and 25 office staff.  They are the medical home to over 4,600 patients. Last year they provided over $350,000 in unreimbursed medical care to our uninsured and underinsured patients, which is about 75% of our patient population.  

When Dana graduated from Ohio State she laid down the opportunity to practice her profession in the normal way and responded to an unusual call. 

Scott Hayes, not only overcame a felony record and time in jail, but he laid down a staff job at a local church to step away and follow a call to serve. After years of providing furniture and appliances to people in need he finds a way to purchase the old Hazelwood school and turn it into a legitimate community center. 

Today just a few years later they are offering: 

B.L.A.S.T After School Club
Thrift Store
Family Movie and Popcorn Night
Psalm Cafe Coffee House
G.E.D. Classes
Bible Studies
Kick N' It Mentoring Program
Youth Events, such as concerts, open gyms and carnivals
Small Groups
A weekly free community dinner on Monday nights
Getting ready to open a dental clinic.

One guy responds to a call to serve the community and is making a difference.

Just last in the last couple of weeks I have been given a proposal for a medical clinic to meet medical needs in our own community. It sounds like a big deal and it is but it has been done around the world because someone heard a call and laid something aside to serve others. 

There is someone in our church that wants to teach and work in helping people change their oil and light car repair.

Matt Huff: Victory
Cindy Stiverson: Woven
Sean Hall: Pointman

He wrapped a towel around His waist: He prepared to serve.

He made preparations to meet the need. There is much that could be said here but serving can be done at many different levels. Sometimes we serve in the moment but other times there is careful preparation that needs to take place. Plan well. Be on top of it. Don’t serve in a sloppy manner. Jesus gives us a clear pattern of being prepared and when we do something for God we ought to do it with excellence and a part of that excellence it being prepared. If you are going to do something for someone, do it right. I have spent a fair amount of time in my life around a church mentality that accepted sloppiness and laziness as the twin characteristics of how to be the church. (song leaders, “special songs,” teachers that didn’t prepare,)

He began. . .

At some point we have to begin. We can think about it. We can pray about it. We can prepare for it. But at some point we must start living the life of a servant if we are to follow Christ and live our lives as He intends for us to live them.

What did Jesus Teach?

 12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. 17 Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them. John 13:12-17 NLT

Do you understand?

Jesus comes into our lives. He loves us. He receives us. He meets our needs.

And sometimes people think that’s all this is about—getting my need met, getting my feet washed.

No, it’s about a personal transformation of character and thinking. It’s about becoming something. It’s about becoming a servant like Jesus. verse 15 “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” Freely you have received, freely give. (5)

If my experience in God is only about me, only about me getting my needs met, I’ve missed something along the way. If church is just about me getting what I want, I’ve missed something. The greatest human tragedy is for a person to never receive Christ and his mercy.

The second greatest tragedy is that a person would experience Christ, experience his love, experience his grace—but never translate that into service toward others.

There are depths in God only found in the process of service to others. It’s paradoxical. The natural mind cannot reason it out. But it is truly more blessed to give than to receive.

He who loses his life in service to others is the one who ultimately finds it in its fulfillment.

A wealthy American traveler tells the story of how he was a visiting a hospital in Southeast Asia. He entered just as a young missionary nurse was cleaning the sores of a sick, dirty, elderly man who had been lying in a gutter. The wealthy man said to the nurse, “I wouldn’t do that for a million dollars.” She answered quietly and firmly, “Neither would I.”

Be humble and serve one another

Really it’s not about you and I being humble because generally when you serve others it humbles you in the process.

Get up and do it!

We didn’t read the part of this story where Jesus interacts with Peter but Peter tries to tell Jesus not to wash his feet. Poor Peter thought he had a better idea than Jesus. Jesus wants to wash his feet—Peter doesn’t want him to do it. Then he wants a full bath. It took Peter awhile to learn that none of us have a better idea than Jesus. The best thing we can possibly do is to simply hear him and obey him.

I heard about a man who always had trouble getting son to clean room. The boy would always agree—but then would not follow through. After high school the son joined the Marine Corps. When he came home from leave after Basic Training, his Dad asked him what he had learned in the service. “Dad” he said, “I have learned what NOW means”

Peter eventually learned to simply obey the Lord rather than offer better idea. That’s something we all have to learn.

As we bring this service to a close I want you to watch and listen to a video.