by Duane Maust
Luke 9: 46-48, John 13: 1-17
March 16, 2008
Last fall at the Gulf States delegate meeting I spoke on this subject, servant leadership. Then when we were planning the worship schedule for this quarter, I made several suggestions about this subject. The next thing I realized was they asked me to talk about it this morning. It is a subject that I want to be aware about for myself.
This is a good subject for all of us to think about. What do you think about when you hear, “Leader as a Servant”? Is servant leadership possible? Maybe you think that you are in charge and the most important. Are you full of yourself? Or maybe it is not quite like that. So what does servant leadership mean?
As followers of Jesus, aren’t we a different kind of leader? Jesus wants us to be a servant leader. That sounds like an oxymoron. Is it a contradiction in terms? Words like jumbo shrimp, baby grand, adult children, male ladybug, government organization, and painless dentistry. Then we have servant leadership.
First we’ll look at what the wrong attitude is for servant leadership, and then we will look at what Jesus did himself to demonstrate what servant leadership is.
Read Luke 9: 46-48
The disciples were more interested in position than serving God. They were arguing about which one was the greatest. Can we get that way sometimes? Is it about the position and importance of what I am doing that gives me rank? The disciples were not being examples of servant leadership.
Yesterday afternoon I was playing the keyboard about 5:00 and the sun was coming in the window at the back of the church in the most beautiful way. We have a reminder of Jesus’ words in that picture in the stained glass.
Read vs 48. Most of the time children in the nursery are able to just play and not worry about their pecking order. They don’t have any important positions. But Jesus loves them and thinks they are cool.
John R. Stott says in his book, The Cross of Christ, that our world and even the church are “full of Jameses and Johns, who are Go-getters and status-seekers, hungry for honor and prestige, measuring life by achievements and everlastingly dreaming of success.”
Read Mark 10: 35-37
You can read the rest of the story later to verse 45.
We may be in different positions. The story of Jesus’ disciples probably can connect for all of us in some way. At school am I too worried about being accepted by the right crowd and being in a good position with the right friends when it may mean trying to put others down or hurting others to get there? That can happen in the work place too, can’t it?
We must keep a perspective of who we are and what we are about. It is about serving God and building his kingdom. It is not about me. It is about bringing people to a relationship in Jesus Christ. It is not about what status leadership will give me. It is not about the position I am given in the church; it is about where my heart is.
Read vs 45
Jesus used this opportunity to give his disciples a leadership lesson. He first denounced worldly leadership and then described what he expected from his own leaders.
We are to be servants in order to become great. This is not a reference to greatness or power in the world. In Matt. 20:16 Jesus says that the last shall be first, and the first shall be last. The greatness referred to here is greatness in the Father’s eyes. If you are humble and a servant, the Lord is pleased. He will say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” (Matt.25:21)
One of the last lessons Jesus taught his disciples was when they got together for their Last Supper. Jesus was teaching by example. Jesus was on his knees showing what a servant leader is about.
This is Palm Sunday today. It is just a couple of days ahead of Jesus meeting with his disciples.
Read John 13: 4-7, 12-17
This whole thing of washing feet probably really was a surprise to the disciples. They knew that their feet might have been dirty from walking on those dusty roads. They would have expected a servant or a maid to be on the floor doing the washing. Their Jesus was on the floor washing their feet.
But Jesus told us to do this in verse 17.
This coming Thursday is Maundy Thursday. We will be celebrating communion and whoever wants to wash feet is welcome to participate. If you are not sure about it, it is fine to just watch. I am more concerned that each of you know how to live it, being a servant.
Jesus surprised the disciples that evening by washing their feet. I am going to surprise one of you.
(Marvin was a disciple of this church this week. He worked with the Samaritan fund and helped with need in serious ways this week. He was being a disciple of this church and God’s kingdom with that fund this week. He was being a servant of this church. Many of you have been servant leaders this past week. But I am picking one now.)
While I am washing his feet, think about why Jesus was doing this.
What are ways we can wash each other’s feet today?
About 15 years ago our pastor here at Jubilee had us sign up to do a service project for each other. If someone had raking their yard, shelling peas, cleaning house, cleaning their car, we did that for each other. We did that to make it practical.
Their feet were dirty in those days. They needed washing. Our feet are pretty clean today. We do this today as a symbol of what Christ did that last day with his disciples. We have other ways to live this passage today. When I get behind this pulpit today, is it about Duane Maust or about Jesus Christ?
I prayed yesterday that it would be about Jesus today. And I pray today that it be about Him today. When you teach that Sunday school class, who is it for? When you clean that house, who is it for?
I would like to close with a thought from a book that Jon Byler wrote. He is Jody Miller and Rhoda Yoder’s brother. This is his tenth book that he has published. This book is titled, The Heart of Christian Leadership. He says, “but Jesus says that His leaders must be servants. Please hear what He is saying to you as a Christian leader today. You are the servant of the church. You are not the boss, not the dictator, but the servant. If you are not willing to be a servant, you are not qualified to be a leader in the church of Jesus Christ.”