The Greatest is the One Who Serves

Celebration of Palms, Day 5 of 8. Thursday.

The nickname for this day of Holy Week is Maundy Thursday, which is kind of a funny word. It is a corruption of the Latin word for commandment in John 13:34 “A new commandment I give unto you: That you love one another…” The Latin word mandatum must be hard for us normal people to remember so it’s been shortened to maundy. Probably because someone was lazy and didn’t want to remember such a long word.

It was the day Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples during what is known as the Last Supper. An intimate dinner with just His closest friends in a quiet upper room of a house in Jerusalem. It is an event-filled evening where He demonstrates what will become communion in the future, foretells His death, points out Judas as the betrayer, prays so intensely that He drips blood from His brow, and is arrested.

Of the four New Testament Gospels, only John records the incident where Jesus washes the feet of His disciples and gives some parting encouraging words. While He washed the disciples feet, Jesus lowered Himself to the position of being a servant. I love that John says this about Jesus, “Having loved His own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love.” (John 13:1) Of all the situations the disciples had been in with Jesus, this is the one John singles out as displaying the “full extent of His love.” That is so curious to me. Serving them by stripping virtually naked and doing what is essentially slave work to exemplify that the greatest isn’t the one out front, but the one who serves.

“Do you understand what I have done for you?” Jesus asks in John 13:12. It may not have been immediately clear so He adds, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.” He challenged them to look at life another way. The twelve disciples had just been quibbling about who was greatest, and Jesus’ action threw that argument out the window. Lowering yourself off your high horse and becoming a servant displays greatness. Kind of a paradigm shift. Slightly! “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:15, 17) Jesus had never quite served them in such a humiliating way before, but needed to show how we must serve in humbling ways to show love for the people He came to save. The “full extent of His love” meant He was the most serving example possible for us to learn from.

Bahamas_PalmsNight_2000px_Full

I’m using this image from Nassau, Bahamas to illustrate my point. The palm in the center is the shortest “lit” palm and sits directly under the light of the moon. The moon only shines reflected light from the sun. We only shine when we reflect light from the Son. He displays the truth that being a servant to others allows them to see the Father’s light in us. We can only reflect if we have been shined down on. He shows us how to live in humility. We can reflect the quality of humility, or not. It is something we continually need to learn about and put into practice. We like our positions and titles, but Jesus calls us to release those in favor of giving of ourselves to serve others.

He lowered Himself to become a servant, and He challenged the disciples to do likewise. It’s a big mental shift. But He set the pattern before asking us to follow it. I admire that about Jesus. And I love that most of the disciples embraced that pattern…eventually. May you have an opportunity to serve someone on Servant Thursday.


Photo by Mick Haupt ©2001 | Shot on slide film, Canon A2  Nassau, Bahamas

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