By Terry S. Ross
Chapter 5 – A Servant of Servants
“The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility” (Proverbs 15: 33).
Christ on the Mount of Olives pictured to His disciples the scene of the great Judgment Day. And He represented its decision as turning upon one point. When the nations are gathered before Him, there will be but two classes, and their eternal destiny will be determined by what they have done or have neglected to do for Him in the person of the poor and the suffering.
Jesus had told His disciples that they were to be hated of all men, to be persecuted and afflicted. Many would be driven from their homes, and brought to poverty. Many would be in distress through disease and privation. Many would be cast into prison. To all who forsook friends or home for His sake He had promised a reward in the life to come. Now He assured a special blessing to all who should minister to their brethren. “In all who suffer for My name,” He told them, “You are to recognize Me” (Matthew 25: 34- 45). “As you would minister to Me, so you are to minister to them. This is the evidence that you are My disciples.”
Those whom Christ commends in the JUDGMENT MAY HAVE KNOWN LITTLE OF THEOLOGY, BUT THEY HAVE CHERISHED HIS PRINCIPLES. Through the influence of the divine Spirit they have been a blessing to those about them. Even among the heathen are those who have cherished the spirit of kindness; before the words of life had fallen upon their ears, they have befriended the missionaries, even ministering to them at the peril of their own lives.
Here Jesus sets forth the truth regarding those who will be saved in the last days— those who are His true disciples. First of all, a ministry that is commended by Christ is one in which people are the main concern. The ministry will be paying attention to the best interests of the people. This kind of ministry puts its resources into filling needs more than its own comfort. True Christian ministry shows sacrifice more than glitz and showy display. Secondly, Jesus also says that true ministers would be hated of all men, persecuted and afflicted. Those who minister, in turn, to these faithful leaders are those whom Christ commends in the Judgment.
I know from my own experience it is not imperative that one knows every answer to every theological question to realize whether a particular point being made is right or not. Many times over the last several years I have waited on something I’ve heard, choosing not to act on it because the principle it was explaining didn’t seem to line up with the Lord’s principles. Many more times than not I have been glad to have adhered to what I believed was God’s principle in the matter. Time and time again this has proven to be the right choice. The better you understand what the principles of God are (and you do this by reading His word, of course), the better you will be safeguarded in any given situation. When you decide to act on the right principle, even if you don’t happen to know everything about the particular subject in question, it usually ends up saving you a lot of unnecessary grief later. The angels of heaven are sent forth to minister to those who will be heirs of salvation. Angels of heaven are passing throughout the length and breadth of the earth seeking to comfort the sorrowing, to protect those who are at risk, to win the hearts of mankind to Christ. Not one is neglected or passed by. God is no respecter of persons, and He cares equally for all the souls He has created.
Two important principles are brought to light. God’s love extends to every soul and is unconditional. Now please don’t get this mixed up with some who would have you believe that because God’s love is unconditional, His promises are unconditional. This would be a fatal mistake! NONE OF GOD’S PROMISES ARE UNCONDITIONAL. ALL PROMISES ARE CONDITIONAL BASED UPON OBEDIENCE. God loves you no matter what you do, but He will not save you no matter what you do. God’s love and God’s promises are two different things and if not rightly understood can result in disaster. God is no respecter of persons. Poverty or riches mean nothing to God. Neither do profession or position. All are judged by the same laws set forth by God.
Also, let us be very sensitive to the timing of the last events which we are now experiencing. While the heat of the battle intensifies, we should be aware that it is only God who closes probation, not any man. Even the angels cannot do this. We are still in for a few surprises before it’s all over. Let’s not forget that Saul, a staunch conference man who fiercely persecuted THE church, became Paul AFTER the “church” leaders had crucified Jesus and AFTER the stoning of Stephen.
Those who minister to others will be ministered unto by the Chief Shepherd. They themselves will drink of the living water, and will be satisfied. They will not be longing for exciting amusements, or for some entertaining change in their lives. The great topic of interest will be how to save souls that are ready to perish. Conversation will be worthwhile and not filled with trivial matters. The love of the Redeemer will draw hearts together in unity.
Brotherly love is the earthward manifestation of the love of God. It was to implant this love, to make us children of one family, that the King of Glory became one with us.
And when His parting words are fulfilled, “Love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15: 12)— when we love the world as He has loved it— then for us His mission is accomplished. We are fitted for heaven because we have heaven in our hearts.
Those who secure heaven will have a genuine love for their fellow man. When one is called to minister, it involves more than just preaching— it means service to others in love. It means having a sincere interest in the well- being of others. Even as the enemy of Christ sought to destroy Him, even though through gossip and slander the “church” attempted to destroy His influence and defame His character, even in the face of apparent failure, Jesus demonstrated that He valued every soul. No matter how vile, no matter what present or past sin, Jesus never turned away a soul who came to Him for salvation. Jesus pitied those who refused His invitations of mercy and forgiveness. He NEVER took pleasure in their destruction. As Christ and His disciples were together in the Upper
Room, on the night He would be arrested, “There was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest” (Luke 22: 24). THIS CONTENTION, WHICH WAS CARRIED ON IN THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST, GRIEVED AND WOUNDED HIM. The disciples clung to their favorite idea that Christ would assert His power and soon take His position on the throne of David. In heart each still longed for the highest place in the kingdom. They had placed their own estimate upon themselves and upon one another, and instead regarding their brethren as more worthy, they had placed themselves first. The request of James and John to sit on the right and left of Christ’s throne, had excited the indignation of the others. That the two brothers should presume to ask for the highest positions, so stirred the ten that alienation threatened. They felt that they were misjudged, that their fidelity and talents were not appreciated.
Another cause of dissension had arisen. At a feast it was customary for a servant to wash the feet of the guests, and on this occasion preparation had been made for the service. The pitcher, the basin, and the towel were there in readiness for the washing, but no servant was present, and it was the disciples’ part to perform it. But each of the disciples, yielding to wounded pride, determined not to act the part of a servant. All manifested a stoical unconcern, seeming unconscious that there was anything for them to do. By their silence they refused to humble themselves.
How was Christ to bring these poor souls where Satan would not gain over them a decided victory? How could Jesus show that a MERE PROFESSION OF DISCIPLESHIP DID NOT MAKE THEM DISCIPLES, OR INSURE THEM A PLACE IN HIS KINGDOM? How could He show that IT IS LOVING SERVICE, TRUE HUMILITY, WHICH CONSTITUTES REAL GREATNESS? How was He to kindle love in their hearts, and enable them to comprehend what He longed to tell them?
The disciples made no move toward serving one another. Jesus waited for a time to see what they would do. Then He, the divine Teacher, rose from the table. Laying aside His outer garment that would have impeded His movements, He took a towel, and girded Himself. With surprised interest the disciples looked on, and in silence waited to see what was to follow. “After that He poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith He was girded” (John 13: 5). This action opened the eyes of the disciples.
Bitter shame and humiliation filled their hearts. They understood the unspoken rebuke, and saw themselves in altogether a new light.
So Christ expressed His love for His disciples. Their selfish spirit filled Him with sorrow, but He entered into no controversy with them regarding their difficulty. Instead He gave them an example they would never forget. His love for them was not easily disturbed or quenched. He knew that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He came from God and went to God. He had a full consciousness of His divinity; but He had laid aside His royal crown and kingly robes, and had taken the form of a servant. One of the last acts of His life on earth was to gird Himself as a servant and perform a servant’s task.
Many of us today (not only those in conference church offices) are needing to learn what is defined as humble service. These passages were written primarily, in all fairness, about the experiences of the independent leaders— those chosenand tested by Christ. They were to take a message to the ancient corporate church members and the world especially attended by the power of the early rain at Pentecost. This time and these events are being repeated. We must pass these tests if we are to continue to be Christ’s disciples.
Like Peter and his brethren, we too have been washed in the blood of Christ, yet often through contact with evil the heart’s purity is soiled. We must come to Christ for His cleansing grace. Peter shrank from bringing his soiled feet in contact with the hands of his Lord and Master; but how often do we bring our sinful, polluted hearts in contact with the heart of Christ? How grievous to Him is our evil temper, our vanity and pride? Yet all our infirmity and defilement we must bring to Him. He alone can wash us clean. We are not prepared for communion with Him unless cleansed by His forgiveness and transforming power— God’s grace. We, like Peter, should realize that we must allow the Lord to wash us totally of every defilement. The foot- washing is a symbol or type of the higher cleansing that comes from Christ alone. It represents His work of purification in the life of the sinner. Judas accepted the outward symbol, but refused this higher inward cleansing. Peter was told that without it he would be lost! Here we have two “independent leaders” (versus organized denominational leaders) with two different experiences. Judas knew what needed to be done. Judas was drawn to Christ. But Judas refused to be humbled and he clung to his pride. Judas became possessed by a demon. Peter at first refused the Lord’s offer as well. But Peter became aware that he needed to let go of his pride and he did. Peter became possessed by the Holy Spirit. Two independent ministers: one entered into the cleansing and was saved; one did not and was lost.
Christ would have His disciples understand that although He had washed their feet, this did not in the least detract from His dignity. “Ye call Me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am” (John 13: 13), He had said. And being so infinitely superior, He imparted grace and significance to the service.
No one was so exalted as Christ, and yet He stooped to the humblest duty. That His people might not be misled by the selfishness which dwells in the natural heart, and which is strengthened by self- serving, Christ Himself set the example of humility. He would not leave this great subject in man’s charge. Of so much consequence did He regard it, that He Himself— One equal with God— acted as servant to His disciples. While they were contending for the highest place, He to whom every knee shall bow, He whom the angels of glory count it honor to serve, bowed down to wash the feet of those who called Him Lord. He washed even the feet of His betrayer. The system (or individual) that tries to make itself greater than others, because of position or some accomplishment, is not of God. Those who choose to remain self- serving, even though engaged in the “Lord’s work,” will never be in God’s kingdom. God knows the motive of every heart. He requires a life of humble service and this is, in His sight, what is great. He says: “In My kingdom the principle of preference and supremacy has no place. The only greatness is the greatness of humility. The only distinction is found in devotion to the service of others.”
Christ was standing at the point of transition between two economies and their two great festivals. He, the spotless Lamb of God, was about to present Himself as a sin- offering, and he would thus bring to an end the system of types and ceremonies that for four thousand years had pointed to his death. As He ate the Passover with His disciples, He instituted in its place the service that was to be the memorial of His great sacrifice. The national festival of the Jews was to pass away forever. The service which Christ established was to be observed by His followers in all lands and through all ages.
The Passover was ordained as a commemoration of the deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage. God had directed that, year by year, as the children should ask the meaning of the ordinance, the history should be repeated (see Exodus 12 and 13). Thus the wonderful deliverance was to be kept fresh in the minds of all. The ordinance of the Lord’s Supper was given to commemorate the great deliverance wrought as the result of the death of Christ.
He shall come the second time in power and glory, and this ordinance is to be celebrated (see 1 Corinthians 11: 25). It is the means by which His great work for us is to be kept fresh in our minds.
The system of types and ceremonies which were instituted during the time of Moses was a reminder to the people that God had freed them from the bondage of Egypt. These were all ended “forever” at the cross. It had been Jesus who had instructed Moses to institute these types and ceremonies, and it was this same Jesus who ended them. It was also this same Jesus who instituted in the place the service that was to be the memorial of His great sacrifice. He didn’t add to these Old Testament ceremonies, but rather instituted it in their place. There are many well- meaning people who are confused on this issue and are actively confusing others in their attempts to convince them that the Old Testament ceremonies should continue to be observed. What these honest, but misguided folks, apparently don’t realize is that Jesus did away with the Jewish ceremonies that pointed to His coming.
For four thousand years this system, which included the slaying of beasts, had gone on. It had started with Adam and his sons after sin entered the world. At the time of Moses other ceremonies had been added. This is when the Sanctuary service had been instituted as well as all the ceremonies representing the future death of Christ (and a reminder of the release of God’s people the Israelites, from bondage in Egypt).
Christ was standing at the point of transition between two economies. Something was about to change. Something would be set aside forever, and something else— something new— would take the place of the old. Of course, God (Jesus) who had instituted one could replace it with another if He so chose, and this is what He did.
Jesus knew the future. He was about to do away with the system that had been chosen to evangelize the world and properly represent Him to the other nations. He could no longer trust the Jews to witness to the world about Him. They were no longer His “chosen nation.” He was about to fulfil the prophecy Jesus spoke in Matthew 21: 43: “Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” They had rejected Him and He was forced to let them go their own way. As would be consistent with a continued rebellion against the truth, the Jews refused to accept that Christ had done away with the types and ceremonies that for four thousand years had pointed to his death. But Jesus was moving away from the Jewish leaders. He chose laymen and told them to first re- educate the Jews who would listen, and then go to the Gentiles (Matthew 10: 5,6; Acts 1: 8).
Again, as would be expected, those who had rejected Christ but who were exerting their authority in the “church” rose up against the present truth and steadfastly endeavored to retain and enforce the old. This is what the argument in Acts 15 is all about. This is what Colossians 2 is all about. The Bible plainly reveals that these ceremonies were not to be laid on the Gentiles. The Bible clearly indicates that all these ceremonies are of the past. It has been argued that there is a difference between THE Sabbath and A sabbath. One is the perpetual Sabbath, instituted during creation week before sin entered into the world and will be here after it is gone (see Genesis 2: 3; Exodus 20: 8- 11; and Isaiah 66: 23). The other sabbaths— the seven yearly sabbaths— were instituted as high days and part of the ceremonial laws. These passed away at the cross.
These arguments concerning the feast days and their sabbaths are nothing new. It was argued vehemently by the Apostate church leaders who had killed Christ. They wouldn’t believe Him before the cross and they still didn’t believe Him after the cross! No matter how heated folks may get,it is very obvious in God’s word that Gentiles were not to be yolked with a burden Jesus had blotted out. The Jews were wrong (and still are) to cling to these things and the Orthodox Jew (the old style Jewwho still doesn’t accept Christ as the Messiah) is still lost. He is still keeping the ceremonies. He is still keeping the feast days. He is still keeping all those old sabbaths, but the reason he is doing so is because HE IS STILL REJECTING JESUS!
On the other hand, the Gentiles were NEVER commanded to keep these ceremonies, feast days, or sabbaths (excepting THE Sabbath) because the Apostles rightly understood they had been replaced with the new by Jesus Himself, also the originator of the old. Please don’t miss this point IT WAS ONLY THOSE WHO WERE REJECTING CHRIST WHO TRIED TO FORCE THESE THINGS UPON THE GENTILES. I believe many should and need to restudy this issue and stop trying to make the way of salvation through the methods of the rejected Jewish nation. I do not have to read mounds of “convincing” information from well- meaning but misguided folks to understandand believe the plain words left to us in God’s word.
Now back to the Last Supper. The disciples searched one another’s faces closely as they asked, “Lord, is it I?” Perhaps amid the confusion of questions and expressions of astonishment, Judas had not heard the words of Jesus in answer to John’s question and now, to escape the scrutiny of the disciples, he asked as they had done, “Master, is it I?” Jesus solemnly replied, “Thou hast said” (Matthew 26: 25). In surprise and confusion at the exposure of his purpose Judas rose hastily to leave the room. Only two people knew the true condition, character, and motives of the self- serving Judas. Jesus had labored with Him for three and a half years, but Judas (an independent minister, by the way) would not surrender. He had been “doing God’s work” while he was with the disciples and Jesus. He had a head knowledge of the ways of the Master, and he was on the “front lines.” But Judas refused to enter into that experience which every saved person must have. Judas did not possess the saving knowledge that is vital in a “Christian’s” life. He did not have an experiential knowledge of Christ— a belief in God that is a working faith. A faith that works to transform the life from the inside out. A faith that becomes “practical godliness.” I do what is right not to earn or merit heaven (no human can do this) but because I am already God’s child. He had fooled all the other disciples, but he could not fool Jesus.
Here Christ demonstrates that there is a limit to God’s forbearance and man’s probation in His dealings with this disciple. What we need to learn as professed followers of Christ is that the heavenly principles of truth, mercy, and justice always outweigh human profession and position. It makes no difference what “group” or “camp” you are in as far as this principle is concerned. You can and will be just as lost if you support and follow a person like Judas instead of Jesus.
Though Jesus knew Judas from the beginning, He washed his feet. And the betrayer was privileged to unite with Christ in partaking of the sacrament. A longsuffering Saviour held out every inducement for the sinner to receive Him, to repent, and to be cleansed from the defilement of sin. This example is for us. When we suppose one to be in error and sin, we are not to divorce ourselves from him. By no careless separation are we to leave him a prey to temptation, or drive him upon Satan’s battleground. This is not Christ’s method. It was because the disciples were erring and faulty that He washed their feet, and all but one of the twelve were thus brought to repentance.
Oh, the longsuffering of our Lord! We must learn to love and be long- suffering as Jesus was with Judas. Our motives must constantly be checked. There is a time, of course, when we must let someone go, but I fear that in many cases we “throw people away” far too quickly. Christ let Judas go to do his work of betrayal with deep pity in His heart. He had not carelessly driven Judas onto Satan’s ground. Even in the midst of the battle, the motives of Jesus were pure and noble. He was truly interested in the salvation of souls and not in their destruction. He finds no pleasure in the destruction of His enemies (see Ezekiel 33: 11), and neither will we if we have His Spirit within us.
We have all been the enemies of God and those who have loved God’s pity and forgiveness on their own behalf will not carelessly cast off others. Remember, the bridge of forgiveness you burn may one day be the bridge that you yourself may need to cross.
The communion service points to Christ’s second coming. It was designed to keep this hope vivid in the mind of the disciples. These are the things we are never to forget. The love of Jesus, with its constraining power, is to be kept fresh in our memory. Christ has instituted this service that it may speak to our senses of the love of God that has been expressed in our behalf. There can be no union between our souls and God except through Christ. The union and love between Christian and fellow Christian must be cemented and rendered eternal by the love of Jesus. It is only because of His death that we can look with joy to His return. His sacrifice is the center of our hope. Upon this we must fix our faith.
As faith contemplates our Lord’s great sacrifice, the soul assimilates the spiritual life of Christ. That soul will receive spiritual strength from every communion. The service forms living connection by which the believer is bound up with Christ and thus bound up with the Father. In a special sense it forms connection between dependent human beings and God.
As we receive the bread and juice of the grape, symbolizing Christ’s broken body and spilled blood, we in imagination join in the scene of communion in the Upper Chamber. We seem to be passing through the garden consecrated by the agony of Him who bore the sins of the world. We witness the struggle by which our reconciliation with God was obtained.
Looking upon the crucified Redeemer, we more fully comprehend the magnitude and meaning of the sacrifice made by the Majesty of heaven. The plan of salvation is glorified before us, and the thought of Calvary awakens living and sacred emotions in our hearts. Praise to God and the Lamb will be in our hearts and on our lips; because pride and self- worship cannot flourish in the soul that keeps fresh in memory the scenes of Calvary. He who beholds the Saviour’s matchless love, will be elevated in thought, purified in heart, transformed in character. He will go forth to be a light to the world, to reflect in some degree God’s mysterious love. The more we contemplate the cross of Christ, the more fully shall we adopt the language of the apostle when he said, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Galations 6: 14).
Jesus instituted the communion service in order that we would remember Him. We are to keep in our mind that it was with a tremendous struggle that the Father and the Son paid that supreme sacrifice for each of us while we were His enemies: We are also to remember the self- sacrificing life of Christ and the path that He trod alone to Calvary in our stead. We, too, have the same path to travel in our own sphere if we are to share in His glory. And we are not to forget that others are just as precious in heaven’s sight as we are: We are to maintain a sanctified respect for the worth of every soul. The memories of the communion service are to lift us up to higher ground. This ceremony is to lift those who would follow Jesus above the natural inclination toward pride and prejudice of the carnal heart.
Copyright © 1999 Servants of the Saviour
Terry & Cathy Ross