Deny Self, Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus – Service

The Lord’s Message:  Deny Self, Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus – Service
Date:  March 19, 2023
Where:  Tilghman UMC

            This morning, we are continuing our sermon series:  Deny Self, Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus.  We are going to be study the spiritual discipline of service. 

            Let us pray.

            I suspect we all have received good and bad service.  If you call some companies, they are most likely to put you on hold and sometimes you are on hold for hours.  That would be an example of bad or poor service.  If you go to a restaurant and the host or hostess sits you quickly.  Your waitress or waiter comes to your table in a timely manner and is friendly.  He or she is able to answer any questions that you might have about the menu.  They take your order in a timely matter.  The food is brought to your table in a reasonable time and is what you order.  This would be an example of good service.   The Biblical definition for service is simply helping others who need assistance. Christlike service grows out of genuine love for the Savior and of love and concern for those whom He gives us opportunities and direction to help.

            Jesus displayed the spiritual discipline of service at the Last Supper.  If you would like to follow along in the Bible, John 13:1-17

            Verse 1 tells us that this event occurred “just before Passover Feast.”  The importance of this is very significant.  The Passover Feast celebrated God’s providence for the Israelites.  The Israelites were in bondage in Egypt.  God performed nine plagues to convince Pharoah that his power could not stand up against God and Pharoah needed to obey God’s command to let the Israelites leave Egypt.  Pharoah had refuse every time.  God’s last plague would convince Pharoah to let the Israelites leave.  The last plague was the deadliest.  After this plague every first born male both human and animal would be dead in all of Egypt.  God protected the Israelites by having them kill a lamb and place the blood on the door frames of their homes.  When God’s Angel of Death saw the lamb’s blood, it would pass over the homes and not kill the first-born males.  Today, this Passover Feast is called a Seder Meal.  It is celebrated on Maundy Thursday.  This year, we will celebrate Maundy Thursday at 6pm on Thursday, April 6.  During Good Friday April 7 at 7 pm, we will remember the Lamb, Jesus Christ, whose blood was shed for each one of us to cleanse us from our sin. 

            “Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father.”  Jesus knew that His earthly ministry was coming to a close.  After this He would not be spending every day and night with these disciples that He had done with them for three years.  So, Jesus wanted to show them one more display of His love for them. 

            Jesus would go “Undercover Boss” on them.  Has anyone seen the show, “Undercover Boss?”  It is a TV show where the boss wears different clothes and has their appearance changed, so that they can become an employee in their company.  This is a way that they can find out whether the training, the technology and policies and procedures are working as they expected.  Most often the time, they find out that their training ineffective.  The technology designed to improve time and performance is actually creating more problems that is hampering efficiency.  Their policies and procedures are being ignored.  Their company is not running the way that it should be.  So, Jesus is doing an undercover boss maneuver on His disciples.

            In verse 4, Jesus gets up from the table and takes off his outer clothes and wraps a towel around his waist.  In verse 5, He pours water into a bowl and begins to wash the disciples’ feet and drying them with a towel.  Jesus is assuming the role of the lowest of the slaves or servants of the house. 

            Now certainly one can identify with Peter in verses 6 & 8a.  Surely not Lord.  You are the Son of God.  I should be washing your feet.  Jesus says to Peter, verse 8b, “Unless I wash you, you have not part with me.”  I do not know how the rest of you might act, but I would act the same way as Peter.  Drench me Lord.  Pour Your living water all over me.  Covered me from top to bottom.  Till I am soaking wet in Your love and grace. 

            Jesus says to Peter, I need to wash your feet for the whole body to be cleaned.  Before one would go to a feast, one would have taken a bath.  What would have gotten dirty on the journey?  Our feet.  By washing our feet, we would be entirely clean.  The procedure when entering a person house for a feast, would be for the lowest slave or servant to have large containers of water for washing the guest’ feet with.  These large containers of water is what Jesus used at the wedding in Cana to turn the water to wine, His first miracle. 

            In verse 12a, after Jesus had done this, He returned to His seat.  He asked them in 12b, “Do you understand what I have just done for you?”  No reply.  Jesus goes on in verses 13-17.  He explains to them that if He, their Lord and Teacher has washed their feet, they should also do the same for each other.  The reason being is that a servant is not greater than the master.  If you follow the master, then you will be blessed. 

            I have worked for a few companies, most of them were small.  I found great satisfaction in the job when the head of the company was not sitting in their office expecting the dead lines to be met, but was actually on the floor working with the employees.  I have found that I worked hard for that company head, then for the others that sat in their office and pushed papers.  One company, I worked for, when I deadline need to be met, the president would be working on the floor with us.  This encouraged the salespeople and front office people to join in as well. 

            I take my role as a Pastor, not as someone to be waited on, to wait on and help others.  I was reaffirmed in this role, when I met to visit an elderly lady in a nursing home during my first appointment.  I went in the room in the nursing home to visit this lady. She said to me, “I have a question to ask you.”  I was thinking that this was going to be some theological question that she had been pondering a long time.  I said go ahead.  She asked me, “Do you put your pants on one leg at a time?”  I responded with, “Yes.”  She said, “Good.  People came here and told me that you would be visiting me and that I needed to get dressed for the Pastor.  I figured if you are just like me, then you will see me in my housecoat.  Do you have a problem with that?”  I said, “No, ma’am.”  I went quite often to visit her and she was always in her housecoat and I had no problem with that. 

            God expects Christians to be in service in their church, their community and in the world.  Jesus model servanthood.  Knowing that the head of this church, Jesus,  is watching and working with each one of us, then we should use every opportunity that we have to be in service with Him.  None of us are above Him.  We are all below Him.  None of us is above each other.  We are all on the same level with God, sinners.  Paul says in Colossians 3:23-24. 

            If you are a builder, build for God.  If you are cook, cook for God.  If you are a waterman, catch for God.  If you are sewer, sew for God.  If you are in finance, your finance should be for God.  If you are a painter, paint for God.  If you are retired, use your retirement for God.  The Hebrew word, Avodah, is the same for work, service, and worship.  Whatever you do, your service should be for the Lord.  Our service should be to the least and the lost.  Those who cannot repay us.  Jesus says in Matthew 25:31-46.  Our reward will be in heaven.   

For those that may think that what they do is unimportant.  I would like to close with this poem.

She said her hands were ugly, and she tried to hide them, too.
But in God’s sight ‘twas different, for He knew what they could do.

They were busy hands for Jesus—doing tasks for Him each day.
They washed and ironed and sewed and scrubbed in the most willing, cheerful way.

They kept a clean and shining home. They cared for a family,
And did the humble, homely jobs in a manner sweet to see.

They were ready to help others whenever there was a need.
And those ready, willing hands of hers were a source of help indeed.

She said her hands were ugly but, not so, in His dear sight.
For they labored for the Master—morning, noon, and night.—Author Unknown

            What ever you do, do it for the Lord.  Service is the oil that keeps us from getting stuck on ourself and instead focus on others and their needs.  Service is our spiritual discipline to deny self, take up your cross and follow Jesus.  Amen.

March 21, 2023 11:55 am