Scripture Reading: Job 15:1-18:21 / Matthew 20:20-34 / Psalm 17:13-15
We would hardly imagine a king or a person of great economic, political or social status to humble themselves in acts of lowly service yet Jesus did. He washed the disciples dirty and mangy feet. The one recognized as the Lord and Teacher took the basin, a towel and washed their feet. He told them that as He washed their feet, they should also wash one another’s feet.
Unfortunately, James and John’s mother was not present at that time because she asked Jesus, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” (Matthew 20:21) She thought the pinnacle of life on earth and in eternity was to reign with Christ over all others. This caused a stir among the other disciples but Jesus puts “greatness” in the shadow of “service”. “…Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.” (v.26)
There is a desire in man to achieve greatness and gain recognition. Even in the realm of ministry, the disciples thought ministry was done for the benefit of the minster, not for the one who was ministered too. Sadly, some minister for what they can receive (materially, emotionally) from others instead of for what they can give.
We get our word “deacon” from the Greek word for “servant”. We think that the word deacon is a religious word because it is only used in association with a position within a church. In the New Testament, deacon was a secular word that described low menial service. A deacon would be hired to clean the yard, take away trash, serve a meal, etc. It was not a dishonoring term but simply described someone who did a simple menial job. The early church deacons were servants.
In ancient Greek, deacon is derived from the word for dust. It referred to the dust that was stirred up from the servant’s work of hurrying and scurrying. A deacon was a person who stirred up a lot of dust in the service of others. Jesus called this kind of servant hood great…above every exalted and prestigious leadership position.
Jesus also adds, “And whoever wants to be first must be your slave.” (v.27) This position is even lesser in nobility than a deacon as it means a “doulos” or bondslave. A slave’s will was swallowed up in the will of his master and he was bound to his master until death. He did not belong to himself, he had no rights and he lived for the will of the master. Jesus said to achieve the high position of greatness; they must take the position and have the attitude of a slave.
Jesus wanted the disciples to understand the wonderful purpose of obedient service, unconditional surrender and divine ownership. Jesus walked faithfully in obedience to fulfill The Father’s will by laying His own will down. Like Oswald Saunders wrote, “Scars are the authentic marks of faithful discipleship.” Joy is not found in our own “greatness” but joy is found… in the “greatness” of service and surrender!