Unless you’re extremely lazy, under the age of 2, or a squash, you’ve had a job at some point in your life. Even most children have some sort of chores they have to complete at home. Having a job typically means you are under someone’s authority. There is someone who leads, manages, or supervises the quality and quantity of your work, i.e. parents, teachers, coaches, and bosses. Even a squash(es) are under the authority of the farmer, (except yellow squash. You have to watch out for them).
So let me ask you: what has been your experience with the authority figures in your life? Have they been generally positive? Do you frequently say to yourself, “Man I’ve been blessed with a wonderful teacher/coach/parent/boss/director/etc.?” What about the political leaders you know? Do you look at them and say, “Boy, those folks really work to serve me and the best interests of the country?”
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!! Oh boy, that’s a good one, right?
There’s a reason incredible teachers, coaches, politicians, and leaders stand out and that we memorialize leaders like Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. It’s because they’re so rare in this world. If we’re being honest we can say the norm of leadership is average or just plain awful. Why? Because the world is fallen and corrupted by sin. As a result we experience authority figures who are rude, selfish, incompetent, unpleasant, and sometimes even tyrannical and destructive.
If there ever was someone who had the right to assert their authority as a leader, it was Jesus. He was the Son of God on earth. If anyone said to him, “Just who do you think you are?” Jesus could say, “I’m the Son of God,” and that would be that. Jesus could have demanded everyone do as he said, because he knew he was right and his ways were best. He could have the demanded the subjection of others. Instead, how did Jesus lead?
“Jesus…rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him,” (John 13:3-5).
If you were a reader in the first century, you would be shaking your head at what I just described. Jesus, the son of God, the Creator of all life, and King of Kings did something incredible. He dressed himself as a slave and did one of the most menial tasks a person in that day could do: he washed the feet of his disciples. Washing feet was a task for a lowly servant, not for those in charge, because washing feet was a disgusting task. You had to wash off the dust, grime, fungus, (I hear Thomas had a REAL problem), and whatever goo accumulated on a person’s feet as they were walking around. Jesus, however, washed his disciples feet. It would be like the president of the United States telling a garbage man, “Hey, take the day off, I’ll work your shift for the day.”
Jesus, the leader, the authority figure, the man with all the power and wisdom made himself the servant of the disciples, the weak, sinful, and often confused men who followed him.
“So when Jesus had washed their feet and put his outer clothing back on, he took his place at the table again and said to them, ‘Do you understand what I have done for you? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and do so correctly, for that is what I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you too ought to wash one another’s feet,” (John 13:12-14).
Jesus, the Son of God, took the form of a servant in order to bless those around him. He, the leader, served those under his charge. Ultimately, he took the form of the lowliest and most despised, the sinner on the cross, in order to save the world from judgment. Can you imagine if parents, teachers, coaches, bosses, and presidents viewed themselves with the same humility and selflessness of Christ? What would children, students, players, businesses and countries look like with that kind of leadership?
Sadly, the world will largely never adopt the servant leadership of Christ, but we can take great comfort and joy knowing we have a servant Savior. He does not lord his authority over us, (although he could). He does not lead us out of selfishness or evil. Instead he leads us as a servant. He leads us as a lamb. He was willing to make himself a servant and ultimately, a sacrifice. There is no god, no leader, and no Savior like Jesus.
“Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,” (Philippians 2:6-11).