by Rev. Joel A. Hoelter
“I have given you an example” (John 13:15a).
Recently, a friend sent me an e-mail saying she had been served by “Jesus” and that she could prove it. In the attachment was a receipt from a restaurant at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport showing that the server’s name was indeed “Jesus!” Undoubtedly the server was of Hispanic descent, but seeing the name “Jesus” listed as the server was unusual.
In Scripture, we read what Jesus said to His disciples when they had argued among themselves about their importance. “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:27–28).
Years ago, I was in my church office when I heard the outer door open and close several times. I saw that our Sunday School superintendent was carrying in a number of boxes, so I went out to help her. She said it wasn’t necessary, but I continued to help. She had a confused expression on her face. When I asked about it, she replied, “It’s just that I’ve never seen a pastor help like this.”
The point is not to pat myself on the back but to reflect on the posture of being a servant. Each day, God puts us into situations where we might be His hands and feet and voice. It may be as simple as helping carry boxes or as involved as listening to someone and helping him or her seek a godly solution. It may involve a fellow believer, or it may involve someone who does not know and confess Jesus Christ as Lord.
In every situation, we need to keep in our minds the image of a servant. The image that comes to my mind is that of Jesus kneeling and washing His disciples’ feet. Afterward, He said to them, “You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you” (John 13:13-15). If we are Christ’s servants as we say that we are, then we need to remember that the servant is not above his master. This, too, Jesus told His disciples!
The greatest service Jesus rendered was His sacrificial death. It was for that reason that He came into this world. Isaiah declared, “It was the will of the Lord to crush him” (Is. 53:10). A lifetime of perfect obedience, along with the rejection He experienced, culminating in cruel mistreatment and undeserved death was Jesus’ task. He willingly submitted to His Father—even to the point of being crushed by death—FOR YOU! You now stand forgiven in God’s sight because of what Jesus did. You did not contribute in any way and can only receive God’s gift and give Him thanks and praise.
Having received this undeserved gift of grace, Jesus calls us into a servant’s role both within the household of faith and to those outside of that household. “Let your light shine before others,” Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount, “So that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).
Our good works, whatever they may be, do not save us. They give evidence to those around us that we are servants of Jesus, and those whom we serve will give glory to God. St. Paul wrote to the Christians at Ephesus, “For we are (God’s) workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).
There is no way, humanly speaking, that the apostle could have envisioned a man by the name of Jesus working at an airport in Chicago, nor could he have envisioned the technology that would enable someone to send a picture of that name electronically. But I will always remember that picture as a reminder to me of Jesus as a servant. And when I remember, I will also pray, “Lord, make me a servant like you!”
There is a saying, “Don’t tell me that Jesus loves me until you show me that you love me!” Such a saying may not pass a theological litmus test, but it underscores a truth that bears consideration. I pray that God will be at work in you to be a servant of Jesus, the Christ, and by His Spirit, He will use you to be a living witness to those around you!
About the author: Rev. Joel A. Hoelter is president of the LCMS North Wisconsin District.