The Humble Servant

John 13:1-20

The last night of Jesus’ earthly ministry was very eventful. He prayed His great High Priestly prayer, taught His Disciples many valuable truths, observed the Passover meal with His Disciples and was betrayed into the hands of His enemies. Through all of this, Jesus knows that in the morning, He will go to Calvary and die on a cross for the sin of humanity. His is a bitter cup! However, before He begins the events of the evening, before they come to the table to eat their last meal together, Jesus takes some time to teach these men a lesson in servant-hood that still speaks to us today.

In John 13, Jesus reveals His message and His mission. He proves to these men that He did not come to be served, but rather to serve. In showing Himself to be a servant of men, Jesus left us a wonderful picture of the kind of heart we are to have for others. In these verses, among other things, we will find out that God’s will for our lives is that we learn to give ourselves in service to others. As we look into these verses today, I hope you will allow and expect the Lord to speak to your heart.

My Sermon then entitled: The Humble Servant, will examine, the Work of the Humble Servant, the Word of the Humble Servant, and the Wisdom of the Humble Servant, as we see this example of service in our Saviour.

Firstly then, let us consider


His Love, Life and Labour. These verses tell us that Jesus knows He is nearing the end of His earthly ministry. He knows that He is about to go to the cross and suffer for sin. He knows the end of his earthly work is near. Yet, through it all, His heart is still overflowing with love for His Disciples. The Bible says, that He loved them “unto the end.”

That is, Jesus loved them perfectly, unconditionally and eternally. His love never wavered, even in the hour of His own crisis. What a great encouragement this is for you and me! You see, Jesus loves us with the same kind of love with which He loved His Disciples. Jeremiah tells us that it is an everlasting love, Jer. 31:3. And Paul tells us that nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord – Rom, 8:38-39. Regardless of what transpires in your life and mine, we are loved perfectly, unconditionally and eternally with the awesome, agape love of Almighty God!

This love is evident too in…

The Life Of The Humble Servant. When He came into this world, He came as One sent from God – to live a sinless life and become sin for fallen humanity;2 Cor. 5:21. He has at this stage, accomplished everything but the cross and He knows that after the cross, He will return to His Father and once again share in the glories of Heaven.

Jesus had one purpose when He came to this world and that purpose was to die for sin. He accomplished His purpose on behalf of every man! He did this because of His great love for you. In fact, the cross is the absolute, indisputable proof of His love – Rom. 5:6-8. You may discount everything else God has ever done for you and write it off as consequence or whatever, but you will never be able to shrug off the death of Jesus on the cross for your sins. That cross stands as a monument to the awesome love of God for you and for me.

His life also speaks to us of The Labour Of The Humble Servant – In these verses, we see the Master doing the work of a slave. In those days, it was customary for a slave to wash the feet of visitors. To ignore or fail to provide this kindness would have been considered uncivilized and inhospitable.

Apparently, there were none available to do this job for Jesus and His Disciples, so Jesus Himself gets up from the table, removes His outer garment, pours Himself a basin of water and begins to wash the feet of the Disciples. I can imagine the amazement that must have filled their minds and faces as their Lord washed their dirty feet one by one. Yet, as incredible as this scene is, Jesus was doing something here that was unknown to all but one of the Disciples. He was washing the feet of the very man who would, later that same evening,

betray Him to His enemies.

Jesus knew the heart of Judas! He knew that this man had never been truly saved – John 6:64 & 70. Just because Satan “put” the thought into Judas’ heart to betray the Lord does not indicate that Judas was somehow saved and then lost his salvation. For Jesus Himself had already indicated that Judas was not one of His true followers!

Instead of focusing on the doctrinal issue, we should instead see the great truth contained here. That truth is this, even though Jesus knew the heart of Judas, even though He knew his motives, even though He knew His plans, he still loved Him and offered Him several opportunities to repent before it was too late. Even at this point, this late hour, it was not too late for Judas to have been saved. Notice verses 18 and 20-27. In these verses, Jesus repeatedly shows Judas that He knows what he is up to. Jesus is giving Judas an opportunity to turn his life around. Jesus even served Judas as a slave would serve his master… His love never failed!

What a lesson for every person listening to me today, but especially those who are outside of Jesus Christ. Please

understand that His love for you will never end! You may reject every attempt of Jesus to call you unto Himself, but rest assured that no matter how many times you rebuff His efforts, you will never be able to turn off His love for you and for your soul. In fact, He has already humbled Himself on your behalf,

when He went to the cross and died for you!

So then, this was The Work Of The Humble Servant

Now let us focus on


and first of all – A Word For Simon. Consider

Simon Peter’s Shock – When Jesus made His way around to Simon Peter. Peter is incredulous! He simply cannot believe that the Lord would want to serve Him. I stand amazed when I consider all that the Lord has done, and is doing and will do in my life. That He would love me so is beyond my comprehension. After all, there is no merit in any one of us to commend us to God. If we got what we deserved, we would all be in Hell today, but thank God He doesn’t give us that which we deserve, He gives that which we do not! Salvation and all the benefits of it are the products of God’s grace. We enjoy what we do, not because we deserve it, but because God gives it even though we don’t, Eph. 2:8-9. Notice that nobody is outside of his grace. Peter was shocked!

Then consider Simon Peter’s Stubbornness – When Peter hears that Jesus is really planning to do this, he responds with a triple negative. He tells the Lord, in effect, “you will never, no, never wash my feet!” This is the equivalent of irreverence. After all, the first condition of discipleship is obedience. Peter is simply refusing to submit to the Lord and does so through a display of false humility. However, Jesus reminds him of a great truth. Unless a man is willing to submit to the commandments of the Lord, he can have no

fellowship (no part) with the Lord – John 14:15&21.

Obedience is the proof of love. We may tend to feel ashamed when the Lord blesses us, because we know we do not deserve His goodness and grace. Yet, at the same time, we should gratefully accept His gifts and praise Him for them. True fellowship with Jesus is found only in humble submission to His plan. Even when that plan seems to contain the opposite of humility. But notice also in verse 9

Simon Peter’s Submission – When Peter hears this gentle rebuke, he throws himself before the Lord and says, “If washing my feet will bring me closer to you, then don’t stop there, but wash all of me!”

This is the attitude of surrender that God can bless!

He wants us in a place where we are looking to Him and His will before any other consideration. Think about it for a moment. What is it that motivates you? Peter was motivated by the thought of being closer to the Lord. Does that move you? If you are right

with God it will! If it doesn’t then that’s an indication that there is definite room for improvement in your walk with the Lord.

But there is a Word for all of us here.

Jesus is telling Peter that when a man has washed his entire person, and he gets his feet soiled by walking through the streets, all he needs at that point is to wash, just the feet.

The image here is crystal clear for the believer. When we received Jesus as our personal Saviour, He forever washes us from our sins – Rev. 1:5; & 1 Pet. 1:18-19. We have been eternally cleansed already through His precious blood. However, as we journey through life, we will have a tendency to fall into sin (knowingly or unwittingly) and we will need cleansing. Not for the entire person, since that was accomplished when we were saved and can never be repeated. But, just for that particular stain we have gathered when we failed in our daily walk. This is where 1 John 1:7 – 2:2 comes into play

… let me read those verses …

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light,

we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world”.

Jesus is teaching us here that we do not need to get re-saved every time we sin, but we do need to come to Him for forgiveness and restoration of fellowship. You see, if you allow yourself to go on in sin, you will keep widening the breach between you and the Lord. The secret to true spiritual joy is the practice of instant confession of sins and failures before the throne of grace. You see, Jesus is still washing feet today!

We should note however, that while Jesus said that the Disciples were clean, He also knew the condition of Judas, the betrayer! It is impossible to hide your condition from the all seeing eyes of the Lord Jesus Christ. He knows what we are and He knows when we are just religious. He knows when we are hypocritical, and He knows when we are insincere about our faith. He knows whether we are saved or not. You might fool the rest of us, but you can never pull the wool over Jesus’ eyes!

So then we have seen something of both the Work and the Words

of Jesus: The Humble Servant, … let us now consider


Jesus gives an Example – Jesus sets the standard by which everyone of His servants is to live their lives. In this example

of Jesus, we can see Him showing His followers that we are

all expected to serve one another, in love.

His Disciples had been guilty of arguing about who would be first in the Kingdom of Heaven – Luke 22:24. They were all concerned over Who would be the greatest in Heaven, but Jesus reminded them that true greatness is a great paradox. Men never earn the respect of others by forced obedience, but they earn the respect of others by first being a servant –

Mark 10:44 says “And whosoever of you will be the

chief, must be servant of all.”

Jesus says that the path to greatness is through humility. This is one of the great paradoxes of the faith! There are several others. The way to life is through death. The way to get is to give. The way to greatness is by becoming a servant to others. Jesus was willing to make Himself the servant of all, and as a result, God has highly exalted Him and given Him a name

that is above every other name, Phil. 2:5-11.

Then Jesus Gave An Exhortation – The lesson here is simple. If Jesus was willing to be a servant, then all of His followers ought to be willing to serve as well. Notice that Jesus just didn’t serve the ones He preferred. It might have been easy to wash John’s feet. After all, John was the “Beloved Disciple.” Yet, John and his brother James were always trying to get just a little bit ahead of the others. What about Simon Peter? He was the one who would deny Him three times before dawn. What about Thomas? He was the one who would doubt the word of the others and refuse to believe in the resurrection of Jesus. And what about Judas? He was the one who for 30 pieces of silver

would sell His Lord to the enemy.

Jesus didn’t allow any of these considerations to cloud His love or His service! He treated them all equally and, in doing so, taught us a tough lesson. We all have people that we seem to connect with and we have no trouble serving these folks. However, the true servant soon learns that he must serve all and serve them equally. The true servant is not allowed to pick favourites, but must have the heart of Christ and be willing to serve his enemies just as readily as he serves his friends! Remember those words from the Sermon on the mount – lets read them; Jesus says …

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, and do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect”.

Matt 5:43-48

Can we honestly say today that we serve all men alike? Not if we hold grudges. Not if we remember offences. Not if we think ourselves somewhat above others.

Then Jesus Gave An Expectation – Jesus says that if we know these things, we will be “happy” if we do them! Happy (here) means “Blessed.” When we take the example of Jesus and put it into action, we can be assured of the Lord’s blessing on our lives. In fact, there will come a time when there will be no greater joy than that of being able to serve another in the name of the Lord. Why do we sometimes find it so difficult to serve another person? Why does it seem such a strain to us? Jesus never had a problem with serving. It came as natural to Him as breathing does to you and me. Oh may God help us to develop a servant’s heart. That is, we need to get to the place where we are more concerned with the welfare of our neighbour than we are with our own – Phil. 2:4. We need to reach the place where we are more concerned with promoting our brother than we are ourselves. I don’t know about you, but I have still some work to do on this!


Jesus left us a wonderful example to follow. His was a life lived in the service of others. If you were to sum up your life today, could you honestly say that others come first in your thinking and in your serving? Can you honestly say that you are following the Lord’s example to the best of your ability? Or, maybe like the Disciples,

you would have to confess that you are often guilty of promoting yourself over others. Whatever the need of your heart today,

be assured that there is hope and help in the Lord Jesus.

It may be that some of you are just like Judas. You are in the church surrounded by the all the trappings of Christianity, yet like Judas you have never truly been saved by faith in the Lord Jesus. You have a name that you are one of His, but you know deep down in your heart that you do not really know Him, and you are not truly following after Him. There is hope for you too – for like Judas, Jesus loves you and will save you if you will come to Him right now. Remember you will never be able to turn off His love for you and for your soul. May God help us all to become a Servant to the one who undeniably became a Servant for us.

God Bless You. Amen