Key Verse: John 13:16 “…a servant is not greater than his master…”
I think most of us have the instinctive ability to discern between the merely obsequious and the purely altruistic. Huh? How’s that again? What I mean is, we can usually tell when someone is being self-serving even while appearing to be serving us. And we can tell when someone is helping us purely for our sake, with no ulterior motive. In most cases, the altruistic person is ministering from a position of strength; not physical, mental, or financial strength, necessarily, but from moral strength. However shy, retiring, or self-effacing they may appear to be, there is a deep inner security characterizing their private world. They have moral fibre rooted in spiritual peace.
Notice the foundation of inner strength out of which Jesus ministered in this chapter — He “knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God…” (v.3). Jesus had nothing to prove and nothing to gain by washing His disciples’ feet; but He did have a lesson to teach. Because He was their Master and Lord, His disciples would never be able to justify a superior attitude to the masses who would embrace Christianity over the succeeding centuries. Jesus had assumed the most lowly posture in washing His disciples’ feet; for the remainder of the world’s history, no Christian leader could afford to do less.
So we don’t serve to get; we serve to give. Rather than striving, we rest in the confidence that we are loved. God has committed Himself to us, and He never backs down from what He has promised His children.