In general, we do not like to be inconvenienced. When demands placed upon us are beyond our perceived capacity, we tend not to “feel called” to serve in particular role or situation. Leadership is not merely a title or position. Willingness and availability to serve are qualities that Jesus modeled. When His disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith, He responds with a teaching on service. (Lk 17:5-10) When disputes arose among the disciples about ‘who is the greatest,’ Jesus would respond by teaching about servanthood. (Mk 9:33-37, 10:35-45) Some have referred to the book of Mark in the bible as the ‘Gospel of the Servant.’ In What the Bible is all About, Henrietta Mears subtitled the chapter on this gospel, ‘Mark portrays Jesus Christ, the Servant of God.’ The theme verse follows: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Mk 10:45) Looking to Jesus as our teacher and model, it is evident that those who desire to truly lead must take the posture and approach of a servant.
Even in His final days with His disciples, Jesus continued to serve giving to us all a vivid picture of servant hood when He washed His disciple’s feet. (Jn 13:1-20) After spending three years with Jesus, the disciples believed Him to be the Messiah. They struggled with the notion of Jesus demeaning Himself and taking on the menial task of washing their feet. Have you had anyone wash your feet before? Perhaps you’ve had someone take care of you when you were unable to perform simple functions. Having a spouse assist you to get dressed after you’ve had shoulder surgery is a relatable scenario. However, Jesus performed a lowly and demeaning task that was typically performed by servants. First century Palestine was a culture that had not yet developed the infrastructure we enjoy today. Rather than automobiles, public transportation, paved roads & sidewalks, transportation was on the backs of animals on dirt roads. Pedestrians used many of these same roads. Footwear was what we’d commonly think of as sandals. Feet were very dirty, and cleaning them could be quite disgusting from the muck on them (not to mention that these feet that were marginally protected were likely very beaten-up). Jesus did not hesitate to get dirty washing the disciple’s nasty, smelly, unsightly, and dirty feet. Furthermore, he emphasized that this was an example that His disciples were to follow.
In his commentary on the gospel of Mark, William Barclay wrote, “The basic trouble in the human situation is that men wish to do as little as possible and to get as much as possible. It is only when they are filled with the desire to put into life more than they take out, that life for themselves and others will be happy and prosperous.” Jesus taught plainly that if one desires to be great, he should become like the least. He modeled servanthood throughout His ministry with the disciples, and His ultimate act of service was going to the cross on our behalf. How are you doing in the realm of servant-leadership? Most of us chose to not be inconvenienced, but how about you? Are you walking away from opportunities to serve that cost you time? Is making a financial sacrifice a consideration? Is your reputation at risk in any realm that you have an opportunity to serve? Where common sentiment may caution you against losing your time, money, or reputation, Jesus taught us and demonstrated that these should be of no concern.