A Startling Moment
There is a startling moment in the life of Jesus and the disciples that devastates self-glory and defines the kind of humility that, by grace, should grip the heart of every pastor and form the lifestyle of his ministry.
“Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 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.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 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. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (John 13:1–17)
What is the grand lesson, the grand calling, of this startling moment? Here it is: Jesus says, “If you’re not greater than your master, and he has been willing to do this disgusting thing, you must also be willing. If you are my ambassadors, called to represent my will and way, called to be tools of my redeeming grace, then you must not think that any ministry task is beneath you. You must be willing to do the lowest, most debased thing so that my work and my will be done. You must not refuse.
You must not think of yourself as too good. You must be willing to be the lowest of slaves in order that my kingdom may come and my will may be done. You must be willing to do whatever is necessary to position yourself as a tool of redeeming grace. You must not be too proud. You must not be unwilling.”
A Common Struggle
Let’s be honest, pastors: we are tempted to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think. At times, we do chafe against things that we think are beneath our pay grade. We are not always willing to do the dirty work of the ministry. I know I’m not always ready and willing. We are too oriented to reputation, position, and power. We do desire to be recognized as prominent. I know I struggle with this. We are not attracted to redemptive servitude. We do want our ministries to be clean and comfortable. I know I do. We do tend to think of ourselves more as movers and shakers than as servants.
And all of this is because we don’t get our identity as an ambassador. No, if you and I think there is kingdom work that is beneath us, we think that because we are identity amnesiacs. And there is a short step between forgetting our assigned position and inserting ourselves into God’s position.
The amazing example and commission of Christ should produce grief that leads to confession in all of us. We do lose our way. We do become more masters than servants. And in our heart of hearts we know that we will never become what we have been called to become unless we are rescued by the very same grace we have come to proclaim and live before others. And we don’t have to fear that our silly, delusional, and unearned pride will cause the Father to turn his back on us.
Run to God
He knows who you are. He knows that you don’t measure up. He knows that you still fall short of his righteous requirement; that’s why he has given you the gift of his Son. You can run to him and admit to embarrassing self-glory and know that he won’t mock you or slap you away, because your standing before him is not based on your performance but on the spotless performance of his Son.
Why don’t you right here, right now, make the confession that you need to make? Cry for the help you need. Your Savior is near, and he is both willing and able.
This article was adapted from Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry by Paul David Tripp.