Seven Days of Devotion
Bound to Serve
And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other's feet. -John 13:14 (NLT)
Bound to Serve
Most of us know the story. On the eve of His arrest and execution, Jesus gave His disciples some final instructions. Throughout His ministry, He always seemed to come up with the perfect illustration to drive His lessons home in people's hearts. This time, His lesson was on servanthood, and He and His disciples would serve as the illustrations.
Jesus did the unthinkable. He stripped down to a towel, grabbed a basin of water, and began to wash His disciple's feet. Talk about an awkward situation! Here was the personification of purity and perfection, the holy Judge of all that ever was and all that ever will be, the great I AM, touching the filthiest part of their bodies.
Then He dropped another bombshell on them. They were to "wash each other's feet."
Clearly, Jesus was speaking in a much broader sense here. He was telling them that His willingness to wash their feet was to translate into a spirit of service toward each other. "Wash each other's feet" really means "Meet each other's needs."
God always knows what He wants, and He always knows how to achieve what He wants. He wants His people to experience community with each other, and He knows that serving achieves this objective. Here's how it works: There's someone in the family of faith who has a need. And as a brother or sister raises their hand and says, "I'll help you with that," it creates a unique bond that time and tragedy can't break.
Look around. Who needs help? Their need is your opportunity. And as you meet their need by serving them, you'll find yourselves bound together the way believers should be.
This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. -John 15:12 (NLT)
Love is the root system that anchors and enables us to fulfill Christ's desire that we, His followers and representatives in this world, be unified. Without it, we don't stand the slightest chance of standing with one other, much less being one with one another. So our unity starts right here with these three words: Love each other.
This comes as a tall order for us. "Nobody ever showed me love growing up; I'm not sure I even know what love looks like. I have a hard time loving my own family. How am I supposed to love someone I barely know?" At first glance, this command seems practically impossible.
But Jesus commanded it, and He never tells us to do something unless it is possible. What makes it possible is embedded in the very word He uses for love. It's the Greek word agape, and it doesn't refer to the conditional "scratch-my-back-and-I'll-scratch-yours" type of love that this world is so used to. It's the unconditional, other-worldly sort of love that flows from God's presence. It isn't something that we find within ourselves; it comes from an outside source. It's poured into us by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).
A story is told about a Christian who had grown very frustrated because he couldn't stand the small group of people he kept running into at church. In a moment of total transparency, he cried out, "God, I just can't love these people!" God responded with a question of His own, "Are you trying to love them with your own love or with mine?"
Loving each other is the key to us being "one with one another." And the key to loving each other is to experience and extend God's love, not our own.
"I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message." -John 17:20 (NLT)
One with One Another
Did you know that you're specifically mentioned in the Bible? It's right here as Jesus prays for every person who would ever believe in the message proclaimed by His first followers. That message was the Gospel, the good news that God has covered man's sins because of Jesus' death on the cross. If you're someone who believes this, then you're just as much in this verse as anyone.
But let's take it a step further. Let's see what Jesus had to say about you:
"I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one-as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. John 17:21 (NLT)
When Jesus prayed for you, and everyone else who would believe the gospel, Jesus prayed that we would all be one. Stop and consider this. Christ could have prayed for any number of things, but He put unity at the top of His list.
Not only that, He also adds that this "oneness" is to reflect the harmonious unity that exists between Him and His Father. A lifetime can be spent probing how profound this is. But for our purposes, let's shrink it down to one simple take-away truth that we can all agree on: It's important for us to be "one with one another."
We'll spend the rest of this month unpacking what this looks like. But as we begin, we need to agree on the importance of our endeavor. If the Son of God made it a priority to pray for our unity, then we're wise in making it our priority as well. Not just in our prayers, but also in our practice.
Therefore He is also able ...Hebrews 7:25 (NKJV)
HE IS ABLE
It's been said that the most effective lessons are the ones that can be succinctly summarized. So how would you summarize what we've learned over the course of this month? Could you get it down to one paragraph, or maybe even a sentence. Could you boil it all down to three words?
So Abraham and Sarah gave birth to a son after a lifetime of barrenness, so Moses parted the Red Sea, so the Israelite's sandals didn't wear out in the wilderness, so water was turned to wine, so people were cured of every kind of disease and even death, so the multitudes were fed, so Satan was sent into a herd of swine, so Jesus walked on water . . . but so what? What difference does it make as we make our way through the maze that is our life?
It all comes down to these three words: He is able. If we learn nothing else from our course on miracles, may we know that we belong to a God who is able. When the storms of life suck the courage out of us, He is able. When treasured trusts are trashed, He is able. When we're blindsided by the call that comes from the doctor's office, He is able.
When "that sin" seems more insurmountable than Mt. Everest, He is able. When anything that's hatched in the imagination of the Devil happens, He is able. When all of the above and more happens, He is able.
How do we know? Because He's proven His power. And because He has, we know that He can and will pour out His power upon our lives. Don't let this day pass without asking the Spirit to stitch these words to your soul: He is able.
"For with God nothing will be impossible." Luke 1:37 (NKJV)
Peter said, ". . . Get up and walk!" . . . the man's feet and anklebones were healed and strengthened. -Acts 3:6-7 (NLT)
THE MIRACLE OF US
There are two miracles contained in this passage. The first and most obvious miracle is the healing of the man who had been born lame. The second, and perhaps more impressive miracles, is that Peter was the one who performed it.
Sound harsh? Remember, this is the same man who was personally rebuked by God from Heaven (Matthew 17:5), the man whose motives were identified by Jesus as being satanic (Matthew 16:23), the man who gave his word that he would never leave Christ's side-and then swore he never knew Him-three times in a row (Matthew 26:70-74)!
Yet, for all his flaws, Peter possessed the trait that mattered most: He loved Jesus. That was enough for the Lord to work with, and He did. So much so, in fact, that Peter was the instrument He used to convert thousands to Christ in the first few days of the early Church's existence (Acts 2:41, 4:4). Hotheaded, reckless Peter became the immovable leader the early Church needed. It was a miracle.
Isn't it a miracle that the Lord is able to use any of us? Back-biter, drug addict, alcoholic, prostitute, kleptomaniac, shopoholic, home wrecker, gossiper, hypocrite . . . these are the labels that once defined us. We were identified, driven, and ruled by our faults. But buried deep down, deeper than anyone could see, there was something in us that resembled the kind of love Peter had.
It wasn't much, but it was enough for Jesus to work with, and He did. So much so, in fact, that He's made it possible for us to be Heaven's ambassadors here on earth. Now that's a miracle!
Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." John 2:19 (NKJV)
THE ALPHA MALE OF MIRACLES
Without question, it's the "alpha male" of all miracles-the crowning act of Christ's career on earth. Above every other miraculous act, this is the one that matters the most. If we understood every other miracle backwards and forwards, yet misunderstood this one, we would miss everything.
It's one of only two miracles recorded in all four accounts of Jesus' life (the other one being the feeding of the 5,000). It's also the most anticipated and predicted miracle. Jesus constantly pointed to it, as He does in the verse above. It's the miracle of the resurrection.
Someone once stated that "Christianity does not explain the resurrection, but the resurrection explains Christianity." That's true because Christianity would be non-existent without the resurrection. We would have a deceased Savior, a slew of unfulfilled predictions, and a group of disciples who were so paranoid about their own safety that they hid behind locked doors. That's not a winning combination.
The resurrection means everything to those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ. It proves to us that the One we follow is more powerful than the most powerful force known to man: death. Nobody is able to overcome the power death has over humanity-except Jesus. And all who have taken refuge in Him will share not only in His miraculous resurrection power, but also in His miraculous victory.
"O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?". . . thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 (NKJV)
"I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death. Revelation 1:18 (NKJV)
Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. John 18:10 (NKJV)
Mistakes were nothing new for Peter, but this one has to rank among the very worst of his apostolic career. Jesus is about to be arrested by a detachment of Roman soldiers (which could have been as many as 200 men) and several other religious officers. In the heat of the moment, Peter decides to defend Jesus (as if He wasn't able to defend Himself), draws his sword, and slices off the ear of the high priest's servant.
That was a mistake. Peter basically signed his own death certificate because he wasn't just trying to take off an ear, he was trying to kill a man. And that was an offense that Christ's captors would have surely punished to the fullest extent of the law. One can only imagine what Peter was pondering at this point, but it probably was something like, What was I thinking?!
If the story ended here, there probably would have been four crosses at Calvary the next day instead of just three. However, the story doesn't end there as the book of Luke records an interesting detail for us:
But Jesus . . . touched his ear and healed him. Luke 22:51 (NKJV)
Catch the scene: Jesus picked up the severed ear that Peter was responsible for and miraculously attached it to its rightful, and no doubt bewildered, owner. Peter's mistake had been miraculously erased.
All of us make mistakes. We're not that different from Peter. We lash out in ways that leave us wondering, What was I thinking?! Fortunately, Jesus is greater than our mistakes, and He has the miraculous ability to undo them according to His will.
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