The Heart of Generosity

November 19, 2017
The Good Life


November 19, 2017

Scripture Reference

John 13:2-16

One Saturday morning, a young mother named Katie was preparing some pancakes for her sons, Kevin who was 5, and Ryan who was 3. This was a family tradition. On Saturday mornings mom made pancakes. It was something that Kevin and Ryan looked forward to all week long. They loved getting up and eating pancakes with chocolate milk.

This particular Saturday morning, Kevin said, “Mommy, I want the first pancake.” To which Ryan said, “No me.” And the argument started. Katie thought that this would be a good opportunity to teach her boys a lesson in generosity. So she said, “Boys, if Jesus were sitting here. He would say, ‘Let my brother have the first pancake. I can wait.’ That’s because Jesus puts other people’s needs above him own.” Kevin nodded understanding. So, he turned to his younger brother and said, “Ryan, you be Jesus.”

We are in the last week of our series the good life. We have established that the good life is a generous life. It is more blessed to give than to receive. We’ve also seen how giving generously isn’t just about giving money, but our time and talents and abilities as well. As we close out this series, we are going to talk about the heart of serving and being generous by putting others first.

The section of Scripture we are going to look at this morning is John 13. This takes place during Holy Week. It’s the night before Jesus dies. He and his disciples were in Jerusalem celebrating the festival of the Passover which was a very special festival for the Jewish people. Peter and John had made all the preparations for them to celebrate this feast in an upper room where it would be just Jesus and his disciples. And what we see is that Jesus

Understood the difference between knowing and doing.

Jesus and his disciples came up from Bethany, which was only about a mile and a half from Jerusalem. When they arrived in Jerusalem, Jesus and his disciples came to this upper room where they were going to celebrate the Passover. Now the custom of the day was that when you entered a house a servant would be there to wash everyone’s feet when they entered. It wasn’t a religious rule. It wasn’t a law of God. It was just the custom of the day. Today, we greet people with a handshake or hug and we take their coat for them. They washed people’s feet.

It may seem really weird, but it’s not like they are walking around in closed toed shoes. They had sandals. Not only that, but they didn’t have paved roads. They had dirt roads. So here you are walking around on the dirt roads, stepping in who knows what, and you enter a house. The owner of the house, doesn’t want all the dust and whatever else you stepped in to get into his house. So, he hired a servant to wash feet. This job was disgusting. It was reserved for the lowest servant. This would have been a first century job that was on Mike Rowe’s dirtiest jobs.

And so here Jesus and his disciples enter the upper room. It is just them. Jesus and the 12. No one else. Now remember, this was the custom. So as they enter, the disciples know this needs to be done, but they don’t do it.  As they look around, they also see the owner of the room had left water, the water basin, and the towel so that they could wash their feet. But the disciples go straight to the table, trying to avoid the job. Maybe they thought Jesus was going to delegate the dirty job. But there everyone sat. And then something incredible happened.

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

John 13:2-5

Jesus knew what had to be done. And he did it. He got up, took off his outer clothing, wrapped a towel around his waist and he served his disciples by washing their feet. Everyone is silent. Watching this happen. It had to be one of the most awkward silences. But he saw the need and he served. Think about that. This is the God of the world. This is the Savior. This is Jesus. And he does the lowliest position of the time. He knew that the feet washing was necessary but he also loved his disciples enough to not make them to this job. So he served their needs.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

John 13:6-8

Peter, you don’t’ get it. You can’t wash yourself. You can’t do it. Only Jesus can wash you and when he washes you, you will be clean.

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

John 13:7-11

You see Jesus’ unconditional love and humility here don’t you? He knew what was in Judas’ heart at that very moment. He knew Judas was plotting to betray him. And yet he loving washes Judas’ feet. He still serves Judas. Why? Because Jesus loved him and wanted him to be in heaven.  So he continued to show him love by serving him even though he knew Judas was going to betray him to his death.

And that’s the hard part about serving, right? It is easy to serve when we like the people we are serving. Thanksgiving is in a few days. There’s a lot of set up and take down. Lots of food to be coked. There’s a lot of dishes to be done. Garbage to be taken out. We have the opportunity to serve the family and do those things. And it is easy to do them because we love our family and we don’t want them to have to do those things, at least do them alone. But it isn’t so easy to serve people we don’t like, or who don’t like us. We can all think of someone that irritates us or that we don’t like.  And when it comes to that person, we can know what needs to be done, but avoid it just like the disciples. Because why would we want to serve that type of person. They are on their own.

Serving is easy when we like what we are doing. Then we know what needs to be done and do it. Maybe you like serving at church. So when we ask for volunteers and for service, you volunteer because you like it. Or maybe it is something in the community that you like doing. Maybe a road clean up. You like doing that because it makes the earth a better place and you see the accomplishment. But what about a need you see that you don’t like doing or want to do? It’s easy to know what needs to be done but avoid it.

Serving is easy when we know people are going to acknowledge us for our work. People are going to see what we’ve done and thank us and praise us. Then serving is easy. But what if no one will ever know what we did? That’s something we’d pass up, even if we know it needs to be done. Someone else will take care of it.

Serving is easy when we know what needs to be done and we feel it’s worthy of our time. It’s not below us so to speak. But when something needs to be done that we feel is below us, we tend to avoid it and let someone else take care of it.

And that’s what makes this scene so incredible. Jesus, the God of this world, does one of the dirtiest and most undesirable jobs. Imagine the president washing someone’s feet. Imagine a king getting down and washing his people’s feet. Jesus loved his disciples so much that he was willing to get dirty. He serves in the humblest of way and washes all of his disciples feet. He finishes washing his disciples’ feet and returns back to the table.

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.

John 13:12-16

Jesus is all about serving. The mast came to serve his servants. That’s why he came. Not for his own glory, but to serve you and me. Serving someone is when you do something for another person. Jesus did that for you.  He took all of your sins on himself and he took credit for them. Those sins that you’re embarrassed about, he took responsibility for them. The sins that stain your reputation, went against his reputation. The dirt and filth of our sins he took on himself, and when God looked at him he saw the disgusting, dirty, smelly, and offensive words, thoughts, and actions that we committed. And Jesus took your place and my place. He paid for them on the cross. And he washed you completely clean, not with soap and water, but he washed you with his precious blood. So that you now stand before God clean. Forgiven.

Jesus’ whole point in coming to earth wasn’t to gain glory. Wasn’t to be some big evangelical leader. He came for one reason: to serve us. To live, die, and rise again in our place because that’s what we needed. He loved us so much that he said, “You first. I’m going to lay my life down for you. To serve your needs. I’m going to do the job no one else wants to do and no one else can do.” That is generosity. Imagine putting your foot into Jesus hand for him to wash it. That’s nothing compared to putting all your sins onto him. Yet, he willingly did it for you. Because he loves you that much.

And as we let that message sink deeply into our hearts, we find the motivation to serve. That message right there is what is at the heart of a service.

We serve because Jesus first served us.

Jesus said no servant is above his master. And that’s what we are. We are Jesus’ servants, and Jesus is all about serving. Not only did he serve our needs by saving us, but he daily serves our needs. He provides us with everything we need for this life.  He provides us with family and friends. With love. He provides us with his Word, our baptism, and the Lord’s Supper that we may be assured that we are clean in his sight.  Forgiveness of all our sins. We have confidence knowing that our master is taking care of our needs. And now, we strive to be like him. How do we do that?


Always have your head on a swivel. (be aware)

Every single day, God presents us with opportunities to serve someone’s needs. We just have to pay attention. When we see those needs and know what we are, then we follow through and do them. What would it look like if we weren’t in such a hurry to get from point A to point B, but instead we slowed down and looked for opportunities to serve someone? Think of the impact that we can make in this world if just once every day we gave to someone the picture of Jesus with our service. Who knows how God will use your service to impact someone’s life here and in eternity.

The second…

Have a heart that sees people through the eyes of Christ

When you look at people, what do you see? Do you see the person you don’t like? Do you see the bad parent? The rude person? Do you see someone who said some nasty stuff about you? The person who always lets you down? Or do you see them through the eyes of Christ.

Each and every person you come into contact with, Jesus lived and died for. Every single one he longs to have a relationship with and to hold in his loving arms. Every single one he longs to tell them the good news, “I gave my life for your sins. Trust that message. And spend eternity with me in heaven.” That’s how he felt even about Judas. Every single person on earth he longs to have a relationship with.

It’s the same thing he wants you to know. He generously served your needs by living and dying on the cross to save you. And he wants you to know and believe him when he says, “I love you. I forgive you. I want you to spend eternity with me.”

The good life is a generous life. What a tremendously generous God we have. It is my prayer that as we leave here God give us the opportunities to serve others, and that through our service we can share with them the message of our Jesus. Our Savior. The one who loves so dearly that he generously serves our needs.