As One that Serveth

John 13: 3-4.---' Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; he rises from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.'

In any study of Christ's teaching, the story of last night of His earthly life must fill a very large place. St. John alone tells it fully, so fully indeed that it practically forms nearly one-fourth of his Gospel. The opening sentence in the story of that last night strikes a very loftiest note: 'Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father. His earthly ministry was closing; the Cross stood in clear vision before Him. Then John goes: 'Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God'---did what? He rises from supper, and laid aside his garments, and took a towel and girded himself. That girded towel was the sign of a slave; and Christ, in the supreme moment of His earthly ministry, turns aside to a menial task; with the very hands into which His Father had put all things He washes the feet of His disciples. That seems the greatest anticlimax in history.

Why did Christ, at that exact moment, and in that highest mood of feeling, gird Himself and stoop to the office of a slave? He was, for one thing, about to interpret to His disciples what may be called the ultimate law of service; the height to which He means human relations to rise; the self-sacrificing humilities of love we must exercise toward each other. Now, if all this had been delivered as a statute, and expressed in abstract and mandatory terms, it might well have been unintelligible, not to say incredible. But Christ translates the principal into concrete form; He makes it sacred it by doing it with His own hands what He expects us to do. He himself washes the feet of His disciples that He may impress upon their minds the sublimity of lowly service. 'Know what I've done to you?' Christ asks. 'I have given you---not a precept, or an injunction, but---'and example.' Do to each other what I have done to you. This is why, in that moment, Christ girds Himself and takes the office of a slave. And if we would understand the matchless beauty of the act, we must realize with patient effort its details.

When the disciples of Jesus arrived hot and dusty with their walk from Bethany at the house of 'the good man' who had placed an apartment at the disposal of Jesus and His friends, they doubtless found 'the large upper room furnished' with all that they required. The laver or 'basin' and would be there---the large copper ewer, and 'the watering pots,' the large earthenware the jars from which it might be replenished, and the towels with which the feet were to be dried. Possibly, though we have no record of the fact, one of them at once removed the Master's sandals, and washed the dust from His feet with a cool fresh water that stood ready at hand. But no one of them, it would seem, would stoop to perform that kindly office for the rest. The old rivalry, the old strife, as to which of them should take the highest place, broke out among them again; and there they stood, with dusty feet and with hot jealous hearts, wrangling as to whose duty it was to play servant to his brethren.

None of the disciples had yet learned the lesson which Jesus has so often taught, that he is the greatest who does most for others. It was to impress this neglected lesson on them that Jesus, who had already taken His place at the table, rose from the untasted supper, laid aside His flowing outer robe, girt a towel around His tunic and 'began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.' That figure of Christ in the little upper room at Jerusalem, before He passes to His Cross, stooping to wash the feet of His disciples, and then making the act an example, is a glimpse into the eternal nature of things. It is a revelation unsurpassed in its loftiness, of the nature and mind of God, and of His ideals for the relations betwixt His creatures.

Jesus gave us a true idea of God. The uniqueness of Christ's revelation lies, indeed, exactly in this: that it is the expression of the character of God in the terms not merely of human language but of a human personality. The character of God was manifested to men not only in the words but in the life of Jesus, and in no other conceivable form of manifestation could it have been so fully revealed.

This is what the Son of God has done for us by his Incarnation. He expresses the idea of God in the eloquent and satisfying language of personality. We learn what God is like not by questioning the philosophers and theologians but by sitting at the feet of Jesus and realizing that in His self-sacrificing love He is revealing to us the very heart of God; that as He loves us, so God loves us; that as He suffers for us, so God suffers for us; that as He serves us, so God serves us.

Christ's act was a revelation---revealing what God himself is doing for His universe and is doing always. The greatest Servant of all is the Divine Father who is carrying on the great powers and processes of this world, giving, by His continuous presence in the world, the power of His Spirit and the power of His service.

Jesus, conscious of His Divine dignity, 'took a towel and began to wash the disciples' feet.' If these words give us a true idea of God, they give us also a true idea of human life. They teach us that we, like the God we worship, must devote ourselves to service. The importance of having a true conception of the character of God lies, indeed, and exactly in this: that we tend to become like God we worship. Our God is our ideal. If, for instance, we think that God is cruel, we are likely to become cruel ourselves, as witness all the fires of religious persecution. If we think that God exercises arbitrary and despotic power, we shall come to believe with the militarist that might is right. If we believe that God lives of a life of ease, secure from all toil and sorrow in a heaven beyond the skies, we shall assuredly hold that the great aim of life is to secure our own personal happiness and salvation for eternity. But if we believe that God is Himself the servant of humanity, that He is the God of the struggler, that even in the central sanctuary of the universe the law holds good, 'from each according to his ability,' why, then, we cannot but believe that for us, too, service is the true ideal of life. You do well to seek union with God, but you are taking the wrong road. Believe me, you can never manage it merely by reading Scriptures and the like. For God is love, God is unselfishness, God is self-sacrifice. And the only way to become one with Him is to grow loving and unselfish and self-sacrificing too.

In is in the call to service that there lies the that religious appeal to the modern world; service that gives meaning to life, that sweeps a man out of himself into a larger world, and makes him one with the purpose of God, for whom he vaguely longs. The old appeal to men to save their souls from a threatening doom beyond the grave has lost its power. The fact that it was so distinctly an appeal to a man's own self interest and selfish impulses has killed it. In the light of a growing collective consciousness men can no longer think of individual happiness and salvation, whether in this life or in the next, as the be-all and the end-all of religion and of their own being. Let us get rid, then, of sin and selfishness, not that we may escape their penalties but that we may be qualified for service, that we may make our life here and now count for Christ. What does our churchgoing mean? Is it simply to obtain comfort and help for our own spiritual needs, or is it to be for fitted, strengthened, trained, inspired for service? Do we realized what our Christian profession really means, that it is a call to effort, a summons to labor, a challenge to heroic service in all the mighty tasks of the age in which we live? Do we understand that the God revealed in Christ is Himself in the struggle, and that he needs us, our effort, our strength, our will, our lives, to help Him lay the foundations of the new and better world that is to be? 'Jesus took a towel and washed his disciples' feet, and said to them: I have given you an example that ye should do as I have done to you.' To us He says as He said to Peter: 'If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me'---if we reject the example He set when He washed his disciples' feet, we refuse the relation to our fellows to which it calls us; and this is to reject Him as Master. But when once we obey Him, when we dedicate our lives to the service of God and of humanity, then we shall enter into the real joy and splendor of religion, and on all our opened eyes will burst the radiant vision of the King in His beauty.

This incident gives us not only a true idea of God and a true idea of life, but a true idea of service: it teaches us that we may find opportunities of serving God even in the humblest duties of daily life. True religion recognizes no bisection into secular and sacred; our ordinary everyday work, if it be done with a religious motive, if we do it because we come from God and go to God, is religious work. Surely it was to help us to realize this, to enable us to find a true and living link between our ordinary common duties and the fact of God and of His Christ, that our Savior took a towel and washed the disciples' feet. Do we not see how inspiring and encouraging it is to us that this lowly act of service is recorded of our Master? If it were only written of Him that He took a cross, we buy despair of following in His footsteps. We have not, most of us, the opportunity for doing great things in the service of humanity; and if we had the opportunity, it may be we should lack the spirit and the courage. But if we cannot do great things, at any rate we can do small ones; if we cannot be heroic, we can be faithful; if we cannot take a cross, at least we can take a towel. Towels are needed just as much as crosses in this world of ours, for there are so many weary travelers with aching, dust-stained feet, and so many lowly, humdrum, monotonous tasks that are as necessary to the world's welfare as a heroic exploits of the great leaders of mankind.

The truest greatness is that which can condescend to the lowliest tasks. There's some little bit of commonplace, ordinary work that we can do for our Church, for our city, for our country, for the spread of His Kingdom through the world. Let us do it with the same mighty consciousness of a Divine motive that inspired Jesus; do it because we too come from God and go to God.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha