The Desire to Be Great

man wearing blue suit jacket beside woman with gray suit jacket

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Reading the Word

Luke 22:24–30 (ESV)

24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

28 “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, 29 and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, 30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah. He was the promised one from the line of David who would reign over Israel and restore it to its place of prominence as it enjoyed during David’s life. To his disciples, this meant that they were going to receive great benefits from their close relationship with Jesus. So, naturally, the disciples argued over who was going to get the most. Who was going to be the greatest?

Jesus told the disciples that things would be different in his kingdom, in contrast to the kingdoms of the world. The world desires power and authority, but the kingdom of Christ cherishes humility and servanthood. Just as Jesus would serve his people by going to the cross and offering his life for others, Jesus’ followers should follow his example and be willing to make sacrifices in service to others. Our goal is not to be greater than others, but to point them to our great Savior.

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Washing the Feet of Others

Baby Child Feet

Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not publish additional material on Sundays, but do include a suggested Scripture reading for the day. Please be sure to subscribe to this page or one of our social media accounts so you can follow along each day. Thanks for reading!

Reading the Word

John 13:12–20 (ESV)

12 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? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 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. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. 18 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ 19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”

The God Who Washes Feet

John 135 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 13:1–11 (ESV)

1 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. 2 During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 3 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, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 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. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8 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.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 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.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Before the meal, Jesus did something unexpected. He washed his disciples’ feet. This turned contemporary expectations upside down! Jesus was the teacher. He was the master of this group. It was the job of the students to wash Jesus’ feet or do the work of servants. At least, this is what the culture of the day said. However, Jesus tied a towel around his waist and washed feet.

Peter realized that this was not right. This is why he asked, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus’ reply pointed forward to a greater service that Jesus would do for his followers. Jesus was getting ready to go to the cross to die for his people. Philippians 2:6-8 reflects on Jesus as servant as he willingly died for mankind:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus had to become a servant for his people or we could not be saved. We had to be “washed” by Jesus through his sacrificial death or our sins could not be cleansed. The Creator came into the world to be our servant. He put aside his glory and died as a criminal on a cross. Jesus paid the price that we never could and unless we are washed by him, we remain unclean. As the great hymn says, “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”

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Only What Was Our Duty

Due to the Independence Day holiday and spending time with my family, I am only posting a suggested Scripture reading today. There is no devotional content. Thanks for reading. Have a great holiday if you are in the U.S.A. If you have not already done so, please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along every day.

Reading the Word

Luke 17:7–10 (ESV)

7 “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? 8 Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? 9 Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’ ”

Leaders Must Be Servants

Mark 935 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Mark 9:33–37 (ESV)

33 And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

Parallel Texts: Matthew 18:1-5; Luke 9:46-48

Understanding and Applying the Word

The disciples had been arguing with one another about which of them was the greatest. The argument stemmed from their continued misunderstanding of Jesus as the Messiah. They were still failing to understand that Jesus’ kingdom was not a geopolitical kingdom. He had not come to save the Israelites from the Romans. He had not come to reestablish Israel as a great power like it had been in the days of King David. He had come to deliver the Israelite people, and all people, from bondage to sin and death. Jesus was a Messiah who was going to die for his people.

The disciples were expecting Jesus to take the throne and put them into prominent positions. This thinking is why they argued over which of them was the greatest. They wondered who Jesus would entrust with the most power in his kingdom.

Jesus explained that leadership in his kingdom was not about promoting self. In fact, true leadership is self-sacrificing. A true leader looks out for others and does whatever is necessary to help others flourish. This is exactly what Jesus did for mankind. He gave up his own life so that those who trust in him can flourish. He went to the cross to take the sins of the world on himself and give his righteousness to all who would believe. And he has called on his followers to lay aside their own lives for the sake of others and for the sake of the gospel.

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Called to Serve

The Healing of Peter's Mother-in-law

The Healing of Peter’s Mother-in-Law (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Mark 1:29–31 (ESV)

29 And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

Parallel Texts: Matthew 8:14-15; Luke 4:38-39

Understanding and Applying the Word

We read here that Jesus went to the home of Simon and Andrew. He withdrew from the public eye and was in a private setting. We are told that Simon’s mother-in-law was sick with a fever. There are two things to note here. Simon is Peter. Jesus will change his name to Peter later, but that is the name we usually know him by. Also, Peter must have been married, given that he had a mother-in-law.

Jesus went to Peter’s mother-in-law and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Presumably, she was lying down and he helped her to her feet. Immediately, her fever was gone. Jesus had healed her and once again showed his great power and authority.

Notice the response of Peter’s mother-in-law. We are told that she “began to serve them.” The word “serve” in this text is the word that we get “deacon” from, which simply speaks of one who serves. Throughout the New Testament, we read of the great importance of serving others as a response to what God has done for us through Jesus Christ. Peter’s mother-in-law gives us a glowing example of the proper response to God’s grace in our lives. We are called to serve.

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