|Bronze sculpture at|
Church Street UMC.
You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you…
This I command you, to love one another.
We know that Jesus should be our role-model in service, but it’s often difficult to know just which Jesus we’re supposed to follow. The teacher, the healer, the broken, dying man—or the Christ and Son of God, Lord of Heaven and Earth? Some of these roles are easier to imitate than others, and we struggle to hold them all together. Jesus’ disciples, too, often struggled to understand just what it meant for their wise and compassionate teacher to be both Messiah and bound to die.
But on their last night together, Jesus’ intimate words and actions finally began to crystallize. He began with an act of service, stooping down to wash his disciples’ dirty feet—Jesus the Servant. Then, he gave them a new and simple commandment, “to love one another as I have loved you”—Jesus the Master. Next, he gave them the bread and wine as a symbol of his Body and Blood, about to be broken and spilt out of that love—Jesus the Sacrifice. Finally, he showed them the place in which Servant and Master meet and Love and Sacrifice kiss—Jesus the Friend.
Despite our best efforts to welcome service and sacrifice, they can often seem burdensome. We grumble about their impositions or avoid the more “dangerous” sorts of service that cause us discomfort. Jesus’ friendship offers us a model of service that transcends these burdens and fears. In the deep bonds of his friendship, to serve is an eager pleasure and to sacrifice is a welcome blessing.
O Lord Jesus, we remember now the pain and death you suffered as our servant. Grant us the grace to be with you, as you are present with us in your Body and Blood, a memorial of that sacrifice. As your friends may we receive this token of your Love and gladly keep its commandment, for by your service and sacrifice, you have made its burden easy and its yoke light.
This appeared in the 2014 Lenten Devotional Book, “A Season of Service,” for Church Street United Methodist Church, Knoxville, Tennessee.