2 Key Passages for Biblical Leadership-Pt 2

August 31, 2013

"[caption id=""attachment_400"" align=""alignleft"" width=""150""] Keys to Biblical Leadership - Part 2[/caption] In our last post we looked at leadership lessons found in Deuteronomy 17. A passage in which Moses gives specific instructions for the day the nation of Israel would ask for a king. In this post we will look at a New Testament passage from the Gospel of John. As we stressed in our last post, this passage and the one for Deuteronomy 17 are foundational for understanding the biblical concept of leadership. A concept that is in stark contrast to the power/authority/strengths model that is prevalent today. This text in John is the familiar washing of the disciple's feet by Jesus and serves as our next study in biblical leadership. John 13:1-17 (NLT) Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. 2 It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. 4 So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, 5 and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples' feet, drying them with the towel he had around him. 6 When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, ""Lord, are you going to wash my feet?"" 7 Jesus replied, ""You don't understand now what I am doing, but someday you will."" 8 ""No,"" Peter protested, ""you will never ever wash my feet!"" Jesus replied, ""Unless I wash you, you won't belong to me."" 9 Simon Peter exclaimed, ""Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!"" 10 Jesus replied, ""A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet, to be entirely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not all of you."" 11 For Jesus knew who would betray him. That is what he meant when he said, ""Not all of you are clean."" 12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, ""Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and you are right, because that's what I am. 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other's feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. 17 Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them. I've never gotten beyond the power of this passage. Even a cursory reading will leave anyone astonished at the humility of Jesus in performing such an act. But the contrasts are far more profound than that. Here are some of the important distinctions we need to take account of. The first three verses are of paramount importance to the narrative even though many would breeze over them in order to get to the heart of the story. But they are what set up the contrasts so vividly. Especially for the disciples and what they are about to experience. There are three primary lessons that are brought to bear on this story from these opening verses. Verse 1, in the context of the coming Passover celebration, we are reminded of Jesus' deep love for his disciples. Something that has been true throughout Jesus' time with them. Why would John mention this? My view is that in light of what is going to happen soon, we are given a reminder of the depth of Jesus' love. This is one of the profound realities of the Christian faith. This recognition of God's deep longing to bring redemption to a broken world. A love shared by the Son, to the degree of becoming a willing sacrifice. As leaders in the church we all acknowledge the place of love and sacrifice, but how often do we reflect the depth of those characteristics to the degree that Jesus did? Verse 2, in its revelation of the pending betrayal of Judas, is a stark reminder that the devil may have done the prompting, but it is God whose purposes are being realized. God is the one in control and Jesus is well aware of the game plan, despite the fact that it will take Jesus to the cross. I see a great reminder here for me personally. Though our circumstances may appear dour, our confidence should be in God who is ultimately in control. I know that many times we will gage our relationship with God based on our circumstances but that is a flawed unit of measure. We wouldn't for a second doubt the depth of the Father's love for Jesus, his son. Yet, for the sake of that love, Jesus would endure a cross. Verse 3 in my mind is the apex of the introductory three verses which sets the scene for the foot-washing. Here we are told that ""all authority"" is in Jesus' control. (The Greek actually says that God has given ""everything into the hands of Jesus""). Why would John include this verse now? Why would he take this moment to remind his readers of the deity of Christ? This is where the greatest contrast is made. Jesus, in that moment, is the most powerful person in the universe. He is God! And John is bringing that to our attention now so when we get to that part in the story where Jesus wraps a towel and bends as a servant to wash his disciples feet we are left awestruck by the audacity of it all! Let me put it into perspective a bit. Imagine, that as Jesus is towel drying the feet of Judas Iscariot, he is willing a new universe into existence. Based on what John is stressing here it is a possible scenario. In fact, the contrast is heightened by the fact that Jesus not only played the role of a servant but dressed the part as well. Anyone walking into the room during the foot-washing who did not recognize the men would have instantly assumed Jesus as the servant. When they were corrected and told that Jesus was their Rabbi (Teacher), they would have been incredulous to such a claim, let alone if they knew that Jesus was God in flesh. In that culture it would be unheard of for a Rabbi to exhibit such servile humility to his students, yet Jesus does so without reservation. In fact, this very demonstration becomes a practical example of what Jesus wants the disciples to model as well. And despite the complaints from Peter at the thought of Jesus washing his feet, he appears to have taken the lesson to heart as a reading of 1 Peter 5:1-11 seems to imply. What is modelled here by Jesus is a leadership ethic that we hear often but seldom witness. That is not to say that there aren't many faithful leaders who serve their communities with humility, but the predominance of leaders who fall due to some impropriety causes me great concern. Especially in light of these two passages that we've only briefly expounded in this post and last. Leadership is a sacred trust. Especially if we claim any kind of witness for Christ. The challenges of Deuteronomy 17 and John 13 are given to remind us of how leadership in God's kingdom should be framed. Not in terms of power and authority, but in humility and service. I for one am striving to build these deeper into the fabric of my own leadership, and hope you've been challenged to do so by these posts as well."


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