Learning Servanthood during Hanukkah

Dur­ing Hanukkah, we light the can­dles in the Hanukki­ah and we remem­ber the mir­a­cles that God did for His peo­ple so many years ago. But what I want to talk about is how we light the can­dles and with what. We light the mid­dle can­dle first and use it to light all the rest. It is called the Shamash can­dle or the ser­vant can­dle.

The Shamash can­dle rep­re­sents Jesus who came to be the light of the world. When we accept Him into our hearts He gives us a new light to share with oth­ers. He also came to be a ser­vant. He didn’t come to be ele­vat­ed to a high posi­tion here on earth. He came to be the ulti­mate ser­vant and give His life for us. While He walked this Earth He did many things that reflect­ed His heart of a ser­vant.

He was filled with empa­thy and com­pas­sion for those He came in con­tact with. He cared for the hurt­ing and the lost.  He hum­bled Him­self and came to Earth as a baby. He con­tin­ued to hum­ble him­self through­out His earth­ly min­istry.

Then dur­ing the Last Sup­per in the upper room with His dis­ci­ples, He did some­thing shock­ing. Jesus washed the disciple’s feet. That may not seem shock­ing to us. We have to look at the cul­ture at the time to real­ly under­stand the sig­nif­i­cance of this action.

The main form of trans­porta­tion at this time was either walk­ing or ani­mal pow­ered. I have been around a few ani­mals and there is one fac­tor that is com­mon to the pres­ence of ani­mals. Poop. They indis­crim­i­nate­ly poop every­where. My daugh­ter vol­un­teers at a barn filled with hors­es and I can tell you there is a lot of poop. It is every­where. Her boots are cov­ered in it when she comes home.

I am real­ly grate­ful for boots, espe­cial­ly when walk­ing around all day in poop.  Imag­ine for a moment, the kind of footwear that was avail­able to the peo­ple in Jesus’ day.  Shoes were strips of leather mount­ed to a flat piece. Not exact­ly the best cov­er­age in footwear.

So the roads in Jesus day were shared by the ani­mals and peo­ple alike.  Due to the amount of ani­mals that would have been on the roads, it would have been impos­si­ble to avoid the mounds of squishy, stinky goo. The very road would have had a vast cov­er­ing of smelly stuff that would have got­ten between the toes of every per­son that was trav­el­ing.

After arriv­ing at their des­ti­na­tion the peo­ple would need their feet cleaned because of the smell.  Jews were very par­tic­u­lar about dirt and clean­li­ness so it was just not ok to go into a house and sit for a meal with stinky, smelly feet. This is where foot wash­ing comes in. This was a job for the lowli­est of the low­ly ser­vants. It was just as icky of a job as actu­al­ly walk­ing in the muck. And it was espe­cial­ly not done for a supe­ri­or to wash the feet of an infe­ri­or. That was a slave’s job.

It tells us in John 13:4–8

(Jesus) rose from sup­per, and laid aside His gar­ments; and tak­ing a tow­el, He gird­ed Him­self about. Then He poured water into the bas­in, and began to wash the disciple’s feet, and to wipe them with the tow­el with which He was gird­ed. And so He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to Him, “What I do you do not real­ize now, but you shall under­stand here­after.” Peter said to Him, “Nev­er shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered and said to him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”

I love Peter’s respon­se of “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.”

He was so adamant that he wouldn’t allow Jesus to wash his feet and then imme­di­ate­ly says, do more than just my feet. Let’s cov­er all the bases! He almost missed the point of why Jesus was doing it in the first place. Jesus goes on to tell us why in vers­es 12–17

And so when He had washed their feet, and tak­en His gar­ments, and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done for you? You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an exam­ple that you also should do as I did to you. Tru­ly, tru­ly I say to you, a slave is not greater than his mas­ter, nei­ther is one who is sent greater that the one who sent him. If you do the­se things, you are blessed if you do them.”

What an amaz­ing exam­ple of ser­vant­hood that Jesus gave us. In our mod­ern cul­ture, we don’t need our feet washed after trav­el­ing but it is still a visu­al exam­ple of hum­bling one­self and serv­ing anoth­er per­son with love.

In prac­ti­cal terms, we should all be striv­ing to become more like Jesus. This doesn’t mean we have a wash bas­in by the front door and get down and wash the feet of our vis­i­tors. It is hav­ing a heart that looks for ways to serve and do for oth­ers self­less­ly. It is hav­ing empa­thy and com­pas­sion for the less for­tu­nate. It is see­ing some­thing that needs done and doing it with­out praise.

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