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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