The Perfect Servant

John 13  •  12 min. read  •  grade level: 5
I am thinking of our Lord Jesus as the perfect Servant, and I would like to read some verses in John 13:1-71Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. 2And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him; 3Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; 4He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. 5After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. 6Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? 7Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. (John 13:1‑7). Doubtless the Lord refers here to the wonderful place His disciples would be brought into when the Holy Ghost was given. “I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit, when He, the Spirit of truth is come, He shall guide you into all truth"; and the Lord told them also the Holy Ghost would bring all things to their remembrance. People often use the 7th verse as referring to a time yet to come when we shall know as we are known, but the reference is not to the future, but to the present, though of course future when the words were uttered.
Vers. 7-17. It is a blessed thing to realize we are the Lord's very own, the objects of a love that never gives up its objects. So we sing—
“The love divine that made us Thine
Will keep us Thine forever.”
But the love of the Lord Jesus is a special love to His own, quite different from the love of God to the world. The love of the Lord Jesus to His own is thus peculiar, and it will be well to see what the Holy Spirit says of His own.
In John 17 the Lord is unbosoming Himself to the Father, and we are put in the position of listening to what was in the heart of the Lord Jesus. Speaking of them, and of all saints, He says, “Thine they were and thou gavest them me.” Oh, how dear they must be as the gift of the Father to the Lord Jesus! The same gift received by two people may be in our estimation quite different according as we estimate the giver. But the gift of the Father! How His love is set on us!
Further, we are His own by purchase and redemption— “bought with a price.” We are His own righteously. “He shall see of the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied.” He endured the wrath and the suffering that you and I might become His forever.
Again, there is another very special way in which we are His own. On the day of Pentecost the Lord Jesus sent down the Holy Ghost, and thus formed the one body. “After ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.” What does sealing mean? It is God marking us as His own. The gift of the Father, the purchase of Christ's blood, the sealed of the Spirit—His own in a threefold way. And when sealed, we are baptized into one body, and he that is joined to the Lord now glorified, is one spirit. He is the perfect Savior of His very own. There is no failure on His part, nor in the work of the Holy Spirit. Who can frustrate the purpose of God? “Of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things.”
As the perfect Savior, He died to save us, as in 1 Cor. 15, “Christ died for our sins.” Oh, how precious! What glorious results accrue! Besides, we have now what was not made known in Old Testament times. We have “received,” according to 1 Peter, “the salvation of our souls.” And all because of His death. But He who died for us was raised again, crowned, “exalted a Prince and a Savior.” He is a Savior now; He lives to save us. Will He fail? No! He is able to save right on to the end, through snares and difficulties; the world, the flesh, and the devil may consult to cast us down, but He lives to save us (Rom. 5:1010For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (Romans 5:10)).
Further, He is coming—to save us. We shall see Him. “We look for the Savior the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our body of humiliation” the consummation of all that now by faith we are called to realize in our walk down here from day to day. He is a perfect Savior! He is going to have us in the glory with Him forever! What glad worshipping hearts should now be ours!
But then, what is principally before my mind is the Lord as the perfect Servant. Psalm 50 takes us back to the eternity behind us. Not many O.T. scriptures do this. This one does. He speaks in eternity, that is, before time began. Heb. 10 takes up the words and explains them for us. The highest point of the Psalms is very frequently found at the commencement, and so here—the Lord Jesus raised out of death. He does all the work, but we are joined with Him in the new song. “Mine ears hast thou digged” (ver. 6, margin). Would that we could speak better of this all-glorious Person! The Son of God became the Son of man. He had always commanded before, there was no claim on His obedience. If He took the place of a servant, He did it voluntarily. The Spirit of God is so jealous of the person of the Lord Jesus that nothing is more sedulously guarded.
If He takes the place of a servant, you get, in juxtaposition, His divine glory also. In John 13 you get in symbolic language what Phil. 2 plainly declares. He “who thought it not robbery to be equal with God,” who “made himself of no reputation,” is presented by the Evangelist as “laying aside His garments” —not indeed His deity, but His glory—He humbled Himself. And in wondrous, wondrous grace took the place of a servant —He “took a towel, and girded himself.”
Man at creation was “very good,” innocent, capable of falling. He had no “free will” as men speak. He was capable of being disobedient, but not “free” to be so. All mankind since have been born in sin—humanity fallen. But in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ there is the contrast. He is the Holy One. “That holy thing that shall be born” (Luke 2:88And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. (Luke 2:8)). The demons knew and acknowledged Him as the “Holy One of God,” and the Lord Jesus spoke of Himself thus, in His going down to death, in Ps. 16, “Thou wilt not suffer thine holy One to see corruption.” He is the only One who lived here on earth in spotless perfection. He never had to retract a single word, or retrace a single step, during those thirty years. After this, at His baptism, we have the Father's appreciation of that perfect life spent in private; and again at the end of His ministry, on the mountain when He was transfigured, “This is my beloved Son.”
Here the Lord is seen in the glory—His rightful place; the place due to Him. Yet unless He go into death, He abideth alone. He comes down, and His path leads to the cross. God has saved us to be a joy to His Son forever. In John 17 He says, “The glory that thou gavest me, I have given them.”
Here is the Holy One perfect in dependence. From His birth prepared His Father's business to do. Then in Ps. 40:9, “I have preached righteousness in the great congregation.” Where is the great congregation found? When the males of Israel appeared before Jehovah three times a year. So also the Lord appeared, for it became Him to fulfill all righteousness, and He gave out what the Father gave to Him. “And he said, Ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth.” This is how He was treated in “the great congregation.”
It does delight my heart to think of a Man tried as we are—sin excepted. Paul says, “I know nothing against myself” (1 Cor. 4:44For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. (1 Corinthians 4:4)). He knew of no unfaithfulness in his stewardship. He was willing to endure all things for the elect's sake. Still his judgment was not perfect, and he could say it was a small thing to be judged by man's day. Ver. 10, “I have not hid thy righteousness,” etc. No, blessed perfect Servant! His were acts of perfect obedience. Oh, that our hearts may be more bowed in worship as we contemplate Him!
“I clothe the heavens,” etc. (ver. 3)—a divine person speaking. “The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned,” etc. (ver. 4). Marvelous! The Lord a learner! He learned obedience by the things He suffered. He has a tender heart towards those who are His suffering members here. How did He get “the tongue of the learned"? We are apt to become weary because of the way; but oh! we little think of the wonderful interest the Lord has in His suffering members. “That ye sin not” is the standard of a Christian. One may say, “I cannot help it.” Yet the standard is “that ye sin not.” And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous. What then? When we confess, does He then in death take up our cause? No, “we have an Advocate” (Paraclete) on high—the Righteous One—and we have the Comforter (Paraclete) below within us. That is John 13 again. We are passing through a defiling scene. But here in Isa. 1 (ver. 4), the Lord, the perfect Servant, is here on earth. Oh, how blessed to think of the Lord as the One of whom, above all others, it could be said, “By the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer” (Psa. 17:44Concerning the works of men, by the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer. (Psalm 17:4)).
Ver. 5. “I was not rebellious,” etc.—in contrast to all others, who have gone astray, and are self-pleasers, so unlike the Lord who did the will of Him that sent Him.
Ver. 6. “I gave my back to the smiters” solemn word! In the history of the world there are three instances where the devil is allowed to act without restraint. The first was when the Lord put Himself in their hands— “This is your hour and the power of darkness.” The next time will be when the devil, cast out of heaven, leads the armies of Christendom against Christ. Then again, after the millennium, the last great storm. And then!—never another! For heaven and earth will have passed away, and a new heaven and a new earth have taken their place, and righteousness dwells eternally.
There are three things we look for— “that blessed hope,” “the appearing of the great God and our Savior,” and “a new heaven and a new earth.”
It is like walking along, when we see a mountain peak, and another, and yet another; but we do not see the valleys between. There is a valley of a shorter period of time of which the “seven years” of Daniel, etc., form a part, between the first two peaks, and another of a much longer period, i.e. of a thousand years, between the last two.
“I gave my back to the smiters.” They could not touch Him till He permitted them. He was going to have the joy of carrying out the perfect will of God; to say, “I have finished the work thou gavest me to do.” In this chapter we have had the opened ear, following the digged ear; now we have the bored ear in Ex. 21 Six days are man's working time; so six years of labor are followed by the Sabbatic year. Here we have the perfect period of service, and the Holy Spirit had before Him the perfect Servant. Ah, but let us see what love does! Wonderful love to come here, to go on here; but, oh! what have we in vers. 3-5? “I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free.” Does it not remind us of Eph. 5, “Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it"? Oh, that every one could say: “Lord, we own with hearts adoring, Thou hast loved us unto blood: Glory, glory, everlasting, Be to Thee, Thou Lamb of God!” Why not “go out free"? Love delights to serve, and where true love is, it will serve. Now He says, “He shall serve him forever” (ver. 6). How that blessed One will be the servant forever! That links us up where we began in John 13. Nourishing and cherishing now His church, in perfect loving service, He desires to have us in uninterrupted communion with Himself; and if it is interrupted He is ready to restore us. But He is our Example. We should love one another as He hath loved us. Love one another in Christ; see each other in Christ, and love as He loved us. That love will manifest itself as He said to Peter, “Feed my lambs"; “Shepherd my sheep.” That is the way to show love—to be marked by unselfishness, and intense desire to serve those He loves so well. May that love constrain us! It is an easy thing to knock down and wound a man, and it is a good thing to be faithful; but we want to help one another. There is a good deal of correspondence between the Lord here, and our own days. “If any man serve me let him follow me.” J. A. T.