Rolled Up Sleeve - Living An Authentic Life

March 22, 2008 Galatians 2:20


Galatians 2:20

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

James McGuiggan is a writer from Northern Ireland whose books have challenged my life. He wrote a book called Jesus, Hero of Thy Soul in which he says,

"Having seen Jesus, knowing how He has lived His life here, we can't settle for less than a genuine pursuit of His likeness. His very presence among us forbids us from being just 'nice'people who do 'nice' things. . . . The bland leading the bland, both falling into a 'nice' rut."

That statement is a wonderful introduction to the theme of this lesson: how we live our life in this world.

For many people, the only human image or likeness of Jesus Christ may be you or me. Therefore, it matters how close our lives manifest His.

John 13-17 constitutes the Upper Room Discourse, the last extended teachings and conversation Jesus had with His disciples before His crucifixion. His public ministry is over and He is conveying things that were only for the ears of His disciples.

Part of Jesus' teaching in John 13:1-8 was acted out by Him in a drama of sorts-a live demonstration of what it means to roll up one's sleeves and serve others. That is the message we must take into the world if people are going to see Jesus when they see us.

A Persuasive Initiative for Rolled-Up Sleeves

  1. Love was at the center of Jesus' serving His disciples-at the center of everything He did. He "loved His own. . . to the end" (John 13:1).

John 13:1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.

  1. If we are going to serve others, our motivation must be the same as His: love.
  2. "To the end" is a Greek expression that refers not to time but to extent. Jesus loved His disciples with the full extent of His love; He loved them to the uttermost He loved them unconditionally.

Love is a central theme in the gospel of John. The majority of the uses of the word "love" in the New Testament come from the pen of the apostle John. And it is fitting that love introduces the Upper Room Discourse in John 13:1 and concludes it in John l7:26. Perhaps the most famous of Jesus' words on love are in the context of the "new commandment" He gave the disciples to "love one another" (John 13:34-35).

  1. Loving one another is not easy-some have called it the hardest from people who make themselves unlovable by their behavior or attitudes.
  2. Regardless, we are called to roll up the sleeves of our heart and love them anyway with a Christ-kind of love.
  3. In the Upper Room, Jesus washed the feet of Peter who denied Him three times, and Judas, who betrayed Him. That is the model we are to follow
  4. When we ask "How?" the answer is "as I have loved you" John 13:34).
  5. The "love of God" that "has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit" is the source of our love for others

Romans 5:5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

  1. It is not we who love, but Christ who loves in and through us.

Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

There's a movie called The Princess Bride in which the fair maiden Buttercup, has a servant named Wesley. Whenever she asks him to do anything for her, his reply is always the same: "As you wish; as you wish." One day she discovers that when Wesley says, "As you wish" what he really means is, "I love you."

And that's the way it is with Jesus and His followers. When we say, “As you wish" out of obedience as servants of Christ, we are saying, "I love You, Lord." When we love Him, we are motivated to love others as He has loved us

Some PracticalInsights About Rolled-Up Sleeves

Service to others will accomplish good for the person(s) served, but it will accomplish two things in your life as well.

  1. Rolled-Up Sleeves Will Test Your Authenticity

In John 12:36, there is an interesting sentence:

"These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them."

  1. The point is that Jesus left the public eye and went into seclusion with His disciples in the Upper Room.
    1. He didn't wash the disciples' feet on national television;
    2. He didn't hold a press conference to announce what He was doing.
    3. Serving His disciples outside the public's view was a testimony to the authenticity of the act.
  2. There is nothing wrong with letting others see our good works:

Matthew 5:1-6 When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

  1. The point is that we are not to do them for that reason.

Matthew 6:1-8 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. “But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. “So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.

  1. We can get our reward from men or from God.
    1. If we seek to get our reward from men by doing our good works in their sight there will be no reward from God.
    2. We can have our reward now or have it later, and the choice we make will reveal the authenticity of our service for God.
  2. Rolled-Up Sleeves Will Teach You Humility
    1. The second thing that true service will do is teach us humility.
      1. John the apostle tells us that Jesus knew:

"the Father had given all things into His hands" and that He was "going to God" (John 13:3).

  1. Yet He was the one who stooped down to take on the role of a servant and wash His disciples' feet.
  2. His humility is contrasted plainly with the disciples' behavior during that last Passover meal
  3. They were engaged in a "dispute" among themselves as to which of them was the greatest (Luke22:24).

Luke 22:24And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest.

  1. Can you imagine? The disciples were there to share a meal with the greatest person on earth who was about to wash their feet as an act of humble service-and they were arguing about who among them was the greatest!
  2. The Bible tells us were to be clothed with humility

Colossians 3:12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;

Someone has written

"If most believers of this generation were clothed in their own humility, they would be arrested for indecent exposure."

Samuel Logan Brengle was a Methodist minister who left a busy pastorate to join the Salvation Army in England in 1878; William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, almost wouldn't accept him into the corps saying, "You've been your own boss too long” To test Brengle's humility, Booth assigned him the task of polishing the other trainees boots. Later, telling his own story Brengle said he wondered, "Have I followed my own fancy across the Atlantic in order to black boots?' And then, as in a vision he saw Jesus bending over the feet of rough unlettered fisherman washing their feet. "Lord," he cried out in his heart, "You washed their feet I'11 black their boots."

  1. In the eyes of Jesus, the way down is the way up. True greatness only comes on the heels of true humility. I remember having thoughts akin to those of Brengle when I pastored my first church. (David Jeremiah’s personal example)

The seven families that constituted our church met in two doublewide trailers. I arrived in the winter and discovered I was not only expected to be the pastor but the plumber as well. Lying under those trailers wrapping the water pipes so they wouldn't freeze and break, I remember thinking, "Lord, is this why I spent four years in seminary-to do this?" And His answer was a simple, "Yes-that and more."

  1. All of us have to learn that humility is a prerequisite to true service. And, in due course, God gives all who follow Jesus the opportunity to learn that lesson.

A Powerful Illustration of Rolled-Up Sleeves

In verses 4-5,we have the powerful illustration of Jesus' humble service:

John 13:4-5 got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.

It was the custom in that day for dinner guests to recline on the floor around a low table, or a spread of vessels of food placed on the floor. So the disciples' feet would not have been under a table as they would be in a modem dining setting. Jesus took the basin of water and towel and began to go around the perimeter of where they were reclining, washing the feet of each in turn-the work of the lowest slave in a household.

  1. The disciples understood the role Jesus was taking role washing the dust of the streets off their feet. The One they called Master and Teacher and Lord was doing something they themselves had never and probably would never, have done for each other.
  2. After Jesus finished His humble task, He sat down among them and asked them a question-a question that leads us to some applications for our life from what He did:

"Do you know what I have done to you?" (verse 12)

Some PersonalInstructionsConcerning Rolled-Up Sleeves

There are three insights to be gleaned from Jesus' demonstration to His disciples, insights we must understand if we are to roll up our sleeves in this world as He did.

  1. Knowledge Produces Accountability
    1. Verses 12 through 14 teach us that our knowledge of something produces accountability.
      1. The word "ought" near the end of verse 14 is a key word in this point

"You also ought to wash one another's feet."

  1. The knowledge of who Jesus was and who they were, and the fact that He washed their feet in spite of the gulf that separated them, made them accountable to do the same for each other.
  2. Example increases Responsibility
    1. In verses 15-16, Jesus takes it a step farther:

"For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him."

  1. His disciples would never be able to say they didn't know how or what to do in terms of service. They had seen the ultimate example of humility before their very eyes and were therefore responsible to do the same.
  2. Obedience Determines Authenticity
    1. The key to the issue of humble service is in verse 17:

"If you know these things [the things I have taught you by washing your feet], blessed are you if you do them." Jesus didn't say, "Blessed are you if you think about them, marvel at them, talk about them after I'm gone, or tell your grandchildren about them." He said, "Blessed are you if you do them."

  1. Blessedness in the Christian life comes from obedience.
    1. Authenticity comes from following the steps and commands of Jesus.
    2. How will the world get an authentic picture of Jesus if we, His followers, do not do the things He did-and told us to do? It's easy to get a vicarious blessing out of reading a story like this one, and there's nothing wrong with that.
    3. But if we stop there, we will miss the greater blessing that comes from doing what Jesus said to do.
  2. Much of modem societies' energy is spent in the pursuit of happiness. But the longer I walk with the Lord, the more I realize that happiness isn't found in pursuing it. Happiness is a by-product, so to speak of obedience to God. Blessedness (happiness) comes from God when we align ourselves with Him and His plan for our life-and part of that plan is being an ambassador for Jesus Christ (Ephesians 6:20), revealing His life to the world.

Ephesians 6:20for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

  1. Part of revealing Christ to the world is the responsibility to be a servant, just as He was.
  2. And it is in serving others that happiness is found. What could provide a greater blessing than meeting the needs of others-especially those who have no way to make do for themselves or cannot repay your service. That's the way Jesus served and the way we are to serve as well.
    1. The story of Jesus' washing the disciples' feet can get under our skin; indeed, it should get under our skin!
  3. There's something contrary to human nature about serving other people in such a humbling manner. But that's the whole point, isn't it?
  4. There's nothing in this world that would motivate us to serve in such a manner.
  5. But if we are going to follow Jesus, we are going to have to be pricked and challenged and made uncomfortable. We are going to have to deny ourselves, like Jesus did, and experience the discomfort that comes when Jesus does things through us that we would not normally do ourselves. But then we get to enjoy the blessing that follows.


  1. Every Christian knows someone who needs a special touch from the Lord.
  2. You can probably think of someone right now in that category. Perhaps you passed someone this week with whom you didn't want to make eye contact because you knew they needed help and you felt too busy or to awkward to stop and offer a helping hand or word.
  3. What we learn from Jesus' example with His disciples is that we have to stop and help. Jesus said, "Blessed are you if you do [acts of service like I have just demonstrated to you."
  4. There may be someone in your neighborhood or a coworker who is going through a difficult time.
  5. It's difficult to reach out to people we don't know all that well.
  6. But think of the number of people Jesus served and helped who were complete strangers.
  7. All it takes is for us to get past our fears and reach out in order to find ourselves representing Jesus to the world.
  8. Take a look at your own sleeves today. Are they neatly starched and buttoned or are they rolled up, making your hands free to become the hands of Jesus to a hurting world?