The Sword and the Servants Knot
By Keith Harms
Pastor of livingWORD Assembly of God-Delavan, Wisconsin
Summary: Servanthoood and the Sword of the Spirit go hand in hand
This is an article written for our local newspaper
2 Samuel 23:9-10: John 13:4-5
I have over many years developed my perception of Christian responsibility toward God, His Church and the unsaved of our community and the world. Before moving to Delavan, I ministered under the mentoring of David Applegate, a pastor in Illinois who quickly became one of my best friends. Although I had already put to practice my understanding of Christian duty, this man of God put names to the responsibilities that have indeed helped me share my awareness with others. Terms like “Doing Life Together,” from Dietrich Bonhoeffer and others like, “On Your Sword for the Church” and “Tying the Servant’s Knot” have become important phrases in my Christian walk.
The sword and the servant’s knot are items that in the natural world were probably never possessed by the same person. A servant, especially one so lowly that their work required the menial task of washing feet would never have the wealth necessary to own a sword. In fact at one point in history it would have been illegal for the servant/slave to own such a weapon. But today they represent instruments that every Christian must own and utilize in their daily walk for God Almighty. Each, if explained in detail, would require much more column space than allowed here today. Still, follow along as I “put to pen” a few strands of thoughts concerning our sword and our servant’s knot.
First is the sword – a mighty weapon used both in offence and defense. Second Samuel 23:9,10 tell the story of one of the mighty men of David named Eleazar. Verse ten reads, “He arose, and smote the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand clave unto the sword: and the LORD wrought a great victory that day; and the people returned after him only to spoil.” (KJV)
Webster defines clave as something that adheres, clings or sticks. In fact, the second definition for cleave is “to divide by or as if by a cutting blow – to tear or to split.” So here we see Eleazar, the entire Israelite army had turned tail and ran yet Eleazar went out to battle. He engages in battle until he is weary, too tired to continue, still he presses on – on until the enemy is conquered and the Israelite army returns for the spoil. Besides collecting the spoil, my mind pictures one more thing Eleazar’s friends had to do. The Bible says the Eleazar’s hand, and his sword became one that day. He had fought the battle so long that try as he might, he could not make his hand muscles let loose of his sword. In my mind, Eleazar’s friends had to physically pull his fingers away from the sword and tear it free.
Being “On Your Sword for the Church” means taking lessons from Eleazar. Statistics tell us that every week seventy-two churches close their doors forever in the United States. God’s army has plenty of ‘fair weather” soldiers. God needs present day “Eleazar’s.” It’s better to work together, fighting along fellow soldiers, but when no one else comes along side to fight we must be willing to fight alone.
One more look at the sword before moving on. Asked, “What is the Christian’s sword?” most would tell you the spiritual sword of the Christian is the Bible. To this answer I would not be able to totally disagree. But let me tweak that thought just a bit. The Christian’s sword is “the WORD of God.” Yes the Bible is the WORD of God but it is the WORD not the physical book that is our sword. Though I’m a pastor, I don’t carry my Bible everywhere I go. When I run into the grocery store I seldom, if ever, have my Bible in my hand. But the store checkout line is a ripe field waiting for the Christian to harvest. I’m told that of the approximate five million people living in Wisconsin only a bit more than forty percent are Christian. When you stand in the checkout line chances are pretty good that if the person in front of you goes to church the person behind you does not. If God’s sword, His WORD, is home in your bookshelf and not in your heart, you may loose a battle God intended you to win. Martyred Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it best, “What God did to us, we owe to others.” Being on your sword for your church means sharing Jesus with a lost, unsaved world.
The sword is our weapon, however I seldom find people that want to get stabbed. That’s where a lesson on the “Servant’s Knot” comes into play. The lesson is found in John chapter thirteen. The teacher is Jesus, the pupils are the twelve disciples. The classroom is the Last Supper. Jesus and His disciples are seated around the table. Supper has already begun when Jesus stands, removes his garments and with a servant’s knot ties a towel around His waste. We all know what comes next. Jesus washes the disciples’ feet! We quickly agree that the task was below His exalted estate, but let’s discover some facts about foot-washing during this time.
Bathing was often done in a common bathhouse. A person would go bathe and although he would be clean the walk home in sandals would leave his feet covered in sand. After taking the trouble of bathing, who wants to have dirty feet! So, inside the door would be a basin and a servant’s towel. But to the Israelite, foot-washing was such a degrading act that only the lowest of slave could do it. In fact, Hebrew slaves could not be required to perform the task so it was usually left to a Gentile slave. So we see Jesus, dressed like a servant/slave, doing something below even a slave’s dignity.
The act of washing His disciples’ feet was our Lord’s way of showing them (and us) how much He loved them. Remember how people remarked as they saw Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus, “Look how much He loved him!” I think John is saying to his readers, “Look how much He loved us!”
With the object lesson completed, Jesus sits down and explains. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and do so correctly, for that is what I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you too ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example: you should do just as I have done for you.” I’ve been to foot-washing services, but I don’t think that’s what Jesus is telling us to do. He is telling us to humbly love one another. Holding your sword while wearing the servant’s knotted towel is how we will reach the lost world of Walworth county, our country and God’s world for Jesus.
I ran across this Eleanor Rosevelt quote, “Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.” I encourage you to be “On Your Sword for the Church” and wear the “Servant’s Knot,” leaving footprints of friendship in the hearts of those you share Jesus with.
Every good lesson must have a conclusion. Jesus said it best in John 13:17 – “If you understand these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”
Supporting Text –
2 Samuel 23:9-10 9 And next to him among the three mighty men was Eleazar the son of Dodo, son of Ahohi. He was with David when they defied the Philistines who were gathered there for battle, and the men of Israel withdrew. 10 He rose and struck down the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand clung to the sword. And the Lord brought about a great victory that day, and the men returned after him only to strip the slain.
John 13:4-5 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.