I was asked to speak at my church youth group about Jesus as a Servant. To be honest, although I knew the phrase “Jesus came to serve not to be served”, probably mainly through having heard and played Graham Kendrick’s The Servant King, I had never really though about it much.
I understand to worship Jesus as God, I know to come under the authority and protection of Jesus as King, I know that Jesus as Man understands me, my life, and has grace for me. But I have never considered whether or not I actually let Jesus as Servant, serve me?
These four characteristics of Jesus, God, King, Man, Servant are often associated with each of the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), with each Evangelist (Gospel writer) writing about Jesus from the perspective of a different one of His characteristics. However, different people seem to associate different Gospels with different characteristics [Wikipedia, Joseph Prince, etc].
(Of additional interest, each of the characteristics and each gospel writer, is also associated with an animal – Eagle (God), Lion (King), Ox (Servant), Man (Man). These animals appear a number of times throughout the Bible [Ezekiel 1:10, Revelation 4:7]. Also in Jewish history [Garland 4.7.2], the Camp of Israel described in the book of Numbers may have used these animals on their banners.)
However, regarding Jesus as Servant, let us first look at the biblical reference to this. Jesus himself emphasised it to the disciples [Matthew 20:26-28],
whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve
referring to himself as “the Son of Man” He claimed that He came to serve not be served. Also in [Luke 22:27],
For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.
Jesus states that He is among the disciples (and us) as one who serves.
At the evening meal just before passover, as recorded in [John 13:2-5 & 13-16], Jesus famously washes His disciples feet. Taking the role of a house slave or servant, Jesus washes and dries the feet of each disciple. The significance of this is probably lost slightly in today’s western society, although we still think a foot wash and massage is very pleasant. At this time in history people walked all day in sandals on hot dusty roads, and it was customary [Wikipedia] to offer a guest water for washing their feet.
A modern-day parallel might be imagined where, when you arrive at a friend’s birthday party, the birthday boy (or girl) washes your car for you. Or maybe they have asked you to a high class restaurant to celebrate and it is the birthday person (rather than a waiter/waitress) who serves the table bringing you menus, food, and perhaps a hand washing bowl.
The two parables told by Jesus from [Luke 14:8-14] imply that putting others before yourself and not giving to or serving those who will repay in kind is the approach He would want people to take.
Not forgetting, of course, the many acts of service actually performed by Jesus – healing, other miracles, teaching, and the biggest act of service of them all – paying the consequences of our bad choices by dying on the cross.
Jesus clearly came to serve. He clearly served whilst physically among us, and clearly emphasised and taught that we should serve each other.
Servanthood is not only a New Testament idea; King David, of Old Testament renown, wrote many of the Psalms, in which he frequently refers to himself as a servant and elsewhere is referred to as a man after Gods own heart – despite the many mistakes he seemed to make in his life.
There are many other examples of people serving in Old and New Testament writings. Even in our current modern-day life, many people talk of themselves as serving, in the police or fire service, in the military, in politics etc. But as Joseph Prince states, all these people have flaws. There is only one perfect servant – Jesus – and it is from Him that we should take our example. As implied in [John 13:3],
It is only those people who truly know that they have everything from God, and who understand their importance to God, that are able to stoop down and perfectly serve – serving out of the overflow of their revelation regarding Gods love for them.
This is how Jesus served during His time among us. Given His resurrection and the consistency of God, this must be how He still desires to serve us. He still wants and is able to serve me, teaching me, healing me, and providing for my needs. His payment for the cost of my ongoing mistakes still stands (His original payment on the cross stands for all people for all time).
So in addition to obeying His asking of us to serve one another, I really should allow Him to serve me and enjoy His gift of service.