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Jesus The Servant And Our Role As A Servant

  • The Word Servant
  • The Status Of Servants
  • The Ultimate Servant
  • The First Will Be Last
  • From Servants To Friends
  • The Servant Song
  • The Preparation
  • Called Of God
  • The Least, The Last And The Lost

  • The Holy Spirit And Power
  • Not A Man Pleaser
  • Loving But Firm
  • Suffering Love
  • Never Give Up
  • God’s Sustaining Grace
  • The Servant's Service And Sacrifice
  • Feet Washing

  • The Word Servant

    In the West many would say that servant hood is out of date, and only the very rich and famous have people serving them constantly.

    In Victorian England, a vast population of citizens were employed as servants, maids and butlers; some were treated well and others were treated poorly. Generally speaking servants were looked upon simply as people employed to undertake a task. But each believer is called to be a servant, and God’s view of a Christian servant is very different from that of man’s view.

    The late nineteenth century missionary C.T. Studd, who gave up his fame as a cricketer and a huge inheritance once said, “I’d far sooner save one soul than be Queen Victoria.” Bear in mind that she was the most powerful person in the world in her day (as the British Empire was at its peak), yet C.T. left his familiar surroundings and comfortable lifestyle to serve the people of China, India and finally Africa - he gave his life for others in the cause of Christ.


    The Status Of Servants

    The role of a servant in the nineteenth century was not necessarily a demeaning one. They could be the chief butler to a member of nobility or even royalty, which would make their position of very high standing in comparison to some.

    In the Bible, Nehemiah was the cupbearer of the world ruler of his day and this position helped him to get the job of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem - with much divine and natural favour from those in power.

    In late nineteenth century Russia, the fatter a servant was the greater social standing and seemingly apparent wealth his master had. If the master could afford to overfeed his servant, then he himself must have extravagant wealth and lived an opulent life.

    Many countries today call their chief political leader ‘First Minister’ (which literally means first servant) or ‘Prime Minister.’ Any true leader will serve the people, whether it is a nation or an organisation. The leader is not to be a dictator or a tyrannical ruler, but one who wants the best for the people and is willing to make hard decisions when the need arises. In God’s eyes those who are ‘first’ in the kingdom are not those who have the greatest number of servants, but those who serve the greatest number.


    The Ultimate Servant

    Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was the ultimate servant. He came to seek and to save that which was lost. He came to reconcile man back to God. Even as a great teacher with many followers, He was still prepared to take off His outer garment and to wash His closest disciples' feet, which was a shock to them all.

    Often the disciples wanted to know “Who is the greatest?” or “Can we sit on your left and right hand in heaven?” Humility was not on their lips and so not in their hearts.

    Jesus humbled Himself and gave up His power as the Son of God and came to earth in human form; He was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the virgin Mary’s womb. He left His familiar surroundings of heaven, to come and identify with fallen man.

    A real servant will never ask his master “What can you do for me?” but “What can I do for you?” In the army there is a common saying that when the superior officer says to his subordinate “When I say jump, you jump. And when you are half way up you say, “How high?”” The higher rank calls the shots and not the other way round. Those of us who have enlisted into God’s army need to remember this; God is in charge and we must obey His call even if we have to go over the top and into battle with no guarantee of a safe return.


    The First Will Be Last

    Man often looks at power and prestige but in unable to relate to the idea of servant hood. The common perception is; to get to the top is to step on those who are beneath you. It’s a dog eat dog world mentality; but this is not God’s way. ‘The first will be last and the last will be first.’

    Often God’s way does not appear logical; but as He is God then He must know the best way- we just have to follow. Jesus trod the path of humility and servant hood and achieved the greatest act the world has ever seen. He lived for God’s ‘will to be done…here on earth as it is in heaven.’ Jesus lived, and then died for sinful mankind upon the cruel agonizing cross of Calvary and after three days rose again, gloriously and triumphantly. Jesus bridged the gap between fallen man and God, so that ‘whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’


    From Servants To Friends

    Servant hood like many Christian principles such as sacrifice, self-control, commitment to God and full surrender may at first appear unappealing, and perhaps that is only natural at first sight. But if Jesus is not Lord of all, then He is not Lord at all!

    If we desire to become real disciples and servants of God, then we have to abide and play by His rules and not our own. Jesus never lost sight of where He came from and where He was heading and neither must we.

    Jesus is the only perfect Servant and He was not forced into that role- it was one He freely chose. We too like Abraham, have that choice. Abraham was a servant of God due to his obedience, sacrifice and loyal service to the Master and later he was called a ‘friend of God’ Isaiah 41:8. Likewise the twelve disciples of Jesus, who had been enrolled in Jesus’ college of everyday life, graduated from being servants to friends due to their obedience, John 15:14-15.

    If we love Jesus then naturally we will want to obey Him, John 14:15, 24. We know and realise that without Him, we can do nothing of eternal value, and our desire needs to be, to do the will of our heavenly Father, John 5:19, 30.


    The Servant Song

    The theme of Isaiah is servant hood as it applies to God’s people. Isaiah troubles to answer this question, ‘How can a sinful people become God’s servants?’ Israel was supposed to be a ‘Light to the gentiles’ Genesis 12:1-3 and Isaiah 41:8-10, but at times seemed worse than those who once possessed the land of Canaan.

    In prophesying the coming of Jesus Christ, Isaiah reveals what will happen to Him and His servant life Isaiah 42:1-4, Isaiah 49:1-6, Isaiah 50:4-9 and Isaiah 52:13-53:12.

    The promised Messiah did arrive in the person of Jesus. It was the early believers who were responsible to tell the world that we are ‘Justified by faith’ and the early servant disciples went forth in obedience to the great commission. They followed the example of Jesus, the first great servant.


    The Preparation

    No one should be born into the life of servant hood - it is something that has to be agreed to, and worked towards - and the preparation is often done in obscurity.

    The best leaders are those who have learnt to serve others before they have come to prominence. Jesus had thirty years of training and preparation; Moses spent the best part of forty years on the backside of the desert before he was able to lead Israel into freedom. David the shepherd boy spent years with the flock before becoming King and even when Samuel had anointed him as a young man, he still looked after the sheep before being promoted to serve at the court of King Saul.

    Elisha served the prophet Elijah for twelve years before he was released with power and an intense anointing. “Excellence in any department can be attained only by the labour of a lifetime; it is not to be purchased at a lesser price” (Samuel Johnson, lexicographer, 1709-1784).


    Called Of God

    A true servant is not self imposing or self promoting, but is called and commended by God and approved of Him to do certain works in arenas which have been pre-planned by Himself, 2 Corinthians 10:18 and Ephesians 2:10.

    True servants will want to do the will of His Father and the hidden years will serve to give them a better foothold on the Rock of Christ. When criticism comes, they will be able to stand strong, because they delight to do His will.

    Jesus was often criticised by the religious rulers of the day for the methods that he used and even for the day of the week in which he performed-changing miracles. The rulers wanted to know what right he had to do these works. They scoffed at his humble upbringing and deemed him uneducated, but as always, the common people heard Him gladly.

    Jesus did not come to those who thought that they were ok, but He came to those who knew that they were not. Jesus said “The healthy do not need a doctor, but only those who are sick; I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”


    The Least, The Last And The Lost

    Jesus as a Servant bridged the divide between the clean and the unclean, the young and the old; perhaps today we could call it the former class system, caste or the social divide which hinders movement or fellowship between the same cultural group of the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-not.’

    Jesus as a Servant could easily mingle with the educated or the uneducated, the able bodied and the disabled, the rich and the poor, and impart His wisdom to them.

    Jesus did not judge the dysfunctional outcasts of His day like the lepers, the woman caught in adultery or the Samaritan lady at the well, but showed them the true way to go; the true way to God and in doing so restored their dignity and self worth.

    It has been said that Jesus was interested in three classes of people: the least, the last and the lost. In the eyes of man many individuals may not appear to be worth much, but in the eyes of God we are all special: God has no favourites and does not show partiality.

    Jesus saw the possibilities in the weakest and potential goodness in the worst. While Jesus was denounced for inviting Himself to eat at Zacchaeus house, He knew that the dishonest tax collector would get converted, make restitution and follow Him and in doing so become a true son of Abraham, Luke 19:1-10.


    The Holy Spirit And Power

    Jesus, whilst on the earth and clothed in human flesh, spent thirty years of His life training for His ministry that lasted just over three years. To be a real servant you have to be trained in the everyday trials of life and often that is not easy.

    Jesus before He could start, needed to be empowered from on high with the Holy Spirit, Matthew 3:13-17 and Luke 3:21-22. Jesus knew the importance of the work of the Holy Spirit and after his resurrection He told the disciples to “Wait until they were endued with power from on high” Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:8. If we do not have the Holy Spirit we will be very ineffective and will be striving in our own strength to do His work.


    Not A Man Pleaser

    Jesus as the Servant did not want to be in the limelight or even under a spot light; often he moved by stealth, healing people here and there and slipping away from the crowds. On many occasions He told those who were healed “Tell no-one” and at other times those who were healed did not even know the name of the person who had healed them, John 5:12-13.

    Jesus did not seek man’s approval as He knew what was in man; many followed Jesus just for the thrill and excitement and some because they got free food, but when the cost of discipleship was realised, many fell away and followed Jesus no more, John 6:24-66.

    Jesus would say to us today “Beware of men…” and “Beware when all men speak well of you” Matthew 10:17 and Luke 6:26 and remember to be like the child Jesus, who said, “I must be about my Father's business” Luke 2:49.


    Loving But Firm

    A true servant like Jesus will be loving but firm, gentle, kind, tactful and speak the truth in love using wisdom. Jesus was sensitive to people's needs, but also ready to challenge them “Do you want to be made well?” “What do you want me to do?” You cannot help those who refuse to be helped, but in saying this, we should not be deterred by the fragility and faltering faith of those who we seek to reach out to.

    Often a servant will be taken advantage of and this can be a hard thing to swallow, we may have to ‘go the extra mile.’ When dealing with broken and dejected people, we need to tread carefully, lest we damage the freshly fallen, pure and unique snowflake that is on their path. Sometimes time is paramount, as with the snowflake, it can only stay around for a certain amount of time before it melts and then evaporates.


    Suffering Love

    As servants we need to remain vulnerable and open hearted without being totally crushed or disheartened. Jesus knew that the cross awaited Him, but He set out resolutely and steadfastly towards Jerusalem, Luke 9:51-56.

    Jesus learnt obedience by the things, which He suffered, Hebrews 5:8. Jesus was mocked, ridiculed, looked down upon, frowned upon and was even called the chief of demons “Beelzebub” because he set people free from demonic powers Mark 3:22.

    Love makes servants vulnerable, the greater the sensitivity you have towards God, the greater the capacity you will have to endure suffering; and the lower your ideals, the less likely you will be disappointed, knowing that men do let each other down.

    John Ruskin, author, art critic, and social reformer (1819-1900) said, “I believe that the first test of a truly great man is his humility. I do not mean by humility, doubt of his own powers, but really great men have a curious feeling that the greatness is not in them, but through them. And they see something divine in every other man and are endlessly, foolishly, incredibly merciful.”


    Never Give Up

    Twice Prime Minister of Britain, Winston Churchill, a man of destiny, arrived very late to a meeting of graduating students and said, “I have only a minute to speak to you...never give up. Never give up. Never, never, never give up!”

    Every one stood up and gave Him a standing ovation - knowing what He had gone through himself, especially as the Prime Minister during the Second World War during Britain’s darkest hour.

    We have to run the race with joy, pacing ourselves so that we will be able to finish and then receive a full reward for our labours. Many servants of God have gone to distant lands and are despised by the people whom they have served. In China the foreigners were called ‘foreign devils.’ Hudson Taylor said “For five years we could not go out of our home without receiving abuse from our neighbours.”


    God’s Sustaining Grace

    Jesus said “Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls, for My yoke is easy and my burden light”, Matthew 11:28-30.

    Things around us can be really bad, but when we are next to the Lord, then He will give us the grace and the strength to go on. When we are weak, then we are strong - because we draw from His resources knowing that ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ Philippians 4:13. As the apostle Paul affirmed ‘I also labour, striving according to His working which works in me mightily’ Colossians 1:29.


    The Servant's Service And Sacrifice

    When Jesus the Servant was on the earth, He did not line up with the common view of what the Messiah or the ‘King of the Jews’ should be like. Jesus did not overthrow the Roman Empire and set His nation free, yet He did something far more important than that, He conquered sin and defeated death.

    Success for the Servant Jesus was to fulfil His mission in His allotted time frame here on earth, to obey the Father and to serve mankind by being the sacrificial ‘Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ John 1:29. Jesus said, “…Whoever desires to be great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” Mark 10:43-45.

    If you desire to be a real servant of God, then you will need to follow in the Masters footsteps - by obeying Him and delighting to do His will.


    Feet Washing

    Jesus in John 13:1-17 washed the disciple’s feet. This was a great act of love and humility - even though He was their teacher, He was prepared to humble Himself and do the most menial of tasks.

    Jesus said, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you…a servant is not greater than his master, nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, happy are you if you do them.”

    The moral of that story is that if you want to get to the top in God’s eyes, then you have to start at the bottom, without forgetting where you come from. If you ever reach the top, be humble enough to act when the need arises as if you were still at the bottom. Always treat people with the greatest respect and dignity, remembering ‘Whatever you do for the least of these’ you do as unto God Himself - who will richly reward all those who have followed faithfully along the way, and who have completed the race with joy, in His strength.


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