Mark 10: 35-45 (Pentecost 22, 2015)
Do you know someone who bleeds servant leadership? Is there someone in your family, your work place, here at church that just stands out as one who leads so well because they humbly serve so willingly? You may all know someone like that. But we all know a Savior Like that!
The concept of “Servant” is not only what Jesus is teaching in this lesson today. It is what he came to earth from heaven to do for us. It is who he is. He is here to serve. For that same purpose he has placed us into this world. We are, like Christ, here to serve. Today we want to consider servant leadership: as it is modeled for us by Christ Jesus and as it is, God-willing, mirrored in our lives.
1. Modeled by Christ
Most people were comfortable with the word “Rabbi” when speaking to Jesus. It means teacher. We can think of several places where even the Pharisees called him Teacher, or Master, or Rabbi. I don’t recall anyone approaching Jesus with the term “Servant.” That would go against their natural understanding of who he was and why he came. Our natural approach to God is law based. We want someone to tell us what to do, teach what to say, train us how to think. That appeals to our sinful nature. The thought of Jesus teaching us what to be and how to live appeals to the thinking of humanity that there is something I can/ must to learn to get right with God and make it into heaven. Look back to the lesson before. You will find a young rich ruler asking “what must I do to get eternal life.” (Mark 1: 16). In is in the nature of us all.
James and John were only thinking of themselves. They were seeking their own interests. They were focused on how this “Kingdom” would benefit them personally. They had their own personal agenda and had no interest on how that agenda played out for anyone else. They saw discipleship with Jesus as a place for prestige and status. They were looking for recognition and glory in the wrong place.
Stop and check your own heart. Why do you do most of the things you do? To be noticed? To be praised by others? To keep up the false fronts we have all created? It is sad to think how very real this indignant fight is. It is sad to think how true to life our humanity affects our relationship with each other. How often we tend to be more like James and John with our own agendas! How often we bring our selfishness to the table of “Kingdom” work and think nothing of the needs or goals of anyone else! How bold and brass we are to bully our own agendas around and think nothing of the hurt or pain it would cause our own brothers and sisters in Christ. How quickly we become indignant like the other 10, as well. When we see our selfishness in the words and actions of others we rashly say, “How dare you care more about yourself than you care about me!”
We need Jesus to be more than a Teacher of the Law. We need him to be a Servant of the Gospel. As much as we need Jesus to teach us the truth about what he expects of us, we even more need him to be a Servant for us. We need him to fulfill the law of love and faithfulness. We need him to please God and take God’s wrath over our guilt upon his own shoulders. We need Jesus give his life, as the Ransom in our place.
And that is what he came to be. “The Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” We see Jesus turn James and John around. We see him turn the rich young ruler’s question around: “What do you want me to do for you?” The kingdom of heaven is first what Jesus does for us, before it is what we might do for him. Jesus is here to serve you in so many ways.
That is the picture of the upper room. There he washed their feet. There he served up wine and bread and his body and blood for their forgiveness. There he prayed on their behalf. There he watched and warned Judas. There he watched and warned Peter. There he prepared for his sacrificial death the next day. On his hands and feet, washing their feet, he showed himself to be the true Servant. The next day those serving hands and feet were nailed to a cross as the payment for our selfish desires. Jesus came to do for us what needed to be done for us: remove our sin through the payment for sin.
2. Mirrored by Us
It is also in that upper room where he says, “Now that I have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14). Servant life is what he teaches these wayward brothers. “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave.”
Christ, the Servant, makes servants out of us. Can you imagine the indignant 10 discussing the request of the other two? I think we can identify with the entire situation. What did these two do differently, or better, to even deserve the request of being at the right and left of Jesus in the kingdom? It shows their misunderstanding of the “Kingdom.” It shows their sinful pride. It shows their natural human desire to look better than everyone else. And that is not servant attitude. They had all begun to think and act like the world and the tension grew among the group.
But Christ says, “Not so with you.” He has made us something different from the power hungry ways of the world. He has made us hungry for grace. He has made us thirsty for the cup of suffering he drinks. He has served us with the ransomed sacrifice he made for the many. He has served us in Baptism and at his Holy Supper with food of forgiveness. He has served us with a new way of life, living by faith, rather than by sight. He has served us with a new attitude about life and each other. He has created us in himself to be servants. The Son of Man came to serve us. The servant heart of the Son of Man refashions us to be servants of others.
You are now mirroring that service in your lives. Husbands, love your wives with sacrificial love. Wives, respect and help your husbands as if you are doing it for the Lord (Ephesians 5). Children, obey your parents in the Lord (Ephesians 6). Offer your bodies as living sacrifices to the Lord in view of God’s mercy (Romans 12:1). Employees and employers, make servant leadership a joyful climate in your work place. Fellow brothers and sisters of our congregation, lead, follow, volunteer, seek the needs and good of others, swallow prideful desires for your own recognition, and serve. Serve as if you have been served by the Son of Man, because you have been. Serve as if you are serving Jesus himself, because you are. Christ’s servant attitude is not only our example for life. He is the reason and motive behind why we live like him and not like the world.
What a true joy it is in the Church when people replace selfishness with humility! What a joy it is to see people thinking of others before they think of their own needs! What great things happen when we approach each other in the Spirit of Christ’s own phrase “Not here to be served, but to serve.” What powerful changes take place when we are all interested in being Christ-like servants, rather than being the greatest!
What unity and joy there is when we are more interested in lifting others up than thumping our own chests. How wonderful when people jump in to help and see a whole project or event through, rather than wait for the exciting parts that get me noticed are happening. What a good thing when we all realize that we are here for the sake of others, rather than ourselves!
It all comes back to Christ saying, “I have come to serve you. Now you are here to serve each other.” His service is one of self sacrifice. Go back to the upper room on Maundy Thursday. See his serving hands and bended knee. Go to the mountain of the cross. See his serving sacrifice for you. See the life given as a ransom for many. His service takes away our sin. We, in turn, can sacrifice ourselves for each other in true, humble, joyful service. In the view of God’s grace in Christ, we all can say, “Not here to be serve, but to serve!” Amen.