What Does It Mean that Jesus Was a Servant? 

 In Preaching & Teaching, Tori Smith

Many years ago, I went to a really cool seminar that was called “Walk Through the Bible.” There are two seminars, one for each testament. This one was on the New Testament. On the first day we “walked” through the entire New Testament, learning all kinds of fun ways to remember the sequence of things that happened in the NT. It’s been so many years ago that I have forgotten some, possibly even most of it. But one thing I’ve never forgotten is the summary of the Gospels. With pictures in hand, they taught us how to remember what picture each book was painting of Jesus.  Each Gospel telling its own facet of Jesus character, so that if we put them together, we have a pretty good picture of who Jesus was – and is.

Matthew tells about Jesus as the perfect king. Luke tells about Jesus as the perfect man, John tells the story of Jesus as the Son of God, and Mark, not to be left out, tells us the story of Jesus as the perfect servant.

I think that it’s likely that most of us have heard that Jesus was a servant. In this blog I want us to think about what it means that Jesus was a servant and what does that mean for us today?

All of us have our own perspective on what it means to be a servant, or possibly several perspectives. When I hear the word servant, I think of someone going around cleaning up after others, or possibly the idea of a butler from our sitcoms, remember Mr. Belvedere? For some of us the term brings up the very painful time in history where slaves were made to serve others in sometimes very hostile situations.  Servants, who even in better situations, were forced into that life. Today, thinking about our partnership with Hidden Treasures and ongoing concerns with the human trafficking industry, we know that there are “servants” around the world, who are being trafficked, allowing the depth of evil to rule over their lives.

With so many different understandings of servanthood, it’s not so surprising that most of us have trouble reconciling this concept of servanthood that scriptures tell us Jesus glorified in and instructs his followers to seek out. So, let’s try to figure this out. First let’s begin by looking at Jesus’ life as a servant.

The first half of the book of Mark emphasizes the authority Jesus had to proclaim and bring evidence that the Kingdom of Heaven had come. People heard the word of God as it was preached, people where healed and demons were dealt with. It looked like a pretty victorious time to the casual onlooker, even to His disciples. But then about halfway through the gospel things begin taking a turn, such a drastic turn that it would take a while for the disciples to understand what was happening. Jesus began talking about suffering and servanthood.

The disciples grew anxious about this new teaching Jesus was doing. What could He possibly mean by this new teaching? What happened to the authority He was teaching them just a few short months ago? How could he heal the sick, deliver the oppressed and raise the dead and not have the ability to sidestep what Jesus clearly saw as His path forward? If only the disciples had had Paul’s letter to the Philippians in front of them, it may have helped them understand a bit quicker.  But of course, that book hadn’t been written at this time. In fact, Paul was still a Jesus hating Pharisee when Jesus started talking about His upcoming suffering servanthood.

However, had the disciples had the book of Philippians, chapter 2 they would have had this teaching in front of them: “6 Who (Jesus), being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”

The key for Jesus’ servanthood, and for our understanding of what we are called to, lies in verse 7, “He Made Himself.” Taking on the nature of a servant was a willing act of Jesus. It was not something that he was forced into doing. He knew the plan and the pain of that plan when He left Heaven. But He took on that servanthood nature in order to accomplish the will of God that we might have life. Jesus gave up His position in Heaven. Can you imagine? I admit, I struggle to imagine what that must have been like for Him to step down from His throne, take off His crown, be stripped of the right to be called King of kings and Lord of Lords and willingly subject Himself to the pain of this life, and death. But He did. Why? For you and I.

You may be saying about now, I know all of that, that’s just the gospel story, what does that have to do with me being a servant? It has everything to do with our heavenly servanthood, because these few short verses in Philippians are the very picture of Jesus’ servanthood and the picture of what we are being called to.

To often we want to have people serve us, to wait on our needs to look after us, to be consumed with our needs. This life – which is upside down from Kingdom life, tells us that to be great in this world we seek to get more and more. More power, more money, more stuff, more more, more. But the Kingdom principle is this – (and I am using the Amplified Bible here to help us hear more accurately the idea of slave in this passage) “ 25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles have absolute power and lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them [tyrannizing them]. 26 It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your [willing and humble] slave; 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many [paying the price to set them free from the penalty of sin].” Matthew 20:25-28

This world only needs and can only have one savior – that’s Jesus. So, we are not being called to be the savior of the world, but we are called to servanthood. Paul stated it like this – “5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:5 NIV What is Paul saying? That we should be willing to give up or look beyond our own interests so that we can see the needs and interests of others. Which can sometimes be the exact opposite of what we see happening within the body of Christ. Too many times disputes arise in the Church because there is a lack of servanthood driven hearts.

In the days ahead the entire Body of Christ will need to put on this servanthood mindset that looks to others needs and interest. This servanthood mindset will drive us to stop focusing on what we want in order to help others get what they need. In the language of the church, we call this mindset of servanthood, the spiritual discipline of service. Why do I bring that up? Because the purpose of living out the spiritual disciplines is that we might draw closer to our King Jesus. So, we give up of ourselves in order to meet the needs of others, but Jesus has our back and is looking to our needs as He draws us closer to Him.

So, a question for us to ponder is: How might we give up of ourselves, so that someone else can grow, be blessed, experience the forgiveness of Heaven, be made well, and whole and might know true life?

Recent Posts

Leave a Comment