Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The high position of servant

serving at a soup kitchen
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 23:1-22

TO CHEW ON: "But he who is great among you shall be your servant."  Matthew 23:11

It's easy for us to read this bit from Matthew and feel as superior as we did when someone else was getting a scolding from teacher when we were kids. On the other hand, it would be just as easy to sift through this passage and isolate pharisaical tendencies we find in ourselves. Instead, let's look at the attitude and behaviour Jesus commends—servanthood. And was He any better than the Pharisees at practicing what He preached?

[Serve: To work for, especially as a servant; be in the service of. To be of service to; wait on. To promote the interests of; aid, help; to serve God. To satisfy the requirements of. To perform the duties of a public office. To furnish or provide, as with a regular supply. To offer or bring food or drink; wait on at table. Funk & Wagnalls Standard College Dictionary]

  • If we take Jesus to be the fulfillment of Isaiah's Servant prophecies (and I do), we see that His destiny was to be a servant. That is what He was "formed in the womb" to become (Isaiah 49:5).
  • Well into His public ministry, Jesus purposefully keept a low profile, aware of the servant role into which He had been born (Matthew 12:16-21).
  • When we look at His three years of public work on earth, practically all we see Him do is serving. Though ministry energized Him (John 4:31-34), it also tired Him out. But when He tried to get away for some rest and the crowds followed him, He taught, healed, and fed them some more. The burden of His mission drove Him to spend long hours in prayer. His healing ministry sapped Him physically and the spiritual plight of mankind stirred Him emotionally. But His service went even further, for He served with not only His time, wisdom, energy, and grace gifts of healing and forgiveness, but His life (Matthew 20:28).
  • He taught His disciples the importance of service and then set a good example by serving them by performing the most menial act, washing their feet (John 13:4,5).

Paul summed up Christ's servanthood and what it means for us, His followers in Philippians 2:

"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant and coming in the likeness of man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross." Philippians 2:5-7.

Dear Jesus, Your example of serving is supernatural, especially when we see You mocked, beaten, tortured and killed by the very people You came to serve. Help me to have the servant mindset of Christ. Amen.

MORE: Prayers for servants

I recently reviewed a beautiful book called Special Intentions. It contains a collection of prayers that take our minds off ourselves as we pray for others—often people that we don't even know. There are prayers for many kinds of servants in this book. Here is one for Caregivers:

In nursing homes, assisted living residences, and private homes,
there are men and women who care for the elderly.
They feed, bathe, and dress those who no longer can care for themselves.
They administer medications,
they dress wounds and bedsores,
they push wheelchairs,
they walk alongside the person with a walker,
they help with physical and speech therapy.
They speak with compassion
to the anxious,
the confused,
and those with severe dementia.
Say a prayer of thanks today for the caregivers,
they are gifts to the aged and infirmed. 
- Claire Coleman, Special Intentions, p. 58.

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