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Serving Others Like Jesus Served Us

42Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. 43But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; 44and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. 45For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45

Serving Others Like Jesus Served Us

What is the attitude of the typical boss, political leader or religious leader?  According to Jesus it is typical of rulers to “lord it over them.”  Far too often leaders approach those under their charge with arrogance.  Greatness from this perspective is defined by how many people have to answer to your commands, how much they tremble at your threats, how much they envy your control, and how helpless they are compared to your authority. 

“But it is not this way among you.”  Followers of Christ embrace a counter-cultural approach to leadership.  If we are looking for greatness, we must embrace humility.  For followers of Christ the mark of leadership is service.  Our best example of greatness demonstrated in humble service is Jesus Christ.  He is the very “Son of Man,” a divine reference (see Daniel chapter 7:11-14), and He serves others to the point of giving His life.  He is the greatest person to ever walk the planet yet lived humbly.  Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…”  The emphasis in this statement is the extreme contrast.  The Son of Man refers to Daniel 7 where we read, “And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming… And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and people of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.”  The prophecy in Daniel 7 depicts the dramatic scene when Jesus Christ, the Son of God, comes before God the Father.  In that moment, at the end of time, the Son of God, Son of Man, is presented with an everlasting kingdom where all nations and all peoples will serve Him.  And yet, despite the lauded status of the Son of Man’s future, for His first appearing among us He will be a servant. 

Furthering the contrast by juxtaposing the lofty Son of God with His mission, Jesus says that the “Son of Man” will pay for the release of others by laying down His life.  He will serve them to the very end and to the ultimate end.  As Paul described in Philippians 2:5-8, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  Paul encouraged the church to have the same servant attitude of Christ Jesus.  Not only does the Son of God take on the humble status of a human, He is a servant to the point of death, even a crucifixion type death.  While mere humans seek for power and prestige over one another, the creator of all people and all things, humbled Himself to the ultimate very end and to the ultimate end, death on a cross.  The death of Christ provides a means for us to be in right relationship with God.  Jesus Christ bears our sin so that we can know the Father.  This is the primary message of the cross of Christ.  However, the cross also provides for us a significant departure from the world’s standards of leadership.  If God’s own Son, the Creator of heaven and earth, the Eternal One, would step out of eternity and take on a human body, and serve all the way to the point of humiliation, suffering and death, surely we can follow His example in our service of one another.

Jesus, the last night before His crucifixion, accentuated this model of leadership.  The disciples had debated on more than one occasion which of them was the greatest and which of them should receive the most honor in the heavenly kingdom.  The disciples even discussed this the very day of the betrayal of Jesus into the hands of the religious authorities.  Jesus, on His part, takes the position of greatest humility by washing His disciples’ feet.  He tells them as the watch in shock, He said to them in John 13:12-15, “Do you know what I have done to you?  You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.”  If God’s Son, the Creator of everything, came into this world to serve others then surely we can serve one another. 

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The Great Declaration

 “13Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” 15He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:13-17

The Great Declaration

Caesarea Philippi was known as a center of pagan celebrations and worship.  A natural waterfall and associated pool provided the setting for Greco-Roman styled carousing.  Jesus withdrew from the Jewish areas, giving an opportunity to prepare Himself and the disciples for His triumphant entry, crucifixion and resurrection.  In this pagan setting, on the verge of the most important moment in human and eternal history, Jesus tests the disciples by posing this question, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  As with many theological debates, the prevailing winds of the day reflect a variety of possibilities:   “John, Elijah, Jeremiah or some other Old Testament prophet.”  Jesus’ initial question and the disciples’ answers follow a more academic approach, a sort of polling to determine the mood of the culture about the Son of Man.  The second question is far more personal.  In the first He refers to Himself in a distant, third-person manner – “the Son of Man” and He refers to the opinions of others in a distant, third-person manner – “people.”  The second question gets intensely personal on two fronts.  Jesus refers to Himself in the first-person as “I am” and to the disciples in the direct and second-person manner as “you.”  This is the natural progression when it comes to the person of Christ.  Every person on the planet must grapple with His identity.  It often begins in a rather academic manner.  The individual hears about Christianity through a friend or radio program or through a book or maybe they attend a church.  They begin to contemplate the nature of religion in general, and the claims of Jesus in particular.  However, no one can remain at a distance.  Jesus does not intend for us to function in this third-person manner. Ultimately the identity of Jesus Christ is intensely personal.  It is impossible to be a Christian from a distance.  Christ calls us in close.  He calls us personally.  He calls us to a commitment of thought and life.  “But who do you say that I am?”  Simon Peter’s response is especially striking in light of the location of their discussion – walking among the idolatrous statutes representing dead religions and dead gods in Caesarea Philippi.  “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  This is the defining issue of our day.  Religious debates will rage.  What religion best represents humanity before God?  This question will rage but it misses the point.  The question is not “what is the best way for us to reach God?”  The question is “what has God done to reach down to us?”  Religion pursues God on our terms.  Jesus Christ pursues us on God’s terms.  That is why Simon’s confession must become the confession of each and every person.  This confession goes beyond a mere intellectual ascent.  This confession goes beyond religious posturing.  The implication is clear.  Our only means to a relationship with the living God is through His resurrected Son.  The relationship God makes with us through Christ creates a natural response on our part.  If Jesus really is the Christ, the Son of the living God, our intense, personal loyalty must follow that confession.  Jesus Christ is the living Son of God, crucified and risen again from the dead.  He demands my unending worship and loyalty.     

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Anxiety, Fear, Distrust, Burnout

We live in stressful times.  We see it in nations as refugees pour out of one nation and into others.  We see it as evil men commit atrocities against others for incredibly frivolous reasons. 

We see it on playgrounds and in classrooms.  We see the stress in workplace situations and broken relationships in the home. 

(NLT) “25That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? 28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?” Matthew 6:25-30

 Do Not Worry

Worry is a sin.  Worry violates the words of Jesus because it undermines our understanding of God.  As followers of Jesus Christ, we must bring every area of our life into conformity with His desires for us.  He desires that we trust God with everything in our life.  When we worry, we are not trusting.  When we are trusting God, we do not worry.  But can we really trust God?  Jesus gives examples of God’s trustworthiness from nature.  Consider the birds and consider the flowers.  If God loves them enough to feed them and clothe them, He will take care of you.  There are two value statements contained here within this dialogue.  First, with reference to the birds Jesus says, “aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?”  Second, with reference to the flowers Jesus says, “that they are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow.”  In God’s eyes we are far more valuable than the birds and He preserves us far longer than the average flower.  However, neither the birds nor the flowers stress out about their provisions from God.  If birds and flowers can trust God with their lives, then we can trust Him even more since He loves us more and cares for us longer.

“25At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. 26Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. 27All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. 28Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. 30For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:25-30

 Find Rest for Your Souls

We can get so weary in this life.  The daily struggle of getting ourselves to work or school, the constant battle with making ends meet, the conflicts we face with others, all of these things wear us down.  There is a rest that God alone can offer.  This offer of rest goes beyond some human concept of a vacation.  God, through His Son, Jesus Christ, offers a permanent rest.  The imagery here is striking.  Oxen were used in the preparation of farmlands all over Palestine during the time of Christ.   The yoke fit over the shoulders of the animal allowing the farmer to direct the path of the oxen. Jesus came into a world under heavy oppression.  Some of the oppression came from the political and social-economic conditions.  Some of the oppression came in the form of unrealistic religious standards hoisted upon the masses by a select “wise and intelligent” few.  Much of the oppression came from the same realities we face today, personal sin and rebellion.  These forces from within and from without battled against the crowds following Jesus.  He saw their plight.  He understood their weaknesses.  He desired to offer them rest.  However, the divine rest came with a condition.  This rest cannot be experienced by anyone apart from the Son of God.  “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”  Jesus sets the primary condition for divine rest that those seeking rest must find their rest in Him.  He also reveals a second condition.  We will not find rest because we will not come to Him if we are arrogant, self-sufficient, wise in our own eyes, or too smart for our own good.  Instead God has revealed His Son to “infants” who are dependent and needy.  If we are humble before God and we seek His Son, Christ Jesus offers us divine rest.  He removes the yoke of oppression and replaces it with a new yoke that “is easy.”  Hear the voice of the Savior crying out over the burdened crowd.  “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”  His love beckons us to come, burdens and all, and follow Him.  There, we will find rest.

We are nearing the time of year that has such potential for joy, excitement, anticipation and fun.  The lights and sounds will soon begin to fill our everyday spaces like stores, homes, and our church.  Unfortunately, often with this seasonal anticipation, there can be so much stress.  We may be tempted to worry about how we will make ends meet.  We may be anxious about the stressful preparation for events.  Christ offers to us peace and rest.  Like the angels said to the shepherds those many years ago, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace with those in whom He is pleased.”  In Christ, God is pleased with us.  In Christ, God is glorified in us.  In Christ, we are at peace and at rest.  Be anxious for nothing.  Rest in Christ.  May God grant us a peaceful, restful celebration of the birth of the Savior.

~ Daniel

 

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