“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.