Getting to Know Jesus Pt 4: Servant Leader

I am often amazed at how patient Jesus was with his disciples. Can you imagine, having these core twelve follow you, day in and day out, for years, and then having James and John come and ask him to share with them his glory by seating them at his right and left? How, after all that they had seen and heard, did they not get it?

It looks to me like Jesus loved to subvert expectations. The Jews of his day were expecting a Messiah – someone to free them from Roman rule and institute a new Jewish Kingdom. He was to be robed in purple (the royal colour), lead a triumphal procession through Jerusalem, have a crown placed upon his head, and be lifted on high as the King of the Jews. And he did all of that! His robe of purple was soaked in own blood, his crown of thorns stabbed into his head, his procession involved a heavy wooden beam and hurled insults, and his royal pronouncement as King of the Jews was nailed above him on his cross as he died (Mark 15:16-26). There were two people sharing in his glory, on his right and his left – two robbers (15:27). The Messiah was not the warrior king his disciples were expecting. Instead, he was a suffering servant.

Don’t get me wrong, Jesus had (and has) authority, and plenty of it. His miracles testify to his authority over both the natural and the supernatural; his disciples exclaimed in wonder in Luke 8:22-25 that even the winds and the water obey him. When Jesus was tempted by Satan, his first test showed that there was no doubt that he could turn stones into bread to sustain himself (Luke 4:1-4). Jesus was a natural leader and teacher, who drew people to him like a magnet, and he held incredible power and authority in his hands throughout his life.

But that first test we mentioned does give us a hint as to the way that Jesus used his authority. Everything that Jesus did was in submission to the will of his Father. The problem was never turning stones to bread – Jesus created food and drink several times (the wedding at Cana and the feeding of the 5000 for example – John 2:1-11 and 6:1-15). The first test was to see if Jesus would rely on his power, rather than relying on God, and he passed by quoting Deuteronomy 8:3 – “man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Jesus also showed his complete submission to his Father in the Garden of Gethsemane, another moment of temptation for him. Knowing that he was fully capable of avoiding the agony before him, still Jesus prayed: “yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). He took all of the authority and power that he had, and he used it entirely for God’s work. And he taught us to do the same: The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:10) asks that God’s will be done on earth, a request that comes about as we yield our will to His.

The other thing that Jesus did with his authority was use it to serve others. As mentioned above, he refused to create bread for himself but was very happy to multiply it to feed others, 5000 on one occasion and 4000 on another. He used his power over death to raise three people from the dead, not for himself, or even for the people that died, but for those that loved and needed them (see Luke 7:11-17, 8:40-56, and John 11:1-44). Later, when it was almost time for Jesus to face betrayal from his disciples – not just Judas but also those who denied or deserted him – he humbled himself and washed their feet (John 13:1-17). When James and John asked to share in his glory, Jesus put it as plainly as possible: “For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

Jesus made it so clear, many times, that we are to follow his example here. No matter what power and authority we have (and with the Holy Spirit within we have plenty!), we are to use it in two simple ways: in submission to God, and in service to others. It really is telling us how to do those two Greatest Commandments (Matthew 22:37-40): love God by yielding, love others by serving. This is what the power of the Holy Spirit is for – it was given at Pentecost in order that the apostles would be Christ’s witnesses “to all the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). This is the example Jesus gave that we must follow, make this your Prayer today.

(Written by Natalie Crawford)

SONG: Authority of Christ by The Gospel Coalition