Five Lessons From The Perfect Servant
A submissive attitude is the first characteristic of God’s servant.
Imagine a great king from a vast empire, with many servants and great riches. Now imagine that king leaving all that to live among the peasants of his kingdom. Not just to live as one of them, but to become the lowest of all servants by serving them and giving his life for them. This is what Jesus Christ did when He left heaven and came into this world.
The apostle Paul wrote: “Christ Jesus … 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 servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:5-8 NKJV). The Lord said of Himself, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and give His life a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:45). Again He said, “I am among you as one that serves” (Lk. 22:27). This was His purpose for coming into this world. He was the servant prophesied in the Old Testament Book of Isaiah. There we learn of the character of the servant (42:1-7), the mission of the servant (49:1-7), the discipline of the servant (50:4-11), and the suffering of the servant (52:13-53:12).
In the New Testament, Mark’s gospel presents the beautiful characteristics of the perfect servant. Everything our Lord did was in service to His Father and to those around Him. There are many examples in the gospels of the Lord’s service; John tells us that they could never all be written down (Jn. 21:25). When we look at His life of dedicated service, we are both encouraged because He is our model, and challenged because we are called to develop the same servant attitude (Phil 2:5). Let’s look at five areas that might help us become better servants.
1. Submissive Attitude
The earliest recorded words of the Lord reveal His commitment to serve. When he was twelve, His parents took Him to Jerusalem for the Passover. On the way home, thinking Jesus was with relatives, they left Him behind. They found Him three days later, sitting in the temple listening and asking questions: “When they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, ‘Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.’ And He said to them, ‘Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?’” (Lk. 2:48-49).
Jesus was not being disrespectful to His earthly parents; He was merely surprised that they did not understand His relationship to His heavenly Father. He had no desire to disobey them, only a strong desire to serve His heavenly Father. This was His driving force, and Hebrews 10:7 records the Lord saying: “Behold I come – in the volume of the book it is written of Me – to do Your will, O God.” The Gospel of John also records Him saying: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work … I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me … For I have come down from heaven, not to do My will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (Jn. 4:34; 5:30; 6:38).
His great focus was to please His Father and bring Him glory: “I always do the things that are pleasing to Him” (Jn. 8:29). While in agony in the garden, the Lord showed one last time that He was completely submissive to the Father’s will: “Father, if it is Your will, remove this cup from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Lk. 22:42). His submission to the Father cost Him His life. A submissive attitude is the first characteristic of God’s servant. Are we submitting our lives to God?
And are we willing to submit to others? Jesus was not only submissive to God, but also to those in authority over Him. For instance, He was “subject to” His parents (Lk. 2:51). The expression “subject to” (or “submit to”) means “to arrange under.” It is a military expression that refers to someone of lower rank. The Perfect Servant put Himself under the authority of others – His parents, the religious leaders, and even the Roman government (Mt. 17:24-27; 22:21). Many New Testament verses remind us of our responsibility to submit to those in authority over us – such as our parents, employers, church leaders, and government officials (Eph. 5:22-24; 6:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:13; Heb.13:17). To be more like the Perfect Servant, we must learn to submit to God and to those who are over us.
2. Prayer-Dependent Attitude
Closely connected to the Lord’s submissive attitude was His dependent attitude. This is seen again and again in the gospels. There are at least 25 recorded instances of Jesus praying. He was a servant that depended on the one He served. He didn’t do anything without first going to His Father in prayer. When He encountered the pressure of people bringing their sick and needy to Him, He knew He was too busy not to pray (Mk. 1:32-35; Lk. 5:15-16). Prayer was a vital part of His daily routine. He never relied on past experiences, but realized that the power to serve was directly linked to His desire to “acknowledge Him” in all His ways (Prov. 3:6).
The Lord Jesus faced many trials in His life, as does any servant. But He knew where to take them, and spent much time in prayer – sometimes all night (Jn. 12:27-28; Lk. 6:1-12). He also displayed a dependent attitude in making decisions, like choosing His twelve disciples (Lk. 6:12-17). Every decision is big enough to take to God in prayer. There are so many examples of this Servant using His secret resource of prayer as He served God. As we learn more about Him in the gospels, He will begin to develop a more prayer-dependent attitude in us.
3. Soul-Winning Service
The Lord Jesus reminded those around Him of another reason why He came into this world: “The Son of Man has come to seek and save that which was lost” (Lk.19:10). This great Servant was never so busy serving God that He didn’t have time for people. In fact, they were His ministry! He served those who needed Him. He was even called a “friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Lk. 7:34). He never closed His eyes to sin nor condoned it. But He always loved the sinner and made time for him, even though criticized for it (Lk. 15:1-2). He spent time with them to awaken their conscience toward sin and call them to repentance (Lk. 5:22). He looked at lost souls and saw what they could become – forgiven and at peace with God (Lk. 7:36-50). If we are to learn from this soul-winning Servant, we need to see the lost through His loving eyes. We must never overlook sin, but we must reach out in love toward the lost.
4. Shepherd’s Attitude
Another servant characteristic of the Lord was that of the Shepherd. We know He is the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for the sheep (Jn. 10), the Great Shepherd who provides for the sheep (Heb. 13:20-21), and the Chief Shepherd who will return for them (1 Pet. 5:2). A shepherd provides rest, refreshment, security, guidance, peace and comfort for the sheep (Ps. 23). Sheep lack nothing when their shepherd is near.
As a servant with a shepherd’s heart the Lord Jesus showed that He genuinely cared for those He came in contact with. At least eight times in the gospels we read of the Lord’s compassion. He cared for the sick and served them by taking care of their needs (Mt. 14:14; 20:29-34; Mk. 1:32-42). He also cared for those who had lost loved ones (Lk. 7:11-17; 9:40-56). His shepherd’s care extended to those who were poor and hungry (Mt. 14:13-21; 15:32-39). And these are just a few of the ways that this compassionate Servant cared for those around Him. Showing genuine interest in the hurting is another way to demonstrate a servant’s heart.
5. Supreme Example of Service
The night before the Lord Jesus was crucified, He gathered His followers to instruct them one last time. Part of that instruction included a vivid illustration of what being a real servant is all about. He came together with His disciples in the upper room to celebrate the Passover feast, and then He instituted the “Lord’s Supper” (Lk. 22:7-23). What happened next was very touching. As recorded in John 13, after supper, the Lord Jesus laid aside His outer garments, filled a basin and stooped to wash the disciples’ dirty feet. They had no idea that Jesus was going to do this. But He saw the need to instruct them one last time, and did it.
These disciples had been arguing over who would be the greatest. They all wanted the highest position. What Jesus did was not their idea of greatness. But this great Servant said, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done” (Jn. 13:12-15). The Lord Jesus demonstrated what it meant to humbly serve others for unselfish reasons, and concluded by saying, “Now I want you to do the same.” He also wants us to put others above our own ambitions and desires. He does not want us thinking, “What’s in it for me?” or “What do I get out of the deal?” The way to true greatness for the servant is by humbling myself, not by pushing myself to the top.
The Lord’s service on earth was finished at the cross, but His work in Heaven goes on. He came to “serve and give His life a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:45). He has paid the price to redeem us from sin and is the Savior of all who accept this finished work. He is now in heaven, at God’s right hand, where He serves as our High Priest and Advocate with the Father (Heb. 4:14-16; 1 Jn. 2:1-2).
God the Father was satisfied with this Servant and has lifted Him up to a place of greatness (Phil. 2:9-11). May we become more like Him so that we might hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Mt. 25:21).
By Tim Hadley
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA.