Summary: Servant leadership is when a leader humbles him or herself to be on the same level as those who are served. In the eyes of the Lord we are all equal, and for one to rise above another and say that they are better or more righteous is ungodly. What we ar
Mayor Gerardo Balmori
The Salvation Army
Dwight L. Moody once said, “The measure of a man is not how many servants he has, but how many men
he serves.” This morning’s sermon is focus on: “Servant Leadership that Empowers the People.”
Servant leadership is when a leader humbles him or herself to be on the same level as those who are
served. In the eyes of the Lord we are all equal, and for one to rise above another and say that they are
better or more righteous is ungodly. What we are to see is that servant leadership can work in two ways.
Leaders operate on the level of the ones served, and also the ones served can be leaders themselves
because they are servants to begin with.
Walter C. Jackson, a professor at Campbellsville University says, “Servant leadership, as portrayed in the
gospels, is difficult to maintain in a climate where increasingly larger segments of the Christian
population prefer ‘super-leader’ styles.” What this means to many is that this concept of servant
leadership is virtually unknown, so let’s dive in and see what it is all about.
First we’ll look at what the wrong attitude is for servant leadership, and then we will look at three points
defining what servant leadership is and is not.
The wrong attitude for leadership (vv. 35-41)
We see in verses 37-38 that James and John asked Jesus if they could be his right and left hand men.
Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you ask.” He basically told them that he was not the one who
decided who sat on his right and on his left in the kingdom, only God the Father could do that.
In verse 38 Jesus asked James and John if they were able to drink the same cup and be baptized with the
same baptism that he would. The cup is a metaphor for suffering in Isaiah chapter 51. Baptism is a
metaphor for being plunged into calamity in Psalm 42:7 and 69:1. Jesus’ death on the cross was the
ultimate act of servanthood in history. Jesus did a service to mankind that can never be repaid. He saved
the world from its sins. When Jesus asked this question of James and John, he was demonstrating to
them that greatness is achieved through service.
When Jesus asked this question he was expecting to hear them reply with the word “no,” because no one
would or could sacrifice themselves as he would. No one can save the world from its sins. He received a
very cocky answer from them though. James and John replied, “We are able.” When they told Jesus that
they were able to do what Jesus would, they demonstrated their prideful attitude that would hinder them
In verses 39-40 Jesus basically told them, “Yup, I guess you can suffer like I can, but that’s not going to
win you any favor in my Father’s kingdom.” You see, “They believed that they could endure a little
hardship if Jesus would grant them seats of power and corner offices.” If they suffered like Jesus, it
would have been for the wrong reason. They wouldn’t be suffering out of love for Christ, but out of the
hope of reward.
John R. W. Stott says in his book The Cross of Christ that our world “(and even the church) is full of
Jameses and Johns, go-getters and status-seekers, hungry for honor and prestige, measuring life by
achievements, and everlastingly dreaming of success . . .”
David Garland says in the NIV Application Commentary, “One need not look far to see preachers who do
not preach to reach the people but preach to reach the top, to become ecclesiastical superstars. They see
discipleship to Jesus in terms of rank and privilege. They assume that Jesus is someone who will achieve
things for them and give them the status of the lords.”
Point #1: The world’s view of leadership, is not Jesus’ definition (v. 42)
Those who are rulers over the Gentiles in Jerusalem make sure the Gentiles know who the ruler is. They
“lord it over them,” as Jesus says. They “exercise authority” and show them who is the boss. This is
definitely not servant leadership. This is dictatorship. Either my way goes or else.
In Galatians 2:11-12 Paul says, “Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face,
because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles;
but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision.”
James did not understand servant leadership as is seen by an event that happened years down the road
from when Jesus spoke to James and John.
The world today views power as leadership. The NIV Application Commentary says, a “warlike attitude