Summary: God calls us to have a servant's heart. He wants us to glorify him and not ourselves. God places us where he wants us to serve, and we must give our all in everything he asks us to do. God wants our obedience and our best effort.
It is February 15, 1921. In the operating room of the Kane Summit Hospital, Dr. Evan O'Neil Kane is performing an appendectomy, but this is no ordinary appendectomy. First, it marked the first use of local anaesthesia in major surgery. Dr. Kane believed local anaesthetic was much safer than general anaesthetic, and while many colleagues and patients agreed with him, no one was willing to be the first person to have an appendectomy under local anaesthesia. Because he wasn't able to find a volunteer for the procedure, he operated on himself!
Dr. Kane put his own well-being at risk to gain his patients' trust and show his care for them. Jesus did the same thing. He humbled himself by taking on human form and subjecting himself to a cruel, human death.
The readings we heard earlier this morning from Isaiah 50:4-9 and Philippians 2:5-11 talk about how we are live like Christ, including suffering for our faith. The reading from Luke's Gospel talks about how Christ suffered for us so we can have a renewed relationship in faith with Jesus. Isaiah talks about the servant who submits to the father's will. Paul tells us in Philippians to be like Christ. Christ was the suffering servant Isaiah referred to-the servant who submits himself to the father's will and a cruel, painful death to save us.
Suffering tests our faith and our relationship with God. When we suffer, we often ask ourselves why God is allowing us to suffer. In cases of accident or sickness, we don't have any choice in the matter. The suffering servant is suffering because he or she is God's servant. Somehow the suffering servant has heard that his or her suffering is for the cause of right and therefore he or she believes that God will not abandon the one trying to be faithful.
Christ humbled himself and emptied himself of his deity to obey his father's will. He emptied himself of his glory. He emptied himself of independent authority. He released the voluntary exercise of his divine attributes. He gave up eternal riches. He gave up his intimate relationship with God the Father
Obeying God's will for his life also meant that Christ had to submit to the voluntary humiliation of the cruellest form of torture known at that time-crucifixion. Crucifixion was not simply a convenient way to execute criminals. It was the ultimate indignity, a public statement by the Romans that the crucified person was beyond contempt. The unbearable pain was magnified by the degradation and humiliation. No other form of death could match crucifixion as an absolute destruction of the person. It was the ultimate contrast to Christ's divine majesty and therefore it was the ultimate expression of his obedience to God.
By lowering himself, he was exalted by God. We must also submit ourselves to God's will. Paul used Christ's example to teach us how to live the Christian life. Because Christ was an obedient servant, he serves as a good example for us to follow. When we become servants, we give up the right to be in charge of who and what we serve. When we do, we will be free, but we will also be vulnerable.
Christ calls us to service for three main reasons. First, he wants to rid us of our human pride and selfishness so we can focus our lives on him. Second, by serving others in humility we show our love for Christ. Third, God tests and purifies our hearts through service.
Christ is the ultimate example of selfless humility. He submitted himself to God's will like a servant submits to the will of his or her master. Jesus calls on us to deny ourselves and follow him through sacrificial service to others. Jesus believed in the Law, taught the Law and lived the Law on the cross. In other words, he didn't just "talk the talk". He also "walked the walk". Just like Jesus submitted himself to God's will, we are called to submit ourselves to God's will by worshipping him in true faith and by serving others just like Jesus served others.
The way we act reflects our faith. If we claim to be Christians, people around us will equate our actions with Jesus. In other words we are to act like Jesus would act. We are to follow the Golden Rule. When we lead lives of humble servanthood, when we follow God's plan and direction, and when we bow down before him we become the disciples that he wants us to be. Only then can we be exalted by God. Only then can we build God's kingdom here on earth.
In order to be like Jesus, we have to spend time with Jesus. The more time we spend him by reading and studying his word and talking with him through regular, earnest prayer, the more we begin to think like him. We also become more like Jesus by studying what has been written by other Christian leaders. For example, when I prepare homilies I always consult commentaries and other articles written by pastors such as Dr. Charles Stanley, John MacArthur, Rick Warren, Billy Graham, Charles H. Spurgeon and others. Finally, we can be like Jesus by studying the Bible with other Christians. In my own life, I attend Trinity's Monday night Bible study, and I get a copy of the notes from the Wednesday morning Bible study thanks to Sandra, our hard-working church secretary.