Summary: Jesus is our example in everything. One area in particular He gives us an example – that of servanthood.
TEXT: Isaiah 42:1
TITLE: SERVANTHOOD (Jesus our Example)
Jesus is our example in everything. One area in particular He gives us an example – that of servanthood. The entire story of Jesus is the story of a servant. The suffering servant of Isaiah 53 was a “righteous servant”: “He shall see the labor of his soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:11).
Unlike the world system, in Christ’s kingdom, servanthood, not position, is the key to greatness. Here spiritual stature is implicit in servanthood. After Salome requested that James and John sit at Jesus’ right and left hand in His kingdom, He told the indignant disciples: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. / Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. / And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave. / Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28).
There are two aspects to being a servant of the Lord. One involves serving the Lord and the other involves serving one another. Many feel they are good at serving the Lord but have a problem serving one another. For sure we are to serve Christ supremely, but we are also to serve one another. Galatians 5:13 – “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” We are to serve Christ as master and we are to serve each other in love and mutual submission. This follows the command to love God above all else and to love our neighbor as ourself.
The biblical relationship of servant to master was often intimate. The Lord compares it to that of a father and son in Malachi 1:6 – “A son honors his father, and a servant his master” (NASB). Jesus compares it to that of a student and his teacher in Mathew 10:25 – “It is enough for the disciple that he become as his teacher, and the slave as his master” (NASB).
The centurion in Matthew 8:5-13 loved his servant; without that love he would not have contacted Jesus. Jesus expects an intimate relationship between Himself and His servants.
God gives special protection for His servants. Isaiah 54:17 – “No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is from Me, says the LORD.” God assures us, “The hand of the LORD shall be made known to His servants” (Isaiah 66:14). Being a servant enlists His protection and His provision.
How Does Jesus Define Servanthood?
Thirteen of Jesus’ parables mention servants. In six of these, the principal thrust is servanthood. The first is Matthew 25:4-30, the parable of the talents. Two men invested their master’s money well and doubled his return. One man buried his talent. The master commended the industrious servants, but called the one who buried his talent “wicked” and “lazy.”
Jesus was saying that he expects initiative and hard work from His servants.
The second parable on servanthood is Mark 13:34-37. A master left his servants in charge of his house with assigned tasks and told them to be watchful for his return. The master expected to find the servants working and watching when he returned.
In the third parable, Luke 12:35-40, Jesus describes the servants ready and watching for the return of the master. The emphasis of this parable is not on work as such, but rather on the expectation in the mind of the servants waiting for the return of the master. One part of our work is simply to watch.
The fourth parable, Luke 12:42-48, treats readiness for service. Again the master leaves the servants in charge of his house. Jesus contrasts the watchfulness of the good servants with the negligence of the servants who beat the others and became drunk. The expectation of the servant is his continuing alertness in carrying out his instructions.
In the fifth parable, Luke 17:7-10, Jesus asks a rhetorical question: Will the master thank a servant for carrying out his orders? In verse 10, He tells us that mere obedience is not worthy of the name servant. He is saying that a worthy servant will go beyond duty.
The sixth parable is the parable of the minas (Luke 19:12-27). Similar to the parable of the talents, in this one the master gives the various servants an equal amount, but their performance differs radically. The master shows his wisdom, not by entrusting appropriate amounts to the servants, but rather by the justness of the rewards he gives to them. Again Jesus is indicating that he will reward hard work and initiative.