Summary: We as humans struggle with serving anyone but ourselves. Even as Christians we have a hard time having a true servant’s heart. Jesus shares some hard words, but they are also comforting and freeing when we realize the joys of being a servant.
Let’s face it. We don’t really like being servants. We don’t like to serve others and we don’t like to be under another’s authority. For us in the U.S. much of that stems from the 1960’s when everyone was told to question authority. We were told that anyone over 30 was the enemy. Now no one born in the 1960’s is under 30, but that’s another matter-the notion still made its way into our psyche and continues to influence people today.
It’s also just human nature-a nature the disciples battled with constantly. We want position, power, or some combination of both. Look at Mark 10:35 for an example of that.
The two types of authority Jesus mentions from the world are: "lord it over" and "exercise authority". To "lord over" means to force into subjugation - to control. To "exercise authority" means "to have full privilege." So I tell you what you can’t do, and I also force you to do what I want you to do.
Jesus says in His kingdom it is those that serve all that are numero uno. And He leads by example: Mark 10:45 "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." ESV
So sometimes we fall into "false servanthood." This is where we act really humble but deep down we do what we want and expect others to do what we want as well. I’ve run into pastors like that. You wouldn’t dare tell them anything contrary to what they wanted to hear because, after all, they were just humble servants of God and must float above the ground a little and glow like Moses did. Remember, you are a tool, not the carptenter.
Here in Luke Jesus paints a far different picture of the servant, but one we can glean a lot of as we seek to follow after Jesus’ character and example.
Verses 5 - 6
The disciples asked for more faith. Perhaps it was because they realized they couldn’t forgive as Jesus commanded them in the prior section. Or perhaps they figured that it was by faith that you really got things done in Jesus’ kingdom, and so to be a mover and shaker there they needed more of whatever Jesus had-like a super-charged V-8 instead of a standard four cylinder engine.
A Mulberry tree was about 25-30 feet tall. You’d think it’d take an awful lot of faith to move it. But Jesus says it takes only a little. That’s because its not really us, but God. It reminds me of a human exoskeleton. They had them in one of the Matrix movies and they look sort of like Transformers with humans piloting them. The idea is that you are a weak human but control a very powerful machine that can do what you can’t. Now God is not in our control like a machine, but when we move in concert with His will then we can accomplish much.
What it takes is not the power to do it but knowing the person who has the power and then asking. Like a powerful computer-it won’t do anything unless something is inputted. James says "you have not because you ask not." Further he said:
James 5:16-18 The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. ESV
So know the person with the power, ask them to exert some of that power for you - and finally to do something the powerful person wants to do. You can’t make en elephant move unless you convince him it is in his best interest. God is not an elephant, and in reality we need to find out what is on God’s heart in order to us to then pray for those things.
See, it’s really not about us at all, and I think it’s fitting that when the disciples asked for more faith Jesus told them they didn’t need a lot of faith, but they did need to ask and when they asked for more faith He told them to serve!
Verses 7 - 10
Jesus does not mean to demean the servant, only that he knows his duty and his place.
I think there are times when we act like the servant in Jesus’ example. We’ve been out in the fields that are white for harvest all day, slogging amongst the unwashed, serving our little hearts out. Then we want to take a break and be served by the Lord. It’s like we say "God I’ve worked hard for you, now I’m going to kick back and expect you to bless me in return."