Dec 17 2023 Want to be Great? Become the Servant of All


Last week, at the very end, I talked about a strength of our church in the area of serving. I’d like to take a deeper look at this from the view of Advent. I’m going to do some weird things with the Bible to connect Advent and serving!

Thank You for this time – and that You left heaven, not regarding equality with God a thing to cling to – You came that You might die for our sins. Help us to understand what You did and to be thankful.

I’m going to look at a passage in Mark – Jesus is our example serving – and we will look at His example and what He did to set that example.

The disciples are arguing about who is the greatest.

Whoever wants to be great among you, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of all.

We will see the gospel in these stories. This is a gospel presentation by Jesus. We can go to Philippians 2 where Paul lays it all out brilliantly – when we serve like Jesus, we are living out the gospel.

When we learn to serve like Jesus served – it is a walking parable/story/play of Jesus.

Slave is a hard word for us – like Dick mentioned the Civil War – and some of the Bible versions soften it because of that. I recognize there is a difference between slavery then and slavery in the 1800s – but not much. Jesus is addressing some very important things by using the word slave. They had a formal and strict ranking and class system.

In the household, the master was number 1 – then family, then steward, who runs the business – and then servants – and last, the slaves.

That is what Jesus is trying to get at as He talks about this.

Slaves, obey your masters… We try to contextualize it to our situation – like being at work, an employee – but that is not what He is saying – it is very different from that. As a slave, you are living in a constant sense of inferiority.

Whoever WANTS to be first or great – be the servant of all. God is saying – redirect your ambition to being a servant.

What I want to do – setting it up – 3 stories – short stories in the Bible that tell the story of God and the Bible and Salivation – 3 meals.

Genesis 2:7 Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living [f]being. 8 The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. 9 Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

In the creation story, God gets His hands dirty – He does it for human benefit – when we think of God, He is a servant. Not just – we know Jesus as a servant – He came to serve – but God the Father reveals Himself to humanity as one who serves.

Page 1 of the Bible – we see the Power of God – Let the be light – and there was light. Then we get to page 2 – and we see this God who is working in the dirt – planting trees – whatever else is in the garden…

15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. 16 The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not [n]eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”

SO, the first thing God does – He makes him a meal. It is a different kind of meal – not cooked – but He provides for his needs.

Serving is about providing real needs for others.

Now, commercial break – starting in January – I am going to be doing a Zoom class – Genesis 1-11

I’ll send out information – it will be a lot of fun. If you have a phone – the Bible project has an app – get it on your phone – all of their stuff is there – and now, they do seminary classes that reach to any level – anyone can follow along – and you don’t have to watch – you can listen, but can’t download…

Second Story – Luke 12:

35 “[o]Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. 36 Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them. 38 Whether he comes in the [p]second watch, or even in the [q]third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.

An ancient near east Bible scholar said – this deceptively simple parable is rich with theological content. This parable is full of those verses we looked at last week.

Bible-geek moment – often, a story or prophetic word has a double meaning – most prophetic words had a fulfilling in the context of the writer.

Behold – a virgin will conceive… - and it was fulfilled a chapter later.

This parable has a double meaning and a double fulfillment.

We tend to see this about Jesus’ second coming – and it is -but maybe more so, it is about Advent.

This practically reveals the nature of the servant God to us. Of course, the Master represents God.

This next slide – I read the NET Bible – Dressed for service

NASB – Dressed in readiness – and I think about the second coming. But dressed for service – He is telling them to DO something.

IN the KJV – let your loins be girded about –

And that is what it literally means.

What they had to do to do anything – bundle it all up and tie it up in order to run, travel, go to war, serve, etc.

Don’t just sit around and wait – get ready to work and serve.

35 “Get dressed for service and keep your lamps burning; 36 be like people waiting for their master to come back from the wedding celebration, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him.

The Master is leaving the wedding. We think of the story of the ten virgins who went out to meet the Bridegroom. The Master is not the bridegroom here. The master is leaving the wedding and coming to his servants.

37 Blessed are those slaves whom their master finds alert when he returns! I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve (girding his loins)

He opens the door – belts it all on –

In the form of God did not regard it a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself.

I think this is a picture of what Jesus did.

The Master SERVES the slaves. Jesus became a man and a slave to serve us.

This is part of the Great Reversal! They didn’t recognize this – that is not how they would have seen it – it was humiliating and shameful for a master to do. For a disciple, this would have been radical.

We talk about servant leadership and that is a good thing – and there are books written about it – but we need to recognize that there is humiliation and shame – for us to get what is really happening. He is pointing to the humiliation and shame of the cross.

Jesus will live out this parable in a genuine way-

John 13

3 Because Jesus knew that the Father had handed all things over to him, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 he got up from the meal, removed his outer clothes, took a towel and tied it around himself.

This is a gospel story – taking up the servant towel to wipe away their sin…

5 He poured water into the washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel he had wrapped around himself.

Then it continues - 12 So when Jesus[ae] had washed their feet and put his outer clothing back on, he took his place at the table again and said to them, “Do you understand what I have done for you?

The master does not do this in their world. But Jesus did.

13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and do so correctly, for that is what I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you too ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example—you should do just as I have done for you.

This is our serving God. And it is not about feet – it is the self-sacrificial service to others – and you all have been a great example of that.

Even though we don’t use words like humiliation and shame – we need to find ways for our service to enter into that – as that is the service of Jesus.

So, I just have a couple ways to think about this that may work in our situation.

I know it is important to find ways to serve in ways you are gifted. That is important and a way of service. But it is just as important to serve in areas that we have no interest in – that have no meaning for us. It might not be shameful or humiliating – but it a tangible way of doing Jesus kind of service. And many of you have been really good at this.

Joyfully serving those who have not been the most responsible people. That is a hard one. Now, balance – we don’t want to be enablers – I get all that – but Jesus died for the kind of people who weren’t the most responsible – like all of us! And served them unto death on a cross.

For Jesus, service was not about getting the most bang for the buck.

Where is the most important place to do this? Sometimes it is just where the need is. It might only be that. No one else will know and no one else will be affected by it.

One final story – So I will end early – this is the Bonus story – as I only told you three…

Luke 15 – the story of the prodigal son – we all know the story – the prodigal has finally come to his senses –

20 – “So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him

This is another returning story. This time, it is the lost son returning – and who is watching, waiting, expecting? The father.

You wait and watch, Jesus told the disciples – and that is what the father is doing.

Then he ran and embraced and kissed him – Nouwen and Keller have great books on this – but what did he have to do? Gird up his loins! It would have been shameful and humiliating.

Then he throws this huge celebration! And it costs the father a large portion of what is left – he had given the son his share. And what does he do? Throws another party for the whole community – and what we see with God – Costly service.

It is not just financial, but service can cost us other opportunities. Every time we decide that we are going to serve a real need, we are giving up other opportunities – and a lot of times. We debate that.

And we need to avoid – being the type of person who can’t get time for oneself – but we need times of discipleship where we must do this.

This father served his son who was not the most responsible – He served him fully – and had compassion with the one who was irresponsible. As the father was watching and waiting – I know you do this – we need to continue to look, watch, expect opportunities to serve, see needs, and engage.

Lord, thank You – for being our example – a simple example, but very clear – you came, not to be served, but to give yourself a ransom for many -and while you’ve already done that, we can give ourselves in meeting needs of others.

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