Servitude in View of Eternity: The Heart of a Servant
Before the Passover Festival, Jesus knew his time on this earth was nearing an end. He would soon return to his Father in Heaven. The steps leading up to the crucifixion were already in motion. Judas would betray Jesus and Peter would deny him not just once but three times. Knowing all that was about to transpire, Jesus gets up from his meal with the Twelve and removes his outer garments wrapping a towel around his waist. He begins to wash the disciples’ feet using that very towel to dry them when finished. He makes his way to Simon Peter who seems confused by these actions. Simon Peter asks Jesus if he intended to wash his feet; Jesus simply replies; “You don’t understand what I am doing now, but later you will understand.” Simon Peter almost argues with the Lord as he responds that Jesus would never wash his feet. Always the teacher and always viewing eternity Jesus tells Peter that “unless I wash you, you have no part with me”.
When you consider this beautiful scene from the end of Jesus’ ministry, you realize that the very core of man’s existence on this planet is servitude. God has carefully articulated in His word every aspect of humility throughout time. From the beginning, He gave Adam charge over the animals. Everyone and everything is a servant to some degree. This theme is woven throughout the Bible as evidenced by the examples of amazing men and women who humbly served God in an effort to please Him. Humility in the form of servitude then is an absolutely essential part of obedience to God. This obedience is an outward act of an inward heart… the heart of a servant.
Consider the Old Testament example of Nehemiah. He is a noted leader, but when he hears of and sees the condition of Jerusalem, his first reaction is turn to God in prayer as opposed to using his limited human thinking to look for answers. Additionally, he humbles himself before the earthly king, Artaxerxes, in order to accomplish his plan of rebuilding using a hands-on approach not a delegatory one. He continually goes to his heavenly king for guidance and patiently waits for an answer. Nehemiah was a leader, but more importantly, he demonstrates servitude in the physical world (to Artaxerxes) as well as the eternal world (to God).
The story of Nehemiah is but one of countless others where the importance of serving from the heart is essential to pleasing God. Consider these passages:
Philippians 2:7-“ Jesus took upon him the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of man.”
Mark 9:35- “If any man desires to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.”
I Corinthians 7:22- “For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant.
Vs. 23- “Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men,”
Jesus’ entire purpose on earth was to preach and teach the lost. Why? To elevate himself in the eyes of men? Absolutely not! That could have been accomplished over and over again throughout his earthly lifetime. Remember…He could have called ten thousand angels. He desired, i.e., his heart desired to please His Father, and the way to do that was to serve God’s will. Jesus saw this to fruition by perfectly following the plan as set forth by His Father in view of eternity. He became a servant driven by a servant’s heart. This is demonstrated on at least two broad levels:
The Physical- He served needs of a more immediate nature in many cases. Remember he fed the 5,000, healed Jairus’ daughter and countless others with health issues. Clearly these examples were miracles performed to confirm His identity and power, but they do so much more. Jesus reached out to those in need of salvation physically and in view of eternity. As Jesus satiates the needs of the physical man, He provides us with the wonderful example of always looking to serve.
The Spiritual- Jesus’ ministry was about leading the lost to Heaven and life eternal. Recall Galatians 4:7 “no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” It is apparent in this verse that the inheritance of the Kingdom begins with servitude even in the very moment we come to the Lord as one desiring forgiveness of sin, confession of faith, repentance, and ultimately serving God in obedience in the watery graves of baptism. Jesus demonstrates his servant’s heart until the very end. He appoints “the disciple whom he loved” to care for his mother after his earthly death. Jesus looks on those round about and says “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” In those last gripping hours of pure agony, Jesus tells the thief condemned to die alongside Him “this day thou shalt be with me in Paradise”.
Jesus spent his entire earthly existence illustrating through words and actions the key role that servitude plays in eternity. He served the physical man in view of man’s eternal soul. When we examine ourselves in comparison to this example, it reiterates the importance of our daily actions in all of our affairs. Those “little things” that we say and do take on a whole new meaning. We are primarily doing what God expects of us. He demands that we serve each other in the household of faith. It is when we reach out to those outside of the borders of the Kingdom that doing those small things are oftentimes the clearest picture we can paint of Heaven. Serving another human being for the sole purpose of caring about him or her and not for our own gain may cause that person to come to Jesus to seek life eternal through Him. Lord, we ask you for a servant’s heart.