December 5, 2016 • Life for Leaders
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
As we saw in last week’s devotions, James and John had approached Jesus in order to be guaranteed positions of influence and honor in his kingdom (10:35-37). When the other disciples heard what the two brothers had asked, they were angry. In response, Jesus instructed the whole group of disciples about the counter-cultural nature of leadership in his kingdom. The one who seeks to be a great leader must become great in serving others.
Jesus offered an unexpected and potentially perplexing rationale for his vision of servant leadership. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (10:45). Jesus often identified himself with the Son of Man, an enigmatic figure in first-century Judaism who ushered in the reign of God. In light of a vision in Daniel 7, the Son of Man was expected to be a person of power and glory, indeed, one who was served by others (Daniel 7:13-14).
Yet Jesus understood that his mission as the Son of Man didn’t begin with such obvious authority and acclaim. Rather, he would be the Son of Man who fulfilled Isaiah’s vision of the suffering Servant of God (see Isaiah 52-53). In fact, like the Servant who sacrificed his life for the sake of others, Jesus would offer himself on the cross. This vision of his work as the serving, sacrificing Son of Man would have been shocking to the disciples of Jesus. It was contrary to everything they would have imagined about the Son of Man.
Moreover, what Jesus said about the serving, self-giving Son of Man would have been unsettling to his disciples for another reason. The sacrifice of Jesus also provided a model for how his followers are to live, even to lead. Just as Jesus, the Son of Man, came to serve others, even to give his life for them, so we are to do the same.
Being served is wonderful, and there are certainly times when we rightly receive the service of others. But our focus in life should not be our own position and privilege. It should not be on getting ahead of others, but rather on how we might lift them up. As followers of the serving Son of Man, we serve the people in our lives, giving ourselves to them as a tangible way of giving ourselves to our Lord.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
How has the self-giving servanthood of Jesus been an example for you to follow?
What holds you back from serving others in your work?
How might you imitate the serving Son of Man today?
All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, because you chose the path of servanthood, the way of sacrifice and suffering. As the Son of Man, you fulfilled the calling of the Servant of God, giving yourself for the sake of others . . . including me.
Even as I receive the salvation that you have so generously given me, may I imitate your example of servanthood. Teach me, Lord, how I might give myself away for the sake of others. By your Spirit, shape my heart in the image of your humility. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: Servant at Work (Isaiah 40ff.)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.