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.”
In the context of this verse, James and John came to Jesus with the request that they be given places of honor in His eternal kingdom. Jesus responds to them by describing that the Son of Man came to serve rather than be served, and that they should do likewise. From Jesus’ example, I’ve drawn six applications for the manner in which we are to serve.
Servant Leadership is Purposeful: The Son of Man had a specific purpose for which He came. He was not confused or ambiguous as to His role or responsibility. He knew exactly what He was doing and why He was doing it. He had a clear, measured purpose. When we choose to serve, we ought to have a clear, measurable purpose. We should know what we are and are not called to accomplish with the limited resources that we have.
Servant Leadership is Outward Focused: Although Jesus was the second person of the Trinity, the Almighty Creator, and the only One worthy of our worship (Col. 1:15-20), He did not come to be served. He came to serve. His focus was to meet the greatest human need–deliverance from sin. In that very pursuit, He often met the physical and emotional needs of those He came to serve. While in the course of His life and ministry He met many needs, His ultimate focus was reconciling sinners to God so that they might once again become sons and daughters. The life that He lived in the flesh, He lived for us. The Spirit He gave, He gave to us. Therefore, our service ought to be an expression of our gratitude toward God and our love for others. Service should not be self-motivated, but glorifying to God and edifying to our fellow man.
Servant Leadership is Sacrificial: Not only was Jesus focused on serving others, but He was willing to pay the tremendous price of that spiritual service (Phil. 2:1-11). He knew that His purpose was a costly one, but He joyfully sacrificed His own divine rights, privileges, and preferences (Heb. 12:1-3) in order to serve those who had rejected Him. When we embraced our sin, we rejected the One for which our lives were made. Jesus’ servant leadership was characterized by self-denial of the most painful kind. While we may not have to give up our lives to serve another, we often have to give up our time, energy, preferences, comfort, convenience, and on occasion, our priorities to serve the physical and spiritual needs of others.
Servant Leadership is Clothed in Humility: Jesus was the High King of Heaven. He could have asserted His authority on the Cross and call ten thousand angels to save Him. Yet, He endured the shame of the Cross in order to serve our greatest need. He did that with humility and love. The heart of a servant leader is marked by gospel humility. It recognizes its humble state before a holy God, and seeks to glorify Him while serving others. Such humility does not mean thinking less of ourselves, but thinking more honestly about ourselves. It requires looking more intently at Christ than at ourselves. Then we will be weaned of our selfish pride, our fear of man, in order to honor God by thinking rightly of Him, of others, and lastly, of ourselves. We ought to consider others more important than ourselves (Phil. 2:1-11).
Servant Leadership is a Lifestyle: The entire life of Jesus was marked by service. He came into this world in the lowest of natures for the very God of the Universe, and yet He did that in order to serve as our sympathetic High Priest. He experienced the growth and maturity that comes with being a human being as He grew in knowledge and stature. He took on flesh completely and did it without sin. When He obeyed in the wilderness and later in Gethsemane, He did so for God’s glory and for our good. His service was not a one-time act, but a lifestyle of giving of Himself. Through His service, He accomplished for us what we could never accomplish for ourselves. He served us on the Cross so that we might serve others with our lives. He loved us to the point of death so that we might love others with our lives. Our service to others ought to be a lifestyle of giving so that we might be poured out for the sake of the gospel in the moments, as well as the years. There is no greater purpose than to spend and be spent for the One who was slain for us.
Servant Leadership is Gospel-centered: The heart of Jesus’ service was the gospel (Mark 1:15). He came to proclaim and fulfill the good news of God’s grace. He came to endure the Cross and put an end to sin and death. He came not to be served, but to give up His life to save sinners. The very heart of His ministry was redemption. Therefore, He preached the kingdom of God and mankind’s need to respond by faith and repentance. Without embracing the truths of the gospel as centered in the person and work of Jesus Christ, mankind would be left with its greatest need eternally lacking. As we seek to serve others, we must do it with a heart for sharing the gospel. The good news of God’s love as found in Christ must accompany the work of our hands. If people are not called to repent from their sin and place their trust in Jesus Christ, then we have failed to serve their greatest need. We are helping no one if our lips and our lives do not proclaim the excellencies of Christ (1 Pet. 2; Rev. 19:11-16).
May God give us the heart of Christ that we might serve a world in need with the grace and love of the gospel…