THE SERVANT GENERAL
ON SERVANT LEADERSHIP
ON TO JERUSALEM
Today’s gospel: Mark 10:32-45
To serve the Lord will involve joys and sorrows, ups and downs,
blessings and curses, consolation and desolation, gain and
pain. This is simply the way of the Master whom a servant
follows, as Jesus, who is “the Son of Man” will
be handed over to people who “will mock him, spit upon
him, scourge him, and put him to death” (Mk 10:33-34).
Now if we know what awaits us as we serve the Lord, then well
and good. We will not be disappointed, discouraged or frustrated.
entails knowing some further principles of servanthood.
we need to know the proper relationship between the servant
and the Master. The roles should be clear enough in the titles.
One is a servant, who merely obeys, and the other is the Master,
who commands. Sometimes we have it backwards, as James and
John did. They said to Jesus, “Teacher, we want you
to do for us whatever we ask of you.” (Mk 10:35). What?
The servants are dictating to their Master?
often do we ask things of Jesus, even to the point of demanding?
How often do we expect things of Jesus, to the point of being
disappointed with him when we do not get what we want? But
this posture is indeed the path to disappointment. Why? Because
we, with our fallen nature, often desire what God deems not
proper or good for us. But God, who loves us and has a wonderful
plan for us, fortunately is not dictated to, and will do for
us only what will be for our good.
the servant is not to look to glory, for glory only belongs
to the Master. James and John said to Jesus, “Grant
that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other
at your left.” (Mk 10:37). Servants sit at the feet
of the Master, way down there, and not beside him, way up
there. Only one is good, only one is God, only one is Lord
and Master, and it is not us. The position of a servant is
a lowly one, but it is what reflects the glory of the Master.
for the servant there indeed will be joys and sorrows, but
for the moment, what we can only look forward to with assurance
is the cup of suffering. Jesus told James and John, “The
cup that I drink, you will drink, .... but to sit at my right
or at my left is not mine to give” (Mk 10:39-40a). We
follow One who has no place to place his head. Jesus does
not beguile us into become his servants by promises of blessings
and glory. He bares the truth of servanthood. It will be difficult.
It will involve pain, perhaps lots of it.
off, Jesus prepares the servant for a life of authentic service,
in the way that Jesus himself served. He hardly had time to
rest, he missed his meals, he was misunderstood and mistreated.
If a servant went into Jesus’ service with expectations
of glory, he would not be of much use to the Master, and in
fact could himself give up quickly when the trials and tribulations
although the outlook seems bleak, in that there is suffering
and pain, Jesus is actually priming the servant for what is
of true value, that of eternal reward. What Jesus offers right
off is hard and sometimes “unrewarding” work,
but there indeed is glory to come, “for those for whom
it has been prepared.” (Mk 10:40b). Did not Jesus tell
us that where he is bringing us there are many mansions. Those
mansions have some of our names on them!
When the ten other apostles heard what was going on, “they
became indignant at James and John.” (Mk 10:41). Now
they were not indignant because they fully understood servanthood
and rued the wrong posture of the two. On the contrary, they
also had dreams of glory in mind, but James and John beat
them to it!
Jesus took the occasion to teach them about true servanthood.
Jesus said, “whoever wishes to be great among you will
be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will
be the slave of all.” (Mk 10:43b-44). Glory is in serving.
Greatness is in taking the lowest place. The first is the
last. The leader is the servant.
is so contrary to the ways of the world, where “those
who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over
them, and their great ones make their authority over them
felt.” (Mk 10:42). Many times, such secular thinking
spills over into Christian service. Servant leaders need to
hear the Lord speak to them over and over, saying, “But
it shall not be so among you.” (Mk 10:43a).
fact, as we follow in the footsteps of our Master Jesus, we
see that “the Son of Man did not come to be served but
to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
(Mk 10:45). The greatest of all, God Himself, to whom all
the angels minister in His court, whom all nature and creatures
acclaim, came as a lowly human in order to serve. And Jesus
not only served, he gave his very life. That was the ultimate
service. When one offers his life, there is nothing more to
Jesus’ words about the cup that is to be drunk may be
intimidating at first for those who aspire to be his servants.
“They were amazed, and those who followed were afraid.”
(Mk 10:32b). But when we understand his words, then we see
the beauty and splendor of following him, and the great privilege
of being his servant. Jesus went ahead to Jerusalem, where
the cross, and the glory, awaited him. That is where we will
be going as well. “They were on the way, going up to
Jerusalem, and Jesus went ahead of them.” (Mk 10:32a).