What would it look like for Jesus to serve you?
Jesus once told his followers that he came “not to be served but to serve.” It is tempting to hear that only as some kind of rule of life. Jesus came to serve, so I ought to serve. Jesus didn’t ask people to serve him, so I ought not ask people to serve me. This is how I ought to live my life — like Jesus. Serving.
That works, but only if the Bible is a book of principles and not a living truth.
But if Jesus saying that he came to serve actually means he came to serve, then what does that mean? For me? For you?
Jesus qualified his comment further. He said he came to give his life as a ransom. If we take that seriously and literally (and I think we should), then Jesus has defined his brand of servanthood. This isn’t something for me to emulate, but something he has done and is doing precisely because I cannot. Jesus came ultimately to serve me, not to be served by me.
Jesus came to serve me, to ransom me from captives who sought my destruction.
But only if I’m willing to let him.
Let that sink in: Jesus came to serve us. Not like a waiter serves a table, but like a mother serves an infant crying for milk in the middle of the night. Like a nurse serves a child on life support who is hanging from a thin thread, dangling between life and death. Jesus serves us like a father serves his son, giving nourishment and wisdom and protection and identity.
Jesus came to serve us like that.
Do you begin to get just how radical a thought that is?
What does it mean for Jesus to serve you?
I once asked that question of a small group, and someone responded that for him it probably meant taking more time to pray for people he didn’t much like. He said, “Here is a place Jesus can serve me, because here’s the thing: I don’t like praying for people I don’t like. And yet, Jesus asks me to do just that, so I need him to span that gap between where my patience for people ends and his begins. I need him to love though me as I pray.”
Another person said, “Jesus is probably offering to serve me all day long, and I keep turning him down because I don’t recognize the offer for what it is.” She was referring to people who show up in her life with offers of help — offers she politely declines for pride’s sake.
Think about that. It is one thing to decline an offer of a friend’s help; it is another thing entirely to find out you’ve declined the offer of Jesus’ servanthood.
That thought caused someone else to wonder: “What if letting others serve us begins with letting Jesus serve us? What if I can’t receive from anyone — not well — until I’ve learned to receive from Jesus?”
When Jesus begins to serve us there is deep, spiritual movement. In the midst of our small group conversation, someone in our circle confessed through tears, “I don’t know who I am, and I’m just now realizing it. I have no idea who I am, and I need Jesus to tell me.” For her, allowing Jesus to serve meant letting him give voice to her identity in Christ.
I’m profoundly moved by this notion of Jesus serving me. I find myself in the face of that offer saying with Isaiah, “Woe is me!” I feel my inadequacies.
I’m drawn to the scene in John of Jesus washing his disciples feet, arguing with Peter who so pridefully (ignorantly) pulled away from the act. “You will never wash my feet!” To which Jesus replied, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” After Jesus has washed all their feet, he asked, “Do you understand what I’ve done for you?” I suspect he asks because he knows just how deep an act it is, just how counter-intuitive to our self-protective nature.
Just how uncomfortable …
To let Jesus serve us is the ransom.
To serve, not to be served turns out being more than an elective or a nice thought for a plaque. It is how we have a part in Jesus.