Satisfying The Servant Within
by Terry Barlow
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As I was reading the 26th chapter of Matthew recently I noticed something concerning Peter I hadn't seen before. After Jesus had been arrested Peter was following at a safe distance to see what was going to happen. At that point he sat in the courtyard of the high priest's house where there were servants or guards, also translated police or officers. The word that captured my attention was "servants." Peter took his place with the servants in the high priest's courtyard. How appropriate, because all of us who are believers are also servants of the High Priest which is Jesus Christ. That is what Peter had become and that is what he would be till the day of his death, when he was crucified upside down as a martyr, upside down at his own request we are told because he didn't think he was worthy to be crucified in the same position as Jesus his master was crucified. There was an earlier time when Jesus had healed Peter's mother of a fever and she immediately rose and SERVED the master and his disciples out of the overflowing gratitude she must have felt. That turned my attention to the 2nd chapter of Paul's epistle to the Phillipians where he exhorts the brothers and sisters to have the same mind or attitude that was demonstrated in Jesus who emtied himself and took on the form of a bondSERVANT. That passage is known as the kenosis by bible scholars. Kenosis means a self emptying. These words of Paul's epistle were actually part of a hymn of the early church, so his readers were familiar with it. The passage goes on to tell us just what kind of a servant Jesus became, the lowest most menial kind of servant, the bondservant, the one that we know from the gospels would be willing and ready to wash someone's feet. The kind of servant that would be obedient to the point of death, even the death on a cross of crucifixion (capital punishment in those days in the Roman Empire) the way the most vile criminal would die, naked. Later the body of such a criminal would be taken down and tossed on a pile of burning garbage with other dead criminals. The deepest disgrace that could befall a Hebrew in those days would be to be denied a burial. That is what would have happened to Jesus had Joseph of Arimathea had not intervened to offer a tomb and to wrap the body of Jesus in fine linen, which signifies righteousness elsewhere in scripture. So down down Jesus went leaving the privileges of heaven and Godhood to become human, but not just human, a servant, but not just a servant but a footwashing slave, but not just such a slave but an alleged criminal, but not just a criminal but the lowest kind, crucified naked and treated as discarded garbage at his death. So low he went seemingly without limit or bottom, which was why he could later be exalted so high by his heavenly Father to a height unlimited as the sky is the limit! We, too are brought through a similar process of humbling so that in due time the Father can exalt us, though that isn't to be our motivation for going through it. We can actually develop a taste for it! There is a nature within us now that welcomes this process. It is simply a spiritual law that he or she who humbles oneself or allows him or herself to be increasingly humbled will eventually and proportionately be exalted. And, of course it is also a law that the one who exalts oneself will be humbled, but it is better the first way around!
Because Jesus sent his Spirit to dwell in us after he was raised and ascended from such a disgraceful death, because of the Holy Spirit within us which is the Spirit of Jesus we have the nature of a servant within us as believers. The more we grow into that reality, the greater a pleasure it is for us to serve our brothers and sisters as Jesus served them, so we are busy "satisfying the Servant within", who is always looking for new and useful ways to be a blessing to God and others. When we are doing that we feel fulfilled because we are being true and obedient to the nature within us.
But to be a servant of this kind we must first be free, free to CHOOSE to serve in that way, because we're doing it because we WANT to, not because we have to do it. We are doing it gladly and willingly. There is an illustration of the wedding banquet of the Lamb (Jesus the groom) being one in which each of the members of the bride of Christ (the true church) had a long spoon, too long to feed themselves with but perfect for feeding the one across the table! They were satisfying the Servant within by eating and partaking in that way. Jesus was a servant leader and when a nation has the scriptures and the record of his ministry, it has a model for others to be raised up in its own history who are servant leaders interested in meeting the needs and interests of others not competing with them, and not concerned primarily with their own ambition, people like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Dorothy Day, Mother Teresa and so many others. Without the Scriptures a nation or culture has no model that men and women can aspire to serve their people while leading them at the same time.
There is a scene in the 3rd act of Shakespeare's King Lear which comes also to mind. All of the main characters have their own "agenda" so to speak but there is an unnamed servant, like the servant who went obediently to find Issac a wife in Genesis 24, who saw a blind man about to be killed for convenience and this servant intervened against what he knew to be wrong and unjust, losing his own life in the process. He only had 8 lines in the play, a "minor" part by most standards, but his was the only visible role in the play that could be said to be blameless. The others all had "blood on their hands" and consciences. So it was the anonymous servant who was blameless, the one who had not even a name, not to mention a title, to which to give any credit. This is the character who most reminds us of the one of whom it is said in Mark 10 v.45, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life - a ransom for many."
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