John Mark’s portrait of Jesus shows Him girded, not in the regal robes of a king as in the Gospel of Matthew, but in the plain tunic and apron of a servant. The key verse of his whole gospel is this text: “Whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 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” (vv. 44-45).
There is one application of this text very familiar to us all and another you never may have considered. It seems to escape our attention. The more obvious and familiar application is this: If Jesus came from heaven to earth to take the role of a Servant, then how much more should we who claim to follow Him serve one another?
The context supports this use of the text. James and John were displaying extremely self-seeking behavior. When the other 10 disciples heard it, they were indignant that these two were getting in line ahead of them. All of them needed to understand that following Christ was a life of lowly service.
Robert Searle told a parable about a man who died and was given the unique privilege of seeing the reality of hell before being ushered into heaven. In the place of torment, he saw a long banquet table spread with all types of luscious fruit and delicate meats and breads; but seated at the tables were emaciated skeletal guests, staring at each other from sunken eye sockets. They could reach the table, but their arms were all in splints. No one could bend an elbow to bring food to his or her mouth.
“I’ve seen enough!” he said. “Take me to heaven.” There, he was surprised to find a similar banquet scene. Here also the guests wore splints so no one could bend an arm. These guests, however, were sleek and happy souls. The difference? They had learned to feed one another. That may not describe heaven literally, but that is what it means to be a citizen of the kingdom. Kingdom citizens learn to live for others.
However, there is another way to apply this text. If Jesus came to earth to be a Servant and to give His life as a ransom, why not let Him do for you what He came to do?
Do you need His forgiving grace? That’s why He came. Let Him be your Savior. Do you need a Friend who never fails? Let Jesus meet that need. He came to be the ultimate servant. Shouldn’t we allow Him to do for us what He came to do?
Bruce Wilkinson wrote an immensely popular book called The Prayer of Jabez. Some of us are uncomfortable with this materialistic and selfish petition. Is this a model for Christian prayer? “Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, ‘Oh that Thou would bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that Thine hand might be with me, and that Thou would keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me!’ And God granted him that which he requested.” (1 Chron. 4:10). Me, my, me, me, me!
The remarkable thing about Jabez and his prayer is that God answered at all. If Jabez has a message on prayer, let him teach us that God is a most gracious Sovereign. God is not a celestial Santa Claus, but He does love for us—His children—to seek His favor.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught: “How much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him” (Matt. 7:11). Do you aspire to be a fellow servant of the Lord Jesus Christ? Great! Don’t fail to see the other side of the text. Whatever your truest and deepest need, God in Christ is able and eager to provide that for you. The Son of Man came to serve.