Born to Serve
Topic: Expository Passage: Mark 10:41-45
I think we all enjoy singing the Christmas carols. It’s been evident this month in how loudly you have sung. Part of that is beause these songs have a lot of sentimental value, but most of them are also poetically and theologically rich. This is to be expected, because the Christmas story is built on some incredible works of God and some incredible displays of his grace and love. And ultimately it provides the foundation for what becomes our hope as Christians that Jesus died for us on the cross and rose again.
As a result, we are going to reflect today on the story of Jesus’ birth, but we are going to spend most of our time today reflecting on the purpose of Jesus’ birth and how it relates to us. To do this, I’d like to focus our attention on Mark 10:41–45 and especially on v. 45, but for the sake of context, I’d like to begin reading in v. 32 (read).
In v. 45 Jesus gives a profoundly simple explanation of why he was born. Jesus was born to serve. In the process he provided us with a challenging model of how we should serve each other. But at the center of his service was the fact that ultimately, Jesus was born to die, and in the process he provided us with the eternal redemption. And so I’d like to walk through the story of this verse and make several significant applications. The story begins with the fact that…
I. Jesus became one of us.
Jesus states, the Son of Man came into the world, which takes us back to his birth. I’d like to point out 2 truths regarding Jesus birth. First…
Jesus came in humility. What makes this particularly incredible is the fact that eternal God came in humility. The fact that Jesus says he came indicates intentionality, and it assumes that he existed long before his birth. John 1:1 states that Jesus was in the beginning, so he has always been. And for all eternity he was with the Father in heaven, and he was himself God.
Therefore, without question, one of the most remarkable aspects of the Christmas story is the irony that the eternal Son of God came into the world with such incredible humility.
For one he was born into a humble family. Luke 2 tells us that by the decree of Caesar, Mary and Joseph were required to travel to Bethlehem as her pregnancy neared full term. They are just a regular family, so they don’t get any sort of exception. And we tend to picture them arriving in town as Mary is going into labor and as desperately searching for a place to deliver the baby. But Luke 2:6 says, “While they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered,” so they had been in Bethlehem for at least a few days when Mary went into labor.
Had they been people of significance, someone would have surely taken them in. But they didn’t catch anyone’s eye, because Mary and Joseph were just a regular, blue collar couple. As such, Jesus took some of his first breaths while lying inside a feed trough. It’s unimaginable to us today, when you think of how delicately we care for newborns. I can say with confidence from my time on the farm, that feed troughs are not sterile.
And then the first people to come see Jesus after his birth were not kings and rulers, or even the city elders. No the first people to come worship were humble shepherds who got stuck with the night shift. Our Savior came with great humility. And not only that, our text adds that…
Jesus identified with humanity. Jesus calls himself “the Son of Man.” This title is significant for a variety of reasons. First, Daniel 7 prophecies that Israel’s Messiah will be called “the Son of Man” and that he will receive an everlasting kingdom over the peoples of the earth. Therefore, when Jesus used this title, he was declaring himself to be the promised Messiah.
But Jesus also used this title as a symbol of his humility and his identification with mankind. It was his way of saying, “I am one of you.” And as one of us, Jesus submitted to the limitations of a human body and a human nature. He experienced hunger and fatigue. He felt the weight of temptation, and the agony of human suffering.
Now, I want to be clear, that his divine nature couldn’t experience these limitations. But his human body and human nature experienced every limitation that we endure, which is just incredible to ponder.
And so as we prepare for the Christmas holiday, we have much to be thankful The incarnation was an incredible miracle of God’s power and a beautiful display of his kindness and grace. But God’s grace in Christ was only beginning when he became one of us. Jesus adds that…
II. Jesus came to serve.
Notice, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” Of course Jesus deserved all the service he could get, and many people served Jesus during his time on earth. Jesus also demands service from his disciples. But his primary mission was not to receive service but to give service. And it’s truly incredible to ponder…
The Humility of Christ’s Life: Even though Jesus is the eternal Son of God, for roughly 30 years, he lived in anonymity as a humble, blue-collar carpenter. No one of significance knew who he was or cared who he was.
And even when he began his public ministry, he continued to live a far more humble life than he could have enjoyed. Rather than dazzling the crowds and pushing himself into the company of the elite, he loved and served regular people. And rather than pushing himself into money and fame, he had no home and no family. And rather than telling people what they wanted to hear; he told them what they needed to hear, which infuriated the religious elite and ultimately led to his death. Jesus really did live the life of a servant. And something that is so challenging for us is the fact that the humility of Christ’s life resulted in…
The Joy of Christ’s Life: If Jesus were like us, he might be willing to serve, but he would subtlely hold every act of service over our heads. So often we keep a meticulous mental record of everything that we have done for our family or that needy friend. We have dates and statistics, and we wield those stats like a sword whenever we want something in return.
And if Jesus were like us, every time he mad a long journey on a hot day or slept in the cold, he’d moan about all the sacrifice he was making, and he’d rehearse everything these lowly people owed him. But Jesus had a different response. Hebrews 12:2 says of Jesus, “Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” In other words, Jesus found his joy, not in receiving service, but in honoring the Father and in serving his people.
Boy is that convicting. I’ve never done marital counseling and heard a wife complain that her marriage is falling apart because she doesn’t have enough opportunities to serve her husband. But I’ve heard plenty of husbands and wives complain about how their spouse isn’t serving them.
Of course, we are all guilty. We tell ourselves that if someone would take care of me, I’d be happy. But the Scriptures and experience teach us time and time again that there is far more lasting joy in serving than in receiving.
So parents, if you’ve set your kids up to believe that Santa is going to fulfill all their dreams, you have set your kids up for disappointment and empty materialism. Kids, you’ll never get enough Christmas presents to bring you joy, but you can find joy in the example of Christ. And the same goes for all of us in our families, in this church, and your workplace. Don’t live your life craving joy by being served. No follow the example of Christ and find your joy in serving the will of the Father and in serving your fellow man.
And so praise the Lord for the selfless example of Christ. He came to serve sinners like us, and at the end of his ministry he had joy in recognizing that he had completed the Father’s mission, even though every step was hard, and his mission ended in cruel death. And this brings us to the third stage of v. 45, and the most important.
III. Jesus served us by dying for us.
Jesus says the ultimate reason he came was, “to give His life a ransom for many.” The fact is you can’t really appreciate Jesus’ birth without appreciating his death. Jesus didn’t ultimately come to heal the sick or feed the poor. No, Jesus was born to die. Therefore…
Jesus willingly gave his life. Jesus wasn’t ultimately a victim of circumstance or human misunderstanding or even of the Pharisees and Romans. No, he died because he willingly laid down his life. Jesus said in John 10:17–18, “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” How we ought to give thanks today for Christ’s submission to the Father and for his own sacrificial love for us. But of course, the incredible love Jesus showed by going to the cross is only the beginning of its significance for us. The primary blessing we enjoy through the death of Christ is that…
Jesus provided redemption. The picture of ransom or redemption had a long and rich tradition in the Law. In particular, it comes up several times in Leviticus 25 regarding care for the poor. At times people could become so financially desperate that they would sell their lands or even sell themselves into slavery in order to pay debts or provide for their family.
But God was very clear that Israel was not to take advantage of these people by permanently possessing their lands or by permanently enslaving them. These arrangements had to be temporary, but even before the end date, God made provision for the redemption of property or slaves. Through the payment of a ransom, you could receive back your property or free a slave.
And the NT picks up on this picture and uses it frequently to describe what Jesus accomplished on the cross. In particular, the Bible is clear that our sin has created an infinite debt before God. It’s like every time we sin another line is added to our ledger. And by God’s just standards, each line of that ledger is not merely worth a few cents or a few dollars; each line is of infinite value. The Bible is clear you owe God an infinite debt.
And people like to think that they can pay this debt down on their own by going to church, doing good deeds, or donating to a good cause. But the best of our deeds are but a few pennies on a massive debt. The Bible is clear that we have no hope of paying this debt ourselves; therefore, we deserve God’s eternal wrath in hell.
Now of course this is a very offensive idea in our humanistic age, where we have chosen to see ourselves as the ultimate judges of truth. We believe that any god we accept must conform to our criteria. But we must recognize that the offense is not with God; it is with us. God is not subject to our reasoning; we are subject to his.
Therefore, the first step to being right with God is always to acknowledge that he is creator God and I am not. And when you acknowledge this fact, there is no getting around the fact that I have an infinite debt, and I am hopelessly condemned.
But when you admit these realities, you can then see the true beauty of Christ’s mission. Jesus says he came to “give His life a ransom for many.” In other words, when Jesus died on the cross, he made the only payment that could satisfy God’s just demand. He bore my punishment that day.
This is what Jesus means by the little prepositional phrase “for many.” The preposition Jesus uses is anti. It is significant to NT theology because it literally means “instead of.” So the idea is that instead of us having to pay the penalty we deserve, Jesus did it for us when he died in our place.
That’s incredible! And what makes it even more incredible is how this ransom is applied to sinners. Ephesians 2:8–9 say, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,not of works, lest anyone should boast.” God is clear that I don’t secure my ransom by good works; rather God gives it to me “by grace…through faith.”
All I must do to have Christ’s redemption applied to me is receive it as a gift of grace. To do that, I must first agree with God about my sin, meaning I acknowledge before God that my sin is evil and deserving of judgment. The Bible calls this repentance. And second I must believe that Jesus’ ransom is fully sufficient to save my soul, and I must cast myself on his mercy.
If you have never received this gift, I pray that you will do so today. See Jesus today not simply as a good man but as your Savior, repent of your sin, and believe on Christ. If you have questions about what I have said or about how to do this, we’d love to talk with you at the close our service today and make sure you leave knowing that Christ is your Savior.
And if you have received this gift, then how you ought to rejoice in the humble service of Christ. Give thanks that the Son of Man didn’t come to be served by us but to serve us, and to give his life a ransom for us. But there’s one other very important application we need to take from this text, which was Jesus’ primary point in citing his own example. And that is…
IV. We must serve others like Jesus served us.
This is a pretty incredible section of Scripture that deserves far more attention than we can give it today. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem to die. He knows exactly what is coming. And he tries to prepare the disciples for what is coming in 33–34. That’s a heavy statement that should have drawn a sober response from the disciples.
But the whole thing just flies over their heads, and instead James and John pull Jesus aside to make a very bold request. James and John think that Jesus is about to set up his earthly kingdom, and they ask if they can receive the 2nd and 3rd positions in this kingdom. It’s incredibly selfish and inconsiderate in light of what Jesus just said.
And when the other disciples get wind of James and John’s request, they don’t’ react any better. Verse 41 says they were “indignant.” And yet calmly, Jesus pulls everyone together and gives a powerful challenge (vv. 42–45). He begins with the fact that…
Unbelievers pursue joy by selfishly climbing over each other. Jesus points out that in the world at large, people pursue power to serve themselves. Wealth and authority are a way to get what I want and to push around those under me for my benefit.
And they really believe that the glory of leadership and the privilege of getting their way will make them happy. Sometimes it does for a time, but glory and power never quite satisfy like we think they will. And of course this kind of abusive leadership always hurts the community at large. Therefore, Jesus calls us to a higher standard based on the example that he set in his death.
Christians find joy in selflessly serving each other. We are to see authority, not as an opportunity for glory and power but as a way to serve And by extension, we are not to seek satisfaction in human recognition but in serving those around us.
Of course this is profoundly challenging for me as a pastor. When I was an assistant pastor in MI, our senior pastor reached his 20 year anniversary. But rather than letting the church throw a party for him, he and his wife threw a party for the church to thank them for giving him the opportunity to serve. He wanted to say very clearly that the church had given him a far greater gift than he had given to them. I’ve been reminded this week in this text, that you have given me a great gift in letting me serve as your pastor.
And folks, that’s how we should look at every opportunity to lead. The greatest joy of leadership is not in the glory or power; the greatest joy is in the opportunity to bless those you serve. This is certainly true in the church. I can say for myself, that the glory of pastoral ministry wears off pretty quick, but the joy of watching others see God and grow into his likeness just can’t be matched. Ministry is all grace.
And there are so many significant applications we can make here as we think about the holidays. Some of us are tired today because we have been running like sled dogs for the last month, and we get really cranky at times thinking, “Why doesn’t anyone notice me or serve me. Why doesn’t my spouse appreciate all I do? My kids don’t see me as anything but an ATM.”
Appreciation is nice, and so is a little relaxation. But it wears off very quickly. You can get some nice things and be a lazy bum for the next few days, but January is coming really fast, and the happiness you get from the break will wear off really fast when the grind begins. So don’t spend the next week chasing selfish passion; set a pattern of being great by serving.
Find your joy not in the gifts people give you or in having time to relax. No, find your joy in serving your family. Determine to brighten the day of that difficult family member or to share the gospel with that hardened uncle who is nearing death. Anticipate how you can be a blessing, not what you will receive.
And all along the way, meditate on the incredible example that Jesus set. Give thanks this week that Jesus didn’t come to be served; rather, his whole life’s goal was to serve. And praise the Lord that the pinnacle of his service was in the fact that he gave his life a ransom for you.
It doesn’t seem that John immediately appreciated the stupidity of his request, but after Jesus death, I imagine that it came back to haunt him. I’m sure he told the story of Mark 10 time and time again and just shook his head in disbelief. But thankfully that experience transformed him, and it’s evident in 1 John that God changed him into a man of remarkable love who found his joy in service. In light of Mark 10, John’s statement in 1 John 3:16 is powerful and convicting.