“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant…” – Philippians 2:5,7
Jesus set the supreme example for humility and the attitude of a servant during His earthly ministry. He had all power in heaven and earth, but yet Jesus willfully and humbly served finite men. “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:28) Let us consider the servant mindset of Jesus that is exhibited in His life.
James and John, two of the sons of Zebedee, had apparently recruited their mother to request for Jesus to exalt them in the kingdom that they believed Jesus would set up in Jerusalem. She requests for her sons to sit on the right and left hand of Jesus ruling in this coming kingdom (Matt. 20:20-21). Jesus proceeds to explain that authority in the kingdom is not His to give, but rather given by the Father (Matt. 20:22-23). Of course the other disciples were upset over the supposed power grab of two of the apostles (Matt. 20:24). So Jesus begins to explain who will be promoted to these positions of authority in His coming kingdom, but it is a message that was (and still is) totally contradictory to the methods of authority in world around them.
In the world around us today, we see those in authority exercising dominion and control over their subjects. Such was the case in Jesus’ day as well, as evidenced by the example of the princes of the Gentiles that Jesus gave to the disciples (Matt. 20:25). The disciples were viewing power over other brethren in an earthly, carnal sense, not in a spiritual manner. Jesus clearly rebukes this attitude of self-promotion and declares, “But it shall not be so among you.” (Matt. 20:26a) He tells them that the kingdom of God is different that the kingdoms of this world. The kingdom of God is essentially a direct inverse of the structure of the world’s authority, with those in authority at the bottom of the pyramid or totem pole, instead of ruling from the top: “but whosoever will be greatest among you, let him be your minister: And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.” (Matt. 20:26-27)
Jesus declares that the “chief” among the disciples in His spiritual kingdom, will be those who “minister” and “serve”. The word for “minister” in Matt. 20:26 & 28 is the same Greek word from which we get the concept (and English translation) of “deacon”. The word literally means “to be an attendant, to wait tables”. A waiter at a restaurant is constantly attentive of those who he/she is waiting on. They come by and ask if you need refills, how was the food, or do you need anything else. The attentive waiter is constantly watching those to whom they are assigned to serve, seeing if there is anything that they can help those people with. This must be our mindset if we are to “minister” to our fellow kindred acceptably in God’s kingdom. If we desire a position that is greater than a “minister” or “servant” in the kingdom we shall never be acknowledged in Jesus’ kingdom. We should be content to simply serve others and be a doorkeeper in the house of God (Psalm 84:10), and if we covet a position greater than that, we will certainly cause divisions in the house of God and consequently will be debased in the kingdom, not exalted. “If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all” (Mark 9:35)
Despite the prideful attitudes of the disciples that came back up just after Jesus had offered them the Last Supper (Luke 22:24-30), Jesus showed the greatest display of the attitude of a servant when He washed the feet of the disciples (John 13:4-12). The washing of the feet of one’s guests was a job reserved for a hired hand or an indentured servant in Jesus’ time. However, the most important man in all of human history bowed down at the feet of sinners and washed their feet. Jesus’ entire ministry (“ministry” also comes from another variation of the Greek word meaning “waiter”) was about serving the children of God as an example for how we should serve one another.
We see the servant mind of Jesus on display in these gospel accounts. Paul, then, admonishes the brethren at Philippi to let this same servant mindset dwell richly in them as well. Just as Jesus made himself of no reputation, we should be content to be “unknown (yet well known)” in the kingdom of God (see 2 Cor. 6:9-10). Down at the feet of our kindred in Christ, serving and ministering and attending to their needs, understanding that the only recognition we will ever receive for it is the recognition by Jesus. Because “insomuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt. 25:40)
Originally published June 2016