From Praying the Names of Jesus Week Twenty-Four, Day One
Like most of us, Jesus' disciples were sometimes caught up with a sense of their own self-importance, at times even arguing with each other about which of them was greatest. Jesus startled them by reversing the natural order in which it is the weak who serve the strong. He assured them, instead, that he came not in order to control and dominate but in order to serve.
Though prophets, judges, and kings were called servants of God in the Bible, Jesus is the greatest of all God's servants, the Man of Sorrows who laid down his life in obedience to his Father. He is the Servant who through his suffering has saved us. When you pray to Jesus as Servant or as the Man of Sorrows, you are praying to the Lord who has loved you in the most passionate way possible, allowing himself to be nailed to a cross in order that you might have life and have it to the full.
He was despised and rejected, a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief. Isaiah 53:3, NLT
The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve. Matthew 20:28
His Name Revealed
See, my servant will prosper; he will be highly exalted. . . . My servant grew up in the Lord's presence like a tender green shoot, sprouting from a root in dry and sterile ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him. He was despised and rejected — a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way when he went by. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God for his own sins! But he was wounded and crushed for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace. He was whipped, and we were healed! Isaiah 52:13; 53:2-5, NLT
Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Matthew 20:26-28
Lord, I was like a bruised reed you would not break, a smoldering wick you would not put out. Instead you allowed yourself to be pierced for my transgressions, crushed for my iniquities. You were despised and rejected, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. The punishment that brought me peace was placed on you. My Lord and my God, I worship you.
Understanding the Name
After God led the Israelites out of their slavery in Egypt, he did not treat them as slaves but as his own people, his sons and daughters.
Though slavery was practiced in Israel, the Law forbade the forcible enslavement of freeborn individuals. To kidnap or sell such a person was to incur the death penalty. However, people could sell themselves in order to pay off their debts. Even so, Hebrew slaves were to be released after a certain number of years because no child of God was meant to live in perpetual bondage.
Though the Israelites were not considered God's slaves, they were considered his servants, freely putting his interests before their own, confident of his care and protection. To be God's servant involved living with an attitude of dependence and obedience. Scripture speaks of Moses, Joshua, Hannah, David, Isaiah, Mary the mother of Jesus, and many others as God's servants because they lived a life of faithful obedience.
The Servant Songs in Isaiah (42:1-4; 49:1-7; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12) all speak of a mysterious Servant who would bring justice to the nations. Through his suffering this Man of Sorrows (ISH makuh-BOTH) would redeem many. The Jews may have understood this as a reference to Israel while early Christians understood these passages as messianic prophecies pointing to the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. By becoming one of us, Jesus suffered both with and for us. He was the Servant (E-bed) par excellence, the Servant of God (PAIS tou the-OU), who not only obeyed God but obeyed to the point of death.
As his people, we are to follow his example, remembering his words that "the greatest among you will be your servant." Jesus' words make particular sense in light of the fact that in ancient times, a servant's status was directly related to the status of his master. To be a servant of the King of kings, then, is the greatest of privileges. It is no surprise to discover that the word "minister," derived from a Latin word, and the word "deacon, derived from a Greek word, both mean "servant."
Studying the Name
- How does the passage from Isaiah fit or fail to fit with your image of Jesus?
- When you think of Jesus' suffering, how does it make you feel about him, about yourself, about others?
- Describe an experience in which someone served you? How did it affect you?
- Describe experiences in which you have been able to serve someone else with the love of Christ.
Meet your spiritual ancestors as they really were: Less Than Perfect: Broken Men and Women of the Bible and What We Can Learn from Them.