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The Nature of a Servant

April 17th 2011 by Joel Schultz

Today, we celebrate Palm Sunday. This is the day Jesus rides into Jerusalme on a donkey amid shouts of praise. Jesus enters Jerusalem as King, but not a a king to take an earthly throne, but as a King who came to serve us with forgiveness and life. St. Paul tells us that we should have the mind of Christ as we love and serve others. Read or listen for more...

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Palm Sunday — Philippians 2:5-11 — “The nature of a Servant” — April 17, 2011 Christians in Philippi were struggling with two competing mind sets: the mind of selfish man or the mind of the Servant, Christ Jesus. On the one hand they were a loving, charitable congregation as Paul commends in his letter to the Corinthians. But on the other hand there were many in the congregation who were seriously self-absorbed. They were looking out for their own self interests, and doing things out of selfish ambition and vain conceit (vs. 3-4).

These two mindsets still compete in the lives of God’s people. Yes we know what we should do as God’s people, but Satan and our sinful flesh so often get in the way. We all struggle with living selfish, self-absorbed lives – a point which Jessica Nelson North illustrates in a poem.

I gave a little tea party/ This afternoon at three ‘Twas very small / Three guests in all — I, myself, and me. Myself ate up the sandwiches / While I drank all the tea ‘Twas also I / Who ate the pie / And passed the cake to me.

How easily our thoughts turn to our own lives, whether it be our successes and triumphs or our hurts and problems. How easily our thoughts turn away from those around us and the tasks of love and service God has placed before us. After all, our problems and pressures are numerous. Pressures of time, family, job, school, and money weigh heavily upon us. “How can I focus on others when there is so much happening in my life.” The inclination of our sinful human nature is not toward humility, love, and service, but rather toward arrogance, vain conceit, and selfishness. And ultimately, this selfish mindset chips away at our relationship with God and with others.

When we lived in the Chicago area 20 years ago, Michael Jordan was at the height of his career as the star of the NBA’s Chicago Bulls. While Michael Jordan was leading his team to one championship after another there was a popular ad campaign which had the slogan, “I want to be like Mike.” Who have you always wanted to be like? Who was it when you were a child that you wanted to grow up and be like. I think most of us had at least one person who inspired us. For me it was my second grade teacher. I wanted to grow up and be a teacher just like him.

Our text today gives us the ultimate example of who we should be like: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (v5). Paul tells us that we should have the mind of Christ Jesus. The Lord Jesus is both the perfect example and the ultimate source of strength for living lives of Christian humility, love, and service.

Our Gospel lesson today paints the familiar picture for us once again. Jesus is going up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover with His disciples. Along the way, crowds of people meet Him and acclaim Him as King: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9). Palm branches are waved and coats are placed on the road to cover the path as this king rides by.

But Jesus has much more planned than to become an earthly king sitting on an earthly throne. Our text tells us that this King is “in the form of God” (v6) – He was in the very nature of God. But He did not appear on earth to glorify Himself. Rather when Jesus came to earth, He considered His mission on our behalf and humbled Himself. He emptied Himself of the full and constant use of His divine nature – of His godly power and majesty. Although He was still God, He “made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant” (v6).

And as a servant for mankind He became “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (v8). However, being God, He was not compelled to die. He did it willingly, not for Himself, but for us. He under went the shame and degradation of a slave’s death as a substitute for the entire human race. He bore our sins and was forsaken by the Heavenly Father in our place. And because it was God hanging there on the cross for us, we may be certain that His death was sufficient for all of us, and for all time. This death has all the power and effectiveness of God Himself behind it.

And it was all done to benefit us. Because Jesus took our sins, God declares us to be sinless in His sight. Because Jesus paid for our guilt , we are set free. In God’s marvelous great exchange our sins were charged to this God-man, Jesus, hanging on a cross and His righteousness is credited to us.

But Jesus did not remain dead. When man’s salvation was fully accomplished, Paul writes, “God has highly exalted Him” (v9). The God-man, who once humbled Himself to the lowest depths to save us from sin, death, and the power of the devil, is now exalted to the loftiest heights as the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Now, after giving this example of humble service and proclaiming our source of strength from the Gospel, Paul says we, as Jesus’ followers, are to imitate His lowly-mindedness and self-sacrificing love. If we truly understand what this God-man – this King – this Savior – did for us, can we refuse? How can we live selfishly when we belong to an unselfish Lord? He became obedient to death for us, and by faith we now have the mind of Christ. Shall we not willingly serve one another for His sake? — Helping those in there time of need — lending a listening ear — being generous with our time, talents, and treasure — living a humble life of service as a husband/ wife, son/ daughter, employer/ employee.

Our mission committee has come up with a program to help encourage you in this task of service. Check out the info in the HB and on the wall in the lobby.

The attitude which accompanies triumph over self and results in true harmony among Christians is found in Christ. The more thoroughly believers come to know Christ, the more completely Christ and His love will fill their hearts. The more we are in Christ and Christ in us, the more Christ-like and unselfish we will be in our attitudes and actions. Moved by the perfect example of our Savior and empowered by the Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts, let us strive to cultivate Christ’s attitude of self-sacrificing humility.

The Servant, Jesus Christ, who rode on a donkey into Jerusalem amidst shouts of praise, came as a humble Man, as an obedient slave, to hang, bleed, and die on a cross for your sins and mine. This is the Servant, who is also God Himself. This is the Servant into whose name you have been placed by Baptism. This is the Servant in whose name we are gathered for worship. This is the Servant who pours out His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation into our lives to strengthen us in our service.


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