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The Nature of a Servant

April 13th 2014 by Joel Schultz

As Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, He did not come to be a conquering hero but rather to be a servant of mankind by going to a cross. The Lord calls us to put on the same mindset - the mind of Christ - as we seek to serve others. Read or listen for more...

Palm Sunday – Philippians 2:5-11 – “The Nature of a Servant” – April 13, 2014

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 them 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 mind sets 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. 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 and witness 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 – A destructive mind that leads away from the Lord.

But Paul points to a second mind set: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (v5). Don’t follow the mind of this world, but the mind of Christ. Paul dismisses selfishness and commends to us a mindset like that of Christ who abandoned every consideration for self in order to serve all people. 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). 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 took on “the form of a servant” (v7). And as a servant for mankind He became “obedient to the point of 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 underwent 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.

And 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.

So, Paul says, have the mind of Christ – His humility – His sacrifice – 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 – living in peace and joy with other members of the church even if we don’t always agree.

This mind of Christ was given in Holy Baptism. The Old Adam was drowned and died and the new man rose to live before God in righteousness. But Paul reminds the Philippians and us that the struggle between the mind of the world and the mind of Christ is a daily battle. Luther writes that we should by daily contrition and repentance be reminded of our Baptism and drown the Old Adam once again so that the new man – with the mind of Christ – will arise. 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.

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 – a Servant, who is God Himself – a Servant into whose name you have been placed by Baptism – a 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 service to Him and each other.

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