During this Passion Week, I have been thinking about Jesus the servant. What is a servant? Is it possible that a servant can be the most pivotal person in all of history?
Last Monday I used a passage from Isaiah 42. This is the first of four Servant’s songs in the prophet’s writing. Later, Matthew quotes this passage and attributes it to Jesus declaring the Servant Songs to be Messianic to Jesus.
I read about servants in Holman’s Bible dictionary and discovered this:
Isaiah 42 gives a remarkable picture of the ideal Servant of the Lord and the work that God intends Him to accomplish… The tasks He is destined to accomplish are almost beyond belief. He is to bring God’s justice to all the nations. Almost more remarkable than the immensity of the task that the Servant must perform is the description of the way He is to do it. He will move forward with absolute confidence, but nothing indicates strenuous effort will be needed. He will have such an understanding of His overwhelming power that He can be absolutely gentle as He does His work even toward those whose efforts have failed.
He was confident in His overwhelming power. I am writing this as a furious windstorm in wrecking havoc outside my window. Occasionally I look up to confirm that a tornado is not in the horizon. Tornados, hurricanes, tsunamis, bombs, earthquakes, and floods all have tremendous power. The aftermath of such uncontrolled power is most assuredly destruction and death.
Combine all the forces of all the storms throughout all of history and the power would be nothing compared to the power in Jesus. He had the power to obliterate His enemies, which certainly would have brought justice to all the nations. But instead He harnessed all that power and died on the cross. Why?
The gentle suffering Servant had two motivators I lack: perfect love and selfless devotion to that love. Jesus loved His Father; therefore obedience was the natural outflow of that love. Obedience comes easy to those in love. The motivation of lovers is to please the object of their love. It isn’t difficult to conceive such love between the Father and His only begotten Son.
But the most profound truth of the cross is that Jesus loves us as much as He loves His Father. Same love and same selfless devotion to that love, He served to us, the bruised reeds and smoldering wicks.
My favorite quote about the love of Jesus comes from Hannah Whittall Smith:
Put together all the tenderest love you know of, the deepest you have ever felt, and the strongest that has ever been poured out upon you and heap upon it all the love of all the loving human hearts in the world, and then multiply it by infinity, and you will begin perhaps to have some faint glimpse of the love and grace of God.
Unlimited power controlled in the hands of our loving Servant brings justice to all the earth and not one bruise or injury is suffered.
Oh, the gentleness of God. He could have unleashed His wrath on the earth as He did with the flood in Noah’s day and will again as foretold in Revelation. Such judgment is justice of God’s wrath for sin.
But justice can also mean the fulfilling of needs and giving of benefits. Injustice is depriving others of their basic needs or failing to correct matters when those rights are not met. The life of a believer is true testament to Jesus fulfilling all our needs according to His glorious riches. Justice by this definition has reached into all the nations.
To fully understand the cross, you must combine these two elements of justice and then add the God factor and you can begin to get a glimpse of what the Servant did for us. Isaiah’s songs give more detail of the tasks of the servant:
42:6-7 “I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open the eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison, and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.
49:6 he says; “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”
50:4,7 The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue to know the word that sustains the weary…Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced.
52:13-53:12, v5 He was pierced for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
I recently watched Remains of the Day about a manservant in British society. He served with utmost efficiency, respect, and faithfulness to the determent of losing his own identity and his influence. Jesus taught what a true servant should be. A servant of the Lord has full power to change the world and he/she does so by harnessing that power in loving service to the Master’s plan. When we serve like Jesus it could be said of us:
He will move forward with absolute confidence, but nothing indicates strenuous effort will be needed.