PALM SUNDAY “The Servant’s Servants”
April 5, 2020 Philippians 2:5-1
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
In our Epistle reading for this Palm Sunday, we heard from Philippians 2. It told us how God-the-Son, took on the form of a servant, humbling himself for our sakes, and being obedient to the Father, even tho it meant his suffering & death on the cross. Serving us thru the cross, Jesus has accomplished our atonement = our rescue, salvation, & peace with God. So he has now been exalted, with a Name above every other name; that every knee will bow to him, & acknowledge that He -alone- is Lord over all. This lesson was emphasizing the first part of Jesus’ ‘humbling’ more than the second part of his ‘exulting’; because the first part is for our life right now, the second part is for our life later, when our Lord returns in glory at the Last Day. So, our lesson began with the words ‘have THIS mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.’ Having ‘this mind’ means ‘the mind of a servant,’ living NOW as a humble servant, in the way Jesus showed while he was among us.
Just as we cannot grasp -right now- what glories will be ours in our heavenly future and after Judgement Day, we can’t live now like all that is fulfilled; as if we now have perfect health & no longer threatened by death. We can’t live now like we are no longer tempted to disobey God & are sinless. That life IS coming, and it WILL be glorious; but it’s NOT our life right now. Not while we still live in this fallen, often unfair, & disease-filled world; not while we are selfish & uncaring against our neighbor, & fight with others, & hold grudges.
The Lord blesses us & provides for us, and we are thankful; but this life is still hard. And we are looking forward to His promise of a life that is far, far better. We believe the words of Rev. 21 when it says that we are going to the place where all our tears will be wiped away; there will be no more mourning or crying, no more pain or death. We will live with God face-to-face. It IS hard for us to grasp that perfect glory & health & joy & peace because that’s not the kind of life we know now.
That perfect life was the life the Son-of-God knew from eternity; but not the kind of life he came to live on the earth & show to us; because we can’t grasp that glory. So, when he came, he made himself nothing, and took the form of a servant, and humbled himself in obedience to his Father; he obeyed the will of his Father, even unto death on the cross.
THIS is the mind you & I are to have: the mind of a servant; obedient to God, and patiently suffering; waiting for his promise of sharing his glory to come. The true Christian mind &faith are shown when we are humble servants of our gracious God, like our Lord Jesus was.
So, what Is a servant? One who does service for the master; who helps & assists the master’s business; who is active to do what the master wants. That’s the life & purpose of the true servant to the master who is in charge and trustworthy.
Let me use a visual: these 2 books. Because of our current state of ‘social distancing’ you won’t be able to see these very well, so I’ll describe them to you. These are two copies of our Lutheran Service Book, our newest hymnal for the Lutheran Church~Missouri Synod, which has guided our worship life together, week after week, since 2007.
THIS one is special. It has my name embossed on the front cover, marking it as mine. It’s 13 years old, but looks brand new. The binding isn’t broken, the pages are not faded or ripped or marked up. It’s in excellent condition, but it’s kind of useless. It just takes up space on the bookshelf; it has not served its purpose so far.
This OTHER hymnal is also special, but different. The cover engraving is worn away & the binding is pretty loose after 13 years of being opened & closed. There are pages that have been ripped & taped; pages have notes & scribbles. It looks kind of shabby, but it’s been a true servant, because it’s been fulfilling its purpose: to lead our worship of God thru liturgy & hymns.
JESUS did not look new & beautiful, or very special, when he reached the end of his ministry, and the end of Holy Week. He looked used up, worn & tired, whipped & shamed. He looked like a common, guilty criminal, rejected, nailed to the cross, & dying. But that’s because he had been USEFUL to fulfill the Father’s purpose as a true servant. The Father asked him to soak up our sin & guilt, and condemnation & death for us. And that’s what he did. He used his life to serve us, to bring us out of death and into true life with God. And in Phil 2, we’re told that WE are to have the same mind as Jesus, and to look at others in the same way that he looked at us; to serve others as we have been served. We would not be very good servants to that purpose if we just sat on the shelf & looked nice, but never DID anything.
Jesus has shown us WHAT he redeemed our lives FOR, & what living-purpose we now have as we bear His Name. Christ-followers are humble servants. +We will get worn-out & used-up as obey His Word in an opposing world; +We have his truth & guidance to share with those who are caught in sin; +we have his forgiveness to share with those who sin against us; +we have his hope & peace to share with those who are doubting & scared in times of sickness & death.
There will be wear & tear on our lives; but we will-have-been God’s useful servants to those who need help, and a comfort to those whose faith needs to be taught rightly & encouraged. And when the Last Day comes, God will be able to look at us, and say ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter the joy of your master.’ (Mt.25)
So, with that illustration & definition of a servant, *are you doing pretty good with being useful to God, OR do you need more time to practice & get better at it, before your time on earth is done? *How would your children answer that same question about you? *How would your neighbor perceive your Christian life? We shouldn’t live just to impress others; that’s not the right motivation. But still, we have to ask, *what is the witness of our actions?
By looking at our life-actions, *are people reminded that we have taken up our cross, and are following after Christ Jesus = who became a humble servant all the way to the cross for them? *Does our life of discipleship look nice but is kind of useless; OR is it useful & well worn? We might also ask if our life is more earthly focused or heavenly focused; are people clear that we’re following God’s Word, in both a firm & living morality and a patient mercy; standing against sin, but willing to help sinners?
We Lutherans have been blessed to have kept the full historic season of Lent in our church calendar with the focus on Jesus’ suffering servanthood and obedience unto death. We know it’s not the most joyous time of the church year, but it IS deeply meaningful; AND it’s a large portion of God’s Scripture for us, showing God’s own painful service to fix our fallen condition.
+The world doesn’t like the idea of a suffering God; +some church-groups don’t spend much time talking about the Lord’s pain & sorrow which defined his earthly life.
+Some churches no longer observe any kind of Good Friday service prior to Easter,
even tho our lives right now relate far better to the cross more than the empty tomb.
If we’re not careful, we could slip into the same wrong thinking. Because our old natures are tempted to reject the truth of one of the words in Phil 2 = the word is ‘HUMILITY.’ God expects us to be humble, otherwise we will not be useful to him. But, we don’t strive after humility as a goal, otherwise we’ll miss it. Christian-humility is not a direct action that we do,
it’s the result from something else we do.
Sometimes, we attempt to be humble by being inactive. We don’t do something we’re skilled at because we’re afraid it’ll look like we’re ‘showing off.’ But, *don’t you have abilities because God gave them to you to use for Him? We might excuse ourselves from serving because we think others can do it better. We think we’re being humble, but mostly we’re being useless. When we are inactive on purpose, then we end up being served by others = when we don’t need to be served. That’s the opposite of Jesus’ attitude & command for us.
Let say that 2 people see that something needs to be done for someone, or in church. The one thinks, ‘no, I’m no good at that.’ & does nothing. And the other thinks, ‘I’ll try, because I want to help.’ & they do what they can. The one thinks they’re being humble,
but the other one IS humble thru serving.
True humility comes thru serving, just like our Savior Jesus has shown us. It is true that -the less we do- the more we avoid making mistakes or being criticized, but *is that the best goal for our life = to look good – but not be useful? A false humility becomes selfishness,
by making others do what we could be doing; or leaving things undone because we’re scared to do them.
Instead, God has called & equipped us for serving & doing; that’s what Jesus means when he said, ‘follow me.’ Thru Paul, the Spirit writes: in humility consider others more important than yourselves, and look after their interest, not just your own.
Thru Peter, the Spirit writes, each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.
And thru John, the Spirit writes, we know we have come to know Jesus if we obey his commands. Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.
So that brings us back to Phil 2, where our attitude must be the same as Jesus, who made himself a servant, and showed his humility by caring for us. To illustrate that,
Jesus did the job of the lowliest servant by washing his disciples dirty feet. And then he told them: do you understand what I have done for you? I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. And then, of course, he used up his whole life for them. At the cross, He has served up his life for you & me, too.
Jesus said, anyone who wants to be great, must be the servant of all. To the world that’s backwards, & foolish. But to God’s people it makes sense, because it’s the clearest way our daily life will be showing the life of Jesus, the Son of God, who left heaven, set aside his power & glory for a time, to take up this human life, and to serve as the world’s Savior.
Peter said, humble yourselves, and the Lord will lift you up in due time. But we can’t aim at humility and hit it. As Jesus shows us, humility comes from being obedient to God
and being helpful to others by serving. For the time-being, we may be stuck at home with our serving options limited; but that will change. So, for now, maybe we can each evaluate our past serving, and make some plans for our future serving.
The Christian finds joy in the busy hands of service for the good of others. As we serve, we show Christ to others, so that they will get to know Him, and come into his kingdom along with us.
On this Palm Sunday, we see our ‘servant-king’, and we are reminded that our Lord has saved us for a purpose: so that we will be good servants, and useful in the Lord’s kingdom. Do others see in us a well-worn, steadfast, & obedient Christian life? We will serve & be useful because we are followers of the Christ, who has redeemed us, and given us a new life & a future promise, all because He was obedient to unto death, and now is highly exalted forevermore.