Reflections on how Christians help each other to grow and mature in loving God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love their neighbor as themselves.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Servant Leadership - Part 2

Jesus the Servant of God

Jesus lived and died as the servant of God. His life and death were exemplified by self-giving love in the service of compassion and justice. Jesus gave himself freely, body and spirit, to be a “light to the nations” (Isaiah 42:6). In other words, his life was the incarnation of God’s love and intention for all people and all of creation. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…” (John 3:16a). In his life and death the church saw and experienced God’s presence and power in their midst and in the world. Jesus illuminated the power and presence of God and revealed the nature of authority and power in God’s household. He gave those who followed him a new way of thinking, seeing and living that is free of domination, competition, and fear. Jesus was a different kind of leader. He healed the sick, fed the hungry and ate with sinners. He comforted the lonely, cared for the lost and welcomed strangers. Jesus gave of himself for others. He put their needs ahead of his own, even to the point of suffering and humiliation. Jesus revealed God’s power and authority through humble service and caring; not through market logic.

The Servant Songs of Deutero-Isaiah (Isaiah 42:1-9; 49:1-6; 50:4-11; 52:13-53:12) provide an interpretive framework to help the early church understand Jesus’ life, ministry and death. According to Colin Kruse, “The primitive Christian community soon came to understand and interpret the ministry of Jesus in terms of the suffering servant prophecies …(cf., e.g., Matthew 3:17; 12:18-21; Luke 22:37; John 12:38; 1 Peter 2:22, 24-25).”[i] Much of the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and teachings reflect the image of the “Suffering Servant of God” from Isaiah. Kruse also contends that Isaiah’s servant imagery helped to form Jesus’ self-identity as much as it did the church’s interpretation of him.[ii] Servant identity so infused Jesus’ ministry that he expected his disciples to follow his example; even to share his fate. It is so central to Jesus understanding of himself, his ministry and the continuing ministry of the community gathered in his name that it bears close examination for the Christian community of every age.

We will look at each of the Servant Songs in the prophet Isaiah in turn. Each conveys aspects of Jesus’ life and death. Understanding their message is important because they help us better understand who Jesus is and who we, as the church, the community that bears his name, are to become.

[i] Colin G. Kruse, New Testament Models for Ministry: Jesus and Paul (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983), p 34.

[ii] Ibid., 50.


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