Today in many churches there will be a service called Tenebrae. This is a Latin word meaning “darkness.” These services share the story of the suffering and death of Jesus from the Gospel of John. The lights in the church are dimmed and candles are lit at the front. As each portion of scripture is read, a candle is extinguished. The final story of the burial is read in near darkness. As the service concludes everyone is encouraged to leave in silence and to spend time thinking of the death of Jesus – and of the celebration waiting on Sunday.
As we ponder this day we remember that it was on Thursday that Jesus washed the disciples feet. He did this to emphasis His purpose in coming to earth – and also to set an example to us of what true Christianity was all about – being a servant.
In Mark’s Gospel we are told:
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
When His disciples were arguing about who would be first in God’s kingdom Jesus told them that His kingdom would be different than any kingdom.
You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else.
“Be a servant.” “Be a slave.” That hardly fits with our culture today. We are encouraged to “get ahead”, “be successful”, “rise to the top.”
Many times before we commit to something we want to know “what’s in it for me?”
Jesus has called His followers to be different.
In Philippians we are told:
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
As we reflect and celebrate what this weekend means to Christians, let us renew our commitment to be “like Jesus” and be a servant.
What does a servant look like:
- They do not seek the limelight
- They often work behind the scene
- They do not expect a payback
- They put the needs of others before their own
I think perhaps the best statement of a servant was by Rick Warren who said:
The real test of whether we are a servant is how we act when we are treated like one.