The essence of Christian faith is not that we serve Christ, but that He served us. In Matthew 20, the mother of James and John came to Jesus, requesting that her sons be allowed to sit at His side in the kingdom—one on His right, the other on His left. So Jesus turned and asked a question of them: “Are you willing to do what it takes to do that?” Both of them readily, rashly took up the challenge: “You know it!” Then Jesus said, “Oh, you’re going to pay the price, all right. But that honor is not Mine to give.”
At this point, the other disciples become indignant toward these other two. We would probably have been indignant too, right? “Why is your mom here, bro? You’re a grown man.” In reality, they were indignant not because James and John asked their mommy to request power and authority, but because they hadn’t taken the chance to ask the favor for themselves.
So, Jesus responded by telling them to huddle up:
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:25-28 ESV)
Jesus was doing much more than simply giving out a moral command as a philosopher or a teacher offering a better way to live. He was giving the disciples the essence of the gospel: the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, to give His life as a ransom for many. Jesus was saying, “I am here to serve you through My death.”
Jesus doesn’t need anything. He is self-sufficient. He doesn’t need advice, doesn’t need gas money, doesn’t need your help paying His bills, fixing His house or making a difficult decision. Yet, this all-sufficient, all-knowing, completely holy God stepped out of heaven to serve us through His atoning, sacrificial death.
Jesus was saying that His followers are to serve others not because it’s the right thing to do, not because we’d feel guilty if we didn’t, not because somebody else suggested it and not because “causes” are the vogue thing of the day. We serve because Jesus has served us. His service should melt our hearts and cause us to serve others out of sheer gratitude to Him. That’s the appropriate response to His loving service for us.