For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Today is Christmas, and instead of focusing on the nativity story, I’d like to take another approach in tackling this much-hyped about occasion. I’m a Christmas baby, and trust me, nobody feels the hype of Christmas stronger than a Christian Christmas baby who is heavily involved in the consolidation efforts of Christmas events. But this is not about me, it’s about Christ. Today is about Christ. Christ comes first. Unfortunately, this Christ-comes-first mentality is very rare today on Christmas day, even amongst Christians. In this blessed festive day I shall meditate upon Christ as the Servant, and how we’ve taken his service and servitude for granted even today, a mentality that is most obvious in the way we celebrate our Christmas today.
For even – Every time the word ‘for’ shows up at the start of a verse, it’s a reminder for us to look at the immediate context in the verses that precedes the current one. In this case, Mark tells us how the sons of Zebedee, the brothers John and James, asked Jesus, let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory [Mark 10:37]. Eventually, Jesus ends the case by concluding, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all [Mark 10:43-44]. In those two verses that precede verse 45, Jesus introduces the mentality of servitude, and justifies it by adding in verse 45 that even he himself, as the Son of Man, came not to be serve but to serve. He is not a Lord that came to be served. He is a Lord that came to serve. It didn’t just end there. On top of serving, Jesus came to give his life as a ransom for many. In using himself as an example, Jesus not only makes himself out as a role model, but was also able to use this opportunity to speak of the all important truth – that he came to die for us.
not to be served, but to serve – Jesus served willingly and cheerfully – he washed the feet of his disciples, he ministered as a prophet, spreading the gospel to the people who listened to him; he preached and aided in correcting the wrongs of the people. He was born in a manger, the lowest of the lowest. He came as a servant of God to serve God’s beloved people. Jesus called for his disciples to follow his example, to lead by serving; and said this in a number of occasions, which were recorded repeatedly in the Gospel books [Mark 9:35, Matthew 20:26, Matthew 23:11, Luke 22:26].
give his life as a ransom to many – we are asked to serve, but we weren’t demanded to give our lives as Jesus did. Martyrdom is not uncommon in the history of Christianity, but as Christians, God does not demand that from all of us. Yet right from the very beginning, Jesus’ life was a ransom.
There is something magical with the Christmas Occasion. The festive spirit embedded within the occasion is so strong that, just by it being Christmas day alone, one would feel joyful, one would feel like celebrating, one would feel like partying. It’s a good thing, isn’t it? It’s a good thing to celebrate, it’s a good thing to merry-make. But more often than not, people do not know what they are celebrating. Christmas is merely a good occasion to exchange gifts, smile and laugh, feast and drink, party and go wild. Of course, it’s also a time for family gatherings. So people come together, eat, drink and be happy. It’s a good thing, is it not? Surely it is, except that we often forget one thing. We often forget the most important thing. We forget about the ‘birthday boy’. We forget about the purpose of celebrating Christmas. We get blinded by the marketing gimmicks and the strong messages of the world that we lose ourselves in merrymaking, in catching up with our families, in exchanging gifts with one another – and we forget about Christ.
Christ came to serve, and not be served. However, let us not mistake that as Christ being a servant or being beneath us. Christ is a glorious being, his status is far above that of ours. Even if he serves us, he is still our Lord. Even if he had gave his life away for us, he is still our Lord. Celebrating Christmas without Christ being centre stage is as horrible as celebrating my birthday, eating a birthday cake, singing a happy birthday song – all without inviting me. Imagine buying a gift for everybody except the birthday boy.
That’s what we do to Christ every Christmas.
Yes, oh yes, you sing Christmas Carols! However, more often than not, we sing carols just for that wonderful festive atmosphere that Christmas carols can magically bring out. We sing it so that the joyous mood can be heightened. We sing it not as worship, but for the sake of self-gratification.
Let us learn from Christ in his attitude of servitude. We are the servants, not Jesus. And while Jesus serves us, he is still Lord. Let us never mix up this intricate relationship, lest we lose ourselves by blinding ourselves to the sight of Christ, whom we left at our doorstep, uninvited to the party as we merrymake on Christmas day.
Have a Blessed Christmas,