I recently returned from a trip to Israel, where I led worship for a church tour! It was a super full trip, but always such a gift to be where Jesus walked, worked and gave His life for us!
During the first week of the tour, our team was staying in Tiberias, which is on the west shore of the Sea of Galilee. We spent a few days in the town, and one of those days we were able to take a boat ride across the sea as we shared worship and heard a teaching. The Sea of Galilee looks less like a sea and more like a lake, so it can be hard to picture the story in the gospels that talks about Jesus calming the stormy sea when he was on the boat with his disciples. You may look at what seems like a harmless sea and think, “Really, guys? THIS sea scared you?” But, I was actually happy that for the few days we were around Galilee, it was stormy! I mean, massive thunder, lightning and major downpours off and on for three days! This stormy weather made it WAY easier to understand the fear the disciples may have felt as they bobbed around on the stormy sea thinking they weren’t going to make it.
Now that I have set the stage for the story, I want to tell you a modern story of servanthood.
While we were on our bumpy boat ride, the wind was whipping through any crack and crevice of the thick, clear plastic sheeting that was meant to keep the wind out. Us Californians hunkered down as much as we could to try to stay warm under our hoodies and single-use plastic bag type ponchos. Sitting next to me was a woman named Diane, her husband Harold was sitting on the other side of the boat. During the teaching, he walked over to her, took off his thick coat and wrapped it around her shoulders so that she would be protected from the wind. He then walked back to his spot wearing only a long sleeve t-shirt in the freezing wind! I was struck not only by his thoughtfulness for the woman he loves but for the joy it brought him to serve her. He smiled brightly as he looked at her from across the boat, content that his sweet wife was now warm and protected from the wind.
It was then that I realized that the definition of being a servant is allowing yourself to be uncomfortable, in order to make someone else comfortable.
Harold didn’t give his wife his jacket so he would appear to be husband of the year. It was apparent by the joy it gave him, that he gave her his jacket to ensure that she was taken care of, comfortable and happy. What a true example of a servant! I wish you could have seen these two during the trip! They were so cute; Harold was always making sure Diane had what she needed, helping her walk on uneven ground, taking her hand to help her up steps, and they even walked together holding pinkies! It was the cutest thing ever!
In the books of Mark and Matthew, you may have read the story of the sons of Zebedee. There was a bit of an argument on their account because they asked Jesus if He would do them a favor and let them sit in places of honor, one on His right and the other on His left in Heaven. Silly sons of Zebedee! They were wanting status and thinking all they had to do was ask for it because they had connections with the big man.
Little did they know, status was the very LAST thing Jesus was about. On the contrary, Jesus was all about serving others and giving away His status, His position to become just like us. In Mark 10 verse 42-45 Jesus reels His disciples back in because they were getting a little irritated at this whole “place of honor” business.
It says: “Jesus called them together and said, 'You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 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'” (Matthew 20:25-28).
So, Jesus set those sons of Zebedee straight by letting them know that they had it all backward. His whole reason for coming was to serve others, not to be served, and as a matter of fact, He came to give up absolutely everything, the ultimate sacrifice, His own life to ransom all of ours. Talk about being uncomfortable to make others comfortable…Jesus took death to give us life!
Our “sacrifice” in this life is nothing compared to what Jesus did for us.
As I watched Harold care so tenderly for his wife, not for his gain, but for hers, my heart was completely touched and stirred. It reminded me that my job is to be a servant, not to be served, in order to make myself more comfortable. And another thing, not once did I see Harold point his thumbs towards himself and say, “Did everyone see me? I gave up my jacket to my wife! I am the husband OF THE YEAR! Take notes, boys!” No, he did it in humility and genuineness and simply because he really loves his wife, and he showed it by serving her.
What ways might God be asking you to serve others? Have you had times where you have thought, “Well, if I do that for them, then who will do it for me?” Or maybe you’re like me, "Well, if my husband eats my last french fry, there will be fewer fries for me! No one gets between me and my fries." I know, it’s a problem; pray for me.
One of the last things Jesus did with His disciples was to wash their feet, an act of total service to them. In this way, He showed them that even He was willing to bend low to serve others, and He was GOD! What an example left to us by Jesus. I hope that this encourages us to live our lives looking for ways to serve others. Try to think of some simple ways today that you can reach out to help someone else; I know you will be blessed for it!