Have you ever gone out of your way to visit someone who was sick or even near death and had them respond to your visit with the question, “Why did you come?” Perhaps it is part of the whole thing of being a preacher that has led people at times to ask, why I’ve come when I heard they were ill or even the degree of their illness. Sometimes it is obvious when you enter a hospital room that it is frightening to the patient. On more than one occasion I’ve had someone to way, “Am I about to die?” If the preacher is coming to see me things must be worse than I thought.
I remember going to see a person who was obviously near the end of their life on this earth, but when I entered their home and was escorted back to the bedroom where the person was, the first thing that was said was, “Why did you come?” We had gone through a disagreement some years earlier about something at church. Honestly I don’t remember what it was and never really gave it much thought. But it was obvious this person had thought a whole lot about it and as they continued to talk it became clear that he felt that he had been so unkind during the last visit we had that there was certainly no good reason for me to come see him now when the end seemed to be very close.
When Jesus thought about his reason for coming into the world, he knew that most of the people didn’t see it the way he did or the way things really were. Since he came into the world with the very power of God at his disposal, it must have seemed to the people that knew him that he came to destroy his enemies. He had the power both to kill and to raise one from the dead. He had power to give life or take it. He was able to withstand every attack Satan could point in his direction. There was not a single illness nor injury that was so bad or person so far gone that he couldn’t heal their sickness and give them new life. It seemed to those who watched him and saw the power at his disposal that he had come to reign as king over everything. After he fed the crowd with a little boys lunch and then had the apostles to pick up what was left over, each of them had a full basket of leftovers. They started with one little boy’s lunch, fed 5,000 people with it and then had twelve basket’s full left over. No wonder the crowd began to talk about how they could make him their king.
But Jesus was clear on why he came. It wasn’t about some physical power or rule over the nations. In Mark 10:35-45 James and John were under the impression that Jesus was getting ready to start his reign as king. So they made their appeal to him that he would allow them to sit on his right and left hand when he came into his kingdom. Jesus explained to them that it wasn’t his to give and that they weren’t really prepared for such a place. When the other ten apostles heard what James and John had asked they were horribly angry at them for trying to take on this place of authority. Likely, each man in the group felt they were the logical one to sit on his right or left in his kingdom. He explained to them that such places would be given to whoever the Father had prepared for such roles. He explained to the whole group that it was the way of the Gentiles or the unbelievers to exercise authority over each other, not the way it was to be in the church. He pointed out that in the kingdom the greatest among them would be the servant or slave of all. Then Jesus made this statement that stands out. “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus is king of kings and lord of lords. He is the first and the last, the alpha and omega. But he is a servant. He came into the world to serve and to make servants of all who follow him. When we picture following Jesus as being a success journey for rulers, we miss the point. One of the most amazing scenes in Jesus life on this earth was the night when he gathered with his disciples to eat the Passover supper. They were reclining at the table, but no one was about to admit they were any less than the others so that they would serve each other. Even though their feet were dirty and the thought of gathering to eat with their dirty feet sticking out is distasteful, they were ready to do so. Jesus arose, laid aside his outer garments, took a towel and a basin of water and begin to wash the disciples feet. He concluded by telling them he was their teacher and lord and if he as teacher and lord had washed their feet then, they ought to wash one another’s feet. His actions were an example for them to follow. Jesus came to serve.
But the ultimate of all service is to lay down one’s life as a ransom for many. When he went to the cross he took on himself the sins of the world and took on him the punishment for our sins, so we can be totally forgiven and given a new start, a new life in him. If Jesus, our teacher and lord left us such an example, we ought to be ready to serve, to give, to share with others to help them. If Jesus came to serve, then all who follow him have also come, not to be served but to serve.