As Holy Week approaches, I am drawn to reflect upon Jesus as the Suffering Servant; especially these words from Isaiah:
"Surely He has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted. Yet He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him and with His stripes we are healed...all we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all."
It was at Bethany "beyond the Jordan" that John announced that this prophecy of Isaiah had been fulfilled when he declared that Jesus was "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29) -- all of our transgressions and all of our iniquities as sheep who have gone astray -- have been "taken away" by the Lamb of God.
It was the very next day that John, as he was standing with two his disciples, pointed them to Jesus as He was walking by: "Behold, the Lamb of God!" -- and they followed Jesus. Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of those two disciples who began to follow Jesus -- and he went and told Simon Peter that they had found the Messiah.
And so the journey to the cross began at Bethany "beyond the Jordan" as Jesus begins to draw and call disciples to Himself. As they heard His words and saw His ministry actions (John called them "signs"), they became convinced that Jesus "is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name" (John 20:31); for "there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
Because of the Spirit's work in your life, as you have come to know who Jesus is through the testimony of those who journeyed with Him in the Scriptures, and through the witness of other Christians in your life, you have become convinced that He is the Christ and believing you have life and salvation in His name and have become one of His disciples.
One consequence of reflecting upon Jesus as servant is that he desires us to be servants -- "for the greatest in the kingdom is the one who serves." The background for these words from Jesus came about when James and John had asked Jesus if they could sit at His right and left side when He came in glory; and when the other disciples heard what James and John had wanted, they were indignant at them.
So Jesus used that occasion to help them understand what their "life together" was to be like -- "whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:43-45).
One of my favorite stories about servanthood comes from Anthony Campolo, retired professor at Eastern College in PA. Each year at the church where Anthony attends worship -- the congregation celebrates "student recognition day" -- and, at one of those annual occasions the pastor at his church got up and said:
“Children, you are going to die! You may not think you’re going to die but you’re going to die. One of these days, they’re going to take you out to the cemetery, drop you in a hole, throw some dirt on your face, and go back to the church and eat potato salad.”
“When you were born,” he said, “you alone were crying and everybody else was happy. The important question I want to ask is this: When you die are you alone going to be happy, leaving everybody else crying? The answer depends on whether you live to get TITLES or you live to get TESTIMONIES.”
“When they lay you in the grave, are people going to stand around reciting the fancy titles you earned, or are they going to stand around giving testimonies of the good things you did for them?”
“Will they list your degrees and awards, or will they tell about what a blessing you were to them?”
“Will you leave behind just a newspaper column telling people how important you were or will you leave crying people who give testimonies of how they’ve lost the best friend they ever had?”
“There’s nothing wrong with titles. Titles are good things to have. But if it ever comes down to a choice between a title or a testimony – go for the testimony!”
It is my prayer that when your life has been completed, that this will be the testimony of Jesus as He speaks these word to you: "well done, good and faithful servant...enter into the joy of your Master."