What are some ways people try to earn or grow their greatness? Or, when someone is called an influencer, what did they do to earn that status? People do many things to claim they have grown their greatness or influence, such as accomplishments, wealth, education, fame, titles, positions, and followers. However, Jesus earned His greatness and influence through a life of selfless service.
Jesus modeled selfless service for His disciples as a measure of His greatness and His influence in God’s kingdom. When Jesus’ disciples requested that they receive a position of honor in God’s kingdom, Jesus called them together and said,
“You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45
Jesus emphasizes service as a means of greatness, explains leadership through servanthood, and communicates that His obedience to God will lead Him to sacrifice Himself for others. Jesus is God who came to serve and expects His followers to exhibit His same characteristic of service toward others.
The disciples were confused because Jesus had just told them when He entered Jerusalem that He would be mocked, spit on, flogged with a whip, and killed, but after three days would rise again (ref. Mark 10:34). Now Jesus taught His disciples that He is the God who came to serve and give His life for others.
In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus shared what would happen at the end times. Jesus will appear enthroned before all the nations, and He will separate His sheep (those who have a relationship with God through Jesus) from the goats (those who do not know God through Jesus). The word “nations” in Matthew 25:32 is the same Greek word used in Matthew 28:19, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
Jesus’ final commission to His disciples after His death, burial, and resurrection, but before His ascension, was “go and make disciples of all nations.” This command also seems to be the evaluation of Jesus’ return at the end times. Jesus explains that His sheep are those who serve others – feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, show hospitality to strangers, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and imprisoned. Serving others in these ways serves God and His kingdom.
You don’t serve others to earn a relationship with God, but rather you serve others with care and compassion because you have a relationship with God. You serve those in need out of a love response to God for sending Jesus as a sacrifice for you. The more time you spend with God in Scripture reading and prayer, the more God shapes your heart to see others as He sees them – with compassion – which should lead you to serve others selflessly. God will glorify Himself through your acts of service that are motivated by your love for God and others. You show evidence of a relationship with God by the way you obey God through serving others and making disciples.
Have you ever considered serving others when you were facing difficult life circumstances? Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples who heard Jesus’ teachings, wrote a letter approximately 30 years later to encourage followers of Jesus who had been scattered throughout several regions – Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia (ref. 1 Peter 1:1). These followers of Jesus seem to be discouraged by the temporary, earthly trials associated with them making a declaration that they are in fact, His followers. They have a relationship with God through Jesus despite the ungodly culture in which they find themselves.
Peter doesn’t describe the specific trials they were facing, but the trials could have been cultural, social, financial, familial, religious, or a combination of any of these. Regardless of the circumstances, Peter encourages them to think about what God has done on their behalf to bring them into the family of God and not to focus on the difficult life circumstances they are experiencing. Peter challenges them to serve one another despite their difficult circumstances.
Peter says, “most important of all” – continue to show deep love for each other (ref. 1 Peter 4:8), which means overflowing with God-like love and benevolence toward one another. They also should be hospitable to one another, meaning be fond of hosting guests, specifically those of the family of God. Peter does not use the same word as the apostle Paul does in Romans 12:13, which means to entertain strangers outside the family of God for the purpose of sharing the gospel, but rather Peter knows the recipients of his letter are a diverse group of Jesus followers. Most likely, the group included converted non-Jewish people (i.e., Gentiles) and possibly some Jewish people scattered throughout the region (ref. 1 Peter 1:1).
All followers of Jesus should serve one another so that in all things, God may be glorified through Jesus Christ (ref. 1 Peter 4:11). Regardless of difficult life circumstances or the diversity of Jesus’ followers among a group, Peter encourages them to serve one another.
In the New Testament, Mark, Matthew, and Peter recorded how Jesus expects His followers to serve others.
- Serve those in need through practical ways – feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, show hospitality to strangers, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and imprisoned (ref. Mark 10:42-45)
- Serve others by making disciples – go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey God (ref. Matthew 28:19-20)
- Serve others despite difficult life circumstances or diversity within a group – overflow with God-like love for one another, show benevolence toward others, be hospitable to one another, and use your spiritual gifts to serve others (ref. 1 Peter 4:7-11)
Followers of Jesus should serve others so that God may be glorified in all things through their selfless service modeled by Jesus and in response to Jesus’ love toward them.
Watch the LIVE REPLAY to hear more about Jesus’ teachings about serving others, and what serving others could look like in everyday life. Join us LIVE every Monday at 3 p.m. ET on @GodGivesCourage Instagram for our Spiritual Growth Series and check back here on Tuesdays for the companion blog post.