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. Mark 10:43-44
Yesterday, when I picked Ellie up from school she asked, in a distant yet demanding voice, “Where are we going today?” to which I answered, “Home of course.” Her question annoyed me because it carried with it an expectation that we should have some elaborate plan for fun and entertainment at every turn. Now of course, the follow up question to me as her parent should be, “And where did this expectation come from?” Hmmm…perhaps the fact that this past weekend alone began with her brother’s birthday party, followed by a friend’s birthday party, followed by an overnight at Terrell’s parents’ which included going to see a movie, followed and finishing up with a “Back to School Bash” at Chad’s school with pony rides, rock wall climbing, etc. I guess the idea that we would simply go home after school would seem a little mundane and even awkward. Is it any wonder that the heart of a child is so much quicker to demand to be served than to desire to serve?
I share that insatiable demand to be served, to have immediate attention given to every slight hunger and thirst I might feel as an adult, and I expect it from my church community, friends and family just as Ellie expects it from me. This expectation that my family, friends, leaders, neighbors and acquaintances exist to “fill my love tank”, to bandage my insecurities, and to serve my needs is something familiar and consistent in the biblical history of redemption.
So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.” But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. And the LORD told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do.” 1 Sam. 8:4-9
Israel had a King, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. But the other nations had human leaders who would go before the people, fight their battles and tell them what to do. I can only guess, going by my own tendency to prefer picking up the phone to kneeling in prayer, that a human leader felt more tangible, more manageable, and more immediate. With the right corporate structure, the right strategic plan, the best practices implemented for rapid communication, things feel more in control to me than God’s tendency to work more slowly, not answer every one of my questions and pretty much never spell out His strategic game plan for me. Like Ellie’s natural preference to be entertained, I prefer looking to people and structures to be human kings for my heart’s protection and leadership than the King of Kings.
As Jesus’ disciples fought for His life before His crucifixion, denied Him and then were left forlorn and scattered before encountering Him after the resurrection, it was quite clear they did not understand Who He really was nor His intended purpose. They had their own plans for His life and they had their own vision for His kingship.
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” John 18:36
He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. Luke 24:25-27 Like God’s own people in all of history, I too am slow of heart to believe the power, intimate love, protection and redemptive leadership of the person and work of Jesus and so I look for other kinds of kings. The problem comes, though, not just in the looking but when I then take out my anger on my replacement kings for not being the King of Kings who I really need. Just as the people’s rejection of Samuel was actually a rejection of God’s kingship, my own rejection of God’s kingship plays out in a rejection of the people around me. I cannot love my church, my leaders, my family or friends well when I go to them to be served rather than to serve. The king I am choosing to worship and to whom my heart submits is quickly revealed by this very expectation that people in my life are supposed to serve me with roles that only God can fulfill. Oh, would my heart be not merely satisfied with the better King, the only true King, but so engrossed in His Kingship that a true desire to serve those around me would overcome my demand to be served. I need that kind of King and oh what very Good News that I have One! For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this. Is. 9:6-7