FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
ON SERVANT LEADERSHIP
THE SUFFERING SERVANT
September 13, 2015
Today’s gospel: Mark 8:27-35
Jesus is the perfect servant leader. Peter was right in saying, “You are the Messiah.” (v.29b). But Jesus also taught them “that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed” (v.31a). Jesus who is the Messiah, who is Savior and Lord and King, who is divine Master, is to be a suffering servant.
Just as most Christians including leaders do not understand servant leadership, Peter also did not. “Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.” (v.32b). How can the leader be the servant? How can the Lord be the one to suffer?
This is the wisdom of God that is totally contrary and contradictory to the wisdom of the world. As Jesus told Peter, “You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” (v.33d). And so Jesus “rebuked Peter” (v.33b). But since the leader is indeed servant according to God’s design, then to act otherwise is to act contrary to God’s ways, and thus, end up acting according to the ways of the evil one. And so Jesus also told Peter, “Get behind me, Satan.” (v.33c).
If we think and act according to the world’s ways of leadership, not being servants but lords, then, even as we think we are serving the Lord, we actually are in the enemy’s service. Such leaders are often the cause of strife and disunity.
Thus Jesus taught his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (v.34). To deny self is to be a servant, to serve others without counting the cost. To take up the cross is to suffer for the cause of the Master. To follow Jesus to be like the one who perfectly lived out servant leadership.
Jesus suffered and was killed, but in the end he would “rise after three days.” (v.31b). The same fate, both suffering and glory, awaits us. As Jesus himself tells us, “whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.” (v.35b).
And so Jesus continues to ask us every now and then, especially those who aspire to be true disciples and dedicated servant leaders, “But who do you say that I am?” (v.29a). May we joyfully say, “You are the Messiah, the suffering servant of God.”
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