Commentary by Walter Albritton

                                   September 28, 2008


Greatness is Achieved Only through Voluntary Servanthood


Matthew 20:1-28; Mark 10:35-45


Key Verse: The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.  – Matthew 20:28


As a child Betsy had a heart for God. Her eyes sparkled when the conversation was about living for Jesus. Her parents, devout disciples of Jesus and faithful leaders in our church, encouraged her to trust God.

In her teen years Betsy shared with me her desire to live as a servant of Jesus Christ. She had noticed that I always added the letters, “SJC,” to my name when signing letters. She wanted to know why I did it.

I told her the story of receiving a letter from Estelle Carver when I was a young preacher. I met Estelle in a retreat. She impacted my life in a powerful way. She was an English teacher but a devout Christian and a brilliant witness for Christ. Estelle was a friend of the evangelist, E. Stanley Jones.

She had signed her letter, Estelle, sjc. When I asked her what the initials meant, she said simply, “Servant of Jesus Christ.” The minute she shared this with me, I knew instantly that I would have to sign my name in the same way for the rest of my life. And I have, now some 50 years.

I have done it not to boast or brad about being a servant of Jesus Christ. At first I felt embarrassed about doing it. For awhile I had to actually force myself to continue doing it. I feared my friends might think I was doing it for “show.” They will think me a fool.

But I overcame my fears and steadfastly signed my name, Walter, sjc. Now it flows easily as though it is part of my name. Early on I realized I needed to do it primarily to remind myself of my true identity. So it was more for my benefit than for the readers of my letters. It has constantly reminded me that this is my sole reason to exist – to live in the world as a servant of Jesus Christ. Nothing else matters more than that.

Elton Trueblood rightly calls Mark 10:45 the most revolutionary verse in the Bible. Rulers in the first century (just as in ours) had their servants. They expected others to serve them. Jesus, however, turned this idea upside down. Though he was the Son of God, Jesus insisted that he had not come to be served but to serve and to give his life for others.

Jesus saw himself as a servant of God and a servant of others. He called upon his disciples to follow his example: become servants of others. Servanthood, then, is the key to kingdom living.

We should observe that Jesus did not rebuke his disciples for wanting to become “great.” He simply reminded them that the pathway to greatness in the eyes of God is not in power, fame, or fortune but in serving others.

Serving others is seldom glamorous. It usually involves doing menial tasks that some people think are “beneath” them; these people think they are too important for such things. Yet when I think of true servants of Jesus, I think of a man like Robert. He was never president of a bank or mayor of the town. He never served as a trustee or as lay leader of his church. He was simply available when someone needed help. He would drive someone to see a doctor, take a hot meal to a sick person, or visit a lonely home-bound person. Robert did those things because he was a servant of Jesus Christ.

Speaking of servants, Betsy, the girl I mentioned earlier, is now 30. She took up the habit of signing her name Betsy, sjc, when she was a teenager. She has continued the habit as an adult but even more important she has followed her dream to live as a servant of Jesus Christ. Just recently she gave up a good-paying job in the states and is now serving with Samaritan’s Purse in Maputo, Mozambique. Betsy says it is the fulfillment of a desire God gave her as a child to serve Jesus in Africa.

Surely the mission of the church is to inspire and equip men and women to live in the world as servants of Jesus Christ. May it be said of your church and my church that we are collectively a community of servants of Jesus Christ.

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