Stewardship 2 – 2019 LSB #’s 842, 848, 854 (tune 344)
Text – Matthew 20:28
The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, & to give His life as a ransom for many.
DISCOVER THE JOY OF SERVING
There are things in life that we know are right & good for us, yet we avoid them like the plague. Exercise is what our physical nature was created for. Do we prioritize it? Vegetables, high fiber & whole grains are what our bodies need, but they aren’t what our mouth desires. Brushing & flossing each day is good for our teeth, yet only about 15% of us actually do it.
We also know that, as followers of Jesus, our greatest joys come in serving one another, & still we end up mostly serving ourselves. In the Gospel reading, Jesus addressed the problem with His Disciples. Nevertheless, finding joy in serving just seems wrong to our sinful nature.
As St. Matthew wrote, Jesus is leading His Disciples on their final trip from Galilee to Jerusalem. Knowing that this trip will be the last, & that it’s going to lead to the cross, Jesus becomes brutally honest with His Disciples. Hoping to prepare them for the trial of His impending suffering & death, in Matthew 20:18-19 Jesus says:
“We are going up to Jerusalem, & the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests & the teachers of the law. They will condemn Him to death & hand Him over to the Gentiles to be mocked & flogged & crucified. On the 3rd day He will be raised to life!”
The resurrection from the dead is bar none, the greatest event in history, yet, what does Matthew record as the response to Jesus’ news? Unbelievably, the mother of James & John brings them before Jesus & asks if they can sit at Jesus’ right & left in His Kingdom. How is it possible that Jesus’ message could be missed so completely?
Do joy in serving & joy in suffering make sense to your mind? Since the fall we humans are cursed by a fixation on glorifying & pleasing self. We are blinded to the many joys that serving others will bring. So the Disciples’ reaction to the audacious request by the mother of James & John is predictable. They are indignant. A couple chapters earlier they were arguing about which of them was the greatest. They even asked Jesus.
Ever since Adam & Eve were deceived by Satan, all of us have been inherently gullible to the lies of Lucifer, especially the lie that pleasing & satisfying self is the only way to find joy in our lives. Jesus responds to James & John & their mother with an object lesson:
“The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, & to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28) Jesus knew that His actions of selfless suffering & death followed by the power of His resurrection would empower His followers to embrace the truth of joy in serving.
We’ll take a closer look at Jesus’ joy in serving. Hebrews 12:2 reveals what was motivating our Savior: “…who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, & is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” The JOY that caused Jesus to endure the cross was founded in His love for the world, as John 3:16 so eloquently states.
Jesus’ people & creation are so precious to Him that He not only found a way to restore & reconcile them to Himself, He found His motivational joy in serving to the point of death on a cross. In so doing, Jesus opened the way for any & all of us to discover that there is real joy in serving. The kind of service that is done out of joy, has the power to work wonders.
It has the power to changes lives, & our world is hungry for it. You & I are hungry for it! But true, fulfilling joy is difficult to find. There is no doubt that finding joy in serving is always going to be an uphill battle. We are sinful people living under the curse of sin, & our sinful nature wants nothing to do with serving others.
It’s much easier to believe, it’s much more natural to believe, that we’ll find joy in pleasing ourselves. How’s that working for you? It just brings a stronger craving for more personal pleasure. Like hamsters on a wheel, we hope it will finally bring us joy, but we never reach the goal. All we end up with is feeling empty & disillusioned with our lives. There is another way, a better way, one that actually works. It’s the way that Jesus both modeled for us, & has given to us through faith.
Because Jesus trusted His Father to take care of Him, He could boldly go to the cross & the grave certain that He would rise & reign with His Father. That trust gave Him joy in the midst of His suffering & pain: “…who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, & is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2 ESV) And that love of Jesus Christ for us, demonstrated in His suffering & death, enables us to trust Him. He loves you & promises to take care of you here while He’s also giving you life in heaven with the Father. That kind of love is one we can trust.
It gives the courage to believe that I’ll be OK no matter what joys or sorrows come my way. It gives me the courage to serve & to care for others, because I’m already being taken care of by God. As I serve others, there’s a joy in serving that is unexpected, yet sweet to the soul. It fills a need in each of us & encourages children of God to serve even more.
More serving brings more joy & satisfaction to our lives, but there’s another joy found in serving. It’s the joy you pass on to others. A person’s heart is touched when they are served. They sense the joy that is serving them, & it brings them joy. It’s contagious & prompts them to serve, & that joy travels. It’s the joy we receive when Christ serves us.
How our world is missing that kind of joy. It’s only through faith in Jesus as Savior that anyone can discover that kind of joy. An appropriate aspect of a stewardship campaign is the challenge it places before us to find joy in serving. Using the gifts God has given you to serve in opportunities God has created for you is a foreshadowing of heaven. If giving to others, or serving them, makes you uncomfortable, know this – in heaven it will not bother you at all. There, your sinful nature will be gone, along with all the other effects of sin. So why not try giving & serving others here in this life? Our sinful nature is the only thing standing in the way. If you are on the hamster wheel of self-fulfillment, all you have to do is turn to Jesus.
Christ gave up heaven itself to live here on earth. His purpose – to kill our sinful nature so that we can truly live by experiencing the joy He offers. Even now Satan is whispering in your ear, “You’re too busy, or you don’t have enough. So hang on to what you got.” Sadly, that road leads to sorrow & death. Jesus gave His life so you can travel a different path. Amen.
Lord, whose love through humble service bore the weight of human need, who upon the cross, forsaken, offered mercy’s perfect deed, we, Your servants, bring the worship not of voice alone, but heart, consecrating to Your purpose every gift that You impart. Still Your children wander homeless; still the hungry cry for bread; still the captives long for freedom; still in grief we mourn our dead. As, O Lord, Your deep compassion healed the sick & freed the soul, use the love Your Spirit kindles still to save & make us whole. As we worship, grant us vision, till Your love’s revealing light in its height & depth & greatness, dawns upon our quickened sight, making known the needs & burdens Your compassion bids us bear, stirring us to tireless striving, You abundant life to share. Amen. LSB 848:1-3.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet