And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.…
A true character can never be built on a false foundation; on the denial of a fact or on pretending not to see it. There are greater men and less; stronger and weaker; wiser and less wise; men fit to rule and men fit only to be led; some who can teach and others whose business it is to learn. The right relationship between men.is to be reached, if at all, by a manly acknowledgment of the facts which divide them and the individual superiorities which set one above another. It is he who can rightly say, "Master and Lord am I"; who can also say with the fullest emphasis, "I am among you as the servant"!
I. Since, then, THE MORAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS VOLUNTARY SERVICE were those which gave it worth, let us try in a few words to disentangle these moral characteristics and understand them. They may be summed up, I think, in these two: in unselfish love as the root-virtue, and in lowliness of mind as the specific shape which love must take when it girds itself to serve.
II. Taking, then, these words of Jesus, "I am in the midst of you as your attendant," to be virtually DESCRIPTIVE OF HIS WHOLE POSITION ON EARTH and the spirit of His entire career, we find that His life may be described thus: it was a voluntary service of other men, rooted in pure love for them, and carried out with such lowliness of mind as deems no office degrading which can be lovingly rendered. Notice next, more expressly than we have yet done, that such lowly, loving service of others was not in His case an occasional effort or a mere ornament of character exhibited now and then. It formed the staple of His life. Christ came, not to be ministered unto, but to minister; not to enrich Himself, either with nobler or baser wealth, but to impoverish Himself that He might make many rich. With Him it is not, as with other men, "I will sit at table, and do you wait on Me"; but it is, "you sit at table, and I will wait."
III. But is this, after all, A MORE EXCELLENT WAY WHICH JESUS HAS SHOWN? Wherein is it more excellent? The King's Son came among us. We called Him our "Lord and Master," and we said well; but He was as one who served us! Now we know that the Father on high is like unto Him. The divinest part of His relationship to His creatures lies here, that being Lord of all He makes Himself the servant of all. How is He by day and night creation's unwearied watcher, provider, attendant, benefactor! The lions roar and He feedeth them. Not a sparrow falls but He heeds it. The lilies spin not, yet He clothes them. True, patient minister to each creature's need, in whose loving eyes nothing is too minute to be remembered nor too mean to be served; He is for ever with tender humble carefulness laying His might and His providence and His inventiveness and His tastefulness at the service of all creation. What! cries out the heart of the proud, is this your conception of the Eternal? Were not all things made for His glory, then? Yes, indeed, for His glory; but not in the ignoble sense we so often intend! Not made to be sacrificed to His pleasure. Not made for a boastful display of His omnipotence or skill; nor as mere trappings or attendants to lend dignity to His court. Away with such vain thoughts, borrowed from the barbaric and vulgar splendour of an Oriental despotism! Verily, the universe is the mirror of its Creator's glory; but it is so because it shows Him to be prodigal of His love, lavishing His care upon the least, stooping to adorn the poorest, and made then supremely glad when He can see His creatures glad. The glory of God; where is it? that He ministers to all! His blessedness; what is it? to make others blessed! I see, then, that when the Son came among us as a servant, it became Him as a son to do so, for it became the Father whose Son He was. It was a prolongation only, although a right marvellous one, of that character whose Divineness men had been slow to see, but which God the Maker had pencilled with light across His creation.
(J. O. Dykes, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.