Spiritual Success or Distress?
teacher's guide Quarter 1, Lesson 4

Lesson Four

Jesus: The Aware Servant

Text: Matthew 20:25-28; John 15:9-13

Many people live their entire lives without knowing who they are or having a sense of purpose. Jesus was not such a person. He knew who he was before he came to this world (John 8:14,58). He knew his earthly purpose. He knew his earthly role. He never confused what he was before he came to earth with what he was while on earth.

Read Matthew 20:25-28

  1. What two things did the rulers of Gentile nations [peoples who did not know the living, creator God] do as leaders (verse 25)?

    Lord it over the people they rule and exercise authority. Suggestion: relate both these actions to the desire to have control and the drive to exercise control. In "lording over" and "exercising the control" the concerns of the ruler typically focus on "me and my desires" and not the best interests and the good of the people.

  2. Jesus declared that his apostles would not be this kind of ruler. We will examine Jesus' teaching concerning this matter in next quarter's studies.

    Please do not pursue the application of this teaching to us and our lives in this class. Promise your class this application will be made and studied next quarter. We want to keep the emphasis on Jesus the servant who is our example. That is the focus of this quarter's thoughts.

  3. Discuss how Jesus used himself and his example to teach the twelve a different way to lead.

    The concept of servant leadership was foreign to the first century world and the nation of Israel. As previously emphasized, Gentile kings did not practice servant leadership. In Israel, neither Old Testament kings, intertestamental rulers, nor the high priest of any age practiced such leadership. If the apostles were to understand servant leadership [if we are to understand it], it must be understood by examining Jesus' leadership. He must be our example of servant leadership.

  4. In this scripture, Jesus emphasized that his disciples would use this new leadership that was unknown in their world and rare in our world. This new form of leadership would be "leadership through serving." Leadership through serving is a primary feature of his kingdom that makes his people unique in our world.

    Suggestion for this emphasis: focus on the fact that this concept was foreign to the apostles' concepts and understandings. They expected Jesus to be the physical king of Israel and for them to be his administrators. They planned on Jesus lording it over the leadership establishment of Israel and on them exercising administrative authority. Jesus needed to completely change their concepts and expectations. The only effective way to produce that change was by being the example. Still, the apostles did not understand until Acts 2 after Jesus' death and resurrection.

    Suggestion: stress that we need to learn the same concept and we must learn it by allowing Jesus to be our example.

    1. Please note that Jesus did not order the apostles to adopt this form of leadership. To order them to lead through serving [a new concept that they did not understand] would not produce servant leadership.

    2. Please note that he challenged them to understand this new form of leadership by examining him and his leadership example. Jesus was their model. From the start of his ministry he led by being a servant leader. Only by understanding him could they understand servant leadership and practice it.

    3. From the perspective of "real world reality," discuss the apparent contradiction between the concept of a servant and the concept of a leader.

    4. What does this apparent contradiction indicate to you about Jesus' expectations for his people, the church, those who are his "called out" people?

  5. What was not Jesus' reason for coming (verse 28)?

    Jesus did not come to be served. He who left heaven, who was God's son, who was the Word that brought the created world and people into existence, who came to be the Christ, who would sit at the right hand of God as Lord and Christ, did not come to be served. His ministry never at any time focused on "what will this do for me." It always focused on "how will this benefit them."

  6. For what two reasons did Jesus come (verse 28)?

    Jesus came to serve and give his life a ransom for many.

  7. What is a ransom?

    Ransom: to free from captivity or punishment by paying a price. In this case, to free others from captivity and punishment by paying the price for their release. The meaning of the Greek word means the price paid in order to set a slave free.

    1. When a person willingly gives his or her life as a ransom, what does that tell you about the person?

      The person sees his life as less important than the lives of those he dies to free. The person sees himself/herself through sacrificial eyes. The person has the heart and mind of a servant.

    2. For whom did Jesus give his life a ransom?

      All who had lived and followed God in faith and obedience, and all who would live and follow God in faith and obedience. Consider Romans 3:21-25 and focus on verse 25.

    3. How did Jesus give his life as a ransom? Was his a "painless" gift?

      Read Philippians 2:5-8. He became a ransom by leaving heaven, living as the creature he created, living the lowest form of life the creature knew, and shameful crucifixion. In that process the pain increasingly escalated.

    4. What does the fact that Jesus willingly was a ransom tell you about Jesus?

      It declares that his love for us is beyond our comprehension. It declares that he knew the full meaning of being a servant. It declares that he experienced the full measure of being a servant.

Read John 15:9-13.

  1. What had God done (verse 9)? Loved Jesus.

  2. What had Jesus done (verse 9)? Loved the apostles.

  3. What were the twelve to do (verse 9)? Abide in Jesus' love.

  4. What is the meaning, the concept of "abide"?

    Abide: to continually live in, to endure without yielding. In this case, to continually live in Jesus' love. Living in Jesus' love was not a matter of performing periodic special acts or giving some special sacrifices. Living in Jesus' love was a daily existence; it was a daily state of life.

    1. How did Jesus "abide" in God's love (verse 10)?

      He kept his Father's commandments.

    2. How were the apostles to "abide" in his love (verse 10)?

      They were to keep Jesus' commandments. It is impossible to abide in Jesus' love without the faith and commitment that willingly obeys the instructions, principles, and concepts Jesus taught. The obedient person is committed to fulfilling Jesus' purposes.

  5. Why did Jesus give these instructions to the apostles (verse 11)?

    Jesus gave these instructions to them in order that Jesus may find his joy in them, and that their joy may be complete. Suggestion: note that having a full joy is found in abiding in Jesus' love by making an obedient commitment. Full joy is not found by pursuing a painless, uncommitted life.

  6. What was Jesus' commandment to the apostles (verse 12)? How were they to love each other? Throughout Jesus' ministry, had the apostles loved each other in this manner? Illustrate your answer.

    The commandment: love each other in the same manner that I love you. They had not loved each other as Jesus loved them. They frequently argued about who was the greatest (most important) and at times tried to gain personal advantages. See Matthew 18:1-5; 20:20-24; Mark 9:33-37; Luke 9:46-48.

  7. What is the greatest love one person can show for another person (verse 13)?

    To die for his friends.

    1. Why is this the greatest expression of love?

      It is the supreme sacrifice. Nothing is of higher value than life. To give one's life is to give everything.

    2. Who is our example of such love? Jesus

    3. Discuss what our lives, our marriages, our homes, and our relationships would be if Jesus had not loved us that much.

      Suggestion: use an approach that stimulates people to picture life as if it were untouched by Jesus' influence and teachings.

No person will practice servant leadership without faith in and commitment to Jesus. No person will love imperfect people as Jesus loved the imperfect apostles without faith in and commitment to Jesus. Nothing can more powerfully influence who and what we are than Jesus' example. That example is our spiritual foundation and our guide.

Link to Student Guide Quarter 1, Lesson 4

Copyright © 1999, 2000
David Chadwell & West-Ark Church of Christ

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