The Suffering Servant

“For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2, RSV).

One unusual name for Jesus Christ is Suffering Servant. We don’t often associate leadership with serving, much less, service that results in suffering. And yet, Jesus said the purpose of His coming was not to be served—but to serve. Thankfully, many of our churches are filled with servants. Our Christmas “services” can become much more than stale traditions. We can inspire others in our congregation by meeting their true needs. One fellowship can enjoy a Christmas Eve service at a homeless shelter while another can celebrate a Christmas Morning time of worship at a local prison. Some churches annually highlight filling shoeboxes with gifts to the poor, while others carol at convalescent centers. These differences should be celebrated as a witness to the richness of the Christmas tradition. Often members assist other brothers and sisters in the body of Christ who are suffering during the holiday season. In this service they are adopting the model of the Suffering Servant! The apostle Paul wrote, “For I say that Christ has become a servant” (Romans 15:8).  Jesus Christ led by example. He suffered while he served—but kept on serving anyway. “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain” (Isaiah 53:3).

The little baby born in Bethlehem came to serve. He willingly left heaven and entered into true suffering service. He led in the temple by sparking debate among the learned. He served at the carpenter’s shop learning the tools of the trade. He led His ragged band of disciples by patiently teaching them truth. He served His listening public by teaching in simple stories they could grasp. And, He suffered for all of humanity by laying down His life so that anyone could enter into eternal rest and protection. Now that’s suffering-servant leadership! Remember, during this Lenten season, the words of the Lord Christ, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Christmas is a time of gifts. Open up that gift and serve—even if it involves some suffering!