Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Lord Who Serves His Servants

23 So on the next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp, and they entered the audience hall with the military tribunes and the prominent men of the city. Then, at the command of Festus, Paul was brought in. 24 And Festus said, “King Agrippa and all who are present with us, you see this man about whom the whole Jewish people petitioned me, both in Jerusalem and here, shouting that he ought not to live any longer. 25 But I found that he had done nothing deserving death. And as he himself appealed to the emperor, I decided to go ahead and send him. 26 But I have nothing definite to write to my lord about him. Therefore I have brought him before you all, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that, after we have examined him, I may have something to write. 27 For it seems to me unreasonable, in sending a prisoner, not to indicate the charges against him.” (Acts 25:23-27 (ESV)
“I have nothing to write my lord about him.” Today it just seems weird to think of a person calling another person lord. Perhaps we have a landlord to whom we pay rent, but somehow the coupling of lord with land removes the impact. It used to be as common as sir. Nobility were routinely referred to as lord, and it indicated that you were subservient to someone.  Festus had his Caesar, this was his lord.
We somewhat reserve the title for Jesus who is LORD. There is a lot more weight behind “Jesus is Lord” than there is behind even calling an emperor lord. But sometimes I wonder if it is lost in today society, some of what it means to say Jesus is Lord, when we don’t have lords, and no longer really know what it means. The gentiles still lord it over others to be certain. And yet this is how it is so different with Jesus, he doesn’t lord it over us. We have lost the whole joyous irony of the title being applied to Jesus. Caesar would lord over others, ruled with an iron fist, the whole thing would roll downhill. These people had your life in their hands, and they were heavy handed, and cared little for you. Jesus illustrates this in his parable of unworthy servants returning from the fields. The servant, the slave, would first have to feed his lord and master, before feeding himself. The slave wouldn’t dare to think of telling his lord that he had worked real hard that day, and could he take a little break.
And this too is where our perspective as Christians today is a little weird. We call Jesus Lord, but we take a very insubordinate attitude towards him. We talk about him as someone we chose, no one chooses their lord. It’s not that we expect him to forgive our short comings, we expect him to overlook them in light of something else we have done “for him” that we think is so special. We are like a son who was asked to mow the lawn and wash the car, but we didn’t mow the lawn, and then think our dad should be impressed that we took the car to the car wash.  We actually expect him to think our works are good, that we should be praised for them as if somehow he is our equal. It’s rather stupefying.

And yet our cavalier attitude in the face of Christ perhaps illustrates better than anything else the difference between our Lord, and that of Festus. We are his servants, but he calls us friends, we are his slaves but he makes us coheirs with him, something Abraham would not even do for Eleazar of Damascus. He doesn’t overlook, but he does forgive. And despite all our shortcomings he is their waiting at the finish line to say, “Well done! Good and Faithful Servant!” before he seats us at the victory feast of the lamb. Because our Lord did not come to be served, but to serve. 

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