Jesus has not called us to live a life that He has not lived Himself. Jesus is the “founder and perfecter” of the cruciform life of faith (Hebrews 12:2). As our trailblazer, He embraced the love and leadership of His Father by faith, and then expressed that faith in love by pouring Himself out for the sake of seeing people and creation reconciled to a right relationship with God and one another. A quick scan through the Gospels reveals two crucial roles by which Jesus identified Himself and out of which He lived.
Jesus lived as the Father’s Son. Jesus lived in constant awareness of and dependence upon His relationship to God as His Father’s beloved. It is significant that prior to the two most important phases of His life on earth Jesus heard these words from His Father: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Jesus heard these words at His baptism, just before He began His public ministry of works and witness (Matthew 3:17; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22). And He heard this affirmation again at His transfiguration on the mountain, just before He began to move toward His Passion Week ministry (Matthew 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35; 2 Peter 1:17). Jesus moved into those intense periods of ministry with His Father’s words “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” ringing in His ears. We know from the Apostle John’s testimony that Jesus frequently mentioned that He was God’s Son (John 5:17-18,30; 10:24-38, and more) and that He was fully aware of and dependent upon His Father’s love for Him (John 3:35, 5:20, 10:17, 15:9-10, 17:23-26). It is possible that Paul’s reference to Jesus as “the Beloved” and the “Beloved Son” means that this way of identifying Jesus was passed down through the Apostles’ teaching (Ephesians 1:6; Colossians 1:13; John and Peter both taught this: 1 John 1:1-3, 2:22-24, 4:10-15, etc.; 2 John 3; 2 Peter 1:17-18). Perhaps when John referred to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” he was only following Jesus’ example of identifying Himself as the Son whom the Father loves (John 13:23, 20:2, 21:7,20).
Jesus also lived as the Father’s Servant. Jesus lived in constant awareness and practice of His relationship to God as the Father’s bondservant. Jesus made it clear that He “came not to be served, but to serve” (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45) and gave the disciples a memorable picture of what that meant when He washed their feet at the Last Supper (a task left to the lowliest of servants) and when He “made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant” and becoming “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” the very next day (John 13:1-17; Philippians 2:7-8).
Perhaps only after the ascension and the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost did they truly understand what their Master meant when He said, “I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27). After Pentecost, the Apostles and earliest followers of Jesus identified Him as God’s “Holy servant” both in their preaching and their prayers (Acts 3:13,26; 4:27,30). Both Jesus and His followers believed that He was the “Suffering Servant” that Isaiah prophesied would one day pour out His life for the sake of God’s people (Isaiah 52:13–53:12; Luke 22:37; Acts 8:32-35).
And this brings us back to the Father’s announcement that Jesus was His “beloved son, in whom He is well pleased,” for this statement is almost a direct quote referring to the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 42:1 which reads, “Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.” Matthew claimed that Jesus was the fulfillment of that prophecy, and his quotation of it more closely resembles the words that the Father pronounced at Jesus’ baptism and transfiguration: “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon Him, and He will proclaim justice to the Gentiles” (Matthew 12:18). So these words were not only identifying Jesus as the Father’s Son, but also His Servant. Just before the major periods of Jesus earthly ministry, He and those who were with Him were reminded of His two major identities. Jesus lived as both the Son and Servant of God.
~ from my recent article “At Your Service: The Cruciform Life in Action”
in BreakPoint’s Worldview Church eReport.