Christ, the Eternal Servant
J. T. Mawson
Notes of an address at Sydney on Exodus 21:7-6 and John 12:1-3, 20-33
I invite you to a quiet meditation upon the Lord Jesus Christ in the greatness and devotion of His heart as the Eternal Servant. We know that the Old Testament Scriptures are full of types of Him. He Himself tells us that Moses spake of Him, and in this 21st chapter of Exodus we have Moses speaking most definitely of Him as the One whose love has made Him a Servant.
It is very interesting to see where this law in regard to the Hebrew servant comes in. It follows the 20th chapter, where we have the ten commandments given. It might be asked, “Of what use was it for God to give a law that men did not desire and that they could not keep?” Well, if God had not had the Lord Jesus Christ the faithful Hebrew Servant in reserve, it would not have been of much use, for it could only have put Him in the place of a Judge; it would have brought into manifestation the justice of His throne, while His heart of love would never have been known.
Yet it was perfectly right and in keeping with the claims of His throne that His will should be made known. God had to tell men what His will for them was; they had turned their backs on Him and were doing their own will, and that was a challenge to God’s majesty. The world belonged to God, “The earth is the Lord’s,” and men in it are His responsible creatures, and He had, in justice and for the maintenance of His throne of government, to make known His will, and so we have the ten commandments, God’s will for men here on the earth, summed up in these two sentences, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbour as thyself.” Men broke that law, and all through the generations to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ they broke it, and that which was ordained for a blessing became a curse.
Was it the will of God that the law should avail nothing? Was it to be set aside without being kept? No, God had His Man in reserve, and the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world to do the will of God. His first recorded words were, “Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?” He delighted in the title of the “Sent One,” He came to fulfil the law. In Matthew 5 He said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy but to fulfil... Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled.” That word “fulfilled” means “filled out,” the bringing out of all its beauties, the making manifest of what it really was in the thought of God. And the Lord Jesus said, every jot and tittle of it shall be filled out. Down to its smallest points its perfection and beauty shall be manifested. When did that take place? It took place in the life of Jesus here below; He fulfilled, filled out, made manifest, all the beauties of the law—loving the Lord His God with all His heart and His neighbour as Himself. So that the law was not given in vain. God could call the attention of the universe, of the holy angels, and of the devil himself, to that one blessed lowly Nazarene, despised by men, without a place to lay His head; and could say, “There you see a Man in absolute obedience and dependence, bringing out in every thought of His heart, every word of His mouth, every act of His life, the beauty of My will for men.” The law of God has been made honourable in the sight of the universe by God’s beloved Son, and its beauty thus livingly expressed will abide for ever.
The Hebrew servant had to serve six years, and after that he could go out free. His master’s claims were finished and he was at liberty to go out and serve no more. The moment came in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ here below when that point was reached, when He as Man had fulfilled every jot and tittle of the law and He could have gone out free. The law, which was God’s will for man on the earth, had got no further claim on Him because it had been fulfilled. When was that? When He stood upon the holy mountain, and when in the presence of His disciples He was transfigured; when His face shone like the sun and His garments were white as the light, then He could have gone out free, and then a voice from the excellent glory proclaimed Him to be the One in whom the Father had found His delight. The Father Himself bears witness to the fact that He was the faithful Hebrew Servant, who had not failed in one jot or tittle of the law. He could have stepped from that holy mountain to the throne of glory. As a Man He had fulfilled every righteous claim that God could have upon a man. He had loved the Lord with all His heart and His neighbour as Himself. Ah! but now something else came in. The Hebrew servant could go out free, but if he went out free he went out alone. And we come to that crisis in the history of the Lord on earth when the choice lay before Him. It came in John 12, where the Lord said, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone.” If He went out free He must abide alone, but there was something in His heart that would not allow Him to abide alone, and what was that? It was love. His love to His Father, His love to you and me, carried Him beyond the law and made Him a Servant for ever. It is most blessed and wonderful to contemplate the Lord Jesus Christ at that moment. John 12 corresponds with the mount of transfiguration in the other gospels. He could say, “The hour is come that the Son of Man should be glorified.” He also says, “Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour, yet for this cause came I unto this hour. FATHER, GLORIFY THY NAME.” What led Him to say that? Love! Love that thinks not of self at all; love that places itself entirely at the disposal of the loved ones. No matter what that terrible hour contained, and He knew it all, He would go through it in His love to His Father and to us.
The Lord up to this time had been bearing witness in the midst of Israel, but now there comes a change. Greeks come up to Jerusalem, and they find out Philip, and say, “Sir, we would see Jesus,” and Philip and Andrew bring them to Him. It was in that connection the Lord says, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die it abideth alone.” If the Gentiles were really to see Jesus, if any of us were to see Jesus, how must we see Him, and where? We must see Him taking up a service that the law did not lay upon Him, a voluntary service of love that made Him the Sufferer. We must see Him lifted up on the cross. Jesus would have been no use to us, He would not have been “JESUS” to us at all, if He had not gone to that cross. It is on the cross we see written, “This is Jesus”—the true Hebrew Servant with His ear bored for everlasting service.
The Gentiles could not be brought to God, Israel could not have been redeemed, the Lord could not have had His Church, there could have been no blessing for any one of us, if the Lord had not undertaken this fuller and deeper service. There are people who talk about the righteousness of Christ being imputed to us. The righteousness of Christ was the fulfilment of the law for Himself, and that is His own righteousness; if that had been all it was for Himself alone and He would have gone out alone, for it could not have been imputed to anybody. Something else was necessary if we were to be made righteous before God, and if Christ was to have us as an everlasting possession. To go back to the type, the Hebrew servant said, “I love my master, I love my wife, I love my children, I will not go free.” He would not be alone, his love would not be satisfied unless he had companions, and he said, that I may have companions I will remain a servant for ever.” Then his master took him and his ear was bored, and henceforth, as long as he lived upon the earth, he carried about in his own body the mark of his servitude. The cross is the antitype of that, and when the Lord rose from the dead and came into the midst of His own, He showed His hands and side. Those wounds answer to the bored ear, they are the everlasting proofs of what His love has suffered, and the pledge that He will serve us for ever.
He says, “Father, glorify Thy name.” His Father’s glory was the first thing. Then there comes the answer, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.” The Father had glorified His Name through the perfect fulfilment of the law in the life of the Lord Jesus, and in that which was infinitely greater than merely the fulfilment of the law—the revelation of Himself to men. He was going to glorify it again in the death of the Lord Jesus and His resurrection. He was entirely at the Father’s disposal, and so could say, “Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the prince of this world be cast out.” The world did not attract Him, for “all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father,” and “if any man love the world the love of the Father is not in him.” The love of the Father was in this faithful Servant. He rejected the world and all that it could offer as evil, and chose to glorify His Father instead. That system of things in which men are trying to make themselves happy away from God, had nothing for the Father, and the Son had nothing at all in it. The prince of this world is cast out; he had been able up to this point to present the world to men and attract them by it, and enslave them by it. There is an old saying that every man has his price, and the devil knows that well, and he knows what attracts men, but the faithful Servant was not attracted by any of Satan’s wiles. Satan was powerless in the presence of the Man who had no thought for Himself, who only lived to serve, and who would give up His life to serve for ever.
Then He says, “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.” He becomes the great centre of attraction. There are needs in the hearts of men, and He by His wonderful service of love can meet those needs. Man is a dependent creature; he must look outside himself for satisfaction, he was made to be dependent upon God and to draw his supplies from God, for God is the One who stretches forth His hand and satisfies the desire of every creature. Man has turned to the world for satisfaction, and that is the way the devil has triumphed; they turn from God, thinking they can find something better in the world. The Lord says, I am going to be lifted up, and if I be lifted up I will draw all men unto Me, and this He said, signifying what death He was to die. Being lifted up on the cross He becomes the great attractive Centre, the One through whom God meets the deep needs of the souls of sinners and of saints, and will meet the need of the saints for ever, for even in the glory we shall feed on Christ. In the glory we shall eat of the fruit of the tree of life that grows in the midst of the paradise of God, and there our souls shall be nourished by Him for ever and for ever. The countless hosts of ransomed sinners will find their hearts’ full satisfaction in Christ; we shall never be able to dispense with Him, we shall feed on Him for ever, and His service, in the midst of the ransomed myriads, will be to dispense all the fulness of God.
“I will draw all men unto Me.” Yes, He had to be lifted up for that, for He must bear our judgment. The One who kept the law in every jot and tittle of it had to bear the curse that rested on those who had broken it in every point, and He, who had lived that sinless life in holy subjection to the will of God, had to bear the judgment of those who refused the will of God. When we discovered our desperate need, when we awoke to the fact that we were sinners in the sight of God and had no hope in ourselves, we had to look for our salvation to Him who was lifted up, and He, blessed be His Name, did not fail us. We were drawn to Him and found that He was able, not only to answer all the claims of God against us, but to fill our hearts with peace and gladness. He served us there upon the cross. He died to serve us, and He lives to serve us still, and in serving us He serves His Father, and in serving His Father He serves us, for it is well for us to keep in mind that we belong to God, we are God’s children. Hebrews 2 speaks of us as the sons of God and tells us that He is bringing many sons to glory. He is gathering them out of every clime on the face of the earth, lifting them out of the mire, bringing them by the Gospel to Himself. He has made the Leader of their salvation perfect through suffering, and He, the Lord Jesus Christ, will bring every one of them home to glory. God is doing it through Him.
If we are to serve with the service of love, tender consideration is necessary. If I am to serve you, I must consider you, because I must become acquainted with your need, and I shall not serve rightly unless I consider you tenderly, and the more tenderly I consider you, the more acceptable will be my service. The Lord Jesus Christ tenderly considers every one of us. Someone says, “Nobody understands me.” I beg your pardon, the Lord Jesus Christ understands you. “But,” you say, “everybody around me seems to mistake my motives.” The Lord knows you thoroughly and makes no mistakes, and though nobody else may be able to serve you, the Lord Jesus Christ is most tenderly considering you and lovingly serving you. Everything about you is known to Him, and in serving you He serves His Father, because you are precious to the Father. We are His sons, and do you think He is going to leave one of His sons outside His home? No, He must, bring them all in, and He desires that they should be conducted on their way home in a way suitable to Himself, and so He has committed that to the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Lord has undertaken that service. All the children of God, no matter where they are on the face of the earth, and no matter what their circumstances are individually, are the objects of the tender consideration of the Lord Jesus Christ. The vastness of it is overwhelming. We cannot understand it, how He can be caring for those children of God converted in Central Africa, and caring for us in Australia, and for our brethren at the other side of the earth, and wherever the children of God are; but there is one thing we can do, and that is, believe it, and the proof of it is the wounds that He bears in His glorified body, they are the marks of perpetual service.
Our great High Priest can never fail, and He can never die. He lives in the power of an endless life; but He does not live for Himself; He would not be alone; He lives for us, and He serves us with everlasting service. To His hands we have been committed, and because we are the children of God God could not have committed us into any other hands. It would not have been enough to put us into the hands of Gabriel or Michael. Only the nail-pierced hands, bored for everlasting service, can bear us through the wilderness to the rest of God that is before us. It is the Servant who bears in His body the marks of the love that suffered on the tree that will carry us safely through, and His hands will never fail in their service. He said to Israel, “Can a woman forget her sucking child...? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands.” Yes, beloved Christians, and so are we engraven on the palms of His hands, and those hands hold us in everlasting safety; they are lifted up in intercession for us and in benediction over us—the nail-pierced hands.
Not only did the Hebrew Servant say, “I love my master,” but “I love my wife,” and here comes in a blessed fact, the Lord Jesus Christ is to have a bride. We read of the Lamb’s wife, and in order to secure for Himself that bride that she might be His companion for ever, He would not go out free. He would give Himself for us, give Himself that He might possess His blood-bought Church as His wife for ever, and so we get not only the individual aspect of His love in Paul’s words, “The Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me,” but we get the other side in Ephesians, where we read, “Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for it,” and it is a great day in our spiritual history when we awaken to the fact that we have our part, every one of us, in connection with that which is so precious to Christ, His Church. You have your part in connection with it, and I have mine, and we are all united together in one with every other saint of God on the earth, by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, forming the Church, the wife of the Lamb, and the true Hebrew servant says, “I love my wife.” Is He serving it? Yes. Ephesians 5 makes that plain for us, “that He might sanctify and cleanse it by the washing of water by the Word,” and He “nourisheth it and cherisheth it.” Every bit of spiritual nourishment our souls get comes from Him. He is caring for us in that respect, caring for us that we may become more united in heart, caring for us, not merely as individual plants in the garden of the Lord, but that we may grow together as a body grows. The Lord’s service towards us is that we may all be growing up together, in unity and in love. As we know the love of Christ more, we shall be more united in heart. As we know the love of Christ more, we shall be more for the pleasure of His heart, as He sees that which is so precious to Him prospering spiritually. But every bit of spiritual prosperity, whether individually or in the Church of God, is the result of that faithful service of the One who would not go out free.
The 12th chapter of John seems to me to be very beautiful when put alongside that type in the 21st chapter of Exodus. Is there a present result of the service of the Lord Jesus Christ to us? Yes, I think we get it in the opening of John 12. The Lord Jesus Christ was sitting there, Lazarus was there, and Martha, and the disciples. The Lord was in the midst of a company of people who loved Him, to whom He was the supreme object, for had He not lifted from them the dark shadow of death? He was there in the midst of them as the resurrection and the life, and they sat round that table with Him. As they sat there listening to His words, there came Mary with the alabaster box of ointment, and she broke that box and poured its precious contents on His feet, and the whole house was filled with the odour. Just a pattern of what we may have today. The saints of God gathered around the blessed Lord, the resurrection and the life, alive for evermore, the worthy object of their hearts, that worship might flow in sweet fragrance to Himself. How is that produced? Who was the one in that company that broke that alabaster box of ointment and filled the house with the fragrance of it? It was the one who knew more of the Lord’s faithful service to her than any of the others. It is as we know Him, His continual service and love towards us, that we shall be able to respond to that love in adoration and in worship, so that He will get something even now as a result of service.
“The labourer,” says the Scripture, “is worthy of his hire.” And if that is so, is not the Lord who labours with no other motive but His own love worthy of some response to His love? Yes, blessed be His name, He is worthy of homage and of praise, worthy by all to be adored.
We should not have been here today it He had not been serving us; we should certainly never gather to remember Him in His death if He did not serve us. It is His service to us, His present continual service to us, that keeps our hearts fresh in His things and enables us still to go on with what is pleasing to Him, and with one another.