How do we measure success in our world? Generally, such measurements in our world have to do with the acquisition of power or wealth, which often go hand in hand. If you are already weary of the presidential campaign, raise your hand. We have not even made it to the state primaries, and already it is all they can talk about on the news each day.
I’m sorry if this sounds cynical, but I have always been amazed at the things people will say and do to get elected. (I am not talking about the current slate of presidential candidates, yet.) It gets pretty rough out there, and people look for any advantage over their opponents, real or imagined. Distortions of the truth, lies and innuendos are the order of the day when people are seeking power.
It isn’t only in the political arena that people throw scruples to the wind, when pursuing power. The business world is full of stories where people have been trampled and walked over, as the successful have climbed the corporate ladder. For some people achieving power and wealth is the ultimate goal. They want to be successful at any cost.
Compare the actions of those in a quest for success with the actions of the one who has the ultimate power. Jesus, as the Son of God (God incarnate in human flesh) bears that power in all humility and gentleness. I love the quote from Isaiah that Matthew offers in our text today. It begins with, “Here is my servant…” Politicians may say that they are a servant of the people; but take a look at what a servant is.
A servant is one who subordinates him or herself in humility to perform work for another, often including menial tasks. Politicians do not subordinate themselves in humility, but God in Jesus Christ does. To be a success Jesus lays aside his great power and assumes the role of servant. St. Paul worded it powerfully when he said that
“Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5-11)
The world would never think of servanthood as a path to success. Furthermore, as the prophecy from Isaiah has shown us, Jesus is a gentle servant. We are told that “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out…” Jesus is gentle with those who are hurting and are downtrodden. He is gentle with those whose hope flickers and fades like a candle in the wind.
Yet despite his meek and gentle nature as a servant, Jesus will ultimately bring justice and will ultimately have the victory. It is not the path to success that people in business and politics would take. It is not the path to victory that most of the world would recognize. There are very few who desire to become successful servants. It is however, the path of the Christ of God; and it is the path to which we are called.