“It is a PRIVILEGE to serve”.
This is one of those statements that absolutely perplexed me when I first stepped foot in a church. I heard it from good people who appeared to be truthful and sincere as they walked out their faith in Jesus. The problem was, quite frankly, I just did not get what they were saying. I knew that working in soup kitchens and the like was a very churchey thing to do. I even felt like I should help out if I wanted to be part of the church. Pitching in to help an organization work well seems reasonable. But privileged to do it, no sir, that made no sense. If I am moving chairs or rebuilding houses in the inner city, it involved sacrificing time that I could be spending on much more valuable things, like me, me and me. How could giving up watching a football game to mix potato flakes be something sought after? It just felt like hard work for people who often seemed not to appreciate it. Fast forward a few years and Jesus changing my life and I find myself telling others what a blessing it is for me to serve the Lord. Even when it is in the lowliest and thankless ways I truly mean it. I find it is my greatest joy to work for Jesus. So what does being privileged to serve mean? How are we receiving something while giving up something?
Simply put, when we serve Jesus we get to see Jesus work in open and obvious ways. Jesus’ power becomes so much clearer in our lives because we witness Him doing things that are impossible. We see hard evidence of the Holy Spirit working. As a result, we are privileged in growing in waya that are just not possible if we are sitting on the sidelines.
These truths are demonstrated clearly when looking at Jesus’ first miracle. Jesus performs His first miracle in a somewhat improbable setting, the Feast of Cana. While a party celebrating the marriage of two unknown people is a good thing in any culture, it is not exactly the first place one looks for a Messiah’s first heavenly intervention. One would have expected a miracle at the Temple or perhaps in front of a King, but that is not Jesus. He is lowly and humble and every bit of the Savior of all the people, not just the religious.
Jesus, Mary, and the Disciples all decide to attend this anonymous wedding feast. It is wonderful to think about the humanity of Jesus and the disciples sitting and feasting with another in joy and merriment, isn’t it? The idea of Jesus enjoying a well-cooked piece of lamb with His friends and family seems so foreign sometimes. Yet, He was fully man with all that goes along with that fact. It is so easy to forget that the people of the Bible were really people just like us with all of the good and bad that involves.
While they are at the feast, a hospitality emergency occurs. The wine for the festivities runs out. In a culture focused on hospitality the failure of a family to provide enough wine at such a significant occasion would have been a scandal. It would have been embarrassment galore to the young couple that would have followed them well after the day. In the close-knit communities of those days, do you think anything like that was ever got forgotten, particularly without tv to distract people? How long would the whispering happen whenever their names were mentioned?
So Jesus steps in and fixes the situation. Here is the text:
And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.”
4 Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.”
5 His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”
6 Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And He said to them, “Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.” And they took it. 9 When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. 10 And he said to him, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!”
11 This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.
Jesus performs the first of His many recorded miracles here. Do we notice how He went about it? He does not do it entirely alone. He could have simply filled every glass with an unending supply of wine with a word. Yet, He enlists the help of those who are there ready to work. He calls on the servants to grab the jars and fill them with water. He then has them go throughout the feast and serve others with His workmanship.
Jesus did the actual turning water into wine alone. Yet He also allows mere servants on the inside of the execution of the miracle. He has them carry out the physical steps necessary to make it happen. Only the servants get to witness all of the details of the work done by Jesus.
The servants get to know with absolute certainty that they themselves did nothing out of the ordinary. They filled pots with their own hands with water and set them before Jesus. Their own inadequacy to fix the situation was clearly on display. “Ok, Jesus, we have water in the pots what now?”
They also get to know with assurance that when they put the pots in place there was nothing miraculous about them, they just followed the instruction Jesus gave them. They did what they can do. They did what Jesus said to do and waited and watched what happened next.
Then they get to see Jesus interact with the pots. They witness the simple vessels of water change into wine and the results of Jesus work in those vessels.
Can we imagine the servants seeing the reactions of each of the wedding feast attendees as they sampled the wine? Only the workers know full well that it was just water a few moments before.
The servants probably had to fight doubt and rebellion when they were told to serve the feast with water from pots. Their doubt made seeing the joy brought about by Jesus’ miracle even sweeter.
It is only the servants that get the full picture of Jesus’ work from beginning to end. Jesus taking an empty vessel filled with just water and turning it into something wonderful to be served to those at a feast. They watched as it was done and got to see the results moment by moment. They are side by side with Jesus. They see His power. They know for absolutley certain that Jesus does amazing things. They see nothing is impossible for Him. They even have the balloons of doubt and self sufficiency burst in the process.
The very same process takes place today when we choose to serve the Lord in faith. Whether we are called to arrive early in the morning to put out chairs or go out on the street and witness, a certain amount of physical effort is required on our part. It can be totally exhausting. We can work our fingers to the bone filling thousands of pots with water and our good intentions, but when we serve we come face to face with the fact that all that effort is worthless without a miracle of God. The water we strenuously put in the pots is going to stay water if it is up to us. It is when Jesus adds the inspiration and power of God that we get to see life changing things happen. A person comes to faith or the service leaves the congregation filled to overflowing with the Spirit. Someone we know s just impossible for Jesus to reach is left sobbing at the beauty f the Gospel and we freely acknowledge that it had nothing to do with putting out a few chairs or filling a few coffee pots. It is here that the blessing is enormous.
Like the servants at the Wedding, we know for certain it is nothing we did. Anyone can add sweat and dust. We get to see our own inadequacy and yet also watch God do wonderful awesome things from beginning to end. We get to witness God working and taking the basest materials – people just like you and me and turn us into sweet wine to be given out at a feast and appreciated by others. We are not going to see that if we are sitting at home watching a football game.
Service in Jesus is an enormous privilege because we get to see Jesus work concretely up close and personal. It is the joy of watching Jesus work with our hands as He does the miraculous. If we are not serving the Body of Christ in some way today, we are missing out on this great blessing.