Understanding the Bible in its historical context enables us to see just how scandalous our Savior was. Jesus was born into a world under the rule of the Roman Empire — the most powerful civilization in history — so His ministry took place in a society that was immersed in hierarchy, and position was the currency of power. In the ancient world, there was a clear caste system, and emerging from one’s allotted place in the pyramid typically happened only by force. Caesar was at the top of the heap, and at his disposal were massive armies and legions of soldiers. Below him were senators and patricians, who were members of the old aristocracy, and beneath them were equestrians and then plebeians (which is a fancy term for commoners). Freedmen and soldiers came next, with soldiers serving the empire in uniform and freedmen being former slaves. But servants were at the bottom of the heap. No one was less esteemed in those days than slaves, and they were treated as property. Though many were highly skilled and they performed important functions, they had no freedom, and their actions were dictated by their “owners.” This is why Jesus’ instruction to become servants of all was so unseemly and shocking. The Jews expected the Messiah to deliver them from Rome, and instead, He told them to assume the lowliest position and to willingly surrender their desire for greater power.
My friend, this world is not your home. Instead of pouring your energy into building an empire on the earth, give your life away to others that you might truly gain it. As you empty your own ambitions and focus on Kingdom priorities, while you may not earn the admiration of society, you will inherit a deep peace and abiding joy that can’t be obtained at any price. Surrender yourself to your loving Master, and He will multiply your influence and use your simple, servant-hearted faith to break chains and set others free.