Derek looks at the role of Jesus to his disciples in caring for their physical welfare providing food. He then shows the role of the Holy Spirit as the servant of Abraham who goes to find a bride (the church) for Isaac. Next he highlights Paul’s introduction of himself as a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle. Paul saw his calling was to serve no matter where he was or what he was doing.
So then they arrive at the shore. This is the scene that greets them. To me it’s amazing. Here’s the resurrected Lord with millions of angels at his command. John 21:9:
“As soon as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread.”
Not the fish they had caught.
“Jesus said to them, Bring some of the fish which you have just caught. Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land full of large fish, one hundred and fifty three: and although there was so many, the net was not broken. Jesus said to them, Come and eat breakfast.”
It’s lovely to spend all night fishing and then have somebody with a warm, freshly cooked breakfast waiting for you on the shore.
“Yet none of the disciples dared ask him, Who are you? knowing it was the Lord. Jesus then came and took the bread, and gave it to them, and likewise the fish.”
He went around them, served every one of them individually with bread and fish. See, he never ceased to be a servant. Although he could have called a million angels and said, “Make a nice breakfast for my disciples” he did it himself. I think if you ponder that scene it opens up depths of understanding of the character of Jesus. I believe it’s the character of a servant of the Lord.
I always think about the apostle Paul—and I’m coming there later in this message—but when they got shipwrecked on Malta and they were all cold and wet and they were gathering wood to make a fire, Paul gathered a piece of wood and there was a viper on it that bit him. I’m not interested in the viper at the moment, but I just think Paul was never the person to stand around and watch other people doing something. He was there with the rest gathering the wood.
Then if you want to consider for a moment the character of the Holy Spirit. In a way, servanthood is the distinctive mark of the Holy Spirit. You could take many different ways to present this but I’d like to give you a picture from Genesis 24 which we won’t look at, it’s a long chapter. It’s the story of how Abraham obtained a bride for his son Isaac. In the story Abraham summons his servant, gives him his instructions and sends him back to Mesopotamia for the bride.
Now this is one of those stories, it’s true history but it’s also a parable. A very, very beautiful parable. There are at least two such parables in the life of Abraham. One is when he and Isaac went up Mount Moriah and he sacrificed Isaac. The other is this story of how he obtained a bride for Isaac. In this parable Abraham the father is a type of God the Father. Isaac the son is a type of Jesus Christ the Son. Rebekah the bride is a type of who? The church, that’s right. We’ve got one other major character who is never named. All he’s called is the servant. Of whom is he a type? The Holy Spirit. He’s the Holy Spirit’s self-portrait. I mean, the whole chapter really revolves around him. And he never names himself. If you consider his function, he took the camels, went off to Mesopotamia with instructions from Abraham which he carried out to the letter. Then when he got there he prayed and said, “Lord God of Abraham, my master, show me which of the young women is to be the one.” And then he said, “Let it be the one who when I ask for water will draw water not only for me but for my camels.” He opens his eyes and there’s Rebekah. Talk about rapidly answered prayer!
So, he says to Rebekah, “Give me to drink.” And Rebekah said, “Yes, I’ll draw the water for you and for your camels.” Now, if you don’t know the Middle East that might not mean much to you. But a camel can drink 40 gallons of water. There were ten camels which is 400 gallons of water. So, Rebekah was more than just a pretty little religious character, she was a muscular young woman.
Once she had identified herself, he took out beautiful jewels, placed it somewhere on her face, either her forehead or her nose, and when she received the jewels she was marked out as the chosen bride. You see, if you take the parable a little further, I cannot understand how a church that refuses the gifts of the Holy Spirit can ever become the bride. Then you know the rest of the story. She takes him back, introduces him to her family and they set off. Remember, she didn’t know the way, she didn’t know whom she was going to marry, she knew nothing about where she was going. She totally relied on one person, the servant. He was the one that told her whatever she came to know about Abraham and Isaac.
And that’s how it is with the church. We’ve only one person to rely on, there’s only one person that can guide us all the way from where we are to the marriage supper of the Lamb. And that’s the Holy Spirit. He’s the servant of the Godhead and, in a sense, he’s the servant of the church. That’s his picture.
Now, let’s take a little while to consider Paul as an example of this principle. We could find many but let’s focus on Paul. If you turn to Romans 1, the introduction by which Paul introduces himself. Romans 1:1, a very simple introduction.
“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle.”
Notice the order. First a slave, then an apostle. The important thing with Paul was not being an apostle, it was being a slave of Jesus Christ.
I had a friend once who had been brought up in the Apostolic Church of Wales. For a while… He’s a minister but he’d become very dissatisfied with his upbringing. He said something to me which I’ve never forgotten. You’ll find it in Revelation 21:14. He said, “Apostles are not people on top holding everybody else down, they’re people at the bottom holding everybody else up.” What a difference! What a difference! You see, if you read in Revelation 21:14:
“The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the land.”
They were in the lowest layer, they were the foundation. That is a spiritual truth. The chief ministries are at the bottom. It’s not a question of holding people down, it’s a question of lifting people up.
Then I think it would be interesting to have a job description of the apostles. You mentioned about going to Ghana, which was one of the richest experiences of our life. One morning I was going to teach on the ministry gifts and the logical thing is to start with apostles. So, I started with apostles and I just couldn’t get off apostles. I mean, I went on and on about apostles. There was a purpose in that which I discovered later. Not my purpose but the Holy Spirit’s purpose. At the end I said, “How many of you would like to be apostles?” Oh, a lot of young men jumped up and put their hands up. I said, “Wait a minute now, I’m going to read you the job description. Then tell me if you really want to be an apostle.” So, this is the job description, it’s in 1 Corinthians 4:8–13. This is so applicable to Charismatics. I mean, it could have been addressed to you and me.
“Already you have all you want, already you have become rich, you have become kings and that without us: how I wish that you really had become kings, so that we might be kings with you. For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena: we have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men. We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are honored, we are dishonored. To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless, we work hard with our own hands: when we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly, up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.”
Now, how many want to be apostles? I think we just have to measure ourselves by God’s standards, that’s all.