Jesus, The Servant-Leader

The life of Jesus, as recorded in the four gospel books – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – demonstrates the heart, head, hands, and habit of a servant-leader.

Heart.  The good news of Christianity is love, salvation, and hope of God for mankind.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).  Prior to his crucifixion, Jesus showed the full extent of his love for his disciples by washing their feet and commanded them to love one another.  Love and compassion are the heart, intent and motivation, of Jesus the servant-leader. 

Head.  Jesus knows clearly his identity, regardless of the endorsement from the Pharisees and scribes.  He is the Son of God. Metaphorically, Jesus declared that he is the bread of life (John 6: 35-40), the light of the world (John 8:12-20), the good shepherd (John 10:11-18), the resurrection and the life (John 11: 25-44), the way and the truth and the life (John 14: 5-7), and the true vine (John 15: 1-8).  A servant-leader is confident of his/her identity. For Christians, we are children of God, fearfully and wonderfully made in His likeness (Psalm 139:14). 

Furthermore, Jesus is clear of his earthly mission.  He came as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1: 29).  A servant-leader casts the vision, sets the direction and implements the mission.  In Lead Like Jesus, Blanchard and Hodges (2005) stated that Christians’ vision is summed in the great commission of going and making disciples of all nations (Matthew 28: 18-20), and it is implemented through the great commandment of loving God and others with their heart, mind and soul (Matthew 22:36-40).

Hands.  The book of John records six signs, and they are signatures of Jesus’s healing hands.  Firstly, Jesus changed water to wine at a wedding celebration (John 2: 1-11). Secondly, Jesus healed an official’s son who was sick (John 4: 43-54).  Thirdly, Jesus healed an invalid who was crippled for thirty-eight years man on the Sabbath (John 5: 1-14). Fourthly, Jesus fed more than five thousand people with five loaves and two fish (John 6: 1-15).  Fifthly, Jesus healed a man who was born blind (John 9:1-34). Lastly, Jesus raised Lazarus, a dead man who was in a tomb for four days, to live again (John 11: 1-44). Healing comes in many forms such as resolving a crisis, empowering the powerless, and giving hope to the hopeless.  A servant-leader is a healer and meets the needs of others in their context.

Habit.  Jesus leaves us his secret of renewal, in the habit of withdrawal for prayer and quiet time.  “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35).  After his ministry to more than five thousand people, he sent his disciples away on a boat, dismissed the crowd, and went up on a mountainside to pray (Mark 6:32-46).  Before selecting his twelve apostles, Jesus spent a whole night praying alone (Luke 6:12-16). After the Lord supper, he went away to pray for himself, his disciples, and all believers (John 17: 1-26).  To prepare for his full engagement in his ministry, Jesus strategically disengaged from others regularly. Strategically disengaged does not mean “doing nothing”, but seeking actively and getting ready for full engagement again.  When Christians spend time with God in solitude, they are able to

  • share words of encouragement with others,
  • sharpen their direction, sense of mission and conviction, 
  • live out their obedience, and
  • have supernatural power for their ministry.

The discipline of solitude aids a servant-leader to clarify his/her vision, consider important decisions, and make preparation for the mission.  

In conclusion, love and compassion are the intrinsic motivation of a servant-leader.  A servant-leader is confident of his/her role and knows the vision and mission of his/her ministry clearly. A servant-leader brings healing to others in their context.  The work of a servant-leadership is sustainable through regular periods of full engagement and strategic disengagement. The practice of solitude refreshes a servant-leader.  The life of Jesus Christ sheds light on the heart, mind, hands, and habit of a servant-leader.



Blanchard, K. and Hodges, P. (2005). Lead like Jesus:  Lessons from the greatest leadership role model of all time. Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group.

The Holy Bible, new international version. (1988). Grand Rapids:  The Zondervan Corporation.

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