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The servant monarch

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.

A note which has sounded again and again in the past week’s commentary on the life of Queen Elizabeth is the way she saw herself as a servant.  In the moving speech she made on her 21st birthday, in April 1947, she said, “I declare before you today that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service.”  Three-quarters of a century later, she signed her platinum jubilee letter “Your servant, Elizabeth R.”
A monarch – yet a servant!  Where did this attitude come from?
Her Christmas broadcasts, largely her own work, give a clue to her thinking.  In 2012 she said, “This is the time of year when we remember that God sent his only Son to serve, not to be served.  He restored love and service to our lives in the person of Jesus Christ.”
The verse she quoted is Mark 10:45, in which Jesus was responding to a request by two of His disciples for a seat at the top table when He came into glory.  “Not so with you”, was His reply.  Greatness is not found in rank or might, but in service of others.
Jesus went on to explain that He would live this way Himself.  “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  The term  Jesus uses for Himself, Son of Man comes from the Old Testament book of Daniel, where it refers to a glorious and powerful figure who is given all authority, glory and sovereign power. 
And yet – and yet! – this most glorious figure was to come into our world and give His life as a ransom for many, dying on the cross for our salvation.  He came into our world and became obedient to death, even death on a cross, for our sakes.
This, then, is the pattern of servant leadership which Jesus demonstrated, in this verse the Queen quoted.  We could say that it came to her in two ways.  First, through the influence of Christ and His death on our culture.  We call our leaders ‘public servants’ and celebrate as heroes those who lay down their lives for others.  But this has not come naturally. Jesus Himself is clear in this passage that those who are rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them.  You would not have learnt it from Nebuchadnezzar, or Alexander the Great, or from Augustus. You would not have seen it displayed in Roman triumphs.  This understanding of greatness did not come to us from imperial Rome, but from Jesus.
Secondly, and more personally, the Queen identified herself as one who followed Christ.  For her testimony, watch her Christmas broadcasts for 2000, 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2020, to name some.  The same broadcasts often featured charitable work, ordinary people caring for the elderly and vulnerable, and more.  What a contrast to the grand annual occasions of some other world leaders, with their  parades of nuclear missiles and goose-stepping soldiers!
As we thank God for her, let us wonder afresh that our Monarch of 70 years, head of state of 15 nations, took her own cues from a crucified carpenter from Nazareth.  Do we recognise the depth of His influence?  Do we wonder at His own self-giving for us?  And will we, too, walk in His steps?