Jesus Was No Stranger to Obedience and Humble Service

by Elli Atchison

Jesus was no stranger to obedience and humble service.  The King of Kings came quietly at his Father's request.  He lived among his broken and desperate people.  He loved them and served them, literally to his death … upon on a Roman cross. But through his resurrection, he left us with hope and faith to carry on in this troubled world. Believers know that evil will never have the final say. Ultimately his goodness will conquer all.

Jesus desires obedience in the lives of his people. "If you love me you will obey my commands" (John:14:15). And his commands can be summed up in two straightforward steps:  "Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And then, love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark:12:29).

In Jesus' day the Roman soldiers were everywhere in the land as he traveled. Their presence was meant to intimidate as much as it was to keep order among the people. These armed soldiers had the authority to carry out their tasks with as much force as the situation required, or their hearts' desired. Similarly today, as one travels on the borders of the green line and throughout the West Bank, it is difficult to ignore the significant power and presence of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).

Jesus with women soldiers

From the age of 18 every Israeli male is required to serve three years and every Israeli female is required to serve two years of compulsory military service in the Israeli Defense Forces. Detail of Christ and the woman of Samaria by Giovanni Francesco Guercino. (The juxtaposition of this image with that of the grieving Christ is inspired by an exhibit at the Palestinian Museum; learn more at

What would Jesus say to a young, inscripted IDF soldier working at a checkpoint in Bethlehem?  Maybe she just turned 18 and would rather be in college with her friends. But she knows that this is part of the service required of her by law. She wants to serve her country, but she may feel conflicted about the role the army plays in oppressing the Palestinian people. To refuse might bring public embarrassment to her family, time in jail for herself, and a future of restricted employment opportunities as an ongoing punishment for refusing to obey.

This young Israeli soldier might possibly be in the West Bank for the first time in her life.  There are large red signs posted all over the borders warning Israelis to keep out of this "dangerous" place. Because of horrible persecutions like the Holocaust and the rhetoric of surrounding Arab nations against the State of Israel, Israel's school children are taught from a young age of the need to defend their nation. They are told to fear the nations that surround them and the Palestinians who live among them. And above all, they are reminded to "never forget and never again" let the atrocities of history happen against their people.

I think Jesus would deeply admire the obedient heart of this young woman, sacrificing her personal desires to do what is "right" for her country. But he also would look beyond the tough exterior of her uniform and  weapon. His penetrating and sympathetic gaze would see the honest fear deep within her soul.

I think Jesus would encourage the young girl to be a humble servant, first to her God and then to her government. He would remind her of God's requirement of his people, written in the Torah, to "act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8).   He would model the kindness, respect, and dignity that should be extended to the Palestinians she meets each day.  And, ultimately, he would encourage her not to fear anyone, because they can only harm her body but not her soul.  Her greater fear should be of God who has eternal power over both (Matt. 10:28).

Dear Jesus,

We are all responsible for how we live our lives and how we treat others. Young soldiers serving in Israel are in positions of great authority. Please help them to serve God first, with obedient hearts and humble spirits.  Help them to use their positions to glorify God. May they treat the Palestinians they meet each day with kindness and give them the dignity that deserve.  We know that they are all your children. May they prove that your goodness is still alive in the ugly and hard places of this occupation.

In your holy name we pray, Amen.

Elli Atchison is an ambassador for World Vision, working alongside the advocacy team to promote peace and justice in the Holy Land for all God's people, especially children. This Holy Week meditation originally appeared at Prayers for the Holy Land.

See all the parts of Atchison's "Jesus Was No Stranger To…" series.


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