“But I am among you as one who serves.” –Luke 22:27c
We skipped over Luke 22:24-29 Sunday for the sake of covering the Garden of Gethsemane in more depth and reaching the resurrection passage by Easter, but I wanted to speak to this important statement of Jesus here in the newsletter.
In verse 24 the disciples are arguing between themselves as to who is more important, or who is the greatest. Jesus steps in to instruct them and help them see how completely they misunderstand the kingdom of God. Jesus compares their argument and their attitude to the “gentiles,” or the unbelieving world. Unbelieving people work to exalt themselves, create power, and make themselves great. They then use this power to better their own situation at the expense of others. They often use other people for their own advancement, regardless of the harm it may do them. In this model the weak serve the strong. Peter writes about this in 1 Peter 5:2-3, how the world gets what it wants through compulsion, domineering, and for the sake of material gain. Every worldly king or dictator has followed in this pattern. Often the more complete the power the more likely the abuse of power. History is full of such examples.
But Jesus pivots in verse 26 – “But not so with you.” The way of Jesus Christ is not like the way of the world. Jesus’ way is a different way. Jesus tells us that the way to greatness is to be the least – to take the low place of service. Jesus teaches them that the leader is to be one who serves. This paradigm shift of servant leadership seems so backwards and impossible at first pass, but this is how Jesus lived among His disciples. It seems (v.27) that the person who reclines at the table and IS served, would be greater than the person on their feet serving the people at the table. But Jesus says, and demonstrates, that He is “among them as one who serves.”
Jesus specifically demonstrates this at the last supper table in John 13:12-17 when He washes the disciples’ feet. After their journey, the disciples are arguing over who is the greatest, and possibly over who should do the dirty work no one else wants to. Jesus then rises, puts a towel around His waist, gets a bowl of water, and proceeds to clean what needs to be cleaned. This washing has further spiritual significance, but it is not less than a real act of service to another person. In this passage Jesus specifically calls for the disciples to “do as I have done.” Jesus makes this point even more emphatically by stating that even as a servant, Jesus is still the master, and we will never rise above the place of Jesus our Lord. As we walk as disciples of Jesus Christ, we must live lives of real service to others. We cannot call ourselves Christians while demanding our own way, domineering others, insisting that they serve us.
The Christian life is a life of real and continuous service, where we choose to die to ourselves and serve the real needs of others. Paul writes of this so clearly in Philippians 2:3-4. Paul requires that we count others more significant than ourselves, that we do nothing from vanity, but always look to the interests of others. The remainder of the chapter continues the case that we should do this because it was the attitude of Jesus.
These verses force us to be introspective and honestly consider whether we live a selfish life. Are we looking to our own needs and desires? Do we consider the needs of others more significant than our own? Do we really see the physical needs of others then act to meet them in service? This is the way of Christ. If you would leave this world behind to follow Jesus, you must take the road of servant hearted love. Not service that gets attention. Not service that lines up with what you already wanted to do, but service that is truly needed. Service that is hard. Service that others won’t do because it’s humiliating or dirty, or humiliating and dirty! People were regularly shocked with how Jesus worked with and loved poor and diseased sinners in the streets. Our lives should be marked by this same genuine heart of service.
In verses 28-30, we see that the person who walks in humble discipleship to Jesus will one day be lifted up. The faithful will be assigned an inheritance in the Kingdom of God. This is future hope. This is what losing your life to gain it looks like.
God help us to turn away from selfishness and take up the servant heart of Jesus,