24 Then a dispute also arose among them about who should be considered the greatest. 25 But He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles dominate them, and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’ 26 But it must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever is greatest among you must become like the youngest, and whoever leads, like the one serving. 27 For who is greater, the one at the table or the one serving? Isn’t it the one at the table? But I am among you as the One who serves. 28 You are the ones who stood by Me in My trials. 29 I bestow on you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one on Me, 30 so that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom. And you will sit on thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel.
He Came to Serve
by Ridley Barron
They say “timing is everything.” Apparently, the disciples never got that memo. In the Gospels, we see they often missed the most significant moments of Jesus’ teaching. Their timing was anything but impeccable.
In today’s passage it happens again. Jesus has just concluded the Passover meal with them. They have listened as He predicted His betrayal and His death. Jesus is taking the final hours of His life to share some critical truths with these men. In a manner of minutes He will remove His outer garment and wash their feet in a display of servanthood that is rarely seen.
But all of these scenes are lost on them. A dispute arises as to which one of them would be considered the greatest. Really? Jesus is dying for the sins of the world, and the most important thing on their minds is which one is most important. They were confused about what God’s calling would mean for them. Rather than dramatic, larger-than-life events that might propel them to prominence, God was calling them to the subtle realities of servant leadership…of humility…of denial and struggle.
In reality, though, the disciples were asking a question that consumes a large part of human nature for all of us. Think about it. How often do we catch ourselves playing the comparison game with others? Aren’t our attempts at success and popularity and fame all done in an effort to somehow increase our image in the eyes of a world we think is focusing on us?
Listen to children on a playground as they compare notes on their fathers and the size of their houses and where they went on vacation, and you will realize that we start these comparisons from an early age. We push and pull in the belief that if we somehow can just make it to the top, we will have “arrived” and our lives will be just a little better.
Jesus has this uncanny ability to turn those ideas on their head. Jesus told the disciples their purpose wasn’t to be a master over others. By the way, neither is yours. True leadership is found in those who can learn the lessons of humility and self-sacrifice. Fulfillment is found not in climbing to the top but in serving from the bottom.
We are most like Christ when we realize that the worth we have does not come in accolades or accomplishments. Instead it is found in the heart of those who exemplify this kind of servant leadership. It is a trait that is as uncommon now as it was then. Perhaps that is why Jesus didn’t lose His cool when this question came up as it did.
I have often wondered if, in the days and weeks after Jesus’ ascension, the disciples would have periods of clarity and would smack themselves on the forehead. Do you think they ever had those moments when something Jesus had been teaching them suddenly became clear, and they asked themselves, “How could I have missed it?”
Let’s not be like them. Let’s not get caught in the game of comparisons or one-upmanship. There is really nothing to be gained. After all, God created us to be fulfilled by something far less in the world’s eyes…and something far greater in His.
- What does it look like to “serve others” in our 21st century culture?
- Think about your schedule today or this week. How can you be intentional about looking for opportunities to be “like the one who serves”?
- What do you think it must have felt like for the Son of God to become a servant…a foot washer? Consider Philippians 2:5-11 as you answer this question.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.