Today we continue our series studying a controversial and revealing statement from Jesus about what leadership is.
That statement is this:
But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves.
Luke 22:26-27 (New Living Translation)
This statement was controversial because when Jesus says it He stands in direct opposition to the views of power and leadership at that time. Here are a few important observations about why Jesus’ statement was so controversial.
Jesus is announcing a new order, a new kingdom, and a new way of doing things. In Jesus’ time there was a social structure where the Jews (who were dominated by the Romans) thought they were better than the Romans because the Jews had what they believed was the “correct God.” On the other hand, the Romans (who dominated the Jews) thought they were better than the Jews because they were superior and ruled over the Jews. Thus, the social class structure was very obscure with each group of people thinking they were better than each other. Fortunately, Jesus comes in and throws all of that away. Jesus is saying “I am among you (Jews, Gentiles, Samaritans, etc.) as the one who serves.” This was a big shift and a big statement to people at that time.
Let’s fast forward 35-50 years later when Luke writes this gospel and the book of Acts. There is much evidence that Luke did not write his account of Jesus’ life for about 35-50 years after Jesus died, hence there is yet another historical and cultural context we may examine this passage in.
Put yourself in the shoes of someone reading this statement 35-50 years after Jesus first said those words. The people reading or hearing this statement now hear it within the context of Luke’s entire gospel and the book of Acts in the New Testament. Put yourself in these shoes of someone reading the verse:
who reads the book of Acts and reads about the many trials and pains
early apostles went through
- Someone who had endured persecution,
troubles, and conflicts with others because of their faith and
belief in Jesus.
- Someone who knew that Jesus had
come to earth and died for their sins.
- Someone who was struggling with a
tyrannical government authority that opposed Christianity.
The message being communicated to
these early believers is that a true leader is a servant just as Jesus was a servant. Jesus was the ultimate
servant giving his life for others.
So, if Jesus’ original message to His 12 disciples was to serve others, and the message being communicated to His early followers was to serve despite their persecution, what is the message for us?
Now that we know Jesus came here to serve others, we are also called to do the same. We are called to do the same because Jesus did not come here to do a few things to leave.
Jesus came here to be a model of service for us to follow.
- Jesus served His disciples then He gave His life for us.
- That model of serve was shown to us by His 12 disciples who traveled for ministry, were physically beaten, snake bitten, ship wrecked, placed in prison, and eventually killed.
- This all happened because the disciples lived out Jesus’ instructions that a leader “should take the lowest rank and be like a servant.”
As we close out this series I hope you will consider how you will serve others.
Question: With all the pain, shame, and blame that Jesus endured for you–because He was among us as the one who serves–how are you going to respond in serving others?
Christ’s example teaches us
That we should follow Him each day,
Meeting one another’s needs,
Though humble service be the way.
Cindy Hess Casper, Our Daily Bread (June 2, 2009)