How will I serve? That is a question which must be explored for every person no matter who you are, male or female, Christian or non-Christian, young or old, serving is something humans naturally do and is something that people spend years attempting to figure out.
I. THE FIRST VERSE I MEMORIZED
Jesus’ statement which we will study are the first verses I memorized as a young naive non-Christian reading through the Bible to discover what it said and who Jesus was. If you are like me, you might have began reading the Bible with a desire to get to know what is in it and what the Bible says. For me, I started reading the Bible in the book of Matthew (the first book of the New Testament) and began reading through. I started in Matthew, read some stuff, had questions about what I read, but I kept reading. Then, when I finished reading Matthew I moved on to Mark. While reading Mark some of the stories and things Jesus said seemed slightly familiar, but I did not think anything of it. Then, when I moved on to Luke, I definitely noticed some of the same stories and things that Jesus said. That was when I realized, as young person who had read the Bible very little, that those books were telling the same stories of Jesus just from a different viewpoint! 🙂
I tell you that fun story because when I read the two verses which will be focused on this study of “How will I serve” I stopped reading. I stopped reading when I came upon these two verses because these two verses are so countercultural and so against the way things are in our culture that I knew I had never read those verses before. Later, I found out that Jesus’ statement which caused me to stop reading was just as countercultural in His time as it is in our time.
The two verses which will be centered on for this study on “How will I serve?” are these:
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 Jesus makes was extremely countercultural in His time and is just as countercultural in our time as it was then. After reading those verses can you see why they caused me to stop reading?
This statement from Jesus has great implications for leaders and brings new light to the “a leader is a servant” discussion. And, that discussion is one we will continue with tomorrow when we can dig more into the background and history that encompassed Jesus’ time and how His statement might have been received by the people who heard it. Finally, once we have explored the implications it had to those people in Jesus’ time, we then will be able to transfer the meaning and application to our own lives.
II. THE CONTEXT OF THE VERSE
In order to properly understand Jesus’ statement we will need to look at the entire passage of what He was saying and study the historical and cultural context which He lived in.
The entire passage in which Jesus says His statement about leadership and service is this:
14When the time came, Jesus and the apostles sat down together at the table.15Jesus said, “I have been very eager to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering begins.16For I tell you now that I won’t eat this meal again until its meaning is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.” 17Then he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. Then he said, “Take this and share it among yourselves.18For I will not drink wine again until the Kingdom of God has come.” 19He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.” 20After supper he took another cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you. 21“But here at this table, sitting among us as a friend, is the man who will betray me. 22For it has been determined that the Son of Man must die. But what sorrow awaits the one who betrays him.” 23The disciples began to ask each other which of them would ever do such a thing. 24Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them. 25Jesus told them, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ 26But 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.27Who 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. 28“You have stayed with me in my time of trial. 29And just as my Father has granted me a Kingdom, I now grant you the right 30to eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom. And you will sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. – Luke 22:14-30, NLT
I have put the statement we are studying for this series in bold.
To appropriately understand this story and what Jesus’ is saying we first need to
know who Luke was and who he was writing to.
- Luke was a companion of the apostle Paul and he also wrote the New Testament book of Acts (Acts was written after Luke and all the things which are written about in Acts happened after Jesus’ time on earth).
- Luke was a Gentile physician/doctor who wrote one of the four accounts of Jesus. His account is called, The Gospel According to Luke.
- Because Luke was a physician he was a meticulous researcher and writer. He was such a meticulous researcher and writer that his gospel is considered to be one of the most accurate and well pieced together historical accounts of any literature that still exists today.
To appropriately understand this story and what Jesus is saying we also need to know when Luke wrote his Gospel and who he was writing to.
- Luke wrote his gospel to people in general: Jews and Gentiles.
- Luke was writing his gospel during a time when the church and its members were experiencing a lot of persecution and trials from others.
- Because Luke also wrote his Gospel and the book of Acts, we have the unique situation where we can see some of the teaching and messages Luke is hoping to convey in his Gospel lived out in the book of Acts. It is possible that when Luke sat down to write his Gospel and book of Acts, he knew the stories and teachings he wanted to present throughout both as a testimony to who Jesus was, what
Jesus came here to do, and how we are to respond to him.
To appropriately understand this story and what Jesus is saying we need to also know what happens before this verse.
- At this time Jesus is having the Last Supper (the final meal with His 12 disciples before His crucifixion) with His disciples and He tells them that one of them will betray Him.
- The disciples then ask each other whom among them might do such a thing.
- This leads them to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them. The gospel books of Matthew and Mark give more description saying that during this same time period James and John (two of the twelve disciples) actually ask Jesus if they could sit in the places of honor to Jesus’ left and right. They wanted special treatment.
Jesus who was a master leader and teacher always recognized a teaching moment when He saw one: this was one of those teaching moments. He saw a situation in which He needed to dedicate some time to teach and mentor these young disciples to help them understand their faith and how to live it out not for themselves, but for others.
Now that we have discovered some of the background information relating to Jesus’ statement and the context which He said it in, tomorrow we will deduce what exactly He means by what He said and then we will figure out what that means for us as people living in our current time.
III. THREE REASONS JESUS’S WORDS WERE CONTROVERSIAL
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.
A. 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.
B. 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:
- Someone 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.
C. 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.
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)
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?