Luke 22:24-30 (spring AD 30, Thursday of Passion Week)
We all have that friend. The one who makes people laugh without seeming to have much of an idea why. That’s the benign side of when people lack self-awareness.
The disciples in this story show more of the malignant side of that coin. The lack of self-awareness that allows you to behave in the most inappropriate way imaginable, at the most inappropriate time.
It was Thursday – the day before the night of his arrest, and Jesus was staring death in the face. He was walking steadily into the hurricane of pain that awaited him, so that the likes of you and me could become reconciled to God. He – the Son of God, God himself – was about to be tortured to death for the crime of claiming to be exactly who he was. He was about to do that out of love for his Father, and out of love for people like those fools of friends who started arguing.
And what an argument it was. There could be little more ironic than arguing about greatness in the presence of Jesus.
Imagine for a moment, something of what it might have felt like for Jesus to hear that dispute going on. After everything he had taught them, after his lifetimes of total humility and putting others before himself. While facing an ultimate humiliation, these cowardly and self-absorbed men – who were about to abandon him – were jostling for position.
Notice also, and particularly, the graciousness of his response. He did not, for example, call them ‘cowardly and self-absorbed’ as I have just done, though I think my description (at this point in their lives) is accurate. He didn’t storm out to stop himself saying something he’d regret, or lash out at them for their total lack of concern about him, despite his predictions of his own impending suffering and death.
First he pointed out that their attitude was an obviously worldly one, and that the godly way is to act the opposite of what they saw around them: if you are in a high position, it is important to show that you are interested more in service than power. And you do that by actually serving people, showing that you do not consider yourself to be any more important than them.
Then – with remarkable grace – he pointed out that all of them would inherit great kingdoms and be judges over many people from heaven. But he also reminded them that he was above them, and below only his Father God, and yet “I am among you as one who serves” (v.27). This, in stark contrast to the standard human behaviour of those in positions of privilege or authority acting with condescension, gloating and abusing their power while demanding craven public displays of fealty and support (v.25).
If you are of low position – it is your duty to serve.
If you are of high position – it is your duty to serve.
Not because we are inferior, but because if Jesus came to serve YOU, then you can serve anyone – nobody is beneath your service.