24 August 2011

"A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest." (v. 24)


Many leaders adopt a certain persona, a sort of 'it's tough at the top' approach. They stamp their authority in an assertive - maybe even aggressive - way. Think of Brian Clough, Margaret Thatcher or Alan Sugar. Jesus gave us a completely different model of leadership. When his followers returned to the argument about greatness (see Luke 9:46), Jesus redefined leadership and turned the world's ideas about importance upside down.

At the meal which would become known as the Last Supper, Jesus said he was among his followers like a servant waiting at table. This couldn't have been more different to what other people had expected of God's chosen leader. Some expected a warrior king to establish God's rule; others a priest who would reform the Jewish religion. Either way, the leader would be powerful and prestigious. But Jesus understood his role to be one of serving others, and he was shaped in his understanding by Isaiah's prophecies about the servant of the Lord (Isaiah 42:1-449:1-752:13 - 53:12).

What emerges from this section of Luke is the loneliness of Jesus: both at the supper which he had longed for, and as he anticipates his betrayal, arrest and death. Even his close friends seemed determined to misunderstand him. Yet he didn't give up on them or replace them with more promising candidates. He assured them that they would have a leading role in his kingdom.

To Ponder

At the time of Jesus a servant had a number of roles. Not only would they perform tasks for the person they served, they would also be their spokesperson, mediator and an agent of change. How is the church as you know it a servant in this way?

Have you ever experienced misunderstanding and opposition whilst trying to do what you felt was right? How did you respond?

Do you think serving others involves any risks? If so, what might these be?

Bible notes author: The Revd Caroline Ainger

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