Monday

24 August 2015

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

Psalm: Psalm 145


Background

This is the second time Luke's Gospel records the disciples of Jesus as having an argument as to which of them should be considered the greatest. On the first occasion (Luke 9:46-48), Jesus drew a small child to his side and used him as a visual aid - 'This is how you should be'. Note that, in the discussion following the second argument, instead of the word 'least' Jesus used the word "youngest" (v. 26). Was he reminding them of this little child?

Amazingly, at this Last Supper, when everything was pointing to a showdown with the religious authorities (Luke 22:2), the argument resurfaced. Perhaps the disciples were arguing about seating arrangements - who would take the places of honour beside the host? The closer a guest sat to their host, the more honoured they were considered to be. Luke's Gospel notes others, including the teachers of the law, as being similarly competitive about seating arrangements (Luke 14:7-10; 20:46).

Luke is the only Gospel writer to combine an account of the Last Supper with a report of the discourse during the supper. Matthew and Mark record only the Supper, while John heavily emphasises the discourse.

Note how Jesus used the imagery of serving at the table and of banqueting while the disciples were actually sitting with him at the table. The lesson is reinforced by the context in which it is being given.

Greatness is not about authority and getting a name as a benefactor. The Greek word for benefactor is 'euergetes' and this title was often conferred on a ruler. Jesus made the point that the true 'bene-factor' (one who does good) is the one who serves. 

Note that Jesus had only just offered bread and wine from the table to his friends; he had served them and he confirmed that he was indeed among them precisely as one who serves. How counter-cultural can one get?


To Ponder

  • Reflect on a situation when you humbled yourself and did the menial thing when you might have expected someone else to do it. How did it feel?
  • How might a culture of serving be promoted in the church and community?


Bible notes author: Gillian Kingston

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