Thursday 24 August 2017

Bible Book:

“But he said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves.’” (vv. 25-26)

Luke 22:24-30 Thursday 24 August 2017

Psalm: Psalm 145


Why did Jesus use the Gentiles (non-Jews) to make his pointhere? Throughout his ministry, he often criticised the leaders ofhis own people, yet here, when trying to give his disciples anexample of what they were not to do, he specifically cites "thekings of the Gentiles". We have to wonder whether this was becausein Jesus' day, Israel had been occupied by Gentiles, and thedisciples would have been acutely aware of what it was like to haveforeigners exercise power over them.

Being part of the Roman Empire often meant some kind ofexperience of the Roman system of patronage, in which the morewealthy and powerful became patrons of those who were weaker or ofa lower social class. In return, the client was expected to offertheir services and loyalty to their patron and to honour thempublicly. Having many clients was seen as making the patron appearall the greater. Like any other way of organising society, thesystem could be abused and clients could find that their patrontook advantage of them.

It is likely that Jesus' reference to being called a benefactorimplied some form of this system of patronage. Imagine being theclient with an abusive patron; someone who not only expected toorder you about but also demanded that you praise them in public.There is something particularly unpleasant about being asked tohonour someone who you believe to be behaving very badly.

It can feel very strange to us that the disciples are oftenshown in the Gospels arguing very openly about who is the greatest- something which it seems was more acceptable in their societythan ours. The original readers of Luke's Gospel might have beenquite used to such disputes, especially at a banquet where greatattention would have been paid to who was seated where, so it isworth remembering that this passage took place at the Last Supper.In fact, when Jesus said "But not so with you", he was challengingthe assumptions of a society which was very concerned with publichonour.

To Ponder

  • If Jesus were speaking today - to what examples of power beingexercised badly might he have pointed?
  • Are there ways in which we compete for honour or power today,even if more subtly than the disciples? What might we do to resistthis temptation?
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