As we have seen in Luke, Jesus is pretty good at throwing rocks in the still pond of people’s lives, creating waves. He does it again at his final meal with his disciples, the Passover meal in the Upper Room, the meal we commonly call The Last Supper. Jesus gets a bit ominous, telling his closest followers that the bread is his body and the wine is his blood, and they will use those elements to remember him. “Remember him”? Was he going somewhere? Was he leaving them?
Numerous times he had mentioned to them that he was going to suffer and die. The disciples knew all too well that the religious establishment was boiling mad at Jesus. Things were hot in the city. But wasn’t Jesus the one who was going to become king? Wasn’t he going to kick the Romans out of the city? Think about the crowds, and how they adored Jesus, followed him all over the place.
“Remember him”? Maybe he is just talking about the long distant future. Except he says one more thing: one of the disciples seated right there in that room, around that table, will betray him!
How could this be? So they start talking among themselves, “Who could do such a thing?” Judas, the one who had already set up the betrayal with the religious establishment, is there thinking “How could he know?” It was an awkward moment. I can imagine one of the disciples, such as bigmouth Peter, saying “Well, I would never betray him.” And then maybe Peter’s buddy would say “Ha, I’m better than you, Peter, so it’s not me who Jesus is talking about.” And Peter say “Better than me, are you? No way, I’m better than you.”
Perhaps then an argument breaks out, just like school children on the playground, arguing over who is better.
It is the perfect opportunity for Jesus to step in and teach. He had surprised them by washing their feet earlier that evening. From that demonstration, he now says leadership is not about greatness, but about serving.
The disciples’ discussion of who is the greatest is almost shocking in that it occurs at all. Think about it. Jesus is just hours away from being arrested. He is very serious talking about his body, blood, and how his suffering is upon them. And at that moment they start arguing about who is greatest? How quickly they become petty, lose focus.
How quickly we, too, can lose focus on what is important. Have you ever been involved in a worship service, class, or Bible study and you came away very convicted about something, but then by the afternoon or the next day you’ve forgotten about it? You were so convicted to make a change in your life, to do things differently or start something new. Maybe while you were on a spiritual retreat you made a decision to change your life, but by the next week it seems like that retreat was months ago. Maybe it was a trip to a different country. Remember the powerful spiritual impact that trip had on you. Does it seem like a distant memory now?
How fickle is the heart of humanity.
The disciples are distracted. Having just heard about one who would betray him, they now start arguing about who would be greatest. How did this happen? You and I know how it happened because we know how easily we can be distracted.
Jesus responds by giving them a new vision for what leadership is all about in his kingdom. Serving. To lead is to serve. We often get pictures of arrogant leadership.
But what does it mean to be a servant leader?
Mother Teresa is considered by many to be one of the most excellent examples of servant leadership. She said “It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.” I could have chosen another 50 quotes of hers to mention. What is amazing is not her quotes, but her life. Her life of serving the sick and hurting. It is her life that makes her quotes and writing so powerful. She walked the talk.
Another example of a servant leader is a man I met in Guyana, he who would do anything, even change dirty diapers and clean up vomit.
Other examples, I meet right here at Faith Church. People serving in the Nursery. Providing loving child care. Waking at 3am to start the fire for the Chicken BBQ. Many people give time, energy and money serving behind the scenes and never get credit. And they don’t want credit because they want God to receive the glory. That is servant leadership.
At the heart of a servant leader is humility. Not wanting credit. Not wanting a name for themselves. Willing to help, do to the dirty work. Wanting God to be glorified.
Parents and grandparents are almost always servant leaders by the nature of their roles. Not saying they are perfect. We parents know that we often have bad attitudes, that we can struggle with being selfish, and can fail. But if you are a child or a grandchild, I urge you to open your eyes to the sacrifices your parents and grandparents are making for you. I urge you to thank them.
Too often whether we are children or whether we are the people on the receiving end of servant leadership, we can grow a sense of entitlement, that we deserve what they are giving to us. They should be sacrificing for us, we can think, and we can forget how hard it might be for them. We can forget to thank them.
Think about what is going on here. Jesus on the eve of his trials is not freaking out, not moaning and groaning, but he is ministering to the disciples. They should have been ministering to him! They should have been reaching out to him. But there he is trying to help them.
He is our example. When we are going through tough times, we want people to care for us. But no matter what we are going through, Jesus is our example, of how to serve, to give, to minister, to reach out, even in the midst of our difficult times.
How can you let Jesus transform your heart, make it new, so that you serve like he did?