The hour had come for the Passover to begin and Jesus, deviating from the normal rite, speaks of taking the bread and eating His body and of taking the cup and drinking His blood. It is different and obviously special. Then Jesus speaks of this being the last Passover that He will celebrate with the disciples go as far as saying, “For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined,” referencing what Jesus has spoken plainly about before – that He will be handed over into the hands of sinful men, will suffer and be killed. All of this should have been sobering for the disciples. Yet, it wasn’t – at least whatever effect these words and actions had on the them, it didn’t last long as “a dispute also arose among them as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest” (Luke 22:24). Really? Jesus speaks a new word, saying, “Take eat, this my body. Take drink, this is my blood.” He speaks of a new covenant. He speaks of being betrayed. He speaks of His impending Passion. And yet, all they are worried about is who among themselves should be regarded as the greatest?
Now, we could feign shock at this wondering how the disciples could be so self-absorbed as to miss the new thing Jesus was doing in their midst, but that would be rather transparent, wouldn’t it? No, we can’t even pretend to be surprised at the disciples behavior as we can relate to an “it’s all about me” attitude. Even those of us who readily point out the self-aggrandizing behaviors of others are just as guilty. The truth is that we could have easily taken the place of any of the disciples that night and fit right into the dispute detailing all the reasons that “I” should be regarded as the greatest.
Notice, though, how quickly Jesus puts an end to that dispute by reminding the disciples that the greatest should become like the youngest and the leader like the one who serves (Luke 22:26). He admonishes the disciples in this because such self-absorption cannot co-exist with faith. Referring to earlier words of Jesus in this matter, one cannot both deny himself and worry about his importance at the same time (cp. Luke 9:23). This is a First Commandment issue. Either our faith and trust is in God or it is in ourselves. And, as long as we are vainly worried about “me, myself and I” we cannot have true faith in God or love for our neighbor and we cannot fulfill either Table of the Law – the first Table which directs our love towards God and the second Table which directs our love towards our neighbor.
Luther once wrote, “We live on earth for no other purpose than to be helpful to others. Otherwise it would be best for God to take away our breath and let us die as soon as we are baptized and have begun to believe. But He lets us love here in order that we may lead other people to believe, doing for them what He has done for us.” Does this not summarize the very purpose and ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ who came “to serve, not to be served and (here’s the important part) to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45)? Here is service motivated by love – love towards God through submission to the Father’s will to suffer the penalty of our sin and love towards neighbor through giving Himself unto death for our forgiveness – even of our selfishness and pride.
In the new life we have through Jesus’ resurrection, we are made equals to live and serve one other, doing for each other, as Luther wrote, what God has done for us. After all, being baptized into Christ, we no longer live to ourselves but to Him who lived, died and rose again for us. Thus, abiding in Him who served us, we live to serve each other.
Heavenly Father, teach us humility, the same kind of humility Jesus expressed as He came not to be served but to serve. Teach us love, the same kind of love Jesus expressed as He served us even to death in order to save us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Along Life's Way
Learning to live life as it’s meant to be. That’s what we strive to do here at Grace, to live under the cross in the new life that we have in Christ through His death and resurrection. The posts on this blog, grounded in God’s Word, will be offered as a source of encouragement, comfort and strength “along life’s way” to the end that we live lives of service in our homes, in our communities and in our congregations.
The author of this blog is the pastor of Grace, Andrew Green. He is a 2000 graduate of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis and has served Grace since January 2002. He is married to Erica and has two children, Clara and John-August.