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Being Served or Serving?

 

Luke 22:19-30
Bible Studies for Life, March 24

 

There are in the scriptures a multitude of inquiries of which we might well say, “That’s a good question.” The questions Jesus asked are particularly notable, for Jesus did not ask a question because He did not know the answer.

He asked questions not to learn, but to teach. Such was the case here in Luke 22.

Preparations had been made in vs. 7-13, and Jesus and His disciples were now in the upper room, partaking of His final Passover feast. But at some point, in verse 24, the disciples’ discussion turned into a dispute about who would have the highest position among them.

Jesus responded with His question in verse 27, “Who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves?” Ironic, since throughout this meal, the Master had taken His place among them as the one serving.

Jesus taught them that, for a Christ-follower, the highest of positions could only be reached by the path of humility. In Philippians 2:5, 7 Paul said that we should have the mind of Christ, who “took … the form of a servant.” And having that servant’s mindset, Christ “humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (v. 8).

The fact that His path of service would lead to His death on the cross did not take Jesus by surprise. The Passover meal here in Luke 22 took place the very evening before He was crucified the next day. And as they dined together in this upper room, Jesus spoke to His disciples about…

 

The crucifying of a servant - Luke 22:19-23

There was a memorial of Jesus’ tree (vs. 19-20).

This feast was already a memorial of the Passover in Exodus 12 when the Jews were redeemed by blood. But Jesus reinterpreted the symbolic nature of the meal and applied the imagery to His redemptive sacrifice.

The bread, representing the unleavened loaves baked by the Jews after they left Egypt in haste, would now represent the sinless body of Christ offered on the cross. The Passover cup, symbolizing the blood applied to Jewish doorposts, would now symbolize Jesus’ blood shed for us.

There was a mention of Judas’ treachery (vs. 21-23).

Every servant should learn that people often turn on you and let you down. Before Judas communed with Jesus at the table, he had “communed with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray” Jesus (v. 4).

Jesus was not surprised by this either, knowing His path had been “determined” (vs. 22). Without naming Judas, in verse 21, He announced that the conspirator was at the table. What must Judas have thought when Jesus pronounced “woe” upon him? It’s interesting that no one else had a clue about Judas’ betrayal (v. 23).

How quickly the conversation turned in verse 24, from discussing who was traitor to who was greater! But Jesus used this egocentric conversation as a teaching moment, and He spoke to His disciples about …

 

The concept of a servant - Luke 22:24-27

Jesus referred to human dominions of Gentiles (v. 25).

Just a week or so before, in Matthew 20:25-28, Jesus said practically the same thing about Gentile rulers. The disciples quickly forgot the indignation they felt towards James and John because of their ambition in that passage, and now they were all striving for greatness. These men were aspiring to “exercise lordship over” each other like Gentile kings and self-proclaimed “benefactors.”

Jesus referred to His definition of greatness (vs. 26-27).

Worldly greatness is defined in terms of position, possessions, prestige, and power over people. But as David H. Stern wrote, “The Kingdom of God functions differently from worldly kingdoms; those who would be great must be, not power-seekers, but servants.”

I love Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Jesus’ statement in verse 26: “Let the senior among you become like the junior; let the leader act the part of the servant.”

Christ was honest in telling His disciples of the harsh realities of being a servant. But He was gracious to tell of the heavenly rewards as well. He spoke to them about…

 

The crowning of a servant - Luke 22:19-23

The disciples were Christ’s faithful companions in the trials and the temptations (v. 28).

Jesus had reminded them of what it meant to have a true servant’s heart.

Wrapped in His reminder was a gentle rebuke of their selfish ambition. But now Jesus acknowledged the fidelity of His friends. It’s likely that Judas had left at this point.

The eleven who remained had faithfully followed Christ even in the face of the hateful adversity that He encountered. They would all face a measure of that same opposition as every servant of Christ does. But for now, Jesus commended their loyalty.

The disciples were Christ’s future companions at the table and the thrones (vs. 29-30).

Just as these men dined with Jesus at the table in the upper room, He said in verse 30 that they would dine at His table in a higher realm. These servants would all encounter grief, but ultimately, they would experience glory. The disciples’ kingly aspirations would become a reality in the distant future. For Christ said, “I appoint unto you a kingdom,” and they would “sit on thrones.”

There may be no recognition for your service to the Lord now. But faithful servants will be rewarded in heaven. George Atkins reminded us that the Lord will “call us home to Heaven. At His table we’ll sit down. Christ will gird Himself and serve us with sweet manna all around.”

Until then, do not strive for lordship or greatness. Follow Christ’s example of humble service. And ask yourself: are you being served or serving?