Passing a cup among them and taking a bite of bread, the Twelve quickly forgot the words of Jesus.
They started squabbling among themselves. Who among them would be judged the greatest? In kindness to these men, let us remember that this was before Calvary and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. They had no power over their sinful natures beyond their own will power.
Life as Competition
In groups as small as two, someone has to be the leader. In a group of 12 with the leader established beyond question, the competition will be for the number one spot among the followers. On this night of all nights, it must have been discouraging for Jesus to have to deal with this issue when He was trying to establish the New Covenant. He took what His men gave Him and taught them about leadership under the New Covenant.
“Not So Among You!”
The Kingdom of God is fundamentally different from the kingdoms of men so it must be led in a different way. Pagans follow their human nature and “exercise lordship” over those they lead. Jesus drew the contrast:
“But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves.”
Leaders must be servants. Elders must be as optimistic and idealistic as the young. Age should not breed cynicism or pessimism but patience and faith, those iron tools forged in fires of experience. Power is not some brute force, as destructive as a tornado. It should be an intelligent influence building confidence and consensus.
Where could the men go to find examples of this leadership principle? Certainly not the Temple. The accumulated power of a hypocritical priesthood and the corruption of the ruling Sanhedrin Council amounted to force personified. The Romans? Force was their weapon of choice as well. Garrisons of soldiers occupied the city and mounted patrols watched every country lane and village street. Was there really another way to lead? Who could show them that way?
The Jesus Way
He was sitting there with them at the table. He reminded them of what they had seen in Him every day.
“For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.”
He was their example of servant-leadership and He is our example, too. This was true Greatness in the Kingdom of God. Christian leaders must shun power and welcome responsibility. Our authority must rest in our anointing, not in our selves. The calling God gives a leader puts him/her on a path to leadership the Jesus-Way, the power of self-giving love, of faithfulness, and of servant-leadership. Tough decisions still have to be made and those who are in the wrong have to be compassionately dealt with by the Scriptures. The way of a Christ-like leader is not easy but it is never enhanced by worldly methods. To lead the People of Jesus, we must lead the Jesus Way.
A Kingdom Bestowed
As human and flawed as the men were, with one of them already in league with the enemy, Jesus poured out His commendation on them. They could not see it, but He was in the process of passing the leadership of His Kingdom on to them. This was their last supper but it was the first of an eternal communion feast at His table in His Kingdom.
Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest. And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves. “But you are those who have continued with Me in My trials. And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
Lord Jesus, I am of this world by nature so competition and power come to me naturally. But I have been born again into Your Kingdom, a Kingdom where servants rule and peace reigns in all hearts. Lord, I accept my calling and the responsibilities it brings. Help me be faithful in all things. I will love those I serve as leader for they are serving You and we are serving You together. May the world, so full of the struggle for power and position, witness the servant-leaders in our church and see a different Kingdom, a Kingdom of peace. Amen and Amen.
Lord, Make Me Like You
Words and music: Jimmy and Carol Owens
Lord, make me like You. Please make me like You.
You were a servant, Make me one, too
O Lord I am willing. Do what You must do
To make me like You, Lord.
Please make me like You.
© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved