Jesus is in the upper room, in Luke 22:27 he says who is greater, the one at the table or the one serving? Well, Greatness is about position and timing and fulfilling purpose, but the obvious answer that they understood was Jesus was greatest among them and yet, 1) he submitted to the Father and 2) He SERVED them. It is what he did because it was why he was sent.
In the same timing, John 13:3-17 is the real-world example of what Jesus was doing and why, and it personified Paul’s teaching in Philippians 2:6-11. In Paul’s explanation, he says Jesus, who is God, emptied himself, did not think it offensive to become a human, a servant. He took up humanity, in all of its limitations and our sin-created unattractiveness, if you will, and he humbled himself, the role of, the responsibility of a servant – even with death as the end game. Why? Because it is what we needed. When you truly SERVE, you SERVE. You Meet the need. I you don’t fill the need, you didn’t serve. The need for us was death, a sacrifice, a perfect life, and Jesus served the need. So, then in John13 in the upper room, same thing. The disciples came in one-by-one, dust and dirt covered sandal feet. In their custom, the house servant would wash the guests’ feet. But if there was no house servant, the FIRST guest who arrived would wash all the others’ feet. None of the disciples had filled the need. There they were reclining at dinner, and Jesus did what was true about his work on earth, what Paul said in Philippians two – He…
- Took off his outer garment – he laid aside his glory – He wrapped a towel, that is
- he took the nature of a servant and washed their feet. The need was met.
- Then he put back on his robe and took his seat – and Paul says God has highly exalted him.
So, who is greater? The one who fulfills their purpose. They were worried about position and Jesus says, timing will take care of position. If you back up to v24 it says a dispute arose among them about who should be considered the greatest – This was a far too common discussion among the disciples. It was actually in my devotion from last week. Jesus says OTHERS argue over these things and they then call themselves Benefactors – a Title – the word euergetes = Doer of God – That was their title not their action. That was an example among the Greek Rulers. And Jesus says, “it must not be like that among you – in other words, we should DO GOOD – not just be called that as a title.
Who is greater?
And Jesus says I am the one who SERVES – diakoneo – it’s the verb of the same root where we get our work deacon – I am among you as one who serves – He is Lord, Creator, Savior, but among you as – this is a constant reminder, regardless of title, ability, or notoriety, I am among you as… I need this – pastor, leader, even because I tend to like to be private, keep to myself, and I also struggle with needing recognition, but I am among you as a servant
Then he says: I bestow on you a Kingdom, just as my Father bestowed one on me. What is that? It is Inclusion and Provision – that you may eat at my table They were worried about a seat at the table, and he says, don’t worry about your seat. You will have a seat, but for now serve. Remember the prophesy about the coming Messiah, Jesus, Luke 1:32-33 he will be great… called Son of the Most High… will give him the throne of David… He will reign and the Kingdom will not end… And he says, I’m going to have a seat for you at the table to eat and drink, have inclusion and provision, with me. But Jesus is saying, everything has a time. Don’t fight over recognition in the temporary kingdoms. You serve NOW and I will place you at my table, I will have a role for you in my eternal Kingdom, and yes you will even have ruling greatness. But
Just as you stood with me in trial – stand with me in service. Then you will stand with me, sit with me, sup with me in the Kingdom.
Let me point out just one other thing: back up in this chapter. This argument over greatness comes on the tail end of the Lord’s final supper with them before his crucifixion. They are in the upper room, sharing a time of Passover remembrance. They are hearing a word of promise, body and blood, a coming Kingdom. Then Jesus says that one of them will betray him, and they start arguing over who would be, and that lead to who is greatest, and they missed the whole point. Can’t you just see/hear them – acting like we might be very familiar with – “well I would never betray him… I’m his most faithful one… I love him more than you… I’m greater, I will have a better seat… I’m the best servant…”
Careful, as we serve that we stay focused on the service and let Jesus take care of the Kingdom and Kingdom Rewards and Recognition.