|Holden Village, 2010. View from a Hike|
Luke 22:24-27 “A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. But he said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? But I am among you as one who serves.'”
A quick synopsis of last week’s class on my thesis….
Jesus shows us again that God turns our expectations upside down – our expectations of who is the greatest and what the kingdom of God looks like. By arguing about who is most awesome, the disciples are clearly missing the point… again. Jesus had just described his body broken and blood poured out in a gift of self-sacrifice, yet the disciples value the one who is “regarded as the greatest.”
The image of a servant leader would have been striking at the table, where Jesus had literally served them bread and wine. The dining area is a place where hierarchy and status were strongly enforced at the time. To get more insight on the impact of Jesus’ words, we look to Luke 14:1-24. There Jesus is also at a table, telling a parable about the kingdom of God. The story is about a wealthy man who is going to throw a great banquet to impress people who could reciprocate with favors and banquets (14:16) (See Willi Braun’s analysis). His friends snub him for financial and economic reasons, so he invites two groups of social outcasts instead. The tale ends with the host renouncing his former social connections as he shares the dining table with the outcast (14:24). This is not paternalistic benevolence, but joining a new community – a conversion.
Our culture needs encouragement to reject the social pressure to seek status and wealth and choose the alternative way of inclusion and justice. Jesus calls us to this new way. In these verses, we also see a God who chooses to be with those who are not powerful. God does not participate in the hierarchies we create to demonstrate our faulty view of human worth. (That also means that our worth doesn’t come from whether we succeed in these hierarchies!)
In Luke 22:24-27, Jesus announces that he works contrary to our expectations of greatness. We may look for God to come in power to overthrow systems that oppress and establish an earthly kingdom in which we, perhaps, may have a seat of honor. We make gods out of that which we idolize: money, religion, beauty, fame… and sanction them with the blessing or name of God. Yet God is not these idols. Jesus came as one who serves. God is at work through service for the kingdom of God, for the freedom of humanity from idolatry, poverty and exclusion.