I remember a time at a funeral and standing in line to sign the remembrance book. Ahead of me was a family with two small boys each eager to sign his own name. Taking their turns, they stepped up and carefully added their signatures. Immediately after, they began arguing over whose was the best. I couldn’t help but chuckle and feel a pang of sympathy for the young Mother as she asked in an exasperated voice, “Do we have to do this now guys?” We expect that silly competitive behavior from children, and especially between siblings, but not from men who had been walking with Jesus. And certainly not on the last night they would spend with Him before His sacrificial death on the Cross.
It was quite a evening. Jesus had just finished leading the disciples through the Passover meal. He also instituted a new fellowship meal, “The Lord’s Supper”. A Supper to be observed by all disciples of Christ until He returns in remembrance of His great sacrifice. And if that wasn’t enough, Jesus also shared the bombshell news that He was about to be betrayed by one of them on that very night.
Now you would think that the disciples would have been shocked, and devastated. Their mood somber and full of sorrow. Instead the twelve began arguing. “And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest.” (v. 24). Sadly Instead of keeping their eyes on Jesus and relishing the precious little time they had left with Him, their own selfish ambition was first most in their minds.
We are all guilty of the sins of pride, ego, and selfish ambition. Even the humblest of hearts can feel the sting of jealousy or the pride of self importance, and the disciples were no different. How easy it is to get sucked into the never ending, self destructive cycle of comparing and competing. And it doesn’t help that the concept of humility goes against everything the world considers important. Society bombards us daily with the message that it’s all about who you are, and what you have.
But Jesus makes one thing abundantly clear. The greatest in God’s sight are those who humbly serve. He answered them, “…the one who is the greatest, must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.”, (vs. 26-27). He’s telling them, “Look at me. I don’t sit in a throne above you treating you as servants. I am here among you as equals calling you friends and brothers. It is I who is serving you. Imagine that! The greatest King of all came not to be served, but to serve. What a concept!
To be great is to serve God. And serving God means serving others. As believers we are given at least one spiritual gift and are commanded to, “employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”, (1 Pet. 4:10). Each day we need to make ourselves available to Jesus to be used in His service. And whatever it is He asks of us, we are to do it with love, humility, and joy. Not with an attitude of resentment nor with a spirit of a martyr. And especially not for our glory, or for our star to shine, but always for the glory of God. “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” (Phill. 2:3).
Jesus is our perfect example. He is the great Servant. “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”, (Matt. 20:28). Christ performed the ultimate service by giving His life as the atonement for our sins so that we might have eternal life. When our hearts and minds are focused on pleasing Him and not ourselves, we can find the deep fulfilling joy that comes with being a humble servant of the Almighty God.