************ Sermon on Luke 22:24-27 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on November 16, 1997
"As One Who Serves"
Topic: PrideContrast Al Davis with Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy's Hamburgers. Dave Thomas writes:
Subtopic: Examples of
The June 3, 1996 issue of Sports Illustrated had an article about Al Davis, owner of the Oakland Raiders football team. If you're a sports fan, you know that Davis is considered by many as one of the most greedy and obnoxious of all owners in the business. He goes through more coaches in a decade than some owners do in a lifetime. This article reported that Davis's abuses of power have become increasingly visible. For example, after practice it is customary for him to enter the equipment room, drop a towel on the floor and wait for an employee to clean his shoes. "I saw him make someone wipe his shoes in front of 75 people," says Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, who coached the Raiders in 1988.
I got my M.B.A. long before my General Equivalency Degree. I even have a photograph of me in my M.B.A. graduation outfit -- a snazzy knee-length work apron. I guarantee you that I'm the only founder among America's big companies whose picture in the corporate annual report shows him wielding a mop and a plastic bucket. That wasn't a gag; it was a case of leading by example. At Wendy's, M.B.A. does not mean Master of Business Administration. It means Mop Bucket Attitude. It's how we define satisfying the customer through cleanliness, quality food, friendly service, and atmosphere.
In today's Scripture reading Jesus teaches His followers to be like Dave Thomas rather than Al Davis. Jesus teaches His followers the need for selfless service. So we want to spend some time looking at the spirit of self-denial and sacrifice for the benefit of others.
I The Occasion for this Teaching - vs 24
A Scripture tells us that an argument among the disciples was the occasion for Christ to teach them the need for selfless service: "a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest."
Each of the disciples was concerned about his public image, of how he appears in the eyes of others.
That concern, of course, did not disappear with the death of the apostles. Our president and vice-president as well as the members of congress are very concerned about their appearance, their rating, in the eyes of the American public.
To a certain extent we are all concerned about our public image. We all want the acclaim and approval of those around us.
The disciples were concerned about their public image. So they were arguing among themselves who of the twelve was considered by the public to be the greatest, the most important. They all wanted the acclaim, praise, and adoration of the crowds.
It wasn't only public image that the disciples were fighting about, not just who appears to be greatest. As the Greek makes clear, they were also arguing about who ought to be greatest. So this was also an argument about position, authority, and power. They all wanted to be number one; they all wanted to be Jesus' right-hand man. When Jesus was king they all wanted to be His chief of staff or prime minister.
It was this argument about position and public image that occasioned Jesus' teaching about the need for selfless service among His followers.
B It is highly significant that Jesus gave this teaching just after the institution of the Lord's Supper. He had just predicted His betrayal, suffering, and death. He was preparing Himself as well as His disciples for the events of the next couple of days. He was reminding them again that His kingdom was a spiritual kingdom established by spiritual means and not an earthly kingdom established by earthly means. But the disciples didn't hear Him.
The disciples had their own view of the kingdom. Within their view they had no place for a suffering and crucified Christ. They could not break away from their expectation that Jesus would reveal Himself with divine power as Victor and Ruler on earth. And, in this vision of the kingdom, they saw their place as being leaders and rulers under Jesus over all the people.
With their view of the kingdom, it is easy to see why the disciples fought among themselves for acclaim and position.
It is within this setting, then, that Jesus teaches His followers the need for selfless service.
II Don't Be Like the Gentiles - vs 25,26a
A Jesus said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors."
Earthly rulers, like presidents, prime ministers, and tycoons, normally lord it over their subjects. By this I mean there is no doubt they are in control. They issue commands, give orders, and tell people what to do and where to go. They are the boss. The pyramid of power peaks in them. Everyone else comes under them. The earthly rulers naturally are concerned about position, authority, and power.
Many times, but not always, these earthly rulers strive to enhance their reputation and public standing. Among the Greeks and Romans it was common practice for the rulers to make gestures of goodwill among the people. So, for instance, they might open the Colosseum and invite the public in for free entertainment; or, they might distribute bread among the orphans and widows of the city; or, they might employ their soldiers in a public work project for the common good. These rulers would then call themselves "Benefactors," as if the sole aim of their rule was the good of the people and not their own gain.
B "But you are not to be like that," said Jesus. Followers of Jesus are not to be concerned about position and acclaim, about authority and the praise of men.
To the elders of the church, for instance, the Apostle Peter can say, "Be shepherds of God's flock ... not lording it over those entrusted to you" (1 Pt 5:2a,3a). Within the church there is no room for those who think they can give orders, make demands, and issue decrees (cf 2 Cor 1:24).
Within the kingdom and the church the values of this world are set upside-down. The world prizes money, wealth, goods. "But you are not to be like that," says Jesus. The world values revenge, getting even. "But you are not to be like that," says Jesus. The world promotes an immoral and unchaste lifestyle. "But you are not be like that," says Jesus. The world esteems position and acclaim. "But you are not to be like that," says Jesus.
I remember the time a young lady had a flat tire on her old Chrysler. She had no idea of what to do. I grabbed the tire wrench and tried to loosen the lugs. After 15 sweaty minutes on a cold winter's night I had not succeeded in loosening a single lug. In fact, they all seemed tighter than before. When I mentioned this the young lady said, "I think dad told me Chrysler has a reverse screw." Sure enough, on that Chrysler I had to turn the lugs the wrong way. There is a sense in which the church and Kingdom of God are kind of like Chrysler's reverse screw: everything is backwards, at least from the world's point-of-view.
III The Example of Jesus - vs 27
A Jesus sets Himself before us as an example of the upside-down values of the church and kingdom.
According to all the standards of the world, Jesus deserves position and acclaim, power and praise. Who, after all, is Jesus? As Jesus Himself admits, He is "Lord and Teacher" (Jn 13:14). Furthermore, according to Paul,
(Col 1:15-19) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. (16) For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. (17) He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (18) And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. (19) For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him ...
Surely Jesus, of all people, deserves position and acclaim, power and praise. Yet, what does Jesus say? "But I am among you as one who serves."
B Luke makes no mention of it, but Jesus has in mind here a scene to be found in John's record of The Last Supper. Remember what happened? Jesus
(John 13:4-5) ... got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. (5) After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
Imagine the whole scene for a moment. The disciples are arguing among themselves about who is the greatest and who ought to be greatest. Jesus hears their dispute. Silently He gets up, He puts on the garb of a servant, He pours water into a bowl, and then He — their Lord and Teacher, their host at the meal — proceeds to wash and dry their feet as if He were but a lowly servant.
How do you suppose the disciples reacted? With shock? Shame? Protest?
C "But I am among you as one who serves." This sums up Jesus' whole earthly life, and not just the foot-washing episode. "The Son of Man," said Jesus, "did not come to be served, but to serve" (Mt 20:28).
It is unfortunate that in our English language the word "service" is associated with business. Go to a vacation area like Cancun, Mexico, and you will notice that everything revolves around the service of the tourist — for an enormous price, of course. In this country, a service station used to be a place where service paid off in sales — now most service stations are self- serve. Many businesses realize that "good service is good business." And, when you go to a doctor, lawyer, or dentist you will find that the price for "professional services rendered" is usually quite high.
Our habit of connecting service and business makes it hard to understand Biblical language. In the Bible the word "service" means the kind of work a slave did for his master. He didn't get paid for it.
Just as we have trouble untangling "service" and "business," so the Jews had trouble in bringing the words "servant" and "king" together. A servant was a slave, and service was the work of a slave. But a king was someone before whom even masters bowed in slave-like obedience.
Therefore, when Jesus said, "I did not come to be served, but to serve," all the values of the Jews were overturned. Didn't Jesus claim to be the Son of Man, the Messiah, the Son of God, the Davidic King? How could one such as He be a servant? The Jews couldn't understand Jesus here at all.
Jesus' life was service. And, even in death He served. He gave His life as a ransom for many (cf Mt 20:28). He did us the supreme service upon the cross when He died in our place for our sin.
IV Be Like Jesus - vs 26b
A After the foot-washing Jesus said to His disciples, "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you" (Jn 13:15). In other words, we are to be like Jesus. Instead of pursuing a life of position and acclaim, a life of authority and the praise of men, we ought to pursue a life of service.
Don't forget, service is the work rendered by a slave or servant. It is work that one does for free. It is work that one does obediently. It is work that one does to the best of her or his ability. It is work expected of each and everyone of us. And, if anyone here feels her or himself above this life of service, she or he is outside of the realm of Christ.
Listen to what our Lord says in our text: "the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves." In that time and age, it was the youngest who performed the lowliest service. Thus, in the case of Ananias and Sapphira, it is the young men who carry out and bury the dead (Acts 5:6). Jesus is teaching His followers, especially those who are leaders, the need for lowly service.
B What is all involved in this life of service? First of all, it means a total conversion of attitude. Service means a slave-like, humble demeanor. Service means there is no room for the executive or presidential style of decision-making within the church. Ministers, Councils, Classes, and Synods cannot simply announce decisions that are imposed as if there was a pyramid of power. Those within the church who think they can give orders, make demands, and issue decrees had best think again.
The Last Supper is not the only time the disciples argued about their relative greatness. The previous time Jesus shamed them into silence by setting a little child in their midst and bidding them to be like little children (Mt 18:1-4). Little children do not think overly much of themselves. They have not yet been afflicted with pride and a spirit of boastfulness. Theirs, usually, is a humble, modest demeanor.
To be like Christ and live a life of service we must, then, be like little children and have a humble, modest demeanor.
A life of service also means a life of self-denial and sacrificial love.
I can't help but think here of an unnamed soldier in Viet Nam. A hand grenade was thrown onto a truck full of American soldiers. Just before it exploded this soldier threw himself on the bomb. He caught all the fury of the grenade in his own body and he was killed. This soldier, like Christ, gave up all thought of himself for the sake of his fellowman.
Topic: HumilityThis is the kind of attitude we all must have if we are to lead a life of service.
Every young student knows of Isaac Newton's famed encounter with a falling apple. It was Newton who supposedly discovered and introduced the laws of gravity in the 1600s.
But few know that if it weren't for Edmund Halley, the world might never have heard of Isaac Newton.
It was Halley who challenged Newton to think through his original notions. Halley corrected Newton's mathematical errors and prepared geometrical figures to support Newton's discoveries. Halley coaxed the hesitant Newton to write his great work, "Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy." Halley edited and supervised the publication, and actually financed its printing even though Newton was wealthier and easily could have afforded the printing costs.
Newton began almost immediately to reap the rewards of prominence. Halley received little credit; but he didn't care who received the credit as long as the cause of science was being advanced.
A life of service also means using our gifts — all our material and spiritual gifts — not just for ourselves and our own enrichment but also for the service and enrichment of others.
There is a song that expresses so very well the teaching of Jesus in our text today. It is entitled "The Servant Song." I ask the Coffee Break ladies to come forward and sing it as our prayer to God ...
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