Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Table Talk 2 -- Lord's or Servants? Luke 22:14-20, 24-27

The "words of institution" are often used with the Lord's Supper but they are seldom used in context. That is, no attention is paid to what else Jesus said at the table that evening. I mentioned previously that part of the table talk that night focused on betrayal and failure. The next topic Jesus found necessary to address was whether his disciples would be Lords or Servants.

Most of Jesus' teaching during his ministry focused on the Kingdom of God -- its nature and purpose. His disciples were interested because they, like most Jews, longed for the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel. They saw in Jesus a Messiah who could free them from Roman oppression and lead them to the glory and power of the Kingdom. Then, one day, Jesus began to tell them that he must go to Jerusalem and be killed. The Gospel writers make it clear that the twelve disciples, prior to the resurrection, never understood this. A crucified Messiah did not fit with their kingdom expectations.

These two subjects, the Kingdom and his death, came together in Jesus' table talk at the Passover meal. First, Luke tells us he spoke of the kingdom: "With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God (22:15-18). For emphasis Jesus said it twice. Then he spoke of his death: "And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them saying, 'This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.' Likewise He also took the cup after supper saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you" (22:19-20).

Again, they completely missed the point. He had hardly finished speaking before a debate broke out among them. Thinking only of the coming Kingdom and their place in it they began to argue, not for the first time, about which of them was the greatest. And again, he had to remind them that "the leader is like one who serves ... and I am among you as one who serves" (vs 27).

We know that in the world of politics even the greatest leaders spend much of their time and resources on getting re-elected. Position, status, power, and authority are all that matter. But, Jesus points out, it is not that way in God's Kingdom. The only way up is down. The only way to lead is to serve. The only way to greatness is through lowly servitude.

Is Jesus speaking to us in his table talk at the Passover meal? Is he speaking to us at the communion table, wanting us to forsake our status seeking, our lordly ambitions, and like him become a servant of all? Is he asking us to make that kind of sacrifice? There was a cross in his future. Is there a cross in ours? If we take him seriously, there may be, for did he not say, "If any want to become my disciples let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me" (Luke 8:23).

When we use the words of institution it would be well to keep in mind what else Jesus said at the table.

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