Jesus Is The Least And Last For Me
That should never have happened. Many years ago I remember seeing two little boys get into a fight on a playground. They were pushing. They were shoving. They were hitting. The mom quickly came up. And she held them apart and said, “You two are brothers. You are brothers. You are family. No one gets you like your brother. And no one understands you like your brother.” I sat there looking at the boys. And the look of hatred was quickly replaced with shock and then shame. They could see that that fight should never have happened. This evening we see a similar fight the disciples had with each other. In Luke’s gospel, in chapter 22, we read these words: “A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest.” (Luke 22:24 NIV11-GKE)
When we read this we wonder how in the world this conversation happened at all. Did they compare their sermons, their miracles, how many demons they drove out? Thankfully, Jesus doesn’t give our minds enough time to ponder the possibilities. Instead, he gets us right to the point. We read: “Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles Lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors.” (Luke 22:25 NIV11-GKE)
There is no more crushing correction than to be compared to the bad guy. Gentile kings were legendary for their power, their selfishness, and their cruelty. And here we have an example. Step 1: The Gentile kings would take your money by force. Step 2: By force then those same kings would misuse your money and then make you call them “benefactors.”1 What does “benefactor” mean? It means, “do-gooder.” Listen then what Jesus tells them next: “26 But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. 27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves?” (Luke 22:26–27 NIV11-GKE)
Not so with you! That’s the statement of fact that Jesus tells his disciples. What does being a grown-up look like? What does being a leader look like? It means continually being willing to be at the end of the line instead of the front. It means serving those at the table instead of sitting at the table. It reminds me of the Supreme Court. Whenever there’s a new member of the Supreme Court, that person then has to do service tasks for the rest—buying donuts, getting coffee. And whoever is the newest yearns for the day when he or she is done serving others like that. Jesus says to each of us, “not so with you.” Jesus puts us on this world to serve others. And he lets us grow up and even become leaders not so that we would go to the front of the line, but instead, that we would continually, voluntarily go to the end of the line. And here is where we see our own sin, don’t we? We are sinners who continually absorb the sinful world around us. We want to be at the front of the line. We want to sit at the table, not serve those at it. And, no doubt, when Jesus said this to his disciples, they saw their own sin and repented of it. But listen to what Jesus says next: “Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.” (Luke 22:27 NIV11-GKE)
If you could boil down Jesus’ life to one word, this would be a good choice, wouldn’t it? Jesus’ entire earthly life was service. Jesus took on human flesh and blood to serve his parents and his God above. Jesus grew up not to be freed from service, but to take on even more service. Jesus became least. Look at Good Friday. There is no lower position than a criminal crucified. Jesus became the least. But he did so for me. Jesus became the last too. When it came to sleep, Jesus was the last one to sleep. When it came to food, he was the last one to eat. All of this he did for me. That’s what each of those disciples could say. That’s what each of us can say today. Jesus became the least and the last for me. And that’s why this time of Lent is filled with pain. For a little more than normal we see our own sin and its cost. But it is also filled with such joy, isn’t it? For here we see how Jesus became the least and last for me. These words conclude this way: “28 You are those who have stood by me in my trials. 29 And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, 30 so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Luke 22:28–30 NIV11-GKE)
Look at the amazing grace displayed. Grace is God’s undeserved love toward us who don’t deserve it. The same disciples who didn’t want to serve those at the table now get to sit at Jesus’ table in heaven. The same disciples who yearned to push themselves to the front of the line, now by grace, are placed there. And isn’t the same true for us? The Christian student who despises her teacher then grows up and, by God’s grace, gets to serve others by becoming a teacher. The boy who falls asleep during the sermons and resists reading God’s word at home then, only by God’s grace, gets to preach sermons and read God’s word at home. The children who resists their parents so mightily in their teenage years grow up. And by God’s grace, that amazing undeserved love, get to have the undeserved privilege of having their own children. And finally, at the end of all their lives as Christians, Jesus then, in an unexpected act of grace, gathers us all believers to him in heaven, but not to serve at the table. Instead, we get to sit at the table. All of this is ours for one simple reason: Jesus is the least and last for me. Amen.
1 “ⲉⲩⲉⲣⲅⲉⲧⲉ” (Luke 22:25 GNT-ALEX)