Jesus was speaking about His death and the disciples were arguing about which of them was the greatest. The Lord wanted His friends to support Him but they were not listening—too wrapped up in themselves.
If we had to take a pulse of our Country—if an instrument could measure the level of care that we have for one another—perhaps we wouldn’t be so different from the disciples. Indeed many of us are too wrapped up in ourselves that we cannot see the needs of others. Proof is a typical day in traffic. “Me first; the light is red, but I’m in a hurry; a few miles above the speed limit is not dangerous as long as I don’t get caught.” We forget that lives can be lost when we are careless. Caring is what Jesus was trying to communicate. However, the disciples were preoccupied with their own agenda—themselves. “Who’s the best? Who’s going to make it to the finals?” Even in football games we advocate a team spirit. If the team doesn’t work together, the game is lost. The disciples all wanted to be the boss. Can’t say that they wanted to be Pope or Bishop because those titles did not exist. But they wanted to be in charge. The argument must have been strong because Jesus heard them. And He tried to set them straight. “If you want to be the first, you have to get to the back of the line.” Didn’t quite catch on. After more than 2,000 years of Christianity, the directive has still not caught on. Everybody still wants to be the most important. We push, and shove, and tell lies if necessary in order to make it to the top. Look at the example of Jesus—He placed Himself has the head foot-washer—the caregiver—the number one-servant. Of course people were scandalized to see the Lord on His knees doing the work of a slave. “As I have done for you, you must do for each other.” They never heard that part.
Jesus took the place of a slave because we tend to ignore slaves. We ignore folks who have low-paying jobs. They are just there to serve—that’s the mentality. But we usually do not desire to establish a relationship with them. Along comes the voice of a radical who said, “If you want to be great, be like the one you ignore—be the slave.” Children, women, slaves—they were all in the same category—worthless. They had no voice. Although children, women and workers have come a long way, prejudice is alive and well. We continue to discriminate.
The Church that Jesus came to build has to be different that whatever is in style. We are not just suppose to “go with the flow”—because everybody’s doing it. By they way, that’s how lots of folks defend their actions. The majority is not always correct. To treat every person with respect is not popular, not profitable, usually doesn’t win elections. However, Jesus treated every person with respect, even the ones who disagreed with Him. Who are the insignificant among us? Whom have we refused to receive? Difficult to see the face of Christ in someone who has harmed us. Almost impossible to see the face of Christ in anyone when we are angry. However, our perspective changes when we make up our mind to be the servant. Once we decide that we don’t always have to win an argument—that we can be wrong—we see reality in a new light. Might mean that we get our hands dirty and that some folks will make fun of us. Yet, in serving comes peace that nothing else can bring—knowing that we are doing what Jesus told us to do.
His directives are easy to remember, just difficult to implement. “You want to be the best—serve your bothers and sisters, especially the least among you.