At the start of his ministry, Jesus announced the nature of his work with a quote from Isaiah 61.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
“He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4.18-19)
Each day, Jesus’ followers witnessed how Jesus incorporated God’s agenda into daily living.
Whether he was including women in the ministry, healing people who were excluded from society, or delivering people from evil spirits, Jesus incorporated this mission statement into his behavior.
Along the way, the gathering storm around Jesus increased. He ate with tax collectors and taught that the needs of the poor were more important than observing the Sabbath.
He confronted the wealthy and status-conscious leaders with their neglect of the needy and the stingy use of wealth.
Jesus never owned a home, was dependent on the donations of others to support his itinerant ministry, and was only interested in fulfilling the directions of his heavenly Father.
We would think that the men who followed him day after day would have assimilated his behavior into their lives.
Even after the emotion-filled Last Supper, Jesus’ closest followers evidenced that they failed to grasp one of the essential aspects of his life.
Status Seeking Disciples
While still seated at the table with Jesus and after the shocking message that one of the Twelve would betray him, the disciples showed the frailty of their understanding.
–– Luke 22.24 – A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest.
When Rudy Ross and I begin our study of First and Second Corinthians, we will note how status in society was one of the most prized possessions in Greco-Roman culture.
Corinthians was written approximately 20 years after the cross and resurrection of Jesus.
Apparently, status-seeking had reached Israel and had permeated its way into the fabric of society. It even affected the way Jesus’ closest followers viewed their lives.
It is easy to see the errors of Jesus’ disciples when viewed in a Holy Bible with a leather cover. It is more difficult to see how we can be just like these men.
I have walked with Jesus for 53 years and I still struggle with status-seeking. I am a people pleaser, who loses sleep over what people think of me.
If you are like me, let’s be gracious to the disciples, and at the same time ask God to conform us to the model Jesus left us.
One Who Serves
Jesus put the issue of status in proper perspective. He identified the cultural values of the day and gave the disciples an alternative way to live.
— Luke 22.25-27 – But he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors.
“But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves.
“For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.”
Verse 25 accurately describes what took place from Rome all the way to Israel. Important people had status and were used in relation to others.
In modern language, the super-wealthy setup foundations to provide for what the government would or could not do. They were honored with the title of “Benefactor.”
The issue of status and “Benefactors” was one of the most problematic issues in Corinth. Paul devoted several chapters to persuade the church to not adopt this position.
Jesus had a different value system. As a follower of Jesus, Paul adopted his values and exhorted the Corinthians to do the same.
Jesus turned the world’s values upside down. Service, giving, and including the vulnerable and outcasts were hallmarks of his ministry. He lived a cross-like life that ended on the cross on Golgotha.
His life and death were prophesied by Isaiah (chapter 53). He was a suffering servant, who bore no resemblance to the status-seeking Benefactors.
The life of Jesus is a challenge to us. It is easy to write blog articles and preach sermons about service, but their real proof is how we live our lives.
Jesus loved his followers, even if they failed to comprehend his attitudes and actions. Luke’s Book of Acts shows how the disciples learned Jesus’ way of life through the power of the Spirit.
Jesus knew they would follow him in word and deed. Thus, he could speak of their reward.
— Luke 22.28-30 – “You are those who have stood by me in my trials;
“And I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom,
“So that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
Rudy Ross and I had a good discussion on this passage when we produced the video last week. It can be found on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel. Please take 10 minutes to listen. Thanks.
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