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"'Who would you rather be: the one who eats the dinner or the one who serves the dinner? You'd rather eat and be served, right? But I've taken my place among you as the one who serves. And you've stuck with me through thick and thin. Now I confer on you the royal authority my Father conferred on me so you can eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and be strengthened as you take up responsibilities among the congregation of God's people.'" Luke 22:27-30 (The Message).
Of course we would rather sit down at the dinner table and be served than watch others eating while we serve! But once again, we belong to a kingdom where all the values are a reversal of this world's values. In the present order of things, "sitting at the table" implies occupying an important position in society.
Serving is a menial job and is reserved for the "nobodies". In the world's eyes, Jesus is a "nobody". In fact, even believers often treat Him as a nobody - it's "Jesus, do this; Jesus, do that" as though we were the masters and He the servant.
Once again Jesus is teaching us to view this life as part of a bigger whole. Being a servant in the here and now is a necessary part of our apprenticeship for our task in God's kingdom. It would be foolish to employ an untrained person to do a responsible job, especially one that handles people's lives. No airline company would employ a rookie to pilot their passenger planes.
There are examples in Scripture of people who were placed in responsible positions without first being taught to be a servant. The most glaring would be King Saul, Israel's first king. He had great potential but he was never put through his "servant" training before he became king. When the tests came, he failed dismally because he did not know how to submit to God's authority.
He was disqualified and replaced by David, a shepherd boy who had learned to serve as the youngest son in a family of eight. His trust in God carried him through many dangerous situations and equipped him to be a true leader of God's people because he submitted to God's authority and ruled wisely under God.
Having a servant heart is a necessary part of being a disciple. It teaches us how to live in submission and obedience to our Master and equips us to be imitators of Jesus. Without this training we would be liabilities to God in His kingdom just like Satan was, taking the bit between our teeth and causing chaos through disobedience and self-will.
There will be a time when we reap the reward of faithfully serving others through our obedience to God. Jesus assures us that, if we stick with Him, we will share the honour of a place at His table if we have passed the test of humility and self-sacrifice. Joseph spent thirteen years in slavery and imprisonment in preparation for his great task although he was not guilty of wrongdoing. God found him faithful and promoted him to a place of honour and authority where he could "sit at the table" because he had served well.
Our turn is coming. Our years of training may be long and tedious but they are intended to prepare and test us for great responsibility and honour. If we stick with Jesus and serve others with humility, we shall also share in the reward of "a place at His table", taking up our responsibilities among the congregation of God's people.
Jesus is the perfect pattern God has given us to follow. "Although He was a son, He learned obedience from what He suffered and, once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him and was designated by God to be a high priest in the order of Melchizedek." Hebrews 5:8-10 (NIV).
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