In the upper room on the night that Jesus was arrested He asked the disciples this rhetorical question: “For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table (Luke 22:27)?”
The question is rhetorical because everyone knew the answer. The one sitting at the table is considered to be greater than the one serving the table. The rich sit at a table in their house while their butler attends to their needs. When we go to a fancy restaurant we get a feel for that. Have you ever gone to one of those nice steakhouses, the kind of place where you get dressed up, sit in a dimly lit room, and hear soft music playing in the background?
At those types of restaurants we expect good service because we are paying for it. We can even get a sense of self-importance, thinking that the wait staff is beneath us. After all, they wouldn’t even have a job if it weren’t for patrons like us. We’re doing them a favor! Some people treat their servers like they are slaves, existing only to meet their every need.
Yes, society says the one sitting at the table is greater than the one serving it. But that is not what Jesus said. Finishing the verse from above, Jesus concluded, “But I am among you as the one who serves.” The disciples were having an internal debate about which one of them was the greatest, but Jesus was the greatest person in the room. No, He was the greatest person in the world. And the world’s greatest person came to serve the ones who sit at the table, not to sit at the table Himself.
He had demonstrated that humility earlier in the night when He got down on His knees and washed the feet of the disciples. The twelve could debate over which one of them was greatest, but there should have been no debate when it came to Jesus. If ever there was a person who should sit back while someone attended to his needs, it was Jesus. But He assumed the task of a common slave and washed the dirty feet of His disciples.
In so doing Jesus gave a model for us to follow. We never look more like Jesus than when we humble ourselves and treat other people the way we want to be treated. This world has enough people sitting at the table; we need people to get out of their chairs and begin to serve others at the table. This is the best way to show the world who Jesus really is.