When we think of Jesus’ earthly ministry, we tend to think of headline moments such as miracles and confrontations with the Pharisees. But mostly He invested in a close circle of followers, especially the twelve disciples. As A. B. Bruce wrote in The Training of the Twelve: They “entered on a regular apprenticeship for the great office of apostleship, in the course of which they were to learn, in the privacy of an intimate daily fellowship with their Master, what they should be, do, believe, and teach, as His witnesses and ambassadors to the world.”
In this sense, the four Gospels are in large measure accounts of Jesus’ life-on-life training program. Today’s reading is just one episode among many. The occasion here was a shameful quarrel about which of them was the greatest. Jesus taught them that in His kingdom “greatness” consists not of power or position but of service. Jesus Himself was among them as a servant (v. 27). The selfish ways in which authority is used on earth contrast entirely with the way authority works in God’s kingdom (vv. 25–26). One day, they would sit on thrones, “judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (v. 30), but God is the sovereign King over all (v. 29).
God had plans for these men to be leaders of the early church. Jesus had personally chosen them as His special students. He cared for their spiritual growth and well being (vv. 31–32). Whether Jesus taught in an expository manner as in this case, or through parables or miracles or object lessons (such as washing their feet), He often reversed the expectations of both the crowds and His close followers. It’s uncertain how much the Twelve understood at the time, but later the Spirit reminded them of Jesus’ words and illuminated their meaning to them.
>> How can you apply this lesson today? Can you turn the tables and serve someone who ordinarily cares for your needs? Give all the glory to Jesus who set the example for us to follow.
God, You are still reversing our false assumptions about You. Thank You for unfolding Your true nature to us. As we come to know You more, use us to reveal Yourself to others who are deceived about You.