"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 congregations of God's people.
"Simon, stay on your toes. Satan has tried his best to separate all of you from me, like chaff from wheat. Simon, I've prayed for you in particular that you not give in or give out. When you have come through the time of testing, turn to your companions and give them a fresh start."
Peter said, "Master, I'm ready for anything with you. I'd go to jail for you. I'd die for you!"
Jesus said, "I'm sorry to have to tell you this, Peter, but before the rooster crows you will have three times denied that you know me."
Then Jesus said, "When I sent you out and told you to travel light, to take only the bare necessities, did you get along all right?"
"Certainly," they said, "we got along just fine."
He said, "This is different. Get ready for trouble. Look to what you'll need; there are difficult times ahead. Pawn your coat and get a sword. What was written in Scripture, 'He was lumped in with the criminals,' gets its final meaning in me. Everything written about me is now coming to a conclusion."
They said, "Look, Master, two swords!"
But he said, "Enough of that; no more sword talk!"
Here we are in the upper room on the night of Jesus’ arrest. We could spend some time talking about the swords and how that relates to Jesus’ pretty clear position on non-violence. But, I think that’s better left to a chat over coffee, beers, or whiskey. So, if you want to discuss that let’s set up a time. So, if we’re not talking about swords, what are we going to talk about. How about the whole authority rooted in service thing?
This is one of those deals that goes against much of what we think about when it comes to leadership. Jesus does here what he often does and flips the expectations upside down.
Over the years I have read many books on leadership. I have sat through tons of leadership seminars and trainings. One of the things that I find interesting is that the direct connection between authority and service is one that is rarely made. Serving is usually a utilitarian concept. You serve others so that you can influence them to get them to follow you. This is the way that serving is used in leadership circles. I mean nobody puts it that crassly but if we’re honest that’s the underlying message.
Jesus here is talking about authority and sacrificial service. It’s a fascinating interaction to me because of how counter-cultural it is for our leadership climate. He has given the apostles authority so that they can eat at his table so that they can serve.
I’m not sure I have ever put it together that way. The authority isn’t given to them so they can have people follow them. No, it’s given to them so they can be strengthened to serve. How does that even work? Why do they need authority to eat at the table? How does this whole thing work?
I have way more questions than answers at this point in the game. Truly, this is a fresh insight for me. It’s not like I didn’t think that serving was mission critical for the leader, but the connection between authority to be strengthened to serve is new. I need to wrap my head around how that plays itself out.
What changes do I need to make as a leader? As a servant? It makes me think that the authority scorecard needs to change from being that of do people do what you want them to do to that of “do I have strength to serve?”
Ok, I need to process all this more. Perhaps you do too. I’d love to hear your thoughts. So leave a comment and let me know you what you think…