Day 190: July 9, 2013

Today's Reading(s)

Matthew 26:20

When evening came, He was reclining at the table with the Twelve.

Mark 14:17

When evening came, He arrived with the Twelve.

Luke 22:14-16, 24-30

14 When the hour came, He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him. 15 Then He said to them, “I have fervently desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”

24 Then a dispute also arose among them about who should be considered the greatest. 25 But He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles dominate them, and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’ 26 But it must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever is greatest among you must become like the youngest, and whoever leads, like the one serving. 27 For who is greater, the one at the table or the one serving? Isn’t it the one at the table? But I am among you as the One who serves. 28 You are the ones who stood by Me in My trials. 29 I bestow on you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one on Me, 30 so that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom. And you will sit on thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.



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Today's Reflection

Key Verse(s)

“Whoever is greatest among you must become like the youngest, and whoever leads, like the one serving.”
—Luke 22:26b

Why Does God Always Turn the Tables Upside Down?
by Darrell Gwaltney,

When I was a child I was always the last one standing when teams were picked. How many times did I hear, “Okay, Darrell, I guess you’re on my team.” I learned to feel like some sort of consolation prize.

I was always the short skinny kid among all my friends. I started high school and stood just five feet tall. Then I had a growth spurt and grew ten inches in a year. The only thing that changed was I became an even skinnier tall kid.

I learned to compensate for my lack of athleticism and body shape or size by striving that much harder. I believed that if I followed the rules and worked really hard, then I would be rewarded.

That work ethic translated into my academic life and my early days in ministry. I bought into the idea that hard work was the answer to all my challenges.

If I received a good grade after studying for an exam for three hours, then how much better a grade could I earn if I studied four hours?

If I was successful at one job, then why not add a part time job to make some more money for my family? If I worked forty hours, then why not work sixty? I could get more done. I could be more successful.

Of course, there is not much unique about this approach to life in our culture. The America dream of success and providing a better life for our children rests on the foundation of hard work and determination.

Our Scripture text for today takes us into the upper room with Jesus and his closest followers. These men had followed him all over the Judean hills, sleeping with him under the stars, and watching him feed the multitudes and heal the sick. They walked with him into Jerusalem and heard the shouts of “Hosanna!” They had chosen a winner.

It had been a busy week as Jesus ratcheted up the conflict with the religious and political authorities. Everyone in the room had to know that a showdown was coming. They just never fully understood what was about to happen.

Sitting around the Passover table, sharing a sacred meal they had shared before, Jesus figuratively turned the table upside down. He said one of them would betray him.

Immediately they began to argue among themselves which one of them it would betray him. That argument turned into one concerning who would be greatest among them. After all, they had paid their dues, they had walked with him, and they had worked hard! When he was anointed king, then one of them would get to be his “right hand man.”

Jesus then said something that has challenged hard working people for two millennia. He changed the rules. He upset the table. He redefined success.

He said you must become like the youngest one in the room, like one without any authority or position. You must serve others. You cannot lead like the world leads.

It is a message our American dream does not like very much. The “pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps” be a self-made man or woman and take no prisoners on the way to earning what you want does not fit well with Jesus’ message.

On the road to whatever success we are seeking, as followers of Jesus Christ, we cannot step on, walk over, or race past people who get in our way. Our work ethic is no excuse for ignoring the people in need around us. Our determination to provide well for our families does not give us a pass on helping others who are in need.

God will always turn upside down the tables where we stack our versions of success. With the table gone he asks us to look for whomever we can serve. We will find the greatness we seek in the way we serve others.

Reflection Questions

  1. Have you spent your life chasing the “American dream”? Have you bought into the “win at all costs” myth? How does that approach to life cause challenges for being a follower of Jesus Christ?
  2. Has God ever turned upside down the table of success in your life? Has there ever been a time when everything you have worked for seemed to crumble in your hands? How did your relationship with Jesus Christ change during that experience?
  3. Remember the key verse for today: “Whoever is greatest among you must become like the youngest, and whoever leads, like the one serving.” How would your life change if you lived this verse as literally as possible?

About the Author

Darrell Gwaltney
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Darrell comes from St. Louis, Missouri, so it makes sense that he’s an avid St. Louis Cardinals baseball fan. For the last 33 years, he’s served in pastoral and teaching ministry. Since May 2004, he’s been the Dean for the School of Religion at Belmont University and continues to serve churches in the area as interim pastor. He’s married to Donna and has three adult children. You can find him online at DarrellGwaltney.com and follow him on Twitter @DarrellGwaltney.