Lording It. Jesus then examined the worldly practice of Gentile kings lording it over the people. 1The Greek term for “lord it over” (“κυριεύουσιν”) means to exercise power or authority over a person. This same root word occurs in 2 Corinthians 1:12, page 1805, where Paul said he did not come again to the Corinthians so that he may spare them. Paul knew of the turmoil and problems in the church at Corinth, but he spared them his coming. Then Paul continues: “Not that we lord it over your faith, but are workers with you for your joy; for in your faith you are standing firm.” This passage provides some key insights into what “lording over” means. In contrast to exercising strict authority, Paul said he and others (“we”) were workers with you (“συνεργοί”) for your joy. Instead of describing himself as a lord, he called himself a fellow worker. He was on the same level with the Corinthians when it came to work. He worked with his ministry team and with the Corinthians shoulder to shoulder, and not as a lord ruling over them. He worked to promote their joy. The Romans had occupied the land of Israel for decades before Jesus was born of a virgin in Bethlehem. They compelled the Jews to pay taxes, and submit to Roman authority. In contrast, Jesus taught His disciples never to lord themselves over other disciples. Jesus also highlighted the problem of Gentile titles and the way they lorded authority over other people, whom the lords considered as their subjects. 2The Greek term “exercised authority” (“ἐξουσιάζοντες“) means someone or something has mastery over you. Consider the use of related word for “authority” in 1 Corinthians 6:12, page 1788, where Paul related his freedom to eat many things, and do many things, but he “will not be mastered (“ἐξουσιασθήσομαι”) by anything.” Paul would not allow anything to control him or dictate his behavior. Jesus taught His disciples that He never intended one disciple to exercise authority over another disciple. Jesus explained that the Gentiles recognized certain people as rulers 3The Greek term here for “rulers” (“ἄρχειν“–present active infinitive) is used as a noun to describe being a chief, leader, or a person exercising power over subjects. The only other use that exact term occurs in Romans 15:12, page 1779 to describe Jesus as the Root of Jesse Who will rule over the Gentiles and be the hope of the Gentiles. who lord it over them. Furthermore, Jesus also observed that the great men among the Gentiles exercised authority over them. Jesus never intended any of His disciples to be recognized as rulers of Christians or called great men. 4The Greek term for “great men” (“οἱ μεγάλοι“) points to the position above the other people they ruled over. In Revelation 19:5, page 1936, the bondservants of Jesus are called the small and the great (“οἱ μεγάλοι“). Jesus never intended for His disciples to be a ruler who lorded it over other believers. Jesus never intended for any of His disciples to exercise authority as a great man. Jesus did not want His disciples to use such titles at any time. Jesus cited the title “Benefactor” used by the Gentile king. 5The Greek term for “Benefactor” (“εὐεργέται“) means to be a doer of good works, as a title of honor implying that this king bestows benefits from above as lord to the subjects beneath him. Compare the “sunergoi” of 2 Corinthians 1:12, page 1805. Titles like “Benefactor” may sound very nice, but Jesus opposed His disciples using such titles, as we will see in detail below. Instead, Jesus commanded His disciples to avoid The Pastoral Heresy, which in this passage meant His disciples must avoid “lording over” and using titles for themselves.
Servants. Jesus has always had this marvelous way of teaching His disciples what they needed to know right then. As the disciples quareled about greatness, Jesus taught them about the error of Gentile kings lording their power over their subjects. Christians are not called to be kings who lord it over the other Christians. On the contrary, the greatest 6The Greek term for “greatest” (“μείζων“) was a concept Jesus defined carefully in Matthew 18:1-6, page 1532. In that passage, Jesus called a child to Him and said whoever is converted and humbles himself like this child shall be greatest (“μείζων“) in the kingdom of heaven. among them must not think of themselves as lords or bestow upon themselves titles of greatness. Instead, they must learn from Jesus how to be like a child, converted and humble before God our only Master. Jesus explained that the “greatest” among you must become like the “youngest.” 7The Greek term for “youngest” (“νεώτερος”) is a term of comparison, so it may be translated “younger” or “youngest.” In Luke 15:12, page 1631, Jesus used the same word to describe the younger of the two brothers in the story of the prodigal son. Jesus also used the term in John 21:18, page 1698, to inform Peter that when he was younger, Peter would gird himself and go where he wished; but when he would “grow old, you will stretch out your hand and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.” Jesus also indicated that the “leader” 8The Greek term here for “leader” (“ἡγούμενος”–present middle/passive participle) means in this context a person with authority to command, to lead, to speak. In Matthew 2:6, page 1502, Matthew quoted the Old Testament: Bethlehem was by no means the least among the leaders of Judah. Likewise, Luke used the same term in Acts 14:12, page 1727, to describe Paul as the “chief speaker” (“ἡγούμενος”) because he spoke more than Barnabas. Notice that in these other instances, the sense of plurality appears that the leader is one among other leaders. In Philippians 2:3, page 1836, Paul reminded us that we must regard (“ἡγούμενοι”) everyone as more important. This same attitude must characterize Christian leadership. In Hebrews 13:17, pages 1886-1887, every believer must obey your “leaders” (“ἡγουμένοις”–present middle/passive deponent participle dative masculine plural–notice that leaders are males here) and the leaders keep watch over your souls and render an account of their ministry. They must serve with joy and without grief. must become like a servant. 9The Greek term for “servant” (“διακονῶν”–present active participle) conveys the idea of service. Paul himself illustrated this term in Romans 15:25, page 1779, where Paul takes a contribution from Macedonia and Achaia to Jerusalem to help the poor there. Likewise, Jesus used the term “servant” (“διάκονος”) in Matthew 20:26, page 1537. In that passage, Jesus also added that whoever wishes to be “first among you” (“πρῶτος”) shall be your “servant” (“δοῦλος”). Jesus forcefully emphasized this theme repeatedly: Matthew 23:11, page 1542; Mark 10:43, page 1579; John 12:26, page 1681). Paul used the term “minister” (“διάκονος”) to describe the government as a minister of God for good and it also serve as an avenger bringing wrath upon evil doers. Paul also used the term “minister” (“διάκονος”) to describe himself (Ephesians 3:7, page 1829; Colossians 1:23, page 1842, Colossians 1:25, page 1842), Tychicus (Ephesians 6:21, page 1834; Colossians 4:7, page 1845), Epaphras (Colossians 1:7, page 1841), and Timothy (1 Timothy 4:6, page 1857). Jesus also presented Himself as the perfect example of the servant who humbles Himself before others.
Jesus the Server. In Luke 22:27, 1645, Jesus first asked His disciples about greatness. The questions Jesus asked constantly challenged His disciples and others to reconsider their own beliefs, emotions, and desires. Jesus probed everyone’s actions, intentions and motives on the deepest spiritual levels with His questions. In this case, Jesus gently prodded His disciples to consider greatness. Jesus served His disciples, while they reclined in comfort, eating their meal. Jesus pointed out that custom and habit among His disciples indicated that the greatest reclined while others served them the meal. Then Jesus illustrated to them that, although they were reclining, He was taking the humble position of serving them while they reclined. Jesus loved to use strong visual statements like this service to teach His disciples. Picture in your mind the twelve reclining around a table, with Jesus moving about as a servant providing them the meal. They were discussing greatness among themselves, apparently oblivious to their God and Creator quietly moving among them and serving them. Jesus made His point about the greatest being the servant by demonstrating to them exactly what servant leadership meant. Furthermore, Jesus also had to tell them the significance of what He was doing by acting like a servant. So often we miss the points Jesus makes to us because we fail to see Him serving us in the same ways He served people throughout the Gospels. He did not appear as the King in His glory, but rather He came to seek and to save the lost, and to give His life a ransom for many. In summary, then, we see that the “greatest” problem means that a disciple seeks to be the greatest among the disciples, and craves a reputation, particularly among disciples, of being the greatest disciple. They do these evil things while Jesus washes their feet, and they have forgotten completely that Jesus continues to set the perfect example of service. As servants first, all the disciples of Jesus must avoid lording themselves over others and never use titles. Jesus had much more to say about greatness, discipleship, and being a servant.