An Awkward and Teachable Moment

By Mark D. Roberts

March 14, 2021

Scripture – Luke 22:24-27 (NRSV)

A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. But he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.”


The Gospel of Luke captures an awkward moment for Jesus and his disciples. Right after he speaks of his pending betrayal and death, they launch into an argument about which one of them is the greatest. Yet Jesus was not silenced by their inappropriateness. Rather, he seized a teachable moment, calling his disciples to be servants to each other, just as he was being a servant to them. The challenge of Jesus is for us too. Are we willing to be humble servants, just like our Master?

Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.


During my sophomore year of college, my roommate’s mother died unexpectedly. Though it was several weeks before spring break, Henry knew he had to hurry to Florida to be with his sister and help her make arrangements for their mother’s burial. (Their father had died years before.)

With a heavy heart, Henry packed his bags and headed for the airport. I went along with him for moral support. When we got into the elevator of our dorm, a guy on our hall, Sam, joined us. Seeing Henry’s suitcases he asked curiously, “Where you going, Henry?” Henry answered, “Florida.” “Florida!” Sam exulted. “That’s great. An early spring break. Wow. I wish I was doing that.” When Henry and I didn’t seem to share Sam’s excitement, he looked confused. Finally he asked, “Is something wrong?” So Henry explained the real reason why he was going to Florida. Sam was stunned and embarrassed over his joyful outburst. What an awkward moment!

I’m reminded of this moment when I read Luke 22. This chapter describes what happened during Jesus’s last meal with his disciples. In verses 14-23, Jesus reinterpreted the Passover meal so as to point to his own imminent death. He also mentioned that one who was with him at the table would soon betray him. But then, “A dispute arose among them as to which one of them was the greatest” (Luke 22:24). Now that must have been an awkward moment, at least for Jesus. He was preparing to die a painful death while his disciples were arguing over their own greatness. Ouch!

Jesus, however, didn’t get stuck by the awkwardness of what his disciples had said. Rather, he saw a teachable moment, a time to help his followers understand both his calling and their calling. Jesus began by noting that Gentile rulers revel in their power and reputation (Luke 22:25). “But not so with you;” he said, “rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves.” Then he pointed to his own example. “I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27). Thus, the disciples of Jesus should not seek their own greatness and glory. Rather, like their Lord, they should serve others humbly, even sacrificially.

You and I may not get into arguments about our greatness, but we can be overly concerned about how we look, about what others think of us. We can savor our personal position and authority. Yet, if we seek to follow Jesus, we are called to something completely different. Even if we are leaders, we should serve those whom we lead. We must be willing to humble ourselves as we lead the people entrusted to our care.

Lent is a good time for us to reflect on our true motivations in life. Why are you doing the work you’re doing? To what do you aspire? How much are you in it for your own success? To what extent do the teaching and example of Jesus guide you in your relationships at work, at home, in your neighborhood, or at church? Are you willing to be a servant? Are you seeking to serve others rather than to be served?


Can you think of leaders you have known – or known of, at any rate – who act as servants to those they lead?

How is it possible to be a leader and a servant at the same time?

As you reflect on your own work, your own leadership, are there ways in which you are serving others?

Would your colleagues and subordinates think of you as a servant leader? Why or why not?


With a wise friend or your small group, talk about how you and they can live out Jesus’s call to servanthood at work.


Lord Jesus, thank you for your teaching on leading and serving. Thank you for modeling for us what true leadership – true servanthood – is all about. Thank you for calling us to imitate you in your service to others.

Help me, Lord, to follow you as I serve others. Teach me how to serve even and especially when I am charged to lead. By your Spirit, help me to humble myself even as I am bold for the work of your kingdom. Amen.

P.S. from Mark

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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Humble Service (Luke 9:46-50, 14:7-11, 22:24-30)

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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