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If you think the sixties in America was a counter-cultural decade, the first century was even more so—thanks to Jesus. Most of what He did and said went against the religious and political grain of His day. One of Jesus’ teachings—important enough to be recorded by Matthew, Mark, and Luke—was no doubt indirectly aimed at the leaders of the day. These leaders ruled according to the common idea that “might makes right.” The Pharisees kept the Jewish masses in line with their rules and traditions, and the Roman governors employed sword and shield—and crucifixion—against any who dared disturb the peace.
So what did Jesus say that rankled the rulers of His day about their brand of leadership? First, it’s important to understand that His words had authority because of how He lived. Paul tells us that when Jesus came to earth He set aside His divine prerogatives and took on “the form of a bondservant” (Philippians 2:7). Jesus affirmed His servant lifestyle in His words to His disciples: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
Words - Air - Jesus - Argument - Disciples
But those words didn’t just come out of thin air. Jesus was responding to an argument among His disciples about who was the greatest among them. He pointed out how Gentile rulers (Roman authorities) lorded their authority over their subjects. But, He said, if you want to be great in God’s sight you must be a servant of all (Luke 22:24-27).
It’s hard for us to imagine how radical a notion this was in the first-century Roman Empire. And it was one of the ideas that got Jesus killed. The power structures of His day didn’t like Him undermining their status and authority.
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