Summary: Service to others as a reflection of Christ’s love, even as we ourselves become tired of service and look forward to being served and desire attention.
When you were a child, perhaps you were part of a large family, there may have been many people who needed to use the bathroom, many mouths to feed, and never, ever, any private space. In families such as those, there are often a lot of rules. Don’t pester the adults. Do your chores, help out around the house. If you were an older child, there was the expectation to watch and care for the younger ones. If you were an only child or a younger child, you probably had the responsibility of taking care of the Dog or Cat or Fish. We all had some sort of responsibility as a youngster and it almost always was service. It didn’t have to be service in the family, either. It could have been a paper route. It could have been cutting grass or helping out on a farm or in the family store. One way or another, we learned how TO-DO for others.
As we became adults, our responsibilities changed. We now had to care for our own children, if we had any. And our jobs changed as well, but still always had that feeling of service. A person doesn’t need to be a bellhop or a waitress to have a job of service. What was it you used to do? Did you handle the books for a company? Were you a teacher? Did you work on cars?
Whatever it was, in some way, it was a service to others. Not to mention all the times outside of work where we had to be hospitable to those around us…. Hospitality….
I grew up in a town were the coffee was always on the stove and the door was always unlocked. You never knew who was going to stop by. Sometimes it was a neighbor, sometimes a friend. If you grew up in a small town or didn’t move far away, perhaps it was a family member who came by just to visit. The door was always open and the lights were always on to those neighbors, friends, and family who would stop by.
My grandparents used to like to host card games at their house. They would set out the CHEX Mix and the Mixed Nuts. Make sure there was plenty of ice in the freezer and enough pop and coffee for everyone. They tried to make sure that everyone felt welcomed.
If you add up all the time we spent at work, with family, with friends, having company over, We have probably spent more of our life serving others and making others feel welcome than not.
We live a long life now-a-days. It is EASY to become tired of having to welcome the new person, welcome the neighbor, and having a servant’s heart. There comes a time in our life when we want to be the one served, Maybe we want to be on the receiving end of this welcoming business. We want to be accepted, to be loved. We want to be first in the minds and hearts of others.
That’s exactly where Jesus’ disciples were at. They had been following this Jesus fellow around for the last few years, watching him heal the sick and take care of the wounded. They were there for the feeding of the four thousand AND the feeding of the FIVE thousand. You want to talk about having a lot of people over for company or having lots of family to feed, try and be hospitable to over NINE thousand people! Jesus had shown compassion to every one of them. Even to those who were not of the same race or nationality, like the Syrophoenician woman and the Gerasene man with the Legion of demons. The disciples were ready for some time to be the ones served, they wanted some attention, and they were arguing about who was to be the first in line to receive it.
It’s easy to be cranky, it’s easy to be like the disciples, wanting things right now. We find that we demand that people serve us. Isn’t the customer always right?! Or maybe instead we simply become resentful when we realize that we aren’t first in the minds and hearts of others. We watch as others get the attention that we so desperately desire for ourselves.
Jesus does NOT tell his disciples they are wrong for acting the way they do. He does NOT tell them that they are out of line for arguing about who is to be first. He doesn’t. He tells them that the one who wants to be first must be last. The one who wants to be served must serve. Jesus tells us exactly how to be the one who is served.
Jesus brings a child up to his lap and says that the one who wants to be first must also be the person who welcomes the child. The person who cares for others as compassionately as they would care for an infant will be the one who is also cared for with compassion.