Let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.
In the ancient world of the M.E., hospitality was the main virtue that defined a man’s character and integrity. ‘To welcome people is like welcoming God’, was a famous adage in those days. Jewish sages say that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was to abuse visiting strangers. Their attitude came in direct contrast with their contemporary, Abraham, whose hospitality was proverbial. Lot followed Abraham’s sample and wanted to honor the visiting angels (Genesis 19), while the Sodomite wanted to abuse them.
When Abraham saw the ‘visitors’ by the Plain of Mamre, he ‘rushed’ towards them, he hurried towards them like a man fearful of missing a blessing (Genesis 18). He served the festival foods, opened the best wine, broke out the special ‘dishes’. He also washed their feet, called them ‘lord’, and himself their servant. He was not doing all this in regards to the caliber of his guests. He was simply doing everything he normally did and acted the way he always did with all people who visited his camp. Abraham was a wealthy sheik, he had many servants, but he tended to the visitors himself. The whole idea of being a guest was of honoring a host, blessing someone by the opportunity to serve us.
This is very different from our present-day Western mind frame with the ‘buffet-style’ serve yourself type of mentality. The Torah teaches us to obey God’s commands for their own sake, not in view of receiving any reward for it in this world, but a famous Rabbi said that, ‘Hospitality is one of the things for which a man enjoys reward in this world. He also says that’ Hospitality to strangers is more important than attendance at the House of Study’ (Rabbi Yochanan, Shabbat 127a).
I would like to say that the Master followed the example of Abraham by being among us as one who serves (Luke 22:27), but since Yeshua was before Abraham was (John 8:58), I would rather say that that it was Abraham who was faithful to the Master’s teachings. Through His relationship with Messiah Abraham understood God’s heart and ways. Abraham’s lifestyle and attitude with others was his statement of faith. In the same way, the ‘religion’ others see in us should also be our statement of faith. We should wear our ‘religion’ on our ‘sleeves’ by the way people see our ‘sleeves’ as we serve them the way Messiah Himself would serve them, were He in our place.
And how would He serve them? Abraham knew: He would serve the best food, open the best wine, break out the best dishes, wash their feet, and call them ‘lord’ though He Himself is Lord of all. He really did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:6-7).