Jesus 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.”
This week we celebrated the life of a disciple named Bartholomew. Although some famous hospitals are named after Bartholomew, there is no evidence that he was any more skillful at the healing miracles mentioned in Acts than the other apostles. We know nothing about Bartholomew—except, that he was a disciple of Jesus of Nazareth. That is all. He was a follower of Jesus and servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Jesus says “I am among you as one who serves.”
This is also the role of a disciple of Jesus. To serve is in a sense to do our work then disappear or hide. When Jesus met two disconsolate disciples on the road to Emmaus, and after he had made himself known to them, “he vanished from their sight” (Luke 24.31). That is what Jesus does when he makes himself known to us. He still vanishes from our sight. Now you see him; now you don’t. He does not await around for our recognition. By the time we recognize it was Jesus in our midst, he is off somewhere else.
I recall when my husband died in the early morning hours of Ash Wednesday, 2002, there were five council members at the hospital with me that morning and I had not called any of them, and when I got home from the hospital three women from the congregation showed up on the parsonage door step to sit and pray with me, and a local pastor came that morning to say he would cover my Ash Wednesday service for me that evening. Servants kept showing up on my doorstep for weeks to help me, and then without notice when they had done what they came to help me with they vanished, often before I could thank them for their care. So many times a person in one of the congregations I have served has been Jesus to me.
We know when we have met him. There was that moment, at the edge of an abyss, when he touched our lives, steadied us, and saved us from falling. Only later did we recognize who it was — and by then he had gone. He had moved on, as he did when he traveled and ministered, taught, and healed in Galilee. That is perhaps how Bartholomew learned about ministry from Jesus.
There are Bartholomews all around us, whose hidden service to their sisters and brothers becomes known only when they have left us, when they themselves are lost in sight. There are many more Bartholomews whose story — before the books are opened — we shall never know. I’ll venture to say that you too are a Bartholomew at times too. Keep on serving my friend anywhere there is a need, it what Jesus calls us to do.
1. Who are the Bartholomews who emulate Jesus in your life?
2. How can we be a Bartholomew who emulates Jesus to others?
3. How does Via de Cristo help us learn to be a Bartholomew who serves like Jesus?
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.