In this passage Jesus continues this little theological debate as they enter into conversation about the logic of David and who the Messiah is. And that’s what all of this comes down to: Who is the Messiah and who can be the Messiah? Is it Jesus? Will he admit it outright? Jesus doesn’t give them what they want and continues to frustrate them.
And then he makes a big move. Luke says, “In the hearing of all the people he said to the disciples…”, and then he says some hard words. He tells his disciples to beware of the scribes. He points out their “long robes”, their need to be greeted with respect (probably referring to needing specific titles), and how they need the best seats in the synagogues. And then he says, “they devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
As a pastor, these are terrifying words. How much do I like people to know my title? How much is my own sense of self-worth wrapped up in my position? To what degree do I separate myself from “the laity”, and feel worthwhile in that I hold this special title and position?
These words from Jesus are a piercing reminder for me of how important it is for me to recognize that though I stand behind the pulpit or altar, I am no different than anyone sitting the pew. I have a job to do, but that job is to foster and connect authentic community more than anything else. I am not the only pastor in my church on Sunday morning. They are in the pews, the nursery, and the classrooms as well.
Positions, degrees, and titles do not determine our worth, nor do they determine our ability to move God’s work in this world forward. It is human nature to get wrapped up in these things (even the disciples argued about “who’s the greatest”), and so we must be careful not to fall in to the trap of attaching too much meaning and worth on to them. We must continually be examining the degree to which we are serving the world, not being served by it.