Will any one of you, who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep, say to him when he has come in from the field, “Come at once and sit down at table?”
The answer to this rhetorical question was, in the first century, “No.” Servants knew their place (as indeed they still do, which is why your waiter doesn’t butt into the conversation at your table with his opinions or ask that you give him the first cut of your steak). The point of this verse is not, however, “social inferiors should mind their place.” It is that we should deliberately take the place of servants, something we don’t want to do and resent doing when we aren’t being religious and pious. Jesus is saying that the Christian should embrace being treated like a servant, overlooked like a waiter, and look for chances to do all those dull, thankless jobs that mark us out as losers in the world but as heroes in the Kingdom. Jesus says so, not because we are losers, but because he offers a way out of the Game of Power and Position. Being a servant means doing things that need doing because people matter more than who gets the credit. Notably, this instruction is given, not to losers, but to the apostles: the highest and holiest figures in Christian Tradition save the Blessed Trinity and Our Lady. Put yourself last and you will be first. Lose your life and you will find it.