Sunday, March 14, 2010

Luke 22 - Who is Greatest?

by Becky

Luke 22


For previous comments on parallel passages which apply to this passage look here: Matthew 26 and Mark 14. They deal particularly with Peter's denial and Jesus' testimony before the Sanhedrin.

Jesus and His disciples eat the Passover meal together, gathered in a large room already set up and known beforehand by Jesus. This was the last meal that Jesus was to have with the twelve and He knew it.

The gospels vary a bit in their accounts. This doesn't mean they disagree, only that different points are emphasized by the different writers. For instance, here in Luke it mentions that Jesus took two cups of wine, while Matthew and Mark mention only one. The traditional Passover meal has wine served four times, so probably this one did, too. Each book mentions what is most important to its theme. John goes into depth about what Jesus tells His disciples - here in Luke, the actions and the disciples' response are highlighted.

Here we see Jesus sharing with those closest to Him the news He is going to die. Look at what He says in v. 15: "I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer." This is something Jesus had longed for: an intimate, private meal with those He loved. He has things he wants to tell them, chief of which is to prepare them for His death and He uses the bread and wine as metaphors to explain what will happen.

Verses 35 - 38 are difficult. This section is found only in the gospel of Luke. Earlier (in Luke 9:3 and Luke 10:4) Jesus had told them to take no moneybag and nothing for their journey. Now He asks them if they have lacked anything and when they reply, "No," He responds by telling them to now take a moneybag and knapsack, and even a sword! Somehow this is linked to a Scripture prophecy: "He was numbered with the transgressors." (Isaiah 53:12) The disciples say that they have two swords, which Jesus says are enough, and one of the twelve subsequently puts his to use in defense of Jesus at His arrest, and cuts off the right ear of the servant of the high priest, whom Jesus immediately healed (vv 47-53). This implies that Jesus intended no violence, so why the swords? Why supplies now, when He told them no supplies earlier? I don't know the answer, but I have thoughts. I wonder if Jesus is warning them that life is going to be different, that it will be hard in the future. He Himself is going to be killed as a criminal ("transgressor") and as His followers, they will also be treated as outlaws. The days when Jesus was sought after and popular with the Jewish people are over, so that is true for His followers as well.


Please take time to reread verses 24 - 27. I find it so ironic that here, in this setting, with Jesus obviously sharing His heart and struggle, about to give His life for them, the disciples argue about who is the greatest. How like humans! Each of us is so self-absorbed!

Jesus responds to their rivalry by making it clear that His definition of greatness is not what they have understood in other contexts. Those twelve men are great in His kingdom, but that greatness does not mean they should seek power and authority over others. Rather, a true leader, Jesus says, is one who serves, just as Jesus did.

When I was in college I spent a summer on a mission trip with a group of about fourteen other college students and young adults. We were a construction team, building a Christian camp. There was one guy on our team, a strong believer, who faithfully lived in humility and demonstrated a servant's heart. He never called attention to what he did. He quietly looked for ways to serve others, even when I knew he had to be dog tired, even when others took advantage of him. I noticed. I don't know if others did, but I did. He taught me so much, but I hadn't thanked him, and for years I wished I had.

Fast forward 22 years. Our family, visiting friends in another state, took a day trip to a state park with them. We were walking on trails and talking and calling to our children. I heard a voice from the other side of some bushes call my name (using my maiden name), "Becky _____, is that you?" We rounded the bend and I came face to face with this man who served our team in humility and love! He had heard my voice and recognized it! I was filled with joy and thanks to God. I had the opportunity to look this man in the face and thank him for what he had taught me those many years ago. As I told him what I had learned from him, tears came to his eyes (and mine). We parted soon afterward and I haven't been in touch since. I consider that encounter an amazing gift from the Lord!

Motivation matters. It's not serving when we seek thanks. It's not serving when we expect others to praise us for what we've done. Serving others is not done in order to gain influence or friends. Service is done in humility and is motivated by our love of the Lord Jesus and faithfulness to Him.

On the other hand, if someone has served you, have you thanked him? Have you told her just how much her humble service has helped you? If not, do it! Let's look for ways to encourage each other.


Pray with this passage in mind.

How do you view greatness? Is it important to you? Do you seek power and influence, or do you serve others in faithfulness and humility? I think that if we look, we will see many opportunities to serve in love and self-forgetfulness.

If you've thought of someone who has served you, someone who has done it quietly and without fanfare, why don't you take the time to thank her or him? We are to encourage one another!


Keep our eyes on you, Lord. Make us self forgetful! Help us to see as you do and in loving you to love others and serve them. Keep us from being conformed to the ways of thinking that are all around us and that are counter to your perspective.
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