From today’s reading of Luke 22 and John 13
But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.
A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, 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.
“You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” – Luke 22:21-30 (ESV)
We now enter into the accounts of the last supper Jesus would have with his disciples prior to his passion. The urgency of his final teachings to them is heightened, and in response we see the somewhat understandable confusion and denial of these men who were closest to him.
I can almost hear the conversation following Jesus’ shocking revelation that one of them would betray him to the authorities. Does it seem strange that they move straight from questioning who it might be to arguing about which of them is the greatest? This no longer seems strange to me. I imagine the conversation went something like this:
Disciple 1: One of us will betray him? Could it be me? . . . . no, I don’t think so. I wonder if it’s you? I’ve always questioned your loyalty.
Disciple 2: Me? No, I would never betray him. I would go to prison and death for him!
Disciple 3: You? Neither one of you idiots knows what you’re talking about. No one worked harder on our mission trip through the towns of Israel than me. Did you see how many people I healed?
Disciple 2: Did you see how many demons I cast out? I think I made the greatest contribution.
Disciple 1: You are both delusional. I’m in his inner-circle. I’m certain to be given the greatest position of power next to him when he comes in his kingdom.
And so on. It’s not hard at all for us to move from wise self-inspection to unwise comparison of ourselves to those around us.
I admit it: I want to be great. I have dreams of greatness. I fantasize about being wiser, stronger, and braver than I am, of doing deeds that people will talk about after I’m gone. I’m no better than the disciples; In my best moments I know I’m capable of denying and betraying the Lord, but my best moments are few and far between.
In his amazing grace Jesus doesn’t kick them all (or me) out of the room. Instead he says this:
“You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”,
This is an absolutely amazing statement. “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials,” he says to those that he knows will very soon abandon him completely in the midst of his greatest trial. But this is the grace of our Lord. This is true greatness: Jesus. He is the God above all gods, the Man above all men, the one who not only saves us from all of our sins and foolishness but who will graciously fit us to reign with him in his glory. This is his last supper with them before his passion, but he promises them that they will eat and drink with him again in the kingdom.
In other words, they are all about to forsake him, but he will never forsake them. This is greatness. He is about to do everything, absolutely everything that can be done for their salvation, and he is going to restore every one of them but one to the true greatness that he has destined them for in a new mission, building the true kingdom in the power of his Spirit, each of them humbling themselves as the dregs of the earth so that the world could be turned right side up again through the good news of Jesus. This is greatness.