Living with Christ in the Shadow of the Cross (Luke 22:24-30)
Living With Christ in the Shadow of the Cross Luke 22:24-30
There was an ardent music lover who accidentally met the great composer Johannes Brahms. He recognized Brahms and asked, “Master, would you please write here a small portion of a masterpiece and sign it so I can have a precious memory of this fortunate encounter?”
Brahms took the pencil and paper, scribbled the initial bars of The Blue Danube by Johann Strauss and signed: “Unfortunately not by me, Johannes Brahms.”
Humility - the key to getting into heaven…
Do you recall the story of Corrie Ten Boom? She was a Dutch who helped hundreds of Jews escape the Nazis; she was imprisoned herself, lost her sister in a concentration camp but she survived. She wrote the book The Hiding Place to tell her story.
One time someone asked her if it was difficult for her to remain humble with all the attention she was getting. Her reply was simple: “When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, and everyone was waving palm branches and throwing garments on the road, and singing praises, do you think that for one moment it ever entered the head of that donkey that any of that was for him?”
Then she continued, “If I can be the donkey on which Jesus Christ rides in His glory, I give Him all the praise and all the honor.”
In this series of lessons, we are “living with Christ in the shadow of the cross” - taking events or teachings from the last week of Jesus’ life before His death and resurrection, and seeing what Jesus has to teach us.
Today, we choose our text from Luke 22:24-30. It is Thursday and Jesus is in the upper room with the apostles. He has just instituted the Lord’s Supper, in which He stated: “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood. “But behold, the hand of the one betraying Me is with Mine on the table. “For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!” (22:20-22). The apostles then began to discuss among themselves who among them would do such a thing. But that discussion led into another discussion which these men had had before…
THE FIRST “ARGUMENT” - Luke 9:46-48:
In chapter 9 of Luke, Jesus has taken Peter, James, and John on a mountain to pray. It was on that occasion that Jesus’ appearance and His face became different. His clothing became white and it was flashing like lightning.
On that occasion the God of heaven spoke and said: “This is My Son, My Chosen One! Listen to Him!”
In the meantime, there were the rest of the apostles who had been confronted by a dad whose little boy was possessed by a demon and the apostles could not cast out the demon. This was creating quite a stir until Jesus and the three other apostles came down from the mountain and Jesus cast out the demon.
On that occasion, an argument started among the apostles as to which of them was going to be the greatest. When Jesus established His kingdom - and they had in mind that it would be a literal kingdom with its headquarters in Jerusalem - they hoped that one or more of them would get to sit at positions of honor with Jesus. The greatest position of honor would be on His right side, but on the left would also be a position of honor.
Who would it be? John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, for whom Jesus seems to have had a special affection for? Peter, the disciple who was usually the first one to speak up? Would it be Andrew who was constantly bringing people to Jesus? Matthew, the one who helped Jesus navigate the political environment between the Jews and the Romans? Simon, who strongly supported Jesus’ streak of independence from the Roman government?
Each apostle seems to have had some reason to be sitting on the right hand or the left hand of Jesus when He established His kingdom. Maybe it should have been Thaddeus because he was the quietest and most unassuming apostle among all of them!
Jesus, knowing what these men were thinking, took a child and stood the child by His side. “Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great” (9:46-48).
Leading someone to Jesus is the mark of someone great. The sign of greatness is the willingness to hide behind the cross and let Jesus be man’s Savior. If someone receives the teachings of a disciple of Christ, then he receives Christ. Leading that someone to Christ is greatness.
But that discussion did not end the controversy for the apostles. Fast forward perhaps a few years and now it’s the last week of Jesus on earth, although the apostles do not understand that. But they do understand Jesus is getting ready to establish His kingdom - that’s what they’re been preaching for three years: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Now that the kingdom is near, it’s time for Jesus to choose the two men who will sit on His left and His right.
THE SECOND “ARGUMENT”: Luke 22:24:
As Jesus is meditating on His crucifixion and death and mourning the loss of one of His own apostles who would betray Him, the other apostles return to that perennial question that Jesus just has not answered yet: “Which one of them is regarded to be greatest”?
Who is the greatest where you work?
Are you more reliable?
Are you the one who solves the problems?
Are you the one who works well on a team?
Are you the one who resolves conflicts and encourages peace?
Are you the one who is most effective at communicating?
Are you the one who clarifies expectations by learning and asking questions?
Are you the one who goes the extra mile?
Are you the one who gets to work early and stays late?
Are you the one who assumes extra responsibility without expecting anything in return?
It is easy for us to think we are the greatest. We often do not compare ourselves to our coworkers when we come up short. We usually compare ourselves to our coworkers in ways that set us in front. And since our minds - and life itself - works on the basis of merit, we tend to think that if we are the best, we ought to receive the most.
Jesus’ apostles are asking those same questions here. We do not know what each one was saying. We do not know what their arguments were for being considered the “greatest” in the kingdom. Jesus has not given us that insight. But, it doesn’t matter, does it? The problem was, that those who were arguing were not remembering what Jesus had taught them earlier. And they were not focusing on Jesus and His goals.
AN ILLUSTRATION FROM THE SECULAR WORLD: 22:25:
Jesus begins His answer, first, by pointing out that the apostles were acting like pagans, like unbelievers. The “kings of the Gentiles” lord it over their subjects. They are concerned about their status of authority and they are happy to “throw their weight around.” When we moved to Romania in 2000, Communism had been gone for about a decade. But, the people who were then in charge, whether in government positions or in private business, were often the same ones who had been in charge under Communism. And it seemed quite often - especially if that individual learned that we missionaries were Americans - that they “threw their weight around.” It seems they were often contrary for no real reason. But they often treated their fellow Romanians in the same way - if the Romanian was poor or uneducated, he or she would get ignored by the people in power. That’s the way Gentiles act.
Those who have authority over their subjects are called “Benefactors.” Does this sound familiar… Roman politicians would give to their constituents so that the constituents would support to politicians! These were the men who were “benefactors.” They were buying support from their people. “The one who robs Peter to pay Paul will always get Paul’s vote.”
THE LIFESTYLE TO WHICH JESUS CALLS US: 22:26:
Jesus contrasts the leadership style of the Gentiles with what He expects from His followers: “But it is not this way with you.” Notice in Jesus’ next statement that He actually does acknowledge that some - in whatever way - are “greatest.” He says, “the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest. And the leader like the servant.”
Under the Law of Moses, the oldest son became the head of the family and took control of the estate. He received twice as much inheritance as the other sons. The younger sons, then, had to have the humility to accept the Law as it was and do the best with what they had. Here, Jesus says that the “greatest” needs to become like the youngest. He needs to have humility and accept life as it is and do the best with what he has.
“The leader must become like the servant,” Jesus says. If you want to be a good leader. You must serve.
ANOTHER ILLUSTRATION FROM THE SECULAR WORLD: 22:27:
Jesus gives another illustration from the secular world in verse 27 when He asks: “Who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table?” In an environment in which slavery was rampant, Jesus asks who is “greater”? The master of the house - the one who reclines at the table? Or the servant, the slave, the one who serves? Certainly, the one who is the master of the house, the one who reclines at the table. The master is greater than the slave.
THE LIFESTYLE TO WHICH JESUS CALLS US: 22:27b:
Jesus returns to the point He is trying to make: “But I am among you as the one who serves.”
Jesus taught in words and actions that His disciples are to be servants. In Mark 10:45, He said, “even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Jesus also showed His heart of service by washing His disciples’ feet in John 13: “I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you” (John 13:15).
Jesus is the servant. He is the “Master” Servant. “Although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:6-8).
But, there are also rewards to be received when we humble ourselves and serve as Jesus served. In that passage from Philippians 2:9-11, Paul tells us what the reward from the Father will be for His Son because Jesus humbled Himself: “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (2:9-11).
There are rewards…
THE REWARD FOR THE APOSTLES FOR THEIR SERVICE: 22:28-30:
In verse 28, Jesus acknowledges what the apostles had done for Him: “You are those who have stood by Me in My trials.”
In a passage that is parallel to this one, in Matthew 19, in the context of the rich young ruler walking away from Jesus because he loved his riches more than he loved Jesus, Peter asked the question: “We have left everything and followed you; What then will there be for us?” (19:27). That is not a bad question.
Jesus tells Peter on that occasion: “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life” (19:29). Jesus acknowledges on that occasion that the apostles had given up a lot to serve Jesus Christ.
So here’s the reward - at least for the apostles - (Luke 22:29) “Just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you…” We’ll stop right there for just a moment.
Back in verse 20, when Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, He stated that the fruit of the vine, the “cup” poured out for them, is the “new covenant in His blood.” That word “covenant” has a verb associated with the noun. And that verb is found here in verse 29.
Jesus says, “My Father has ‘covenanted with Me’ a kingdom, I ‘covenant’ with you that same kingdom.”
At the heart of the new covenant is the kingdom of the Messiah, the body of people that belong to Jesus Christ, taken from among the Jews and the Gentiles. That kingdom is the church of Christ.
Notice in verse 30, Jesus ‘covenanted’ a kingdom with His apostles so that they may “eat and drink at His table in His kingdom, and they will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
The first thing I want to point out is that all the apostles will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. No apostle will be in any higher throne than another. They will all have equal authority in the kingdom of the Messiah.
Now, let’s touch briefly on the idea of the apostles sitting on thrones and judging the “twelve tribes of Israel.”
Jesus is now sitting on His throne, the throne of King David, from the right hand of the Father: Luke 1:32-33; Acts 2:33.
The only other passage in the Gospel accounts that talk about the apostles sitting on thrones and judging the tribes of Israel is in that passage I pointed you to just a moment ago: Matthew 19:27-30, specifically verse 28:
“Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
That word “regeneration” is found only one other time in the NT: Titus 3:5: “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.”
Paul is clearing referring to our lives as Christians in that passage. We are not saved based on our perfect obedience to a set of laws. We are saved by God’s mercy when He washed us, regenerating us in the process, and we are renewed by the Holy Spirit. Now, keep up with me…
That word “washing” referring to regeneration… is used only one other time in the NT: Ephesians 5:26 where Paul writes of the church that Christ “might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.”
Clearly the “washing of water with the word” refers to our baptism, our immersion in water for the forgiveness of sins. So, here is where we’re at:
When we obey the Gospel of Christ and are baptized into Christ, we are washed (Eph. 5:26).
When we are washed at baptism in the blood of Christ, we are regenerated and renewed (Titus 3:5).
Having been regenerated, we are under the teachings and instruction of the twelve apostles (Matt. 19:28). The apostles “judge” the twelve tribes of Israel when you and I submit to the teachings of the apostles as we are the “Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16).
The apostles judge the “Israel of God” by guiding us and directing us through their words, their teachings, their doctrine. And the words of the apostles are equally important whether it is Matthew or Paul or Peter.
Take home message: No apostle has a higher rank than any other apostle. Nor does one Christian have a higher rank than any other Christian. We are all important to the fulfillment of God’s plan to save man.
Start an evangelism conversation: “Have you dealt with the question – “How much money is enough, and what do I do with the rest?”