Luke 22:24-38 - Where True Greatness Lies; The Priestly Office of Christ

24Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. 25Jesus said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. 26But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. 27For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. 28You are those who have stood by me in my trials. 29And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, 30so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

31"Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. 32But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."

33But he replied, "Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death."

34Jesus answered, "I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me."

35Then Jesus asked them, "When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?"
"Nothing," they answered.

36He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. 37It is written: 'And he was numbered with the transgressors'; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment."

38The disciples said, "See, Lord, here are two swords."
"That is enough," he replied.

Important Points

A. True greatness belongs to those who have have no claim to rule over others, but rather, puts others ahead of themselves. (vv. 24-27)

It is a testament to the ongoing corruption that exists even in Christ’s disciples that His first chosen group would argue among themselves about who would have the highest status in the new kingdom. What, do you think, are the subtle ways in which we aspire to greatness today?

”But I am among you as one who serves.” (v.27) He “made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant” (Phil 2:7). He even stooped down to wash the disciples’ feet (Jn 13:1-7). In fact, His entire mission was one of service and sacrifice: He came “to serve, and to give His life for a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45). When one considers that the One who created the entire universe – and has it in the palm of His hands – was willing not only to become a man, but to suffer a humiliating death at the hands of men, the condescension is simply staggering. Yet, "A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.” Jesus calls upon His disciples to walk in a similar way.

To consider others better than ourselves, or to look upon ourselves “as the younger”, does not mean that we should, for example, avoid taking initiative; it is especially important that those who are called to take on any kind of leadership role do not fail to do this. But it does mean that we should use our leadership to put others before ourselves, and not claim any aspiration to greatness.

B. One mark of a true disciple of Christ is abiding with Him. (vv. 28-30)

”You are those who have stood by me…” (v. 28) Perseverance is something that is necessary for true disciples, and Jesus readily acknowledges this trait in His first group of devotees – even despite their constant blunders and flaws.

"There is something very striking in these words of praise. We know the weakness and infirmity of our Lord's disciples during the whole period of His earthly ministry….. He knew full well that within a few hours they were all going to forsake Him. But here we find Him graciously dwelling on one good point in their conduct, and holding it up to the perpetual notice of His Church. They had been faithful to their Master, notwithstanding all their faults." (Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Luke)

C. Disciples of Christ will disappoint Him (no matter how bold and fearless they may claim to be) and it is only His intercessory power that enables them to repent, and to persevere against Satan. (vv. 31-34)

”Satan has asked…” – notice how even Satan recognizes the LORD’s authority (Job 1:6-12 and 2:1-6).

“…to sift you as wheat” (v. 31) – likely suggestive of attempting to bring someone to ruin, or at least severely testing them (as God allowed Satan to do to Job). We must never forget that we have an enemy who is bent on deceiving, attacking and accusing us (1 Pet 5:8).

Over against Peter’s self-confidence, Jesus says “I have prayed for you…so that your faith may not fail.” It is only by the intercession of Jesus and the power of God that believers are kept in the right way (Heb 7:25; 1 Pe 1:3-5).

”When you turn back, strengthen your brothers.” At least two things stand out about this statement: a) the LORD is not only unsurprised by the failings of His people, but anticipates them; and b) whatever failings we have gone through can be used by God to help us minister to our fellow Christian brothers and sisters.

Refection question: What encourages you – and challenges you – about Jesus’ words to Peter and the others in this section?

D. Disciples of Christ need to be prepared to use means as they carry out what the LORD wants them to do in this world, because they will not always receive a warm reception. (vv. 35-38)
There is debate over whether or not the purse, bag and sword spoken of by Jesus is literal or figurative. At face value, it appears to be the former. Swords, in particular, were looked upon at the time as not being primarily a combative tool, but one that was meant for self-protection. What’s more – because they were shorter and stubbier than the swords we typically imagine - they could even be used as knives.

He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: 'And he was numbered with the transgressors'; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment." (vv. 36-37). How does Jesus’ admonition for his disciples to be well-equipped relate to what is about to happen to Him? It seems to suggest that , since Jesus was about to face terrible hostility, His disciples should learn to be more self-reliant (i.e. not less dependent upon Him, but upon people), for they can expect to receive rejection by many – especially within their own homeland.

Reflection question: What are the subtle ways in which our culture has shown hostility to Christ’s disciples today? Because of this, what kinds of things should we not expect our culture to provide for us?