Category Archives: Bible passages

Luke 22:47-65

The Heart of Darkness

Discussion Question

Which of these best describe you?

  • Day person or night person.
  • Words or action.
  • Follower or leader.

Background

Jesus and his disciples have been in Jerusalem for the better half of a week, preaching every day at the temple and retiring in the evening to the Mount of Olives. Jesus shared the Passover meal with them where he spoke about greatness in the kingdom of God is about serving. He told them that one of them would betray him and that all of them would be put to the test as Satan sifts them as wheat. Jesus had instructed them to expect less handouts from people from now on but to equip themselves with money, clothing and swords. When the disciples took his instructions literally, he terminated the conversation.

After the meal, they followed Jesus to the Mount of Olives where Jesus instructed them all to pray that they would not fall into temptation. He prayed earnestly through anguish to the Father who did not decide to take the cup away from Jesus but sent an angel to strengthen him. While Jesus was praying this, the disciples, in their sorrow, fell asleep. He woke them to tell them again, “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”

Read Luke 22:47-65

47 While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”

49 When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.

51 But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.

52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? 53 Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns.”

54 Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. 55 And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. 56 A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.”

57 But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said.

58 A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.”

“Man, I am not!” Peter replied.

59 About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.”

60 Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.

63 The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. 64 They blindfolded him and demanded, “Prophesy! Who hit you?” 65 And they said many other insulting things to him.

What did you see?

Structure

  • Leaders and followers (47-53)
  • Peter tested (54-62)
  • The torment begins (63-65)

Leaders and followers (47-53)

“While he was still speaking…” The final words were of Jesus to the disciples, “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” The story that unfolds now takes us through the beginnings of the temptation for all especially of Peter. The reason for their prayer was right at the door.

“…a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them.” The theme of leading and following is strong in this section (Verses 47-53 especially) as we’ll see as we move through the passage. Luke establishes clearly that Judas was one of the twelve but is now leading a crowd. Greater than twelve perhaps? The crowd contained chief priests and officers of the temple guard and elders (Verse 52) and they were all following Judas. Who else was in the crowd? They would probably make up some of the folk who sat around the fire in the next section who challenged Peter.

“He approached Jesus to kiss him…betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” Note the physical closeness to this betrayal. The way that Jesus is betrayed is emphasised. Is this just trivial or poetic that the betrayer appears to be friends with Jesus? One who is close to him will lead the rebellion? The hypocrisy of this act is perhaps what we ought to note. Although Judas was one of the Twelve, his kiss is nothing like the emotional weeping of the woman who dried Jesus’ feet with her hair. He was physically close to Jesus but he was not really connected to him. Jesus was not his Lord. Although Judas was stabbing Jesus in the back, he did it from the front and with the intimacy of a kiss. Luke does not actually tell us that the kiss happened but Matthew 26:49 and Mark 14:45 tell us that he did.

“When Jesus’ followers saw…” Please note again the theme of leading and following in this passage. The disciples who had followed Jesus to the Mount of Olives  (22:39), saw the crowd with Judas at the front. We now have a face off. Jesus and the Twelve-minus-one facing up against Judas and a crowd of Temple leaders. In one corner is the carpenter’s son who has been preaching about the kingdom of God for 3 years all over Israel. In the opposite corner is the established leaders of Israel.

“…Lord, should we strike with our swords?” The game is on and the disciples’ are still backing Jesus. They had their two swords that they showed him back at the table of the Passover and the sight of the crowd was not enough to set them running. They were ready to follow Jesus into battle.

“But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And touched the man’s ear and healed him.” This response fits neatly with his earlier exclamation, “That’s enough!” in Verse 38. His disciples were not selected and called to be his army but they were chosen to be his messengers who would testify to the world about Him. He is not leading a rebellion (Verse 52). Judas came and touched Jesus gently with a kiss – a loving gesture with evil intent. Jesus touches his enemy with a healing hand.

“Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him…” Luke lists the types of people who made up the crowd that was lead by Judas and their mission was to come for Jesus. These leaders had been afraid of “the people” so that they needed to capture Jesus secretly by night (Luke 20:19; 21:38; 22:6). Their secret and evil actions are highlighted by what Jesus says next.

“…Am I leading a rebellion…? Everyday I was with you in the temple courts….But this is your hour – when darkness reigns.” Jesus’ whole response is like a parent telling a child how wrong they are by simply pointing out the facts. Jesus’ ministry has been all about speaking the truth. Not about uprisings or back stabbing. Not about weapons or pushes for power. His ministry has been all about words full of truth about the kingdom of God. Even now, as he confronts this mob, his response is not physical but to speak the truth. Jesus has not been hiding in caves but has been operating in plain sight. This mob has waited for the very hour when all the peaceful folk are asleep in their beds to come to Jesus with evil intent. They want him dead.

“…when darkness reigns.” The imagery of light and dark in the bible is a common tool to distinguish secret work with sinister intent versus truth and righteousness. This whole section of Verses 47-53 has contrasted two opposing groups. One, a small band of men following Jesus who is and has been teaching truth in the daylight, without weapons except for the words that he uses and the wonders that attest to his words being from God. The other side a crowd of distinguished men bent on ruining their opponent. They came by night, organised and lead by a traitor. Their apparent acts of kindness, a kiss, are really betrayal. Jesus approach is truth and healing.

The theme of leading and following continues in the next section as we watch who Peter chooses to stand beside.

Peter tested (54-62)

“Then seizing him, they led him…” The brutal treatment of Jesus begins. The One who can calm storms and raise the dead to life allows his enemies to take him away. Would we ever be so humble as Jesus?

“…to the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance.” Luke mentions the location of this scene but the focus is not yet on Jesus and the high priest. Luke does not record any future interactions between Jesus and the high priest. It might be worth that the following event takes place with our Great High Priest, Jesus, standing in the courtyard of the Jewish high priest and Peter being grilled over whether he is with Jesus or not. The focus of this story is now on Peter. As Jesus is lead away, the camera looks beyond Jesus’ shoulder and we see Peter lurking behind. He is not following Jesus as such but the whole crowd. The question is, what will Peter do? What is he following for? Perhaps he doesn’t even know.

“And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them.” These people who had kindled the fire consisted of the very crowd members who had come by night to seize Jesus. They are not friendlies. But Peter sat down with them. By his physical position, he has put himself on the fence. We empathise with him because this event is brand new to him. He and the other disciples have had this event veiled from their understanding (Luke 9:45). Where else should he stand on a cold night? He is physically “with them” and we want to know is he still “with” Jesus.

“A servant girl saw him…and said, “This man was with him.” In the darkness, the spotlight is shone onto Peter. The questions and answers that follow progress like a slow motion train wreck. “I don’t know him”… “I am not [one of them]!”… “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” These questions and answers were delivered over the course of the night and not consecutively like machine gun fire. His questioning came from servants and others who were not permitted or required to come to the high priests house. I’m reminded of my old “peer group pressure” seminars in high school and wish Peter could have brought those to mind too. Let’s remember though, that this is the beginning of Satan’s plans to sift Peter and the others like wheat. The attacks we receive from the enemy often come in small scale moments when we do not feel brave enough to say, “I am with Jesus.”

“Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. The Peter remembered…and he went outside and wept bitterly.” See Luke 22:34. That moment when you feel like the worst disciple Jesus has ever known. Peter’s response to his own sin is a right one. It is easy to place ourselves in Peter’s place. But all disciples of Jesus have a great and merciful Saviour! Can you put yourself in Jesus’ shoes? To know that this event would happen, to have warned Peter that it will happen and to instruct him to pray that he can not fall into temptation and to watch Peter fail just as He know that Peter would. This is an image of our relationship with Jesus. He knows our temptations. He instructs us to pray. He teaches us to be children of the light, not of the darkness and yet we fail him. Jesus is indeed THE Righteous One. There is no other than Him. We can only say that we have been saved through grace alone and no merit of our own. We should weep over our unfaithfulness. We should remember the grace of God and His Son who knows us and sees us and is praying for us (Luke 22:32; John 17:20-26). Note, when he went “outside” this must refer to outside the courtyard.

We have just witnessed a quick turnaround prophecy about Peter. Jesus foreknew that Peter would deny knowing Jesus three times on that very night and this unfolds before us just as Jesus predicted. As Peter looks into the eyes of Jesus in Verse 61 he is seeing a great prophet who has proven himself.

The torment begins (63-65)

“The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him…” These verses come as an abrupt end to the episode about Peter. Verse 52 comes to mind again as we see the way Jesus is treated. There is nothing difficult about the words and their meaning but we need to note the significance of fulfilled prophecy.

Now, as Luke describes ever so briefly the mocking and the beating and “many other insulting things”, the one mocking phrase described is his ability to prophesy. See Luke 18:32-33; 9:22. See also Isaiah 50:6 and 53:3). What Jesus had foretold, what the prophets had written about, was now beginning to be dealt out on Jesus.

In this whole passage of following and leading, it is the One who foreknew the outcome of that night and humbly submitted to the treachery around him who is really in control and far ahead of all of them. Disciples of Jesus will do well to trust the long term plans of our Lord and not be swayed or tempted by the short term view of the evils of this world.

What did we learn?

The Lord Jesus Christ leads a kingdom that speaks the truth in the daylight. He is a public figure with so much information about him accessible to all. Yet this world would rather mock him and those who side with him than repent and stand with him. This is a passage about choosing who we stand with. The kingdom of God is not about strength as this world knows it. It is about truth and trusting in the One who will go to the cross for you.

Now what?

Topic A: Children of the light. The contrast in this passage between those who think and do evil versus those (or just Jesus) who pursue righteousness. If we speak the truth in love then we have nothing to hide. We are called to live as children of the light and not of the darkness. When we are tempted to do things in secret, that is our conscience telling us that we are working against the Lord and his desire for us to mature. Read how Paul uses the contrast of dark and light, night and day to instruct us to live as children of the light in Romans 13:11-14. See also, Ephesians 5:8, 1 Thessalonians 5:5 and Colossians 3:5-14.

Topic B: “I am with Jesus.” It is such an easy sentence to speak but can be so difficult when the time is right to say it. “I am with Jesus” can be said in other ways too. “I am a Christian… I go to church because… What do you think about Jesus?… I can pray for you about that, would that be ok with you?” What other ways can you think of to align yourself publically with Jesus?

Topic C: Weeping like Peter. It is the nature of the proud person to attempt to justify their behaviour. It is the nature of a disciple to weep and repent over their sin. Jesus is Lord because he just is, but he is also worthy to be Lord because he is righteous. He calls people because he is merciful and kind, not because we are worthy. It is by grace that you have been saved through faith and not by works so that none of us can or should boast. Let’s embrace the opportunity to repent and grieve over our failure to follow him.

Luke 22:39-46

The Father’s Will

Discussion Question

Prayer is __________.

OR

Prayer is faith speaking. Discuss.

Background

Previously, Jesus had shared the Passover meal with his disciples. At that table sat Judas who had already consented to betraying Jesus, being tempted by Satan to do so, and Simon Peter whom Jesus declared would be attacked by Satan and will betray Jesus before dawn. The time of pleasant ministry and small verbal attacks are over. It is time for Jesus to be betrayed and it will happen this very night. Despite Jesus’ warnings to the disciples and his teachings to them about the kingdom of God, they have been dull in their understanding.

Read Luke 22:39-46

39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

45 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46 “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”

What did you see?

Structure

  • The plan to pray (39-40)
  • The crying Son (41-44)
  • The exhausted disciples (45-46)

The Plan to Pray (39-40)

“Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives…” See Luke 21:37. At the end of his day in Jerusalem, Jesus would retire to the same location at the Mount of Olives. This is the hillside he travelled along when he arrived at the city. See John 18:2.

“…and his disciples followed him.” The way this sentence is constructed shows Jesus knowing where he is going next while the disciples are simply following. That is, they are not a band of brothers, like-minded and driven together – but a party with one leader, the one with the plan and the mission and the twelve men who followed behind. The previous episode illustrated how their minds were on a different path to Jesus’.

“On reaching the place…” Matthew 26:36 and Mark 14:32 note that the exact place is Gethsemane.

“Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He tells them to use this time to pray and gives them the specific direction of praying to stand firm in the midst of temptation (not that temptation will be avoided but that they will not fall on account of it). Jesus had told them at the Lord’s Supper that Satan had asked to sift Simon and the others like wheat (22:31). Jesus told Simon that he was going to betray him that very night. They are instructed to pray to God to ‘deliver them from evil.’ This is the theme of this small passage. Praying to God to protect us and to surrender our wills to the will of the Father.

The Crying Son (41-44)

“He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them…” The withdrawing suggests an emotional ‘pulling away’ (see Acts 21:1 which uses the same Greek word for ‘tearing oneself away’). The distance of a stone’s throw adds to the emotion picture of the passage.

“…knelt down and prayed…” Jesus had instructed them to do the same and immediately proceeded to do it himself. If prayer was what was needed then pray is what he did. It’s hard to know what to make of the detail that he knelt rather than stood or even just to note that he prayed without describing his position. Common practice was apparently to stand while praying. I’m not sure about that. Perhaps it is best to stick to the narrative and have our minds picturing the scene of Jesus pulling himself away from his friends to spend time with his Father; to position himself a few metres away; and to kneel down in humility. The Son of God is on his own, in the quiet of the night, knelt down and ready to speak to the Father.

“Father, if you are willing…” The Lord’s prayer contained the your will be done element as well as the deliver us from evil. It is a grand prayer that, when meditated on, provides all the ingredients of a faithful mind and life – aligning our wills with the Father’s will. Jesus called the God whom he prayed to Father. We pick up our language of the Trinity from verses like this. Who did Jesus pray to? God of course! This God whom he prayed to, he called Father. Jesus is also in submission to the Father. He demonstrates through his prayer that the will of the Father is paramount. If the Father is willing… When we pray, we discuss what we desire and ask if the Father is willing to allow or fulfill our request. We also surrender our expectations in order to grow in our understanding of what He wills.

“…take this cup from me…” This is a profound prayer from Jesus! The Father and the Son had a plan for salvation from the beginning and the Son entered the world knowing what this plan was. He had described on a number of occasions to the disciples what the plan was (Luke 18:33; 24:6-7). He knew the Father’s will and yet spoke honestly to the Father about it. Now, what is the cup? The closest imagery to flesh this out is what Jesus demonstrated at the last supper only a few verses earlier. Luke 22:17-20. This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. Jeremiah 25:15-38 (esp. 15-29) uses the cup filled with wine as an image of God’s wrath that must be drunk. It is His wrath raged against the nations of the world, on all who live on the earth to receive punishment (see also Psalm 75:8; Isaiah 51:17-22; . The two images of the cup of wrath and the poured out blood combine to provide for us a cup of mercy because the Son was willing to drink of it on our behalf. Note also that Jesus does not have a death wish as if this is going to be fun for him.

“…yet not my will but yours be done.” As alluded to before, what an amazing model of prayer for us. A rebellious heart may choose to run away from responsibility or consequences and hide until the storm dies down. A godly person will talk to God about what is weighing them down, ask for help and conclude to do what must be done. Tired of having not enough money? Talk to God about that but conclude that His will be done. Is there a health issue that you are facing. God can remove that for you but it may not be his will. Let His will be done. Is there a dilemma that you have – a decision that needs to be made – ask God for the answer! Know that His answer may be clear or it may be that you need to continue in prayer over the matter. Perhaps you already know what you need to do but just wish that there was another way? The examples of prayer can go on. The point though is that it is God’s will that is excellent and we ought to be growing toward loving it always.

“An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.” Clearly the will of the Father was not to take the cup from him – but He was willing to send help to get Jesus through the night.

“And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Note the relationship between his physical, spiritual and emotional being. We have noticed briefly the relationship between the Son and the Father – the Son being submissive to the Father. Now we note the physical realm that Jesus existed in during his ministry here on earth. He was in physical pain, not from the sword or something else, but through the torture of having to face the outcomes of tomorrow. This was obviously more than any human has ever had to face. More than facing the wrath of God – he knew it was coming! His response? To pray even more earnestly than before! The strength of his faith ensured that he would not give up on prayer the minute things got hard. Prayer is a powerful resource that we have to centre our minds on the things of God and to speak with him about them. Our weaknesses and our hurts are shared with God. Our struggle to walk the path is shared with him. We keep talking especially in the thick of temptation. Hebrews 5:7ff alludes to prayers such as this one of Jesus that helped him to stay the path for the sake of those who would trust in him.

“…and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Luke has used very few words in this entire passage to paint the picture of Jesus’ struggle. Here he uses a simile to describe the anguish (and anxiety?) that produced sweat for Jesus. It is remarkable enough that his prayer session produced sweat.  We need not believe that the sweat was actually mixed with blood but had the weight and consistency of blood. Trust a physician to use an analogy like that (Colossians 4:14). Some manuscripts do not include verses 43 and 44, most likely because it is unique to Luke’s description of events and so scribes may have omitted this.

The Exhausted Disciples (45-46)

“When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples…” The passage has a clear focus on prayer as it begins and ends with Jesus speaking to the disciples on their need to pray and centres with Jesus’ prayer in the middle. Verse 45 is the reverse of Verse 41.

“…he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow.” We are not told weather they prayed at all or not but that they did not have the endurance like Jesus – perhaps they did not last long at all! But we are told that their sleep was more than laziness, it was brought on by emotional fatigue! Was it sorrow brought on by their knowledge of temptation at hand (similar to Jesus) or was it brought on by distress of looking and watching Jesus in distress? Either way, the garden that night was filled with very intense emotion.

“Why are you sleeping?… Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” The story returns to where it began – the call to pray for protection from sin.

What did we learn?

Prayer is the right response to distress and sorrow. The weapon to overcome temptation is not will power, but prayer. It is an act of faith as we speak honestly about our desires and wants and bring them submissively before the Father who is able to do anything He wills. Jesus carried such anguish leading up to the cross which was exercised with prayer and was responded to with care from the Father. The disciples demonstrate humanities weakness.

Now what?

Topic A: Bringing it all to the Father in prayer. It is rare to find a real prayer warrior. Someone whose instinct is to take things to God in prayer and to wrestle with him in the things that need talking about. Jesus demonstrated, in his perfect example of being human, that prayer is essential. He prayed regularly and he instructed his disciples here that when things are getting ugly, the best thing to do is to pray. Notice that when he found them exhausted, he didn’t say, “oh good on you for taking care of yourselves.” He said, “wake up and pray!” Prayer is the right and loving thing to do when joy is in our hearts. Prayer is the faithful response to stress and trouble. It is the greatest tool that we have in response to temptation.

Topic B: Making prayer a habit. Given Jesus’ own dependance on the Father active in praying, how can we foster a genuine habit of praying? It would be foolish to leave all of our praying up to spontaneity. It would be foolish to assume that making something a habit equates to making it a duty. If dependance on God is what we need, then we need a daily dose of conversing with him. The Lord’s prayer has a daily flavour to it. Prayer is not about tickling God’s ear but about expressing our faith in him through habitually meeting with Him. Discuss what has been some wins or failures with your group on trying to make prayer a daily love. Have lists helped? Has routine been good? Some people associate a time of day or an activity with prayer. Perhaps abstaining from something (like TV or Facebook) until time with God has occurred.

Topic C: The cup that we do not have to drink. Jesus was in anguish over the looming event of the cross. It has been the will of the Father and of the obedient Son to propitiate (expend God’s wrath) on Jesus. We can meditate on what the cup of God’s wrath may be like but we will never ever have to experience it ourselves if we put our trust in Christ and his blood poured out on our behalf. Of course, if we ignore this momentous gift of grace, then where else can we go to avoid drinking this cup ourselves? Perhaps as we consider the topic of prayer, we can equate a praying life with a faithful life lived in response to the price that has been paid for you and me. Not willing to drink the cup yourself? Let’s run to God in prayer of thankfulness and ask Him for all wisdom to live humble and faithful lives.

Luke 22:24-38

The greatest serves

Discussion Question

What is the most responsibility that you have ever had to carry?

Background

The Passover meal had been arranged and Jesus redefined this grand traditional meal as a remembrance of his death. Judas had consented to betraying Jesus and Jesus announced that his betrayer was seated at the table with them all. The disciples all questioned among themselves which of them was going to betray Jesus.

Read Luke 22:24-38

24 A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. 25 Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. 26 But 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. 27 For 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. 28 You are those who have stood by me in my trials. 29 And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, 30 so 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 all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

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

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

35 Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”

“Nothing,” they answered.

36 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. 37 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.”

38 The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”

“That’s enough!” he replied.

What did you see?

Structure

  • Exercising authority in this world (24-25)
  • Exercising authority in the Kingdom of God (26-30)
  • The promise of trials ahead (31-38)

Exercising authority in this world (24-25)

“A dispute also arose among them…” Luke places this account in a different location to Mark and Matthew (Mark 10:42-45 and Matthew 20:25-28). It is difficult to know for sure why that is and the conclusion can often come down to what the interpreter would like to conclude! Two things can be said for sure: 1) that Jesus really seems to have said words about the nature of authority in this world compared to the kingdom of God and 2) that the gospel writers inserted this lesson from Jesus where they saw them fitting in the narrative. Perhaps Jesus said the same thing twice. But neither is it a new thing for accounts in the bible to care more about the message than they do about the exact chronology of the events. It seems reasonable to argue that there were two events in the account of Jesus’ ministry which suited the lesson from Jesus to be included at that point. Mark and Matthew quoted Jesus at one point but Luke placed those words in response to a different event.

Whatever the case, this dispute gives Jesus an occasion to explain how they are not behaving like children of the Kingdom of God.

“…as to which of them was considered to be greatest.” It doesn’t sound like an adult conversation. As Luke has placed this apparently at the table of the last supper, it just sounds so strikingly wrong! If this conversation flows directly out of Verse 23, however, it may have gone from a denial of betraying Jesus into something like, “I would never do that because I am most loyal to Jesus!” etc. What sounds like an immature and ridiculous conversation could well have flowed out of something smaller.

“…kings of the Gentiles…” Gentiles being non-Jews, ie, kings of the world.

“…call themselves Benefactors.” The simple stated nature of rulers in the world is that they hold authority and yet call themselves a giver of money to others. Even tyrant kings may wear a badge of honour as though they are benefiting the people. There may be a contrast beginning here between rulers who give themselves a good name and the leaders in the kingdom who will have the kingdom confered on them (Verse 29).

Exercising authority in the Kingdom of God (26-30)

“…greatest… like the youngest…” Jesus turns all hierarchies upside down. What seems to be the order of things in this world must not be the model for how we behave in the kingdom of God. See Mark 9:35

“…who is greater, the one who is at the table…? But I am among you as one who serves.” Jesus’ point is about humility, not reorganising who is in charge. His point is also directed at the kingdom of God and how that operates. That said, humility in the workforce and the home is a powerful and godly virtue. Jesus has placed his disciples at the table and is serving them. A greater illustration is found in John’s gospel Chapter 13 Verses 12-17 when he washed the disciples feet. That event took place on this same night.

“You are those who have stood by me in my trials.” Given that he has not been arrested yet, Jesus must be referring to the many confrontations that he has had with the teachers of the law. This sentence links to the last in that he has not been a king who lords it over people but one who undergoes trials inflicted on him by those who should be serving him. And although many chose not to follow him and many walked away, these men have stood by him. They have trusted him and persevered. Jesus is about to describe their place in the kingdom of God and it has come after his commendation that they have done well. They have been faithful with little and now they will be promised much.

“And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me…” The Father assigned the kingdom to Jesus and he is now assigning them a kingdom. The next verses will expand on what that means but here let us just acknowledge the doctrine of election. The apostles have not got lucky or paid their way to rule. Jesus has placed them in this place of authority in the kingdom. This promise must first and foremost be to the apostles specifically. Note also that this is a present tense declaration.

“…so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom…” This is Jesus’ kingdom that he is describing – my table – my kingdom. But the disciples have been chosen and elected to sit and eat and drink at the king’s table. A place of honour. Jesus has reminded us that it is those who are great who sit at tables (Verse 27).

“…and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” See also Matthew 19:28 and Revelation 3:21. Whilst the apostles are given a special place in the kingdom of God – certainly to bear witness of the One sent from heaven whom they saw with their own eyes and walked with him – whilst they do have a special place in the kingdom, it seems that this promise of judging the twelve tribes is not confined to them alone. The promise to eat with Christ and to reign with him is passed on to all who respond to Christ’s calling. 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 5:9-10. The twelve tribes of Israel is to be understood eschatologically (in context of the way things end up). All who put their hope in the Son of God are the true Israel. Romans 9-11 cover this concept that the kingdom of God is a kingdom of promise, not of descent or special treatment of a particular nation. James 1:1 describes the scattered church of Christ as the twelve tribes in the dispersion.

The promise of trials ahead (31-38)

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat.” Verses 31 and 32 are amongst my favourites in all the bible. Not merely that it begins with my name repeated for emphasis and so seems quite directed to me! But more than that, this verse and the next describe two amazing truths of the scriptures (and more). Here we see the subordination of Satan to God. Satan is free but on a leash. We see in the book of Job how Satan needs to report back to God and is only allowed to do to Job what God permits. A day will come when Satan will be sent to eternal punishment. But in God’s wisdom he is permitted to tempt and sift people like wheat. The faith of the elect will be tested. Simon and the others, with God’s permission, will be put to the test. Those who stand firm to the end will be victorious. This is called the perseverance of the saints and this is the first truth that helps to put temptation and trials into perspective. James 1:2-4. God is not permitting Satan this job for his own sadistic joy. It is a means to maturity. Satan has asked permission and God has presumably permitted it. Christianity is not a life choice for the faint-hearted. But…

“…I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Such a beautiful word from Jesus to Simon. The Son of God, the King of kings has prayed for this fisherman. Note that Jesus prays to God. Remember the doctrine of the Trinity teaches us that although Jesus is God, he also prays to the Father who is God. The content of the prayer is that Simon’s faith may not fail. It is not that Simon will be excused from temptation or even that Simon will remain faultless but that his faith will not fail. Jesus knows that there will be a need for Simon to turn back. And that a repentant Simon is still equipped to strengthen others. Take heart at the comfort of these words. Those who have been elected for salvation (Verse 28), will have their faith tested which ultimately produces perseverance and maturity, and we have the Son of God praying for us (see also John 17) to ensure the preservation of the saints. It is the perseverance of the saints and the preservation of the saints which come out of these verses which I love.

“…I tell you Peter, before the rooster crows today…” I have often pondered why Jesus calls this man Simon at one point and Peter at the next. I can’t be sure but I have an inkling that Jesus talks to this man like he has two sides. Simon is the fisherman who is mortal and represents the person vulnerable to temptation. While Peter is the rock who is brave for the kingdom. Jesus tells this brave rock that he will fail before sunrise.

As Jesus knew the plans of Judas, He also sees how the night will unfold for Simon Peter.

“When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything? “Nothing” they answered.” He refers to the time they were all sent out on mission to proclaim the kingdom of God (Luke 9:1-6; 10:4). Back then they were sent with nothing and lacked nothing. It was not a miracle but they were provided for when people from Jewish towns welcomed them in to hear about the kingdom of God. They received some rejection but they returned from the mission praising God for all that they were able to do in Jesus’ name. The season has changed now and working for the kingdom is going to get harder.

“But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.” People will be turning on the Son of Man and the nature of the mission is about to change. This is a warning passage. Satan has asked to shake them down and the people of their own villages can no longer be relied on for hospitality.

“It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’, …this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.” Isaiah 53 was written about Jesus and Jesus knew that. The disciples wanted to know who was the greatest. Jesus teaches them that in the kingdom of God, there will be eating and judging but not in the next chapter. What will come next is persecution on the disciples and the King of the kingdom will be treated like a sinner. This must be fulfilled. Because it has been predetermined by God and He does not lie or change.

“See, Lord, here are two swords”…. “That’s enough!” he replied.” Later, the disciples will ask to use the sword and even strike the servant of the high priest but Jesus will rebuke them and heal the man. There are no accounts of sword wielding in the book of Acts.  The disciples have heard Jesus’ words and missed his point. They were being told a) that they will need to make provisions for themselves from now on and b) that he is about to be numbered with the transgressors! That is a big statement. In fulfilling scripture, Jesus will become the lowest. And their reply is “we have two swords boss!” Jesus reply to them seems to be a dismissal of the whole conversation or even a frustrated termination.

What did we learn?

Greatness in the kingdom of God is not fought for but bestowed on by election from the Son of God. As the King of the kingdom, he will demonstrate completely what the nature of the kingdom is: he will fulfill scripture and take on the position of a sinner. Being part of God’s kingdom is a road of trials and tests, as Jesus has demonstrated to his disciples and now they must walk the road of trials and tests. But Jesus preserves his people through prayer. Discipleship is a road hard to walk along, but we have every spiritual gift given to us and the hope of glory promised.

Now what?

Topic A: Humility as a mark of discipleship. Galatians 5:22-23 and James 3:17 list some of the fruit of the spirit which may well be summarised with the word ‘humility’. Philippians 2:3-11 describe the humility of Christ as the prime example of the humility that we ought to possess and cultivate. The nature of the kingdom of God is to put one another before ourselves. This is a true mark of godliness. How can you monitor your progress in this?

Topic B: Perseverance of the saints. All Christians are saints. When you have truly understood the grace of God in Christ and turned to Him in faith we can rest on the promises of God that a) he has called you into his kingdom and b) he promises to finish the work that he began in you (Ephesians 2:1-10). The journey is rough though. The world, the flesh and the devil will each do their darndest to knock you off the boat. James 1:5 says that if you lack wisdom on how to live in humility (James 3:13) then ask God for this wisdom that only he can give since it does not come from this world.

Topic C: Jesus is the fulfillment of Scripture. 2 Timothy 3:15-17 tells us that the Scriptures are all we need to find salvation in Christ and grow up mature in him. Jesus taught some disciples in Luke 24:25-27 that the Old Testament scriptures are filled with words concerning Jesus that had to be fulfilled. He is the missing piece that solves the great mystery of God. Ephesians 1:9-10 describe Jesus as the mystery of God finally revealed. We will never grow weary of learning more about him, to get to know him more, to understand him and even to participate in his sufferings so that somehow we shall be welcomed at his table in his kingdom to reign with him (Philippians 3:10-11). What grace that we do not deserve.