The Disciples' Jealousy
March 4, 2022
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 22:24-30).
Although Jesus had made it clear that He did not come to be a political Messiah to deliver Israel from Roman occupation, the disciples continued to believe Jesus would be a warrior King. They had believed, in common with the Jews, that the Messiah would come as a ‘temporal prince’, an earthly prince in the manner of other such princes of the earth - that He would have officers in his government, ministers of state, etc. The hopes of the disciples were founded on this expectation.
At the very beginning of the Passover, the disciples began arguing with each other as to which of them should be elevated to the highest office in the Kingdom of God. Again, this was not the first time this had occurred (Matthew18:1; 20:20-28). Nothing could have been more out of place and humiliating than the disciples fighting among themselves at such a time and place. Passover was a sacred observance in Jewish life. It symbolized God’s sovereignty over Egypt and the Jew’s deliverance from slavery. Just as Jesus was contemplating His own death, and desired to prepare them for it, they were contending over office and rank. To taint this holy observance with such petty wrangling only demonstrated (1) how deeply seated is the love of power, (2) how ambition can find its way into the most secret and sacred places of the heart, mind, and spirit, and (3) how even the disciples of Jesus are sometimes affected by personal ambition.
Jesus’ rebuke for the attitudes and actions of the disciples was a stinging one. He likened their lust for power to that of a Gentile ruler. Yet even Gentile kings take care of their people. That was not the idea behind the disciples’ ambitions. They wanted the power, the recognition, the authority and not the responsibility that goes with it. The reason for this assessment is seen in the fact Jesus heavily stressed the role of the servant-leader, and He Himself as the prime example.
And yet there are privileges for being a servant-leader. 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. To sit with the Lord in His Kingdom, to eat and drink at His table, and to judge the people of God is what they truly wanted, and what they would receive in due course when Jesus was resurrected and ascended, and when the Holy Spirit empowered them. It is then that they, and we, would understand what it means to be a servant-leader of God’s people. Amen.