No Fighting at the Table
Read Luke 22:21-30 in your Bible. I used the NLT to prepare these remarks.
A mom who’d gotten fed up with the behavior of her children at mealtime, Allison Hendrix came up with a creative solution that cured bad manners. She went to the toy box and took out a toy pig, which she set in the middle of the table. She then set out a list of offenses that were punishable by having the pig set in front of the offender.
The list covered piggish behaviors like making an offensive body noise, having a sharp tone or rude words, chewing with your mouth open, throwing food, misusing your napkin, rocking in your chair, or getting out of your chair without permission. The pig was moved from the last offender to the latest offender. Here’s the kicker: whoever ended up with the pig at the end of dinner had to do the dishes!
The threat of chores was enough to bring misbehavior to an end, with peace at last coming to the Hendrix’s table. Sometimes good manners just need a good motivator!
CONTEXT - Jesus had just instituted the Lord’s Supper with His disciples. Imagine the varied emotions they felt as Jesus took that Passover meal in an unexpected direction. That moment of tender camaraderie was then shattered by Jesus would be betrayed by one of them. As we read through the passage, we see the scene dissolve further and the disciples began to compete with one another for top spot in the Kingdom of God.
At a moment He needed their support, Jesus’ disciples fell into bickering.
1. They wondered which of them would betray Jesus. (21-23)
The disciples must have been puzzled by the finality of Jesus’ words in verses fourteen to twenty. In this surprising additions Jesus made to the traditional meal He made it sound like it would be a long time before He would share another meal with them. But rather than explain His use of the bread and cup, Jesus dropped another bombshell: “One of you will betray me.” Notice Jesus announced His betrayal without naming His betrayer.
He did say this man sat among them as a FRIEND. We know who Jesus’ betrayer was and that had betrayal was already on his mind at that moment, for it had been arranged at the beginning of this chapter (vs. 1-6). One purpose of Jesus’ making this announcement was to reinforce the fact that He was not going to be surprised by what would soon take place. He knew what was coming and was willing for it to happen. As often as Jesus had warned His disciples that the SON OF MAN would be arrested, made to suffer, die, and be resurrected, the upcoming events should not have been a surprise to His disciples. Yet their actions speak to men unprepared.
As the SON OF MAN, Jesus’ death was already part of God’s plan. He said, “IT HAS BEEN DETERMINED THAT THE SON OF MAN MUST DIE.” Jesus knew this because God the Father revealed it to Him. But anyone with faith could have known it because it had been God’s plan from before the creation of the world. God has perfect knowledge, including knowledge of the future. He knew it would be necessary to offer His Son as the final sacrifice for sin and had announced His plan first to Adam and Eve way back in Genesis 3.
The facts that Jesus’ sacrifice was ordained by God the Father and had been announced in antiquity did not lessen the guilt of His betrayer. Nothing but sorrow awaited that man.
People have made attempts to reduce the guilt of Judas or make him less of a villain. I don’t understand why they bother, especially in light of this verse. The Gospels record the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy about Judas. Matthew 27:3-5 says Judas was FILLED WITH REMORSE when he realized he’d betrayed an innocent man and tried to return to the priests the bribe they had given Him. He then hung himself. There is a slightly different account in Acts 1:16-18, “Brothers,” [Peter] said, “the Scriptures had to be fulfilled concerning Judas, who guided those who arrested Jesus. This was predicted long ago by the Holy Spirit, speaking through King David. Judas was one of us and shared in the ministry with us.” (Judas had bought a field with the money he received for his treachery. Falling headfirst there, his body split open, spilling out all his intestines.) With perfect justice, the worst betrayer in history met with a tragic end, at his own hand. There is no biblical support for “rehabilitating” Judas.
Jesus pronounced a kind of “woe” on his betrayer, just as He had done to the Pharisees and hypocrites. You can understand why the disciples were eager to avoid having that curse drop on them! Eleven of those men did not know who Jesus was talking about. They began to discuss which of them might be capable of such a betrayal. (23)
Although the Gospels do not make frequent reference to it, it’s logical to assume there were arguments and bickering between the disciples. They were such a diverse group of individuals, some of them polar opposites, that they must have had different opinions on Jesus’ teaching and actions. It’s not hard to imagine this “discussion” turned into accusations and denials. Verse 23 says they were asking questions. Verse 24 says they were arguing. Clearly this means that the conversation had taken a turn for the worse.
2. They argued about which of them would be the greatest. (24)
They’d just been discussing who would be the least of them - the lowest of the low - the one who would betray Jesus. The conversation swung in the opposite direction, competing for the title of them. I imagine someone said something like this: “I would never betray Jesus, I am His favorite disciple!”
Twice during the meal that preceded this free-for-all, Jesus spoke about the Kingdom of God (16+18). The disciples may’ve been thinking about the “pecking order” in the Kingdom of God.
Whatever lead to the argument, this was precisely the kind of thing Jesus didn’t need. He needed words of support and deserved the comfort of friends but would receive neither on that night.
Instead, the argument served Judas. It diverted attention away from the matter of a betrayer and may have even served as a distraction which allowed him to slip out and get the arresting party organized.
3. Jesus’ reply set them straight in a couple ways. (25-30)
First, He taught them about the servant-leadership He’d been demonstrating. (25-27) In John 13:1-17 we read how Jesus demonstrated servant leadership when He washed the disciples’ feet. In Luke 19:10 Jesus explained His mission focused on others, not Himself, “For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”
Here Jesus again took advantage of the “teachable moment” and continued to develop the concept of servant leadership. In verse 25 Jesus pointed out an irony of selfish leadership: they called themselves “FRIENDS OF THE PEOPLE” and yet lord their authority over the people, ruling them with a heavy hand. (I guess politics haven’t changed that much in 2000 years!)
In verse 26 He commanded His followers to take the opposite approach to leadership. Instead of leading by force (such as trying to win an argument as they had just done), they were to attain leadership by service. In God’s Kingdom, leadership is bestowed and it will not be given to the strongest, most aggressive, but to those who choose to serve others. Such leaders will truly be “friends of the people,” not just claim it.
Verse 27 gives two examples of Jesus’ revolutionary teaching. First, if you’re hungry bordering on “hangry,” then the person who does nothing but sit at the head of the table is less important to you than the person who brings out the food. In that situation, the server in a practical sense, rules the sitter, though the head of the table is the de facto leader. Second, Jesus offered Himself as an example; “I AM AMONG YOU AS ONE WHO SERVES.” The importance of that statement cannot be overestimated. Jesus effectively said, “Do as I say AND as I do.”
Second, He promised them all a share in His greatness. (28-30) Up to this point (verse 28), the disciples had been faithful. Though in a few minutes they would all desert Him, Jesus was generous with His appreciation.
In reward for their faithfulness to that point, Jesus promised them all a throne in His kingdom, appointing them to judge the TWELVE TRIBES OF ISRAEL. (29-30) Jesus first acknowledged His own authority = “MY FATHER HAS GRANTED ME A KINGDOM.” Exerting that authority, Jesus made then two promises.
One, He promised them all a place at the table. They would sit in places of familiarity, honor, and authority, at His RIGHT HAND. In His KINGDOM they would once again sit at table together, eating and drinking in the joy of fellowship.
Two, an exercise of authority. Seated on THRONES, they would exercise judgment over the TWELVE TRIBES OF ISRAEL. We don’t have time to unpack all that’s involved in this promise, so we simply note it and understand that should have brought an end to their earlier argument.
At a moment He needed their support, Jesus’ disciples fell into bickering.
To illustrate this event, I’ve taken a light-hearted approach, but the situation itself was deadly serious. We should not lose sight of the seriousness of Judas’ betrayal, the disciples’ apparent inability to think of anyone but themselves, and Jesus’ teaching about service being leadership. These are all things we can readily apply to our lives.
To help, let me offer the following “bumper sticker proverbs;”
“When searching for Judas, start with a mirror.”
“Look out for #1 if #1 is God.”
“Start climbing the ladder with the bottom rung.”
For all that ails your soul, take these three proverbs and call on Jesus every morning.
http://www.thehouseofhendrix.com/2013/06/08/table-manners/ accessed on 13may22.
The NIV Application Commentary, Luke, Darrell L. Bock.