In the last essay we studied Luke 21:1-20, which began a new major section of the Gospel. It is the first part of Jesus’ suffering, called his passion. In this essay we are studying Luke 22:21-38. As you can see, Jesus predicts the betrayal of Judas, without naming him. He then pronounces a woe on the one who would betray the Son of Man (v. 21). We are not told what Judas’ reaction to that was, but had I been the one sitting there, who was planning to betray the Lord, it would have given me pause. As you would expect, the disciples immediately began to discuss with one another who it was among them could do such a thing.
Interestingly, the discussion about who might do such a thing led to a discussion, found in verses 24-30, of who among them was the greatest. Jesus overhead their discussion, and he responded by telling them about greatness in the Kingdom of God. It was totally different than they thought. Their idea of greatness was like that of Gentile authorities who lorded over those under them, and who thought of themselves as benefactors of their underlings (v. 25). But Jesus told them that greatness in the kingdom was based on servant leadership. In the world, one who sits at table and is served is greater; but in the kingdom, the one who serves is greater. Indeed Jesus himself was among them as one who served (vv. 26-27).
But then Jesus made a surprising, paradoxical announcement. Once they would become part of the future kingdom, due to their taking a servant’s role in the present kingdom, they would share in Christ’s kingdom rule. Indeed they would judge the twelve tribes of Israel. However, it is safe to say that their judging will be done out of the same servant’s heart that brought them to that role.
Now then, there are at least three additional points to be made. First, the eating and drinking at Christ’s table in the future kingdom that Jesus mentions parallels the eating and drinking at Christ’s table that the disciples were experiencing at the Last Supper. In other words, the sacrament of Eucharist instituted by Jesus that day was symbolic of the messianic banquet that will take place in the future kingdom.
Last week we discussed several symbolic meanings of the Eucharist relating to Jesus’ death, the brokenness of his body, the spilling of his blood, the forgiveness of our sins, its memorial aspect, and the fact that it instituted a New Covenant between God and his people. Now we see another meaning. In ancient society it was a great privilege to eat at a king’s table. It meant that you were in the king’s favor. But that was nothing compared to eating at the king’s table when the king in question is God. And Jesus was promising that the disciples would eat at God’s table.
Second, when in verse 27 Jesus reminded the disciples that he was among them as one who serves, we are led to think of John’s account of the Last Supper. In an earlier essay we discussed the problem of whether or not the Last Supper in John was the Passover. Whatever the answer to that question is. John tells us that at the Last Supper, Jesus washed the feet of the disciples (Jn. 13:1-15). Washing the feet of guests was the job of a servant or slave. So Jesus demonstrated quite clearly that he was among them as one who serves.
Third, according to John 13:21-27a, Satan entered into Judas once again when Jesus distributed the bread during the Last Supper (esp. v. 27a; cf. Luke 22:3). After receiving the bread, Judas left the others. John tells us that the other disciples did not understand that Judas was the betrayer. They interpreted his leaving as a need on the part of the group’s treasurer to run an errand (13:27b-30).
In the next paragraph, verses 31-34, we see Jesus predicting Peter’s denial. As we discussed a moment ago about what we are told in John 13, Jesus was aware, as the remaining eleven disciples were not, that Satan had entered Judas and that Judas had left the supper to betray Jesus (Jn. 12:27-30). And this apparently caused Jesus to comment about satanic temptations that the eleven, especially Peter, would face.
Jesus said to Peter that Satan would sift all of them like wheat. It was a rather vivid metaphor. Wheat was separated from the chaff and any foreign matter that was in the wheat pile by one means or another. Jesus apparently meant that the eleven would be tested by Satan’s activities. Satan succeeded with Judas, but the others also would be tested as to whether or not they would remain true to Jesus (v. 31). In the meantime, Jesus has been praying for Peter, and I’m sure for the others as well, that they will remain true (v. 32).
Notice that Jesus knows Peter will waver. He says to him, “when once you have turned back,” meaning turned back from wavering, “strengthen your brothers.” The time ahead was going to be difficult for all of them; and Peter had an obligation, once he had his own feet on the ground, to help the others stand firm as disciples.
Peter didn’t seem very interested in strengthening his brothers. He was too wrapped up in is own bravado: “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” Of course Jesus knew that wasn’t true. It wasn’t that Peter was lying. He really believed what he was saying. He just didn’t know himself. When actually faced with prison, and perhaps death, Peter’s bravado melted away like an ice cream during a heat wave. And Jesus, knowing the truth about Peter, said to him, “the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.”
Luke’s section on the Last Supper ends in verses 35-38 with Jesus giving the disciples a change in orders for ministry. Back in 9:2-3, when Jesus sent the Twelve out on a mission, he ordered them not to take a staff, bag, bread, or money. They were to depend on hospitality from those to whom they ministered to survive. Jesus gave the seventy similar orders when he sent them out on a mission, as recorded in 10:3-4.
But now circumstances are different. So Jesus gives them new orders. When Jesus sent the disciples out on the earlier missions, he had great favor with the people. Jesus’ disciples had no need to take supplies or money with them, because many families were willing to extend hospitality to them. But circumstances have changed considerably.
Jesus now tells them to take their purse and supplies when they minister. And they also will need a sword. Indeed those who do not have a sword should sell their cloaks and buy swords (v. 36). Jesus still has favor with the people, but his relationship with the Jewish authorities has deteriorated to the point where he will be arrested and killed in less than 24 hours. And those same authorities immediately would consider Jesus’ disciples to be dangerous. Thus from this time on, they could expect hostility rather than hospitality.
In verse 37 Jesus quotes Is. 53:12, “And he was counted among the lawless.” The NRSV translation of that clause in Is 53:12 reads, he “was numbered with the transgressors.” Then Jesus tells the disciples that the scripture is being fulfilled. As you can see, the disciples still are clueless about what is about to happen to Jesus and to them. They take what he said quite literally and declare that they have two swords. Rather than give a further explanation, Jesus simply says, “It is enough.”
Jesus’ point was that the future for the disciples was going to be tough. I believe Jesus’ reference to their getting swords was metaphorical. It was a symbolic way of showing them how difficult their future struggles would be. But they didn’t get it. So he dropped the idea.