When the hour came, Jesus and His apostles reclined at the table. And He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer... And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way, after the supper He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is poured out for You. But the hand of him who is going to betray Me is with mine on the table. The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays Him!” They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this. A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. 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. 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 the One who serves”... “Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, that you may strengthen your brothers.” And he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.” (Luke 22:14-27; 31-34, NRSV)
While He was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss Him; but Jesus said to Him, “Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?” When those who were around Him saw what was coming, they asked, “Lord should we strike with the sword?” Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And He touched his ear and healed him. (Luke 22:47-51, NRSV)
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Today is the day that Jesus was betrayed. In the passages above, the Passover meal was in full swing, and the disciples had no clue what was about to happen. The man that they had known, followed, and loved for years now...would soon die.
And of course, they completely miss the sincerity and symbolism in His words. “This bread is my body given for you...This cup is the new promise in my blood, which is poured out for you.”
In other words: “As you eat this bread - as you realize that it maintains your life, fuels your energy, and sustains your focus - know that I will soon do this for you in greater ways. My body will be given for you.”
“And this cup - a drink that you come across daily, a ‘must have’ in most of your meals, what refreshes your palette - this is like my blood. Soon enough, it will become a ‘must have’ in your life - something that you will need to come across daily. My blood will soon bring refreshing life into you like never before.”
But they, like most of our wandering hearts and minds, overlooked and under-appreciated the deep power in Jesus’ words. Instead of seeking meaning and understanding, they became obsessively fixated on the last thing Jesus had said: “But woe to that man who betrays [Me].”
And like a chaotic hurricane, their focus went on a mental frenzy: “They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this. A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest.”
Honestly, I wish that I could witness this conversation. Though Luke only devotes two short sentences to the content of this dialog, I can only imagine the words that they would have communicated...
But instead of responding to the truth of Jesus’ words, they each responded to the selfish lies, prideful thoughts, and the fearful insecurities that were rooted deep in them. They wanted reassurance that they were great, that their status was secure, and that everyone else in the room knew it without question.
And honestly, I encounter this same mental frenzy quite often.
God will speak a truth in my day and I quickly respond, not to the Lord’s work or words, but to my sinful and selfish reaction to His words. I respond to the lies that I believe, the pride that I feed, the fears that jump out, and the many insecurities that I hold in deep.
But what happens is huge: My selfishness directs my attention away from God’s voice and onto the voice of my(self) - or whatever else fits: my “fear,” my “prideful wants,” my “selfish plans,” etc.
And this is exactly what the disciples are doing on so many levels. So...Jesus responds rather bluntly: “What you are doing - the thoughts you are feeding, the questions you are asking, and the way that you are responding to each other - that is found in the world. This is the way the world works - but you are not to be like that.”
In Jesus’ kingdom, the “greatest” is to be the least. Yet in our enemy’s efforts to thwart the work of God’s Kingdom, he will always work towards shifting our focus again and again.
This is why Jesus brings up Satan by name. He knows what is to come. So to His dear followers, He speaks: “Satan has demanded to weaken each of you and sift you in his bitter breeze - but know that I have prayed for you.”
Jesus knew that what was coming was going to be the biggest hurdle they will have ever faced.
Simon Peter, himself, would deny the relationship that he had spent three years building and the others would run away in horror. Jesus knew that their selfish hearts would soon again direct their actions.
To protect. To react. To withdraw. And to lie. They would no longer respond in Him, but respond in fear.
And soon enough, Peter would do just that in rashly cutting off the ear of a slave. His faithful leader was being taken. He was full of confusion, exhaustion, and doubt. And to make matters worse, just a few minutes earlier, He was told - in the presence of all of his close friends - that he would deny their Rabbi. That HE would disown Jesus, the Messiah.
So in efforts to prove himself, he reacts out in insecurity. In efforts to reveal his strength, he reacts out in pride. And in efforts to remain in control, he reacts out in complete fear. Peter grabs his sword and swings.
But Jesus, full of grace and mercy, gives us a glimpse at what His death and resurrection would do for all of us. He takes the result of Peter’s reaction and transforms it for His glory.
Where Peter’s focus was on Peter, Jesus’ response brings the focus back to the Savior.
And His death and victory does the same for us every single day. He takes the results of our fearful, prideful, and insecure reactions and transforms them for His glory. He preforms a great reversal so that He will be the focus again.
Though Satan demands to weaken us, let us take hope in the transformative work that Jesus has and is doing. May we focus our attention on Him, not responding in our flesh - but choosing to respond in Him.
Daily Prayer: "Lord, teach me true selflessness. Give me the strength to deny my pride, overcome my fears, and reshape my insecurities. Help me to consistently respond to people, to myself, and to You in accordance to Your will. Today, I pray that you teach in me a humility that shines Your glory. Amen."
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Greg, Declare Glory