- Sermon Notes
Greatness in the Kingdom
In these verses Jesus is with His disciples and they are having what is famously called the Last Supper. They are in the upper room of the house eating the meal that is called the Passover.
As I said last week, there’s absolutely no coincidence that all of the events that are happening this week in Jerusalem are happening during the Passover. In fact, Jesus will be betrayed, arrested, and crucified on the very day that the Passover lamb was to be sacrificed.
He is that Lamb who will take away the sins of the world. As the Passover lamb was sacrificed and his blood applied to the doorpost of the house so that the Jewish people would be saved from the death coming over Egypt, Jesus will die on the cross and His blood will be applied to all those who come to Him for the forgiveness of their sins.
The story we studied last week is a picture of why people need the Lord. In Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus, we see the lostness and brokenness and the emptiness of man. But this week as we look at the other disciples we see their brokenness, their selfishness, and why we need to be transformed by the power of what God wants to do in our lives as well.
When Jesus announced to the disciples that the Son of Man was going to be betrayed, they began to discuss among themselves which one of them it might be who was going to do this thing. And then they got into a dispute amongst themselves as to which one of them was regarded to be the greatest.
There was a betrayer in their midst and no doubt each of them wanted to qualify his greatness to prove why he could not be that betrayer. But Jesus uses this as an opportunity to teach them something about the soul transformation and change God desires in their lives and in ours as well.
I. Be Different than the World
- When Jesus heard the disciples disputing amongst themselves, He reminded them of how it works in the world.
- “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who have authority are called, ‘Benefactors.’”
- The powerful point comes next, “But not so with you…” If we are made new in Christ Jesus, then we have to decide to leave the old ways behind.
- They wanted to be regarded as the greatest. What’s interesting is that Jesus didn’t rebuke them for their desire for greatness, but told them how to become great in the kingdom of God.
A. Greatness comes from serving
- Not only does Jesus redefine how to become great, He redefines the whole concept of greatness – we must seek to become great in the eyes of God.
- Verse 26, “Not so with you, but let him who is the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as the servant.”
- This is a point Jesus had to teach them over and over; it apparently is a very difficult lesson to truly take hold of and apply to your life.
Illus – First there was the time when Jesus cast a demon out of a boy, the crowds became amazed at the power of God, Jesus then said, “Let these words sink into your ears, the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.” But those words did not sink in; instead they got into a dispute about who is the greatest. Then there was the time when the mother of James and John asked for her sons to be given the highest positions. Over and over He had to teach this lesson.
- Being the youngest or being the servant would hardly fit into anyone’s definition of greatness. In fact, wasn’t that what Jesus meant in verse 27? “Who is greater, the one who reclines at the table, or the one who serves?”
Illus – I know this is a fact because for several years while I was going to Bible College, I was a server in various restaurants and there were many people I waited on that had an attitude of superiority.
One day an opportunity came to set help someone come back to earth a bit, I have to admit there was a certain joy in it…
- But here’s the point, being the least or being the servant may not be great from the world’s perspective, but Jesus says this is the very definition of greatness in the eyes of God.
- In verse 27, Jesus said, “I am among you as the one who serves.”
- Jesus already demonstrated that powerfully when he took the servant’s towel and washed the disciples’ feet.
Illus – When they entered the upper room, any of the disciples could have volunteered to wash the other’s feet, but not one of them made the slightest move; so the room was filled with proud hearts and dirty feet. They were willing to fight for a position of greatness, but not for a towel.
When we were in Africa, they had a tradition of having a servant girl hold a basin while another one poured water…
- In Africa, they were soon jostling for who would pour the water and hold the basin.
- Jesus made serving an honor and people who are mature in the Lord know this.
Illus – When the church was first getting started a man came up to me after a service and said, “I see you don’t have a drummer; I can play the drums, but I can also clean toilets.” I responded, “Great, when can you start?” …cleaning toilets.
John 13:12-17 “Do you know what I have done for you?”
- The words of John 13:17 are keys to understanding God’s heart for us, “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”
C. Serve and be blessed
- Serving comes back to you in the form of blessing; this is God’s blessing.
- There is a great aspect of faith in what Jesus is teaching. If you will take Jesus at His word and truly take on the heart of the servant, you should do so in the faith that God pours out His favor and blessing on those who serve.
- After calling them to have the heart of a servant, Jesus then granted that they would eat and drink at His table in His kingdom and would sit on thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel.
- The principle behind this is seen over and over in the scriptures.
Luke 14:11, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
- You can always tell if someone truly has the heart of the servant. A servant is willing to do the unpleasant tasks. Jesus washed their feet that were black and dirty.
- Another way you can tell a true servant is whether they actually enjoy serving. They don’t grumble about it, there’s true joy.
- But when you serve, you’re also setting an example for others.
- If you will are self-serving and place yourself first, everyone around you will become self-serving also just to protect themselves from you.
- If you serve others and set an example, then others will follow your example. Imagine a marriage with husband and wife both serving each other. Imagine a church filled with servant hearted people.
II. We’re Related to Peter
- Jesus then turned to Peter and told him that Satan demanded permission to sift him like wheat, but that Jesus was praying for him.
- Jesus then explained that Peter would fail, but was praying that his faith may not fail, the greatest defeat of all.
- But then Jesus said, “Once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” What interesting words, what did he mean?
- From another gospel we know that Jesus also then said to all of the disciples, “You will all fall away on account of Me, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’”
A. Let’s be real; we need God’s strength
- I truly think Peter’s response was motivated by love. He wanted the Lord to know how much he loved them; but there was also some pride in what he said next because we know from the other Gospels that he tried to make himself look better than the others, stronger and more loyal.
Matthew 26:33, Peter answered Him, “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.”
- Jesus responded, “I say to you, Peter, the cock will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me.”
- Overestimating ourselves can be actually very dangerous because when we overly rely on ourselves, it therefore suggests that we don’t rely enough on God.
- This is an extremely difficult lesson to learn because so many people want to feel good about their self-reliance.
- But the life that is effective and accomplishes much is not the one that works the hardest or sweats the most, or relies upon his own strength.
James 5:16, The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
Isaiah 40:29, 31 He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases his power… Those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength, they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become faint.
- Sometimes people overestimate themselves with the best of intentions. Sometimes people who are trying to rebuild their lives after a terrible, sinful fall, might say, “Lord, I will never do that again.”
- They have the best of intentions because of their brokenness, but they are over relying on themselves and need instead to say, “Lord, I need your help; please be the strength of my life.”
Proverbs 16:18, Pride goes before destruction; and a haughty spirit before a fall.
B. “Behold, I am with you always”
- The words of Jesus are interesting, “When I sent you away without purse and bag and sandals, you did not like anything, did you?”
- When Jesus was training them as disciples, He sent them out to the cities of Israel to minister the gospel and gave them authority over unclean spirits, but told them to take neither staff nor bag not even an extra pair of sandals.
- But in Luke 22, Jesus is preparing them for His departure, but wanted them to remember that when they were on that previous journey, they did not lack anything.
- Jesus was warning them that they would encounter many troubles of the world, but also reminding them that they were given authority and lacked nothing.
Matthew 28:19-20, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth… Go and make disciples of all the nations…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
- At one point Jesus said to them, “I send you out as sheep amongst wolves.” That’s as true today as it was then, but His promise is that He will be with us, so that we can run with endurance.
Hebrews 12:1-2, let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…
Luke 22:24-38 NASB