There is much darkness and gloom brooding over this tiny band. But it will get much darker as Jesus will draw their attention to a betrayer among them. In Luke 22.21-30, Jesus turns his attention to disciples and their future. For one, his future is bleak as he will betray the Son of Man. His name is Judas. Jesus turns His attention to this sad topic.
The Disloyalty of a Disciple
Right on the heels of the institution of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus tells his band of followers there is a betrayer among them. There are some who contend that these verses (v.21-22) have been transposed and should come before v.19. Even if that be the case, the truth of Jesus’ words is not affected. There is a betrayer among them, even sitting at the table with them. And it is interesting, that even while Judas is sitting there at the table with Jesus, he is betraying Him. Jesus explains why it must be so in v.22: “For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined…” The path Jesus has been on (and even at this point is on) has lead Him to this point and will terminate in the cross. This path “has been determined” for Him. By whom, we may ask? The answer is God. Elsewhere is the writing of Luke he talks about how it was according to the “definite plan and foreknowledge of God” which Jesus went to the cross (Acts 2.23). This plan to save man was formed in the mind from before time began, even in eternity. Then, through His Son, He worked that plan to its conclusion.
So then Judas’ freewill was violated in that he was “forced,” as it were, to betray Jesus? No. Jesus points to the responsibility of the betrayer in the rest of v.22: “but woe to that man by he is betrayed” (ESV). Writes Leon Morris, “The fact that God overrules the evil that bad people do as he brings his purposes to pass does not make them any less evil. They remain responsible people.” Hence, Jesus’ words are not meant to be vindictive but words filled with grief and hurt that his betrayer is a friend. It would seem Judas has covered his tracks so well that none of the disciples caught on to what he was doing. The disciples collectively begin to question one another concerning who it was going to be.
The Dispute among the Disciples
It would seem this continued questioning led to an argument among the disciples. Think about it: here are several men who are all pointing the finger of accusation at one another. “Was it you?” “No but I think it was Peter.” I heard that! How dare you accuse me! Besides it was probably James or John.” “Who do you think you are accusing us?” And on it went until there was a full blown argument. At some point, the discussion turned toward greatness: “Why I would never betray Jesus. Think of what a great disciple I am.” “Well, I’m an even greater disciple than you!” “Yeah, well I’m the greatest of all!” Their like children and it makes me wonder if Jesus ever just rolled His eyes before calling a time out (as he does here).
It is interesting that the word used for their dispute literally means “love of strife” (Gk. philoneikia). It carries the idea that the topic of greatness was always a topic ready for dispute and argument among these men. In fact, elsewhere in Scriputre we find record of this very same discussion among these same men (Matt 20.20-24; Mark 9.34; 10.37-41). And this not the first time Luke has recorded a dispute arose over the exact same thing (cf. 9.46). They seem to constantly be seeking the primacy and preeminence. Again, it was a topic they were eager to dispute.
So Jesus remind them about true greatness in the kingdom of God (v.25-27). As if His demonstration of servant leadership earlier in the evening was not enough (see John 13.1ff), He now imparts more teaching on the nature of servant leadership. He draws their attention to the Gentiles and their practice. Those in authority are called “benefactors” or a person who helps people subject to him. In the world, its all about getting credit for what they have done. Indeed, the word Jesus uses (Gk. euergetai) was the name of one of the Ptolomies of Egypt (Ptolomy Euergetes). But in the kingdom of God, its different. “Not so among you.” The first part of the explanation in v.26 sounds similar to Jesus in Luke 9.48 about children. The next part is similar to teaching found elsewhere in the gospels: “the leader [among you become] as one who serves.” The message was unmistakable especially when coupled with the object lesson given before the meal with the feet washing. Jesus, their leader, had become their servant.
And if they missed it there, Jesus reiterates it once more and in specific language (v.27; cf. Matt 20.28)). Naturally, the thinking would be that the one dining at the table was greater than the one serving. And yet Jesus was one who came and served them. Again, the John 13 feet washing has clear ties to this in Luke. In these statements, Jesus effectually puts to rest any dispute they may have had. Also, their love for this dispute ought to be put away. This is not proper kingdom citizen discussion. Greatness in the kingdom is only found in serving.
The Domain of the Apostles
There is some honor, though, which Jesus wishes to impart to His disciples on this occasion. He explains that they have been with Him through his “trials” (or temptations). They had been with Him throughout the many hardships of His ministry here on earth. They had been with Him when rejected in Samaria. They had been there when He was ridiculed by the leaders. They knew He had no place to lay His head. They knew it because they were there. So he “assigns” them “a kingdom.” What’s Jesus saying? His time, His life is drawing near to its end. He is setting His affairs in order. This is the meaning behind the word “assign.” This is langauge used (in those days) for a will. He is assigning his possessions (in this case the kingdom assigned to Him from the Father) to His followers. They will be the ones who carry on His work when He has ascended back to the Father.
As discussed before, a kingdom is primarily defined not as territory or land but as a dominion, rule, reign. Hence, Christ’s kingdom would be administered by them. All of them. Not just Peter (tenet of the Catholic Church) but all of them would collectively proclaim and propagate the kingdom of Christ. Because of their work in this regard, they would “eat and drink at my table in the kingdom” and “sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” The former expression I believe captures the fellowship aspect. The latter seems to touch on the follow-ship aspect. First, as citizens of the kingdom and as those who reveal the kingdom in their teaching, the apostles would enjoy fellowship with Christ. Indeed, those who hold to the teachings of the apostles can themselves find fellowship with Christ and God.
Second, we see that for following Christ and even enduring the same trials and temptations as Jesus, they will have unique authority in the kingdom. Some say this judgment the apostles have is done by their teaching. Others say it is like when Ninevah and the queen of Sheba condemned the Jews in times past, so will the apostles in the kingdom dispensation (present time). Still others say the apostles will sit as co-judges with Christ in the judgment. Again, others say the apostles will have special preeminence in the kingdom after the second coming. According to H. Leo Boles, “There may be some truth in all of these positions.” What we know is that the sitting on thrones the apostles will do was yet future when Christ spoke these words. How far into the future is uncertain. But it would be a reality should the apostles remain faithful. In this author’s opinion, this is something that took place in the first century when the apostles proclaimed the kingdom of God and people began to enter into the rule and reign of God. When men and women began to bow the knee to Christ and accepted the rule of God in their lives from the throne of their heart, that is when the apostles began to judge Israel. And by their continued disobedience to the gospel, those Jews who refused entrance into the kingdom were condemned even while they lived.