Last Supper with Jesus, pt. 2

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.

Parable of the Ten Minas

When I was little, I enjoyed getting report cards. What?! Yeah, I enjoyed getting report cards. The reason is that my grandma would give me a dollar for every “A” I earned. And since I was a whiz in school, I would usually receive a nice handful of cash for my work. Unfortuantely, by the time I reached Jr. High and High School, the cash flow stopped since grandma expected us to get good marks without incentive.

Our Lord was a master at using something as simple as receiving an amount of money and expounding some heavy heavenly truth. In Luke 19.11-27, the Lord does this very thing in the parable of the ten minas. A mina was a unit of money during Jesus’ time on earth which was worth about three month’s wages. It was not a coin but was rather an amount of silver that was a certain weight. Nelson’s New Bible Dictionary says it was equal to about 50 common shekels in the Old Testament, but when Luke was writing it was probably closer to a pound of money (silver). Wuest says this would have only been about $16-18 apiece. Hmm….

It must be noted that we must not confuse this account with Matt 25.14-30 and the parable of the talents. Why the subject of the parables is clearly not the same (minas v. talents). These are different accounts of different events and while some similarity may be present, we must keep each of these accounts in propercontext and perspective. First, in Luke, Jesus is “near to Jerusalem” (v.11, ESV). He is yet to make his triumphal entry. Also, this follows immediately on the heels of Zacchaeus and the great news Jesus has announced on his house (v.9-10). Jesus tells this parable to them (those present, see comments on v.1-10) “as they heard these things” (v.11). Further, Jesus tells them this parable “because they supposed the kingdom of God was to appear immediately.” In other words, they thought at any moment the kingdom would show up. “Therefore, ” he told them the parable of the ten minas.

The Assignment of the Servants

We are introduced to a nobleman (lit. some man of noble birth) was going on a trip to a far away country to receive a kingdom and return. So, before he leaves, he calls together ten servants and gives them ten minas (one mina each, so it would seem). But this isn’t free money for good grades – he has a specific assignment: “Engage in business until I come.” Simple enough.

Now the amount of money should not surpirse us. As mentioned above, this is a completely different parable from the parable of the talents (which a talent was a very large sum of money). But this should not detract from the message: the master is testing the faithfulness of his servants. Hence, a mina in each hand of his ten servants will do nicely.

The Animosity of the Citizens

Not all is well in this scene though. Some citizens (lit. his people) hate this nobleman. For whatever reason, they can’t stand this man and send a delegation after him, making their hearts known to him: “We do not want this man (i.e. you) to reign over us.” Plain and simple – we hope you don’t come back. Good riddence.

Now do not mistake the “servants” (or bondservants) and the “citizens.” These are not the same people. A servant was a slave who was owned by an individual. Citizens were simply subjects who lived under the reign of an individual. This is a key difference.

The Accounting of the Servants

This man does not stay away. He received his kingdom, came back, and now it reckoning time. He wants to see what all has been going on with the money he gave to his servants. In other words, lets see how much of an increase my investment has made. The first servant shows he has made 10 times as much as he was given. What a great return! The master commends this servant: “Well done, good servant.” He turns around and puts him over ten cities (evidently in his new kingdom) since he has been faithful in small things. Again, the second servant comes and shows his master’s mina has gained him 5 more. Yet another remarkable accomplishment. A similar stewardship is given this servant as was given the first: he will be over 5 cities.

Then “another” came. Do not overlook this designation. He is another (Gk. heteros, you can see our English prefix hetero- in it). This is another servant, but of a different kind. He is not like the other servants, some, maybe most if not all, have gone through the line and revealed their investments. The other servants were marked by faithfulness; this one is marked by his unfaithfulness. This servant explains that he hid in a handkerchief his master’s mina, but here it is with no return. He explains he was fearful of his master because he was a “severe man” (lit. harsh. Our English word “austere” comes from this Greek word). He is strict and exacting and this servant did not want to disappoint him. Further, this servant knew that this man takes what he does not deposit and reaps where he does not sow. It would appear this servant is calling this man unjust and a “grasping profiteer.” He takes from other people what is not his. Quite the indictment.

The Action against the Servant and Citizens

The man’s reply is interesting. He uses the servant’s words against him to condemn him. In addition, he labels this servant (who’s actions seem prudent) as “wicked.” He interrogates his servant with a question: “You knew that I was servere man” and do the things you say I do? You should have been even more faithful! At least put the money in the bank so I could collect the interest!

The master demands his mina be striped from him and given to the one who has ten. Why? “Everyone who has, more will be given.” While there is objection, it makes sense; he made the most of the man’s money – he will be faithful with even this extra mina. Good business? Sure. The man concludes that “from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” What’s left to take? Remember, this servant is a servant. His position as a servant will be removed.

There is still one loose end to tie up: the citizens. These who did not want nor acknowledged the rule of this man are finally dealt with. The man with the authority, the reign calls them forward and they are slaughtered. The man gives full vent of his wrath, exercising his authority over these people.

The Application to the Christian

Great story! So what? Keep in mind that a parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. Further, keep in mind that not of all parts necessarily have a physical counterpart (otherwise it would be an alegory). What is Jesus trying to get across to his people?

First, it would seem that the “ten servants” are representative of all Christ’s servants. “So does that mean the ‘nobleman’ is Christ?” Perhaps. He could represent God. Nevertheless, each servant is given a “mina.” I think this means every servant of Christ is given a spiritual gift. But there is assignment that goes along with that gift: use it! Use that spiritual gift until Christ comes. We know Christ has gifted every Christian (Eph 4.7-11) and we know he expects us to use that gift for the maturation of ourselves and other Christians (Eph 4.12-16). We also know that one day Christ will deliver his kingdom to the Father (1 Cor 15.24) and everyone will be judged for their deeds (John 5.28-29). So here is Christ teaching us in parable the necessity of putting our gift to work for the body before it everlasting to late.

Second, who are these citizens? Clearly, they have a hatred for the “nobleman” who receives his kingdom and also they despise his rule over them. It should be noted that although they hate this man and his rule over them, they are inescapably under his sovereign rule since they are his citizens. They could be representative of the Jews of Jesus’ time who rebelled against God and His Messiah. They refused the kingship of Christ and proclaimed, “We have no king bu Caesar!” Another option are the unbelievers who will one day stand in judgment before Christ and God but currently stand in open rebellion of God and His Word. They despise God and his Church and his Christ. One final option my be that these represent the member of the church who will not submit to Christ’s rule for their life, work, or service. However, this view would seem remote to the context of the parable. Either the Jews or the pagan of the world are both acceptable options as to whom the citizens represent. Sadly, we see the fate of remaining in stubborn rebellion to the “nobleman;” once the kingdom is received and he takes account of his kingdom, there is severe price to pay for continued defiance to the king. The frightening reality this parable confronts us with is that Christ and God demand a choice be made and that choice is between life and death.

Perhaps the most significant point of application of this parable is the contrast between faithfulness and unfaithfulness that is seen in the servants and the word spoken of them by the nobleman. Should a Christian choose to discover and use their giftedness in the apporiate manner, God will bless their efforts and bless them on the final day with the sweet words of “Well done, good servant.” However, should a Christian choose to neglect their gift(s) and bury them in a handkerchief, the consequences are dire. I don’t think we get this message in the church today. Too many are sitting on their gifts. Too many make excuses why they can’t use their gift. I believe the outcome for the Christian who does not use their gift is just as severe as those in open rebellion. I say this because “even what he has will be taken away.” Our identity and position as a servant will be stripped from us with our “mina” if we are unfaithful. If we are not servants, we become like the citizens. We are no better than the world because of our refusal to use the grace given us to produce fruit for our God. If this is the case, should we not be even more faithful.

Sin, Faith, Duty

 I remember as a kid growing up that there used to be several shows that would come on Nickelodeon that had obstacle courses. Usually kids were split into teams and competed against each other. One show had families compete against each other and the losing family would get “slimed.” Ah, what wouldn’t entertain a child. Jesus spoke of obstacle courses, also. He condemned any obstacle course that caused “little ones” to sin. He condemned obstacle courses that kept people from coming to him by faith. In Luke 17.1-10, we have Jesus teaching us about deadly obstacle courses and how we can keep ourselves from becoming one ourselves.

Unforgiving Servants

Jesus tells us that “stumbling blocks” (Greek) are sure to come. That is, it is impossible to keep some people from putting obstacle courses on the pathway to life. Surely, since the time of Jesus, men have been doing this. Why in the first century the apostles were combating obstacle course artists. That’s why they had the Jerusalem conference in Acts 15. That’s why Paul had to write to the Galatians. That’s why Jude wrote his little letter. Jesus tells us the fate of these obstacle course artists: they have been found lacking (“woe”). In fact, it would be better to have a giant “millstone” tied around that persons neck and for them to be hurled into the sea. That’s how grave their offense is. The cause “little ones” to stumble, to sin. Now, who are these “little ones”? Most jump to the conclusion that they are children. While these would be included in this phrase, the words used here points to simply one who is “small.” Thayer’s Lexicon says this is someone who is inferior to other citizens of the kingdom because of their small knowledge about the kingdom. This could be a grown adult kingdom citizen who is put into an obstacle course and stumbles. The person who leading new Christians and young Christians down the obstalce course has a lot to answer for.

So Jesus says “watch yourselves!” To whom is Jesus speaking? Verse 1 says he is speaking to his disciples, i.e. the twelve. He is telling them, “You have been with me this whole time; don’t mess this up!” Don’t veil the entrance to the kingdom so people stumble or sin. Now they know how terrible the fate is for the obstacle course artists – don’t become a stumbling block or put one in the path for kingdom citizens. Hold onto what you know to be true and don’t mingle it with the erroneous! But suppose one of these obstacle course artists gets a hold of your brother and he sins? What then? “Rebuke him,” Jesus says. That is, express strong disapproval of what he has done. Show him his sin that he might repent. What if he repents? “Forgive him,” Jesus says. Here is the hard part: we don’t have any problem telling others their wrong – we struggle with forgiveness. Especially when Jesus portrays the sinner’s inability to stop sinning. He sins and repents. Forgive him. He sins again. Forgive. Surely there must be an end to this forgiving business. Surely eventually, we are permitted to stop forgiving him. Jesus says, “you must forgive him.” Why? Think about it. Our life is liek a vapor. To God, 1000 years is like a day. We come to him several times, hundreds of times in our “day” in this life and ask and beg for forgiveness. Does he forgive us? Absolutely. Totally forgiven with the blood of Christ, even before we ask. Then why in the world would he expect less from us. If your brother repents, forgive him.

Unfaithful Servants

What I mean by “unfaithful” is simply that the disciples are not “full of faith.” This is seen in their exclamation, “Increase our faith!” They are admitted to their own weakness, their lack of faith. They admitted they need help on this one. How difficult it is to forgive like God requires of us! So hard, the apostles knew they needed help. Are we any different? Is it not a challenge to forgive everyone who sins, especially if they sin against us? We must cry out with the disciples, “Increase our faith!” We need help, Jesus!

And he does. Jesus helps the disciples put things in pespective. It seems he is saying, “You have all the faith you need with a faith like that of a mustard seed. What you need to focus on is whom your faith is in.” Faith always has an object. You can’t have faith in nothing; you must have faith in something. Most people’s faith is in themselves. Perhaps that is whom the disciple’s faith is in when they say, “Increase our faith!” They are saying by themselves, they cannot do what Jesus asking them to do and Jesus is saying “You’re exactly right! But with faith in me, no matter how small it may be, you can do this.” It is Christ who lives within us, through us. And we need help with forgiving and stumbling blocks. But if we understand we are dead to ourselves but alive to Christ, we can do this “through Christ who gives us strength.” Jesus is calling his disciples to put their faith and trust in him to accomplish this lofty ideal of forgiveness.

Unworthy Servants

Jesus wraps up this teaching with a parable. He gives us the mindset of a true servant of God. Just as a servant does what he is commanded and performs his duties without thanks, so should also the servant’s in the kingdom perform their duties. It is a thankless job to be a Christian. Sure, we have our fellow servants, our brothers and sisters in Christ, who encourage us. But when we boil things down and strip away the layers, at the core, the Christian walk is a thankless duty. And why wouldn’t it be? It is hard work to be a Christian. It requires round-the-clock devotion to the Master. It requires work in the field during the hottest part of the day and labor in house in the evening. It is praiseless, thankless, arduous, dirty work. And I believe too often we are ungrateful for the work God has given us.

We live in an entitlement society which believes everything should be handed to them on a silver platter and they shouldn’t have to work to get it. Our society thinks they deserve special treatment for no reason. And when they get what they don’t deserve, there is no thanksgiving, no gratitude; just more of the same selfish desires. Unfortunately this mentality has spilled over into the church. So many Christians think they are entitled to something from God, as if he owes them something. God doesn’t owe us anything! We are entitled to none of the benefits of heaven and if he left us to wallow in our own sins so that we had to endure eternal punishment for all eternity it would be no less than wee deserved.

God has given us to work to do, a service to render, a ministry to perform. And the unworthy servant says, “I have only done what I must do.” That is the key. We shouldn’t even be servants for the Master, yet he loved us so greatly he gave us what we needed: Jesus. And now we serve him as unworthy servants. How can we not be thankful for the opportunity and ability to serve him? How can we look at our Christian walk as anything less than performing the duty we owe our Master? Our indebtedness to God prompts us to do what we ought.