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Who Started the Dispute at The Last Supper?

We continue our meditation on the last Passover meal Jesus had with His disciples before His crucifixion. They were all reclining around the table when an argument began among the disciples:

24Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. 25Jesus said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. 26But 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. 27For 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 one who serves. 28You are those who have stood by me in my trials. 29And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, 30so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Luke 22:24-30 Emphasis mine).

In Jesus’ last hours, the disciples were bickering over their positions in the Kingdom of God. In the book by Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth,[1] Edersheim seats Jesus in the middle of the end of the U-Shaped triclinium table, with John and Judas at the places of honor alongside Him. Could the dispute be because Peter was not seated in the other position of honor to the left of Jesus? (v. 24). We are not told who instigated the dispute, but one wonders if it was Peter. Jesus possibly allowed or initiated the seating arrangement to reveal to Peter his character defect in desiring to be the greatest. It could also have been that the Lord wanted Judas close and unable to sneak away too early to reveal Jesus' location to the leading elders of His enemies. With the dispute going on around the table, it is likely it was the same time Jesus got up from the table and modeled true servanthood to the disciples by washing their feet (John 13:1-17), including the feet of Judas. As the Lord washed Judas’ feet, was he humbled by the tender touch of the Lord, or was he looking for the right opportunity to get away and get his betrayal money?

The Lord upended the values of this world by teaching the disciples that greatness by heaven’s standards is to take the lowliest stations in serving others. He said the greatest among us should be like the youngest. We are to help each other by taking on the jobs others do not want to do. He sees and will honor every work done for Christ, whether it is great or small. C.H. Spurgeon, the great English preacher, once said: “The meanest work for Jesus is a grander thing than the dignity of an emperor.” Look at every opportunity for menial service as a test of God to see if you will live as the youngest.

Jesus modeled humble service as He lovingly washed the dirt and dust off their feet. In all things, the Lord modeled how to live in this world. Phillips Brooks once said, "Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks." We should not seek to be great men and women of God but to be men and women of a Great God. He does not need our talents, strength, or wisdom; He is looking for men and women who, in their weakness, will appeal to His power and abilities to flow through us by His Spirit. He is looking for those whose will is bent towards His and will do the lowliest of tasks in service to Him and those around us. Keith Thomas

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, study 59. The Last Supper

[1]Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, published by Hendrickson Publishers, Page 815.


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